Winter's Edge: Winter's Edge Series Book 1

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Chapter 26: Speed


LATE Saturday night, I knocked at Ian’s door well after everyone else had gone to bed. I had a surprise for him.

Ian opened the door. “Abby?” He looked a little confused, standing in his boxers.

I smiled to myself, then slipped in and closed the door. “Throw some clothes on. We’re going on an outing.” Seeing his sculpted muscles kind of made me hate to say that. Too bad he couldn’t go in his boxers.

“It’s like,” Ian looked at a clock, “11:30.”

“Quit whining and put your clothes on.”

He gave me a crooked, confused grin before he headed upstairs to his dresser.

A little ways into the city, we passed through a long, rounded tunnel. “This is the largest tunnel we’ve found so far that’s rounded like this.”

“What’s it for?” he said.

I shrugged. “I like to think they were just being creative. But I get the idea they used it to move large objects through to the…well, I can’t tell you that.”

He smirked. “Why’s that?”

“Because I have to show you.”

“Okay…” He looked around, a little confused. “…if they were moving large objects through it, wouldn’t the tunnels around it be a bottleneck?”

“Yeah, but we don’t know what they had up above this tunnel before the flood. Maybe a hole they lowered things down through. The flood changed the landscape above. Covered it all in sediment layers. The current holes in the ceilings have to be post-flood.” I looked at him with excited eyes. “It’s two miles long.” I smiled slyly. “I’ll race you.”

He returned the smile. “You’re on.”

I took off, hoping to get a head start on him.

“Hey!” He was quick to engage his powers. Quicker than me.

A moment later, he passed me going a good 50 mph faster than me. Then again, his legs were longer than mine. I shouldn’t have expected to win.

Ian shot out the end, then skidded to a stop, kicking up dust in a massive, open cavern with large columns supporting a domed ceiling at least two-, maybe three-, football-fields high. The Three Chasms lay beneath the dome, just to our left, dropping hundreds of feet into an underground river. Just up ahead lay the center piece of the Old City.

The Dragon Castle.

A gaping hole in the ceiling bathed its walls in brilliant hues of blue-white moonlight. But nothing stood out quite like the giant dragon skull in place of its portcullis. Well-placed fiber-optic cables, along with spotlights gave illumination in all the right places making it a grand display.

Ian’s face was priceless as he took in the skull, the river-moat that surrounded the castle walls, and the towering multi-spire keep within. “Oh, wow. Is that a…” Ian cocked his head. “…dragon skull?”

I smiled and nodded. “It’s more interesting inside.” We swung wide around the Three Chasms to our left, covering the distance to the enormous castle’s entrance after several minutes. As we approached the dragon skull, my lip twisted at the edge. “Watch this.”

I pushed a large bone lever sticking out of the ground. The clinking of gears sounded off inside the castle walls and the mouth of the dragon skull opened, its menacing teeth welcoming us into its belly.

“It looks…real.”

I nodded, rubbing my hand across a tooth as we passed by it.

“How is this even possible? Dragons are a myth.” Ian looked all around the inside of the skull, the pallet of its mouth arching above us.

I shrugged. “There are different theories out there. Some believe there were a few dinosaurs—not the huge ones—still around until a few hundred years ago that people called dragons. But humans killed off the last of them around the 1500s and they became a myth since they weren’t seen anymore. Two-hundred years later, giant fossils were found and the word dinosaur was created. Not long ago, paleontologists found a tyrannosaurus fossil still containing some intact cells and blood vessels. Some have a hard time believing cells could last for sixty-five million years. That caused a big stink among researchers for a while.” My eyes got big. “Oh, fun fact—did you know every known dinosaur is engraved on the walls of Babylon?”

“That’d mean the Babylonians either saw dinosaurs firsthand or they were excavating the bones back then.”

I nodded. “We’ve never found an excavation site from that time. Maybe flooding or sandstorms filled them in, or maybe there were none to fill in. But it makes you wonder when you read the story about Daniel killing a ‘dragon’ in Babylon in the Catholic’s Apocryphal version of the Bible.”

That brought yet another strange look from Ian. He was so cute when he was confounded, which just made me want to confound him more.

He shook his head. “Okay, that’s just bizarre.”

“If you think that’s bizarre…some say the flood took out the dinosaurs, and the sediment layers from the flood covered everything, making it look like the dinosaurs were much older than they really are. If you have excessive amounts of water, and a lot of weight, it speeds up fossilization. And the excess water can also corrupt the half-life of dating elements. We’ve even found that half-lifes aren’t a-hundred-percent consistent. So if you put all of that together, you make a half-decent case for dinosaurs being a lot younger than we think.”

