Blood On The Water EPILOGUE

I'm alive.

It was the first real thought to surface in my cobweb-clogged brain since I woke up on the beach. I'd been groggy then, with only enough stuff working in my head to shakily stand and blink down at my soaked clothes. It never occurred to me to question why I was on a beach and in such a condition, and I was still in a thought-numbing state of shock when I climbed a short, sandy rise and found the road.

Loose-limbed like a cartoon scarecrow, I walked, head bowed to watch my feet because I couldn't feel them. I looked up once to check that the lights of the city were still ahead, and tripped on something, sprawling flat. I immediately scrambled up again, not daring to rest. The icy wind was cutting me in two;if I stopped moving now, I might stop moving for good.

Teeth chattering, arms clutched tight around my chest, I bowed my head again in a wordless prayer for more strength and staggered forward. I'd been down this road before, only then it hadn't been so damned cold.

I had been colder... out there... shuddering in the water, my ankles bound together... not suspended between heaven and hell, but very definitely in hell.

Headfirst.

For an age.

Until the press of water became too much and began to crush me into something that wasn't me and yet was.

I floated, just another bubble compressed into a moving plastic sphere by the water. I was going to float to heaven.

I made it as far as the surface.

Then the trip, an endless rush over a liquid desert. Realization that heaven wasn't my destination, after all, but then neither was hell. Perhaps another time, if ever.

I shivered. It was a memory now, but memories have a way of hurting you far worse than the original experience.

Road. Watch the feet. Think of other things.

Like Angela Paco, a dark little angel of death, every bit as lethal as her father had been. If not already, she'd be making plans to get rid of Escott. Not at all nice.

I'd have to have a serious talk with her.

Escott. Might want to mention it to him, too.

Chaven. Better not to think about him at all.

Same for Kyler.

Dear God, it's cold. The wind sliced through my wet clothes, cutting at my puckered white skin.

Road. The one I'd taken that first night, when Sanderson tried to run me down.

I'd stuck my thumb out, hoping for a ride...

Motor. This time the sound coming toward me from the city, not from behind.

Too bad. Could have used the lift.

Headlights separating, growing larger, had to shade my eyes from them. Not wanting to tempt fate, I moved closer to the shoulder of the road to give the driver plenty of room to pass.

He slowed instead.

Not again.

I waited for him to shift the gears, hit the gas, and hurtle down on me as Sanderson had. I waited and shook miserably in the Arctic blast off the lake.

The car coasted to a stop, motor idling softly.

It was a Nash.

The passenger door opened. A tall, lean man got out, moving slowly, his bony face pinched with concern. I glanced behind me to see what he was looking at, but saw nothing of interest.

’’Jack?’’

Yeah. That's my name. His was Escott. I had something to tell him-

He came closer. ’’Shoe and I had arranged a meeting with Miss Paco-we were just en route to pick you up. Are you... ?’’

’’B-better not g-go,’’ I choked out. My words tasted of lake water.

He stiffly shrugged out of his overcoat. ’’My God, man, you're freezing to death.’’

I grinned, which alarmed him even more. ’’N-not this t-time.’’

I'm alive.

He draped the thing over my shoulders and guided me toward the waiting car.


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