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“Tinsley, sweetheart, I know shit is happening fast. I’m not going to let anything happen to you and me, and I for damn sure won’t leave you out in the wind with no shelter. We’re in this together. Now, Slade is going to do some digging. While he’s doing that, we need to ditch your phone, nix using any credit cards from both of us, and figure out where you want to land.”

“My phone is turned off, but you can have it and do with it what you will. My credit cards aren’t a problem. I have cash put away in case I ever needed it.” Leo arches his eyebrow. We’re stopped at a red light and he’s looking at me.

“What? I’m always prepared. I was planning on leaving once I graduated in two years. This just moved things up a bit.” I shrug my shoulders in response.

“I can dig that. It’s up to you where we land,” Leo lets me know.

“Where’s the safe house?” I know Virginia is an option and is clear across the country, which would be amazing to experience for a road trip but would probably wear Leo out too.

“North Dakota,” Leo grunts.

“No, no, no. As if Washington isn’t cold enough, the safe house is in below frigid temperatures. I’m choosing Virginia.” I sit back and cross my arms across my chest, like a petulant child.

“Thank fucking Christ. I like my dick attached, and if it gets much colder, that shit won’t happen. I’d probably get frostbite,” he mutters while driving. His wrist is on the steering wheel, showing off his forearm. His other hand hasn’t left mine yet.

“That would really suck,” I joke.

“No doubt. You ready for a long-as-hell road trip and sleeping in hotels along the way?” he asks.

“With you? I’m ready for anything.” I return my eyes to the road, not sure if I want him to see just how much he means to me already.

Leo’s phone ringing saves me. I tune out who he’s talking to. Not like I could figure it out between the grunts, the nos, and the we’ll sees. The quiet hum of Leo’s vehicle along with the tree-lined roads and rain hitting the windshield as we drive on the interstate lulls me into a semi-calm state, my whole body relaxes along the way. I don’t have any doubts about the long-distance trek we’re about to make. What I’m worried about most is the repercussions Leo and Nighthawk Security could face. It makes me think things through, plot a couple of things out, and come up with a plan in case my father does something vile. And let’s face it, he’s never truly been the affectionate and doting parent. For that matter, neither has my mother, but something tells me this will cause all kinds of grief for everybody.


“Hmmm,” I murmur, lost between a dream-like state and reality.

“Slade is sending me a contract. Can you sign it? We’re covering our bases. We’re putting it under that you hired us. But let me tell you this now, I am not charging you and neither is Slade, okay?” Leo states. I can hear it in his tone. He’s adamant about this.

“I’ll sign on one condition.” My voice is firm. There’s no way I won’t contribute in some way.

“What’s that?”

“You let me pay half for everything along the way, even when we get there.” I take my hand away from his, my pinky finger out, letting Leo know I’m not taking no for an answer.

“Sweetheart, I know you have money set aside. Save some of that. Who knows how long this shit is going to last. I don’t want the stigma of cash between us. Slade’s not charging and neither am I. You want to help with food every once in a while, I’m okay with that, but for the most part, I’ve got you, I promise.” Leo still takes my pinky in his.

“I don’t think you realize how much I’ve been saving up, Leo. It’s a lot. I mean, like, a lot. I’ve been putting money aside since the day my granddaddy died. He put a bug in my ear, and I listened.” I untangle my pinky finger from his, reluctantly. Leo needs to know what we’re working with. I packed two bags, one with clothes and one with this. It’s nothing pretty, but it was well hidden, and no one knew where it was.

“It’s been five years in the making.” I unzip the bag and show Leo.

“Holy fuck,” he breathes out before veering the truck onto the shoulder, slamming the truck in Park.

“Does anyone know you had that this entire time?” There are stacks of twenty-dollar bills, a few hundred-dollar-bill stacks. Everything bundled nice and neat. My obsessive-compulsive disorder definitely kicked in with this.

“No, should they have?” I ask, not understanding.

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