No Way Back
Book 2 : Of Wolf and Man
“Gwen! What are you doing here?” Sam’s face broke into a smile in spite of himself, relieved to see someone who wasn’t trying to kill him.
She shrugged closer to the car and blinked hard as more bullets hit the side of the vehicle. “What am I doing here? What are you doing here? You’re asking to get shot!”
“I was supposed to be right behind Blake. Didn’t you see him? He went looking for you!”
Gwen shook her head. “No. Jason and I found a running truck for Gideon and then he and I were coming back to help, but I lost him down by the creek a half mile back.”
“He left you behind?” Sam asked incredulously, to which Gwen only stared and blinked the meaning behind her words. “Oh, he’s....”
“Gone,” she confirmed. “Are you hit?”
“No, just a little worse for wear.”
“Let’s get you out of here.” Gwen snaked her arm under Sam’s shoulder and began to lift.
“We can’t leave Blake here, and Dean, he—”
“One thing at a time.” Gwen lifted until Sam could hold himself up against the car and then let go, arming her rifle and watching for an opportunity. She pointed. “When I say go, break for the trees in that ravine over there. I’ll be right behind you.”
“Right.” He tested his knee by hopping a little and leaned forward over it.
He heard her fire behind him as he ran, his knee and calf burning as he slid over the grass and leaves and tumbled into the small copse of trees and heavy brush. She followed behind him and sunk to the ground to catch her breath. The eight foot hill was upwind from most of the fighting, and had been eroded on one side, forming a natural bunker.
“Now what?” Sam asked her. “We can’t just sit here in a hole in the ground.”
“Well, it’s better than being a tin can on a fence post,” Gwen rebutted as she reloaded her gun. “Have you see what’s going on out there? It was a total ambush! They knew we were coming.”
“I know. Listen, I have to find Dean.”
“Yeah, and I need to find Blake.” Gwen pulled out her cell phone. “You getting anything? My battery’s almost out.”
Sam grabbed his from his jacket and turned it on to check the GPS for Dean’s marker. “No. I got nothin’.” Glancing up, he lifted himself slowly and struck his boots into the veiny, washed-out earth to gain a foothold.
“Be careful,” Gwen whispered sharply. “They’re still out there.”
“Gotta try.” He could just see over the top. His cell got one bar, then two.
A blurred shape came hurtling toward them from the wreckage of the cars. It huffed and barreled toward Sam, who scrambled to bring up his pistol without falling. A huge fireball struck the beast and sent it reeling into the side of a car. It shattered the remaining window and left a huge impression in the metal frame, but the creature got right back up. It shook its head and crouched for another charge, but a man's angry yell caught its attention, and Sam and the beast both turned to look.
It was Blake. His right hand was on fire, but if he was in any pain he wasn’t showing it. The flame grew even larger, a swirling blue mass of heat that echoed in his eyes. The wolf stood firm, beating its front paws on the ground, and it belted out a howl just as another stream of fire rushed from Blake’s palm. It was a direct hit and the wolf screamed and fell, thrashing as its grey fur curled into coal black ashes and its eyes shriveled and popped.
Sam watched the animal go up in flames. Then he sank below the level of the grade, sliding down until he was nearly sitting. Gwen's wide eyes were demanding to know what he had seen, but he just shook his head.
Within seconds, Blake leaped over the edge of the ridge and into their hiding place, landing behind Gwen. He twisted and rose, grabbing her by the shoulders.
She almost lifted her gun to rack the head of her assailant, but when she saw him, she breathed a sigh of relief. “Blake!”
He turned her around and held her. “I was coming back for Sam when I saw you. What the hell are you doing here?”
“You guys are seriously wearing that question down to the nub.”
“I’m going after Dean,” Sam declared simply. His face was fixed in a hard stare at the two of them, and without further explanation, he passed them and scrambled back up over the hill, grunting when he hit his knee. When his foot disappeared, Gwen shifted her gear to go after him, but Blake pulled at her elbow.
She yanked at the restraint. “We can’t let him go alone.”
“Fine,” he said. “But you’re not going. You’re staying here and waiting for me. I’ll be back in fifteen. If I’m no—”
Her eyebrow rose and her mouth puckered. “The hell I am.”
Blake’s eyes flashed. “I’ll tie you to this tree if I have to.”
“Fat chance,” she retorted, pulling her arm out of his grasp.
He caught it again before she could move away. “No!”
She tensed at his grip and her fists rose. “Why not?! Do you know something I don’t? Because if you do, now would be the time to spit it out!”
