Echo studied her hair in the rearview mirror of Hawke’s truck. He hadn’t done too badly cutting it, and it hadn’t taken her long to add a few finishing touches with the scissors. The change was simple, yet drastic enough she barely recognized herself. A sense of exhilaration played at the edges of her nerves. In a long sleeved blouse and oversized shades, Trey could pass her on the sidewalk and not have a clue who she was.
She closed her eyes behind the shades and leaned against the headrest. Hawke had parked alongside a row of rat palms and walked a block and a half to a drab, unassuming ranch house that looked like all the others in the neighborhood.
She took a deep breath and remembered the feeling of his hands. The way he’d caressed her skull that morning had put a slow storm inside her mind. The reality of how much she was relying on his help to disappear should have been at odds with the sense of impending freedom that curled around her like an aura. But it wasn’t.
It had been a long time since she’d thought trusting anyone, especially a man, was a good idea. In the beginning, her trust depended on a backpack full of cash, but when she discovered he’d given it back, everything rolled upside down. Whether he’d meant it that way or not, the gesture made it feel like he’d taken a willing step inside her personal conspiracy.
Trust was like an old pair of shoes that didn’t fit when they were new, but after you walked around inside them for a while they take on the shape of your feet. Echo had slipped them on without thinking and now she was getting ready to make the run of her life in them.
She wasn’t sure when she really fell over to trusting Hawke. It wasn’t any single thing she could name. There wasn’t any single moment. The way he’d cum had almost even frightened her. Something had come over him she’d never seen before. She remembered feeling the stark sensation his soul had shaken loose somehow and left his body to hover over them and watch. Everything else he was made of had poured molten down her throat.
She felt the shapeless pieces floating inside her.
His hands had slipped off the sides of her face to her shoulders and he guided her up to her feet. He’d started to wash her body, wetting her down with the nozzle and lathering her with his bare, soapy hands. His hands had been firm but careful, and she’d started to feel like a piece of sculpture being shaped an artisan’s hands.
He’d touched her without shame or apology, gliding slippery palms over her aching breasts, down the split between the spheres of her ass, between her smooth thighs, fingers brushing the awakening lips of her pussy. She’d bent forward, a long, deep sigh escaping her as her feet spread wider.
His left arm had curled around her body, holding her steady as she opened to him. Reaching more deeply between her legs, his fingers sank into the meat of her upper thighs. He scrubbed and massaged her, tucking her body tighter into his, leaning over until his face was against her neck. She felt his breath hitting her skin while his fingers slid through the swarming heat of her pussy, digging along her furrow and drawing a bead of her own moisture up over her bud.
He kept whispering “Echo” as he massaged her leaking slit. He put his lips against her damp neck and kept saying it as if he’d been forming complete sentences out of her name. He made it sound natural, as if had been her name all along.
His arm clasped more tightly around her, trapping her breasts under his tensed muscles while two fingers slid inside her, pushing and pulling as the motion of his lips against her neck changed from her whispered name to hungry kisses. Soon his fingers searched out the swelling of her clit. She turned her face in a needful reflex to kiss, but she could never turn far enough as he gripped her even more tightly, holding her until she could barely move except to grind against the thick finger pads mashing circles over her throbbing nub.
He never stopped, until her body shuddered in his hold, quivering against him while waves of intoxication undulated through her core. His cock was beginning to swell against her hip, but he never made a move except to hold her upright and swirl his fingers in constant motion over the breaking synapses in her clit.
This kiss against her neck turned back into a whisper of her name.
His cock was rippling with heat against her hip, but he never moved except to hold her tighter.
“Don’t you wanna fuck?” she asked, confused and a little irritated by his restraint.
“I don’t think I can help you very well if we fuck,” he said. “No one knows as well as I do what you’re breaking free of. I want to make sure you get where you really need to go.”
“The male of any species always protects the animal he’s fucking,” she said, her breath almost back to normal.
“Yeah,” Hawke agreed, “it’s just that it never seems to go that smoothly with human beings.”
She wanted to turn her face and be kissed, but she didn’t know if he was ready to feel her tears against his scar.
In five years, Trey had only made her cum once by accident. Even the dope hazed cluster fucks he supposedly put on for his friends were really all about him in the end. He was a vortex of psychotic self-absorption. His leering sycophants were no better, and it had always been up to her to look out for her own need to release. She took care of herself. She always had.
