Friday, February 8, 2008

Valentine's CYOA, Chapter 8

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Chapter Eight

When our bike burst free from the woods, we were on the bridge heading back into town. His car was still smoldering on the river embankment below. Firemen and cops dotted the river. Brant ditched the ten-speed for a police-issue motorcycle and beckoned me to join him. “Are you sure stealing a cop vehicle is a good idea?” I asked doubtfully.

“Of course not,” he said with a sexy grin. “Get on.”

What choice did I have? Give myself up to cops on the off chance that they’d believe I wasn’t some international Latina double agent known by the US government as 1000 faces?

I’m not stupid.

So I hitched a leg over the back of the bike and settled on the seat behind him, sliding my arms beneath his jacket and wrapping them around his middle. Nice six-pack. And hmmm, he smelled good.

He gunned the engine. The vibration sent a tingle through my whole system. Talk about a thrill.

With a squeak, I tightened my hold as we zipped forward, the wind ripping through my hair. I’d like to think I looked like one of those models in some perfume ad: hair streaming neatly behind me, my face turned up and slightly toward the camera so they could see my sultry smile and kohl-black eyeliner.

But no. Not so.

My hair stuck to my teeth, my eyes didn’t have a stitch of make-up and there was no camera. At least I hoped there wasn’t. Wait, was I being Punk’d?

Naw. Nothing about Agent Brant gave me the impression he was in cahoots with Ashton Kutcher, or even an Ashton Kutcher-of-1000-faces wannabe. Besides, either those were real bullets flying around earlier or I’m not Cara Heart. Maybe I’m not. No, I am. I’m sure I am.

“Where are we going?” I yelled, trying to be heard over the roar of the engine.

“Your neighbor’s,” he yelled back.

At least I think that’s what he said, since the wind kinda garbled his voice. Poor Mrs. Peterson didn’t know what she had in her possession. I just hoped my evil twin didn’t figure out the package got sent to the wrong house. I was sort of fond of that little poodle when he wasn’t nipping at my ankles.

Brant maneuvered the motorcycle through town and back to my neighborhood. In tacit agreement, we ignored the jibber-jabber of police dispatchers crackling through the radio. Suddenly, my chest crushed against his back as the bike came to an abrupt halt. Untangling my fingers from their death grip around his ribs, I peeled my face off his leather coat and peered around his shoulder. We were about a block from Mrs. Peterson’s, I figured, and we weren’t going to get any closer tonight.

Oh, man. The place looked like a three ring circus. Lights flashing, police everywhere and poor Mrs. Peterson standing on her porch in her pink fluffy bunny slippers, looking very bemused by all the action while trying to hold on to her little poodle as it screeched like a half-crazed squeak toy.

I should go over to let her know I wasn’t kidnapped. Well, not really kidnapped. Just a little kidnapped. Really, more like every-woman’s-fantasy-napped. But then the police would take me in, and even spending Valentines Day alone would be better than making a virgin visit to the local jail. Or did probable con-women go straight to the pen?

At least until I figured out how to prove I’m me, I wasn’t taking any chances. That should give me at least another day with McMuscles…I mean come on. Fingerprints, DNA , the mole on my toe—my litany of excuses could only last so long before I had to accept all we’d ever share was the dusky memory of my boob and the hilarity of flashing a very fortunate teenager.

“Uh, oh.” My hunky escort muttered something a little less PC and gestured with his incredible nose toward to other end of the street.

Crud! A mammoth-sized black SUV rounded the corner and idled at the curb. It hunched like a bulldog in front of a food dish and I got the feeling it was waiting for things to clear. I wondered if the swirling red and blue lights made it as wary as they made me.

“Do you think it’s...” I couldn’t bring myself to say it.

“Yeah, I do.” He gunned the engine and turned us around.

I clung to him as we raced away from my neighborhood and back into the dark streets of the city. I sure hoped Mr. Secret Agent Man had a plan because the big, black monster had figured out who had its bone.

I don’t think of SUVs as speed demons, but maybe this one was supercharged because we couldn’t shake it. Down one street, up another. No matter how many twists and turns we took, the hunkering beast kept coming.

My heart pounded in my ears. They were going to have to cut my fingers out of the Brantmeister’s stomach. I buried my forehead in the hard depression between his shoulder blades and started praying for my GPS. Then I looked up in time to catch myself before another sudden stop almost threw me off the bike. Chain link fence. Hello!

Ugh! So much for my hunky spy having a plan.

