One Cold Night
Copyright © 2018 by Aliyah Burke
Leena shivered and burrowed her hands further into the oversized men’s jacket, ducking her head further below the upturned collar. The snow whipped around her, biting exposed skin with a hungry ferocity.
“Come on, Argo,” she muttered. “Unlike you, I don’t relish being out here.” Like he could see her—or respond in words, she shrugged. “Not at night anyway. Especially at a rest area.”
The winds carried his deep bark to her and her shoulders sagged. I know what that means. There would be no return trip to the van until she went to see what he wanted. “Argo, hier!” she pitched her voice to carry over the wind and pelting snow.
She stomped her feet, wishing once more she was back in the van and on the road, headed home. The trip had been a long one, good, but long. From the darkness he appeared like a rocket who’d locked in her trajectory, snow flew out from his bounding strides. He executed a perfect sit before her as if there weren’t all that snow under his ass.
“Good boy,” she praised, before giving him her unique release command. “Wazzu.”
He barked again and backed up now that he’d been released. His intentions plain. Her heart broke for a moment; he looked so much like his father. Her heart dog. Another bark followed by a spin and two bounces in the other direction.
“I’m coming. Two legs, not four here.” She struck out after him, cursing as the land dipped down, causing her to slide through the knee-deep snow. Her dog led her to a thick copse of trees where he barked at a log, lying partially in the freezing river.
She brushed a wet curl away from her face. “Seriously? You wanted me to see you bark at a log? I should kill you. Let’s go.”
He ignored her and stepped closer to the water. Her mouth dropped open when he grasped something in his jaw and yanked. Shit, that’s a person.
She scrambled over by Argo, driving him back with a single word. It was a man. The blowing snow had partially covered him and his lower body still lay submerged in the icy water.
“Shit.” She shifted and bent to grasp him beneath his arms, then pulled. By the time she got him free of the water, she was panting. He wasn’t small by any stretch. His body riddled with burn marks, wounds, and absolutely no clothing.
Without thought, she shrugged out of her coat and covered him. On her, it went past her calves. On him, it barely hit his knees.
“What the fuck happened to you?”
“Leave me,” he rasped before he collapsed, completely unconscious.
“Sure, because I was raised to leave half frozen naked men alone. I don’t suppose you’re just pretending to be unconscious, are you?” Of course not. “Fuck me sideways, this is going to suck.” She bent back down and got to the arduous task of moving him to safety.
It took her nearly twenty minutes to drag him up to her van that thankfully she’d parked close to where she was coming up. The wind had picked up along with the snow, making her all the more pleased to have Argo with her. The parking lot was vacant on her end, everyone else having parked near the restrooms.
Per her norm, she’d chosen an empty area so the dogs she travelled with wouldn’t be around everyone. Especially when she let them stretch their legs. She paused, digging in her pants pocket for her keys, then unlocked her van.
“This is how serial killers get into your life, Leena. You bring them in.” She opened the side door, immediately saying, “Blibe.” The three dogs there stayed as ordered and she returned to the unconscious, still naked man lying in a heap.
Her own strength waning, she grunted and groaned as she maneuvered him into the vehicle. “Usually I’m having sex when I mutter and grunt this much. Or I think I do, haven’t had any in a while so I’m not sure how it goes.”
Once inside the van, she reached and closed out the cold once Argo had jumped in. At least until he shook. Her dogs were interested in her newcomer but she moved them aside as she took him to the bench seat converted to a bed in the back. She reached around him and removed the jacket, doing her best to ignore his cock that lay against his leg.
“Maybe you’re not all cold.”
She drew back the blankets and nearly lay him back but a moment of hesitation for the injuries on his back were a problem that needed addressing. Reaching over him to the rear of the van, she grabbed the first aid kit she always carried from where it rested in its spot. Then set about cleaning his injuries.
“Someone sure did a number on you, man.” Shallow cuts, deep cuts, burns, and more bruising than she cared to think about. She worked swiftly to be able to get him under the blankets.
More thoughts of his cock filled her as she moved it aside to clean the gash on his inner thigh. Thoughts she brushed away.
He groaned as she lay him on his back. “I know it hurts and I’m sorry. Either side will hurt, not much I can do about that. You’ll be warm in just a bit.”
He lay on her electric blanket and below three others heavy blankets. Scrambling to the front, she started the ignition then returned to adjust the heat to the lowest setting on the blanket. Unsure of how long he’d been submerged in the water, she didn’t want it totally hot, that would be hella painful when feeling returned. Better to do low and allow the warmth work its way up.
“Heat from both sides.”
She covered him again and watched as the two bitches lay on either side of him before her youngest dog curved his body around the man’s feet.
She stuffed the cleaning supplies in the trash and reached for her bag. After drawing out a dry sweatshirt, she hesitated a second before she scoffed at herself.
