Authors: Jackie Wang
The driver shook his head. “Sorry, but I'm only supposed to drive the bride and groom to—”
Kieran pointed his gun to the driver's face and said, “Get out of the car, now.”
The poor man held up both hands and mumbled, “Okay, okay. Don't shoot.”
My lips quivered and I tasted bile. This had to be a nightmare. This wasn’t the Kieran I knew: this man was manic. “Kieran, please, put the gun away. You're scaring me.”
“Get in the car Rachelle,” Kieran said, gesturing to the passenger seat with his gun.
“Hold on, you said—”
“I changed my mind. I'm taking you with me.”
“Get. In,” Kieran said. He grabbed my wrists hard, dragging me around to the other side of the vehicle. Opening the door, he shoved me inside before slamming it closed again. Kieran held his hand out and the driver gave him the keys to the limo. In return, Kieran gave the driver a hundred-dollar bill. “You saw nothing,” he hissed. “Now scram.” I watched as the limo driver started running away as fast as he could.
Kieran slid into the driver’s seat, tossed his duffle bag in the back seat and turned the ignition. The limo’s wheels screeched as we peeled away from the curb.
Today was supposed to be the happiest day of my life. How did it turn into the worst?
Minutes later, we were on the freeway. I looked out the side window, my entire body tense, borderline paralyzed. Cars, trucks and vans whizzed by us, taking no notice. I could hear the tin cans rattling against the asphalt. Terri had fastened them to the rear bumper earlier, along with a gaudy, hand-painted, ‘Just Married’ sign. All this fanfare for nothing.
I wasn’t getting married today, thanks to Kieran.
My stomach sank to the floor and I wanted to curl up in a fetal position and die. But I could not afford to show weakness.
I was so dead. So fricking dead. Kieran might as well have shot me back there because there was no way in hell I'd ever be able to face my friends and family again. No matter what I told them, they wouldn't believe me. They'd think I was a runaway bride. The one who got cold feet and ruined a quarter-million dollar wedding.
I had nothing on me. No way to tell anyone anything. Or call for help. All I had on was my wedding dress, with the elaborate and now muddied train pooling at my feet.
Maybe the limo driver would grow a pair and call the cops…But he seemed truly panicky and not one to care about my plight…
My breaths came in rapid pants and my head was dizzy.
Who was Kieran?
What the hell was going on?
My eyes stung with hot tears, which tasted salty on my glossy lips. I had half the mind to just lower the windows and scream for help, but I doubted anyone could hear me on the highway. We were now in the middle of nowhere and the scenery wasn't even recognizable anymore. Everything was obscured under heavy blankets of snow. The whiteness blinded me, causing dark spots to jump back and forth across my field of view.
This was all just a bad dream.
Wake up, wake up, wake up.
“I'm sorry you had to go through that,” Kieran said after a while.
“How dare you?” I said, trying not to explode.
“I didn't have time to explain,” he continued, not looking at me. “Besides, you wouldn't have understood anyway.”
“Why did you have to drag me into it? Why couldn't you have just taken the limo and gone?”
“I was saving you from making a terrible mistake,” Kieran said, gripping the steering wheel hard.
“Oh? What mistake is that?”
, so I shouldn’t have kidnapped Rachelle. Clearly, it was a spur-of-the-moment decision. My goal had just been to
her vehicle. But when I saw her all dolled up and about to get married, I couldn't help it. She was too goddamn beautiful. Too precious. Robert couldn't possibly give her the life she deserved. Sure, their life might've been comfortable and safe...but she deserved so much more than to settle for a boring-ass, Stepford-wife kind of life.
Rachelle was so young. So gorgeous. So feisty...
So, fuck all the rules. She was riding with me.
Besides, in the event that the cops did catch me…she might be my only hope. She might carry the torch for me and complete my mission. I didn’t have anyone else. Maybe…if I played my cards right…
When Terri paid me, she’d mentioned that Rachelle was getting married at the Grande-Marriott today. I was hoping to stop by, see Rachelle one last time, borrow her car…Oh fuck it, I just wanted to see her again. I couldn’t stop thinking about her, period. Something long dead awakened inside me the night I met Rachelle. I wanted to add fuel to that fire, not let it smolder to ashes. Maybe the idiot in me thought I could somehow convince her to come with me. Abandon her responsible life, and come cruise in my hectic one. But since she was so stubborn, and I didn’t have time to explain anything, I decided to just force her to come with me. Taking her by gunpoint. Not my brightest idea.
