So, I was asked by the ladies in The Driven Group (aka The VP Pit Crew) that if they reached 2,000 reviews for Driven and Fueled on Amazon, could I give them an extra…well, I thought, what about the original ending for Fueled? And I’m always true to my word, so here it is. (It was never formally edited so those of you that are grammar sticklers, overlook any errors you may find.) I think you’ll find you like the ending I published a tad better – a little more resolved.
**Please note, that if you have NOT read Fueled, there will be SPOILERS in this and to not read this until you read Fueled.**
*This takes place starting right at the point where they have angry sex after the fight in the hotel room when Beckett forces them together…in the original, Colton goes to take a shower and she escapes…in the published version she goes to the garden and “*Turn Around Rylee* is said by Colton…this version starts a little different*
As his breathing slows and evens out, my heart lodges in my throat because my decision is clear. I turn onto my side so that I can watch him. My chest physically hurts as I stare at the beautiful man he is inside and out. He looks so peaceful in sleep. Like he can finally rest from the demons that chase him so frequently while he’s awake. So much like the dark angel I think of him as that is breaking through the inescapable dark to grasp and hold on to the light. His spark of light.
The tears come now and I don’t have to hide them anymore. They rack my body and tear through my throat. I cry and cry until I have no more tears for the man beside me, just within my grasp yet so incredibly far away. When the tears subside and I have nothing left in me, I look over at the clock and am shocked to see it’s almost five in the morning. I close my eyes momentarily and steel myself for what I’m about to do.
In the long run, it’s for the best.
I lean over and kiss him softly, letting my lips linger on his. “I love you Colton,” I whisper. “I think I’ve always loved you. And I know I always will.”
The early morning light is just starting to seep into the skyline and light up the room as I look at Colton’s peaceful expression one last time. I wipe the tears that start to fall down my cheeks. “Bye Ace,” I whisper as I open the door as quietly as possible and slip out of the hotel room, luggage in hand. It takes me a moment to physically release the door handle because I know once I lose the connection, it’s over.
I take a deep breath and let go, grab my luggage, and start to make my way toward the bank of elevators, tears flowing freely. About halfway to them, I hear the ding of the elevators, and when I look up, dread drops like a lead weight through me. Beckett is departing a car, head down focused completely on his phone.
Oh crap! Is all I have time to think before he lifts his head and meets my startled eyes. It takes him all of two seconds to assess the situation and know what I’m doing.
He’s at my side in an instant, his eyes boring into mine. “Uh-uh. No way! Don’t you dare Rylee!” he shouts in a hushed whisper to me, careful not to wake other occupants up.
“I thought you guys were trying to work things out?”
Tears fill in my eyes and I just shake my head at him. “He needs to concentrate Becks. I’m…this…is a distraction he doesn’t need right now…”
“What does that mean Rylee?”
I wipe a fallen tear off my cheek with the back of my hand. “I don’t know…I feel like I don’t know anything anymore…I just need some space from him to be able to think and figure it out.”
“So what? You’re going to pack up and leave without him knowing? Sneak out?” he breathes out as he paces the hall in front of me. “Because that’s just so much better right?”
“Beckett…I can’t…” I mumble, “I just can’t…” I grab the handle of my suitcase and start to pick it up.
Beckett pulls it out of my hand and grabs both of my shoulders, giving them a hard shake. “Don’t you dare Rylee. Don’t you fucking dare! You want to leave him? That’s fine. You didn’t work your shit out, I get it. I really do. It happens.” He sighs loudly, releasing me and walking a few feet from me before turning around and getting back in my face. “But by you walking out Rylee, you’re fucking with my team—my driver—this race—my best friend. So suck it up woman and get back in there and pretend for me. At least pretend until the race starts. That’s all I ask. You owe me that much Rylee.”
I swallow loudly, my lips falling lax as I look at Beckett, a one-man army on a mission. “Look Ry, I know its easier for you to do it this way…to leave this way…but I can’t have Colton flying close to two hundred miles an hour with his head focused in La-La-Land thinking about you instead of being focused on the goddamn track.” He grabs my suitcase in his hand and starts walking toward my hotel room door where Colton is sleeping inside. He looks back over his shoulder at me, “You coming?”
