When the clouds opened up, it was a sudden downpour. Dylan held a hand over his eyes to shield them from the sheets of water that trickled over his forehead. He saw Taylor move the bag to her front and hunch over it, trying to protect the contents as much as possible.
“Look!” she called. He followed the direction her finger was indicating and saw a rusty car half-buried in the brush. He wouldn’t have noticed it if she hadn’t pointed it out.
“Come on.” The door nearest the embankment had been left ajar long ago, and scraggly strands of grass had grown through the gap where the window had once been. Taylor eased herself through it and climbed over to the driver’s seat.
The interior was as much of a ruin as the outside. All that remained of the seats was the metal frame and springs, the cloth having been stripped away or decayed. Bits of the foam padding still remained here and there. From the shredded piles on the floorboards, animals had once made their nests inside. Dylan hoped they weren’t still there as he dropped into the passenger seat with a sigh.
Outside, the rain pattered on the roof and sluiced down the filthy glass. Half the windshield was covered with vines, and Taylor’s door was buried nearly to the top. Only about an inch or so of glass was visible.
“Where to?” Taylor asked, gripping the wheel. She tried to turn it, but it was frozen in place. “Did you ever ride in one of these? I heard that people used to convert them to run on other fuels and drove them around for a while until they broke down for good. I even heard of one that ran on wood.”
“Wood?” Dylan laughed. “Really?”
“I don’t know how, but that’s what I heard.”
“No, I never rode in one. I rode on that train they rigged up to move the coal once. That was really fun.”
“Can you imagine?” Taylor leaned back against her seat. “What it must have been like . . . we could be in Martinville before sundown if—”
She stopped and her eyes widened. They both heard it. Shouts in the distance and the sound of pounding hooves. Taylor peeked out of the tiny clear spot on the window. Dylan crawled over beside her.
“It’s them.” Taylor’s words were unnecessary.
Two men on horseback appeared. The horses’ hair was slicked down to their skin by the rain, and their manes were plastered against their necks as they trotted down the road. The men on their backs were not in uniform or anything like that, but everything about them screamed the Nine, from the cruel curl of their lips to the scars that crossed any visible skin. One had his arm tattoos visible beneath the arm of his T-shirt, and at the lower portion of his bicep was a large number seven.
Beside him, Taylor sucked in a breath and went still as a rabbit hiding beneath brush, but the men did not slow. Like Dylan, they hadn’t noticed the half-buried car, and they galloped by without even a glance.
Taylor dropped her forehead against the steering wheel and closed her eyes as soon as they were gone. A tremor passed through her, and their bodies were pressed so close that Dylan felt it.
Dylan turned his head toward her, his lips only an inch or so away from her cheek. “We’re okay,” he told her.
“They’re headed to Martinville.”
He thought she was probably right, but his mind searched for any way to refute it.
“Do they know your name?” he asked.
“Probably. They could have described me to the others they took from our town. Somebody probably knew who I was.”
Damn. Dylan sat back and scraped a hand through his wet hair. “Are there any other towns we could head for?”
“Without supplies?” She shook her head. “We need food and clothing. We need weapons. We need . . .”
She continued to rattle off the things they needed, and that was pretty much everything, but what struck him was that she had said “we.”
DOMINION is volume four in the End of All Things series.