The Long Road Home(12)

By: H.D. Thomson

“Well, that’s easy for you to say. You’re driving. It’s not so boring behind the wheel.”

Clarisse heard John’s long drawn out sigh. “Did you want to drive?”

“Sure. Maybe then, we could get there faster.”

Wearily, Clarisse sank her head back against her seat and closed her eyes. A dull pain throbbed across her temples. Clarisse marveled at John’s patience. Granted, he had always been a patient man, but even a saint would have difficulty dealing with Vivian’s complaints.

“We’ll switch at the next gas station,” John snapped, appearing to have lost some of his patience.

“Don’t tell me we have to use their bathroom.”

“Vivian, just drop it. I know you’re angry about last night, but can’t it wait until we’re somewhere private?”

Vivian’s mouth snapped shut. Silence descended across the interior of the vehicle. By the way they were acting, it looked liked last night’s passionate encounter hadn’t been so fulfilling. Clarisse didn’t want to think what that meant or why such a thought filled her with pleasure. It was none of her business if they had an unstable relationship.

Clarisse didn’t bother asking for the map again. Instead, she looked out the window. A sign flashed past. They were still on Interstate 70 and about to cross the Illinois state line. Maybe if they kept to the road for the next eight hours, they could get through St. Louis and part of Missouri.

John stopped at the next rest area and exchanged seats. She closed her eyes against the slamming of the driver’s door as Vivian slid behind the wheel. Tires gripped the road and squealed loudly. The Explorer jerked forward, and they sped out of the rest area.

Clarisse swore under her breath and watched the landscape race past. Damn, but the woman was crazy. She just hoped the redhead drove safely. Granted, with her behind the wheel, they’d get to San Diego faster.

Wanting her purse from under the other seat, Clarisse unbuckled her seat belt. Suddenly, an explosion roared through the Explorer. The vehicle bucked, then veered sharply to the left. A high piercing wail stabbed her ears as metal scraped across asphalt. The Explorer swerved right and jerked forward. Her head slammed into the back of the front seat. The Explorer screeched to a halt. Clarisse flew off the seat and crashed onto the floor. Her leg twisted and curled under her weight. She gasped in pain and unsuccessfully tried to pull herself into a sitting position.

“Did you see that? All of a sudden the whole thing jerked to one side.” Vivian banged her hand on the horn. It bleated in protest.

“You were able to get us on the side of the road in one piece.” John squeezed Vivian’s shoulder.

Finally, Clarisse managed to drag herself up onto her seat. She closed her eyes against the pain. Memories of the plane crash exploded in her mind. Dark billowing smoke and the pungent smell of fuel swirled around her, choking the breath from her lungs. Flames twisted, danced and lapped at her leg, searing her clothing and flesh. Bile rose to her throat.

She stumbled out of the car and landed on the soft shoulder of the road, battling the nausea and faintness. Over the throbbing in her ears, the sound of cars zooming back and forth on the freeway echoed in her head. A semi-truck roared past, slapping her blonde hair across her cheeks and eyes.

“We have a flat,” someone said.

“Clarisse! Are you hurt?”

She heard John’s voice from a distance as she took deep heaving breaths and leaned a brow against the window of the Explorer.

“You’re limping!”

“I think I twisted my ankle,” Clarisse lied, turning away.

“Here. You need to sit down.”

John’s muscled arm closed around her and urged her to the back of the vehicle. He opened the hatch and gently guided her down on the end.

“Let me look at your ankle.”


She pulled away, thrusting against his chest, almost kicking him with her good leg in her panic to stop him from lifting her pant leg.

“Where’s the spare?” Vivian asked impatiently, sliding out from behind the wheel. “It’s been ages since I’ve changed a flat.”

“Just a second!” John growled. “Clarisse’s hurt!”