*** *** ***
I look into the camera, a smile plastered fraudulently on my face for the umpteenth time this morning. The flash sparks and I let my face fall. I walk a few feet under the shade of the canopy and lean against the short brick wall at the back of it. I pinch the bridge of my nose to try and push away the headache that has been pounding there all morning, starting the moment I walked back into the hotel room.
To buy some time and collect myself, I had decided to jump in the shower before Colton woke up with the hopes that the hot water would help abate the puffiness around my eyes from all of the crying. Luckily for me pretending wasn’t too hard because Colton’s alarm on his phone didn’t go off, so he woke up late and had to rush out of the room to his own to get to his crew team’s meeting on time. He literally scared the crap out of me when he opened the shower door and tugged my wet body backwards against his fully clothed one, instantly reminding me all too well how perfectly our bodies fit together. I could hear the smile in his voice when he nuzzled my neck, wrapped his arms around me, and murmured, “Good Morning.”
I’d laid my head back on his shoulder and closed my eyes, the feel of him making me question my decision once again even though I know it’s the right one. His hands started to wander over my slick skin and as hard as it was to resist his fingers slowly parting me and rubbing over my most intimate parts, I chastised him, telling him he was going to be late and that he needed to go.
“Okay,” he laughed, “it’s you that’s going to be sexually frustrated all day, not me!” He placed a loud kiss on my cheek and slapped my ass before retreating from the shower with the promise to see me soon.
I waited until I heard my room door shut and then sagged against the cool marble of the shower walls, so grateful that in the whole exchange I didn’t have to look him in the eyes. For if I’d had to, I think he would have known something was wrong—something was off with me.
I adjust my sunglasses on my nose, thankful that I’ve had this barrier all day to hide my eyes from him still. He’s been so busy and I’ve made sure to remain in the background and not be a disturbance to the crew that we’ve rarely seen each other since he left me in the shower. We’ve had a couple of pictures taken together and a few verbal exchanges, but always in the presence of others. Thankfully we haven’t been in the situation to be alone because I’m not sure how composed I could have remained then.
I shake my head and the feeling that I’m making a terrible mistake and look around at the chaos surrounding me. With this being a road rally type race, the streets of St. Petersburg have been transformed by k-rails into a racetrack. I look around at all of the media and sponsorship tents and am in awe of the sheer magnitude of everything. I catch sight of Colton being interviewed by an ESPN reporter and my eyes can’t help but linger. He laughs at something the reporter says, throwing his head back, his smile wide, dimple winking in his cheek, and eyes sparkling with passion. His amped up energy is noticeable to me for where he’s usually so calm and cool, I notice his hands fidgeting and his hands shove through his hair more than normal. I tilt my head as I watch him and I can’t help the small smile that turns the corners of my mouth for he is just so achingly handsome and utterly magnetic.
When I shift my eyes to the right I notice Beckett standing there watching me with an enigmatic look on his face, his eyes shielded by his glasses, and I can’t help but wonder what judgment he’s passing on me. He’s yet to say anything to me since he handed me back my suitcase and waited until I opened the door and went back into the hotel room this morning. And even though he is crazy busy making sure everything is taken care of for the race, I’ve seen him and what I can assume are his watchful eyes behind his sunglasses, carefully noting any interaction that Colton and I have had today. I swear he is keeping us apart, purposely protecting him and the team from the chaos of the outside world. He nods his head subtly at me and then grabs Colton when the interview is over by the arm and steers him away. I see Colton glance over his shoulder at me before the crowd swallows him from my line of sight.
I look at my watch and sigh audibly because I have to leave soon. I have to get my rental car out of the vicinity before the remainder of the streets shut down when the green flag waves. My flight takes off an hour after the start of the race, which means I’ll be here until Colton is swallowed up by the pre-race duties I’ve been informed of via the schedule I was handed earlier. I pull the schedule from my pocket and look at it one more time. Colton’s has a driver’s meeting in twenty minutes and from there on out will be otherwise engaged.
I make my way back to the CD Enterprises designated area to make my presence noted before I slowly slip away. The tent is crowded, packed with VIP’s and staff doing last minute details before everyone clears out and heads to the stands. I’ve been told that Quinlan is up in the stands somewhere already so I’m relieved that I don’t have to face her and keep up the façade.
Colton is in the tent as well because I can hear his voice floating above the chatter. I sit back and take it all in, thankful for my sunglasses as I wipe the tears that well in my eyes before they have a chance to fall.