Okay. It was the worst idea I ever had.
The limo cruised along the Interstate, its wheels humming along the asphalt, occasionally kicking up dirty slush. Soft flurries brushed against the windshield, caressing the glass. Rachelle hadn’t said a word in over ten minutes. Hot air from the vents blasted against my face, making me sweat. I turned down the heat and turned up the radio.
was on again. Christmas jingles had been playing everywhere I went on an endless loop. Christmas was a bloody holiday that capitalists invented to rake in more cash. Force consumers to feel good about spending money, and guilty about saving. Fucked up, really. I’d never bought into that bullshit. Even as a child, I hated Christmases. Almost as much as I hated my parents.
“Rachelle,” I said, clearing my throat, “thing is, I need your help. I need to get to Seattle.”
“Fuck you,” she snapped, before crossing her arms and staring out the window.
“I know, you have no reason to help me, but we've come this far already, and I can't turn back now. It's a sixteen-hour drive to Seattle. Once we get there, I'll let you go.”
“Let me go now. Please. I won't tell anyone where you're going,” Rachelle said, her voice softer. “My parents are going to be so mad. And all the guests...You've ruined a quarter-million dollar wedding.”
“Did you really want to get married today?” I asked.
“Of course I did!” Rachelle said. “Why else would I be wearing
” She gestured to her poufy wedding dress. “Rob’s mom will murder me in my sleep.”
“You've been complaining about how everyone will be mad at you, but you haven't mentioned once how upset you are that I ruined your chance to marry Robert.”
“Of course, that's a given,” Rachelle said. “Robert will be humiliated. He might never talk to me again.”
“If he really loves you, he'll understand,” I said.
“No, he won't. Do you know what's it's like to have your bride run away in front of three-hundred guests? His family and mine are so traditional. It's the ultimate disgrace.”
“You didn't run away, I kidnapped you. Not the same thing,” I offered.
“It's even worse. People will gossip. Wonder why you targeted me, and how I know someone like you.”
“Someone like me?”
“Clearly, you're in trouble with the cops.”
Rachelle sighed. “The biggest crime I’ve ever committed was underage drinking. Once. How do you think my family and Rob's will react when they learn I've been kidnapped by a criminal? A hired entertainer from my bachelorette party?” Rachelle's face sank as the reality of her words set in. “I'm so screwed. They’ll never understand.”
“So you hate me then,” I said.
“No shit, Sherlock. But I'll hate you slightly less if you pulled over at the next exit.”
“No can do, Rach, it's starting to snow. It could get worse, and I'll need a new vehicle. A less conspicuous one. You need to rent a car for me.”
“I don't have any ID on me,” Rachelle said. “But even if I did, I wouldn't help you.”
“I guess we'll need to hitchhike then. Either that, or steal a car. You down for some GTA?”
“Grand theft auto.”
“Kieran, I don't want to be an accessory to any of your crimes. I'm innocent. I—”
“—Calm down, Princess, I'm not going to steal a car. I'm not that desperate. Yet.”
Rachelle didn't say anything after that. Just fidgeted with her shaky fingers and bit back tears.
She wore coral nail polish. It looked pretty on her delicate hands. Her delicate, trembling hands. Watching her so upset felt like a dagger to the heart.
My impulsivity had ruined the one woman I didn’t want to hurt. Why did I hurt the people I cared about? I didn’t want to involve her in my shit. I was trying so hard to forget about her. Move on with my life. Find Kara. But for some reason, I just couldn’t let Rachelle go. I wasn’t sure why I was so preoccupied with her. It made no fucking sense.
I’d taken her because I could. Because I wanted her. And I didn’t want any other man to have her. Period. It was a selfish move, but I couldn’t turn back now.
