Molly had never realized it before, but there was a place beyond carsickness. The first few moment in the Allard had been nausea-inducing. Then she’d almost fallen out of the car, and the need to throw up vanished. It didn’t come back, either; not during the roaring, police siren-drenched drive down the mountainside, during which Glen seemed to be driving sideways most of the time, not during the even louder blast up the freeway through Hamilton. Molly’s toes had curled involuntarily, as if they were trying to grip the car’s floorboards through her shoes. She was very aware of not being strapped in.
Now they were most of the way across the land bridge separating two of Ile du Solieil’s islands, and the police had apparently just given up. The closest pursuit car had dropped far back, then disappeared entirely, apparently demoralized. Glen kept his foot down, and the Allard roared along, chilly wind rushing over the cowl and fighting with the engine’s heat that was beginning to roast her feet. There were no other cars in sight, except for a lone semi truck going the other way.
Above them, the clouds broke, and the sight of the gibbous moon low in the sky reflected in the ocean took her breath away. Without buildings to echo the sound back at them, the Allard’s V8 roar was merely deafening, instead of ear-shattering, and she was getting used to the car’s tendency to occasionally dart to one side or the other. She wanted to try to talk to Glen, but he was working hard. She could feel happiness pouring off of him, but the Allard seemed to her to be like a partially-broken horse that was constantly testing its master to see what it could get away with. She closed her eyes (the wind was making them water terribly anyway), leaned back in the seat, and tried to get her toes to uncurl.
When she opened her eyes again, toes still gripping her insoles, the lights of the center island were visible. Again Molly was struck by the blue-hued beauty of the early evening. She looked at Glen, to see if he was noticing it; he met her eye for the first time since they’d left the cave and gave her a lopsided grin that made her feel warm inside.
“I’m going to stop for gas!” he yelled as they pulled up to the row of toll booths that marked the end of the land bridge. “Before we get chased again!” Glen picked the “Xact Change” lane.
“I wish you didn’t make that sound so inevitable,” she replied. Her voice carried over the Allard’s burble better than his did, she noticed. “Why did they stop?”
“I don’t know!” Glen tossed some change into the basket and accelerated away. He took a somewhat less furious pace, which kept the Allard quieter. It was too dark to see if he was burning any fluids, and he wanted to listen to the engine and transmission for untoward sounds.
“Are we going to drive all night?”
He could tell instantly that she hoped the answer would be no. Glen considered; they had two days to go about six hundred miles, based on what Lexi had told them about the boat. Driving as far as possible tonight was his gut instinct, but it would be infinitely easier to keep tabs on the Allard’s behavior in daylight. Roadside repairs would be simpler, too—and they could check news reports, possibly to find out why the chase had broken off. He decided to go against his gut, which wanted to drive, drive, drive, and shook his head no. “I think I’ll fuel and find a motel in Lecroy, actually.”
“Is it a good idea to pull up to a gas pump in this thing? They’ve got to be looking for it; someone might call it in.”
Glen nodded again. Keeping the revs low so the Allard’s unmuffled roar wouldn’t attract too much attention, he left the freeway and cruised the small strip of hotels and fast food places until he found one whose lot was suitably shrubbed from view. They backed into a spot behind a van and shut down. “It looks like there’s a general store a block or so down,” he said. “Why don’t you check in, and I’ll walk down there to see if they’ve got a gas can and a tarp?”
She looked pained. “I lost my purse,” she said. “Wallet, phone, everything.”
“In the cave?”
“It fell out, when I almost did,” she added. “I think a police car ran over it.” Her voice trembled a little.
“I’m sorry about that,” he added.
“It wasn’t your fault.”
“Still…not much of a first impression. Of the car, I mean.”
She looked into his eyes for a long moment, and he held her gaze. “Since you stopped for the night, I’ll forgive you and the car after I’ve had a nice, hot shower. How’s that?”
