Dangerous Flirt(Laytons Book Two)By: Avery Flynn
Twenty years ago.
From her spot in the backseat, Beth Martinez held her breath and watched the glowing green numbers. The nine disappeared, replaced by a one and a zero. Ten o’clock. Two hours past her bedtime. A new record.
She shimmied her eight-year-old butt in the seat. The seat belt scratching against her neck tempered her crazy dance moves. In the front seat, her parents yammered on about boring grown-up things, totally clueless about her quiet celebration.
The drive home from Denver had taken longer than usual, thanks to some well-timed whining for dinner. That move had been brilliant. Her papá had frowned at her in the rearview mirror, but her puppy-dog eyes had him pulling into the last Denny’s before they crossed the Nebraska state line. The neon-blue lemonade with sprinkles hadn’t tasted as good as it looked on TV, but still, Beth couldn’t wait to tell everyone at Dry Creek Elementary that she’d tried it.
“Mi’ja, honey, do you have to go to the bathroom?”
Heat burned her cheeks. “Nah, I’m good.”
Papá shrugged. “Whatever you say, my favorite daughter.”
“I’m your only daughter.” She rolled her eyes.
“Why mess with perfection?” her mother piped in and winked at Beth.
Their station wagon passed into the Bighorn Hills, always spooky at night with its sagebrush shadows and coyotes howling from behind the pine trees. Twenty more minutes and they’d be home in Dry Creek, Nebraska, the last town on earth without a Denny’s.
No way would she get in bed before ten-thirty. Now that would be beyond record breaking. Even her best friend Claire’s brother, Hank, had to be in bed before then and he was fourteen.
Up later than a teenager. Awesome.
Their car rounded the curve and her body pulled to the left. Light flooded the interior and Beth’s hand flew to her eyes, blocking out the brightness.
“What the hell,” her father grumbled. “This asshole is all over the road.”
Beth went on alert. José Martinez never cussed. She craned her neck around her mother’s seat to get a better look, wondering what had gotten her father so mad.
A big, square car crossed from one side of the road to the other as it headed right for them.
The blue lemonade gurgled in her stomach when she looked out the window. On one side, sagebrush and prickly pine trees covered the hilly landscape. On the other, the Bighorn Hills sloped down toward the valley and Dry Creek’s streetlights. Forget about not having a Denny’s, she wanted to be home. Now.
“It’s okay, honey. We’ll just pull over to the side a bit and give that car plenty of room to pass.” Her mother twisted and re-twisted a strand of thick brown hair around her finger.
The car swerved to the far side of the road before jerking back into the center of the highway.
Her father moved their station wagon to the opposite side, close to the drop off. Gravel spit up from beneath the tires.
“Are we going to be all right?”
“Sure, mi’ja, nothing to worry about.” Her father’s fingers curled so tightly around the steering wheel that his brown knuckles had paled in the dashboard’s glow.
The car drifted again and then drove to the opposite side of the highway before it popped back in their direction as if snapped by a rubber band.
“Hold on everyone!” her father yelled. The screech of metal tearing against metal drowned out any other words as the sedan plowed into them.
Their station wagon sailed off the highway and through the trees, picking up speed as it charged downward. It slammed into something big and somersaulted through the air.
Beth’s body floated up from her seat, the seatbelt biting into the soft skin at the base of her neck. Her head whipped back and forth as the station wagon flipped over and over.
With nothing holding them secure, her parents tumbled around the interior, their bodies slamming against the doors, windows and the ceiling. Over and under, around and about, the station wagon crashed through the trees until it landed with a thunk upside down.
The world swam in front of her and Beth puked bright-blue vomit that landed with a splash on the ceiling. The safety belt cut into her waist and chest, keeping her in her seat while her body hung upside down.