After much weaving through back roads, we ended up back on the main road we’d been following before the craziness began. I drove the forty-miles-an-hour speed limit for a few miles, but we were going too slow. Something told me we needed to get out of Ohio. Now.
At the next light we came to I got in the left turn lane.
“What are you doing?” Dominic asked.
“I want to get on the highway,” I said, stepping on the gas when the green arrow lit up. I straightened the car out onto what proved to be a road the same size as the one we’d just left.
“Why do you want to get on the highway?” He pulled out the map as he questioned me.
“I just do. Do we have to stay in Ohio tonight? Can we go to the safe house now?” I looked at him when I said it. I wanted to see his reaction. Something was off, and I needed to figure it out as soon as I could.
Looking between the map and the road, he answered, “Yeah, I think that would be a okay. A day ahead of schedule should be fine. This road connects to the highway, so we can stay on it,” he said, folding the map and storing it in the glove box.
Once we hit the highway, I kept our speed at seventy-two again. We rolled north, putting the chaos and insanity behind us, and heading into who knew what. I was apprehensive. While I had decided that I trusted Dominic, he was acting strange.
A day ahead of schedule? What did that mean?
I understood ditching the Mustang, and thus stealing another car. I understood why we hid the Mustang. Going to a safe house made sense. Even the round-about way of getting there made sense.
What I didn’t get was why Dominic seemed so set on a schedule. Yes, he had agreed to skip staying in Ohio for another night and heading straight to the safe house, but still. We were running from a notorious drug lord. Why have a schedule? Wouldn’t it be better to just go on instinct?
I was listening to my inner voice, at least. It said run. My intuition was telling me to get out of this state. It was also questioning Dominic, and that made me nervous.
An hour later we were crossing into Pennsylvania. According to Dominic, we had between four and five more hours of driving through southern New York and back down into Pennsylvania before we reached the cabin in the mountains that would serve as our safe house. I hoped that the new car and our speed would leave Ritter’s henchmen behind.
At a highway rest area we made a pit stop. The thing with Dominic acting strange was nagging at me, so I told Allison to wait in the car while we talked.
We stood ten paces in front of our newly acquired vehicle under a tall oak bursting with vibrant green shoots. I wasn’t sure how to approach the subject without sounding like I didn’t trust him, so we stood in silence for a full minute before he leaned on the tree and asked the loaded question.
“What’s up, Ella?”
I studied his face. The stubble on his jaw was more than just a shadow after at least three days without a shave, but it suited him. His windblown hair danced around his face in the slight breeze kissing the air. Then there were those eyes. Those green pools of endless depth that consistently fell into without hope of surfacing.
I was falling again, and I gave my head a shake to clear the fog that crowded my thoughts. I took a deep, bracing breath and looked right into those eyes. “What’s up with the schedule?” I asked. “Why do you seem so set on following a set timeline for this little escapade?”
He broke the eye contact and looked off to his right, back toward the brick building of the restroom area. “The safe house has a schedule.” His eyes came back to mine. “They told me when I could take you there, and I’ve never gone against what they tell me. I’m not sure what we’ll find when we show up early. Hopefully it’ll just be empty, and we can move right in.” He shrugged. “But I honestly don’t know.
“I’ve had safe houses available to me whenever I’m helping, but I’ve never used one. I always just kept moving, ya know?” He reached both hands for me as if to take my arms, but I stepped back. His eyes questioned me, expressing the hurt my pulling away caused him.
“Dominic. . .” I paused and dropped my eyes. “Something’s not right, here. Something doesn’t feel right.” I took a breath that raised my shoulders as I shook my head slowly, still trying to sort through everything.
I looked around the rest area. All around us, people were going on with their everyday lives. A family on vacation walking their dog. Two young girls, about college age, on a road trip. A man on a business trip, his blue button down loosened at the collar but still tucked neatly into his pressed slacks.
Then there was us. Dominic, Allison, and I were anything but normal at this point. Newly reunited ex-lovers, one with a murdered husband and friend, running from a cold-blooded man, with a ten year old girl in tow.
Looking back at Dominic, I asked, “Who are they?”
“They?” he repeated, sounding confused.
“Yeah. Who are the people putting us up this safe house?” I made quotations with my fingers.
“The FBI. I told you that,” he said with incredulity and a lift of an eyebrow.
“Yeah. Well. . .”
He pushed off of the tree. “You don’t believe me? What, you think I’m on Ritter’s payroll?” His tone hardened with the imagined accusation, and he took a step toward me. “Is that what you think, Ella?”