“You are not going out there to get yourself killed, Gwen,” he insisted. “You have to trust me on this, okay? I won’t let them have you, not you. I care about you too much.”
Gwen’s eyes turned to flint. “Look me in the eyes and tell me that Cain isn’t the alpha,” she demanded coldly.
Blace grimaced, and his gaze seemed to focus far away. “He didn’t do this. He’s been betrayed,” he whispered, then blinked and looked at Gwen again, a touch of worry in his eyes, “by someone who knows how much I love you.”
Her fists froze. “You what
He sighed. “I love you.”
She stared at him with her mouth hanging open. Blake’s expression was gentle, like he would kiss her senseless right now if she asked him to, make her utterly oblivious to their existence in the middle of this fiery chaos. “You decide to tell me this now
His face fell a little, and he let go of her arm. “It wasn’t the setting I pictured, but it still didn’t have quite the effect I was hoping for.”
“We’re fighting skinwalkers that have a grenade launcher, and I don’t even know whose side you’re on!” She jabbed a finger furiously over the top of the hill.
“Okay, yeah, I can see your point.”
She blinked incredulously at him. “And?!”
“And I still love you,” Blake smiled. “C’mon, let’s go.” He vaulted the ledge and then grabbed her hand to lift her up. The field around them was quieting and dogs were howling in the distance. Gunshots and explosions could be heard in the direction of the ranch house.
When she turned to look at him, there were sparks dancing in his eyes. *
Sam heard the steady hiss and crackle of the blackened vehicles as he picked his way across the field, heading for the hill where Dean’s section had been posted.
Wafts of burnt plastic and rubber invaded his eyes and lungs until his eyes watered and he covered his face with his elbow. After less than a quarter mile of pain knifing through his knee, it got so numb that he couldn’t feel when it hit the ground. After that, he was hobbling stiffly rather than running. Dean had to be closing the gap between them, if he could just keep going.
His cell phone vibrated in his jacket pocket, but he was still out in the open, nearing the wreckage of the second car in the line. It didn’t look like anyone had escaped. He forced himself to look away and keep going; the intermittent vibration in his pocket becoming a game of how many steps he could take before it went off again, two, then three. He finally reached the other side of the clearing and took cover in a ditch. The phone shivered in his hand and then stopped: Missed call, Dean.
He vented frustration and called the number back, waiting while the sonic trill went off in his ear. In the same ear, the line clicked and he heard a low growl.
“Where are you
“On my way to you, in a—”
The growl intensified.
He turned his head slowly and met the eyes of a huge rottweiler that was hunched low and forward over its shoulders, staring holes into him. Sam raised his pistol. The dog tilted its head at the gun, then took a step backwards, baring its teeth.
“Sam, shoot it
He whispered back, “I can’t.”
“Where’s your gun
“It’s a dog. I’m not gonna shoot a dog.”
“Didn’t stop you before
“Never mind. Trust me, Sam, shoot the damned thing
Sam shot high. The bullet hit and kicked up the earth behind the dog’s head. Its ears flinched at the noise, and it took another step back.
“It’s still just staring at me.”
“Didn’t you shoot it
“Dean, it’s not a skinwalker, it’s a dog
Another shot rang out and the dog fell in a heap without making a sound.
He could see its tongue sticking out of a mouth now wrenched open on a long, wheezing gasp. It went still and the eyes dulled, bleak and gray, still staring at him.
“Is it dead
Lee appeared at the edge of the ditch, rifle in hand. He paused to glance at Sam before choosing a route down. “Hey, dude, why didn’t you take the shot?”
The phone, and Dean’s voice, dropped from Sam’s ear. “What the hell did you do that for?!”
Skidding down on the heels of his boots, Lee hit the base of the ditch and took a few bounds toward the body. He bent over it and pulled at one of the paws. It flopped back. “Aw, damn his luck.”
Sam shook his head and lifted the phone to his ear. “Where are you?”
“Is that Dean? Tell him he’s slow, man. I’m goin’ after Hawk and them — bag me an Alpha.” Lee took off without looking back.
“Right,” Sam responded quietly. He ended the call and limped over to the body. He struggled to kneel down without wincing and batted away a few flies that had begun to gather. He brushed back the dog’s ear with slow pets. “Sorry, pal,” he murmured. “Wrong place, wrong time.”
Small snaps of twigs drifted to him from the top of the hill. Sam shifted on his good knee to watch Dean make his way down quietly. When he stopped at Sam’s side, he frowned down at the dog thoughtfully. “Sucks to be him.”