Ian’s brow wrinkled. “Where do you get this stuff?”

“Mom made me read a lot of research papers growing up, but I usually got to choose the ones. So I chose some that were completely against what she believes, just to mess with her a little.” I smiled mischievously. “But I was also reading them to make sure I had a more well-rounded understanding of the world instead of getting locked into a single worldview that might not be correct. You’d be surprised what discoveries science has made in the past twenty years that don’t agree with some of their biggest theories. And you’d be surprised how many of them still aren’t accepted by mainstream science.”

He looked at me, still a little confused. “Do you believe those bizarre theories?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know what happened back then. Those are just some of the more interesting theories being applied to recent discoveries. Honestly, though, I doubt anyone has it right. Most theories’ odds of being correct are astronomically high. Even evolution theory.”

Ian just shook his head like he didn’t know what to think. He was a smart guy, but he probably just hadn’t studied these subjects much.

I didn’t want him to feel stupid, though, so I glossed over it. “Even if we don’t know for sure how everything came to be, it’s still fun to learn the theories and speculate on them.”

Ian noticed something on the skull and cocked his head to the side. “These are…bones, not fossils.”

“Like I said…dinosaur bones may not be as old as we think they are. It’s possible this skull isn’t fossilized because there were still large dinosaurs up to the time of the flood. Huge ones.”

He shook his head again, looking like he’d entered another dimension. “Why wouldn’t they grow big after the flood?”

“There are some pretty good indicators that the atmosphere was a lot more dense back then. That’s probably why everything in the fossil record is huge compared to things now. But who know.”

Ian still had the strange look on his face, but it became more curious as he continued inspecting the skull. “Is this some kind of enamel on the skull?”

I nodded. “Somehow, they understood bone decomposition.”

“And they could make enamel?”

“You’d be amazed at some of the things they managed to do that we’re just now learning to do a few thousand years later. Like the earthquake-proof walls in South America with seams cut so perfectly that water can’t get through them, or single stones so heavy you’d need the most powerful cranes in the world to lift them. We’ve even found ancient technology that we still haven’t figured out how to replicate yet.”

“Okay, now my brain hurts.” Ian put his palms to his temples and pushed his eyelids together for a second.

“Don’t worry about it.” I waved a dismissive hand. “That’s not the main reason we came here. We came for what’s in the keep.”

As we emerged from the dragon’s skull into the courtyard, massive wings spanned out from shoulder bones, spiking down into the court yard. A giant ribcage enclosed our path to the keep door. Ian pointed back out the dragon’s mouth to markers outlining a path like a road. “What are those for?”

“You’ll see.” When we reached the keep door, I pulled another large bone lever. “And now for something completely different.”

Gears clinked again, and the towering doors swept open to reveal a large throne room with columns in the shape of long, slender dragons, their heads holding the ceiling at bay. A massive throne lay against the back wall with a dragon skeleton trapped in the wall, streaking straight up into the air, its glorious wings spread out in flight. Some inscriptions called these people the Dragon Lords. They likely possessed powerful abilities. Despite the beauty of the throne room, I’d brought Ian here for another reason.

Just inside the doors, off to the left, sat five Formula One race cars. Kat, Jesse, and Reilly checked their fluids, making sure they were race-ready.

“What the hell is he doing here?” Jesse said, a look of disbelief on his face.

“We’ve been short one driver,” I said. “Figured I’d bring in another one.”

“Without asking us first?” Reilly sounded nearly as incredulous as Jesse.

“How did you get Formula One cars?” Ian said, ignoring Jesse’s offense.

“You said we needed someone to replace Braden.” I gestured to Ian, presenting him to the lot of them. This whole thing might have been a royal mistake, but it could also get Jesse and Ian to work out their differences. “Well, here’s his replacement.”

Jesse’s eyes were dark. “This freak might have killed him.”

Ian rolled his eyes at him. “I didn’t kill him.” He went back to looking at the cars as if it hadn’t phased him. Either he really liked cars, or he was a really good actor. Or maybe he just didn’t want to provoke Jesse. “How’d you get these down here?”

“We spent four years smuggling them piece by piece.” Reilly looked at me. “How do we know he can keep our secret?”

“Helloooo.” Ian waved, getting Reilly’s attention. “I’m standing right here. Kept the secret of my powers for thirteen years.”

