Home > Storm (Ashes & Embers #1)(3)

Storm (Ashes & Embers #1)(3)
Author: Carian Cole

“It’s got some dog hair on it but at least it’s warm and clean.”

I give him a weak smile. “This will work.”

The back seat of the extended cab is pretty big, thankfully. I haven’t been in a pick-up truck in years and I don’t remember them having these huge back seats. It must be something the newer models have.

“I’ve never been in the back of a pick-up truck before, it’s nice. Roomy.” I say because I have no idea what else to say.

He smiles his crooked smile and laughs. “Um, thanks?”

“I’m just trying to make conversation. This is really awkward.”

“Yeah, it fuckin’ is in a bad way, but looks like we’re gonna be stuck here for a while so we’re gonna have to be friends for a few days. Maybe we should start with names... What’s yours?”

“Evelyn... and you?”

“Storm”

“Storm?” I repeat. “Are you kidding me?”

“Yeah... When my mom showed my dad the ultrasound photo, he said it looked like a bunch of dark storm clouds to him, so they named me Storm.”

“It must suck to have a name you have to explain the meaning of every time you meet someone.”

“No... Not at all. I like my name. At least it’s not fucking boring like Joe or Michael.”

I think of Michael and wonder what he’s doing. If I don’t call him, he’s going to start to worry about me. Maybe he’ll come looking for me and save me from this fresh hell.

Storm leans forward and starts to take off his jacket. “This got really wet. I think it’s best if I just take it off so I don’t sit here like a sponge, huh?” He folds it up and puts it on the front seat, and then he removes his hat and pushes his sunglasses up on top of his head.

My eyes are mesmerized by him and they betray the rest of me, which is trying to get as far away from him as possible. His hair is dark brown and long, a few inches past his shoulders. On the right side, two thin sections are dyed—one purple, one white. He’s wearing a black cable knit sweater with the sleeves pushed up, and I can see tattoos covering both of his arms, from his wrists up to his shoulders. I can see the artwork extending beyond the collar of his sweater, up toward his neck. I’ve never seen anyone who looks like him before, and I’m fascinated just looking at him like an exotic zoo animal. His eyes meet mine and I quickly look away.

“What?” he asks.

“Nothing.”

“You were staring at me. Do you want to say something?”

“No... I didn’t mean to stare. I’ve just never seen anyone who looks like you up close before.”

He raises his brows at me and smirks. “Looks like me? Is that an insult or a compliment?”

I shake my head and squirm a bit. “Definitely not an insult.” Don’t insult the psycho.

“Lemme guess... you’re used to the jock type with short hair and their fucking preppy pants and loafers?”

I nod. “Yeah, I suppose so... I’m not used to men with eyeliner and colored stripes in their hair.”

He leans his head back against the seat and closes his eyes. “I like being different. I don’t feel the need to fuckin’ blend.”

I won’t admit it to him, but I admire it. Michael is a blender. I can barely tell him and his friends apart anymore, dressing the same, driving the same kind of car, short hair with a little spiky mess in the front. I suppose I’m the same, dressing like all the other women in the office, but once I’m home and alone, I can’t wait to throw on an old t-shirt, put on yoga pants, and wear pink converse sneakers.

“So, Evelyn... what kind of meeting were you heading up to?”

“It was for work.”

“I gathered that... What do you do?”

“I’m a marketing exec at a small advertising firm. I was supposed to be going to a seminar on direct mail campaigns and online marketing strategies.”

“That sounds interesting.”

“Well, as you said, I’m obviously going to miss it now. My boss is going to be pissed. It cost quite a bit of money to register and pay for the room and everything.”

“What the fuck, Ev? You’re stuck in a ditch in a blizzard. I think he’ll understand.”

I shake my head. I can already hear Jim screaming about wasting money and my lack of responsibility. He only cares about money and profit.

“My boss is not exactly an understanding person.”

“Fuck him then. You don’t need that shit.”

“Yeah, but I do need a job. And do you always talk like that?”

“If he gives you any shit, let me know, and I’ll cover the costs he lost from your ditch-dive. And yes, I fuckin’ do talk like this.”

“What? Are you crazy? You can’t give me money.”

“Yeah, I’m probably a little crazy. But it’s no fucking big deal to me. I don’t want some douche stressing you out over money. Life’s too short for that.”

I stare at him for a moment, realizing he’s very serious. “Why do you care?”

He shrugs nonchalantly. “I dunno. Why not? I’m not a greedy person.”