Later, when she went back to the trailer to change and found the money on her bunk, she had to sit down and let it all settle. She kept wanting to ask about it the whole ride into the city, but there didn’t seem much point in it.
It’s hard not to ask the questions you already have the answers to.
She thought back on the story Hawke had told her about her new name. Maybe Echo never really disappeared. Maybe it had only seemed that way because Narcissus didn’t have the vision to see her. Maybe she would tell it that way if the occasion ever arose.
She startled back into the moment when Hawke was suddenly jumping back in the truck. He tossed a slip of paper into her lap with numbers written on it and started the engine. He drove out of the neighborhood too fast for the short, residential blocks they were driving through.
“What’s this?”she asked, picking up the paper.
“Your second birth,” he said. “New social security number. That’s your ticket to everything.”
She silently thumbed through the sheaf of doctored cards and computer printouts.
“DW was with us all in prison,” Hawke went on. “Hacking charges. All that took him less than an hour. You’ll need to report stolen license and credit cards, and then you’ll get authentic ones, but you’ll be in all those systems. There’s a birth certificate for Echo James on record now in Cincinatti, and that’ll be enough to get you a legal passport.”
She nodded. “Echo James?” she said curiously as she read the name and number on the slip. “So that’s me, now, huh?”
Hawke kept driving faster. The muscles in his jaw were tensing, and Echo was still trying to decide how to ask the question when he went ahead and answered.
“Something’s up with The Monk. We’re going to have to step up the schedule.”
Hawke put his driving in check. Echo was nervous enough. She was rubbing her arm where the tattoos lay under her blouse. There was a cast of pensive determination on her face, and Hawke realized it was her way of looking worried. Two or three miles outside the main spoke of the village, Hawke pulled off the road onto sand half packed down by cars.
They were surrounded by an open valley spotted with scrub, and a few yards ahead of the truck stretched a huge, iron sculpture of a Chinese serpent dragon. There was a rusty, rough intricacy about it, with a massive head and a long row of arches stretching out behind as if its long body were slithering through the sand. It stretched half the length of a football field, and it was so bizarre and impressive a thing to find in such a place it almost erased the sudden news the worst part of Echo’s past was threatening to catch up with her before she’d even had a chance to escape it completely.
Hawke shut off the engine and mused over whether or not to tell her what DW had told him while setting up her new life, but it would have been redundant. She already knew. She was trying not to look at him as he sat drumming his fingers on the wheel. She put her hands in her lap and started doing something fretful with them.
“What is this?” she asked, allowing herself a brief distraction with the dragon.
“This local guy. Makes these things and puts them out here in the desert.”
She nodded as if it all made sense. He wondered if he should bother telling her it was a mistake to trust him more than he trusted himself, but he kept quiet. His eyes drifted to the filigree of ink on her hip where the cutoffs didn’t cover it all. He was aware of her watching his face as he studied the design. He reached across the seat and touched her decorated skin.
He suddenly realized he didn’t wonder what she’d be made of wrapped around a crisis anymore. It was what he’d been seeing in her ever since she’d arrived, but he knew she was still wondering as much about herself. Then he remembered that moment of grace in the way she’d crumpled in his arms through the shudders of her orgasm that morning. It was her body that collapsed, he who held her up, yet he was the one who broke inside.
“I can get ‘em changed,” she said, laying her fingers over his as they traced the lines and colors in her skin.
He shook his head. “When I was watching you yesterday from under the willow tree it was one of the first things I thought. You struck me as an impossible thing to hide. Like you were vibrating off the deep end. But since then…I’ve seen the way you look around and take it all in…like if you were decorating a room you’d put all the furniture inside it first before you started moving it around.”
She was looking away from him. Out her window at the dragon’s tail.
“You’re like a raven now,” he kept going. “Yeah, you’re worried, and you should be, but you know there’s always a way through things.”
“Yeah,” she said out the window. “Long as you find it in time.”
“That’s the thing about ravens,” he told her. “They always seem to figure it out.”
The tattooed part of her skin felt warmer than the rest somehow. She pressed his fingers deeper into her flesh.
“They say ravens mate for life,” she said. “But I don’t know how they can know things like that. Not for sure.”
He was quiet a moment longer. “I don’t think you should do anything to change the tattoos,” he finally said. She started to say something but then didn’t. “Yeah yeah, I know. They’re like the flag of your whole life. And I’m supposed to tell you to change them. Wear clothes that cover them up. I’m supposed to teach you how to change everything, down to the way you talk and move. But I don’t want to. The more I know you the less I want to see you change into something else.”