Sam nodded, and let Dean help him to his feet. He rubbed at his knee and then motioned numbly into the distance where Lee had disappeared. “Let’s go.”
“You gonna be okay on that?” Dean asked.
“Yeah, I just have to keep moving.”
They walked in silence until they reached the road again. When their heels hit gravel and there was no movement around them, they diverted their route toward the farmhouse. Sam noticed that Dean had made a concerted effort not to make any cracks about his face, or his knee, or about how his section buddies hadn’t seemed to be of much assistance in preventing those things. Sam heard them anyway.
He also heard the distinct rattle of metal ahead of them, and he stopped short to listen. Dean swayed backward and stopped, too. He glanced at Sam, then let his eyes follow the direction of Sam’s gaze. “What?”
“I don’t know. Something.” Sam said. When he stepped forward, his limp had grown pronounced again. “This way.”
They veered off toward an array of outbuildings, the ones that Dean had seen from the hillside. They made their way from building to building as quickly as Sam could move.
They paused around their breaths so that Sam could try to hear the noise again. He leaned against the wall to listen. Brown paint from the boards flaked off and landed on his shoulders. Finally, he shook his head.
Dean moved past him and peered around the corner. The smaller buildings were configured in a way that obscured most of his view of the house. He saw one corner of a porch, a white wooden railing that ran below a healthy potted fern, an old work truck, and a foreign car. All of them were perfect places to hide, or to set up an ambush.
“Where’s the rest of your fire brigade?” Dean asked.
“I left Blake and Gwen to come after you,” Sam answered.
Dean blinked and glanced up at him. “Oh. Is he coming?”
A giant whoop, one that sounded like it might have been Lee, echoed from the far side of the outbuildings.
Sam shifted his weight forward. “I think that’s our answer.”
“I don’t get why I’m always missing the party around here,” Dean muttered.
They moved cautiously past the two remaining outbuildings until they saw the source of the commotion.
“Chains,” Sam said, like that explained something important.
Five of the cars from their cavalcade were pulled into the field behind the house and parked haphazardly. One of the vehicles equipped with a rooftop SMG had made it this far. The doors and windows on a few others were blackened, but they appeared to be in one piece.
Dean tightened his grip on his lowered rifle and kept Sam’s slowing pace. He glanced back in the direction they’d come, then forward again. The smoke had somewhat dissipated from the field they were crossing, a wide expanse behind the house with upturned earth and massive smoking holes where bombs had missed their targets.
In the direction of the house, glass shattered. Dean grabbed Sam’s sleeve, and they ran as quickly as they could to the house. They took cover at the wall near the back door, and Sam gestured with two fingers that he could see inside. Dean took point and kicked the door down. Sam backed him, rounding the corner with his Taurus in his grip.
The house was stifling. The air followed them in with a whoosh as they entered and what had been a stand-off in one of the front rooms became a melee. Fur and men flew at each other with no intent of quarter. Furniture splintered and windows shattered. Several hunters disappeared in the jaws of the wolves escaping with their prey.
A huge white wolf remained, trapped and beaten, circling on a rug stained with its own blood. It growled at their entrance, clearly wanting to make a break for the windows.
Lee whistled from outside, drawing everyone’s attention. The last exit was blocked. The few skinwalkers that were left watched warily, pinned by the rest of Gideon’s team.
Blake was there, with Gwen. She was holding a network of woven silver chains at the ready. Gideon stood behind Blake near the front doorway with his rifle aimed at the alpha’s heart. The remaining dogs became silent, fixated on the hunter’s weapons.
Blake approached the white wolf, holding out his hand. Dean did a double-take.
“Come on, now. It didn’t have to be like this. It’s time,” Blake said, taking a step forward.
The animal hissed and back away, ears folded back and eyes glowing as red as fire.
“Dean’s here, Blake. We can take him with the Colt,” Gideon urged. “Dean, get the gun.”
“Nobody shoot him,” Blake rebuked in a smooth monotone. No one dared to speak, they only watched the strange sight of Blake calmly advancing on an animal that clearly wanted to kill him.
Still kneeling at the window, Lee lowered the rifle from his cheek to his shoulder without a word of contradiction.
The heat-damp air in the house filled with electricity, a charge that seemed to crackle around Blake and the alpha. The wolf lunged for his hand and snapped, then shrank back. Blake followed, closing the gap between them.
