As I watched it seemed to happen in slow motion, but within seconds of seeing the emergency vehicles, Jared had taken out the ambulance’s front tires and righted the truck so we could go about our journey. My mind hadn’t quite caught up with the events, but my heart was ripping through my chest.
“I thought you said not to kill them!”
Jared put the gun back in the seat and peered into the rearview mirror. “I hope they’re not dead.”
He picked up his phone and held it to his ear. “Claire. They’re shel ing. I need backup.” He snapped the phone shut, and then pushed the phone under his thigh.
“Is she coming?”
He nodded once. “They all are. We just have to get to them.” The Tundra surged forward when Jared stomped on the gas. The speedometer climbed from seventy-five, to eighty-five, then ninety-five. The engine screamed a deafening soprano as Jared desperately tried to get us closer to his sister.
“Maybe we lost them,” I said, more to comfort myself than to convince my husband.
Jared reached his hand across the console and gripped it around mine. We were vulnerable, and he knew it. Any human we came across was a threat. Jared’s hand squeezed tighter, and all color left his face.
“I can’t decide if I should turn off the highway to a road that’s less traveled, or stay and cut down on time.”
“This particular stretch didn’t seem busy when we came through. Maybe We’ll get lucky. It’s the cities I’m worried about.”
We passed only a car or two over the next ten minutes. Every time I saw something in the distance, I tensed and waited. Each time the car would pass without so much as a wave, and the adrenaline would absorb back into my system. I was beginning to feel sick and dizzy after an hour, but I knew we couldn’t stop.
“They’re up to something,” Jared said. He was squinting, trying to focus as far out as he could to see any impending danger.
“How long before we meet Claire?”
“I don’t know when they left. I’m assuming right away. Considering the time of the cal and how fast Claire drives, I would say less than an hour.
Maybe half that.”
I nodded quickly, trying to make myself feel better. “Thirty minutes. We can hold on for thirty minutes. What could they possible throw at us that we couldn’t handle for that long?”
Jared didn’t speak for a solid minute while he studied the road ahead. When he final y focused on a tiny dot in the distance, his face fel , and his breath caught. “Oh, my God.”
I knew my human eyes wouldn’t have been able to make out the dark blur several miles ahead, but Bean gave me focus I might not otherwise have had. The long, dark blots on the road, dancing against the heat off the asphalt, barreled toward us.
It wasn’t until I tried to form a sentence that I realized my mouth was gaping open. “What do we do?”
Jared released my hand and reached under the seat. He offered me an extra handgun, and then put both hands on the wheel.
A caravan of Army vehicles, a Humvee, three Jeeps, and a large supply truck moved toward us at ful speed. The back of the truck reminded me of a covered wagon, only one covered with camouflaged tarp.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” I said, breathless.
“They’re probably on their way to Fort Story,” Jared said.
“I don’t care where they’re going. This is why things have been so quiet, Jared. Hel knew about that caravan and planned to shel them the second they crossed our path. You have to leave the road.”
“They’l just fol ow.”
I sighed in frustration, and then looked down at my watch. “Maybe they aren’t armed.”
“That FMTV transport has an armored cab. It could obliterate the Tundra if I let it get close enough.”
I turned to him and tried a nervous smile. “Please don’t.”
Jared returned my smile, and then nodded, gripping the wheel. He pressed on the gas. I wasn’t sure what he had decided, but he had a plan. It was possible that the drivers of those trucks wouldn’t shel at all . We could pass them without a problem like we had the previous ten or so vehicles.
That, of course, was just empty hope. I could feel a strange burning deep inside my bones. Every one of those soldiers had already turned.
The Most Important Thing
The jeep passed first, and then the Humvees. I was just about to all ow myself hope when the transport truck jerked into our lane. Jared didn’t twitch; he just drove faster. The needle on the speedometer vibrated at one hundred miles per hour. I gripped the door handle so tight that my knuckles turned white under the pressure. I trusted that Jared had a plan, but at the same time, soaring down the road to meet an armored truck in a head on col ision didn’t sound like a good idea to me.
