Free Reads

I want to welcome all the readers who found their way here from the Summer Reading Trail. I’m so happy you’ve found me along the Flirtatious Footpath. The story I’m sharing with you is specifically a free read written for the Summer Reading Trail. The rest of the story will be posted in July.

If you enjoy it and would like to read something longer, please click on the cover of any my books on the right side of the blog and it will take you directly to a publisher’s website where you can learn more about them.

And without further adieu, please enjoy part 1 of BRIDGE TO LOVE:

In the distance the festival continued, but Vral barely heard the raucous laughter and tribal drums over the soft moans of the woman in his arms. Mahgda would be upset he’d been gone so long. It wasn’t polite for the bridegroom to miss his own promise celebration and no doubt his betrothed would be looking for him.

Didn’t matter. This whole wedding was a farce. He didn’t love the Nargien female anymore than she loved him. Though Mahgda was certainly going to reap benefits beyond her wildest dreams, Vral would save the realm, but lose his self-respect in the bargain—hardly seemed a fair exchange for the first born son of the Demekleis king.

But duty often involved personal sacrifice and Vral seemed to be paying the ultimate price.

As he hurried to his sleeping chambers, the female snuggled deeper in his arms, her porcelain face nestled in the curve of his shoulder. Human. Though it hardly seemed possible, her long limbs and slight build confirmed his suspicion.

A scholar of ancient civilization and artifacts, Vral had chosen the tiny planet in the Milky Way Galaxy for his Prothemesis. Few academics chose to receive the highest honor, but the hours poring over the ancient texts had not only kept him out of the local gangs, but had piqued his interest in Earthlings. In the end, there was very little he didn’t know about the humanoid planet—or its inhabitants. And this woman, warm and soft in his arms was definitely one of them.

But Earth was a thousand light years and countless galaxies from the planet of Cabonon. The starbridge between their worlds had been destroyed during the last great cycle. Both Earth and Cabonon still bore the scars of the apocalypse. The former had lost Atlantis, a great catastrophe for sure, but humans had prevailed and their race had continued, albeit without the peace the Atlanteans would have guaranteed. But Cabonon—his home planet–had been completely decimated.

A dark evil had descended the day the starbridge collapsed, sending Cabonon into a blackness so complete, even the light from distant stars couldn’t penetrate its atmosphere. Vral hadn’t known anything different from the heavy weight of despair all Demekleis people slogged around. Tempers were quick, insults quicker and peace between tribes something only the elders remembered.

Hence the reason for his loveless betrothal to the Nargien warrior.

On a sigh, Vral pushed aside the oversized strands of the baen tree covering his sleeping chamber, whispering commands as he passed through the sitting room. Luminescent organisms woke from their slumber, a soft, amber hue lighting the dark recesses of his simple abode. It was one of many symbiotic relationships the Demekleis people had developed with the fauna of their planet.

“Vral!”

Normally, the sound of his brother’s voice wouldn’t send icy rivers of guilt through his veins. But as Vral hastily laid her on the bed and covered the woman with a blanket of soft ferns, he implored the Gods not to let her choose this moment to wake.

“Vral, where the hell are—” Wesphel stepped into the bedchamber. “Ah, here you are.” Three years younger, his brother had not come into his male maturity. The boy was still a head shorter and his cyan skin hadn’t developed the cobalt hue of Vral’s. “Where have you been? That Nargien wench sent me to find—”

“Well you’ve found me.” Vral stepped between his brother and the bed, shielding his curious gaze. “I just wanted to…” Vral searched for some believable excuse for coming back to his chambers. “Grab my daknier.” He swiped the small knife from his dressing stand, bent and slid it into a weapon’s band beneath the leg of his trousers and slapped his beefy fist on his brother’s shoulder. “Shall we go?”

A low moan keened from beneath the covering.

Wesphel broke from his grasp and shot around him before Vral could stop the foolish boy. “I’m not sure if Father would be proud you’ve bedded one last female or displeased that you’ve broken your promise of fidelity.”

He pulled back the coverlet before Vral could stop him. The human female bolted to a sitting position, her blood curdling scream echoing off the walls. The noise startled the luminescent organisms who shut down, leaving them in total darkness.

* * * * *

Annemarie’s throat burned from screaming. But she forced herself to stop and swallow her fear. It wouldn’t do for the daughter of a naval officer to lose her head in battle. She wasn’t sure where she was, but it sure as hell wasn’t Pennsylvania. She’d had only a brief glimpse of the blue alien trying to probe her before everything had gone black.

Instinctively she jumped away from the creature, grabbing the taser from the large side pocket of her cargo pants as she went. With her back to the wall, she waited for her eyes to adjust, wondering just where she’d landed and how the hell she’d gotten there. It seemed a long way off from the crystal cave she’d been excavating.