She turned her face back into the cab and looked at him with embers in her eyes.
“Most people who come to me need changing to begin with…but you…you’re like this Maori warrior princess, all inked up to be more beautiful and fearsome.
“Thing about Trey…he’s no more or less than a rattlesnake. Step in his nest and he’ll strike, but get him too far out of his comfort zone then all he can do is hiss and writhe until something bigger or smarter puts him out of everyone’s misery.
“Just keep moving,” he said. “Trey will never make it as far as you will.” He stopped a moment and took a breath. “I don’t know what else to say. I can’t remember when I’ve said this much all to one person.”
She leaned across the cab of the truck and put her lips to his scar. They never pursed into a full kiss – just touched him – light and warm. His palm slid to the inside of her thigh, and a light rush of her breath blew across the signature Trey had left on his face. He thought about the way breath was nothing but air you pull down inside your body only to push it back out along with a little bit of whatever you’re made of. He closed his eyes and dug his fingers into the stingy meat of her thigh.
“I think I knew that,” she said, laying her head onto his hard shoulder. “It’s not really Trey I’m running this hard from. It’s me.”
They sat in silence a moment or two, just looking out at the big, rusty dragon head. The tips of his fingers slid under the frayed hem of her cutoffs, just at the edge of her panties underneath. It felt like vibrant heat was pouring off her skin.
“He probably knows The Monk sent you here by now,” he said. “The sooner you go the better.”
Her face turned into his shoulder. “We won’t have enough time, will we?”
All the possible things there wouldn’t be enough time for hung in the air – memories that would never get off the ground.
“No,” he said, “but you don’t have time for any unfriendly confrontations, either.”
“What about you? What if he comes looking for me?”
“Your business with Trey is finished. I can explain it to him in a way he’ll understand.”
Desert wind was blowing fine dust through the tall, rusty arches of the dragon’s body. Echo’s face moved against his shoulder while her hand came to rest on his thigh.
“Do you think people are the sum total of everything they do?”
“Almost never,” he said. “We’re supposed to believe actions speak louder than words, but it’s a person’s thoughts that trump it all. People do all kinds of things, but what’s inside doesn’t always align with whatever’s on the outside. Whatever somebody does…what they’re really made of can be a lot more or less than it looks like.”
“Even psychopaths and whores?”
“You mean like you and Trey?”
She nodded against his shoulder without lifting her face.
“Especially psychopaths and whores,” he said.
“Sure,” she replied with weak conviction. “Is that your party line for all the whores you help escape their own catastrophes?”
Hawke sighed and shifted his weight, bringing his hand up from her thigh and gripping a firm but careful handful of her hair. He guided her head toward the rearview mirror, leaning in close so both sets of eyes were reflecting back from the rectangle of glass.
“Everything I do is bullshit,” he said. “No one can ever teach you how to be someone else. No one can make you into anything you’re not already made of. But if you think someone like Trey treating you like a whore makes you a whore then you’re wrong.”
Her eyes were darting back and forth between his and her own in the mirror. “What if that’s all I am?”
He tightened his grip on her hair and leaned them both closer to the mirror. “Look at her,” he said, staring into the reflection of her eyes. “Can you look at her and believe that? Can you look in those eyes and say it out loud?”
An indefinable sense of longing pushed against Hawke’s chest from inside as he watched moisture and shadows wrestle back and forth in Echo’s eyes. A brief tremor passed through her body and she turned her head down and shook it. She turned away, and he got out of the truck to give her the moment to grieve alone.
He walked toward the massive, rusty dragon’s head, standing more than twice his height where it rose up out of the sand. Five arches stretched out behind it, with a massive, iron tail jutting up out of the sand on the other side of the road. Hawke suddenly remembered it was the year of the dragon, and he estimated Echo had probably been born in another dragon year.
Live or die, it looked like it was going to be her year after all.
He sat down in the shade under the big head and leaned back against the dragon’s wide throat. Nothing ever seemed urgent under the desert sun, never until it got low and the burn of day flipped over and turned to pure chill. The chill was hours away, but Echo’s time was already here.
DW’s message from The Monk hadn’t really come from The Monk. Too many questions about Echo and Hawke weren’t right. DW had agreed with Hawke, that Trey had likely caught up with him in the trailer where he lived and did his business in information and introductions. Echo would have found out about The Monk through Trey, and even she had to have known it would only be a matter of time before he knew which way she’d turned. It would have been better if it had taken him longer to find out, though.
