Forewarning myself it had been a trap hadn’t helped our cause one bit. We had been running too fast, the underbrush cutting into my skin at every opportunity, the sounds of pursuit never giving us a moment to pause. My feet were leading the path, movements even and never wavering no matter how long we’d already been running. One moment I was holding tight to her hand, the next there was a brutal tug that nearly wrenched her free of me, she was no longer on the ground. Instead, strung upside down with a wild screech our pursuers would surely hear.
I sat up too fast, Fiona came dislodged from my chest nearly toppling us both out of the bed. I caught her back and pulled her over to me just as fast, still breathing to hard, but then her hand was pressed against my thrumming chest, and she leaned in close to whisper in my ear, “breath sweet face. It was just a nightmare,” she moved the hand up, smoothing down my sweat soaked hair instead.
Still another shiver shook me, and it was only when I felt her slightly move as well did I realize I was still holding too tight to her arm. I quickly let go, but all she did was wrap her arm just as securely around my waist. “It’s going to be alright,” she promised, having to tug a few times before I leaned back down again. “I’ve been getting those nightmares to, but then I wake up, and it’s alright.”
“This is so assbackwards,” I grumbled, still keeping my eyes open and trying to match patterns in the ceiling for something to keep my brain on. “I’m supposed to be the one telling you that, why haven’t I woken up to you like this yet?”
“Stop being so macho,” she scolded, nuzzling back into the crook of my arm. “I wake up, realize you’re still snoring next to me, and then I manage to doz back off.”
“That easy hu?” I muttered, my hand moving from a curl in her hair down to tracing her eye ridge. I felt the lashes fluttering against my thumb as he murmured something back. Just because my brain was still being hardwired to do something though, even as the tension bled out of my I couldn’t stop myself grumbling back, “and I don’t snore.”
“Course you don’t babe,” she whispered, “that’s just the past six years or so of my brain playing tricks on me.”
“Well now you really have someone to blame,” I pointed out, “that kid sounds like someone’s recently broken his nose.”
“Like I said,” she got out around a yawn, “nothing I’m not used to.”
“I don’t snore,” I muttered one more time to my now asleep girlfriend. Sadly that never came back over me as every time I closed my eyes, something was left in my eyelids. I gave up when the sun started cracking through the shades, and eased my way out from under her much more gently this time and claimed first shower.
We’d been on the run for weeks now, and somehow hadn’t run across a single other Shifter, Recruiter or otherwise. Maybe it was because we were still in the same state as that facility we’d left, rumors had probably been spreading to stay out of this area, so we were planning on jumping lines today in hopes.
Our search was more limited than we’d have liked it to be by the fact that we’d been walking everywhere, or a friendly hitchhike if we were lucky. We hadn’t exactly stopped to get our wallets back, and Fi and my money together wouldn’t have really done us much good anyways, broke college students that we were. I was fairly certain that the place we were staying in now wasn’t actually aware of our occupancy, but I hadn’t questioned Evan when he’d said we would be good for the night so long as we cleared out early. Evan clearly had at least some experience with this.
The kid in general was clearly hiding, and though my girlfriend had tried to curb me, I’d still been randomly trying to ask him with every variant way I knew how to in hopes he’d spill. He hadn’t. That wasn’t stopping me from trying again a few hours later as we headed down the street. Flipping around and walking backwards as if the idea had just occurred to me, I called back “You know this would go a lot better if you’d tell us why you’re looking for a Recruiter.”
“How would that help find one faster?” He asked with a smile I’d grown accustomed to dubbing his ‘know it all look.’ Something he dawned quite often around me when he already knew the answer to the question he’d asked, or was babbling on about some random fact he’d pulled from nowhere. Those seemed to be his only two modes.
I changed tactics to something else I’d already tried, but I was nothing if not persistent. “Well since it was my idea to find these guys anyways, don’t I get a reason for why we are?”
“Nope,” that insufferable smirk was still in place. “You guys can leave any time, I’m not forcing you to follow me around.”
“And who says we’re not sticking with you out of protection,” I laughed without humor at the thought, but flattery was known to work more often than not. “A big strong herbivore like you, headed to the safest place a Shifter could find. We just want some assurances you’re not going to burn the place down when we get there.”
“Hey, leave me out of it,” Fiona muttered as she walked past me, clearly growing bored of our slow pace. She’d hardly left my peripherals though when she tensed and tried to warn, “Chase-”
Too late. I slammed into someone back first, tried to whirl on the spot, and only just kept myself upright by stumbling into the adjacent wall. My extra sense that I hadn’t been paying much mind to with these two so close to me was now going haywire at such direct physical contact from a stranger, a strong sense of dog washing over me even before I’d locked eyes with him.
He was late teens with light brown hair and startled brown eyes, but the real eyecatcher was the cowboy getup when we were a good four states away from anywhere near that. It wasn’t Halloween, so I had no idea why he was going around in boots, and not custom jeans with a plain wife beater and a plaid overshirt. All he was missing was the ten gallon hat.
“Woah there,” he said steadily, even putting his hands up and looking at me like a startled horse. He actually had a hick accent. “Sorry I startled you sir, wasn’t looking where I was going.”
“Yeah, err, me either,” I grumbled as I straightened up. “Sorry,” I tacked on when he was still hovering, now looking between the three of us.
Evan quickly stepped in then with the largest smile I’d yet seen on his face. “Actually, I’m happy for my friends clumsiness, because you might be able to help us out. You know any Recruiters who have come through here lately?”
“Well you’re in luck,” at this point I was surprised his grin didn’t have buck teeth, or at least gaped ones. “That just so happens to be what me and my partner are. She’s inside at the mo’, grungy little blond girl, can’t miss her. You go and have yourself a chat with her, and we’ll get you all on the road before you know it.”
Evan thanked him at once, slipping inside the building again before I’d even had a chance to say otherwise. I looked after him hesitantly, still unable to kick away this bad feeling I had for him. My hand started twisting at my bracelet before I even realized what I was doing, but I quickly snatched it back away before I could pull at the material. I was being ridiculous, those rumors I heard were probably just that, rumors.