“Hang on, sweetheart,” Jared said, his voice low. “When I get out, take the wheel.”
“When you get out?” I said, instantly panicked.
In a move that was so smooth it seemed choreographed, Jared swerved to the right and jerked the wheel again in a nearly perfect half-circle around the Army truck. As the Tundra spun off the road, Jared opened the door and stepped out, shooting directly at the Army truck’s tires. I heard several popping noises, but I was focused on grabbing the wheel and getting my foot on the break. Although I was terrified, the move was effortless, and before I had time to be afraid, the Tundra had come to a stop on the shoulder.
I peeked over the steering wheel to see the truck skidded to a stop, all of its tires blown. Jared held one of the soldiers in the crook of his arm.
The soldier went limp, and Jared lowered him gently to the ground. I counted eleven men on the ground, all of them unconscious.
Jared’s eyes met mine, and then he looked behind him, noticing the other vehicles circling around. He took off in a sprint, pointing behind me. I turned to see two shiny dots in the distance. I squinted, focusing in on the objects, and made out a motorcycle and a black sports car. It was Claire’s Exige, traveling at a speed manageable only to Earth’s most badass Hybrid.
I turned the wheel and stomped on the gas, picking Jared up along the way. My foot was flush against the floorboard as we raced toward our family.
Jared had barely broken a sweat.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Yes. The shel s don’t have the strength of demons because they don’t have the same hold on them that they do when they take the time to possess. I didn’t want to kill them, so I incapacitated them.”
“Wil they come after us after they wake up?”
“It’s possible,” Jared said, turning around. “Faster, honey.”
The jeeps and Humvees were gaining ground, and with a quick calculation, I figured if we were lucky we would reach Claire when the Army vehicles caught up to us.
Jared leaned out the window and aimed at the tires of the first Jeep. His gun clicked, and he popped out the clip. He leaned into the back seat and pul ed out a bag, dropping it to the passenger floorboard. It was ful of ammo and handguns.
“Where the hel did that come from?”
“Claire helped me pack.” He shoved another clip into his gun and flung his top half out the window.
He got off only a few more shots before ducking back inside. The Exige swerved to one side of the road, and Bex’s motorcycle went to the other, creating a clear path for us. I looked to my right, and everything went from hypersonic, to a snail’s pace. Claire came into view, and half of her mouth was pul ed up into a smile. She winked. Ryan was in the passenger seat, showing me his fist. His index finger and pinky was up, and his mouth was open, his tongue hanging out.
When they passed, I pul ed off to the side of the road and made a wide turn. One of the soldiers manned the Tourette of one of the jeeps, aiming in Bex’s direction.
“What should I do?”
Jared reached over and turned off the ignition. “We wait.”
Claire drove until she was behind the caravan, and then flipped around, pulling alongside one of the Jeeps. Her tiny arm appeared outside her window, gun in hand. She pul ed the trigger once, shooting out the front tire. The Jeep swerved out of control, and then cartwheeled toward the Tundra.
My husband held my hand. “It’s fine.”
The Jeep continued to rol at us, end over end..
I pul ed the keys from his hand and shoved the keys in the ignition, and then paused as I watched the Jeep skid on its side and come to a halt inches away from our bumper. My heart started beating again and a puff of air escaped my lungs.
Gunfire drew my attention down the road. The Exige fel behind what was left of the caravan, driving strangely straight and at a decent speed for a moment before Claire popped out of the passenger side, In the next moment, Bex was next to her on his Ducati. As if they’d practiced the move a mil ion times, Claire jumped onto the back of Bex’s bike—backward—with two guns.
Bex pumped his wrist, and the motorcycle took off like a rocket. Claire’s platinum hair whipped into her face while she took out another Jeep’s tires, but the soldier on the next Jeep began firing on them.
Bex maneuvered close to the Jeep and then he jumped off his bike high in the air, flipped, and landed sure-footed behind the soldier. After a short scuffle, the soldier flew off the Jeep and rol ed onto the shoulder. Claire flipped around and drove the bike next to a Humvee, punching through the class and pulling the driver from his seat and into the road. The Humvee fishtailed and then rol ed six times, final y slamming into a tree.
