Authors: Rachel Garon
Play Me Harder
By Rachel Garon
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and is not representative of any true events or characters.
There is no part of this book that may be construed as a real event, or real characters, but rather the musings and imagination of the author.
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e gasped as a pocket of turbulence caused the small plane to buc
k madly. Her fingers clenched the arms
of the seat, the bloodless white of her knuckles a stark contrast to the brilliant crimson painted onto her well- tended fingernails.
She stared down at those nails, wondering how something as simple, as ordinary, as a trip to her nail salon could have ended with her being kidnapped. Anger surfaced at that thought, breaking through the terrible fear that had kept her in its grip ever since the burly man sitting in the seat next to her had grabbed her and shoved her into the car that his equally large friend had been driving. That man was sitting across from them, his beefy thighs spread out across the seat and a gun held firmly in his large fist. The barrel of it, and its unwinki
ng eye, had been fixed on Clair
e ever since they had climbed aboard.
A long groan
came from somewhere under the belly of the plane and for once the gun wavered. Heroine had time to feel a small frisson of satisfaction at that crossed her captor’s face but just then a hollow thump sounded from the side of the plane. She turned her face toward the tiny window and shrieked as a long blue tipped belch of flame erupted from the engine. Her hands came up in an involuntary movement, a warding off gesture designed to protect her face and head, a gesture she knew was futile even as she made it.
The earth below had been spread out in a patchwork pattern but the details grew clearer as they
tumbled closer. At first Clair
e was unsure what the long expanse of dark green they were heading for was
then the trees began to distinguish themselves, as did the piles of large gray rock. A childhood prayer crossed her lips as limbs and branches scrubbed and
scraped the metal of the plane. Large sections of metal tore away with violent screeches, revealing glimpses of the world outside. A crushing pre
ssure pushed at Clair
e even as a vortex of air tried to suck her into itself.
man sitting beside
, the one she had nicknamed Ronald because of his odd resemblance to a well-known fast-food chain’s namesake, screamed in a high thin voice as his head was slammed into the top of the plane. Blood spilled down his face
and a sharp report came from the seat across from them. A puff of soured air streaked across her cheek, bringing a stinging pain with it.
ly squeezed the trigger, Claire
thought, and t
hen darkness took over.
Cole Reynolds looked up from the
book he had been holding as a loud bang sounded from somewhere over the distant foothills. There was a softer bang that followed. Cole knew that nothing from nature could have made such a huge amount of noise and a hard glint was in his eyes
headed for the door of the house that sat nestled into the face of the cliff.
He stormed grimly along the narrow trail, the all too familiar smell of smoke meeting his nostrils. Damn developers, he thought angrily, why can’t they just leave well enough alone? They already pulled off half of the mountain top to make that damn ugly resort and now they want to carve up this side of it too.
He was not prepared for the sight that met his eyes when he rounded the bend. A plane was smashed into the ground, smoke rose up from its back end and the nose was crushed all the way into what had likely been the middle but was now a gaping hole littered with what looked like tree limbs and leaves and shredded metal.
A groan made hi turn to the right. A young woman was staggering across the small clearing. Blood seeped from her right nostril and she was limping badly. From the plane came a piteous wail.
“Don’t!” the woman cried as Cole stepped closer, “They are killers! They kidnapped me! I’m Claire Maxwell!”
Cole blinked in surprise at that statement. Before he could think to ask any questions a man stumbled out of the plane. Blood poured from one of his cheeks, even from a distance Cole could see the unmista
ble furrow of a gunshot wound. His eyes wen
t back to the nose of the plane;
he saw a pattern of blood on the broken glass that told him all too clearly the pilot was dead.
He turned his gaze back to the goon exiting the plane and saw the gun held in his hand. Adrenaline kicked in and he ran toward the woman, her eyes went wide and she tried to flee but her foot went out from under her and she fell flat on the ground in front of him.
“Stop!” the man yelled but Cole ignored his order.
He scooped the woman up and ran with her. She didn’t help, sagging in his arms and letting her feet swing uselessly. A whining crack from behind them told Cole he was being shot at and he zigged to the left then zagged to the right. The woman’s weight held him back however and he dropped her cruelly on the ground.
“Hey!” She yelled, “Help me!”
He scooped her back up, gave her a fast hard shake and snarled out, “Put your good foot down and fucking move your ass or I will leave you here with this mess.”