How can I do this to him? How can I leave him when he thinks everything is okay? Being a coward and running away is so not like me but I know that I can’t face him—can’t tell him to his face that we may have shared intimacy last night but we are still so broken beneath the surface. What I fear is beyond repair.
From out of nowhere I hear the voice that tenses my shoulders. “Okay folks. It’s time to start heading toward the stands,” Tawny’s voice echoes throughout the tent. “Grab a last drink and wish Colton and the boys good luck before he heads to the driver’s meeting and off to the starting line.”
The tent erupts in noise and movement as Colton is swarmed by well wishers. I watch the interaction as minutes tick by, Colton immersed in his public persona, until Beckett walks up to him and steers him my the arm out of the tent toward wherever the driver’s meeting is being held. I’m surprised yet relieved that he has not sought me out to wish him luck and have a feeling that him being so overly occupied he’s forgotten is all Beckett’s doing. I watch Colton until I can no longer see him before I turn from the tent and make my way to my car parked nearby. I’d brought my luggage down earlier during the crew team meeting so that I wouldn’t have to waste any time since I knew I was going to be close on time.
And so that Colton wouldn’t know or suspect anything.
I reach the car, still wiping tears from beneath my darkened lenses. I pop the trunk and am about to throw my jacket in when I hear heavy, hurried footsteps behind me. I turn around, a little unnerved at the sound, and gasp when I see Colton behind me.
“What are you—“
“I forgot to get a good luck kiss…” his voice trails off, smile faltering, and confusion flickering in his eyes as he notices the suitcase in my open trunk. “What’s going on Ry?” The hesitancy in his voice says he’s hoping against hope that what he thinks is happening, really isn’t.
“I—I have to get home.” I stumble over my words, slamming the trunk shut. “It’s Zander. They—they need me back.”
“You’re leaving?” The incredulity in his voice and how he angles his head to the side to look at me like a child does has my heart lodging in my throat.
“Yeah,” I clear my throat. “I have to get back to The House. Zander needs me.”
Colton takes a step closer to me shoving a hand through his hair. “No,” he breathes, “you’re leaving…”
And the way he says those words…the absolute pain and disbelief laced within them, tells me there is nothing more to pretend. He knows.
The first tear falls and I can’t bring myself to look at him. “I just need time to think Colton.”
“What is there to think about? We either are or we aren’t…” he blows out a loud breath, a harsh curse following right after. “And I thought we were…”
I stare at the paint on my toenails, flashbacks flit through my mind of them on his chest last night. “I just need to think about us…this…everything,”
He steps closer to me so that I am between him and the trunk with nowhere to retreat to. “Look at me,” he commands softly, and I owe him this much regardless of how much I fear seeing the look in his eyes. When I raise my eyes, he reaches forward and lifts his hands to remove my sunglasses. I see worry, disbelief, fear, and so much more in the depths of his eyes and as much as I want to look away—to hide from the damage that I‘m about to cause—I can’t. He deserves better than that from me. His voice is so soft when he speaks that I barely hear him. “Why?” It’s a single word, but there is so much emotion packed behind it that it takes a minute for me to find the words to respond.
“If this is real Colton…we’re supposed to compliment each other—make each other better people—not tear each other apart. Look at what we did to each other last night.” I try to explain. “People who care for each other don’t try to purposely hurt one another…that’s not a good sign,” I shake my head hoping he understands what I’m saying.
His throat works as he thinks of what to say. “I know we’ve made a mess of this Ry, but we can figure this out,” he pleads. “We can get it right.”
I close my eyes momentarily, tears spilling over, as I remember where we are and what today signifies. “Colton…you need to focus on right now…on the race…we can talk later…discuss this later…right now you need to get to the drivers meeting.”
He shakes his head emphatically at me. “You’re more important Rylee.”
“No, I’m not,” I murmur as I avert my eyes again, silent tears endlessly sliding down my cheeks now.
I feel his finger on my chin, guiding my eyes to look back at his. “You’re not coming back are you?” He stares at me, waiting for a response and my lack of one is his answer. “Then what was last night? Did that not mean anything to you? I thought that….” his voice drifts off as I can see it dawning on him. “You were getting closure. That’s why you were so upset,” he says more talking to himself than me. “You were saying goodbye weren’t you?”
