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The knock on the door in the middle of the night would’ve pissed Vanessa off a lot more if she’d been anywhere near hibernation. Thick, flannel pajamas shielded her from the offending bite of the wind as she opened the door. Finn stood there, a stark and giant silhouette against the star-cluttered night sky.
“No thanks,” she said blandly. “I’m trying to cut back on my booty calls.” She tried to close the door, but Finn shoved his foot in front of it.
“Vanessa,” he growled in a hoarse and sleep-filled voice.
“Fiiine,” she groaned. “But no kissing. I can’t have you falling in love with me.”
She couldn’t be positive in the dim moonlight, but she was pretty sure his eye twitched.
“Grab your weapons,” he said, pushing his way into the room.
“Ooh wee, you like it rough. You’re dangerous and I approve.”
“Vanessa! Stop trying to be a pain in my ass and get ready. I have something to show you.”
“All right, all right, don’t get your panties in a twist.” She cracked an uncontrolled grin. “Do you want me to undress fast or slow?”
“I’ll meet you outside,” Finn muttered through her cackles.
“That was the last one, I swear!” Vanessa called as he slammed the door.
Five minutes, one pair of cargo pants, a thermal sweater, a jacket, a pistol, a rifle, and a pocket full of ammo later, and Vanessa was filling her lungs with frigid front porch air. Finn looked like he was asleep in one of the rocking chairs so she thoughtfully kicked his boot until he lurched awake.
“Let’s do this. I have PT in three hours.”
After a stretch and an under-the-breath oath, Finn led the way down one of the winding paths. The further they got away from the cabin, the more the sense of wrongness sent little, tinkling, warning bells off inside of her.
The woods of Dead Run River were magic at night. Small solar lights dotted the edges of the trails and could be seen through the trees like fairies sleeping on flowers. The closer they got to the front gate, however, the fewer lights there were to guide them.
“Finn, where are you taking me?”
“You’ll see. It’s show and tell. First I’ll show you. Then I’ll tell you.”
She threw a baleful glance at the quiet woods behind her. This was a bad idea, following Finn, the mysterious Yeti, into the forest at night. If she weren’t still battling the remnants of a moonshine headache, she would’ve remembered to ask for an explanation before she left her cabin.
It wasn’t until Finn led her all the way to the front gates of Dead Run River and ripped the engine of a small four-wheeler that she balked completely.
“Aw, heck no am I getting on that thing and zipping around Dead infested woods with no protection. Heck. Freaking. No.”
He held his hand out and commanded, “Get on.”
Crossing her arms, she refused. “This is the part where you’re pissed Mel went over you on the supply run decision, and you’re going to drop me in the woods in some effed up game to see if I can make my way back to the colony. Screw you, Finn. I’m not playing.”
“For the billionth time, Summers, you can’t talk to your commanding officers like that, or it affects your graduation score. I swear I won’t leave you in the woods. Now get on, or there won’t be a supply run. This little test was approved by Mel, and we both have final say.” His hand hung in the air between them, inviting her to hop on. Quiet steel laced his voice as he said, “Now, Summers.”
She denied his offered palm, her fists clenched in anger, and slid onto the back, holding onto his taut waist. “I swear if you leave me in those woods, I’ll kill you.”
“I won’t. Besides, it’s not me who needs killin’ tonight.”
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