Breath of Fresh Air

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Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Fifteen -

When I wake, my back screams at me from the uncomfortable position of the chair. Looking around, I smile at Brooke’s sleeping form. Though I start to wonder what actually woke me as I look around the room for a source. The TV is still on the volume it was when I fell asleep, couldn’t have been that. That’s when I hear vehicles just outside of our room. My eyebrows lift as I stand moving toward the window. I manage to get a peek between the blinds enough for my eyes to grow wide.

“Brooke!” I scream, “Wake up!” She flinches and sits upright in bed in one move. I immediately jump over the bed, my arms grabbing her as we fall toward the floor. The moment my shoulder bashes into the floor, bullets ring out through the window shattering the glass.

“What the fuck?!” Brooke screeches, ducking next to the bed. “They’re shooting at us!” I can see the mania on her face as the bullets ring out.

“Yeah, no shit Sherlock,” I groan, peering around the bed. “I wonder how the hell they found us.”

“Are you sure no one spotted you when left last night?” Brooke asks, her eyes narrowing on me. “I mean, seriously. You might claim to know them, but these people obviously have tricks you’ve never even seen. They’ve probably been watching you since you got here.”

I hate how right her words sound. I’ve been an idiot thinking that I could outrun the damn Mexican cartel. If it’s one thing they don’t like, it’s a loose end that’s what I’ve become. Damn, I didn’t even get to finish the story to Brooke. When she realizes the full extent, she’s going to kill me herself.

“We’ve got to find a way out of here,” I mutter. Brooke scoffs and rolls her eyes but says nothing. At this point, I think I’ve either killed Mick in the front office or he’s calling the cops. The last thing we need is to be here when the cops surround the area. The questions are not something I can answer right now, not until Brooke is safe. “Stay right here.” I point my finger down toward the floor. Her eyes soften and I can tell she wants to say something. However, she’s cuff by the sudden silence of the bullets and the voice that rings out.

"Ashford Rocks!" I wince at the megaphone’s volume. ”Come on out. You know why we’re here! We just want you. You’re pretty lady friend can stay right where she’s at. You know this doesn’t concern her."

I look down at my fingers. I know that voice, I can’t stand that voice. Should have known they would put him in charge of this. Alonzo doesn’t like a loose end so he sends in his main guy. I shake my head toward Brooke as I move out of place. She reaches out, grabbing my shirt to stop me. I look at her, my eyes meeting her. Reaching for her face, I cup her cheeks and press a single kiss to her forehead.

“When I tell you to, you run toward that window.” I point toward the window in the back, the one in the bathroom. Her eyes are wide and she nods.

"I’m going to count to five. After that, I’m coming in with my trusty gun. You’re surrounded, Ashford, ain’t got a place to go.” Something about his words make dread fill my stomach.

“Okay, remember you asked for this. 1!”

I roll my eyes. He always did like to be dramatic but then again, he’s known for his flare. As he counts down, I manage to get around the bed, grabbing my duffle bag and the clothes on the floor. Brooke is beginning to bite her nails as well as her lip. She’s more scared than she wants to show.

“4!”

I wince, peeking up over the bed. “When he hits five, run into the bathroom. I’ll be right behind you.”

Brooke nods and moves into position. I keep an eye out to make sure they start the guns again after he says the magic number.

"5!”

Brooke is quick moving into the bathroom in a hunched position. I know her legs are screaming at her but she manages to move. I’m right behind and fall into the bathroom as the bullets zip past my face. Brooke spots her clothes on the floor, grabbing her skirt and shirt. She shoves her shirt into my duffel bag without even looking into the bag. I stand to my feet since the bullets are ringing out in the room. Thankfully the window easily opens and I shove it completely open. Brooke carries her shoes as she moves toward me when I wave her forward.

“You’re going first,” I tell her and she just nods. There is no second guess my choice. She takes my hands as I lift toward the window. She pulls her front through the window as I push on her feet. I hear her groan as she hits the ground.

“I’m okay,” she moans, “just a little bruised. Your turn.”

I glance toward the room as the gunfire slows. Tossing the duffle bag out the window, I follow Brooke’s lead. My front out first followed by my legs and jump down. My entire body screams at me from my awkward sleep position. Opening the bag, I pull on my shoes after spotting the fence at the end of the block.

