Highway Don't Care (Freebirds)

Highway
Don’t Care

FreeBirds
II

Lani Lynn Vale

Text Copyright © 2013

Lani Lynn Vale

 

All Rights Reserved

 

 

To all of
my family who supported me.  My mom who encouraged me to write my
book.  My husband for watching the kids while I sat in the corner any
typed away.  To my beautiful babies, I love you like crazy!  Finally,
to the readers who bought my books and gave me a chance.

Special
thanks goes out to Brandy Eubanks for the most beautiful cover photo
ever!  I knew as soon as I saw the picture that I would kill to have it as
the cover of my book!

 

 

Chapter 1

Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it
becomes a memory.

-Dr. Seuss

Ember

  Today had been
a long day.  It was the first day of two-a-day practices for the football
team.  I treated over fifteen kids for minor injuries they sustained during
practice, and one major who suffered a concussion.  The player was
suffering from confusion and was transported to the local ER.  My ass is
officially dragging. 

  I loved being
an athletic trainer.  Since tearing three ligaments in my knee and being
unable to go on my full ride volleyball scholarship to A&M, I’ve put every
waking hour into keeping the athletes healthy, or getting back in fighting
form.

  My phone
buzzed in my pocket and my heart soared, but then quickly deflated after I
glanced at the screen. 

  Damn.  It
was Maximilian.  My brother.  Not that I didn't love and cherish him,
but he just wasn't the one I wanted to hear from right now.

   I wanted
to hear from Gabriel.  My heart longed to hear his voice, his husky laugh,
his annoying tapping that he did incessantly, and hell, even the sound of him
breathing. 

  Me being me,
I’d thrown a bitch fit of all bitch fits and we haven’t spoken to each other in
nearly a week.  Every time the phone rings, I get my hopes up, only to
have them come crashing down again when he isn't the one on the phone.

  I hit ignore
on the screen and shoved the phone back into the front of my shirt.  My
usual spot for my phone is in between the strap of my sports bra and the skin
of my chest; I find that it holds in place great, even when I’m running. 
Since I’m in some sort of athletic type apparel nearly ninety percent of the
time, I had to improvise on where to put things.  Like putting my phone in
my bra.  I drew the line at storing money there.  I’m sure the
cashier taking my money wouldn’t think too highly of me if I started pulling
out bills from my cleavage.

  Cheyenne
thought this was hilarious.  She said I looked stupid because the phone
was bigger than my boobs, but I took it in stride.  I knew I had no boobs
to speak of, but my ass more than made up for the lack of boobs.  If I
could transplant some ass fat into my boobs, I would be batting a thousand.

  Cheyenne was
my best friend in the whole wide world.  She was my lesbian lover when an
ugly guy hit on me during our nights out.  She was the cheese to my
macaroni.  The ketchup to my scrambled eggs.  She is the best friend
that picked me up at the airport after a weeklong trip to England with a sign
that said, “Welcome home, loser.”  She was the perfect best friend; I
wouldn’t trade her for the world.  Except maybe for a night in Thor’s bed.

  After rounding
the corner, I noticed the flood light that normally blinded me when turning the
corner was out.  A wave of fear ran through me, but I pushed it back. 
Grow a pair Tremaine.  However, I did pull my phone out, clicked the green
phone app on the screen, and went to the keypad just in case.

  I continued to
walk and could see my car when it happened.  A scuff of rocks on the sole
of a shoe was the only warning I had before someone tackled me to the
ground.  Hard.  My face smashed into the gravel, and I tasted dirt on
my tongue.

  The breath
left my body in a whoosh.  My head smacked against the asphalt with a
sickening thud, and gravel bit into my arms and hands.  Feeling seemed to
come back all at once and pain burst through me.  Everything hurt.
 My head, neck, arms, hands, pelvis, and knees.

  The body that
tackled me straddled my back pushing my face further into the gravel as he
leaned down and put his mouth near my ear.  His breath smelled like garlic
and made me want to throw up.  Bile came up my throat, and I clenched my
eyes tightly shut.