I don’t respond, but rather just keep my eyes fixed on his so that maybe through his pain he can see how hard this is on me too. It would be so much easier if he raged and threw something instead of these soft pleading words and eyes filled with disbelief and hurt.
“I just need some time to think Colton,” I finally manage.
“Time to distance yourself to make it easier on you is what you really mean right?”
I bite the inside of my cheek as I carefully chose my next words. “I—I just need some time away from you Colton and the disaster that we’ve made of the past couple of days. You’re so overpowering—so everywhere—that when I’m near you I become so lost in you that it’s like I can’t breathe or think or do anything on my own. I just need a little time to process this,” I trail off, looking around before I look back to his eyes. “Time to try and figure out why we’re so broken…”
“No, Ry, no,” he insists, the rasp in his voice breaking as he brings his hands up to frame the sides of my face at the same time he bends his knees to bring us inches apart, eye to eye, thumbs caressing over the line of my jaw. “We’re not broken baby…we’re just bent. And bent’s okay. Bent means that we are just figuring things out.”
I feel like my heart is going to explode in my chest. It hurts so much. The look in his eyes. The raw simplicity in his explanation. The pleading conviction in his voice. The subtle irony that the one person who doesn’t ever ‘do the relationship thing’ is giving the advice here on how to fix one.
I just shake my head at him, my mouth opening to speak but closing again to just taste the salt of my tears when I can’t find the words to answer him. He’s still bent down, eye level with me. “I don’t understand Ry…after last night…after I explained…”
“I know Colton,” I tell him reaching out and placing my hands on the sides of his cheeks in front of me, “but that doesn’t fix everything.” I bite my bottom lip as I stare deeply into his eyes. “I just…I just need to digest the past seventy two hours.”
“What’s there to digest?” He whispers, his jaw moving beneath my hands, moisture pooling at the corners of his eyes.
“Colton, you know me. The harder you push me, the more I’m going to assert my own free will.”
“I forgot, the Queen of Stubborn,” he says, trying to smile but failing miserably. I’ve robbed him of that brilliant smile of his and that tells me how much I’m hurting him.
“Have a good race okay?” I say, forcing a smile myself. “Be safe. I’ll talk to you when you get home.”
His eyes widen and mouth falls lax. “That’s it? You’re really walking away?” Tears flow down the all too familiar paths on my cheeks again at the panicked desperation in his voice. Colton shoves his hand through his hair again, jaw working furiously. He starts to say something and then clenches his eyes shut momentarily before hitting his fist on trunk of the car. “Rylee…I…” he falters as if the words physically cannot make it out of his throat and past his lips. He tries again, “Ry, I…I lo—“
“No!” I snap at him, cutting him off before he can say the words. “Don’t you dare,” I yell at him as I realize what he is going to say—the words I’d been longing to hear from him—but for all of the wrong reasons. I shake my head and back away from him. “Don’t you dare say that to me right now Colton. Those aren’t words you throw around to get someone to do what you want. To hold on to somebody because you fear they’re going to leave you. They’re not a bargaining chip or a bribe Colton,” I spit out at him, his face paling at my words. “When I hear those words from someone, I want it to be because it’s unconditional—not said out of fear. It’s not a weapon…”
Colton puts both hands up on to the back of his neck, elbows bent and paces back and forth a few steps. My eyes follow him and on his fourth pass, he grabs me without preemption and crushes his mouth to mine, bruising my lips in a kiss teeming with desperation. And before I can regain my footing beneath me, he tears his lips from mine, hands on my shoulders, eyes boring into mine. “I’ll let you go Rylee. I’ll let you walk away and out of my life if that’s what you want—even if it kills me—but you have to tell me one thing before I let you walk away,” he says voice clear and eyes clouded. “I want you to look me in the eyes and tell me that you don’t love me anymore. If you can do that, then I’ll let you go without another word.”
I take a deep breath as I stare at his eyes, inches from mine and pleading with me for some scrap of hope. The words are on my tongue but for the life of me I can’t get them past my lips. I drag my eyes from his. “I have to go Colton.”
He drops his hands from my shoulders but trails his fingers down my bare arms in their retreat. A last resonating touch. “You haven’t said it Rylee,” he says with a quiet temerity in his voice. “Tell me. I need to hear it.”