“Hush, dear friends, safety is yours.” A decidedly male voice spoke quietly in the dark, the baritone timbre stirring something deep inside Annemarie. Not fear exactly, but a definite awareness. She hadn’t expected the creature could have such a soothing tone. It seemed so incongruous to the harsh angles of his face. “If it pleases you, we could use some light.”

She patted her pockets. Save for a wad of notes, two stubby pencils and an old stick of gum, Annemarie had nothing. “I…I’m sorry I don’t seem to have my flashlight. Matches either.” She wasn’t sure why she dared respond. The blue creature that had been in her face wasn’t any friend of hers. But when the ceiling began to glow, she suspected he hadn’t been talking to her. Mesmerized, she watched the rock above her grow brighter. The light rolled and pulsed as if the ceiling itself were alive.

“There, now if we can all remain calm.” The voice floated from a second creature, bigger, bluer and uglier, who seemed to materialize out of the shadows. There was no way in hell the small taser in her hand was any match for the monstrosity moving toward her. The scream ripping from her lungs, was all very girly, but it seemed a natural reaction to being cornered.

They were plunged into darkness once again and Annemarie dropped into a fighting stance. Even though the Tai Kwon Do lessons she’d been taking at the YMCA for the last year weren’t going to get her very far, at least they weren’t going to stick probes in her orifices without a fight.

“Seriously human we’re not going to get anywhere if you keep scaring the Photinus.”

“—I have no idea what a photo-whatever is, but I need you to stay back!”

“—Human? Did you say human, Vral? For the love of all the Gods where did you find a human?”

Her words rolled over a higher pitched voice, probably the smaller of the two. But their distress came through in the volume of their voices, the sound bouncing off the walls as if amplified by the tight quarters.

“Stop now both of you.” The honey-rich command of the bigger male brooked no argument. “The creatures living in my ceiling are Photinus. And they would happily share their light and heat if the two of you would stop scaring the living shit out of them.”

A low hum filled the air, a sweet melody of notes that wrapped around Annemarie, slowing her breathing and steadying the rhythm of her heart. Once again light filtered into the room.

“I—”

“She’s—”

“Enough,” the big male said. “Seriously, if we are plunged into darkness again, because you two fools can’t keep your voices down, I will walk from here and leave you both to fend for yourselves and find your own way out.” His gaze pinned first one than the other, both of them shaking their heads and holding their hands up in surrender. Annemarie had no desire to be lost in a dark cave with an alien species of unknown origin.

“Fine.” He shot an imposing look at the male behind him. “Wesphel, stand there and shut up.” When he turned back to Annemarie, his expression softened. “I have no intention of hurting you human.” His voice was warm and lilting, inviting her to relax. “From your reaction I suspect you’ve unknowingly opened the starbridge between our worlds and I intend to find out how and why.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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SEE YOU IN JULY!

And it’s finally here … the last of Test Drive, the free read I’ve been offering this summer. My apologies to have taken so long to get this twelfth installment to you.

Please enjoy…

********    TEST DRIVE    ******** 

“Please don’t leave me here in the woods.” She looked from Brent to his brother, Paul. “We haven’t been gone that long. They’re probably not even missing me at the dealership. But it doesn’t matter anyway. I’m not going to identify you, because no one will know I was with you. The police won’t ask any questions once they find out I went for a little joy ride.  It’s not the first time.”  Margo heard her own voice, but it sounded distant to her ears.  When had she made this decision?  Where did she think she would go?

“What?”  Both men blurted in unison.

“Margo, really, we’re not going to hurt you,” Brent said. “As soon as we get to the camp, we’re going to dump this car. Then, off to the mountains to buy the lodge, thanks to the down payment in the trunk. Poof! No longer U.S. citizens–”  

“Shut up! You fucking asshole!” Paul’s voice echoed in the stillness of the forest. “I should leave you both here to rot in the woods.” Paul stalked around them, his fingers raking through his hair. “First her screwing everything up. Now you shooting off your fucking mouth. This whole thing sucks.”

“Margo.” Brent’s eyes searched her face. “This isn’t who we are, embezzlers and thieves.”

Paul pulled him to his feet, rage contorting his face. “We. Are. Not. Criminals. Need I remind you that that was Dad’s money and our inheritance? We got back what that cheating bastard of a business partner stole from us.”

“Well, it’s not how the courts are going to see it are they, bro?” Brent stepped back when Paul let go of his windbreaker. “That part’s done. It no longer matters.” He straightened the windbreaker. “It’s the kidnapping charges I’m concerned about.”

These men no longer frightened Margo. They were simply trying to find their way in the world just like her. “It’s only kidnapping if you have a victim.  And I don’t see one of those here in these woods.” She spoke quietly, but with new found conviction. She had no intention of telling anyone about these men. “Getting the car back through the border is a non-issue, just put the dealer plates back on. We have Canadian customers all the time, but it doesn’t matter, I’m not going back, there’s nothing there for me.”  Margo tried to stand, but her twisted ankle wouldn’t hold her weight and she nearly went down. Paul grabbed her and held her steady with an arm around her waist. 

