Chapter 30: Interruption
AFTER the movie, Ian and I had dinner at Luca D’Italia downtown, then ended up in City Park strolling between the its two lakes under a star-covered sky. Warm air caressed my skin as the smell of the Denver Zoo floated by. I love that smell, because it meant I was in the real world instead of a city in hiding. It didn’t get much better than this. “I can’t imagine a more perfect birthday.”
“Well, I’m not sure I can top this one.”
“Hey, you’re the one who set the bar so high.” I frowned and looked up at him. “When’s your birthday, anyway?”
“It was a couple of weeks ago.”
I slapped his stomach. “Why didn’t you say anything?”
He shrugged. “It’s not a big deal to me.”
“I wish I’d known.”
We crossed the street, passing under a small copse of trees and sat on a bench beside Duck Lake. Ian put his arm around me, and I snuggled up close. For a moment, I lost myself in the illusion that we all lived above ground like normal people and that no one hunted us twenty-four seven.
Ian glanced past me for a split-second with an expressionless face. “Well, it’s getting late. We should probably head back.” Then he leaned in to whisper in my ear and shatter my illusion. “I’ve seen that same couple three times tonight.”
My chest tightened. I leaned my head into Ian and giggled as if he’s said something funny.
Was he just being paranoid? That was common on the first few supply runs, but Ian had a photographic memory. And I hadn’t seen a police officer for at least the last hour, which could be a bad sign. This conversation needed to end before the wrong person heard what we were saying. If there were two Hunters in sight, there were more out of sight.
“They probably just look like another couple you saw earlier,” I whispered. “So what movie are we seeing next time?”
“Uh…” Ian didn’t seem to know what to make of my more seductive tone. “I haven’t decided yet.”
Good. He’d caught on.
I pulled out my phone about to text an S.O.S. when I noticed there wasn’t a signal. Someone was scrambling it.
We had to think of a way to throw off the Hunters, and quick.
“I know we’re supposed to be heading home, but…” I took his hand as I stood. “…I have a better idea.” I led him toward the water’s edge to a grassy bank where foliage hid us from the suspicious couple.
We laid in the grass and I kissed Ian passionately. I whispered into his hear, “Just go with it,” then continued the kiss, unbuttoning his shirt.
Ian’s face flushed bright red when I unclasped his belt, then unbuttoned his pants and pulled them down. His eyes widened as I slipped out of my dress, exposing my black, lacy panties and bra. I stashed our clothes beside the foliage, then slipped away from him with a playful laugh. He probably thought I was nuts.
I stuck my toes into the warm water. Something rustled in the trees across the lake. Lake was a gross overstatement, really. It was more of a large pond with a small island in the middle.
I stayed calm and faked a giggle, then gestured for Ian to come with me.
He gave me an are-you-crazy look. I wasn’t sure if he was acting, like me, or if he was really embarrassed…or both.
“Come on.” I slipped into the water, submerging myself, then brought my head back up to check on Ian.
He looked around, then snuck in, coming right up to me. I pulled him into a kiss then dropped us both beneath the surface.
I broke the kiss immediately and pointed across to the opposite end of the lake. He nodded. We both swam that direction, curving out to the side to miss the island in the middle. An advantage of having powers was that our bodies worked more efficiently, meaning we could hold our breath much longer than a normal person. But wasn’t sure if that would hold true if I were out of my body.
When we were closer to the other side of the lake, I chanced a peek at the shore. Was someone hiding behind the tree up ahead? I couldn’t tell unless I took a closer look.
Silently, I dipped my head back below the surface. Pressing my lips to Ian’s again, I gave him another breath of air.
I put his arms around me and pointed at myself. Then I tilted my head and closed my eyes as if I were going to sleep.
He shot me a confused frown, but he’d figure it out in a second.
I put my lips to his again, then separated. My spirit practically ejecting from my body right through him.
Devoid of oxygen, or even the need for it, I sank like a rock.
I willed solidity into my body, then kicked my arms and legs. My descent slowed, but water still rushed by.
As soon as I hit bottom, I tried to run for the shore, but the water slowed me down like molasses. I released my body’s solidity and shot forward. It wasn’t long before I reached the short and headed for the tree.
A man in an FBI-looking suit leaned sideways behind it. His earpiece sounded off with a voice. It was incredibly quiet, but my spirit body heard it clear as day. The voice in the earpiece said, “Lost visual. Moving to the lake.” The man didn’t budge.
I rounded the tree slowly at a wide arc. As I approached the Hunter, light glinted off his eyes. Behind him, across the lake, the couple made it to our clothes.
The man’s earpiece came back to life. “They’re gone. Check the water.” He turned to survey the lake.
The couple across the lake looked away. I made my arms and chest solid, then wrapped them around the suited man’s neck. He kicked and flailed, then elbowed me in the ribs. It actually made contact. Apparently, if I made part of my body solid, my entire body became solid.
I wrestled him to the ground and his body finally went limp. He wouldn’t be out long, though. That only happened in movies.
Just as I released him, the earpiece sounded off again. “Green, I’ve lost visual on you. What’s your twenty?”
I dug the earpiece out of his ear and placed it in mine. Out in the lake, two heads broke the surface—mine and Ian’s. Ian spotted something across the lake and ducked right back below its surface. The couple was headed for me.
They weren’t completely across the lake anymore, though. They were running around its perimeter, staring right at me…or through me. “Green. Come in.”
As they neared, I set out at a dead run toward them and launched myself through the air. My foot slammed into the man’s chest. He flew back, sliding through the grass. I caught the woman by the neck and slammed her into the ground. She was out.
