The tires of the Jeep crunched down the loose dirt of the road, headlights piercing the darkness.
“I’m cold,” Kaitlyn said, folding her arms against herself.
Seth reached forward and turned on the heat. “There, it’ll get better in a few minutes.”
“How far back are we going?”
“A little further yet,” Seth said. “You okay? You haven’t said much for a while.”
“I was thinking about what you said,” she said, looking over at him.
“I’m sorry,” Seth said. “I shouldn’t have said anything. Not now.”
She stared at him for a long moment, then sighed.
“What?” Seth asked.
“I’m in love with you,” she said.
Seth glanced at her for a little too long, starting to lose the road. He quickly righted the Jeep, staring out the windshield.
“You don’t have to say that,” Seth said. “I’m not going to leave you.”
She chuckled. “You think I’m just wanting to hitch my wagon to you for protection? Because of what happened tonight? You think that’s all this is? In case you didn’t notice, I can take care of myself pretty well.”
Seth glanced at her, then back at the road. “I noticed.”
“Okay, good. My cards are going on the table now. Wasn’t going there this early, but circumstances being what they are, it’s time. Think you can handle that?”
He glanced at her again, then nodded yes.
She chuckled again. “Why the fear in your eyes? You’re afraid this isn’t real between us, aren’t you?”
Seth looked totally flustered. “No, I…”
“I was very attracted to you right from the start,” Kaitlyn said, interrupting him. “I found myself liking you more and more as we talked. That rarely happens.”
“Me too,” he said, “but you already knew that.”
“I could tell,” she said. “I love the way the sparks fly between us. It won’t always be that way. That part fades over time. When it does, I’m usually done.”
“That doesn’t sound very good.”
“You heard what I said about talking with you,” she said. “About liking you more and more. About how that doesn’t usually happen.”
“Friends are like that,” Seth said. “That’s how friendships develop.”
“Once the passion of early attraction fades, there has to be something else there. Lust isn’t enough. With us, I think there is something there. We like to be with each other. I find it overpowering, maybe even a little scary. When I’m not with you, I’m thinking about you.”
“We’ve already talked about this,” Seth said. “Remember? When you were pressuring me?”
She smiled at him. “Yes, I was testing you a little bit. I didn’t want to lay my cards on the table then. Remember?”
“Ah, but you did,” Seth said. “When we were talking about kids.”
She stared at him silently for a moment. “You figured out what I was trying to hide. It’s kinda funny when you think about it.”
“You turned the tables on me in that conversation. You tricked me into saying the exact thing that I didn’t want you to know yet. I thought I was a lot stronger than you. I’m not. We’re pretty equal.”
“In strength,” she said. “I need that. I won’t give my whole self to a weak man.”
He looked at her silently for a moment, a warm feeling flowing over him.
“There’s that look,” she said. “Geez, you want me so bad. Nobody looks at me like that.” She looked down at her feet.
“I’m scared of myself,” she said. “That’s what you touched off in that last conversation.”
“We need to pull over pretty soon. We should pause this conversation for a few minutes.”
“Okay,” she said. “I’m talking myself into a corner anyway.”
“I know what you’re thinking.”
“I know, but I have to say it out loud, and so do you. We both need to know that it’s real.”
He nodded and pulled to the side of the road, in a spot wide enough to turn around. “This will do.”
“Here they come,” Kaitlyn said. “On my side. Let’s just open the window and talk. It’s too cold to get out.”
“I need to get out for another reason.”
She giggled. “Oh. You men can’t hold it as long.”
“True. Roll down your window. We’ll talk first.”
She reached to the dash and hit the button. Seth turned up the heater a little bit.
“How are you two holding up?” Kaitlyn asked.
“Okay,” Angel said.
“I’m starting to calm down, finally,” Megan said. “We going to stay here tonight?”
“No,” Seth said. “It’s too cold here. We need to get to a motel or something.”
“Yeah, dude,” Angel said. “If we just stay on Highway 79, it curves around towards San Diego. It’s the back-way in.”
“You aren’t suggesting we try to get into San Diego tonight, are you?” Kaitlyn asked.
“No way,” Angel said.
“Yeah, I’m way too tired for that,” Megan said.
“They’d keep us up half the night doing interrogations before they’d let us in,” Seth said. “You have someplace in mind, don’t you, Angel?”
