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“This is Aiden, Sofia’s father.”

Kira’s face broke out into a smile and she reached to shake my hand. “Hello.”

“He’s come to show us how to use the wash machine.”

“Washing machine,” I corrected. “Yes.”

We walked into the kitchen. Opening the cupboard beneath the sink, I crouched down. The machine looked almost brand new and there was even washing powder down there. A manual lay on top of the machine. Flipping through it, I began to explain the basic functions. They stared at me like I was talking another language, and when I demonstrated how to switch it on, they watched in wonderment as it began to swish and swirl. Once I felt I’d shown them all I could and both of them had practiced switching it on and off, I stood up and replaced the manual on top of the machine.

“You can always check the instruction booklet if you forget something.”

“Thanks, Aiden,” Kailyn said. “Now maybe I can afford to sit in front of Brett more often to test how good it is…”

I chuckled. “Well, I’d better get going now,” I said, making my way out of the kitchen toward the front door. Kira said goodbye and walked back up the stairs, while Kailyn followed me to the exit.

Stepping back outside into the warm evening breeze, I turned around to say goodbye. Kailyn had a smirk on her face as she leaned against the doorpost.

“By the way, you’re cute. You should stop by again some time.” She winked at me and shut the door.

Despite myself, I felt the temperature rise in my cheeks. I was glad she’d already shut the door and hadn’t caught me blushing. I’d have to be blind to say that Kailyn wasn’t cute too.

Chapter 11: Rose

As I unglued my eyelids, my vision coming into focus, I felt utterly bewildered. It took a few seconds to remember where I was and why a man’s arm was wrapped around me.

Morning sun was beginning to trickle through the windows and hit a corner of the inside of the truck, a couple of feet away from us.

Why are we still here?

My heartbeat quickened as realization dawned on me.

We’d both fallen asleep and slept all the way through the night. Caleb had been so wrecked, even he hadn’t woken up. I clutched Caleb’s heavy hand and wriggled out from beneath his grip. His eyes were still closed.

I brushed his cheek with my hand.

“Caleb. You need to wake up. It’s morning already.”

His eyes shot open and he sat up so fast he bumped his head against the ceiling. The mist of sleep still veiling his eyes, he looked around in the same bewildered state I’d been in. He looked out of the window at the brightening horizon.

He swore and punched the side of the truck, making the whole vehicle shake.

He drew open the door and scrambled out of the truck and looked around, as if hoping he might witness a different time of day if he went outside. He paced up and down, his chest heaving as he continued to curse himself beneath his breath. I gathered myself together and climbed out of the truck after him.

“We need to leave,” he said, racing to the river’s edge, shadowed by trees and washing his face.

“There’s no way you can travel on foot during the heat of the day.”

“I have no choice. We need to catch up on the time we lost.” He raced back to the truck and grabbed the spare clothes from the roof. He began layering them over himself.

“You’re mad. We don’t even have your suit any more. You’ll burn alive.”

He was so angry with himself, it was clear that rational thought was escaping him. It was almost like he wanted to torture himself as a punishment for falling asleep.

I gripped his hands, trying to calm his temper. “We’ll just have to make extra headway tonight. But we simply can’t travel in the blazing heat. We’ll get lost, you’ll be running at half your normal pace, and what’s more—even if you do survive—you’ll be too wrecked to travel properly tonight. We’ll take the truck and hit the road now, make as much headway as we can during the day and tonight we’ll just have to make up for lost time.”

Of course, we wouldn’t make up for a whole night’s loss no matter how fast Caleb traveled, but we just had to do our best and work with the situation we found ourselves in.

From the look in his eyes, he knew I was right. He just didn’t want to admit it. He exhaled in frustration. Walking up to a tree and ripping off a branch, he leaned against it, his shoulders heaving.

“All right,” he growled. “Get in the truck.”

He raced back to the truck and hurled himself into the driver’s seat. I hurried into the passenger seat next to him. Reaching into the back of the truck, he grabbed Luis’ sunglasses and put them on again. Starting the ignition, he pressed down hard on the accelerator as he reversed at the speed of a madman all the way up the track until we reached the main road.

We’re going to crash if he’s not careful.

Since Caleb had removed the clothes from the roof, we now had a gaping hole in the center of the roof. Fortunately, the sun’s rays didn’t reach the front seats through it. Caleb pulled down the sun screen and adjusted his glasses as we sped forward along the highway.

I looked at the fuel meter. We still had more than half a tank left, thanks to the stop we’d made at the gas pump yesterday. But I wasn’t sure that it would last us until this evening. I really didn’t want to have to hitchhike today. Or witness more deaths and blood. Although the morning after tomorrow, we’d have no choice but to find another van to keep traveling toward the coast, I didn’t want to have to do it any sooner.

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