“What do you mean you’re not going back?” Concern rode on Paul’s words.

“It’s a long story … and not half as exciting as what you’ve been through.”

Brent pushed his brother aside and scooped her into his arms, heading back up the hill back to the car. “We’ve still got a drive ahead of us. Listening to someone else’s problems for once would be nice.

He set her in the passenger side of the car, Paul taking his place behind the wheel. What strange turns life took. Leaving Dylan this morning, she wouldn’t have guessed that a kidnapping could open her eyes to the disatrous turn her life had taken. But as Paul pulled the car back on to the road, she told them everything.

She told them about growing up in northern Maine, her life with her brothers, the death of her mother and her broken dreams. She talked without interruption, save for her own tears. It was a catharsis. She hadn’t even shared all of her disappointments with Dylan. How had this happened? How had two strangers opened her eyes?

“We’re almost there,” Paul stated flatly.

Brent leaned around the seat. “Margo, you know you can’t come with us. It’s time for us to fulfill our dreams. Your time will come. It’s just not now. Not with us.”

Margo looked from Paul to Brent. “I can’t come with you, but I don’t have to go home. You came to my dealership for a reason today. You’ve chosen today to start your lives over.” She laughed at the absurdity of her words. “You have guts. You had a goal you’ve been working toward and you reached it. That’s not easy to do. I thought I had to accept my life. But I don’t”

Paul turned off the highway and down a small dirt road. Pulling the car into the brush, he turned to Margo. “It’s the end of the line for us Margo. We’ll put the dealer plates back on.”

They all got out of the car. The autumn sun was warm on her face. The autumn breeze danced with the pumpkin colored leaves and filled her nose with the rich, earthy scent of fall.  Despite everything she’d been through, a calm settled over her. She watched the brothers empty the trunk. Sadness made her limbs and heart heavy.

Brent pulled her into his arms. “You’re one classy lady Margo, if you’re ever in the mountains, look us up.” His fist tapped her chin. Of course he didn’t mention which mountains.

Paul handed over the keys.  “Drive safely, and don’t pick up any hitch hikers, you never know what kind of ride they’ll take you on.”  He laughed.

They helped her limp around the car and settle into the driver’s seat. Margo watched the men until the woods swallowed their retreating backs. Somewhere they would meet Dave. By the clock on the dashboard she realized only ninety minutes had past since she’d left the dealership with the old man John. What a different person she’d become in that short span of time.

She started the car, driving back onto the main road. Her life had opened up to her on this little test drive. 

What she did now was totally up to her.

THE END

This is the continuing story of a car salesperson, Margo and the two men who have kidnapped her and taken her over the border. If this is the first week you’ve found your way here, click on “Test Drive” in the left hand column and feel free to read the first ten weeks. If you’ve found your way back here … thanks for coming!

*********    TEST DRIVE    ********* 

“Brent! What the fuck?” Paul ran down the hill. “You’re an asshole. You know that?” He stomped through the leaves.

Margo watched anger contort the smooth visage in front of her to a scowl. Brent filled his lungs and stood to face his brother. “It appears … thanks to your inability to control your anger … that Margo has sprained her ankle. It’s very possible it’s broken.”

“That’s fucking great!” Paul threw his hands in the air. “I’m done with her. Leave the bitch to rot in the woods.”

“Shut up. Just. Shut. Up. I’ve had enough, your damn arrogant asshole. I’m tired of listening to your shit.”  

Paul stepped back as if the words had held more force than Brent’s fist. “This isn’t about …” His finger shook in her direction. “You’re not talking about her are you?”

“No, for Chrissake.” Brent’s hand plowed channels through his hair. “It’s not about her. It’s about you big brother.” Brent stepped up to Paul, his finger a breath from the man’s nose. “And it’s about me. It’s about eighteen months of sacrifice working for a frigging asshole. It’s about two brothers with college degrees letting their ignorant baby brother do the dirty work. It was me Paul who skimmed the money.” Brent’s palm slammed into his chest emphasizing his ownership. “For eighteen months I listened to you two ‘Careful Brent, not too much. Hurry Brent, this is taking too long’. And not once did I complain. That bag full of money in the trunk and the money in the account didn’t just appear like magic.” Brent’s hands churned the tension standing between them like a curtain. “Your little number tricks with the quarterlies would have meant nothing without my work, so yeah, I think I have a right to voice an opinion.” 

Margo shrank into the leaves. For the second time that morning she was actually afraid, but this time, not for herself. These brothers had tipped into a territory she didn’t want to revisit. Violence had always been the way her brothers had settled arguments.   