“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, but thank you.”

He yawns. “No problem.”

“Do you work?” I ask him, trying to keep the conversation going. I don’t want to sit in silence in the truck. That would be really awkward.

“Yeah, even people who look like me have jobs,” he says sarcastically. Ouch.

“I didn’t mean it like that... I meant what do you do for work?” I really need to watch how I word things. Sometimes really dumb stuff spews out of my mouth.

“I build custom motorcycles.”

Wow. I’ve never been on a motorcycle, and I’m pretty scared shitless of them, but it sounds like an interesting career to actually build them.

“That sounds pretty cool. I’ve never been on one.”

He bugs his eyes out at me as if I have ten heads. “What? Seriously?”

I nod. “I’ve always been scared of them.”

He smiles a smile that lights up his entire face. “I’ll tell you what, Evie. Come spring, I’ll take you on a ride on this very road where we just crashed. It’s awesome that time of year. There’s a cool little waterfall a ways up that’s beautiful and so freakin’ peaceful. You’ll love it.”

“I don’t know about that...”

“Trust me, I’ll go slow and take you on my favorite bike. I promise you’ll love it.” He looks so hopeful that I have to agree to it. And he called me Evie. No one’s called me that since I was a little girl.

“I guess I can think about it. If you promise to go really, really slow.”

“Deal.”

I wonder if our little ride will ever really happen. What if this storm gets worse and we are stuck out here for days? What if no one finds us and we starve or freeze to death? Will the insurance company pay for my car damage? Will Michael remember to feed Halo?

I start to shake and breathe heavy and my hand instinctively grips the door handle. I close my eyes shut tight and will the fear to stop. Please stop, I beg myself. Not here, not now, not with him. But it’s too late. The trembling has already started.

“Hey, are you all right, Evelyn?” Sarcasm is replaced with concern. I nod, unable to find my voice. I grip the door handle even tighter, fighting the urge to fling the door open and run. I have to get out of this truck. I have to get out of here and make the fear stop.

He puts his hand on my shoulder. “What’s wrong? Are you feeling sick? You’re all pale. Talk to me.”

A wave of dizziness washes over me, leaving me feeling nauseous and short of breath.

“Panic attack... I’ve had them since I was a little girl...” My heart is pounding so hard, I can feel it in my ears and now I feel hot like I am sitting in an oven, but still shivering. I’m a mess.

“Oh, fuck.” He turns sideways on the seat, so his back is leaning against the door. “Come here.” He puts his hands on my shoulders and pulls me to him, my back against his chest. He covers us with the blanket and wraps his arms around the front of me in a bear hug.

“Just lean against me,” he says softly. “Close your eyes and just listen to my voice.”

My hands come up to clasp around his. My entire body is shaking and my brain is going a thousand miles a minute, hundreds of fears and bad thoughts rushing in. I hate this feeling so much. I just want it to stop.

Storm starts to talk, his voice soft and smooth, just above a whisper. “When I was little, I used to spend the weekends at my grandparents’ house. They live on two-hundred acres of land, mostly mountain. It used to be a farm and the old barn and some other buildings are still on the property my grandfather uses for storage. Their house is beautiful, all brick with lots of windows. Its big, four bedrooms, huge dining room, but super comfy. My Gram loves to decorate. She’s one of the types who decorate for each season and holiday, like putting those little animated statues up at Christmas and shit. The living room has a huge fireplace and I loved to sleep in front of it in the winters. When all we kids stayed there, some of us slept on the floor in the living room.”

As he’s talking, he’s gently stroking my hand and fingers with his. The sound of his voice and the gentle touch is lulling me. I close my eyes and allow my body to relax into his.

“Gram loved to bake and would make us these awesome snickerdoodle cookies, and real hot cocoa made from real chocolate with warm milk and homemade whipped cream. It was frickin’ awesome. My brothers, my sister, and I used to walk the trails on the property, and we’d see deer and some foxes. If it were snowing, my grandfather would come outside and build these huge snowmen with us. One year, he even made us an igloo. Then we’d all go inside, half frozen, and Gram would have homemade soup or stew ready for us. It was a really great way to grow up. I always felt safe and happy there. Even now, if I’m going through a fucked up time, I’ll go stay at their house for a few days, and Gram will treat me just like I’m ten years old, and ya know what? I don’t even fuckin’ care, cuz sometimes we all just need to be taken care of a little bit. Right?”

   
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