“We need to get over that fence,” I nod in the direction of the black fence that corners off the area behind the motel. “Then, we need to hide.”

Brooke nods, but then she looks at me. Her hair is a mess and her face is bare. She got quite the wake-up call this morning. “It would be better if we could get a change of clothes. They obviously know what we’re wearing. Disguises.”

She looks down at her clothes. Her subtle way of saying she needs better clothes doesn’t go unnoticed by me. I just nod before cursing under my breath when the gunshots cease and the door of the room bangs against the wall. I quickly grab Brooke’s hand running toward the dark fence. Once again, I grab her and push her first over the fence. She winces, being barefoot the wire of the fence presses in on the sole of her feet. She nods down at me as she climbs over the top.

“Hurry!” someone suddenly screams behind me. I look back to see a head poking out the window we escaped. “They’re getting away.”

I flip him off with a smirk as I toss the bag over the fence. With my shoes, I get over the fence much faster than Brooke, taking only four steps total. I wave toward them as I grab Brooke’s hand pulling her into town. I can hear the slapping of Brooke’s bare feet against the concrete. Looking up, I notice the darkening sky with approaching storms.

Great. Just what we need today.

“Fuck,” Brooke says, looking behind us. “They’re right behind us!” her voice is low around the people surrounding us. The motel is near a large shopping district in this area. One of the reasons the motel is frequented by prostitutes because this area is high in shoppers. They can blend in and also stand out.

I spot a couple stores ahead, tugging on Brooke’s hand. She looks at me and follows my gaze. “You know what to do?”

She nods and allows me to pull her with me. Thankfully as we move there’s another group going into the same store. The clothing store is large and glancing over my shoulder, we’ve attracted at least one Hispanic goonie. Moving between racks of clothes and people, we attempt to lose them. As we pass the changing rooms, Brooke immediately pulls on my arm, almost out of socket, pulling me into an open room. Her breathing is rough as she slams the door shut, turning the lock.

“Stand on that.” She points toward the seat in the room. I follow her instructions as she spots clothes already in the room. “Try not to look too much.”

There are jeans and a dark cropped AC/DC shirt. I advert my eyes as she pulls the shirt over her head. I try really hard to keep my gaze away, but I stare at her back. Matching the thong I saw last night is a lacy bra that I can see only the back hooks. She pulls the shirt over her head before getting rid of the skirt. I swallow at the sight of the thin string down the crack of her ass. She squeezes herself into the light blue skinny jeans with rips in the knees.

When she turns around, she merely rolls her eyes at my cheeky look. “There. New clothes.” She grabs her own clothes, stuffing them with the rest into my bag. I watch her move toward the door, peeking through the crack of the door. “I can’t see anything. Why don’t I take a look?” She looks at me as she asks. “Without my clothes, they probably won’t even recognize me.”

I hate the idea, but she has a point. I just nod. She nervously smiles, giving me a thumbs up, trying to reassure me no doubt. I grab her by the shoulders, gripping them tightly. “Be careful. Watch your back.”

She nods. Though she suddenly surprises me as she reaches up, pressing her lips to my cheek. My eyes are wide when she rests back on her bare feet. Her cheeks are a bit pink as she avoids my gaze turning to the door. Taking a deep breath, she slowly opens the door and steps out leaving me inside the dressing room. I bite my lip as I squat on the seat before sitting down, keeping my feet up as to not show.

She’s gone what feel like five minutes when the door opens again. She strides into the room, large grin on her face, and a pair of black converse on her feet. “All clear. Not a single Spanish guy in the place.”

I breathe a sigh of relief as I let my feet hit the floor. “Thank god.”

Brooke moves to sit at my side. “We need a plan, Ford. Gotta find a place to go. Somewhere they won’t expect.”

“I’ve got an idea. They won’t expect me to pick a hotel instead. I have to keep you safe.”

She moves around the seat to pull the black converse on her feet. I reach down to grab her foot before she can, giving her a crooked smile. “I will do just about anything to keep you safe.” My fingers began to tie the laces on her shoes as she watches me shyly. Once her shoes are completely tied, she stands up, twirling in the clothes with a bashful look on her face. Pushing up from the seat, I take her hand. “How about something to eat?”