“Yeah, my cousin lived in a place called Jamul. Nice little town. There’s motels there.”
“Lots of tribal folks around there, you know,” Kaitlyn said.
“Is that a problem?” Seth asked.
“Some of them don’t like white boys with Indian girls,” Megan said. She snickered.
“Yeah, dude, you are pretty white,” Angel said.
“Funny ha ha,” Seth said. “James and Tyler and the others didn’t mind.”
“They know you’re trustworthy,” Kaitlyn said. “They know you’re a warrior. They respect you.”
“Hey, dude, don’t worry about it,” Angel said. “You just stay in the car, I’ll get the rooms.”
Kaitlyn giggled. “Yeah, that’s the least of our problems. Let’s go. How long will it take?”
“Well, if you guys wouldn’t have led us so far into the wilderness here, it would take less time,” Megan said.
“Sorry,” Kaitlyn said. “We were talking. We kinda lost ourselves.”
“A lot of that going around,” Angel said.
“Shut up,” Megan said.
Kaitlyn looked at Seth’s phone, which was still in her hand. She input the pin number.
“Hey, that’s not yours,” Megan said. “You don’t have an iPhone.
“And he gave you the pin? That man is in love.”
“Shut up,” Kaitlyn said. “What was that town we passed before we crossed under I-8?”
“Descanso,” Seth said.
“Thanks,” Kaitlyn said, moving her fingers on the screen. “Perfect. It’s just over a half hour from there.”
“Thank God,” Megan said. “Let’s go.”
“I got to pee,” Angel said.
“Great minds think alike, man,” Seth said. Angel nodded and pulled up in front of Seth so he could get his door open. He joined Seth, and they walked out of sight for a moment. Kaitlyn and Megan got out.
“Crap, it’s cold out here,” Megan said.
“Seriously,” Kaitlyn said. “Think we should try?”
“Oh, I guess,” she said. “I don’t want to get out of sight of the Jeeps.”
“What if the guys see?” Kaitlyn asked.
“I don’t care, and besides, they wouldn’t see much. It’s dark out here.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” Kaitlyn said. “I’m just going behind our Jeep.”
“Okay,” Megan said, following her. They were done in a moment, and walked back to the cars.
“They’re talking,” Kaitlyn said. “They’re usually fast.”
“What kept you guys on this road so long?”
“Oh, you know,” Kaitlyn said.
“Angel wants to disappear and take me with him,” Megan whispered. “I like the idea. Is that bad?”
Kaitlyn nodded, brow furrowed.
“Crap, Seth too?”
Kaitlyn nodded yes, on the verge of tears.
“What do you think about that idea?” Megan asked. “Could you leave the fight? Leave our people?”
Kaitlyn started to cry.
“Oh, honey, I’m sorry,” Megan said. “Do you not want it, or does he not really want it?”
“I’m not crying about him,” Kaitlyn said. “We might not have a tribe to go back to.”
“Angel thinks that James, Tyler, Zac, and some of the others escaped. You heard what Trevor was saying on the call.”
“I’m afraid the enemy knows about the other location,” Kaitlyn said.
“That thought has crossed my mind more than once,” Megan said. “What about us? What about you two? Seth isn’t feeling trapped, is he?”
Kaitlyn chuckled through her tears. “I was trying to lay my cards on the table before we stopped. It was an intense conversation. That’s why we kept going on this stupid road.”
“We’ll talk more on the way to Jamul,” she said. “I literally can’t wait to get back into that conversation.”
“I’ve never seen you like this,” Megan said.
Kaitlyn wiped the tears from her eyes. “Just the thought of him makes me feel better.”
“I know that feeling,” Megan said.
“Here they come.”
“Good,” Megan said. “You didn’t tell me what you thought. About leaving the tribe.”
“I’m going to be with this man for the rest of my life,” she whispered. “I just hope that our lives are more than a few hours.”
“You two ready to go?” Angel asked.
“Took you a while,” Megan said.
“Sorry,” Seth said. “Didn’t think you guys were getting out of the car.”
“We decided to do the same thing you were doing,” Kaitlyn said. “Let’s go.”
“Yeah,” Megan said. “I’m cold. I want to get back in the car.”
“Why don’t you take the lead, Angel?” Seth said. “You know this town, right?”
“Been a few years, but yeah,” Angel said.
The two couples got back in their Jeeps.