I stifled a laugh. “He can keep a secret.” I walked past Reilly and slapped him on the stomach, trying to lighten the mood. “Suck it up. It’s too late now.”

Jesse stomped off to his car, throwing his work gloves to the floor.

“Oh, great,” Kat said. “I’m not carrying Purse Puppy all the way back to the town square if he wrecks his car.”

Reilly shot a frown at Kat, then turned back to Ian. “Ever been on a race track?”

“I spent a weekend at Second Creek Raceway last year,” Ian said, a tiny glimmer in his eyes.

“You do any good out there?” Reilly said.

“I did okay.”

I got the distinct impression Ian was either being modest or underestimating himself.

I nodded at the car. “Can you drive a stick?”

“Of course.”

“Then let’s see what you can do.” I patted the top of Braden’s old car. The car was jet black with gray pinstripes down its sides and the number 13.

Kat snickered. “It wasn’t enough that he gets beat by a girl in training, now he’s gonna get beat by us on the track.”

I giggled. Ian would never live that down.

“Great,” Jesse said.

“Hey, you’re running with us, too.” I jabbed Jesse in the side, playfully. “Hundred bucks on the next supply run says I whoop you.”

Reilly, Kat, and Ian all looked at me with raised eyebrows.

I turned on them. “Another hundred says I beat the rest of you, too.”

The brothers and Kat look at each other, smiling, then back to me.

“You’re on.” Reilly smiled.

Ian looked more stunned than surprised. I guessed this was a side of me he hadn’t expected to see.

His expression quickly shifted to nonchalance. “I’d get in on the bet, but I don’t have any money.”

“Actually, you do have money.” I flashed a big smile. “You just won’t get it until you go out on a supply run.”

Ian frowned. “I have money?”

“Of course.” I’d roped him in. “You really didn’t know you were working for money?”

“Kat mentioned something about it, but I can’t always tell when she’s screwing with me or not.”

Kat snickered. “Sucker.”

“You have plenty of money,” I said. “Trust me.”

“Wait.” Ian spread his hands in his defense. “I’ve never even driven one of these.”

I flashed another big smile. “We’ll give you some practice laps. You’ll get the hang of it.”

“In a few weeks.” Kat laughed.

I shot her a shut-your-mouth glance. Ian had no idea how difficult it was to drive the race cars, and we weren’t about to tell him either. Kat wasn’t going to ruin my prank.

Ian became resigned and he climbed into Braden’s old car. “So, what’s the big secret, anyway?”

“No one knows we have these cars,” I said. “We’re afraid Joseph will come unhinged if he finds out Jesse and Reilly smuggled them in.”

“How did they get them down here without anyone noticing?”

“Piece by piece in Artie’s parts bins during supply runs. They ‘borrowed’ some of our gold and bought an actual out-of-service Formula One car for a hundred grand, then had a local shop custom fabricate the other cars from the blue prints of that car, but with cheaper, easier-to-find parts. The shop cut the cars into pieces that could be reassembled, then they bolted them back together here. Artie couldn’t resist a new project, so they had him build the engines. Reinforced, twin turbo, 1.6 liter V6 motorcycle engines. They’re very similar to the new Formula One motors with 500 ft-lb of torque and 1,100 horsepower.”

“That’s insane,” he said. “They’re like twelve-hundred pounds.”

“It takes a little getting used to.” I climbed into my car. “We’ll give you a few laps to get a feel for it and learn the track before we start the race. It’s a big track. We use the entire castle, the walls, and even outside the moat.” I put my helmet on. “Remember those markers you asked about? Don’t go outside of them. And don’t wreck our car.”

Ian’s eyes were large. “This track doesn’t have any intersections, does it?”

“No, but we’ve done it before. Reilly and Jesse were worried we’d wreck one of the cars.” I laughed. “I think they were just scared.”

“Speak for yourself,” Jesse hollered from his car.

“The intersections were fun,” I said.

Ian gave me an I-don’t-quite-know-what-to-make-of-her look.

Good. If there were a chance he didn’t find me sexy before, he did now. I had it on good authority that car-guys liked that in a girl.

“Where’d you learn about cars?” Ian said.

“You have to ask?” I nodded to Jesse and Reilly.

“Ah, I see.”

“They’re like big brothers. They wrestle around, drive cars, whistle at pretty girls. I picked up a lot of things from them. Well...everything except whistling at pretty girls.”