The remaining wolves flew into action, leaping for Blake when the hunters hesitated to respond. Within seconds, Sam pulled out the demon knife and flung one of the wolves to the ground. His long arms held the neck to the floor as the rest of its body writhed and tried to sling itself upright. He sliced the throat with a single smooth motion, then stabbed below the chest straight into the heart, killing it.
Two of the wolves jumped out the window over Lee’s head. His rifle hit the window sill and he dropped it. While one wolf kept running, the other stopped and turned back for him, sensing his vulnerability. Lee dropped to the ground, pulling his pistol and firing quickly. He unloaded a half magazine into the animal’s face before it dropped to the ground.
The white wolf twisted around until it was on top of Blake, white foam slathering from its lips. It opened wide to take a bite and Blake jammed his arm into the beast’s mouth. With his other hand, he grabbed at the scruff and yanked hard. The wolf tried to escape, its jaw stuck open uncomfortably wide, sharp canines now useless to contact skin. He pushed forward and around with his arm until it twisted the animal’s head towards the floor. It pulled away reflexively, trying to gain purchase on the rug as it slid across the floor. Blake rolled to his right, tossing the animal’s head all the way over. The large body landed on him, back teeth gnawing fruitlessly at his arm.
Dean raised his gun with the rest of the hunters and opened fire on the last handful of wolves. Sam grabbed the injured ones and ended them quickly. With each slice, the white wolf struggled harder against Blake’s grip.
The mouth began to shrink until Blake had to move to a choke hold. The wolf was sweating and bleeding, twisting and screaming, until the fur began to fall away in clumps. When it finally stopped, the air was littered with canine hair and Blake’s clothes were soaked in putrid drool and blood. He tightened his hold on the furious beast, still breathing in steep snarls, stripped down to a being that was half human and half tailed. From what Dean could make out, the alpha was a young, dark-haired man.
Blake cleared his throat. “Take him now.”
Gwen and two other hunters moved in with the chains. Gideon took the head manacle in half and passed it underneath while the two others tied its rear paws together and cuffed its hands, tying them together like a calf ready to be branded.
Blake moved out of their way. When he was finally tied and gagged, still shifting restlessly, the other hunters stood and waited for Blake to lift him. When Blake met his eyes, they were wild and feral, and anger spilled from them like blood, drenching the floor. Blake raised one arm and back-handed him across the face.
Black and red bloomed across his human features. He spat at Blake, smattering his face with inky blood. A few tense seconds passed and Blake wiped it away. Then he quietly wiped away the blood on the beast’s face. When he got up, he headed toward the door where the vehicles waited. “Let’s go.”
It took four men to carry the struggling alpha. They used pulleyed ropes to slide him into the nearest open bed vehicle, tearing the flesh from his back, and secured him down under a tarp.
Blake watched and said nothing.
Gwen kept her distance from them all, watching the edge of the woods with an intent frown on her face.
Dean walked up to Sam, who was wiping the knife clean on his jeans, and nudged him in the ribs. “Any clue what that was about between Blake and Cujo in there?”
Sam shook his head. “Seemed like they were familiar, though.”
“Yeah,” Dean squinted at Blake, who stood like a statue, uncharacteristically removed from the rest of the hunters.
Dean went to help bring out the wounded and lay them in a row on the ground. As he worked, he saw Blake pull Gideon aside and speak to him quietly.
Sam helped Lee, limping around to throw fuel on the roof and set the house and outbuildings alight. Any authorities ignoring calls about explosions in the area would surely come for a giant plume of smoke.
When Sam was done, he found Dean standing where they had parted. They watched Blake and Gideon talk. The priest was becoming animated and irate, gesturing with a pointed finger at his crew. Blake appeared worn and equally angry.
“Sammy, you know I hate asking, but nothing from the past is jumping out at you about this guy?”
Sam sighed. “No. I don’t know what he wants any more than you do.”
Dean flexed his neck to pull at his damp collar. “If you say so.”
Gideon and Blake parted ways. Gideon approached the injured, lying surrounded by the friends who had survived the fight unscathed. With a nod, Gideon went from one man to the next, acknowledging their bravery and thanking them.
Sam saw Blake grab an automatic rifle from the rear of one of the trucks, then swing back around, approaching the group. “Oh, no.”
Dean’s eyes followed Sam’s sudden movement forward and he saw the same thing. Sam didn’t shout at Blake or raise an alarm for the rest of the hunters, but he couldn’t close the distance fast enough. Dean ran for it, passing Sam easily, and stopped short in Blake’s path. “Just what exactly do you think you’re gonna do with that, huh?”