“Just got done touching his naked body, the man’s unconscious, and I’m hesitant about stripping in front of him.” She removed the sodden item and draped it over the crate against the side. Then pulled on the dry one. Then she shucked the snow pants, leaving her in dry jeans.
Her stomach rumbled, reminding her it was time for some food. “I know, I know.”
She glanced at the bed and smiled, he wasn’t visible with the dogs around him. “No heat like dog heat. Come on, boy.”
She went back to the driver’s seat and slid over the fabric. Her full-size van may not have been new but it was all hers and ran superbly. Argo hopped into the passenger seat, turned two circles, and lay down on the bed she’d created for him there. Rubbing his head, she hit the windshield wipers.
“You’re taken care of, now it’s my turn.” He grunted. “Almost home, boy. Just a few more hours.”
He yawned and closed his eyes.
“Yeah, I’d love to be driven around as well.” She headed up close to the building, parked, and used the facilities, dropping off the trash as well. Bladder happier, she went back to the van.
Buckling her belt, she adjusted the defrost, hit her lights, and frowned as an SUV drove slowly through the lot. She flicked a brief glance in the rearview to the now darkened interior.
Were they after him? I really need to stop watching so many suspense movies. Or reading suspense books.
She backed out, jazz playing on the radio. The vehicle idled before her, the beams from her van splashing over their dark sports utility vehicle. Two men dressed in black left it and approached. She debated just driving away but if it was news about the interstate being closed, she needed to hear it.
Argo opened his eyes and she stilled him and the others with one word.
One man gestured for her to lower the window. She did about an inch.
“Can I help you?”
“Yes ma’am.” The man had a hawk like nose, thick brows, and cold blue eyes. “We’re looking for an escaped fugitive.”
“Good luck.” Fugitive?
“Have you seen anyone?”
She looked to the man who made his way around to the passenger side before glancing back to the one by her window. “No one other than you. But I’m not out looking for people, either.”
“This man is sneaky. Perhaps he snuck into your van?”
“Not a chance,” she stated with the utmost confidence.
“Are you sure.”
She hid her sneer. “Argo, sitze.”
He snapped to a sitting position, supremely alert. “Positive. I have more than one of them inside. So, if you’ll excuse me, I still have a long drive and you two never even showed me your credentials.”
She raised the window and put her van in gear, pushing through the accumulated snow until they were once again on the deserted interstate. As she drove, her mind drifted away from the two men and focused on the conditions before her.
At least the roads are manageable. For now.
She drove until she reached a travel plaza and pulled in. Leena topped off her dual tanks then relocated to the building where she headed inside.
“Morning,” the sleepy clerk said.
“Pretty quiet I see.”
“Totally.” He nodded, swiping some hair away from his face with his black tipped nails.
“How fresh are the tenderloins?” she asked.
“I’ll take twelve.”
He lifted his pierced eyebrow but got to work packaging them. She found some soup and heated it up. Then she headed for the counter, noticing that same damn SUV had pulled in, parking two spots away from her van.
“Shit.” Sure, it could be purely a coincidence they were here. It happened. I am after all at a travel plaza. Regardless she wasn’t able to convince herself of that scenario.
“No thanks, this will tide everyone over until we get home.”
One man entered as she paid. She glanced directly at him, making sure he knew she was aware of him. He dusted of his coat.
“Looks like you’re hungry.” He paused beside her.
“Chicken’s for the dogs. Soup’s mine.” She secured the bag handles. “Thanks. Have a good one,” she remarked to the cashier. Without a look back, she strode to her van and climbed in. Noting the man watching her from near his car, she made her way to the back. Confident they couldn’t see in there because of the drawn shades, she wasn’t concerned.
The bitch hopped to the floor with a wag of her sabre tail.
Leena occupied the spot and divided the chicken. Argo first. Hope, Pax, then Erma. While they made short work of the chicken, she opened the soup.
Her stomach rumbled as she allowed herself a few spoonfuls. Surprisingly good. Staring at her guest, she rocked him.
He lifted thick lashes, exposing dark grey orbs. “I thought I dreamed you.”
She gave him a wry smile. “Nope. Dogs and I are very real. Open up. I need to get some soup in you. Can you push up on your arms? I can’t have you sitting up all the way because we’re being watched. I’m confident that they can’t see you but not sure about shapes moving around.”
“You’re in danger?”
The protective flood to his tone had her gut overturning. “Don’t worry about that. Open.”
He lifted enough so the soup didn’t spill down his chest. That hard, muscled chest. Although, it took a significant amount of energy from him, for sweat pebbled his skin.
“Rest again. You’ve had enough. I’ll leave it here if you want to try some later.” She set it in a cup holder then returned to the driver’s seat and started the engine.
One baleful glance around and she backed out of her spot, the black SUV remained there.
Vehicle in drive, she left the travel plaza and headed toward home. She maintained a steady speed and lost herself in the Wicked soundtrack.