“So you only whistle at ugly girls, eh?” He chuckled.

I gave him an ornery smile then strapped into my car. “Just like a Formula One car, if you don’t get up enough speed before you brake, the brakes won’t heat up enough to stop you and you’ll end up in a wall. Reilly and Jesse don’t wanna smuggle another car in here. It’s expensive and they might take it out of your pay…or you.”

Ian’s eyebrows pressed together, worried. I loved that look. “How do you start them? It takes a guy on the outside with a starter to start a Formula One car usually.”

“Artie eliminated the guy and put the starter on the motor just like a regular car.”

“Of course he did.” He rolled his eyes at himself. “And he’s cool with your secret?”

“So far so good.” She grinned. “Artie’s a little bit of a rebel.”

“Let’s see what you’re made of,” Reilly said.

An engine roared to life, followed by yet another, filling every inch of the giant keep with the testosterone-inducing noise.

I turned the key then pressed the start button. My car gave a small jerk as the engine cranked. Exhaust spewed out, joining the symphony of noise. The sound of Ian’s and Kat’s engines starting followed closely behind. A light vibration hummed through my car’s frame to my body.

I revved the engine, itching to feel the rush of acceleration.

Before long, we were tearing through the castle at breakneck speeds. I got sideways around the dragon skull trying to avoid slamming into Jesse’s car.

After a few laps, Ian was still having problems. He hadn’t gotten used to the breaks, and likely wouldn’t for a while. I drove off track, looping back toward Ian’s car and pulled in beside him.

“Just remember,” I shouted over the idling exhaust notes, “accelerate hard, brake hard, turn fast. You gotta have guts to do this.”

I hit the gas and spun the car around. Ian followed, trying to shadow me. I accelerated into the next turn outside the dragon skull, then stood on the brake, dropping a gear and pulling the wheel hard to the left. Luckily, the cars were modeled after the last of the stick-shift Formula One cars. They weren’t as efficient as paddle shifters, but they were so much more fun.

Ian hadn’t rear-ended me after a couple of laps, so he must’ve been doing something right.

A few turns later, I saw him catching up with me through my side mirrors. He was learning quickly, which was unusual. It took a special kind of person with a firm grasp on their fear to be able to barrel into a turn at 160 mph and brake hard before going into a wall. I controlled my fear pretty well, but it still took me at least a couple of weeks’ worth of practice to get the hang of just braking and turning. Ian had done it in the span of fifteen minutes.

I brought my car to a stop.

Ian came up beside me with a raised eyebrow. “What’s up?”

I beamed a smile. “You got the hang of it a lot quicker than most.”

“If you say so.” He gave a self-deprecating laugh. “These cars are scary-fast. I’m still having trouble keeping up with you.”

“Get used to it.” I threw him a sideways grin, taunting his ego. Just then, Jesse, Reilly, and Kat pulled up beside us.

“Let’s get this show on the road,” Reilly said. “Fifteen laps. Winner takes all. We go on four.”

Everyone lined up the noses of their cars in the open doorway of the keep.

Reilly honked his horn once.

I pushed the clutch and shook the stick shift back and forth.

Second honk.

I locked it into first gear and set my gaze forward, wriggling myself firmly into my seat.

Third honk.

All sounds around me faded into the background. Not one muscle in my body moved.

Fourth honk.

I dumped the clutch. Tires spun, heating up. They grabbed the stone floor and shot me forward like a rocket, the g-force smashing my body into the seat. In four seconds, I was over a hundred mph.

I broke hard into Turn 1 at the first tower, nudging out Jesse by cutting in sharp.

In my side mirror, I saw Ian at the back of the pack. Reilly and Kat battled for position just ahead of him. I ran through Turn 5 and braked right before the apex of the next turn. Jesse nipped at my heels. Burning three gears on the straight, I crested 170 mph before slamming on the brakes. I dove left into the turn and accelerated through the apex. If the castle hadn’t been built by giants, we probably wouldn’t have had the room for that kind of speed.

Five laps in, Ian edged his way past Reilly at the dragon’s mouth. Impressive.

A few laps later, Jesse cut to the inside on Turn 6 atop the castle walls. He came hard out of the turn and passed me.

Three turns later, Ian flew past Kat when she braked early at Turn 9. He was trying to muscle me for position. I couldn’t believe he’d caught me, but I wasn’t about to let him pass.

Ian accelerated out of the turns at the sweet spot every time, sticking on my tail. I couldn’t afford to focus on him, though. I had to catch Jesse.