I saw a convenience store and parked off-street so I could pop in for some bottled water. The goddamn heater made me sweat like a pig and I was parched. Maneuvering a limo into a tight alley was not easy. “Stay in the car,” I said. “I'll be right back.” I turned off the engine and tucked the keys in my back pocket.
tay in the car
,” Kieran said. “I'll be right back.” He stepped out and headed inside the convenience store. When I saw him talking to the clerk, I opened the door just a crack and slid bonelessly out of my seat and onto the ground.
Did he really think I’d listen to him and not try to run?
I crouched down and half-crawled, half-slithered toward the phone booths outside the store. My dress weighed heavier by the minute and I was thirsty and dizzy. I accidentally dragged the train across a puddle of water, which further bogged me down. Unfortunately, I didn't have any change to make a call, and the vicinity was deserted. The only person who might be able to help me was the gawky teen cashier who was talking to Kieran. I could also take my chances and make a run for it, but I suspected I wouldn’t get very far.
Of course, Kieran noticed me right away. After all, I was flat on the ground wearing a $50,000 wedding dress and sweating profusely. My hair was already sagging and frizzing. A pity Marissa spent an hour styling it. I swallowed hard as Kieran flew out the door and walked toward me.
“I told you to stay inside the car,” Kieran said, towering over me. He held out an ice-cold bottle of water. I stood up, took the water bottle from him and unscrewed the cap. “I was dying of thirst,” I said, hiding my real intentions from him. “It was too hot in the car.”
“So you weren't about to call for help?” Kieran asked, taking a swig from his bottle.
I shook my head and guzzled water for several seconds. “I need a change of clothes too.”
“We'll figure all that stuff out when we get to a motel,” Kieran said.
I scrunched up my face and gestured to the tight corset around my waist. “You don't understand. I can barely breathe in this thing. I'm going to pass out if—”
Kieran spun me around and reached for the spaghetti straps cinching my corset together. With one sharp tug, he tore them apart and I felt the fabric expand. A rush of cold air met with my sticky skin and I shivered.
“There,” Kieran said, “problem solved.”
“This dress cost fifty-grand and my friend spent six months making it,” I exploded. “You could've just untied it like a normal person.”
“But then I wouldn't have seen you pout,” Kieran said, taking me by the hand back to the limo. “Besides, I already ruined a quarter-million wedding. What’s another fifty-grand?”
“What’s wrong with you?” I said.
This man was clearly sadistic.
“If you pull up to a motel in a limo, with a very unhappy bride, people are going to ask questions.”
Kieran thought for a moment. “You're right. We have to lose the ride ASAP. And that dress.”
Ten minutes later, we were sitting in a Walmart parking lot. I wanted to cry and scream and run for the hills, but I did none of those things. I just silently seethed and hoped karma would kick Kieran's ass for me.
What goes around, comes around, Kieran. You better watch your back.
“You've got five minutes to pick an outfit,” Kieran said. “Then we're catching a cab.”
“People are going to notice me,” I said, gesturing to my torn dress. “This outfit isn’t exactly discreet.”
Kieran made a small 'hmm'. “You're right.”
His hand moved toward me and I swatted it away. “Stop. Don’t you dare touch me again.”
“You need to take this off,” Kieran said. He reached over, grabbed something and threw it at me. It was the hoodie he'd lent me the first night we met. “Put this on and follow me.”
I shook my head. “Make me.”
Kieran's eyes narrowed. “Rachelle.”
I sucked in a deep breath and let out a scream. His large palm flew over my mouth. “Don't, Rachelle. Let's not make a scene.”
Once he dropped his hand, I stared straight at him. “Not make a scene? Not make a fucking scene? You won't get away with this, Kieran. I'm calling the cops as soon as I get the chance.”
“Call for help and Rob dies,” Kieran said, panic quivering in his eyes. “Now don't make me ask again.”
“And how the hell are you planning to do that when you’re here, with me?” I challenged.
“Do you really want to push my buttons, Rachelle?” Kieran was starting to lose his patience, fast.
“What the hell happened to you, Kieran? You weren't like—”
“—Change first, talk later.”
Humiliated and terrified, I peeled off my ruined dress and pulled Kieran's hoodie over my head. It still smelled like him and I wanted to retch at the thought of how I'd found that smell irresistible only a few days ago.
“Done?” Kieran asked. He'd faced the other way while I was changing.
