Read Naked Online

Authors: Kelly Favor


BOOK: Naked
11.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


Book 1

Kelly Favor


Caelyn Murphy was in trouble.

The car that she was driving down I-95 at just past three in the morning was starting to make strange noises, and the check engine light had come on, a brilliant and panicky yellow.

“No, no, no,” she moaned, taking her foot off the gas and trying to let the car coast a little while before pressing the gas pedal again. The car was shaking now, vibrating as if someone had decided to turn it into a washer and set the cycle on “spin.”

She heard grinding noises, too—and couldn’t imagine any way those noises could be just a passing thing. Something had gone very, very wrong.

Caelyn wasn’t big on praying, but she started to pray now. She wiped her blonde hair away from her face, glancing at herself in the rearview mirror and being met by a pair of wide, frightened blue eyes and a pale complexion.

There was nobody else on the road—she hadn’t seen a car in probably half an hour, when she’d passed the Charlton Plaza some miles back. There had been a few trucks and a couple of other lonely drivers then, but afterwards it was just her on this dark and lonely highway, her headlights sweeping out in front of her car as she tried desperately to outrun the pain and fear of what had happened to her just a couple of hours ago.

Pressing the gas seemed to do nothing but create ever more violent sounds from her automobile, and so Caelyn was once more forced to take her foot off the gas. She’d kicked her heels off and was driving barefoot. She was wearing the same skirt she’d had on all evening—the one that was too short and had made her uncomfortable with how much leg it revealed—and it was ripped now, just a little bit.

Glimpsing the ripped skirt out of the corner of her eye brought back memories that she was trying to forget. Caelyn closed her eyes tightly for a moment and shook her head, trying to force her mind to clear, focus on the present.

One of her knees was scraped raw, and it hurt.

Her low-cut top was stretched and misshapen from being yanked and pulled. But none of those things bothered Caelyn as much as the ache in her stomach and the burning between her thighs.

She bit her lip, wanting to scream. Her eyes were starting to fill up with tears, causing the road in front of her to double and triple in her field of vision.

Why was this happening, now, on top of everything else? Why was her stupid car betraying her too?

She pounded the steering wheel with the palm of her hand.

The car was clunking and grinding worse than ever and she was forced to slowly pull off to the shoulder. As she did so, the sound of tires rolling over gravel and sticks was an eerie reminder that, other than the sounds from her self-destructing car, the highway was almost completely silent at this time of night.

Caelyn put the car in park, killed the struggling engine and grabbed her purse. All she’d brought on her trip was one small overnight bag with some clothes and other necessities hastily thrown inside.

Sticking out of the top of her purse was the postcard that had given her the crazy idea for this trip. “Greetings from Florida” was still visible at the upper edge of the card.

She pulled the card out of her purse and tossed it on the passenger seat as she dug into the bag and grabbed her cell phone. She needed to call for help—not Triple A, since she didn’t have it.

Maybe a cab…but that would be beyond expensive on her incredibly limited budget.

The truth was, she didn’t have anyone she wanted to call.

Certainly not her parents. How could she explain the fact that she’d left the dorms in the middle of the night and was now en route to Florida?

Sorry, Mom, but can you send someone to pick me up? I broke down on my way
out of state. Oh, and by the way, sorry about the fact that I’m planning on leaving and
flunking my freshman year of college. I just needed to get away from it all.

Sure, that would work.

But now she had a different problem to deal with, and that was the fact that she wasn’t getting any reception on her phone. It literally said no service. It wasn’t a one bar situation—it was a
bar situation, which meant that she might as well not have a phone at all.

And it was very, very dark outside. On either side of the wide interstate were only woods and more woods, as far as the eye could see.

Her heart was beating fast. Especially after the night she’d had. The terror she’d experienced mere hours ago hadn’t even dimmed yet--she’d just managed to push the thoughts and memories out of her head. But now that she’d stopped moving, flashes from earlier in the night were coming back to her. Invading her mind.

Jayson, smiling.

The smell of pepperoni pizza sitting on the coffee table.

Her own voice, as if from a distance, screaming.

Caelyn suddenly threw the car door open and stumbled out, falling into the breakdown lane, her purse hitting the pavement as her hands and knees struck the ground, sending bolts of pain into her palms and up her legs.

Now she was crying, sobbing. There was the sound of an engine approaching in the distance, and then headlights clearing the rise. They were coming towards her.

Caelyn stood, picking up her purse and phone and backing out of the street as the oncoming vehicle sped towards her. In moments, it would be passing by.

Did she want to be seen?

It depended by whom. Out here, she was a sitting duck, and as bad as things had been earlier in the evening—her jangling nerves told her that things could get far worse.

If the wrong person stopped and saw a lone girl dressed scantily, with no means of transportation and no cell service in the middle of the night, on a deserted road…

The headlights belonged to a large truck. As it got closer, the truck seemed to slow almost imperceptibly. Caelyn shrunk backwards, her buttocks hitting the car door as the truck blew past, sending a ripple of wind and exhaust outwards.

And then it was gone, and she saw the break lights come on briefly in the distance before it disappeared over the next rise.

The night was dark and quiet again.

Caelyn glanced down at her cell. Still no service, and the battery was low as well.

She started to walk away from the car, just to see if she might get any bars a little further down the road. But nothing changed.

She was stuck, not knowing who to call even if she did get service on her phone.

What was next? Sleeping by the side of the road until dawn and then hitchhiking to the next stop? Using her meager funds to get a train back to Boston, tucking her tail between her legs and returning to school the next day as if nothing had happened?