Claire skidded the bike to a stop, and then hopped off of it, pulling the remaining soldiers out of the Humvee. She checked each for a pulse, then picked the Ducati off the ground and pushed it to the Tundra. Ryan slowed the Exige to a stop just a few feet away, and then got out.
“Glad this is fun for you,” I said.
Ryan’s eyes immediately fel to my stomach. “Whoa, Nigh, how long were you gone? You look ready to pop.”
I rol ed my eyes, and then my eyes drifted behind Ryan, to the Jeep approaching slowly. The Jeep parked, and then Bex stepped out, frowning at Claire. “Did you scratch it?”
Claire shrugged. “It’l buff out.”
The scene behind them looked like the aftermath of war.
“Should we cal an ambulance?” I asked.
“I already did,” Ryan said, crossing his arms across his chest.
Claire fiddled with her hair, knotting it into a bun. “They won’t remember anything, so we should move out before any of them come to.” She handed Jared a set of keys. “The Escalade is good to go. You can pick it up at Mom’s.”
Jared wrapped his arm around Claire’s head, trapping her in the crook of his arm, and then gave her a quick kiss on the head. “Thanks, kid.”
Claire pul ed away with a smile, waving him away dismissively. “We were bored, anyway.”
Jared punched Bex in the arm. “Nice moves, little brother.”
Bex lifted his chin and smiled. “I’m a beast. Wait ‘til we get to Jerusalem.”
Jared and I returned to the Tundra, with him back in the driver’s seat. In a caravan of our own, we returned to Providence. The Exige behind us, the Ducati in front, we raced home. Sandwiched between my brother and sister, I felt at ease, completely different from an hour before. I leaned back and took a deep, relaxing breath. Jared smiled and reached his hand across the console. We intertwined our fingers, and I watched the different terrain pass by my window, unfazed by what might be ahead. I knew I was safe, and in that moment, that meant everything.
Just after sunset, we pul ed into Lil ian’s drive. Bex pul ed into the yard, and held the door open for me. Claire was next, and she and Ryan walked together up the sidewalk. They were elbowing each other and smiling, stil happy and excited. Ryan didn’t seem affected in the least, and it was at that moment that I knew they were truly meant for each other.
Jared patted Bex on the shoulder as he walked by, and then took my hand, guiding me into the dining room. Lil ian was expecting us, and the table was already set. She brought out a large plate of brisket, and placed it in the middle of the table. Claire disappeared into the kitchen, and Bex fol owed.
Lil ian pul ed the oven mitts from her hands, and then wrapped her arms around my neck. “Look at you! Darling, you look wonderful! How do you feel?”
“Big,” I said, only half-kidding.
“It doesn’t take long,” she said. Her smile was as warm and bright as the sun.
Lil ian had always made me feel so loved and welcome. I was sad that she wouldn’t be there for Bean’s birth.
“Oh,” she said, touching my cheek. “What is it?”
“We’re leaving soon.”
She offered a comforting smile. “I know. But the next time I see you, you won’t just be my favorite daughter-in-law, anymore. You’l be the mother of my grandbaby.”
I leaned into the crook of her shoulder, and she hugged me tighter. “You probably haven’t had a home-cooked meal in a few days. Let’s eat.”
At the table, Claire and Bex were chattering excitedly about the encounter with the Army trucks, and Ryan was busy stuffing food in his mouth.
Lil ian cut her food into smal , bite-size pieces, smiling as she listened to her children talk about their day.
Jared smiled, amused at how Claire and Bex took turns with each sentence of the story. He held a fork in one hand, and touched my knee with the other. I noticed the end of the table had an extra, empty place setting.
I leaned into Jared’s ear. “Is Lil ian expecting someone else?”
Jared looked down to the plate, and then shrugged. “Er...Mom? Is someone else coming to dinner?”
Lil ian’s eyes brightened. “Yes. I didn’t have much notice, so I extended the invitation a bit late.”
The doorbel rang, and everyone at the table traded glances. Lil ian patted her mouth quickly with the napkin and then pushed her chair away from the table.