It was down to the last two laps. Jesse would not get the better of me. I tore through the carousel, weaved twice through the dragon-wings, then felt my back tires slipping as they lost traction out of the next turn. I corrected, lifting off the gas slightly, then laid back into it up to Turn 12.

I’d make my move on Jesse at the chicane—a throw-away turn. If Ian stuck to my tail through that, it could be dangerous.

I braked less and turned earlier than Jesse as he tried to throw away the turn to set up for the next turn. This sent me to the inside of the turn right in front of him.

Ian must’ve realized what I was doing and took advantage of Jesse being thrown off by my move past him. He shot at nearly a straight line through both turns, hopping the curbs, coming out right in front of Jesse. My god, he was as insanely-competitive as me. Jesse was probably livid.

I slammed the car into fifth gear, power shifting it without lifting off the gas. The tires struggled to keep grip as I crossed fifteen-thousand rpm at 170 mph down the straight. I lifted off the pedal late coming into Turn 1, then stood on the brake before the apex, and cut the wheel hard. Ian was right behind me, Jesse mere inches from his rear tires.

Behind Jesse, Reilly passed Kat on the straight. As I took the next turn, Kat’s car vanished into thin air. After two more turns, her car materialized ahead of Reilly. It was cheating, she wasn’t trying to win at that point. She was just messing with Reilly.

160 mph came before I braked at the end of the next straight. I accelerated hard through the turn, letting the car drift to the outside of the wall, then reigned it back in to hit Turn 8 at just the right spot.

Coming out of Turn 9, I drifted the carousel, which probably cost me a second, but it startled Ian, and he fell back two car lengths. Was it wrong of me to use his fear of my safety to win a bet? Probably. Oh, well.

Pulling out of Turn 11, I was hard on the gas. I sunk into Turn 12’s apex, then drifted to its outer edge.

Just then, Jesse tried to cut inside on Ian at the turn and lost traction for a moment. His tire stepped out of line and hit Ian’s tire. That’s all it took to break both cars’ hold to the track.

Ian’s car jerked once, then caught air, lifting it into the air. He barreled toward the far wall at a good 130 mph.

Jesse’s undercarriage caught air, too, taking flight behind Ian’s car, spinning wildly through the air.

My stomach wrenched as I watched in my mirror.

No!” I screamed, slamming on the breaks to spin the car around. A second later, I unbuckled myself from the seat and jumped out, throwing my helmet to the side. My feet hit the ground running.

The cars careened through the air then shifted unnaturally. Ian’s car leveled out while Jesse’s stopped spinning and hung at an odd angle. They suddenly decelerated like someone had pulled a parachute. Both cars bounced off the stone wall much slower than expected, cracking body pieces and bending metal. Then they hung in mid-air about ten feet from the ground. They lowered slowly. Jesse’s car leveled out flat, then they dropped the last few with a jarring thud.

Ian and Jesse worked their way out of their harnesses.

Reilly made it to Jesse using a burst of speed and helped him out of his car. Kat wasn’t far behind.

The knot in my gut melted as I reached Ian. He shook his head then lifted himself from the car and stepped out.

I wrapped my arms around him, sinking my head into his chest for a moment before I pulled away. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m good.”

He turned to Jesse just before I did and asked, “You okay?”

Jesse bore a frown as he stared at Ian, then nodded slowly. “Yeah.”

Ian showed him a half-smile and nodded. Then he looked at me. “That was awesome. Can we do it again?”

That’s a guy for you. Scare a girl to death then ask to do it again.

“Dude.” Kat held a look of amazement. “How the hell did you do that?”

Jesse and Reilly mirrored her expression.

“Telekinesis,” Ian said.

Everyone’s jaws dropped.

Whoa. He was a Telekinetic. The dots began connecting in my mind. That burst of energy he put out made sense now. He was just an uncontrolled Telekinetic before. I wondered if his telekinesis was what moved his muscles to cause him to replicate moves he’d seen.

“Teleki-what?” Kat said. “You’re kidding, right?”

Ian shook his head.

After the initial shock wore off, Jesse looked down at the ground. Reilly nudged him with his elbow.

Jesse lifted his gaze to Ian. “Sorry.” He seemed to be apologizing for more than just causing the wreck and nearly getting them killed. He’d probably realized that if Ian were the murderer, he would’ve gladly let him smash into the wall and die, especially since he was a Watcher and the Hunter mole seemed to want the Watchers dead.