Glen sighed and smiled, greatly relieved but unsure why. “It’s a deal.” He got her installed in the hotel room, then went to see to fueling and covering the car. He was in luck; the store he found seemed to be a Solei Wal-Mart analog, and had everything he needed. After some internal debate, he decided to chance putting everything on his Late Apex corporate card, and bought two five-gallon gas cans, a tarp and stretch cords to cover it, several emergency items like duct tape and hose repair kits, and some spare fluids. Hopefully the Allard wouldn’t spring any leaks, but if it did he wanted to be prepared. He was waiting in line, when inspiration struck. It occurred to him, out of the blue, that Molly had been wearing the same clothes for two days, like all of them had, and she’d probably appreciate a change. Some brief consideration in the women’s clothing section turned shortly into a major dilemma, and he eventually settled on a pair of loose-fit jeans, hoping to God they wouldn’t be too big or (even worse) too small, and a pumpkin-colored blouse. He liked the way she looked in orange. Confused by the sizes, he had to poll several women before finally settling on some relaxed-fit jeans that were hopefully close. He found a matching baseball cap in orange as well, and then picked up sunglasses, hats and sunblock for both of them, remembering many long days spent in roofless cars. What the hell—Glen got himself a shirt to change into as well.
Oh, dinner. She’d certainly want to eat, too. Glen wheeled the rapidly filling cart into the food section and found sandwich fixings and drinks for both of them. The deli had soup, so he bought a pint of that as well, so she could have some hot food if she wanted. Remembering that Molly had said she liked gourmet cheese, he selected some fancy-ish cheese and crackers, considered a bottle of wine and felt himself blushing as he put it back. That was probably going a bit too far. The hotel room and dinner were necessities, the cheese would work for road-snacks tomorrow, and the change of clothes was…well, he didn’t know what it was but it seemed like a nice thing to do. But wine was a bit presumptuous.
Goodness, was she going to think he was showing off? Was he overdoing it? Glen waffled, walking aimlessly through the hardware section, before deciding to just stick with what he’d gotten and hope for the best. Realizing upon departure that his best bet was to just take the cart back to the hotel instead of trying to carry seven bags and two gas cans, he stopped at a gas station on the way back. Two birds, one stone, he thought, feeling satisfied.
Molly had the TV on when he returned. “I guess the prime minister told them to break the chase off,” she said. “It was on local news. They were afraid of endangering civilians.”
“That makes sense.”
Her eyes widened. “Jeezus, Glen, what did you buy?”
“Ah, dinner, some car things, and…” he handed her the bag with the clothes in it. “I thought you might want something else to wear, you know, if…”
She beamed. “My God, you’re so sweet.” Molly hopped off the bed and kissed his cheek.
It was all he could do not to turn his face to hers. Glen smiled, accepted the kiss, and took a few steps toward the bathroom. “It was just a cheap department store.”
“It’s great,” she said. “Sandwiches for dinner?”
Glen nodded. “Why don’t I fix them? You’ve got to be exhausted.”
“Nonsense,” Molly said, instantly indignant. “This is the first task in three days that’s actually been in my bailiwick. Ah, Havarti and honey mustard,” she said, digging through the bags. “A man with unique taste.”
Glen wasn’t sure if that was a compliment or sarcasm, so he let it go. “Ah, so, did the news say anything else?”
“They claimed to have caught four cars…but then went on to say that there were five more at large. Three plus five equals more cars than I saw leaving the cave, so I don’t know what that means. Even if they counted the Suburban that crashed, that’s two more cars than we have. Oh, and Roger was on the news. He’s driving the Ferrari, right?” She didn’t wait for him to answer. “He got a news helicopter to follow him all through the city. There was a live feed a few minutes ago. As near as I can tell he’s way ahead of us–they said he went through Lecroy already, and that’s where we are, right? They did a few middle of the night man-on-the-street interviews too, and it sounds like we’re the amusing diversion of the moment.”
“Better than nothing, I suppose.”
“Does it make you happy, to be an amusing diversion?”
He smiled in spite of himself. On television, there was some footage of headlights racing through the mountain, and he watched for a moment, trying to determine who it was. He thought it was Harold; based on the almost-invisible car’s stubby proportions and tail-happy attitude, it was probably the Stratos. That meant that at least three of them had avoided capture, which confirmed that the figure of four cars caught was wrong. Glen guessed that Lexi probably hadn’t been caught, either, based partly on her performance in New York City and partly on an assumption that if they’d arrested Dobie, it would have been newsworthy.
When the announcer went on to the next story of the evening, he was surprised to find Molly much closer to him than she’d been a moment ago. She was so close he could feel her body heat, in fact. She looked into his eyes and tilted her head like a quizzical puppy.