  "You
shouldn't walk alone at night.  Someone could really hurt you.”  The
man said.

  The breath
stalled in my lungs and all I could get out was a small whimper.

  The man’s legs
and one arm held me tight as he snuck his hand down between us. 
"Nothing to say bitch?  No matter.  I don't want you to talk
anyway.” 

  I heard his belt
buckle clink as he released it, and then the rasp of a zipper as it he pulled
it down. 

  Fear blasted
through me and I clenched my hands, clenching my eyes shut in denial.  As
I tightened my hand, it reminded me that I still had my phone.  A shot of
adrenaline coursed through my veins; I was amazed I was able to hang on to it
through the struggle.

  Doing some
quick thinking, I held the button on the side of the phone and said, “Gabriel.”

  Fetid breath invaded
my nostrils, and my stomach revolted once again.  "Isn't that an
angel?  I'm no angel bitch.” 

  "P-please
don't h-hurt me.  P-please.”  I said to him.  “I can go back in
to the gym and get you some money.  Or we can get in my car and I can take
you to the ATM and get cash out for you.  That's my car right there, in
the corner where it says ‘AT parking only.’  I tried to give Gabriel as
much information as I could about my whereabouts without being too obvious
about it.

  I hoped that
he was on the line and was able to hear me even though the phone was under my
legs.

  "Shut up,
bitch.  Or this will be worse in the long run.”  My attacker said.

  With that
statement, my bravado fled and I started sobbing.

  My attacker
must not have liked criers, because he hit me in the temple with his meaty fist
and everything went black.

 

Gabe

  I had the
impact wrench in my hand unfastening some bolts on the exhaust manifold of a
’78 Roadster when my phone rang.  I grabbed the red rag out of my back
pocket and wiped my hands before I rescued it from my pocket.

  A smile broke
out over my face when I saw who was calling.

  I hit speaker
on my phone and said, “Decided to not be stubborn anymore and talk to me?"

  Harsh
breathing, the occasional scuffle of rocks, and grunting broke the silence of
the line, and my demeanor instantly changed.  I dropped my rag, the
wrench, and shot up from my crouched position.  My heart was pounding so
hard I could almost hear it.  Jack stood from his stool with a questioning
look, but I didn’t stop to explain.

  At a jog, I
turned and headed into the office from the main garage.  Sam and Max were
sharing a beer laughing when I barreled inside.  Suddenly they were alert
and ready, knowing something was wrong just by the look on my face.

  Holding my
finger up to my list, I held out my hand so everyone could hear what was going
on at the other end of the line.

  "P-please
don't h-hurt me.  P-please.”  She said to him.  “I can go back
in to the gym and get you some money.  Or we can get in my car and I can
take you to the ATM and get cash out for you.  That's my car right there,
in the corner where it says ‘AT parking only.’  "

  When Max heard
Ember’s voice, he vaulted from his chair, hit the keyboard with a thump, and
started typing away.  He pulled up her cell phone position as Sam was busy
on the phone with Kilgore PD giving them the details that ember had just
relayed.

  "Shut up,
bitch.  Or this will be worse in the long run.”  A low male voice
said.

  Ember must
have lost the battle with her emotions because gut-wrenching sobs came through
the speaker and a sick knot of fear lodged in the pit of my belly. 
Ember's attacker started hitting her then, and we could hear each sickening
thud.

  "Oh yea,
you like that baby?”  The attacker said.

  Bile rose in
my throat, and I could no longer stay put.  I ran out to the truck I’d
just purchased that afternoon, hopped inside, and slammed the door.  The
sound of tires spinning on pavement, and the smell of burnt rubber did nothing
to my senses.  Everything in my being was focused on the phone and what I
was hearing.  The phone hooked up through my Bluetooth in the truck, and I
could hear the sound of grunting, and then sounds of flesh meeting flesh. 
I prayed that nothing was as bad as I was imagining it, and that she was going
to be all right.