I push off the trunk of the car, my eyes still unable to meet his, and walk toward the driver’s door. I know he is right behind me and cognizant of my avoidance of his question. I just can’t bring myself to say it. He may not have reacted to my declaration of love in the best way, but I can’t purposely hurt him anymore than I currently am. I stop at the door, grip the handle, and turn back to him in second thought. We stand there silently with my eyes fixated on the logo of Colton’s fire suit for I can’t find it in me to look at him. I’m the coward now. I can’t draw this out any longer. I lean up on my toes and place a chaste kiss on his cheek. “Good luck Ace,” I murmur, my mind thinking back to the good luck kiss I game him when he tested his car and how different the two moments are.
He angles his head down to look at me but I refuse to meet his eyes. We stand there for a few moments, neither of us speaking but hoping the other knows what each other is thinking. I yank open the door handle and slide into the driver’s seat, swallowing through the lump in my throat and the sting of tears in my eyes.
Colton bends over, his head leaning into the car. “This isn’t over yet Rylee,” he says, his unrelenting presence making what I have to do that much harder, but we just can’t seem to give the other what they need.
“Yes it is,” I whisper softly, the final break searing through my heart. I take a deep breath and tell the biggest lie of my life, “I don’t love you anymore Colton.” My voice is barely a sound but I know he hears it for his body tenses instantly. I wait for him to say something else, can sense that he is, but after a beat, he slams the door shut.
I watch through tear-blurred vision as Colton walks in his red fire suit back to the course. “I love you,” I whisper, the silence of the car more accepting of my declaration than the man it’s meant for, ever will be. And that’s why I put the key in the ignition and start the car.
The streets are a nightmare to navigate with all of road closures as I make my way to Tampa International Airport. It doesn’t help that the tears haven’t stopped flowing since Colton disappeared from my sight. I drive in circles trying to find the rental car return when the ringing of my cell phone comes through the car’s speakers. The number that flashes on the display is unknown to me, but it’s a Santa Monica area code so I answer it, always wary of something going awry with one of the boys.
“Goddamn it Rylee!” Beckett’s voice growls through the speaker. “You promised me!”
I wince at Beckett’s voice resonating through the car. “I did what you asked Beckett. I didn’t know he was going to follow me out to the car. I told him that I had to go home because something was wrong with one of the boys.”
“You’re a piss poor liar Rylee. That much is obvious by the way he’s acting right now…” He says something to someone off of the phone before sucking in a big breath of air. “You know what? You two fucking deserve each other,” he seethes, anger and disappointment dripping from his words.
“Don’t you Becks me. On any other day I’d tell you that you’re just as big of a coward as he is…but right now I don’t have time for this shit. I have to go put my driver—my best friend—in a car that’s about to fly around the track when his head’s not all there because you fucked it up…” he’s silent for a moment and I just hold the line because he has every right to be mad at me. When he speaks again, it’s eerily calm and full of spite. “So help me God Rylee, if something happens to him…it’s on you!”
And the line goes dead as I pull into the correct rental car drop off driveway. I rest my head on my hands on the steering wheel and sigh loudly. What am I doing? I wipe the fallen tears from my cheeks and am climbing out of the car when my phone rings again. I look down and see Quinlan’s name and groan. Yet another person I’ve disappointed no doubt. I’m not ready to deal with her and her in your face way so I reach over and turn the ringer off on my phone and slip it in my purse.
I am in a state of numbness as I return the car, check in my baggage and flight, and make it through the security line. I keep telling myself that I’m doing the right thing—that I’ve made the right decision—but the look in Colton’s eyes haunts me. We can’t give each other what we need and when we do, we only end up hurting each other. One foot in front of the other Rylee. That’s what I keep telling myself as I walk through the terminal to my gate. As long as I keep moving—keep my mind from wandering—I can keep the questioning panic that is just beneath the surface from bubbling up. From making me run from the terminal, hop in a cab to the racecourse, wait for Colton to finish the race, jump in his arms, and tell him I love him. Tell him I’m stupid. Tell him we can make this work.
But I can’t. I need the space I asked for. The time I lied for so that I can think without all of these emotions clouding my judgment. Since when did I become such a headcase?
I sit down in an empty section of seats near my gate, not wanting to be near anybody and have to make small talk. The television above and to the left of me is on and even though commercials are on, I welcome the mindless distraction.