Hawke was only slightly worried about The Monk. Even Trey wasn’t crazy enough to kill him – not when all his prison sons like Hawke and DW were paying attention – but what he was capable of doing to Echo given the chance wasn’t an option.
She had to go. Hawke would wait, and when Trey showed up looking for her, they’d finish the business that had begun in prison years before. He would bury Trey under the willow where he meditated. He’d sit on the grave of the only true enemy he’d ever had and breathe his way into moments of grace. It wouldn’t matter what color Echo dyed her hair.
Hawke watched her cry in the truck. She was a living thing about to break into blossom, and she was rubbing off on him. For the first time since he could remember, a curiosity about love had settled down inside the meat of himself, and all he could do about it now was mourn.
Echo watched him lean his head back against the dragon and close his eyes. She wiped her own with the backs of her hands and got out of the truck. When she got close, he looked up and reached for her hand, pulling her down to sit with him in the sand. She followed his hand down in a natural gesture, sinking onto the sand between his legs and leaning back against his body. He was wider and harder than she was. It felt like a familiar place to be.
Hawke’s chest moved against her body with his breath. His chin came to rest on the top of her head while his hands laced across her belly. She thought about the look on his face when he’d gotten back in the truck at DW’s. The urgency was clear in his eyes without having to say the first word. She’d known. Her stomach had rolled over with dread, knowing she would have to run before she was ready.
Sitting as they were, nothing seemed urgent in the moment. Hawke seemed to just flow around her, the way it had felt that morning behind his house after he’d washed her hair. It was disorienting to feel embraced through a harrowing time.
His chin moved and settled onto her shoulder, bringing the side of his face the scar was on next to hers. The sensation of strength flowing into her from the cradle of his body lit up a sense of the strength already inside her.
“It’s getting late,” she said, watching the shadows of the cholla cacti grow long. “You’re gonna tell me to leave tonight, aren’t you?”
“It’s better for you.”
“Maybe.” She raked her fingertips over the backs of his knuckles. “But there’s so much left to do. I’m still not sure how to become Echo James.”
“Then don’t. Let Echo become you.”
She sighed and pressed his hands against her belly. “Too bad you don’t teach people how to become themselves. That’s what I’d really like, but something always seems to get in the way. Like me, myself and I.”
His body swelled and deflated with a long, deep breath. Fingers unlaced and opened the button on her cutoffs, tracing the delicate edge of the panties underneath.
“There’s more of you in here than you think.”
“Didn’t you ever just want to reinvent yourself and disappear – do it for yourself like you do for other people?”
“I can’t get out of prison,” he said. “It wouldn’t matter.”
The ends of his fingers slid beneath the waistband of her panties and she wrapped her hands around each of his wrists.
“Did you know when you move you make me think of running water?”
“Don’t say it,” he told her. “Not out loud. Not now. In a few more hours you’ll be gone.”
“Gone.” A word half made of breath.
Hawke’s left hand made a hard crawl up the front of Echo’s body until he was gripping the base of her throat. The fingers of his right walked deeper into her panties. Walking and raking. Curling down over the curvature of her silken lips. She began to ache and flush.
“You’re already gone,” Hawke rasped against her ear. “You’re beyond the reach of men like Trey and me.”
“You wouldn’t say that if you’d ever seen…”
“So you say,” he cut her off.
A thick length of hard finger burrowed with soft insistence along the valley between her nether lips, laying into the rising core of heat. The finger curled into her yielding nest while the hand at her throat tightened its grip.
A barely perceptible tremor passed through his body. Echo felt surrounded by waves of anguish harbored too long inside him, gathering force to burst out in a sudden shower of burning ions. The gentle grind of the finger inside her was turning her core into a knot of impossible longing. Digging circles. Blood shifting gears in her veins. The hand around her throat pulled her back, pinning her tightly. She squirmed slightly – not in protest of his grip, but to feel it deepen against her skin.
“How many times have you turned new again today?” he asked.
She closed her eyes and arched against the dig of his finger. It felt as if her body heat was pouring into his hand while she thought back on the notion of her cells changing over every minute. His hand released her throat and gripped the open edge of the blouse she’d put on to hide her tattoos. He pulled, ripping it open as the buttons popped off one by one.
“I want you to tell me something,” he said, his hand grazing over the smooth swell of breast billowing up from the cup of her bra. “Think hard. In all your time with Trey…through all his little salon cluster fucks and sideshows…did you ever kiss him?”
