Desert Fire

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Sitting on, yet another, motel bed, I watch in terror while Cadmar cuts Kay’s shirt open to get at her bullet wound. He was right about those weird sponge things, since the bleeding appears to have stopped. But does that mean she’ll make it? I wonder, panic seeping into my bones. She’s pasty as a ghost, which is nuts, because she was already super pale. She’s still unconscious, but that’s mostly because Cadmar gave her a sedative to keep her out in order to fix her with the least amount of pain possible.

I still can’t believe I did this, still hate myself, hate every breath I draw in. This should have been me, not her. What makes it worse was how angry I was at her while Scarlet had a damn gun pointed at me. At that moment, I would have given anything to switch spots with her, and the same rings true for this moment. Irony’s a cold bastard.

After cleaning around the wound, Cadmar searches through his first aid kit, which is surprisingly well stocked, probably with enough tools to perform surgery. He pulls out some weird clampy things then dives right into the hole with them, causing blood to gush out. It drizzles down her side, pooling on the piece of plastic he put under her. Oh, God, it’s awful. I’m forced to look away when he pulls out the sponge things, which are now just one giant clump of sponge. Glancing at the other bed, I stare at Scarlet’s unconscious form, wanting to go at her with a knife while she’s passed out. I want to slice her into pieces for doing this, for hurting us for no damn reason.

Seriously, her reasoning was just plain awful. Who threatens to kill their own daughters, threatens to hand them over to a psycho assassin agency, does actually hand two of them over, just to get her old life back? Adopted or not, I could never imagine someone being such a horrible parent. I’ve always wondered how she and Cadmar ended up together. He’s actually a cool guy when he’s not all surly, but she has absolutely no redeeming qualities. Maybe it was only about the looks for him.

I gaze back at Kay and Cadmar, because no amount of brain rambling can keep me from watching. My eyes bug out of my head at the sight of him holding up a weird wand thing, which looks red-hot, like metal heated on a fire or something. “What are you doing?” I demand in horror.

He doesn’t look up when he answers, but stares at her wound while holding the wand. “She isn’t showing signs of internal bleeding, so I’m going to cauterize it to stop her from bleeding any further.”

“Shouldn’t we take her to the hospital to make sure? Or at least take her to get it closed up or bandaged or whatever?” I ask, panic boiling over inside me.

We should be doing everything in our power to save her, but this just seems stupid. Who does surgery in a crummy motel room? Apparently Cadmar.

“Too many questions we can’t afford right now, and I need her to be able to function when she wakes up,” he answers, sounding breathless. It makes sense; people would probably freak if we took Kay in a hospital with a bullet hole in her side, but if it would help her, why not? And why the heck does he need her functioning? She freaking got shot! “Stop asking questions. I need to get this done before she bleeds out.”

I fall silent, wrapping my arms around my legs, resting my chin on my knees while I watch him since there’s nothing else I can do. Once again, I’m useless and only making things harder on everyone. I have to trust he’ll be able to fix her. She has to live! I couldn’t live with myself if she died because of my stupidity.

Besides, this is Cadmar; I’m certain there’s nothing he can’t do. With all his crazy talents, I wonder why he decided to be an assassin. He’s never shared any of his childhood stories with any of us, and I can’t really imagine him ever being a kid, but it’s also hard to imagine any kid saying ‘I want to be an assassin,’ when asked what they want to be when they grow up. Us girls weren’t really given a choice, weren’t ever asked that question, so maybe his parents were psychos, too.

My mind stops rambling when Cadmar sighs before pressing the red-hot metal to her skin. I want to look away, plug my ears, and pretend this isn’t happening, but it’s impossible. I can’t not watch as he presses the flat side to her stomach, making the skin sizzle and burn. It’s awful, so freaking awful, the smell of singed skin making vomit claw at my throat, but I still don’t look away. After pulling the metal away, he cleans the area again where there’s basically a bunch of melted skin, and then flips her over to do the same on the other side. The hole isn’t nearly as big on the side of her lower back, but it’s still terrible. He works quickly and efficiently, but I have no idea how since I am freaking out inside.

My sister has a bullet hole in her, all because of me.

Now she’ll be sporting a horrible scar for the rest of her life because of my mistake. God! How do people live with shit like this?

Only minutes later, he has her all bandaged up and his first aid kit cleaned up. I watch him stand, wondering what the heck we’re supposed to do now, but he doesn’t say anything. He goes to the bathroom and the sinks turn on, making me realize he probably wants to get her blood washed off his hands. While he’s in there, I can’t avoid looking back at Kadence. She’s still breathing steadily, and if it weren’t for her ripped shirt and seared abdomen, I would think she was only sleeping. I can’t imagine how much pain she’ll be in when she wakes.