He expected Blake’s expression to be guarded, vacant, or defensive. It wasn’t. When Blake met his eyes, he looked pained. “Dean, get out of my way. All it takes is one bite and they’ll turn.”
“I’m not gonna let you kill them
Gwen appeared from behind Dean and made a move for the rifle. “Blake, what are you doing? No!”
Blake tried to raise the rifle out of her reach, but she grabbed the strap and curled it around her arm. “Gwen, you don’t understand. I don’t have a choice.”
“Yes, you do!”
Sam reached them, winded and grimacing. He pulled his pistol and aimed it over Gwen’s shoulders at Blake’s head. “We’re not going to let you do that. Enough is enough.”
“There’s no time to explain,” Blake lost his patience and shoved Gwen away. “They’re going—”
One of the hunters yelled. It was followed by another shout, longer in length and fading fast into the distance.
Blake broke away from the three of them and ran for the group of hunters. The wolves that had escaped had returned for their prey, barrelling their way through the hunters and dragging away anyone injured, stealing their bloody half-brothers from the ministrations of their former friends. They were as fast as hellhounds, and as quiet and coordinated as any pack of hunters that Dean had ever seen. He lifted the Colt, but stood mesmerized.
Yells and shouts melted into flashes of movement. Dean turned around to look for Sam. He was gone. His pistol was on the ground in the flattened grass. Drag lines and claw marks lined the yard, disappearing at the edge of the treeline clearing toward the fallow, plowed field. “No...!”
Dean knew what it was like to be dragged: voice caught in your throat, breaths only coming in small puffs, back burning. He knew that Sam wouldn’t be able to make a sound until they stopped moving.
He heard Gwen shout his name but he ignored her and ran, following the long scuffs and the pulled up plants where Sam had flipped on his side and tried to get leverage. Dean ran for what felt like a mile, through the treeline and the upturned field. There was no sound in front of him, only behind him, where Gwen and Blake were running to catch up.
The signs of struggle were fewer by the time he reached the other side of the field. Dean swallowed down the panic in between deep breaths and tried to focus. There was a ridge on one side of the field that was fenced off and heavily treed. The earth was pasted with brown leaves that hadn’t been disturbed. Above him, the fence had been ripped away. One of the posts was laid out on the ground. Another leaned heavily on the remaining wire. His hands dug into the earth as he climbed.
On the other side, Sam lay sprawled in the dirt. The demon knife was bright red against the mud-brown of his clothing.
“Sam!” Dean half-ran, half slipped down the embankment and hit the ground running. He reached his brother’s side in a spray of dead leaves, pulling his jacket off as he fell to his knees. Sam’s hands were wrapped around his side and his eyes were wide, the hazel bright with shock against his pale skin.
Dean’s hands were already folding his jacket, and he placed it over Sam’s abdomen and applied firm pressure to the wound. Sam cried out and his shoulders came up off of the ground, but his hands searched out Dean’s, and he pulled them down even tighter.
Dean yelled back up the hill without taking his eyes off of Sam’s face. “Blake! Talk to me!”
Blake scanned the forest from the top of the hill, his rifle at the ready. He let his senses heighten, and his ears strained for any warning sounds. It seemed they were alone. He hollered back to Dean. “Clear! I’m getting backup!”
Blake could still hear the brothers as he walked away to look for a clearing in the trees. Dean’s voice was rough, low and fast, rapid-fire questions coming one after the other.
“Is there anywhere else? What happened, was it one of ‘em? Sammy, did it bite you?”
Sam’s voice, laced with pain, was quiet. “Yeah. Dammit, yes.”
“It bit you? You’re sure
There was a pause, and Blake pressed his lips together and held his breath. From his angle he hadn’t been able to see the attack. If it was true, a human would have a few hours, maybe. A day at the most. For someone like Sam … Blake didn’t know.
There was a sigh, and Blake pictured Sam closing his eyes and laying his head down into the leaves, avoiding the look on Dean’s face as his words hit home. “I’m sure, Dean.”
Blake found a hole in the canopy above and raised his hand as high as he could. Sam had seen him once already, but he didn’t have a flare gun, and he wasn’t just going to let another hunter die. It was worth the risk. He summoned the fire quickly and built it in his palm.
From the bottom of the hill Dean’s clipped reply seemed to blow straight through Blake’s concentration.
“Then we deal with it.”
Blake fired the flare.