“Now, where were we?” Kaitlyn asked, as Seth did a K-turn and followed Angel back down the dirt road.
“Sure you want to get back into that conversation?”
“Yes,” Kaitlyn said. “Do you mind?”
“No, it’s cool. Go ahead. You were saying that you were afraid of yourself, and that we had to say some things out loud to make it real.”
“Wow, do you have a tape recorder in your brain?” she asked.
“You looked like you’d been crying when we walked back.”
“I’m afraid the tribe will be wiped out,” Kaitlyn said. “Let’s stay on the subject at hand, though, okay?”
“Aren’t the two topics related?”
She was silent for a moment. “They might end up being, but I’m not letting the purity of this conversation evaporate before we’re done. As important as that issue is, it’s a side issue right now.”
“Okay,” Seth said. “I obviously know what you’re trying to get out, and I understand why it’s hard. As we’ve reminded ourselves over and over, we’ve only just met.”
“That doesn’t bother you, does it?”
“No, I feel like we’ve known each other for a while, because we’ve spent so many hours talking. I laid my cards on the table earlier tonight, or at least I thought I did.”
She smiled at him. “No, I laid out what I thought were your cards, and you just said yes. Then we were done.”
“You looked really nervous saying yes,” she said. “You tried to qualify it, remember?”
“No, I didn’t try to qualify it, I was just afraid you weren’t quite ready for that yet,” Seth said.
“Yes, and I told you not to tell me what I’m ready for,” she said.
“You did. The conversation scared you too much, though. That’s why I didn’t pursue it further. We’ve had enough scary stuff happen tonight.”
“You wanted to pursue it further?”
“We’re just talking in circles,” Seth said, looking over at her for a moment.
“Watch the road,” she said softly.
“You’re getting scared again now,” Seth said. “Okay, you say cards on the table. I’ll go first. Here’s what I want. You. Forever. I won’t get tired of you. Ever. I want to settle down with you and make babies, and then I want to watch them grow up. I want to grow old with you by my side.” He paused for a moment, trying to look at her, the road not helping. “Do you understand what I just said?”
She was quiet for a moment, her body starting to shake.
“You’re crying,” Seth said softly. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t tell me you’re sorry,” she said. “I’m an emotional girl, in case you haven’t noticed. You’re going to have to get used to that.”
“I’m already used to it,” Seth said. “Do you understand now?”
She nodded yes, not looking at him.
“You don’t look okay,” he said.
“I’m about to do something that I never thought I’d do.”
Seth looked at her and started to say something, but she shook her head no.
“It’s my turn now,” she said softly. “I am completely, deeply in love with you. I’m willing to follow you anywhere. If you want to get back into the fight, I’m there. If you want to disappear and make babies someplace, that’s okay too.”
“I don’t expect you to just follow me,” Seth said. “Your hopes and dreams are every bit as important as mine are. If your dream is to raise children in your tribe and be part of that community, I’ll be there with you.”
“I know that,” she said. “We don’t have to decide that now. Hell, like I said, I have my doubts that the tribe will survive, and I don’t want to lose our lives trying to get back to them. Not now.” She began to cry again.
“I’d never keep you from your people.”
“I know,” she said, “and I love that about you. Really. I’m willing…no, I want to put everything behind what we have. You and me. If we both decide that getting back into the fight is our best path, that’s what we’ll do, but if we just want to chuck it all and be together, then that’s our path. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” Seth said. “So, what now? People who feel this way about each other usually get married.”
“They do,” she said. “How do you feel about that idea?”
“I want it,” Seth said. “Geez, never thought I’d get there. Marriage always scared me. It doesn’t with you.”
She smiled. “I’m not really a traditional girl.”
“You don’t have special Indian wedding ceremonies and all that?” Seth asked.
“Well, yeah, we do, but I’m not willing to wait for that,” she said. “Are you?”
“It wouldn’t be my first choice,” Seth said, “but I’ll do whatever it takes to have you. Except maybe that hanging by the skin thing.”
Kaitlyn laughed. “Wrong tribe. Don’t worry.”
“Good,” Seth said, rubbing his chest. “Didn’t look like fun in the movie.”
“Stop,” she said. “You won’t have problems being married to an Indian?”
“Will you have problems being married to a white boy?”
She thought about it for a moment. “You don’t seem different than me. Maybe two hundred years ago it was different.”