Even unconscious, she looks weird without her glasses on, which Cadmar removed the second he laid her down, so I grab them off the nightstand where he set them and put them on her. I also hate how exposed she seems with her shirt in tatters, so I snatch Cadmar’s jacket off the bed and place it over her. Doing something, even this little, brings slight relief.

I want to know what our next move is, where we go from here. I also want some freaking answers. Scarlet said a lot of crazy crap back in the Jeep and I want to know what it was about.

When he finally comes out of the bathroom, he stands with his arms crossed over his chest, looking around the room. When his gaze finally lands on me, I’m about to start throwing questions out, but he speaks first. “We need food,” he says, sounding pissed, as if having to eat is an inconvenience. “I’ll be quick.”

With that, he turns to leave the room, making panic consume me. “What?” I shriek, making him spin around to glare at me. What the hell did I do? Oh wait, that’s right, I shot Kadence and caused a big heaping mess. But that doesn’t mean I’m okay with sitting here alone with two unconscious people, one whom I’m very likely to mutilate if left alone with her.

“You’re going to leave me alone?” I demand when he doesn’t say anything.

“You aren’t alone,” he says, an eyebrow hitching up, sounding slightly amused, which makes me want to smack him.

“You know what I mean,” I growl, bounding off the bed. “I don’t want to sit here all by myself with two unconscious people. I don’t even have my iPod!”

“You would think, after all the excitement of the day, you’d be okay with some quiet time.”

Another damn snide remark, I’ve never known him to be bratty before, but he is totally being a brat right now! My brain will never shut up if it’s too quiet. I’ll drive myself insane.

He pulls his phone out, staring at the screen with a creased brow, which reminds me I should check the text from Payton. Payton! But what can I tell her? That I almost killed Kay? She would hate me for sure, or scold me like a child. I despise being scolded.

“Did Payton call?” I ask when he continues staring at the screen. His hard gaze snaps to mine before he nods stiffly. Is he wondering what we should tell her, too? Is he going to tell her what I did? “Are you going to call her back?” I prompt when he remains silent.

Shoving his phone back in his pocket, he shakes his head. “She needs to stay focused on her task, not worry about our problems.”

I nod in full agreement, but for completely different reasons. “So can I come with you?”

He considers me for an eternity then looks from Kay to Scarlet. “We’ll all go,” he says, moving over to Kay’s side and scooping her up with his coat still wrapped around her. She’s like a tiny rag doll engulfed in his arms. “Grab the kit and let’s go. We’re wasting time,” he barks over his shoulder while heading for the door.

I grab the kit then hurry behind him after quickly glancing at Scarlet. He’s laying Kay across the backseat of the Jeep when I get out the door. Luckily, he paid a little extra for a secluded room in the back of the motel and the promise of privacy. Otherwise, we would be dealing with some serious snooper problems.

“Give me the kit,” he demands when I approach the Jeep.

I hand him the kit, resisting the urge to tell him to stop being so bossy, before hurrying to get in the front seat. Spinning around to look in the backseat, I see him injecting something in Kay’s arm. “What’s that?”

“A small dose of something to slowly wake her, laced with some pain killers.” After pulling the needle out, he gets in the driver’s seat and starts the Jeep.

“Not that I’m complaining,” I begin, staring at the motel door we just came out of. “But are we leaving Scarlet here?”

Please say we’re leaving her!

“It will be best. I don’t want to haul her around.” He pulls out of the lot, getting us back on the road, and for once, I’m actually glad.

A short while later, we’re sitting in a burger joint parking lot, both scarfing down burgers and fries. I can’t believe it’s almost five, but my stomach believes it. I’m on my second burger and thinking about having another. Thank God for cheeseburgers! Oh, and the pickles…mmmm, pickles. It appears Cadmar’s just as hungry, since he’s on his fourth. Guilt pangs in my chest, because we’re enjoying this greasy goodness while Kay is unconscious, although he did buy enough for her, saying she’ll need to eat when she wakes, whether she wants to or not.

When I’m beginning my third, some groaning starts up in the backseat. We both turn to look while Kay wiggles around, moaning in pain with her eyes clenched shut. Cadmar hops out, opening the back door to help her. After many long grueling minutes of Kay gasping in pain, shock, and a dash of agony, Cadmar has her propped against his duffle bag, her legs still stretched across the seat. She keeps her eyes scrunched shut while he explains her injury and the steps he took to get her healing in motion. He says something about the bullet going between her ribs and hip and how she’s extremely lucky. She nods stiffly, but her eyes remain closed.