He skidded us into a turn. The stench of burning rubber scorched my nose and hot bits of asphalt hit me in the cheek. Just as we righted at the alley’s entrance, the beast reappeared. Now all we needed was the theme song from Jaws to start blaring through the air.

“What’s next?” I asked. There was no way we were getting out of this alive.

“Get off on my right,” Brant said.

“Get off? Are you nuts?”

“Do you trust me?”

“Well, yeah,” I replied, “Sort of.” I mean, who didn’t trust the guy who kept you from being killed? Or who kissed like he did? Not a good time to be thinking about kissing, mind you, but hey, if I was going to die here, I wanted one last kiss. So I climbed off, hooked one arm around his neck and planted a big one against the side of his full-lipped mouth.

A roar filled the air. My hormones charging up? No, he’d hit the throttle.

“Nice,” he said, when I pulled away. But his gaze didn’t stray from the SUV and I wasn’t sure if he meant me or the fitting way we were about to die.

Obviously, next time I’d have to do a better job of getting his attention.

He slipped an arm around my waist and drew me against his side. “When I dump the bike,” he murmured into my ear, “we’re heading for that door.”

His most excellent plan ran a tickle down my back. I looked to the right and sure enough, there was a door. Now it just needed to be unlocked…

He gunned the engine, planted his feet on the ground and let the bike zoom out from under him. I only had a second to marvel at the bike’s upright blitz before Brant slammed into me and thrust me toward the door. Not bothering to check the lock, he kicked it open with his booted foot and hauled me into the yawning darkness beyond. The door banged closed, sealing us in.

And with any luck, sealing them out.

“Follow me.” He dumped me to the ground and grabbed my wrist.

Yeah, right. Follow him in the dark. But I guessed the alternatives at this point were prison or death, so I fisted my hand into the back of his leather jacket and tripped along after him.

We’d just found a set of stairs when a second bang ricocheted down the hallway. Stifling my urge to scream, I stumbled up the steps and left Miz. 1000 Faces to find her own way. My breath came in painful bursts as we chugged up to what must’ve been Heaven at the top of about fifty flights of stairs, and only when I was pretty sure I’d rather give in than keep going did we finally reach yet another door.

Darn it. Wasn’t there a bed somewhere?

There might not have been nookie imminent, but there was a little romance to be had. Wow, I’d never seen the view of the city from this vantage. But before I could really take it all in and savor the moment, Brant grabbed my hand and dragged me toward the edge.

Make that the tall ledge. Yawning gap between buildings. Flashes from Batman Begins made me sweat. There could only be one thing Mr. Secret Agent Man had in mind.

I turned to him. “You’re a few fries short of a Happy Meal, McMuscles.”

He didn’t even blink. “We’ve got to jump across.”

“Did you hear me?” I asked, though by the determined glint in his eyes and the firm set of his jaw, it wouldn’t have mattered if I’d had a bullhorn. He was probably calculating the fastest way to get us into the next impossible situation.

“Watch me,” he said. He backed up several feet and then took off at a run. He used the ledge as some sort of inelastic spring board, and the next thing I knew he was sailing through the air, stretched out like Superman, flying over the huge space of nothingness to land in a tuck-and-roll on the next building’s roof.

Dumbfounded, I stared. Whoa! The man was an acrobat as well as spy. Who knew.

“Come on,” he urged. “You can do it.”

I shook my head, visions of me splattered on the street below enough to keep both my feet planted firmly on the roof. No way. I wasn’t a gymnast. Nor had I ever taken ballet. I couldn’t pull off a Shelly Long from the movie Outrageous Fortune, the one where she does some beautifully executed split jump from one Teton to another without breaking a sweat. Heck, I could barely jump rope.

“Just back up and run. You can make it. It’s not that far.”

“Forgive me if I find your opinion a little biased,” I hissed across the divide. “If I tried that, I’d wind up being Cara jelly on your stud muffin self.” If I was lucky enough to even get that far.

I took a step back, considering my options. And I kept backing up until I was all the way on the other side of the roof.

I’d need some good take-off prep.

Wait. What on God's green earth was I thinking?

The roof door banged opened. I dove for the shadows and shrank back.

I was toast.

I squeezed my eyes shut and prayed for help. Prayed not to die. Prayed maybe the next time I opened my eyes, we’d be back at my front door and Agent Brant would be trying to pass himself off as a stripper – if God granted me that wish, next time I’d be smart enough to just let him in and enjoy the show.