“That’s how I feel,” Seth said. “We both grew up in southern California. That’s the culture we belong to, really, and it’s a total melting pot.”
“That’s for sure,” Kaitlyn said. “I’ve dated white men a couple of times. In college.”
“Well, you’re my first Indian.”
She chuckled. “What will your parents think if you show up with an Indian bride?”
“It’s only my dad now, and he’ll just be glad to know I’m alive.”
“He doesn’t know where you are?”
“No, and I’m not sure where he is. He was in the service. Last I heard he was living in Alabama. We aren’t that close. He and my mom divorced when I was young. My mom passed a few years ago. Cancer.”
“Oh,” she said. ‘I’m so sorry.”
“I miss her. She would’ve liked you.”
“I hope so,” she said. “This is weird. Things are different now. We’re different now.”
“You’re right,” Seth said. “I’m feeling it too. Maybe this is how couples feel when they get engaged.”
“Maybe when they get engaged this quickly,” Kaitlyn said. “We’re not really engaged, though. We just talked about it.”
“Will you marry me?” Seth asked.
“Oh, geez,” she said. “I’m gonna start crying again.”
“Go ahead, but answer me first.”
“Yes. Of course, yes,” she said. “I love you so much.”
“I love you too,” Seth said. “Wow, I’m trembling.”
“Excited and happy,” he said. “How do you feel?”
“I feel like pulling over,” she said. “I know, it’s so naughty.”
“Oh, geez, there’s that part too,” he said. “This is so strange. That’s the part that would normally be up front in my mind. It’s just hitting me now.”
“Hitting you how?” She smiled at him.
“We’d better not talk about that right now,” Seth said. “I’m trying to keep this thing on the road.”
Angel slammed on his brakes and turned off his lights.
“Oh no, what’s going on?” Kaitlyn asked.
Seth turned off his lights and stopped behind Angel. His phone dinged. Kaitlyn picked it up and input Seth’s pin.
“Somebody driving an off-roader on the next ridge, shining a spotlight around,” she read off the screen. “Angel thinks he got his lights off in time. Megan saw them when they got around that little hill there.”
“Ten to one they’ve seen us,” Seth said.
“Don’t open your car door,” Kaitlyn said. “The dome light will come on.”
“Yeah, I figured that’s why he sent the text. Can you reach the guns?”
“I think so,” she said, turning. “Yeah, I can reach the M60 and my AK.”
The phone dinged again.
“What’d he say?”
“The vehicle went back behind the ridge. They’re out of sight.”
“Crap, I wish we had a good trail map. There might be a way to get onto this road from that ridge.
“He said the guy has been gone for a few minutes now,” Kaitlyn said. “We can get out if we’re quick about it.”
Seth nodded, watching Megan and Angel slip out of their vehicles. He and Kaitlyn joined them.
“What do you think?” Seth asked. “Think they’re bad guys?”
“Yeah,” Angel said.
“I see the road they came from,” Megan said, showing her phone. “There’s a dirt road that comes off I-8. They’re probably wondering why we haven’t shown up yet.”
“Shit, it might not be safe to get back on Highway 79,” Angel said.
“They might have seen us,” Seth said, “before Megan saw them.”
“I don’t think so,” Megan said. “There’s no way to get on this road from where they are. They’d have to go out to Highway 79 and come in the same way we did. It’s not a short drive. Look.”
“So what do we do?” Kaitlyn asked.
“Think you can drive with no lights on?” Seth asked.
“I don’t know, dude,” Angel said. “Maybe, but what if they’re waiting for us on the highway?”
“We’ll be in more trouble if it’s light,” Kaitlyn said. “I say we drive towards the highway without lights, but get out before that last bend and walk to where we can see.”
“Yeah, and we’re taking the M60s,” Seth said.
“And our AKs,” Kaitlyn said.
To be continued…
Bug Out! Texas has just been published in the Kindle Store! This is the story of Texas Patriots and their struggle against enemies, foreign and domestic, during the Bug Out! War. Chock full of action, adventure, suspense, and romance. Pick up your copy of Bug Out! Texas Book 1 today!
The first of my full length novels has been published in the Amazon Kindle store, available now. For those of you have have been readying the Bugout! series, the story involves George and Malcolm, and is set about seven years earlier. This book R rated, instead of the PG-13 of the Bugout! Series, so be warned. Here’s the link to “Never A Loose End”
Copyright Robert Boren 2016