The Dragon King(10)

By: Candace Blevins

There was a short break where no one talked, and then Aaron said, “This is a map to the storage facility, and the code to get into the facility as well as the unit. Park your bikes inside and walk back out to the road. I’ll pick the two of you up, one in the front seat and one in the back.”

Neither Aaron nor I spoke when he returned, though I rearranged the back seat, put the bags he bought into the backpack, dropped it into the space behind my seat, and then sat behind Aaron as he drove down the road. I’d never ridden in a moving vehicle before, and when I’d been asleep earlier the movement had lulled me, but now I felt as if I might be sick. We were on a winding road, stretching out like a ribbon before us as it trailed around the mountain, going into ravines and back out, winding and winding our way up.

“Is it normal to feel nauseated in a vehicle?” I asked.

Aaron slowed, and I jumped as the window beside me went down. “No, Soph. It’s called being carsick. It’s dark now, you’ll probably be okay up front. Can you climb up or should I stop and let you come up here?”

The road was narrow, with a steep drop off going down the mountain, so I said, “I’ll try climbing up.”

He rolled the front passenger window down when I was seated beside him, and said, “Just watch in front of you without trying to focus on anything in particular. Don’t look to the side. We aren’t too far from where we’re going, but on these roads it’ll take about twenty minutes. If you feel worse, let me know, but I’ll try to take it easy on the curves.”

I saw a huge waterfall a short distance from the road and asked, “Do you think we can come back to it? I’ve never seen a real waterfall, only the one my father had the contractors build when I showed him a picture of one and asked if he’d take me.”

“Once you’re safe, if we both survive this, I promise to take you to many waterfalls, Soph.”

The reminder we weren’t safe, and that I’d put him in danger, made me feel guilty. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have come to you. I’ve put you at terrible risk and I know you’re really old, and you’ve probably survived so much. If something happens to you, if I’m the cause of you finally…” I couldn’t say it, so I finished with, “I’d never forgive myself.”

“No, Sophia, I’m happy you came to me, and besides,” he grinned. “I’m hard to kill. I’ve lived a long life, so no regrets, okay?”

We pulled to the side of the road and two men came out of the shadows, scaring me at first. My window was still down and Aaron leaned across me to say, “Change of plans, I need you both in the back.”

They got in and Aaron explained, “Sophia’s never ridden in a vehicle before and was getting a little carsick, so I moved her up here.”

One of the men sounded sympathetic as he said, “It’d be a bitch to get carsick on these mountain roads. You’ve never ridden in a car before? Ever?”

I shook my head, turned to look at them as Aaron drove away, and felt my head and stomach swim so I looked back out the front window. “Okay, looking towards the backseat is a bad idea. Please don’t think I’m rude for not looking at you as we speak. I guess you both know I’m Sophia Siyanko, and no, until a few days ago I’d never been outside the walls around my house.”

“I’m Duke,” the man directly behind me said, “and this is Brain.”

“Brain?” I didn’t want to be rude, but what kind of name was that?

“Nicknames, Soph,” Aaron explained. “Remember us talking about how some lone wolves aren’t actually lone because they’ve formed a motorcycle club they run as a democracy?”

I did, and I figured it was a bad idea to point out those men often broke the law. If they were here to help us and Aaron trusted them, I’d have to trust them as well.

Aaron kept talking and I assumed he was speaking to the men. “Bud told me the favor you’ll want in return, and I’m prepared to work with him to arrange a meet between Chattanooga law enforcement and the Atlanta brass, and perhaps even work it so they come to the compound down there for a party that afternoon. Not sure how much more I can do, but I’ll step up and try to ease you into town.”

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