  I arrived at
the college within five minutes, but was still beat there by dozens of police
cars.  Police cruisers were parked haphazardly in all directions. 
Getting as close as I could before parking and getting out, I sprinted towards
the group of people outside of the gym.

  An officer did
his best to stop me, but I was a force of nature.  Plowing right through
him, I ran up to the figure I saw huddled on the ground in a fetal position.

  Ember's shock
of blonde hair was the first thing I saw.  The second was the fact that
she had no shirt on.  A police officer was just taking off his jacket and
draping it over her when I dove in on my knees, skidding to a halt next to her
head.

  There was a
commotion further away, but I paid it no mind as I concentrated on Ember. 
My heart was in my throat, and tears started pricking my eyes.  I stifled
a moan of despair, and took in the sight before me.

  I started to
place my hands on her head when she flinched away from me.  Her eyes were
squeezed shut and she was making heart wrenching whimpering noises.

 
"Emmie.  It’s okay.  I'm here now.  Can you look at me,
baby?”  I said quietly to her.

  The whimpering
stopped and those big green eyes snapped open.  She looked at me with
fear-clouded eyes.  One second she was lying in a ball on the pavement,
and the next she was throwing herself into my arms.

  Instinctively,
I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her to me.  She buried her face in
my neck and started sobbing. Each and every sob broke my heart a little bit at
a time.  Ember was a spitfire, and I had never seen her look so
defeated.  Her tears were flowing hotly down my neck and sliding into the
gap of my t-shirt.

  Something
slick trickled over my hands, and it registered in my mind that ember's entire
back was bare and slick all over.  I tried to place her down on the ground
but she clung to me tightly.

  The paramedics
rolled up with their gurney and stopped beside the both of us.

  "Please
let her go, sir, so we can take a look at her.”  The young medic said.

  Once again, I
tried to put her down but she refused and clung even more tightly, as well as
wrapping her legs around my waist.

  "Ember,
honey, these guys would like to take a look at you to make sure you aren't hurt
anywhere.  Can you let them check you over?”  I whispered to her.

 "No.” 
She moaned.  "I'm not too bad.  It's just my back.  I think
he scratched my back when he ripped my shirt off.”  She said into my neck

  The paramedics
must have been able to make out what she said so they nodded and bent down to
take a closer look at her back.  One of the officers turned on a large
spotlight that lit the area up, because now I could make out that the shirt she
had been wearing was laying in tatters around her waist.

  My blood was
on a slow boil, and I just prayed that I would find the strength to not go off
and find the fucker that dared to hurt her.

  The second
medic let out a low whistle with his tongue and teeth while examining the
wound.  The first medic pulled out a bottle and some gauze.  They
went to work on her back, and I tried not to think about the amount of blood I
was seeing.

 I knew it was
bad without even looking at it.  With the amount of years, I served in the
military I knew that that much blood was only produced by something that was
more significant than just a scratch.  What I think happened was the POS
cut the shirt off her with a knife, and didn’t care if he was slicing her skin
along with the shirt.

  A short time
later the medics got her patched enough to get to the hospital, and once again,
I tried to let her go, but she was having none of it.  Instead, I walked
over to the bus, and took a seat on the bench, all the while holding onto her
tightly.

  Max and Sam
were at the police barrier being held back by a rookie cop who refused to let
them come to us.  I nodded to them, letting them know without words that
Ember was okay, and that I was going with her; they both nodded back to
me.  Max wore an expression that could only be described as devastation,
as if his heart was being ripped slowly from his chest.  He said he loved
Ember, but she was beyond knowing it was her brother, so they left shortly after
to speak more in depth with the police.


 
We arrived at Free two hours later.

  Ember received a thorough examination, but never once let
go of me.  She had fifty-seven stitches put into her back when her
attacker cut through the back of her shirt.  The cut started at the base
of her neck, and then flowed all the way, until it met her jeans that hung low
on her hips.  It was around a quarter inch deep the whole way down. 
A scar was inevitable, and would forever be a reminder of what happened.

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