Story: Exhausted

Thanks again Carole for the prompt. Other instalments here.

Exhausted
by Liberty Gilmore

 As Adam and Ava try to outrun Natalia, they stop for rest in a small town in Germany.

The road stretched out in front of Ava, seeming to go on forever. Morning had been and gone, night was falling again, and they hadn’t stopped yet, driving deep into continental Europe, pausing only to refuel the car and themselves. Adam was asleep in the passenger seat, his soft breaths making Ava wish she could close her eyes…

…just for a second…

A blaring horn snapped her awake, and she swerved the car back onto her side of the road. The noise and sharp motion stirred Adam, and he stretched out in the chair, looking at the clock with sleep filled eyes.

‘We should stop at the next town,’ Adam said, yawning. ‘You must be exhausted.’

Ava shook her head, trying to keep herself alert, awake. Despite the shot of adrenaline, she could already feel her eyelids grow heavy. She didn’t want to stop. She had to get further away, had to keep pushing onwards.

‘Ava, you’ve been driving for hours. We’re miles from home. Surely we’re as safe as we can get.’

‘I don’t need as much sleep as you, I can keep going.’

Adam put a hand on her shoulder. ‘Come on, please. Let’s stop. I could use a break from sitting in the car, and I’m sure you could too.’

Ava felt her eyes fluttering shut as she relaxed into his touch. She shook herself out again, sitting as upright as she could, but relented. ‘Okay. I’ll turn off at the next opportunity.’

They’d made it into Germany – perhaps a risky move, as there was a strong Fey presence there in the old lands, but that was why Ava had chosen it. With so many other Fey around, they would help disguise her particular Fey signature. And she knew that not all Germanic Fey were allied with the Court.

Lights of a town began to appear on the horizon, and Ava kept an eye out for signs, taking the right exit and driving into the town centre. She looked for cheap, impersonal accommodation, where the patrons were unlikely to remember them. A travel lodge type hotel glowed just away from the town centre, boasting a convenient underground car park. Ava headed for it. A hostel would have been cheaper, but she felt the need for privacy. She and Adam had yet to talk properly about what the hell had happened over the past two days.

When she parked up, Adam got out and let Faolan out of the boot. The wolf totem bounded about excitably, nipping at Adam’s fingers. Adam teased him, encouraging him to jump up, play. Having decided the wolf wasn’t likely to eat him, he’d fast befriended him.

‘Right, Mutt, we need to put this shiny new collar on now,’ Adam said, waving a bright red collar and lead he’d bought from a service station at the wolf.

Faolan sniffed with all the dignity of his regal breed, but stooped to have it put on. Adam stroked a hand along the wolf’s thick fur, then picked up the lead. ‘This place will take dogs, right?’

‘I hope so,’ Ava said, not wanting to use her Fey powers of persuasion and leave a trace, a hint that they’d been here for Natalia to find. Would Natalia find her here? Probably. Eventually.

Ava grabbed their bags and together they headed up to reception. It was twenty-four hour, and the bored receptionist started when she saw Faolan, but calmed at the sight of the bright collar and lead.

‘A husky?’ she asked in German.

‘Husky cross,’ Ava replied, then switched to English. ‘He’s well trained.’

The receptionist seemed to accept this. ‘How many nights?’ Her English was thickly accented.

‘Two,’ Adam said before Ava could speak. ‘Please.’

They paid, Ava waiting until they were inside the room before she rounded on Adam. ‘Two nights? Adam, we can’t afford to stay here for two nights. I told you we couldn’t afford to take chances, that we’d have to keep moving.’

‘Ava, listen to yourself – you’re strung out. You probably haven’t recovered from whatever that was that happened the other day. You need to rest. Properly. Get a decent meal, not another McDonalds.’

It did sound nice, but Ava couldn’t afford to be suckered into that. This wasn’t a holiday. They were on the run.

It was her fault. She hadn’t made that clear enough to Adam. Hadn’t even explained what was going on. She would do that. Shower first. Then…

Her mind was wandering. She could barely focus on finishing a sentence, let alone driving. Maybe Adam was right…

‘I’m going to get a shower,’ she said. ‘Then we’ll talk, okay?’