Glen waited too long to back away; Molly took half a step forward, closed the distance, and caught him with a kiss. His intake of breath felt like a mixture of relief and surprise. She made it brief, so he could escape if he wanted to.
She didn’t expect that he would.
She was right. Glen kissed her back, taking her elbows lightly to draw her close, then moving his hands to her sides as she embraced him. Molly was aware of her breasts pressing into him and he was, too. The embrace became deeper, his lips parting slightly as he tried to pull her closer in a way that went beyond physical. Molly felt the kiss all the way to her heels, a flicker that was gone, then there again, then gone again. She took a step backward toward the bed and he came with her, his hands moving farther up her sides, giving just the barest tug at her shirt. It was both a question and an invitation, and she accepted by freeing the hem from her waistband.
Molly’s hands left his back (somewhat reluctantly) but she’d drawn him down as she sat on the bed. Their lips remained connected as she opened her shirt. Glen slipped it off of her shoulders with a murmur of appreciation. That flicker of right-feeling went through her again, followed by its attendant second-guessing–she hadn’t felt even an inkling of this since Rich, since the divorce, but was that her heart or her libido talking? There was a tremor of triumph, too, an ah-HA, I KNEW you wanted me! mixed up in there and then Glen had his hands under her shirt and he was kissing her neck just an inch from that perfect spot and Molly forced herself back into the moment. Woman, you think too much, just lie back–she did so as she thought it–and shut..up.
Glen didn’t put his weight on her when she lay back. He straddled her, moving his hands to the bed beside her to hold himself up. He pressed his nose against the soft skin under her jaw and just inhaled, taking a deep, happy-sounding breath, and she felt some bit of herself go with it, like he was drawing her essence out. She put her hands on his sides, then got them under his shirt and ran them up to his chest. She brought the shirt up with her hands, somewhat more brazenly than he had. Glen raised his head and met her eyes. His smile was happy and wanton and…deeper, perhaps, than she’d ever seen it. Molly felt like she was seeing him for the first time, and a little-girl voice deep inside yelled, “I love him!” She was barely aware of it; closer to the surface was the trace knowledge that some part of her was very caught up in the moment.
He sat back, putting his weight on his haunches, and pulled his shirt off theatrically. Molly sat up so she could undo her bra and when Glen tossed his shirt toward the bathroom he elbowed her in the face.
He got her in the cheekbone and nose, hard. She yelled in pain and dropped flat onto her back. An instant later the pain made her eyes tear, and as her brain reconstructed what had happened she started to laugh and groan at the same time.
Glen flew off of her as if burned. “Christ, I’m sorry! Are you all right?”
Molly rolled onto her side, then sat up, rubbing her face. She hadn’t managed to undo the clasp on her bra, so she didn’t feel completely undignified, but she had a vague and instinctive wish that she’d opted for fashion over comfort when choosing her lingerie.
“I’ll get you some ice.”
“I’m okay, more surprised than hurt. Come back,” she added, but he was already on the way to the bathroom to get a towel. When he came back, wadding one end of it up around a small knot of ice, he kept his distance and held it out to her. Unless she wanted to exert significant force, she wasn’t going to be able to drag him back onto the bed with her.
He inspected her, squatting to look at her face. “It doesn’t look like it’s swelling. Do you still want a sandwich?” Glen asked, fretting over the groceries.
“Only if I’m one of the ingredients,” she said.
He gave her a tight little smile and took the bread out. “I’m really hungry,” He said. “Didn’t realize how long a day it’s been.”
Molly looked at him for a long moment. He was studiously avoiding casting a glance in her direction. There was a tiny urge to finish undressing and grab him again, but the rest of the mood drained away and she let it go. “I guess I’ll take a shower,” she said, sighing.
“Want a sandwich?”
“I’ll make my own.” She tried to keep the annoyance out of her voice, and succeeded. Either he’d gotten caught up in the moment or the excitement of the day or…something, and he didn’t really want her, in which case she ought to be glad he was being a gentleman, or he just needed a bit of time (time? How much more time did this require?) to get used to what was happening between them. Molly hoped it was the latter, and reined in the urge to go on the attack. They could talk about it in the morning. Over breakfast. Before Glen fired up the car.