What a gentleman.
“Yeah,” I said. “Let's go.” I hoisted my dress up and over my head, stuffing it into the limo’s spacious backseat.
Tears stung my eyes, but I refused to let them fall.
Kieran cleared his throat.
“What? I'm ready,” I said.
He nodded at my nude stockings and garters, his stubbly face tinged pink. “I don’t have any pants.”
I tugged the hoodie down as far as it would go. It barely covered my ass cheeks. “I'll be humiliated either way. Let's just get this over with.” I exited the limo and examined my clothing. I looked like a stripper who'd gotten a hair and facial makeover but didn't get an outfit to match. In short, absolutely ridiculous. My hairdo was falling apart so I reached up and pulled out as many bobby pins as I could find, tossing them onto the ground. My long black tresses fell down in waves, framing my very pissed-off face. I also tore off my false eyelashes, the adhesive stinging my lash line.
None of this felt real. It was if I was watching myself on a movie screen, going through all these motions, but knowing it was all pretend. As if I was an actor, playing a role. How could this possibly be happening to me?
Kieran pressed a fifty-dollar bill into my palm and said, “Get yourself something nice. But don't try anything stupid.”
I felt like a cheap whore. My skin crawled with humiliation. “You know you're going to hell for this, right?” I snapped. “At the very least you'll be doing jail time. My boss is a top notch lawyer and I’m a paralegal.”
“I don't give two shits about your boss,” Kieran said, eyes narrowing. “Now get in there and buy some pants.” He prodded me like cattle toward the Walmart entrance and I reluctantly entered. I located the women's wear within minutes and chose a pair of hot pink yoga pants, a long-sleeve shirt and a thin sports jacket.
I felt Kieran's hands curl around my shoulders, firm and possessive. His tall frame cast a shadow over me. “Taxi's here. Pay and let's go.” As we walked towards the cashiers, I tried to make eye contact with as many people as I could. Maybe if they saw the panic in my eyes, they'd notice my strange appearance and behavior and notify someone.
Unfortunately the staff was overworked and too busy to care. The other shoppers were wrangling toddlers and focused on their grocery lists. In short, no one noticed us, and even if they did, they wouldn't think twice about how I was dressed. Walmart saw a lot of strange customers.
“That’ll be $38.91,” the purple-haired cashier said.
I handed her the fifty and she scooped over my change and receipt.
“Have a great day,” she said in a monotone voice. I shot her a silent S.O.S, but she didn’t notice.
Once I paid, I went into the bathroom by the exit to change. Kieran didn't follow me inside, thank God. I tore off the tags with my teeth and unhooked my black garter belt. After I unrolled my thigh highs, I bunched them up and threw them into the plastic bag. Then I took out the garish yoga pants and slipped them on. After I zipped up my jacket, I brainstormed potential escape routes. There weren't any windows in the bathroom and all the stalls were empty. Kieran stood guard outside and probably wouldn't let anyone enter until I came out. I didn't have anything I could use to scribble down a message. I could scream for help but Kieran would probably hear me first and whisk me away before anyone even noticed.
A knock on the door.
“You done yet?” Kieran asked.
“Almost. Just wiping my ass!” I cried. I rinsed off my hands and as I was throwing away the used paper towel, I decided to check out the garbage bin for anything I could use. Desperate times called for desperate measures. Unfortunately, all I could find nestled among used tissues were a few candy wrappers, old gum and some shredded flyers.
I could use my blood...but the sight of it usually made me vomit and I doubt I could leave a useful enough message to make a difference.
I hung my head low as I left the bathroom. Defeat weighed down my entire body.
“Sure took you long enough,” Kieran said, taking me by the hand.
I stuck my tongue out at him defiantly. “I was going number two, okay? Am I allowed to do that?”
Kieran didn't comment further. Instead, he yanked on my wrist and pulled me outside, through the sliding doors and towards a waiting yellow cab. “Get in,” he commanded.
I did as he said and minutes later, we were back on the highway. “Take us to the closest motel,” Kieran said. “Asap.”
The bearded, turban-clad driver nodded. “That'll be Bains' Motel,” he said in an Indian accent. “About five miles from here.”
“Perfect,” Kieran said.