“I’m fucking tired of being bossed around by the two of you college graduates.” Brent yelled. “Just because I don’t have that BS after my name, doesn’t mean I don’t have a brain in my head. It simply means Dad drank away my education. When we get the lodge up and running, you two are buying my share and I’m going to start something on my own. I’m not stupid!” Anger deepened the color of his skin and frustration wrinkled his brow.

“Oh, what the hell are you talking about? Now you are being stupid. She’s got you wearing your heart on your sleeve and talking like a girl. Leave the bitch here and get in the car.” Paul made the mistake of turning his back on his brother.

Brent rushed him and tackled Paul to the ground. Fists slammed into bone as the men chose violence over compromise. Margo couldn’t stand it. “Stop it. Please just stop it.” Ignoring her own pain, she struggled to her feet and hobbled over to them. Reaching out, she grabbed Brent’s fist before it drew more blood. She looked at him, her eyes begging him to stop. “Violence never solved anything.” Her voice was a mere whisper.

Brent fell back on his haunches swiping at his fat lip as Paul pushed up and just stared at his brother. “Sometimes you’re a real asshole you know that.” Paul spit blood. “This thing with her is completely out of control.”

“I don’t care about the money or what you’re doing with it. I promise not to tell anyone.” Margo looked from Paul to Brent. “Please, just don’t leave me here in the woods.”

Here is the tenth installment of Test Drive a short story about a car salesperson and the two men who have kidnapped her.

**********   TEST DRIVE   ********** 

Brent’s hand shot out and connected with a sickening thud against Paul’s jaw bone. The impact snapped Brent’s head to the side and it came up hard against the driver’s window, rendering him momentarily unconscious. Fearing for her life, Margo fought to control the car careening into oncoming traffic. Brent lunged for the wheel. Quick reflexes on everyone’s part, kept the cars from colliding and the other driver communicating his protest with his horn.

Brent maneuvered the slowing Saturn to the opposite side of the road. He pulled the gun from the waist of Paul’s pants and fell against the back seat, ragged breathes matching Margo’s.

“Sorry about that. I told you, my brother has a wicked temper.” Brent tucked the gun in his pants and slid to the door behind Paul. “Not the first time I cold-cocked him. I have a feeling it won’t be the last.” As he slid out of the backseat, Margo opened her door and bolted for the road.

“Margo!” Brent’s shout didn’t slow her down as she ran across the road into the safety of the trees. Feet thudded behind her, but she would not get back in the car. Not with two fighting brothers with short tempers and a couple of guns behind them. How had one test drive gotten her to this place in her life?

Panic pushed her without caution. Her foot slipped between two rocks hidden beneath the carpet of dead leaves and Margo came down hard on her knee. Pain shot out of her mouth on a scream. Despite the knives of agony shooting up her leg, Margo worked to free her foot so she could get away from these madmen who had come into her life less than an hour ago. 

It was no use. Brent was upon her before she could work her foot out of the useless high heel.

“Margo, stop.”

Brent came up behind her, his breathing coming in ragged pulls. She wondered if he had the gun pointed at the back of her head now. She wasn’t brave enough to look over her shoulder to find out. If he was going to kill her, he’d have to do it like a coward and shoot her in the back. She closed her eyes and the ruined images of her life played like a slideshow in her mind.

The withering body of her mother. Her dreams of a college education. Giving up her life for her father’s happiness. Settling for a loveless relationship with Dylan. There was no happiness in the movie playing in her head. Only sadness and heartache. She had nothing to live for. Margo fell forward giving into the inevitability of the end and prayed it would come quickly and without pain.

But it wasn’t the report of a gun she heard, it was the quiet crooning of Brent’s voice as his strong hands ran down her calf and eased her foot gently from the rocks. She rolled over on her back, the pain causing waves of agony that nearly made her wretch.

“Don’t move. I think you’ve broken it.”

Tears rolled down her temples. She hadn’t wanted to cry, but everything was so wrong. Wrong with this situation–wrong with her life.

He misinterpretted her sadness, she could see it in the depths of his eyes and the lines furrowing his brow. “Margo, don’t cry. I won’t let Paul hurt you.”  Brent knelt down next to her. “He’s just uptight. We’ve worked a long time on this and you’ve made things a little more …” He smiled at her. “Complicated.” He brushed the tear away with his thumb. “We just don’t know how to get you back through the border, you can’t use these plates.”

“I’m not going back.” 

This is the ninth installment of my short story Test Drive. If you would like to read the first 8 installments please click on Test Drive in the right hand column.

**********   TEST DRIVE   **********

The silence hanging heavily in the car made it hard for Margo to fill her lungs. Perhaps it was the sight of the brick building receding in the side mirror or the hills of Canada looming in front of her, but something made her dizzy with inescapable despair.

“Margo, I’m sorry that frightened you. But we’ve come so far, I couldn’t let you talk to the Border Patrol and ruin our plans. This did seem to do the trick. I promised not to hurt you and I meant it.”  Peter held a screwdriver in Margo’s face.

