When Brandon had moved far enough away to satisfy Greg, he stepped forward and dug the fingers of his free hand into my upper arm, jerking me into his side. As soon as I was pressed against him, his arm moved, wrapping around my throat and trapping me in the crook of his elbow, the sinew of his forearm tightening against my windpipe threateningly. His other hand moved and then, horrifically, the barrel of the gun was pressed firmly against the underside of my jaw, digging in painfully.

“NO!” Brandon shouted, unable to stay silent any longer. “Please, just let her go. I’ll go with you instead, or you can just get out of here. Just leave and we’ll make sure you’re never found. Just leave us alone, leave Chloe alone. Don’t do this…”

He was pleading and I hated it. I hated that I brought this to them, that this was my fault. I knew it as certainly as I took my next breath, difficult though it was. But I also knew that I was going to do everything in my power to make this disappear, even if it meant sacrificing myself, my happiness, to do so.

Greg laughed, the sound grating on my ears. He jiggled me in his arms. “You hear that? He’s wanting me to trade him for you. He’s such a dumbass, Chloe. What the fuck did you see in him?” His mouth went slack and he said, mockingly in a high-pitched, whiny voice, “No, please Mr. Greg. Don’t hurt my pansy ass, Mr. Greg. I wanna suck your dick, Mr. Greg!”

His face tightened with rage once more. “You’re a fucking disgrace you piece of shit! You don’t deserve my Chloe and you damn sure will never touch her again, you fucking fuckwad!” he screamed.

I choked as his arm tightened even more on my windpipe, cutting off all air. I struggled in his arms, seeing spots dance before my eyes. He jerked me around a bit, shaking me and yelling at me to knock it off, though his arm did loosen just enough so I could breathe.

“Don’t do anything stupid, douchebag. We’re leaving before the cops get here, so say goodbye to your precious sunshine,” he sneered.

He backed away from Brandon and Brian, pulling me along with him. We could hear sirens screaming through the air at this point and I dragged my feet, hoping to buy some time, but it didn’t help. He picked me up by my throat, uncaring that my fingers were clawing at his forearm locked around my neck. He just jammed the gun deeper under my chin, effectively stilling me when it cocked, the sound loud and echoing in my ear.

I stumbled along with him, my eyes never leaving Brandon, who was almost vibrating with rage and helplessness as I was dragged further and further away from him. Greg hit the door with his back and pushed it open. I could feel him tense, readying himself to turn and run in a bid to get away before either of two things happened; 1. The cops showed up, or 2. Brandon managed to get up and make it outside.

My feet dangled above the pavement as Greg lifted me by the throat again, running as fast as he could to a nondescript, older model car pulled along the side of the building. He wrenched the door open and released his arm, shoving me inside roughly. He turned the key, dropping the gun in his lap and reaching for me as I fell across the console into the passenger seat, my hand automatically going to the door handle.

He wrenched me up by my hair, jerking me back around as he threw the car into drive and punched the gas, never relinquishing his hold on my hair. Tires squealed as he peeled out of the parking lot, skidding sideways into the street. I was thrown into the door as the car fishtailed, my nails breaking as I scrabbled for the door handle again, but never made contact as I was thrown back across the car when the car shifted again.

I felt his hand release my hair and watched as he tossed a handful of golden strands into my lap. I became aware of a dull, stinging sensation on my head, but pushed it away as I reached for the door handle again. I grasped the cool medal in my hand and pulled desperately, a cry torn from my throat when I realized it was doing nothing.

A low, evil laugh sounded beside me. “Like I was really gonna be stupid enough to give you a way out. Stupid little cunt.”

I could hear the sirens of the police department, now following the erratic path of Greg’s driving. Somehow, though, he managed to make it to the highway, merging onto I-70 like he was driving a tank. I was jarred, thoroughly shook up, when he sideswiped a car in the right lane as he shot past it, but he managed to keep control and floored it.

I cowered in the seat while I watched the speedometer climb, passing 65, flying by 75, shooting straight to 90 in a flash. I eyed the gun, tucked just under his thigh on the seat. My fingers twitched and I clenched them in my lap.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Greg said, his tone menacing. “Grab for this gun and I promise you, I’ll break every single one of your fingers before I put you on your knees and shove my cock down your throat. I remember how much you liked that.”

A police cruiser paced us, lights blazing, sirens wailing, but made no move to get up around us. Greg huffed. “Goddamn asshole, fucking calling the cops. Now look what we have to deal with.” He sighed and then, spying an exit, yelled, “Hold on!” as he wrenched the wheel to the right, laughing maniacally as I screamed in terror.

Horns blared and tires squealed but we managed to barrel onto the exit ramp and down it without hitting anyone or anyone hitting us. I closed my eyes and tried to block everything out, almost willing the car to roll or something, anything to make it all stop. I didn’t care about my own safety anymore; I just cared about stopping Greg once and for all.

We got to the bottom of the ramp and skidded sideways as Greg took a left; thankfully, there were no cars around for the moment. He sped up and I opened my eyes to peek at where we were. I saw a park coming up on the right and Greg must have, too.

“Oh, well. Guess this is where it’ll play out, won’t it, sweetheart?” he leered, glaring at me as he wrenched the wheel of the car to the right and turned into the park at full speed.

The car fishtailed again and he lost control, spinning out, around and around and around, dirt and dust and smoke billowing all around us until I couldn’t see. I braced myself as best I could, but it didn’t help. I was thrown around the car, my head cracking against the side window hard enough that I saw stars.

I moaned at the pain in my head, but there was nothing I could do about it at the moment. I was too busy trying to keep myself from flying all around the car. With one last, shuddering crash, the car came to rest, by the grace of God, on all four wheels, lodged up against the, thankfully, empty playground. I heard more tires spinning and squealing, the sound of the sirens blaring all around us making my head pound even worse. I could feel a sticky dampness trickling down my ear and neck, and I knew then that I’d busted my head pretty good on the window.

I heard a low groan beside me and saw Greg shaking his head. He didn’t look like he was injured. I glanced down, holding my breath when I saw that the gun was no longer tucked under his thigh. Suddenly, a loudspeaker squawked and an officer called out, calling Greg by name and telling him to exit the vehicle with his hands up.

“Mother fucker!” Greg shouted, punching the steering wheel. His eyes were wild, his breathing erratic. “Goddamn it!” He jerked his head toward me and pinned me with a narrow stare. “You know, you’re more fucking trouble than you’re worth. I should have just killed you the day I cut that bastard outta you. Thought I did. And now look where it’s got me.”

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