By the time he made it back to the Winchesters, Gwen had already dropped down beside Dean. She was cursing violently under her breath. She ran one distracted hand through her hair. “What happened?”
Sam opened his mouth to speak, but Dean cut him off. “Walker clawed him up good. Give me a hand.” Sam’s eyes glittered and his jaw set in silent protest to the lie, but Dean’s dark expression made any thought of arguing the point seem more like an act of suicide.
Blake internally shook his head. He was starting to see what the fuss was all about when it came to these two.
Within the hour, Sam was lying on a cot in the med tent. Blake watched as Dean allowed Gwen to help him remove Sam’s jacket and shirts. Deep puncture wounds spread across Sam’s ribs from the point of his hip around his side to the base of his shoulder. The thing had chewed on him, shredding the skin between the holes with its canines when it shook him in its jaws. Sam was staring resolutely at the lantern hanging overhead, concentrating on breathing in and out, tight-lipped and pale.
“This is going to get infected,” Gwen whispered gently to Dean, offering him fresh towels and a basin of holy water. “We should get him to a hospital.”
Dean inhaled, paused, and then nodded. “Thanks for your help,” he said, dipping the towel into the water and pressing it into Sam’s side. “But I got this. You guys can go.”
Gwen bit her lip and looked at Blake. Blake shrugged. “Dean, you should really -”
“Thank you, Gwen. Please go.”
Gwen pursed her lips, but nodded. “I’ll get him something for the pain,” she said, and she showed herself out.
Blake followed her out of the tent, and Dean dropped the flap behind them. It didn’t close all the way, and Blake stopped to watch silently through the opening, peering through a window into a situation he’d never known anything about.
Sam’s skin was shining in the lantern light, sweat rolling off of him in sheets. The fever would set in soon, and before long everyone in the camp would know that Dean had lied about the nature of Sam’s injuries. Dean’s hands danced in and out of view, first cleaning the lacerations with holy water, then packing the wounds with an antibiotic cream. Their voices intermingled, low and rumbling, an argument with no heat; a constant stream of noise. When Dean placed the first stitch, his brother seemed to almost relax into the touch. Sam fell silent, watching Dean work through glazed eyes.
“They grew up like that,” Gwen said, touching Blake on the shoulder. “Just the two of them and their dad. When Sam first showed up with Dean, you know what? I didn’t get it. But lately - things are different. I don’t think there’s a thing on this earth that can keep those two separate for long.” She paused to consider before adding, “Or under it.”
A deep, wistful ache bloomed in Blake’s chest, a surge of recognition for what it meant, for why he had been drawn to them, to their blood. “I don’t imagine there is,” he murmured.
Gwen stepped to the entrance and handed Dean a small bottle of pills. Blake heard Dean whisper thank you but when Gwen stepped back out, Sam shook his head no. Dean didn’t argue, he just set them aside.
Gwen squeezed Blake’s shoulder. “Come on,” she urged, “Dean’s done this before. He knows what he’s doing. Let’s get some rest.” She took him by the hand and pulled, and Blake followed.
She led him to his tent and pulled back the door flap, motioning for him to step inside. He sank down onto the sleeping bags, wearily tugging off his jacket and boots. Gwen stepped in after him and pulled the zipper up behind her, closing the door to give them both the brief illusion of privacy.
Blake leaned back onto the palms of his hands and craned his neck to look up at her. “You stayin’?”
Gwen glanced around the tent as if she was trying to see through the walls. Her voice dropped below a whisper, almost a non-sound, so that he would be the only one who could hear. “People died out there today,” she said, sounding more sad than suspicious. “Sam could be dying right now. I’m through with taking no for an answer, Blake. If you really love me, you’ll tell me the truth about all of this.”
He offered her his hand and she took it, letting him pull her close. He dug Nora’s flash drive out of his pocket and put it in her hand, curling her fingers around it. She frowned, her eyes searching his face for answers. “Everything there is to know is in there,” he whispered, letting go of her hand to lay his palm over her chest, “and in here.”
Her heartbeat fluttered restlessly. She held up the flash drive, but her dark eyes never left his. “And you’re giving it to me?”
He nodded gravely. “I thought I already did.”
She touched his cheek. “Get some sleep,” she said. She pushed him down onto the sleeping bag and tossed a blanket over him, then stood to leave. She unzipped the tent door and started to step out.
“Goodnight, Gwen,” he whispered.
She paused and glanced back, and he saw that her knuckles were white around the curve of the flash drive in her hand. “Goodbye, Blake,” she whispered back, and then she was gone. [to be continued]