She realized it was the handle that had been pressed into her ribs and not another gun.

“What the fuck?” John shot Peter a scathing look over his shoulder.

“Oh, don’t blow your wad, dear brother. No harm, no foul. We all agreed getting through the border would be the toughest part. I could see Margo getting antsy and just helped her through it. It’s all down hill from here.”

John narrowed his eyes at Margo. Obviously, he considered her the most difficult part of whatever they were doing.

“Damn, this thing itches,” Peter said. “I’m glad to get rid of it.”  Margo turned to see Peter ripping off the baseball cap along with the scraggy hair. He picked at the goatee on his chin.

“You idiot! You fucking idiot! What are you doing?” John kept turning around, the car bumping off the shoulder before he turned back and brought it under control. He shoved Margo’s face, forcing her to look forward. “Don’t look at him. Keep your eyes forward.” Spittle flew from his mouth with the words. “Stop! You asshole. What the fuck, man?”

“For Chrissake, brother. Breathe. The damn thing was only for the border patrol. I think Margo’s cool.” He reached forward and laid a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “When this is over, I have a feeling she won’t say a word.”

Cold panic slithered down her chest and coiled in her belly. Now she could identify them. Hope sank as Peter pulled his hand from her shoulder.

“We’ve got everything covered Paul, just chill,” Brent said, settling back into the seat.

“It’s John. You idiot! You fucking idiot! If I weren’t driving…”

“Oh, but you are big brother. That was the deal, I was only the wing man, remember?  The front guy. But it seems to me I’ve done all the work. Everyone at the furniture store can identify me, what’s one more, especially when she’s as classy as Margo?” He leaned forward between the seats. “And by the way, my name is Brent, nice to meet you again.”

Margo didn’t want to look at him, but he captured her chin and pulled it so their noses were only inches apart. Chestnut curls framed a clean shaven face with a square jaw. The deep blue eyes scanned her face and she couldn’t help but return his mischievous smile with a trembling one of her own. In another life, at another time, she might find his boyish charm appealing. But having no idea what they intended for her, this moment wasn’t about anything more than having this man care about her enough to keep her safe.  

“Oh, what the fuck are you doing?” Paul pushed Brent to the backseat and broke the tenuous connection.

“Brent, you’re a fucking idiot!” His fist thumped the steering wheel emphasizing every word. “This whole thing is unraveling. First this bitch decides to go on a joy ride with us and now you’ve opened you’re fucking mouth. What the hell’s next Brent, a fucking four way split? I’m sure you know who will love that.” Paul gave up on the disguise and pulled the Fedora off, slamming it and the gray wig on the console between them. “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. It wasn’t supposed to go down like this. A whole fucking year, and for what? A fucking bitch who couldn’t mind her own business. I say we get rid of her now.” Paul’s hand went for the gun just as Margo grabbed the steering wheel.

Copyright Kara Dunn 2008

I hope you’ve been enjoying this short story. If you’re just finding this for the first time, feel free to click on “Test Drive” in the left hand column and read the previous 7 entries. Please enjoy the next excerpt:

*******   TEST DRIVE   ********

“Ever the knight in shining armor aren’t you dear brother?” John asked sourly. Looking at Peter over his shoulder, he threw the car into reverse, the gears grinding like the tension roiling in the air between them. Margo had no idea what she’d fallen into. As dirt and rocks flung backwards, she wasn’t sure whether it was the extreme acceleration or the fear, but her stomach lurched and she swallowed the bile as they turned onto the main road.

“Listen, we’re not too off schedule, we should be at the border in ten minutes. We’ll figure out what to do with this beautiful lady.” Peter tapped Margo on the shoulder.

“Shut up! Just shut up! Will you, let me think?” Spittle flew with the unexpected explosion of anger. Peter had warned her of John’s volatile temper, but this was the first time she’d seen him get angry without cause. John flipped on the radio, the crooning oldies a stark contrast to the turmoil in the car.

With the volume hindering any further dialogue, Margo focused on her breathing. At least she wasn’t tied up and in the trunk. Between the screaming music and the terror pounding in her ears, she found it hard to string together two rational thoughts through the emotional fog. Nervously she cracked each of the knuckles of her right hand, hoping to mask the tremble in her hands.

Peter had rifled through her pockets and taken her cell phone and wallet. She didn’t like that she had no identification. Did they intend to kill her and dispose of her body, hoping it would take longer for them to link these men to her? She shook her head, refusing to give into those kind of thoughts.

She pondered how long it had been since she left her office; thirty minutes, more? She doubted anyone had even noticed. Once, on a beautiful summer day, she’d taken a convertible out with a girlfriend. They were gone close to an hour. Only the receptionist had commented. She missed her only because it had run into her lunch hour. There was a chance no one would give her a second thought until the police showed up asking them to identify her body.