This spirit body made fighting too easy. No challenge.
Another male voice came over the earpiece. “Bravo team heading in.” They were sending backup. We had to move quick.
Turning to the lake, I looked for the last spot I’d seen Ian and my body. I sprinted and took a hard leap in that direction. I hit the water and sank like before. Ian was well below me, but too far away. I’d overshot by at least ten feet. The earpiece shorted and went silent.
I tried to slow down and move toward my body, but I couldn’t get enough traction to pull myself that direction quickly enough. As I sank past, I stretched as far as my arm could manage.
My fingers touched my body and everything went dark as I was sucked into it. My eyes snapped open. I pulled back from Ian and made a huge mistake—I gasped for air.
My lungs filled with water and I jerked violently. I shot toward the surface, trying not to panic. Seconds seemed like hours as I fought against watered-down gravity.
When my head hit the surface, I tried to breathe. But there was no room for air, just an awful sloshing in my lungs.
Ian emerged, grabbing me and heading for the nearest bank.
The Hunter I’d taken out under the tree stirred, looking around, confused. When he locked eyes with me, he came off the ground into a sprint, weapon already in hand. We weren’t going to make it.
My gut twisted, and I separated from my body, unexpectedly.
My feet hit the lake’s floor, and I ran to the shore toward the Hunter. He stopped and took aim at Ian. A second later, I drove my shoulder hard into his solar plexus. He flew back across the grass to the sidewalk, gasping for air.
Ian dragged my body out of the water. The Hunter managed to stop gasping long enough to train his weapon on him.
I couldn’t stop the bullet with my spirit body…
…or could I?
I threw myself between the Hunter and Ian, still holding on to solidity.
Two whispered shots of the man’s silenced pistol sounded off and a burning sensation tore through my stomach. I fell to my knees, then toppled onto my side.
Ian and my physical body weren’t far away. Blood pooled in two small circles below the surface of my physical body’s skin, just to the left of my stomach.
A look of rage came over Ian. The black aura around him that I could only see in this form flared out.
Rocks lifted from the ground and fired off at the Hunter. He threw up his forearms for cover, but it was useless. A large rock pummeled his head and he dropped to the ground, unconscious.
Ian stood at the water’s edge, holding my body close. “Come on, Abby. Come back.”
His eyes burned intense, but seconds later, they lost their fire.
He looked across the lake to the foliage and reached out a hand. Our heap of clothes pulled from the ground, shooting across the water. He snatched them out of the air. Wow, he had incredible range with his powers.
Ian looked to his right as more Hunters appeared.
Dull pain throbbed in my stomach, urging me to stay down, but I had to move. Had to get back to my body. I forced myself to my feet and lumbered toward Ian.
Before I could reach him, he lifted my physical body into his arms, and ran.
“No!” I yelled. Then I gritted my teeth at the pain and ran.
I lost sight of Ian and my body for a moment as he curved around one of the fences at the back of the zoo. When I made the fence line, I spotted him again up ahead, closing in on the car. I was gaining on him.
The car sat shrouded in partial darkness from a burned-out streetlamp. Ian came to a sliding stop faster than I expected and I slammed right into my body. Darkness hit.
I opened my eyes to see Ian holding me.
His eyebrows shot up and he stood me on my feet. “You’re back.”
When I tried to speak, I doubled over, heaving water onto the ground. I coughed furiously for a moment.
He smirked. “That’s attractive.”
How he retained a sense of humor at a time like that, I couldn’t understand. But oddly enough, it made me feel safer. Like he wasn’t worried.
“Are you okay?”
I nodded, still coughing.
“You take the car.” He tossed my dress into the passenger seat, then yanked on his pants and unbuttoned shirt.
My voice was scratchy. “Not without you.”
“One leaves by car, the other on foot. That’s the rule.” Ian’s eyes were insistent.
“I’m not gonna lose you. Get in the car.” I coughed hard, despite the water having already been cleared from my lungs.
A black BMW came screeching around the corner down the street. Another Hunter.
Ian glanced at the car, then his eyes searched for nothing in particular as he contemplated something. His head tilted up just before he looked at his watch, then back to me. “Rendezvous point. 10:47 sharp. Full throttle through the intersection. Don’t lose your tail.”
“What? No! I said I’m not leaving without you.”
His hands cupped my face as he pulled me close and kissed me quickly. “Full throttle. 10:47 exactly.”
My eyes begged him to stay, but it was useless.
He turned to find a pair of Hunters running at us from the park.
“Go!” he said. Then he ran.
Frozen I place, I watched him cross the street, unsure if I’d ever see him again. And far sooner than I could bear, a shadow cloaked him, and he was gone. My gut wrenched so hard I nearly separated again.
Over my shoulder, I caught sight of the Hunters again.
I had to move. Now.
I threw myself into the car haphazardly and slammed the door as I turned the key. The engine rumbled to life, vibrating the seat against my exposed skin and soaked undergarments.
Suddenly, Ian’s words registered. Full throttle through the intersection…don’t lose my tail. What was he talking about?
The BMW sedan down the street was closing in fast. That was my tail.
My watch read 10:41. Only six minutes to get to the intersection.
I revved the engine. Dumped the clutch. Spun the tires. The car shot forward, pinning me to the leather seat.
The Bimmer was nearly on me.
I hoped Ian knew what he was doing. If the Hunters caught me, I wasn’t just human anymore. I wouldn’t be cut loose. I wouldn’t even be imprisoned.
I would be tortured, collared, and probably killed.