|1| NO FIRE FOR WEARY TRAVELERS |:|
Kyle winced when the tree branch cut across his face. The startled cry of his eldest daughter made his rapid beating heart press against his chest. He grabbed the little girl and clamped a hand over her mouth smothering her cries of pain from her fall.
He kissed her head and clutched both his children close while the heavy voices of the men after them drew closer. Running would be futile he knew that. He just had to pray they overlooked them in the fading light of dusk.
He could feel his daughter's shaking arms wrapped around his neck. No should be scared like he knew the little girl had to be.
Guilt racked through him. It was his only job as their parent, the only thing he owed them was safety security, but he allowed his own selfish need for revenge to deter him from doing his duty as a father. Because nothing he did could ever rectify his ultimate failing of being a partner.
Once the men passed, Kyle took his daughter's hand and they ran through the forested area with his young son on his back. Witness protection? The bitter taste of betrayal clogged his mind.
He stopped short when he saw a car roll slow down the state highway that went through the vast wilderness.
Kyle's heartbeat picked up and tears started to blur his eyes when he heard the familiar cadence of his best friend’s voice.
“Kyle?” The man whispered, in the failing light. The car door opened turning the inner light on in the car revealing the man's blonde hair.
Kyle and his daughters clambered in and they sped off. He looked through the side mirror and watched the big dark haunting mountain, brought to life by the bright moon, fade into the distance. The place that he called home for over three years faded. Living in constant fear was no way to live, but somehow he managed it for three years.
“I already let Kate know as much as you told me. She’ll help. Kyle? Hey, Kyle?” Kyle’s dazed eyes met his friend’s. “Huh?”
“Man you ok?”
Kyle shook his head. “No, I’m not ok. I--” He broke off scrubbing his face. “I’m supposed to be looking after my kids and I feel so helpless. Have ever since Sharry died.” He took in a deep breath.
“It’s okay man. Kate’s real good. She’ll take care of y’all.”
“I don’t want to put anyone in danger. I-I just didn’t know who else to call.”
“It’s okay. You did a good thing comin’ to us. You’re like a brother to me and Kate, okay? We’ll take care of you.”
Kyle nodded and looked out the window. His heart was still banging in his chest, adrenaline pumping through his blood. His mind wandered. Like a brother? He hope Kate didn’t see him as a brother, although he wouldn’t be surprised if she did considering how much time he spent over at their house as a child.
He wondered if she would even remember him. It’d been so long since he’d seen her. He remembered her fiery red hair and an attitude to match.
Hours later, they pulled up to the quant yet sizable cottage that Kate called home.
Kyle paused after he closed the bedroom door when he heard angry hushed whispers coming from the living area below. Kate’s Cabin was just the right size for her, but with Kyle and the kids and Jonathan it was almost uncomfortable.
“I don’t do that anymore, Jonathan.”
“Oh, come on, Kate. I told him you’d help. He has nowhere else to go.”
“You shouldn’t have brought him here.”
“And what? Where would he go?” The man’s voice got lower, but Kyle could still hear now that he’d crept down stairs and was listening around the corner from the kitchen where the pair was talking. “The Marshalls were supposed to protect him. PROTECT HIM!”
“One bad egg doesn’t mean to entire carton is rotten.”
“Would you risk it? Especially with all he’s been through?”
“We’ll be gone in the morning.”
Jonathan’s wild eyes found Kyle’s. Kate’s green-eyed gaze was measured and steady. He featured were harder than he remembered. Her strong arms were crossed over her chest. Despite her intimating masculine energy she was still a pretty woman.
He walked into the kitchen from his hiding spot and leaned on the island counter.
“If you’ll be kind enough to let us stay until daybreak.”
Kate looked down in her teacup. “I don’t want to send you away--”
“I get it. This is some fucked up dangerous shit. It’s my burden. I’m sorry for dragging you two into it.” It took everything in him to steady his voice and keep the burning tears behind his eyes. Once out of sight again, he wiped the salty streams from his face.
He was beyond scared. He regretted the decision to take on the Russian mob. Who the hell did he think he was? Sherry would have his head for putting their children in danger. He was doing the right thing, at least by the law, but not what was right by his children. He took the stairs back up to the loft area where his children slumbered in Kate’s bedroom.
He opened the door and slipped inside. The moon peaked in a space between the heavy curtains casting enough light in the room that he could see his young ones’ chests rise and fall.
He crossed his arms and leaned against the solid wood door behind him. He relaxed for the first time it felt like in years. He wasn’t sure when the last time the kids slept so sound. He rubbed his hands down his face. He hadn’t thought about the consequences to his children, what dragging them into this whole mess would do. For the past five or so years they’ve known nothing but fear. That was almost all of his son Kirby’s life. Kyle wasn’t sure what was worst. Knowing what was before all the running and fear, or it being your homeostasis.
He massaged his shoulders and just stood there watching his children. He wasn’t sure how long he stood there, but his mind, for the first time in a while was able to drift to some other place. When he had moments like this he usually thought about Sherry, what he lost, but this time Kate’s big cat-shaped green eyes, heart-shaped face, and full red lips took over his mind.
She’d changed so much from what he remembered of her growing up with her older brother. She was all Irish fire then and perhaps that energy was still there, nestled under the cold, dismissing chill that now kept her imaginative facial expressions controlled.
He didn’t like her cold indifference, but he admired her strength. She was sturdy and capable, in fact, despite her size, she was always so.
His face pulled into a smile. He recalled the time she stood on the cafeteria tables and demanded more options at lunch. She got a week of detention for that, but it didn’t stop her. She relayed the whole school behind her cause with petitions and fundraisers and letters to the school board. The following year there were indeed better lunches.
He sighed making his way over to the bed. He slid in next to his son who was in the middle. When he closed his eyes expecting to only hear the night creatures, but he also heard a tea kettle whistle below them. She was still awake. If she was still awake then it was safe to close his eyes for a moment. Just a short moment of rest.
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****This is an unedited draft which means there will be mistakes in grammar, punctuation, spelling, word usage ETC. I post these drafts for feed back and to gauge interest in the story line and characters. ****Ye've been warned!****
Copyright © 2020 by Alexandria Ashcroft
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