At that moment, her stomach decides to let its presence be known. “I think that sounds like a good idea.”

We leave the dressing room, heading toward the front counter. I spot a coat that would probably fit Brooke, grabbing it too. We could probably, easily, get away with walking out in the clothes Brooke is wearing, but after everything, the last thing she needs is to become a thief. The cashier looks at Brooke’s clothes and the shoes, ringing it all up. I spot a dark cap placing it on her head which the cashier notices. Brooke looks at me under the billfold, her brown eyes even more innocent under the dark hat. Suddenly a flash of mischievousness covers her brown eyes as she looks away. When she grabs an old fishing hat from the collection, pushes it on my head, an accomplished grin spreads over her lips.

I quickly pay for everything while Brooke pulls on the gray varsity jacket that has a hood. I wrap an arm around her shoulders as we step out of the store, food on our minds.

~*~

Brooke drowns her waffles in a boat load of syrup. After leaving the store, we managed to get a cab to a nearby diner. Of course when Brooke found the breakfast special on waffles, she was like a kid in a candy store. She has hash-browns, eggs, and waffles, with a side of bacon. The amount of syrup on her waffles is enough to send her into a diabetic coma, but she looks so happy. I know she hasn’t forgotten who or what we’re running from, but she’s taking the good moment for what it is, a single moment.

Brooke shakes her head at at me. “Are you going eat that?” she points at my plate which holds sausage and biscuit in white gravy. I have a side of fried eggs and hash-browns.

“Of course.” I look down at my food, hoping to keep the blush from my cheeks. It’s hard to keep my gaze to my self, to think about myself when she’s right here in front of me.

“I just realized that Tam is probably going to kill me.” I look up after taking a bite of food at Brooke. The smile on her face is cracking as she blows out a breath. “She wanted me to call her after our date last night. She’s probably freaking out.”

“Maybe she’s giving you time. Space.” I try to reason. I hope Tameka stays at her house, keeps to herself.

Brooke shrugs. “I hope so, but I wouldn’t put it past Tameka. I mean, she’s my best friend. She’s become a sister to me in the past few years. I wouldn’t have made it through everything without her.” Brooke grabs her chocolate milk. This time there is no straw and she chugs straight from the glass. A smile traces my lips when she pulls it away to reveal a milk mustache. “Anyway, enough about me,” she sighs, noticing my smirk. She looks into the napkin dispenser, her cheeks darkening as she glares at me. A single napkin wipes away my fun.

“What are we going to do after this?” Brooke manages. I bite my lip knowing she’s not going to like what I have in mind.

“After I eat, I’m going back to the motel. I left my truck in another location, across from the motel. You’re going to stay here, just in case.” When I look back at her, she moves to protest the crazy idea, but I hold my hand up. “It’s not up for discussion. There are things in the truck important to me. They aren’t more important to me, than your life. If I’m not back by nightfall or late in the afternoon, you will take a cab home. You will forget you ever saw me.”

She shakes her head at me, narrowing her gaze. “You can’t do this, Ford. I’m not going to let you sacrifice yourself.”

There’s that nickname again. I thought in the store it was a one-off kind of thing. Yet, she’s continuing to use it. I hate to admit how much it means to me. It’s a different nickname, one no one has ever used. Plus, the fact that my truck is a Ford helps as well.

“Finally picked a nickname, huh?”

Her cheeks flush. “It just happened. I don’t like calling you Ash and your full name brings unwanted memories. Ford doesn’t.”

I reach over, tracing my fingers over her hand. “You understand why I have to do this, right?”

She nods, gripping my hand, “I might understand, but I don’t have to like it.”

I nod, agreeing with her logic. We eat the rest of our food in relative silence apart from the dings of the plates and our scoffing down food. Brooke disappears to the restroom and I quickly pay the food while grabbing a napkin. I leave a careful note on the paper with a small pen before grabbing the duffle bag. Leaving her clothes and sandals underneath her jacket in the booth. She’ll hate me for leaving this way while she’s gone, but it’s the best I have at the moment. I need to get my truck and find a way to keep us both safe.

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