*

Adam settled Faolan in a pile of spare blankets he found in the wardrobe. Probably not what they were for, but they hadn’t exactly had time to go shopping for pet supplies. Just the lead and a few cans of food that Adam had picked up while waiting for Ava to fill the car.

That done he went to get his bag of clothes. He’d been wearing his current outfit for two days now and he itched to be out of it, into something clean. Stripping off his trousers and jacket, peeling the t-shirt from his body, he pulled on the pyjama top he’d packed so he didn’t have to feel quite so… exposed.

Kissing was one thing, but living together? It was a big jump, and it made Adam feel shaky and nervous just thinking about it. He lay on the bed, sinking into it.

As long as Ava was next door, in the shower, he didn’t have to worry about it. She was a girl, she’d be there for a while.

Naked.

The thought popped unbidden into his mind, and Adam felt himself blushing deep red, despite the fact there was neither anyone there to witness, or anyone who could hear the thought.

But maybe she could hear… she could do a lot of other stuff no human being ought to have been able to…

Adam almost groaned aloud at the thought, instead rolling over and pressing his face into the pillow.

The pillow on the double bed.

Adam nearly bolted out of the bed to hide in the corner. Why hadn’t he thought of that when he asked for a room? Why hadn’t he booked a twin room? Did Ava think he had some sort of agenda? An expectation?

The thought made Adam’s stomach so full of butterflies he felt sick. He was about to get up when Ava opened the bathroom door, towelling her hair dry, wearing modest, but close fitting pyjamas.

‘Can I turn the light off?’ she asked. ‘It’s making my eyes ache.’

She didn’t wait for him to answer, flicking the switch so the room was only lit by a small lamp on Adam’s bedside table.

She threw her clothes in a pile on the floor, returning to the bathroom to get rid of her towel, then climbed into bed beside him. Adam’s heart stuttered, and he was sure he gave a little gasp, though Ava didn’t appear to notice. She pulled the duvet up to her neck, sighing with relief as she relaxed into the bed.

‘You were right,’ she said. ‘I needed this. Sorry.’

She snuggled up next to him, running a hand across his chest. Adam felt himself freeze up, his limbs locking in position. Ava pulled back from him, pushing herself upright.

‘Sorry, forgot my hair’s wet.’

Even in the soft lamp light, her face appeared to glow. Adam released a ragged breath and shook his head.

‘It wasn’t that,’ he said.

‘Then what?’

In answer, he pressed his lips lightly against hers, touching her face with a trembling hand. He kissed her again, sinking with her into the bed, shaking so much, there was no way she hadn’t noticed.

She ran her delicate fingers through his hair, a motion that made Adam weak at the knees most of time time. Lying down that wasn’t a problem, but there were plenty of others – like the way her body was so close to his, only the thin material of her pyjamas between him and her skin. Or his arm that wasn’t caressing her face. What did you do with it? It was pinched up against his chest at the moment and he feared if he moved it he would accidentally touch her in a way he hadn’t done before.

He was concentrating so hard on this dilemma that the kiss lost momentum, and Ava broke away from him, snuggling into his chest, still so close that Adam was aware of every inch of his own skin, and hers.

‘We need to talk,’ she said, ‘about what happened before, and what we’re going to do next.’

‘I know,’ Adam managed to squeeze out of his too-tight throat. ‘I’d like to have a clue what’s going on.’

Ava’s laugh was more a sharp breath, but it tickled across his chest. He felt himself freezing up again, panicked.

‘Uh, Ava? I, uh, I don’t know… I…’ He scowled at himself. ‘This is ridiculous. Your mother is some kind of freaky vampirish creature who wants to kill me and my family, but it’s you who makes me nervous. I can hardly breathe when you’re this close. I want to… I want to never stop holding you. Sorry, I’m being cheesy. What I’m trying to say, I think, is that whatever you have to talk to me about. Whatever you have to tell me. I can handle it. I promise. Ava?’

Adam twisted his neck to look at her face. She was fast asleep, tiredness overcoming even her stubbornness. She looked utterly peaceful. And beautiful. It brought a smile to his face, a feeling of content and peace washing over him, and he stopped feeling so anxious.

‘Alright then, tomorrow it is,’ he said, gently manoeuvring her so she was lying beside him. Wrapping her up in his arms, burying his face in her hair, Adam inhaled her warm scent through the sharp citrus of her shampoo and gave into his own exhaustion.

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