It took me exactly fourteen minutes to walk from Connor’s house back to the bar where I had left the truck. The sun was coming up. I rolled the window down and sped toward the highway. The cool morning air was a salve. I felt like all of my skin was laid open, sliced neatly from my scalp to my little toe and then pulled gently from my body. I gulped the air in as it rushed through the window, trying to calm my nerves. My heart beat wildly, like a washing machine off balance, threatening to careen through my breastplate with an annoying bang.
When I got to the highway, I pushed the truck as hard as I could. It was at least twenty years old. It had been painted so many times there was no telling what the original color might have been. Now it was a dull camouflage green, laced with rust. I pushed it to sixty-five but dared not go any faster. At that speed, the old beast shimmied and swayed, the springs blaring an operatic melody as if the truck might break apart at any second.
Although it was futile, I pounded the steering wheel with the palm of my right hand. “Shit,” I said through gritted teeth.
I was dangerously close to not making it back on time and astonished to find that I didn’t know what felt more frightening—not getting back on time or leaving Connor behind forever. I knew that leaving again was a risk. My first attempt at escape and my previous three outings had cost peoples’ lives. But I’d never stayed out this long. I’d never fallen asleep before, certainly not with one of them.
I felt something that I’d never felt before, although I often watched the girl I used to be experience the phenomenon in her parallel life. I felt something for Connor.
I had a crush.
I was both relieved and disappointed. I thought for certain that men were ruined for me, but last night I wanted to sleep in Connor’s arms. I wanted to stay there, nestled in that space against his warm torso. I never imagined feeling that way about a man. A tiny sapling of hope shot up in my heart only to be immediately crushed by the reality of my life.
My hand met the wheel angrily in time with my muttered words. “Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!”
I had to return before he realized I was out of town. He would find out. He always found out. Then sooner or later he would find out about Connor. A flashbulb memory lit up my brain: stubble on Connor’s chin, his lips weaving a sleepy smile as I tickled his neck, a kiss.
He would track Connor down and kill him.
The word “no” strangled itself round the lump in my throat.
Again, the bulb flickered: Connor’s face. His short brown hair standing in all directions after he runs a hand through it. Blue eyes betraying his constant assessment of everyone and everything. His mouth turned up more on the right side when he smiles. A hard jaw. Long, lean body. Toned muscles beneath lightly tanned skin.
I chose Connor because I sensed something in him that would be smart enough to avoid any danger or repercussions that followed my visit. He was a police detective. He shot a man. Surely, Connor could survive him.
Like the others? asked a spiteful voice in my head.
I chewed my lower lip, wishing that Connor didn’t fill every ounce of my mind. I’d never felt attracted to a man before. I’d never actually wanted to have sex with any man before Connor. He surprised me by not giving in. I’d never been treated that way before.
The other three had not been like him at all. There was Rudy—he was first. I didn’t actually pick him, I stumbled upon him. He was kind of nerdy and his loneliness was palpable. I felt badly for using him, but I was much younger then and not as skilled at reading people.
The second man was far older than me, which was precisely the reason I chose him. He was unmarried and childless, lonely and bored with his life. The third man, Jim, was just a regular guy, also a little lonely and down on his luck. I picked him because, like Martin, the older man, I knew he could be manipulated easily. I knew that within a week he would do what I required.
Now it was Connor’s turn. I knew that he too would do my bidding, and sadly, I knew it wasn’t because I manipulated him to do so. I wanted to see him again. I wished I could explain things to him, and this was a compulsion I’d never been rocked by before. I wanted to kiss him again and feel his arms around me.
Something was breaking inside, and I wasn’t sure I could handle it. I didn’t know there was anything left inside me to be broken, but there it was. It was too late though. I had already set things in motion and there was no turning back. Maybe Connor would be smarter than the others.
“God, please,” I murmured.
My mind was so consumed with thoughts of Connor that I nearly missed my exit. I swerved madly off the highway, over the gravel median and onto the exit ramp. The truck tires squealed indignantly and the entire vehicle lurched right to left before I was able to right it. I was grateful there were no vehicles close behind.
As I got closer to the lonely, rural road and tiny trailer I inhabited, the air became dirty and heavy in my lungs. I was loathe to breathe it in. I didn’t want to return but if I didn’t, there would be consequences. There always were.
I had to go back. This was my ugly life. My name was Lynn now. He had christened me Lynn, and I could not escape him.
Genre – Psychological Thriller / Crime Fiction
Rating – R
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