His hand shifted to the other breast, slipping under the cup to grasp her warm flesh. His finger kept rolling over her billowing clit, and instead of making it hard to think straight, an unusual sense of clarity settled over her. The last five years came back to her in a flash of pristine images. For the hundreds of times she’d sucked Trey’s cock – or those of his cartoon hangers on – for the times she’d dragged her tongue over their acrid bodies – the times her lips had been smeared with spunk or somebody’s girlfriend’s pussy juice and Trey had kissed her like a terminal patient taking treatments without hope for a cure – she’d never once kissed back.
She started to laugh, but both of Hawke’s hands clutched harder and the snicker dissolved into a gasp.
“I thought so,” he said.
She reached up and touched the side of his face as she turned her head to him. He was grinning in his eyes but not on his mouth. She gave him a moment to kiss her, but he held back, his finger grinding agonizing circles around her clit while her nipple throbbed under the rolling pinch of his other hand. She angled her head and kissed him, pinning his broad lips with hers the way she’d been thinking about since watching him eat steak the night before.
It was as if his mouth had been waiting for her to realize taking and be taken were the same thing. She kissed him hard and his lips opened along with hers. Their tongues converged in swirls and his hand slipped out of her bra cup to the back of her head. She felt her breath flow from her body into his while he uttered a gasp that sounded like a backward moan.
Somewhere in the middle of it all, his finger slowed and the raw statement of the kiss became a somber dance of shared hunger. Hawke drew his hand from under her panties and backed away from her mouth while he smeared the honey from his finger across her lips. Echo barely had the moment to taste herself before he took her lips back with a voracious growl that rattled out of his throat into her mouth.
His cock was forming into a rigid bulge inside his pants that nudged Echo’s body as she sat tucked against his crotch. Her torso was twisted toward him as she leaned into the kiss, but she reluctantly eased away from his mouth and turned around to face him. Kneeling inside the span of sand between his legs, she quickly scanned the road as she pulled off her blouse and unhooked her bra.
“I thought I forgot what it’s like to kiss someone back,” she said.
“You kissed me first.” He was looking at her as if the door behind his eyes that had only been ajar had blown wide open.
“No,” she said. “You just didn’t use your mouth until now.”
She was squinting. On her knees in the sand but upright and tall for where she was. Hawke reached forward and slid the bra down her arms. She glanced again at the road and folded her arms under her breasts, her tight nipples peering at him from the ridge of her forearms.
He watched her eyes drift down to the straining bulge of his cock while he unbuttoned and unzipped his pants. He pushed them down his legs, letting his stiff shaft snap out and up against the taut flatness of his belly. There was a longing in her eyes that somehow reached beyond where she could see. There was a hunger in the shadows of her countenance.
He curled his fist around the fat girth of his cock and slowly dragged up and then down, her eyes following the gesture.
“I find myself not caring about things that used to matter. Must be running for your life does that to you,” she said.
She got to her feet and opened her cutoffs. They slid down her legs and she stepped out of them. She stepped toward Hawke and he pulled his legs together as she planted her feet on either side. From the angle of his seat against the base of the dragon’s throat, the shaven pout of her pussy stung him like the memory of every good thing he’d ever ruined and never had the chance to put right again.
He couldn’t bring himself to lift his eyes to her breasts. He knew she was kneading them with her hands now, tweezing her nipples to a puffy, rose-like crimson. He thought of the way they’d looked that morning when he washed her hair. He stroked his yearning cock and swallowed down the dryness in his throat.
“It’s not the running. It’s the thought you’ve probably wasted more time than you’ve still got coming.”
She lowered herself down on his legs, straddling him close to his waist. She put her hand over the hand stroking his cock and pressed his shaft against her mound. He pulled his hand away and let the feel of her hot skin on the underbelly of his cock sift into the flow of his blood. She fit inside the stream and flowed through him.
He reached for her breasts – smooth, pliant things that almost seemed separate from the rest of her until he rolled her nipples hard in his fingers and she let her breath catch the bottom half of a moan. She arched her hips and smeared the dampening furrow of her slit along the length of his cock, her fingers spanning down the spine side of his shaft.
“Remember what you said?” he asked. “About the male of any species…”
“…always protects the animal he’s fucking. Yeah. You said it never goes smoothly with humans.”
