The weather delivers its promise.
The coast of Oregon is well-known for its unpredictability, and the sky has proven just that. Rain slants from west to east and falls unbroken for the past hour. The sky itself is the color of a bruise, and the clouds break apart with thunder.
“Slow down,” Shannon cautions. She is hanging onto the armrest and passenger door handle of the Toyota for dear life.
On her right side, she can see the ocean with its stormy, spraying waves. They must be five feet high at least, she reckons. One false swerve and the Toyota could plunge off the cliff road and into that awful, roaring abyss. She can only imagine all those rocks down there, with teeth that could gnash the metal body of the Toyota and the soft bodies inside.
“I know what I’m doing, so lay off, OK, Shan?”
The driver is grim, determined. His handsome mouth is set in a flat cast. He has been doing sixty on this slippery coastal road for the past hour or so. The windshield wipers struggle to keep up with the downpour, and she can barely see ten feet of road before them. Of course, he has far better eyesight than her due to his enhanced senses. She can only imagine the distances he can see with his sharp, sharp eyes.
Even in good weather, the narrow coastal road overlooking the Pacific would be difficult to navigate. Now everything is a blur – a horrible grey slate. It is as if she has vanished in a fog of a netherworld.
The road is separated from the sheer drop to the ocean below by only a thin, grassy verge. Gravel and debris pelt the underside of the tire rims. Her seatbelt is strapped tightly against her chest. Her breasts are quashed in their brassiere cups – a most uncomfortable enterprise.
“At least turn on your headlights,” she pleads.
“I can see the road, Shan. Shut up and let me concentrate.”
“It’s not what you can see. It’s for the other cars to see where you’re coming from. Slow down or you’ll hurl both of us over the cliff!”
He is reckless, she knows. He has always been reckless for as long as she has known him. It comes with his birthright – of who and what he is. He can’t help being reckless any more than a leopard can help having spots.
No one else is out in this weather, she thinks. No one else is foolish enough.
He looks over to her. He has piercing dark eyes, in contrast to her soft lilac ones. They are unalike physically as light and day. She is raven-haired. He has auburn locks. They don’t even think alike even though they have cohabitated in the same house for over ten years.
The screeching of wheels against asphalt arrests her attention. From the other side of the road, a white Mercedes veers onto their path.
“Jared!” Shannon screams.
“Fuck!” He twists the steering wheel, and the tires of their vehicle skid.
It is an awful squealing sound, like a thousand fingernails on a chalkboard. Her eardrums are splitting from the sound, and if her hands weren’t clutching at whatever they can clutch at, she would have put her hands onto her ears to shield them.
Please, don’t let me die, she begs as she closes her eyes tightly.
She braces herself for the collision.
When it doesn’t come, she opens her frightened eyes. Jared is still at the wheel, and looking none the worse for the wear – meaning that he isn’t slumped over the steering wheel with blood trickling from his forehead like she expected. The car hasn’t smashed onto the cliff wall, nor has it plunged into the ocean on the other side.
The blurry road is still ahead. She can’t be sure, of course, in this vague greyness, but they may be facing the other direction from whence they came from. This means the car has taken a hundred-and-eighty degree spin.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck!” Jared curses, thumping his palms on the steering wheel. “I’ll get that motherfucker. I’ll wring his neck so hard that he won’t know what choked him.”
“Please, Jared.” She is disorientated. Trying to get her bearings back. The last thing she wants is road violence.
And of course . . . the other.
She can see the white Merc a short distance away from them. It is also at an unnatural angle to the road, suggesting that it too has skidded and ground to a halt. She hopes no one in it has been hurt.
The driver’s door of the white Merc opens. A figure comes out into the pelting rain.
Jared growls and unclasps his seatbelt. It snaps back to its moorings with a sharp crack.
“Please, Jared, don’t fight!” she begs him. “It was an accident, nothing more.”
Jared wrenches open the car door. The howling wind immediately pours in, dipping the temperature in the car a good twenty degrees. Goose bumps pop up on her suddenly exposed skin. Oh Gad, but it’s cold!