In The Afterlight Page 153

’’It\s about...’’ He ran a hand back through his hair. ’’It\s about how everything will be different going forward. You\ll go back to Virginia with your family, and I\ll go back to North Carolina with mine. And if we want to see each other, I need permission to take the car. You\ll need to run it by your parents to get their okay. We\ll be living with a set of rules we haven\ had in years, and while there\s something a little wonderful in that, I just want this...I want to forget for a little while. Outrun the hurt. This one last time, I just want to go somewhere no one else can find us.’’

I smiled, taking his arm when he offered it. He walked us slowly, carefully, around the back of the car. He opened the door and helped me up into the front passenger seat, arranging my awkwardly bulky walking cast with care. He leaned in to buckle my seat belt, using it as an excuse to kiss me again.

’’Where are we going?’’ Chubs shouted at him as Liam ran around the back of the car to the driver\s-side door.

’’Quiet, dear,’’ Vida said mildly, resting a hand on his leg.

’’Yes, dear,’’ Chubs grumbled back.

Next to them, Zu beamed.

I was still smiling when Liam buckled himself in and turned to address the group. ’’Okay, team. Where to? I figure we have about an hour before the conference ends and, for once, we\ve got gas to burn.’’

’’Is this how you got around before?’’ Vida wondered aloud. ’’It is a miracle you dumbasses survived.’’

’’Told you,’’ Chubs mumbled. I reached back and smacked his arm. ’’Fine. Okay. Where does everyone want to go?’’

’’Beach, beach, beach, beach,’’ Zu chanted.

’’Uh, not sure there\s one nearby, so we\ll have to take a rain check on that one. Anyone else?’’ Liam asked. ’’Vote?’’

’’I don\ care,’’ I said, leaning my head back against the seat. ’’Can we just get lost and see where that lands us?’’

’’Darlin\, that is the best damn idea I\ve heard in a long time. You\ e navigator. Tell me when and where to turn.’’ He turned the keys in the ignition, letting out a ’’Yes!’’ as an Allman Brothers song came pouring out of the speakers. By the time we rolled up the ramp and out of the parking garage, even Chubs\s groans had turned to laughter.

We drove, winding through the city streets until we found green, tree-lined roads, making our way toward the lazy lines of the river that ran along the curved spine of the city. Liam glanced over at me, taking a break from his off-key crooning. Lit by the warm afternoon sunlight, his fingers entwined with mine over the center console. Zu rocked in time to the music, chattering excitedly about each and every sign we passed. Chubs slid a book out of the backseat pocket in front of him, examining the cover for a moment before flipping it open. His fingers absently tapped the cracked spine to the beat as Vida leaned against his shoulder and closed her eyes.

I brought my window down, letting my free hand drift out to catch the wind.

And the open road rolled out in front of us.

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