And then of course the distraction ends as the regular programming comes back on to the television to the race. “Christ,” I mutter. I can’t escape him no matter how hard I try. I debate whether to walk toward the bar I saw on the way in and grab a drink to help me relax but realize that most likely the race will be on the television in there as well.
I can’t help myself from looking at the ticker across the top of the screen to see how many laps have been completed and where Colton is in the field. They are about thirty laps in and I wait patiently for the ticker to reset to the top of the field. I can’t help the thrill that goes through me when I see ’13 Donavan’ under the number one spot. I diminutive smile turns the corners of my lips the same time a pang tugs at my heart.
I lean forward as I hear the announcers mention Colton’s name. “Well Leigh, Donavan seems to be lighting up the track today,” one announcer says. “He’s like a man on a mission the way he’s barely letting up in the turns.”
“He’s obviously worked on his skills in the off season because it’s definitely showing. I’m just wondering if he’s running a little too hard, too early in the race,” the other announcer observes. “Taking too many risks. He’s definitely driving like a man scorned for sure,” the other announcer laughs.
“His last lap was faster than his first and if he keeps it up, he’s set to break a course record.”
The screen flashes to the media headshot of Colton and then flashes back to the start of the race. Ludacris’ “The Rest of My Life” plays as the background music during the spotlight of Colton’s race thus far, and I shake my head for I couldn’t think of a more fitting song.
A small sigh of relief escapes me. Beckett was wrong—leaving the race was a good thing for Colton—he’s using his anger to fuel his determination and channeling it into winning the race. The announcers talk some more and then go back to the race live. I watch a bit more of Colton leading the field, and I keep feeling that tug of guilt deep inside for so many things and they’re all pertaining to him.
I gather my things and decide to move closer to my gate—and away from a television. I settle in my new seat, facing out to look at the tarmac beyond, and plug my headphones into my iPad to listen to some music.
The next thing I know, I‘m startled awake when a hand gently shakes my shoulder. I sit forward pulling my earbuds out and look to the hand that is shaking me. A gate attendant for the airlines is looking at me. “Excuse me miss? Are you on the flight to LAX?”
“Yes,” I say, still willing my heart rate to settle down.
“We’re on our final boarding ma’am. May I get your boarding pass please and get you on board?”
“Uh yes,” I say, quickly gathering my things and shuffling through my purse as I stand to get my ticket. “I’m so sorry. Thank you so much for waking me.” I quickly look around as I follow her the few feet to the entrance to the jet bridge. I give her my identification when she asks for it and then hurry down the walkway to the plane as I’m the only person in the tunnel.
I walk onto the plane, thankful that my mileage had allowed me to upgrade my company booked seats to first class so that I won’t have to fight my way back through the plane and find storage for my carryon. I’m greeted by the flight attendant and ushered the few feet to my seat as she stows my bag. I’m still a little groggy as sit down, the events of the past twenty-four hours having drained me. The flight attendant starts her announcements on the PA system about departing shortly once we receive runway clearance and reminds us to turn out electrical devices off.
I grab my iPad, power it down and then shuffle through the contents of my purse looking for my phone as the door on the plane secures shut. I find it and out of habit, glance at the front of the screen before I hold the button down to power it off.
Seventeen missed calls? Eleven new texts? What the hell? My immediate thought is that something happened to one of the boys but when I see most of the calls are from Haddie I relax a bit. I thumb over to the texts and see most are from her as well. I hit the button to read the first text.
Have you heard anything yet? Beckett’s not answering either.
Heard anything about what? I click down to the next text.
Is he okay? Dammit Ry – pick-up the phone. They’re not saying anything…I’m freaking out here.
My blood runs cold. “Colton!” His name comes out in a rush of air as I bolt from my seat. “Open the door!” I yell to the flight attendant as she stares at me like I’ve just sprouted wings. “Please!” I beg as I step into the galley, alarm registering on their faces. “It’s an emergency,” I plead holding up my phone as if that’s enough of an explanation for my request. My body starts shaking and my head starts running wild as I dial Haddie while one attendant notifies the captain and the gate before starting to unlatch the door.
“Rylee!” Haddie answers the phone the same time the door is pushed open, and I stumble through it and up the bridge-way.