An image of Jayson, grinning, appeared in her mind as if placed there by some dark magic. She willed it away.

No. She wouldn’t go back to school after what had happened tonight.

She was going to Florida, even if it meant walking the rest of the way.

Caelyn made her way back to the car and got inside. She grabbed the keys, determination written on her face as she grit her teeth. Sticking the key in the ignition and turning, she once more prayed for help.
Just let me get a few miles to the next exit,
she thought.
I’ll get off and find a hotel—an all-night gas station. Something.

The engine turned over, but the moment she tried to drive again, the grinding and complaining from the engine was so loud Caelyn actually wondered if the car was about to explode. She knew nothing about cars, so pretty much anything seemed possible at this point.

She turned the car off yet again and sighed deeply. It was over. She had to admit that her silly little plan had failed before it had even really started. She would wait a few hours until the sun rose, flag down a passing car and soon be headed back to Boston and all of the ugliness that came with it.

A sense of dread filled her stomach. She opened the car door and stepped out, walking hunched over to the grass of the shoulder and was violently sick.

It occurred to her that she’d rather be dead than go back.

She would never go back. Never.

A beam of light struck her eyes, and she squinted, as yet another pair of headlights climbed the rise and aimed for her. Once more, her heart started pounding as the headlights approached.

It wasn’t a truck this time, but an SUV, heading her way at an alarming speed.

For some reason, this time she actually wanted the car to stop. Well, that wasn’t quite true. She wanted it to stop, but she was also terribly frightened. Maybe she would luck out and it would be a nice older couple inside. Someone visibly safe and nonthreatening.

Or perhaps this SUV would pass by without a second glance, much the same way the trucker had gone by not long ago.

At first, it seemed that that was exactly what was about to happen. But then, surprisingly, just a yard or two beyond her car, the black SUV slowed down, break lights flashing and staying on. And then it pulled off the shoulder and stopped.

Caelyn walked forward a few steps. She was far enough away to make a run for it if need be. She wasn’t sure how far she would get, but she’d try. She took out her non-working cell phone and pretended to be in the midst of making a call.

The front door of the car opened and then he stepped out.

Her stomach flipped and dropped, as the stranger stepped directly into the light from her car’s headlights. The headlights illuminated him, briefly outlining a man who was probably around her age, perhaps a year or two older—standing a little over six feet tall, wearing dark track pants and a black t-shirt. His face was like one of those teen idols from the vampire films that all the girls loved. Dark, strong features, dark hair tousled exactly the right way.

“Car trouble?” he asked, still at a distance. His voice was strong, confident and clear. It sent shivers down her spine.

Caelyn gripped her cell phone tightly, tried to breathe. Why was she scared of him? Was he bad, did he have evil intentions—or was it something else?

“My car’s making a lot of noise,” she said, finally. Her voice sounded less scared than she felt. But her legs were shaking.

The man walked to the door of her car, and now he was bathed in shadow, but closer. He moved with an easy, relaxed gait that indicated a familiarity with women—

which made sense, given his good looks. As traumatized as Caelyn was, it was impossible not to appreciate how gorgeous he was.

“Mind if I check it out?” the stranger asked.

“Sure,” she said. She liked that he wasn’t coming closer. He opened the driver side door all the way and slid inside. A moment later, the engine was revving and the sounds were back in all their glory. From outside, it was somehow even worse. She knew that whatever it was, her car was in very, very bad shape.

The stranger got out a few seconds later, leaving the car running. “I’m just going to have a look under the hood,” he explained. He had a small flashlight, she saw, and then the hood was up and he was examining something.

Caelyn was curious, but hung back, still ready to run. Her senses were on high alert and she didn’t trust this guy with his eerie, relaxed vibe and charming way. She knew now how little any of that stuff meant.

This guy could just be waiting for her to let down her guard and then he’d pounce.

How could she possibly trust him? What reason did he have for being out here this time of night?

He couldn’t have been under the hood more than a few minutes before he’d shut it and then gone back inside the driver’s side. The engine shut off with a trailing, snarling rattle.

When the stranger got out of the car this time, he did take a step in Caelyn’s direction. She took a step back, tensing her whole body, ready to flee.

He smiled from the shadows. “Relax,” he said. “I was just going to give you your keys back.” He held up his hands, showing the dangling key chain.

Caelyn folded her arms. “What’s wrong with it?”

“Can’t be sure, but I think your transmission’s shot,” he said.

“Great. I assume that’s pretty bad news.”

“It’s not good.”

“Well, thanks for trying,” she told him. She pretended to dial her phone, just to show him that she had the option to call for help if she chose.

He looked at her. “I think reception’s pretty much nonexistent out here.” She could swear the corners of his lips twitched as if to smile at her silly ruse. His eyes moved up her body, taking in her skirt, her ruined shirt, the high heels that had seemed a good idea earlier in the night.

She jutted out her chin, refusing to wilt under his gaze. Surprisingly, it wasn’t making her uncomfortable. Caelyn didn’t get the sense he was checking her out – at least, not in a sexual way. Instead, he was probably wondering what the hell she was doing out here, by herself, late at night, on the side of the road.

“Well, my phone’s getting reception,” she lied.

“Oh, that’s good.” He put his hands on his hips. “My name’s Elijah,” he told her.

“Cool. Thanks for taking a look at my car,” she said. “I appreciate it. Guess I’ll just call for a tow truck.”

“Listen, why don’t you let me drive you to the next exit, drop you somewhere safe, you can wait there until they fix up your car?”

BOOK: Naked
11.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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