“Don’t worry about it. That was a rush.” Ian looked from his car to Jesse’s. “I think the cars suffered more than we did.”

Jesse threw his helmet to the ground as he saw the damage on both cars. “Dammit! We can’t fix that here.” His hands curled into fists.

Reilly looked just about as heartbroken.

“So, you’re a Telekinetic?” I said, looking to Ian.

He seemed nonchalant about it. “Looks that way. Your mom figured it out.”

“Why didn’t you tell anyone? Why didn’t you tell me?” I didn’t hide the offense in my tone.

He moved in close, whispering to me. “Your mom asked me to keep it between me and her for now…until we find the murderer.”

I gritted my teeth. He was right. No sense in putting a target on his back. “You could have trusted me.”

“I know.” Then he gave me the wounded-puppy-dog eyes. “I wanted to tell you.”

I wanted to make him feel bad, at least a little, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it when he looked at me that way. “Alright, fine. Just don’t let it happen again.” I gave a half-smile. “And don’t let Jesse bump you again, either.”

Kat snickered at the comment, lightening the mood. “You know…” She paused to look at Reilly with a raised eyebrow. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that was a small lovers’ quarrel.”

Oh, great.

They both laughed and Kat rolled her eyes.

I gloated at them for payback. “Looks like I won. I take checks, money orders, and American Express.”

“Whoa,” Jesse said. “Hold your horses there. We never finished the race.”

“Oh, come on,” I said. “I was only a few yards from the finish line.”

Reilly spoke up. “I don’t know…may have to call it a DNF and forget the whole thing.”

“Did Not Finish? Whatever.” I slapped his stomach. “You just don’t wanna pay up.”

“Yo momma don’t wanna pay up,” Kat said.

Ian laughed at that. “I’m man enough to admit when I lose. I’ll pay when Joseph finally lets me go on a supply run again.”

Clever. He probably thought he wouldn’t have to pay for a while, figuring Joseph wouldn’t let him go on a supply run for a couple of months.

I threw on a mock look of surprise. “That’s perfect since Joseph says you’re going on another supply run soon. Oh, did I forget to tell you that?” I grinned. “Sorry.”

Ian’s lips pressed into a line.

“Don’t worry, though. You’ll have made more money by then.” My grin got bigger. “Oh, wait. That’s my money now.”

Ian cringed.

“I’ll expect all of my money from the four of you when we’re topside next time.” I showed them my pearly whites for a proper gloating.

Jesse and Reilly let out defeated sighs. Then they went ridged suddenly.

Joseph came strolling through the doors of the keep with a smirk on his face. “Well, well. What do we have here?” He looked from car to car. “I guess we have Reilly and Jesse to thank for these fine cars. Just how did you get these down here without anyone noticing?”

Jesse and Reilly both looked defeated, their shoulders slumping forward as they stared at the ground.

“There goes four years of work down the drain.” Jesse’s comment came out in nearly a murmur.

“We, uh…smuggled the pieces in with Artie’s junk bins,” Reilly said.

Jesse backhanded Reilly’s arm.

“Is that right.” Joseph said.

Reilly gave a reluctant nod. “Kat saw us separating out parts one night, but we didn’t see her, if you know what I mean. So we had to let her in on it.”

“Whatever.” Kat smirked. “You let me in ’cause I’m awesome.”

Poor Jesse looked like he’d just lost his best friend. “What are you gonna do with the cars?”

Joseph patted him on the arm. “Well, fix ’em, I imagine.”

“Huh?” Jesse and Reilly said, perking up.

Joseph smiled. “Artie, Murph, and I can’t very well race them if they don’t work.”

Jesse and Reilly exchanged confused stares, and Jesse said, “Will we be able to race them, too, once they’re fixed?”

“I don’t see why not,” Joseph said. “Should be a fun pastime, and it’ll improve our driving skills for supply runs.”

Jesse and Reilly sighed heavy, the tension visibly draining from them.

“Besides, we need a little more practice.” Joseph wore a crooked smile.

Reilly frowned, confused. “Huh?”

Joseph slapped Reilly on the back. “Murph and I found ’em months ago.”

Reilly let out an unsure laugh, looking sheepish.

“We’ll take them out on a supply run and get ’em fixed,” Joseph said.

Out of nowhere, Jesse hugged Joseph. “Thank you.” Then he flushed and stepped back awkwardly.

Joseph wasn’t sure what to do with himself, and for some reason, that made me smile.

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