The loud report of gunfire sent me scrambling farther into the shadows. My stomach heaved. I was going to be sick. I leaned over the side of the building. My jaw dropped open. There was a God. And He liked me.

A fire escape.

I slipped over the ledge and clung to the edge by my fingertips. The drop was at least a story. A sprained ankle, a broken leg, death. Just bend your knees when you land, I told myself. I let go.

I landed on my butt with an oaf. Thank Frito Lays for extra padding.

I didn’t hesitate. I jumped up and shimmied down the metal ladder as fast as I could. Sparks flew over my head as a bullet connected with the ironwork.

I lowered my head and scootched down even faster. The drop to the ground from the last rung was nothing. I landed, knees bent and pushed off to run full steam ahead toward the alley entrance. As I rounded the corner of the building:

A) I ran into a hard wall of chest. Strong arms wrapped around me, pinning my arms to my sides. Preparing to use my head as a battering ram, I flung my head back and froze as my very own super agent’s face came into focus.
“Come on,” he said, “We’ve got to keep moving.”

B) I saw a man getting out of his car. Before he could close the door, I accosted him.
“Give me your keys,” I demanded as I elbowed him in the gut. The keys dropped to the ground. I snatched them and jumped in. I peeled out of there and headed to the only place I could think of: the sleep clinic.

C) I skidded to a halt. The black SUV blocked the way. The side door opened and out stepped yet another crazy-looking stripper. Her smile was pure evil as she sauntered toward me. I glanced behind me. Dead end.
I braced myself as blondie grabbed my arm in a vice like grip and hauled me toward the vehicle.
“Get in,” she ordered.
I peered inside… and saw myself.

D) I found myself in the middle of a parade, marching merrily down the darkened street. I gave myself a shake, but I wasn’t dreaming. Floats of various sizes and themes streamed past. A man dressed as a clown approached. His big red smile creeped me out.
“Hey, what’s going on?” I asked.
“We’re getting ready for tomorrow’s festival,” clown guy replied as he continued walking, his floppy yellow shoes slapping against the pavement.
A float with a Pooh Bear theme passed and I hopped aboard, scrunching down beside a cut out of Eeyore. The float passed by the alley where the big black SUV was parked at a slant. I held my breath, expecting be fired upon.
I released my breath with relief when we made it past. But then my heart leapt in to my throat as I saw Brant running toward me

YOUR TURN: You decide what happens next! Leave your vote in the comments by 7pm EST (4pm Pacific) every day between now and Valentine's Day---Tomorrow's story continued by Maven Jackie with the twist YOU choose!

Today's installment brought to you by Terri Reed. Vote to win a great prize!

Don't forget to join the Manuscript Mavens' quarterly newsletter on the right for advance notice of other exciting upcoming events!


B.E. Sanderson said...

I cast my unsecret ballot officially for...



halfmoon-mollie said...


Isabel said...

C, Looks good to me. :)

My vote is for "C".

Writer & Cat said...

Parade, parade, parade!


Also like A, B and C.

Jody W.

Bill Clark said...

Just a little kidnapped.

LOL! There are some really great lines in these episodes!

I like A - 'cuz I want the McMuffin to stay front and center stage - but D also does the job, while providing a little comic relief. Comic relief is good after a rooftop chase. I vote for D.

aBookworm said...

C C C!!!

Mary said...

I will be the voice of dissonance: B.

Vicki said...

Oh, B or C, I like both of them.

Hmmmm...okay C. :D

LeeAnn said...

I vote for C

CJT said...

I love a parade, I love a parade, I love a paarraade!
As long as I don't have to sing that. D,D, and D

CJT said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anna leigh keaton said...

I vote for C!

lacey kaye said...

I totally didn't see people going for the parade! Awesome.

I vote C.

Stephanie H. said...

I like C too!

Amie Stuart said...

Oooooooo I totally have to vote for C! Great job!!!!

MsHellion said...


Patricia W. said...

C, definitely C. Time to me the lady of 1000 faces.

tetewa said...

My pick for today is C!

Jill James said...

I vote for C. It's time for some clues about 1000 faces.

byrdloves2read said...

Well, I can see my pitiful vote for A won't make much difference. Sigh.

Katherine C. said...

A or C? A or C? A or C? hmmmm. I guess since there are already so many votes for C, I'm gonna go A ;)

KimW said...

I can relate to those Frito Lays. haha! Looks like I'm odd man out...I vote for D.

Darcy Burke said...

Finally squeaking in my vote - C, please! Great chapter Terri!

Carrie R. said...

Man - what a chase!!!

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