Roman nodded, his gaze sharpening with focus. “I’ll take care of them before they can get out of the cab. Priya will get the door open. Does that work for everyone?”
I was surprised when Roman flipped the knife in his hand, catching it by the tip and passing the handle over to me. I took it, swaying with the movement of the truck, and realized a second too late he’d only done it so he’d have both hands free to take the utility belt off the dead man.
Including the gun.
Shit. Why hadn’t I grabbed it the second he’d freed my hands?
“Could I possibly do more than get a door open?” Priyanka said. “Just so I don’t, you know, fall asleep waiting for you guys to save us?”
Roman cast an anxious look in her direction. “It’ll be enough for now. Don’t rush the horses.”
Priyanka gave him a look. He let out a sound of exasperation.
“What is it in English?” he asked.
“Don’t be in such a rush,” she said. “Or hold your horses. I like that one, though. A point to Mother Russia.”
I’d been right. English wasn’t his first language.
He nodded. “I just mean that it’s better to be careful and not overdo it if we don’t have to.”
“Okay, but counterpoint: Is it even possible to ‘overdo it’ with assholes like these?” Priyanka asked. “Can’t we also use the opportunity to send a message straight up to the top? To whoever might be running this show?”
“We just need to get out of here alive.” His tone had a note of pleading.
“And find out who’s responsible for grabbing us,” I added, watching them both for their reactions. Their expressions betrayed nothing.
“I hate it when you use that earnest look.” Priyanka blew out a frustrated sound. “It always makes me feel like I’m about to tell you that your puppy got hit by a car.”
“All right,” she relented. “I’ll get the door open—but I want the knife when she’s done with it.”
My heart gave another hard kick. I tightened my grip on the hilt. “Wait—”
“God, what’s the problem now?” Priyanka demanded.
Everything, I thought. It would leave me without a weapon, but I was never defenseless. I had my power. “Nothing. Never mind.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Roman shift toward the front of the truck. I turned to find him staring down at the gun in his hand, a pensive look on his face.
As if feeling my gaze, Roman looked up, and I quickly knelt on the rubber mat. Pressing the blade of the knife to it, I sawed at the heavy material until it broke through and clinked against the metal truck bed below.
The engine’s power surged across my senses, the voltage registering like lightning in my blood.
Roman checked the cartridge of the gun, his frown deepening.
“How many shots do you have?” Priyanka asked.
“Three.” He moved past me to press his ear up against the wall dividing us from the cab. “You’re sure you heard two voices?”
It was my turn to give a bad answer. “He asked a question and two voices responded. That’s all I’ve got.”
“Ready?” I asked.
He took the knife from me and cut a section of rubber away from the wall.
Get out, find some kind of ID on these people, get away. With that last thought, I let my mind connect with the engine. Its knot of electricity was so powerful, it burned away the rest of the world.
I grounded myself on the rubber mat. “All set here. Can we get this show on the road?”
“All right,” he said. “Once we’re out, head west. Don’t stop running for anything.”
“And if we get separated?” Priyanka prompted.
“Like hell we will” was his only reply.
“Stay on the mats,” I told her. “Just in case.”
Priyanka gave me a bland look as she stepped over the man’s body to take the knife from Roman.
The image of the Defender, his whole body seizing as I sent the charge toward him, flashed behind my closed eyelids.
“Just in case,” I repeated, when I realized the others were waiting. My fingertips pressed into the ridged floor, searching for that powerful connection again. “Tell me when….”
Priyanka positioned herself at the door, the soldier’s knife in one hand, the other on the latch to the truck’s gate. At the edge of my vision, I saw her nod.
Roman waited a beat longer before shouting, “Now!”
I fell into the blinding-white power that flooded through my mind. I called it out, pulled up and up and up, feeding it back tenfold until the engine stalled out with a metallic bellow. The truck swung left, the wheels on the right side lifting off the road as the driver tried to regain control.
Roman braced his back against the side of the trailer and fired two shots into the wall that separated us from the cab.
The wheels locked, skidding in the opposite direction.
“Holy sh—!” Priyanka’s voice cut off as she was thrown against the door.
The world rocked up and down, around, around, around. I released my hold on the current, breaking it. The last of its power caressed my spine, purring against my senses.
With a bone-jarring finality, the truck slammed down on all four wheels and rolled forward slowly, coming to a stop. Roman raised his brows at me. I raised mine.
“Well, that was some demon’s idea of fun.” Priyanka shook out her whole body, recovering enough to shove the truck’s gate open. Dusky light poured in from behind her, revealing a landscape of flat green fields and little else. “Come on, before—”
I felt it a split second before the others did—the spark as the engine reignited. The truck suddenly shot forward, and Priyanka fell.
Roman’s shout was drowned out by the hail of bullets that tore through the wall separating the trailer from the cab. They pinged against the exposed metal, roaring as they shredded the rubber. The air filled with black and metal ribbons, the stench of hot rubber clogging the already thick air.
Priyanka had grabbed the metal edge of the trailer, her legs pumping under her, as if trying to run at the accelerating speed of the truck. With a gasp, she hauled her elbows onto the trailer’s lip, one hand reaching for the door’s strap. There was a scream of gears as the truck swerved hard to the left, knocking her back down.
Bullets whistled and banged around my head as I saw her pulled farther beneath the truck, until only her white-knuckled fingers were still visible.
Priyanka wasn’t being dragged, I realized. She was using whatever strength she had left to hold her tall frame between the scalding hot metal of the axles and undercarriage and the bite of the road.
“Kill it!” Roman shouted, throwing himself flat on his stomach as the spray of bullets poured through the wall. He flipped over, trying to use the holes left behind to aim at the figure moving there, climbing over the two bodies between him and the wheel.
Three. There had been three of them, not two.
One more bullet.
“I can’t,” I called. “I’ll electrocute her, too!”
I crawled over to the edge of the truck. Priyanka had tucked her long legs up under the lip of it, bracing her feet against something I couldn’t see. Her hands and the top of her head were the only thing visible. The road streaked beneath her, ready to tear her apart.
Priyanka set her eyes on something past me, her face going blank. I was close enough to see her pupils flare as she took in her next gasp of exhaust and air. Her adrenaline must have been off the charts.
Sound exploded out from the cab of the truck and the relentless grind of the wheels slowed with a few sputters.
“Grab my hand!” I called, reaching out to her. “Priyanka!”
I wasn’t sure she even heard me. I barely heard myself over the road, the screaming radio from the cab, the thrum of blood in my ears.
I reached for her hands just as she released her grip and the dark, tattered road snatched her.
I WAS THE ONE WHO screamed.