Dylan wouldn’t realize she was gone until late tonight when he was looking for dinner. She never bothered to call her boyfriend during the day, knowing his lazy habits would only upset her. So even he wouldn’t wonder where she was.

The hill leading up to the border was lined with trees blazing with crimson leaves. But she wasn’t on a fall foliage tour, she was headed to some unknown destination. On the other side of the border could be nothing for her but danger.

With this tiny crossing in northern Maine, getting into another country would require nothing more than a piece of identification and answers to a few questions. 

John slowed the car and turned to Margo, evil mapping ugly roads across his features. “Don’t say a word. Don’t smile. Look straight ahead. Don’t even draw a deep breath. Nothing to bring attention to yourself.” Venom dripped with the words he pressed through clenched teeth. He hit the switch for the window as he pulled up to the brick building.

The glass window on the side of the building slid open, the elderly gentleman barely looking at them as he ticked information off on the registration sheet in front of him. “Beautiful morning. Everyone a U.S. citizen?” Canadian border patrol were always pleasant.

“Yes, all of us are from Willowdale, we’re having lunch in Great Falls.” John replied.

“I need driver’s licenses, birth certificates or passports.”

Peter handed two things to John who passed them onto the grandfatherly man leaning out the window. Obviously Peter had pulled her license from her wallet.

Margo’s head spun. What was she doing? Scream. What would these men do to her in Canada? The reality of her situation crashed down upon her once again and she refused to cower under its weight. Scream. The word echoed in her head. Do something. She sat back up and turned to the border patrol. Her mouth opened, but fear for her life kept the sound locked in her throat. 

The barrel of a gun pressed painfully through her jacket, digging into her ribs. Peter had it pressed into her right side. She slouched back into the warmth of the leather. Her glazed eyes of defeat once again stared straight ahead. 

The man perused the licenses in his hand. “Wait.” He readjusted his glasses and looked at the identification and then into the back window. “Peter, this you?”

“Yes, sir.”

Hope soared even as Peter pressed the gun painfully into her side. Perhaps they would be asked to go inside.

“You were born on Christmas Day same as my youngest,” the older man stated. His tongue clicked on the roof of his mouth. “She always hated not having another day to celebrate. You’re about the same age.”

“Yes, sir. It is a disappointment.”

“Guess we all live with disappointments.”

As he handed back the licenses, Margo wanted to scream out her own disappointment. But the gun in her side may as well have been wrapped around her vocal chords. No air would pass over them. Even as she screamed for help in her head. Only silence filled the car as she waited for the man to realize something was terribly wrong.

He handed back the licenses and in a monotone voice ran through the obligatory questions. “No mace, pepper spray…”

“Nope, nope and nope.” John smiled through the window for the first time since arriving at the dealership. He certainly knew how to toy with people.

“Have a nice lunch.” The gentleman waved them through.

The Sebring rolled out of the shaded protection of the building into the blinding fall sun. For the first time in her life, rather than the giddy anticipation of a vacation, crossing into Canada brought with it a sense of finality.

Copyright Nina Pierce 2008

Here it is, the seventh installment of Test Drive my short story. Last we saw car salesperson, Margo, she was trying to escape two men who kidnapped her during a test drive.

Please enjoy …

*****  TEST DRIVE  ***** 

“What the hell’s the matter with you?” The taller man stepped between Margo and the gun and offered her a hand. “Put that fucking thing away, John. That’s how people get hurt you idiot.” He pulled Margo to her feet. “We’re wasting time, we need to get moving. We have a short window of opportunity here.”

“She was running away, we can’t have that. I don’t know what the hell to do with her, but having her jumping in the river isn’t the solution.” He tucked the gun at his waist under the jacket and picked up the heavy duffle still sitting on the ground in front of the car. “If she isn’t going to behave …” He let the threat fill the air before he strode to the back of the car.

Margo had a hard time filling her lungs.

“My brother’s a good guy. He’s just a little on edge. I’m Peter.” He bent and looked into her eyes. “Don’t do that again. I can only buffer you from his temper for so long. Do you understand?”

Margo nodded.

“You won’t get hurt. Just let us get through the next couple of hours.” He led her to the back of the Sebring. The trunk was open and John stood with a length of rope, his eyes searching Peter’s expectantly.

Fear rolled over her, a nauseating tsunami that washed her in a rib-crushing wave that stole the air from her lungs, and had her heart pumping hard. She tasted the bitter flavor of bile as her stomach lurched. She wondered if they would put her in the trunk. Perhaps that was why John insisted on opening it at the dealership. At least she knew where the trunk release was in this model. She never thought of it as a useful safety feature until now.

“No way in hell, John.” Peter emphasized the man’s name. She’s not going in there if that’s what you’re thinking.”

