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I like to credit myself for being a quick thinker. After all, playing goal requires a fast mind, lightning quick reflexes, and the ability to make decisions on the fly. But seeing a man step from the shadows with a gun aimed at Sacha’s head was so far out of my frame of reference that I merely gawked, stunned, somewhat paralyzed by the sight of the pistol with a silencer screwed into the end of the barrel. I blinked and fear coursed through me. I’d seen hunting rifles before, had used one on occasion, but still had not come to terms with all the ordnance one saw on a daily basis in the United States. Only in America were guns available at the corner store like gumdrops.
A brusque spattering of Russian took place. Sacha slid to stand in front of me, pressing my back to a dumpster as he tried to reason with our assailant. The parking lot was shadowed and deserted with one security camera.
“Go now, slowly, walk away Alfie,” Sacha whispered over his shoulder as my heart thudded madly in my breast.
“No, I will not leave you here with this maniac,” I replied, eyes darting around the snowy lot in hopes of finding something – anything– to help get us out of this predicament.
“I am telling you now, go!” Sacha snapped. I shook my head, my fingers tight on my overnight bag. “Alfie, do as you are told.”
The gunman spat at us, something heated and the barrel of the gun shifted from Sacha to me. Since I could see easily over my lover’s shoulder, I caught the minute shift of a mere inch, and did what any goalie would do. I reacted and deflected. Whipping my bag up and over Sacha’s head, my bag flew at the gunman. A muted shot was fired. Sacha shoved me back, my spine slamming into the dumpster. My shoes lost purchase on a patch of ice and I went to my ass. Hard. Stunned a bit I sat there, wits sluggish, and watched the man I loved disarm our assailant and then shoot him. Point. Blank.
“Get up. Now. Get up! We must go now. Alfie! Up! Now!” Sacha barked, spinning around. He grabbed my arm, yanked me to my feet, and pulled me past the man lying beside a dumpster dying, his wide eyes catching mine as Sacha drug me to his car then pushed me into the seat I’d just vacated. It was still warm. I could not stop staring at the man bleeding out in Sacha’s parking lot.
My stomach heaved. Sacha cranked over the engine and backed up, the rear-end catching on a slick spot and slewing wildly. Vomiting was a concern. I’d seen some grisly things on the ice, from skate wounds to busted mouths to broken bones protruding from flesh, but that…
“You shot him…” I gasped, throwing my hand forward to the dash when Sacha got the car under control and stomped down on the gas. “In the head,” I swallowed loudly, craning around in the seat. I couldn’t stop looking at him. “He is dying…appeler une ambulance.”
“There can be no ambulance. Turn around. Stop looking at him, he is not worth your upset or your pity. Buckle up.”
I slowly faced forward. We ran through a red light without care. “I do not understand…”
“Buckle up. Do it, Alfie. I will explain when I can.” He threw me a look. Firm but soft, if that makes sense. No, of course it did not make sense. None of this made sense.
“You shot him,” I whispered as I stared at his profile. Set in stone he was, his face a mask of indifference. “He was bad yes but to leave him for death to find him in the cold is—”
“Alfie!” I’d never heard him shout before. There had been no need. I started sharply, my hands shaking wildly, my stomach on the verge of emptying, I nodded and battled with the seatbelt. “Good. I know you are confused but…” he paused to slide into a sharp turn, “… you must trust me. I know him, know them. They are not worth your concern.”
“But, I… how can you not be sick over it? His brains and face were—”
“Stop. Find your focus. Clear your mind as if that had been a goal against you.”
“Yes, yes, okay.” I snapped my seatbelt finally, glanced at the speedometer to see it cresting eighty as Carlisle quickly disappeared into the wintry night. How many times would we court death tonight?
I sat beside him, eyes closed, breathing in and out through my nose, trying to wipe away the violence but finding it hard to do so. When Sacha began to speak, I opened my eyes. We were well outside the city limits now, barreling toward the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I looked from the dark farmland of Cumberland County to Sacha. He was on the phone, his cell pinned between his shoulder and his ear. What he was saying I couldn’t understand, but it was brisk and filled with anger. Of course, most Russian sounded angry to my ears. It was an aggressive language, not flowing and melodic like French.
“Focus and breathe. Things will be explained when they can be. Just know that I will keep you safe from them,” he said in English. I bobbed my head in understanding although I understood very little right now. He went back to his call and his native tongue. We raced to the toll gate and he lowered his window, still talking to whoever it was on the other end of his call and flashed his E-Z pass. When we were clear of the toll booths, I asked because I had to but my tone was not as gentle as I’d wished it to be.
“Who are they? Tell me! I have a right to know who is trying to kill me!”
He exhaled deeply, his gaze touching on me briefly. There was so much pain in his beautiful eyes. “My family. They are my family.”
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