One minute I was surrounded by white light and the scent of lavender. The next minute I was on my back in the dirt with a guy straddling me and pounding my chest.
“You awake? You alive? Shit.”
Hard to see much in the dark, but the full moon shining through the oak trees showed me his brown eyes, open wide and filled with fear.
“You’re alive. Jeez, woman.” He took his hands away and leaned back on his heels.
He smelled like garlic and motor oil, and he needed to get the hell off of me because a violent churning in my stomach meant ...
“Move.” I shoved him and rolled to my side.
He did, fast enough to get out of the way while I hurled the contents of my stomach onto the ground. I made my way to my hands and knees and retched a little more.
“Here.” The guy tapped my shoulder. “Water.”
I took the bottle he offered, rinsed and spit, then drank. A chunk of something went down my throat and I almost puked again. Rinse, spit, rinse, spit. Hope he didn’t want the bottle back.
A loud pop like a gunshot and a flash of light to my left made me swivel my head and instantly regret the move as my gut reacted by gurgling another warning.
The man looked in that direction too. “What was that? Are you alone out here?” he asked.
“As far as I know. Did you see something?”
“I don’t know.” He assumed a fighting stance, legs slightly spread, hands curled in fists at his side, then turned in a slow circle, studying the woods around us.
We both stayed silent for a moment as he continued to scan the area. I pulled in deep breaths, trying to convince my gut to settle down.
“An animal,” the man said and turned back to me. “Are you all right?”
No. Duh. He’d just pulled me out of a running car filled with carbon monoxide.
“Why the hell did you do that?” I asked.
“Stick your nose in my business.” I stood, wobbled a little, but I could stay upright and possibly walk.
“You about died. I saved you,” he said.
“I about died because I wanted to.” I moved toward my car. “Pretty damn obvious, dude. What are you doing out here in these woods anyway?”
I’d chosen this parking area that accessed a hiking trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina because no one came here at night. No one was supposed to, anyway.
It would have been easier to fill up a garage with carbon monoxide, but I lived in an apartment and didn’t have one. I thought about using a friend’s place or renting a storage unit, but that meant someone would be in for a super-crappy day when they found my dead body in the morning. I didn’t want to be the cause of someone having a super-crappy day.
“I come here between calls,” he said. “You need to get medical attention.”
I walked back to my car, and he didn’t follow, which was good because I was likely to punch him. It’d taken every ounce of courage I could muster to set this up, and he’d ruined it. Now my car had holes in the exhaust system and floor, my stomach was about to turn inside out and my head hurt like a son of a bitch.
And I was still alive.
“Get the hell out of here and leave me alone.” I reached my car and leaned on it. He’d turned off the ignition and left the door open, but it still stank like poison.
“I’ll take you to the hospital. Come on.” He gestured with his hand.
I reached into the glove box, pulled out the Glock 19 I’d stolen/borrowed from my dad in case I needed a plan B (Dad had a buttload of firearms; he’d never miss this one), and pointed it at the guy. My arm shook, but I held it steady enough. “I said get out of here. Now.”
He raised his hands. “Okay. Take it easy. I’m going. You can keep the water.”
His hands remained in the air as he backed up slowly. Good. He wasn’t an idiot hero type. Just a knight in a stained T-shirt instead of shining armor, trying to rescue the girl. Except this girl didn’t need rescuing.
I didn’t lower the gun until the red glow of his truck taillights disappeared. When I did let my arm fall, it shook. I sat back down in the car. Okay, no biggie. Shut the doors, crank it up, finish the job. I could do it. That was the only way. Who was I kidding? There was no plan B. I totally couldn’t put a gun in my mouth. The knight wouldn’t come back again and stop me. Would he?
An owl hooted, and the wind blew a scent of wet leaves my way, the smell of strolls with Jasper, the world’s weirdest cat, who liked to go for walks on a leash in the woods.
“Step out of the car, would you please?”
Holy crap! I about broke my neck swiveling toward a voice that came from the entrance to the parking area. A man stood far enough away I couldn’t see him clearly, just an outline. I slid all the way inside, shut my car door and locked it. He stepped closer.
Not the same dude that screwed up my plan. This guy was tall, blond, wearing tight black jeans and a long-sleeve black shirt. I didn’t see another vehicle. Where the hell did he come from?
“Get away. I’m calling the police,” I yelled through the closed window. I reached for my phone. Oh yeah. I didn’t have a phone. Since I’d planned to die that night, I’d canceled my contract and told my carrier to stick their overpriced rates up their butts.
One of the best moments I’d had while preparing for my death.