John snapped the rope. “Peter,” he said the name with venom. “Where you going to put her? The back seat like we’re some taxi service?”

“Fuck you. She’s not going anywhere. She’ll sit in the front and I’ll be right behind her.”

John stepped up to her, his eyes narrowing to tiny slits, but the daggers flying through them made her wince. “One wrong move …” He slammed the trunk shut walked to the other side of the car.

Amazing how is wordless threats hurt more than the slap to her face.

“Just get in,” Peter said. “Don’t screw with him, Margo. He’s serious.” Peter opened the passenger door and she slipped hesitantly into the seat. Going with them didn’t seem like a good idea, but fighting them when they were armed … hardly seemed like a good life decision.

Copyright Nina Pierce 2008

Welcome to the sixth installment of my short story. If you’ve just found me, please feel free to scroll down the “Categories” list on the left hand side of my blog. Click on “Test Drive” and you will be able to read the first five installments.

Last week left Margo, a car salesperson, running for her life from two men who had kidnapped her during a test drive of a new vehicle. Please enjoy this next installment.

******   TEST DRIVE ****** 

Fear pushed her forward with the singular focus of making it to the water. Margo’s stocking feet were no match for the jagged gravel and sharpened points of broken shrubbery. But the pain cutting through the soles of her feet barely registered as adrenaline shot into her bloodstream, pumping her leg muscles at a fevered pitch.

Shouts erupted behind her. She blocked out everything save for the sound of rushing water. Fifty feet. Fifty feet of brush separated her from the depths of freedom.

Running through the tangle of long grass, she prayed. Prayed she’d be faster than her captors. Prayed she wouldn’t get snared in the brush. Prayed the bone-chilling waters of the river would swallow her before a bullet pierced her skull.

As if her thoughts had conjured a gun, an explosion tore through the pounding in her ears and instinct doubled her over. Still her body pushed forward through the maze of branches slapping at her face. Twenty five feet. Close enough to smell the fetid aroma of farm silage running toward the ocean. Nothing had ever smelled sweeter.

Just as she believed freedom was in her grasp, a strong arm snatched it from her fingertips. Margo fought against the vice-grip of the forearm wrapped around her waist. Her feet left the ground as he swung her back toward the car.

“Jumping in the river will get you nowhere but wet.”

She flailed against the red-haired man. Kicking at his shins and flinging her head back, she connected with nothing but air. Still she fought. Her class of defensive maneuvers rushed back in a hail of memories and survival instinct. 

“Now, that’s not very nice,” he said into her ear as one hand clamped her face and the other pulled her arms tight against her torso. She struggled against the steel wrapped around her torso, but to no avail. “I suggest you settle down before my brother decides to aim the gun at you. He’s got a rather nasty temper. I’m warning you now–don’t test its limits.”

He both carried and dragged her struggling body back toward the car. Margo shouldn’t have been fooled by the man’s small stature. The arms that held her were forged with iron. She wasn’t breaking from his grasp.

“My boss knows where I went! You can’t get away with this!” she yelled. When the words didn’t seem to have any impact she screamed. His hand slid up to cover her mouth and the next scream was swallowed by his wide palm. Her eyes bulged as she tried to draw breath. Panic swept through her as her lungs refused to fill. 

“Shut up! Shut up!” John ran to them, the gun waving in his hand. “If you don’t shut up I will put a bullet in your skull. Right here. Right now. You were a pain in the ass the moment I walked onto the lot and I have no compunction taking you down right here.”

That took the fight out of her.

“Put that damn thing away before someone gets hurt, you idiot,” he said to John as he set her none to gently on the ground and released her mouth. She drew a deep gulp of air as he spun her to face him. “Stop fighting me. We have no intention of hurting–”

Margo’s fist shot out, connecting with a sickening thud against the bone of red-haired guy’s jaw. The ball cap fell to the ground, but didn’t move the man. The shock of pain radiating up her arm was unbearable and she cried out at the sudden sting of it.

She had only a moment to register the pain before another wave rang through her face. John backhanded her. The force of contact sent her to the ground. The heat of terror burned her throat and eyes.

The barrel of the gun pointed at her nose blurred in the wash of uninvited tears.

She was going to die.

Copyright Kara Dunn 2008

This is the fifth installment of my short story, Test Drive. I hope you enjoy this free read.

********** TEST DRIVE **********

John stopped the car. “Don’t move, or…” He didn’t finish his sentence. He just sat there staring at her, his bobbing index finger inches from her nose. Emotions fluttered over his face in waves and finally settled on a mix between anger and confusion. John’s mouth opened and closed, but no words tripped over the thinned lips. Blowing out frustration, his cheeks puffed before he gave up on any explanation and bolted from the car. Margo didn’t know if she shook from fear or the slamming of the door.