“What—what happened?” I choke as fear consumes me.
“What do you mean what happened?” she yells at me astounded. “Where the fuck are you Rylee?”
I rush past the loading gate and run disoriented through the terminal. I skirt around crowds of people as I try to remember which way toward the security gate. “What? Happened?” I ask frantically as my eyes flicker over the various signs overhead.
“It’s bad Ry,” her voice breaks and even though I knew that’s what she was going to say—knew that she wouldn’t be calling me otherwise—my heart stops and feet falter in the middle of the crowd I’m pushing through. People bump into my shoulders, but I can’t move. The question sticks in my throat. I have to force it out.
“How bad?” I whisper, the bottom dropping out of my carefully constructed world. Her silence fuels my fear. “Tell me Had…”
“They airlifted him Ry…” Her words hang between us on the open connection as I will my feet to move again. My heart races. My stomach churns. My eyes burn. All sound melts into silence. Everything seems to be going in slow motion and yet time feels like it’s flying. Fear collides with guilt. Beckett’s words come back to me.
I did this. He crashed because his head was somewhere else. He wasn’t focused. This is on me.
Haddie saying my name over and over slowly seeps into my trance and snaps me out of it as I run through the airport, impatiently nudging people out of the way. “It’s all my fault…” the words catch in my throat as I burst out the doors and beg the sky cab to the left of me to tell me where I can get a taxi. He takes one look at my face and forgoes sending my to the designated pick-up location. He stops a taxi driver that’s unloading passengers and ushers me into the back seat without hesitation while the driver finishes with the current fare.
“How long?” I ask Haddie, counting on the fact that she knows me well enough to understand the only two words I can form. Cars move to the left on me while people hurry to their flights on the right—I wonder how all of them can be going about their usual business when my world has crashed to a stop.
“It took them a while to get him out of the car. He was trapped,” she whispers afraid to tell me. “Maybe thirty minutes since they loaded him in the helicopter. The announcers aren’t saying anything.”
“Did he crash?” I don’t even realize the stupidity in my question and Haddie doesn’t bother to point it out.
“Yeah…yes…they aren’t showing the replay anymore.” Her voice is so quiet with gravity that I can barely hear her for she knows just as I do that networks stop replaying a crash when someone is suspected to be seriously injured—when they don’t want to be accused of replaying someone’s death.
“No, no, no, no,” I say over and over as if the words will make this all go away. “Not again. This can’t happen again to me,” I keen over and over to Haddie. An accident can’t take the life of the only other man I’ve love—yes, love. For no matter how many times I’ve told myself that we aren’t good for each other, right now, as fate crashes down around me, I know that I will never love another man like I love Colton. I need to tell him. I need him to know. He can’t…he has to make it. I have to be able to tell him I plead with God over and over.
I look out the window at the driver, silently begging him to get in the damn cab. As if he’s listening to my thoughts, he turns and walks around the back of the car and opens door and slides into the front seat.
“Where to Miss?” he asks in accented English.
“It’s an emergency. The hospital please,” I tell him as he starts to pull out of the loading zone.
His eyes meet mine in the rearview mirror. “Which one?” he asks as I look at him like a deer in the headlights.
I hang up on Haddie without even thinking. “St. Petersburg. Trauma unit. Life Flight.” My stilted thoughts rush out hoping he can help me.
“Bayfront?” he says as he pulls onto an onramp.
I’m already fumbling for my phone. “Yes. Head there. I’ll double check.” I say sending up a silent prayer. “I’ll pay you extra to be quick.”
I scroll through my received calls and find the number Beckett had called me from earlier. My hands tremble, adrenaline and fear surging through me as I hit the dial button. On the third ring, the phone connects and I hear fumbling on the speaker.
“Rylee…” Beckett’s grief stricken voice assaults my ears.
“Tell me he’s okay,” I whisper, squeezing my eyes shut, afraid to hear the answer.
“Oh God Rylee!” he sobs, a man broken. “Oh God!”
So that’s the original ending…not I race you, no superheroes, no Colton POV, them not together. So I know you hate me for the ending you got…but isn’t that one so much better than this one?
It kind of makes me laugh to see how much my writing has grown in such a short time to what you’ll read in Crashed…
Thanks for reviewing … it means the world to us Indie authors. I can’t wait … 9 more days ladies! 9 more day!