She heeded his words. She held her own weight and hobbled as fast as she could. He held onto her arm, basically dragging her but she was at least helping instead of hindering their escape.
There were a stand of trees close by, Cole aimed for them and dove for cover behind a huge oak.
Another shot rang out and chips of bark flew. The woman screamed and he slapped a hand over her mouth and hissed at her to shut up.
His nerves had steadied, all of the old training from his years in the military kicking in and serving him well.
The man was not used to being outside. He blundered across a deadfall and his loafers got stuck in between branches
. He spun at the sound of birds and fired at the direction of their whistles. Cole tightened his grip across the woman’s mouth and leaned close to her ear.
“He will get lost out here if we’re lucky. There’s highway in every direction so he won’t be lost forever. We need to get to my house and you have to be dead quiet while we get away. Do you understand?”
Claire nodded. Cole let her face go and led the way, creeping silently across the ground. Clair looked down at her bare feet, for a moment she was dumbstruck by the sight of them. She couldn’t remember for the life o
f her what had happened to her F
erragamo stilettos. Then she remembered. She had lost them in the crash. She had seen o
ne being ripped off of her foot and
the other had snapped it
s strap as she had climbed
out of the plane.
Pine needles stung her tender soles and her silk blouse ripped as it brushed against tree limbs and waist high thickets. The sound of pursuit faded in the background
and they came to a steep slope
then went over it.
The house was built right into the side of the mountain. If Claire had been looking for it she would never have seen it. It had been built with indigenous materials and it was further camouflaged
by the large jumble of rocks that it sat behind. Bushes screened the windows, hiding the glass from the sun.
Her rescuer led her inside and she stared. Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves covered two walls, a large sofa covered in leather rested below a large oil painting of the mountainous peak that was just visible from the window to the right.
The floors were soft wood and there was not one rug in sight. The whole place smelled of wood and leather, it was an intoxicating aroma, one that made Clair smile.
The only chair in the room was a deep soft recliner, obviously ancient. Cole pointed to it with a grunt and Claire sank into it. Her eyes wandered the sparsely furnished room as she wondered who the strange man who had rescued her really was; the house seemed to want to keep his secrets. Out of idle curiously she leaned close to the bookshelves and peered at the titles. Most were in Italian and German, many were classics.
That only increased her curiosity. There seemed to be no television, no computer. She scanned the ceiling, wondering what it was that was missing and then she gasped, her eyes flicking to the bottoms of the walls. There were no electrical receptacles or lights anywhere.
She blinked, wondering what her rescuer did for running water. Before that line of thought could turn unappetizing he reappeared holding a bowl of light green liquid. He sank to the floor at her feet and picked them up. She gasped in shock as her feet met the cold water; whatever he had added to it stung the tiny cuts all over her sensitive flesh.
“It’s made from pine needles and eucalyptus.”
“You should sell it to the spa I use; I swear its run by a fucking sadist. It would be right up her alley.”
Cole hid a grin and stood, “Keep your feet in there for at least half an hour. You have a lot of scratches and cuts and the last thing I need is you dying from an infection.”
“How do I get out of here? You said there is a highway in every direction.”
“There is. Just walk out of here and head in any direction. Go west and you will reach it in half a day, east
is about the same. North a day, go
about six hours.”
Clair said weakly. “I don’t suppose you would give a girl a ride?”
“Not used to walking?”
Cole asked sarcastically.
“I walk all the time. “Claire said haughtily, “I live in Manhattan you know.”
“I didn’t know.”
Claire’s mouth fell open. “How can you not know? I’m Claire Maxwell!”
“I’m Cole Reynolds.”
Claire blinked. “You really don’t know who I am, do you? What have you been living under a rock the past couple of years?”
Instantly she regretted the question. Of course he had, she was sitting there in his house, which was basically inside a rock and she already knew he didn’t have any electricity so of course he couldn’t know that she was the hottest reality star of the moment. Her father was one of the country’s richest men and she had been bored and angered by the fact that ev
eryone she knew was getting a sh
ow so she had gone to her father and he had called up a friend of his in the entertainment industry and wham! She was a star.
“I’m a reality show star.”
“You mean reality as defined by the media?” There was amusement in Cole’s eyes.
Stung Claire quickly changed the subject, “Will those guys find us?”