A willowy man stepped out of the shrubbery, a worn army surplus duffle bag thrown over his shoulder. The baseball cap he wore backwards, covered red hair pulled back in a pony tail. Thin fingers rubbed at the dark soul patch below his bottom lip.

John had given up the pretense of the cane and the limp that had slowed his walk at the car dealership was no longer apparent as he strode to meet the man. Anger lifted their voices and sent fear skittering up her back.

“You brought company,” the red haired man said.

“What the hell was I supposed to do with her?” John pointed back at Margo through the windshield. “God damn it all to hell, this is not how it was supposed to go down!” He pulled off the fedora thumping it against his thigh, emphasizing the words.

“Calm down. It’s not a big deal. We can deal with this.” He laid his hand on John’s shoulder, but John shook it off and began to stalk.

“What the fuck? How can you be so calm? We’re screwed! You just don’t get this do you?” John spun around to face Margo, his arms spread wide and his eyes shooting darts of malice through the glass. “I wanted to leave her, but she’d go to the police and it just wouldn’t give us enough time. We’ve got to do this today!”

“It’s a little glitch. Nothing we can’t handle.”

John whirled and stepped up to the man. “Little glitch? What the fuck? This is a huge, callosal, mother fucking, SNAFU dear brother.”

The tall guy pushed at the air trying to tamp down the anger roiling between them. “Everything else is working with precision timing.”

“The car?”

The red haired man turned to the river. “Can you see it?”

John shook his head.

“They’ll never find it until the spring floods. If it shows up then.” He swung the duffle to the ground and pulled license plates from the bulky contents. “Now calm down and keep moving. Take this and put it on the back.” He handed John a plate and a screwdriver. “We’ll just get rid of her before the border. That’ll give us enough time. Stop worrying.”

John stalked past her window without a sideways glance, but the hatred sluicing off him chilled her and she pulled the leather jacket tighter around her body. The tall man shot her a quivering smile before bending down to attach the plates.

Margo only needed a moment. She mentally measured the distance to the lake–one hundred feet through tall grass and shrubs. She could do it. Slipping out of her pumps, she eased the door open and slid out of the car. The brisk autumn breeze slapped reality at her with the cold force of fear. People had lost their lives after their boats had dumped them into the swift current of the river. But she’d rather suffer that fate than endure what she suspected these men had in mind for her.

Bolting for the refuge of the swampy river bank, she prayed her trembling legs could carry her as far as the water. 

Copyright Kara Dunn 2008

Welcome to the fourth week of my short story Test Drive. I hope you’re enjoying this free read as much as I’m enjoying writing it. Feel free to offer suggestions in the comments. It’s a work in progress and I’m willing to take the story wherever you’d like it to go!

**********  TEST DRIVE **********

“Yeah, a dozen yellow.” Rob smiled at Margo, and waved at her as she headed to the lot. No doubt he was ordering flowers for his wife–again. She didn’t even want to imagine what he’d done this time. Something told her she should interrupt, let Rob know she was getting in a car with this guy. But perhaps she was overthinking this whole thing and was being foolish. Besides, the customer seemed impatient.

Pushing down the trepidation inching up her throat, she smiled at John as she attached the dealer plate and handed him the keys. “Looks like we’re all set.”

“Could I look at the trunk before we go?” Without waiting for a response, he limped back and popped the trunk with the key she handed him. He took a cursory glance and shut it. “Looks just right for groceries and the occasional trip to the grandkids.” His smile warbled with the words.

With surprising agility he slipped behind the wheel and settled himself next to her. The man was a walking enigma–literally. Looking around as if lost, he stared at the cane in bewilderment before tossing it haphazardly on the back seat.

“We can go right over to get your wife, if you’d like.” Margo offered helpfully.

“That’s fine, but I live out in the country.” He sounded annoyed. The skin on his jaw was taut and without wrinkles, save for the occasional tick of a muscle. He stared straight ahead and pulled the fedora low on his head so Margo couldn’t see his eyes.

“No problem. We’re not in any hurry. I’m happy to pick up your wife wherever you live.”

His knuckles pulsed white as he clenched and unclenched the steering wheel and pulled into traffic. 

They drove in silence.

Margo didn’t show him the unique features on the radio, or the buttons which operated the moon roof. She prided herself on reading the moods of her customers and she knew it was neither the price of the car nor its fuel economy causing the frown on his face. She wasn’t sure where she was headed, but it definitely wasn’t to pick up Mrs. Anderson. Fear rippled up her spine and she worked hard to keep from shivering. This whole thing had been such a bad idea.

He turned onto a road that ran along the river, heading to the outskirts of town. Ten minutes out, he pulled off the main road and followed a dirt track down to the water. The dark river churned, the sun glistening menacingly off its boiling surface. Margo had no idea what was happening. But when John shoved the car into park with vehemence, she understood with the certainty that night would fall–she had wrapped herself in trouble.

Copyright Kara Dunn 2008

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