He keeps reassuring her she’ll be okay, but one lone tear rolls down her cheek. I can’t imagine what’s going through her head, how much she must hate me. I want to apologize, to tell her it was entirely my fault, but the sight of the one tear has my throat clogging up. Not only is it weird that she’s crying again, but Cadmar being as gentle and caring as he is, blows my mind.

He sets the bag of the remaining food next to her with instructions to try eating before getting back in the driver’s seat. But I can’t stop staring at her. Is there anything I can do to help? I need to do something!

After another long minute of absolute silence, she sighs, wiping the tear away before opening her eyes. She looks straight ahead, out the window for a while, before turning sorrowful eyes on me. What is she sorry for? I did this! It was me! I want to scream to get the point across. Her tear-glistened eyes seem huge under her glasses, making me want to yell even more for some reason.

“Are you okay?” she asks me. Me! The one who got her shot.

My mouth opens and closes like a guppy out of water. “I’m so sorry,” I blurt, ignoring her question. “This was entirely my fault, all of it. I was the one who talked you into following Cadmar. I was the one who tried taking the gun. It’s my fault you’re hurt and I couldn’t be more sorry.” I have this urge to climb over the seat and hug her, which is freaking crazy.

She takes a deep breath then gasps, clenching her eyes shut again. I begin apologizing again, but a big hand lands on my shoulder, making me jump. My gaze turns to Cadmar’s troubled eyes when he shakes his head stiffly and tells me to sit back in my seat like a freaking kid. Gah! What’s wrong with apologizing? I do as I’m told, feeling helpless and well scolded, when he turns to look at her.

“One to ten?” he asks.

What her pain level is?

She cracks her eyes open, taking another deep breathe, cringing. “Six,” she tells him.

Sweet Lord, if it were me I’d say 75!

He nods then passes her a bottle of water. “Drink. Try to eat. I need your strength up in the next couple hours.”

Taking the water, she nods then takes a drink, but I want to rage and yell. “In a couple hours?” I demand. “She got shot, Cadmar. She shouldn’t be doing anything!

“Reiley, it’s okay,” Kay says, her tone only above a whisper.

But I ignore her, glaring at Cadmar, who turns back in his seat and starts the engine while the paper bag crinkles from Kay rummaging through it. He grips the steering wheel, clenching his jaw.

“We are getting this done and I need her help. My contact is insisting we finish this tonight, so that is what’s happening.” He pauses, giving me a softer look, which scares the bejesus out of me. “I am sorry for what Scarlet has done. I never truly knew who she was. None of you deserve what you’ve been through. But I will not pass up this opportunity, because it will ensure all of your safety in the end.”

My mouth hangs open like a dummy. When I finally close it and am about to demand some freaking answers, a phone vibrates. Payton! She’s the first person I think of, reaching for my phone, but it isn’t mine going off. Cadmar reaches in his pocket, pulling his out and answering.

“Yeah?” he gives his usual greeting.

Is it Payton, is it Payton, is it Payton? I want to ask so badly.

“No, we’re a couple hours out,” he answers whatever question the person asked.

It can’t be Payton; we’re not two hours away from her. Then who the heck is it? His mysterious contact?

“I was planning for earlier, but we had an…issue with Scarlet.” He pauses, glancing sideways at me with a grimace. What the hell?

I glance back at Kay, who has her head angled so she can watch Cadmar.

“She’s fine,” he says after a long pause, still looking at me. I wish I could hear what the other person was saying. Why are they talking about me? “Just got a little shook up.” Who the heck is it! I wonder while he listens silently again. “Yes, I promise. Again, we’ll be there in a couple hours. Contact me if anything changes.”

Another pause then, “Yeah, I will. Bye.” Hanging the phone up, he then puts it back in his pocket.

Did he just say ‘bye’? He never gives a formal farewell; usually only hangs up, sometimes in the middle of the conversation.

“Who was that?” I demand, but he doesn’t answer, as usual.

He acts as if I didn’t say anything when he finally puts the Jeep in drive and pulls away from the burger joint.

“Ahh,” Kay yells, causing Cadmar to slam on the brakes right at the exit, both of us spinning around to see her trying to sit up.

“Kadence, you need to lie back,” Cadmar commands, sounding slightly panicked.

She shakes her head, slowly getting herself to a sitting position. “I’m fine,” she breathes then purses her lips, giving Cadmar a hard look. “Cadmar, it is time for some answers.”

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