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Chapter Thirty Six

"What makes you think she told me anything?"

"You guys might fight like crazy, but I know you guys are friends."

Jess snorted. "That's what you call friends?"

"She's pretty much all you have."

The girl across from me looked up in surprise. "Wow, Al. That's harsh."

She didn't sound hurt and I didn't feel bad for saying it. That was progress on my part. I took a deep breath.

"Listen, my brother's going to be in huge trouble if we don't find them. I won't sit here and say that I know how you guys feel, but I can imagine it's got to feel like you're trapped in here. Even so, Krista and Joe will get caught. I'd rather it be sooner than later.

Jess bit her lip. She seemed to weigh the options. Her finger ran down the spine of the book she had been reading. "She's lucky," she said softly. "I would have killed to go out on a date."

"You'll get your chance," I said gently. Jess scoffed.

"Yeah, lemme tell you. Because there are so many good-lookin' boys that decide to stop by here everyday."

I knew she was right. Even so...

"You know, Cole's pretty nice looking."

She let out a loud barking laugh. "Mister Cynical? I'll pass. Besides, he's all eyes for you. No pun intended."

"Yeah, well..." I trailed off. Jess snickered.

"Not your type either?"

"It's not that," I explained. "It's---hey, we're getting off topic. Did Krista give you any clue what she would do if she had the chance to run?"

Jess pouted, obviously frustrated that I ended our girl talk. "She had this dream of going to Nashville. I mean, it's not like she wanted to get out of here and go home, y'know? She didn't have a home. And she couldn't go visit her mom's grave. Homeless people don't get elaborate funerals. Get my drift?"

Two things came out of her ramble. The first one was the pit-of-the-stomach ill feeling that Joe and Krista could be just blips on the map if he had been dumb enough to drive to Tennessee.

The other was that Jess could be just as, if not more, cynical than Cole. They were perfect for each other.

"I get your drift," I said slowly.

"Where you going?" Jess asked as I stood up.

"I've got to go find them," I said. Jess snorted.

"You think you're going to find them if they made it to Nashville?"

"No," I agreed.

"But I have to try."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"If he went to Nashville, I'm going to kill him. No, scratch that. When I find him I'm going to kill him no matter what."

"My shoes smell like pee!"

"They don't smell like pee," I said. Even my patience was beginning to fray. I turned and handed Bren her Happy Meal. I looked at dad and sighed. "You can't kill him."

Dad unwrapped his burger and stuck a sizeable chunk in his mouth. He shrugged in a way that told me that he agreed. But it didn't stop him from feeling murderous.

"Do you think he would really go to Nashville?" I asked. I waited while dad chewed vigorously.

"I don't know. I've got a call in to the GPS service. They're trying to track the car down.

"You don't think he would have ditched the car and gone for another?" I asked. My twin-sense told me the answer was yes, but dad shook his head.

"You have to be twenty-one to rent a car. Besides, he didn't have that much money."

That was true. I plucked a fry out of the bag and nibbled on it half-heartedly. I was working myself up to being enthusiastic about eating my nuggets when my phone rang. I pulled it out and glanced at the display.

"It's Shelby," I said aloud.

"MOMMY!" Bren said happily. "GIMME GIMME GIMME!"

I ignored Bren's request and obeyed dad's. He had put the rest of his burger in the bag and was waving his greasy fingertips in my direction. I passed it over.

"Hey Shel," dad said. He paused. "We're on our way back. Brenna's fine."


"Bren, want a chocolate chip cookie?"


I broke off half of a cookie and passed it back to her. I winced at the epic mess surrounding her. Fries were scattered on the carpeting like rose petals. Her ketchup-covered fingers reached for the cookie and she shoved it in her mouth.

"They called? Did they give a location? Uh-huh."

I turned my attention back to dad. He pulled over on the side of the road at a gas station and motioned towards the glovebox. I popped it open. He reached over and took out a piece of junk mail and a pen. He began to write.

"Okay. We're a couple hours out. Do you want me to keep Bren?"

Even as angry as dad was, he smiled at Shelby's reply. "Well, I'm pretty sure the doctor you married can prescribe something for that hangover." A second later he laughed. "That'll teach him then. Love you, Shel-ster."

He disconnected and tossed the pen back in the glovebox.

"Is Shelby okay?" I asked.

Dad nodded. "Let's just say we're going to be keeping Brenna with us. Her mommy and daddy need a little rest. She wanted to help find Joe, but her vampiric state requires her to stay out of the sun."

It didn't take a genius to realize that Shel and Mason were hungover. I looked down at the junk mail dad was still holding. "Do we know where he is?"

Dad tapped the paper. I don't know why, but I thought wryly that it was kinda amusing that my dad still painted his nails black. "They're about two hours away from here. Feel like a road trip?"

We both knew the answer. I secured my seatbelt and plucked another fry from the bag.

"Let's roll."


The panic in Bren's voice caused me to turn back around. "What?"

Dad already had his seatbelt undone. Something in his granddaughter's voice had already answered the question. Bren filled me in a second later when she slammed her kid's cup of Hi-C in her cupholder and grabbed herself in a way reminiscent of Michael Jackson.

"I GOTTA GO TO THE BAFROOM!" she howled. Dad hopped out of the car and went to get her. I glanced down at the coordinates on the paper. Every stationary second seemed like a moment wasted. We needed to go.

Don't you DARE take off, I thought, hoping the message would travel telepathically to my brother.

If there was any time in my life when I needed him to listen, it was now.