“Yeah…but I find myself not caring.” He ground his cock against her lacquered slit, her hands grinding and rolling his shaft in the nest of her petals. “I keep trying to think of how I can tell you you’re more than whatever Trey spent those years training you to see. More than agonizing lips and narcotic sinew and flesh. But the only way I can see through to saying it right is to bury myself so deep inside you the words don’t matter. Some things you can only say with your skin.”
“Then say it.” She pushed the oozing tip of his cock into the scalding gap of her maw. “Fucking say it.”
Hawke released his clawing grip on her breasts and reached for her shoulders, pulling her down as she corkscrewed her hips, enveloping his hunger swollen cock into the swirling darkness of her core. It was a hard position for thrusting, so they made do just rocking their hips in counterpoint. It wasn’t so much that he was fucking her, but stirring her from inside. The jagged rushes of breath in and out of her body began to sound like anguished sobbing. Her breasts quivered with her tiny heaves, leaving Hawke in a state of abject despair. She was running for a life he would never be part of.
He circled his arms around her body and held her so tightly against him she whimpered from the center of his desperate grip. He pressed the scarred side of his face against the flawed perfection of her breasts – not small enough, not big enough – nipples that couldn’t decide how pink to be.
He was holding her like he was the one who’d break into pieces if he ever let go. She laced her fingers through his hair, clutching his face tighter to her breasts as she sobbed and rolled her hips against his pulsing cock in voracious figure eights. Suddenly he felt the smooth mounds of her breasts go wet and realized the moisture was pouring out of his eyes. He uttered a strangled howl and shoved his body upward, not thrusting so much as lifting her up with his hips.
A red tailed hawk circling overhead answered him. A silent vulture circled another part of the sky ignoring them. They were too much alive to be worth a damn.
Hawke’s left arm held on tight enough for both of them as he pushed his right hand between their bodies and sought out the scarlet pearl at the apex of her slit. He mashed against the tiny, wet bundle of nerves with the pad of his thumb. Growls caught in his throat as he pressed and rolled and mashed her clit while she hugged herself against his disfigured face and shuddered. Her hips rocked harder but lost the flow of the rhythm they’d had before.
Hawke’s body kept trying to jerk and lunge but he could barely move between Echo’s writhing and the unyielding iron dragon behind him. Under the grinding circles of his thumb, it felt as if she were rippling like a tide of pollinated heat inside. Her lithe body jerked hard against him and she cried out sharply when he clamped her nipple in his teeth.
When the rocking spasms in her body subsided, she leaned back and held him by the shoulders. He pulled up a fistful of hair at the base of her skull with his left hand and drew her face in close. He kissed her in a synchronous blossoming of lips and rolling tongues. She raised herself higher on her knees, allowing him the freedom to move underneath her. Kicking his pants the rest of the way off, he pulled his feet up and guided her backward onto the sand.
Neither his tongue nor cock completely withdrew from her through the shifting movements. He was pinning her to the hot sand with his body – her hair still gripped in his fist – his broiling cock deeply embedded inside her while her smooth thighs formed a circle around his waist.
The long, hard kiss gradually transformed into a chain of smaller, softer ones. Hawke drew backward, bringing his cock out into the air until the blunt dome was poised inside the lacquered kiss of her sex lips. Dry, desert heat prickled against his ass and balls, and he waited, feeling the gentle grind of her pussy as she taunted him to hammer himself back home.
He leaned down and put his lips to the hollow at the base of her throat. She tasted slightly of salt and residual perfume. He pursed his lips halfway into a kiss, but let his tongue reach for her skin. His lips and tongue slid up her neck and over the curve of her jaw. When his lips were close to her ear, he began to glide his aching cock back down the hot, wet channel into her body.
“I’ll walk you to any border you want to go,” he whispered. “You won’t have to go that far alone.”
She touched the back of his head and rolled her hips while he drew backward and thrust again, harder this time.
He drew back and thrust hard. “I don’t know how not to.”
He began to rock his shaft in long, sweeping lunges through the slick heat of her living core. He tightened the grip of his fist in her hair without pulling, just holding her there against the sand. The slightest rocking motion of her hips felt like the roll of an incoming tide. He wasn’t thrusting so much but grinding and twisting the hard spine of cock deep inside her while he nibbled and lapped her damp, saline neck.
It would’ve been wrong to think she was coming to life underneath him – she was born alive and had never been anything less. She was looking at him with her head half turned away, with a delirious drive in the eyes blazing back at him. Her whimper-cries turned to gasps bottlenecked in her throat.
“I don’t…want to stop…don’t stop walking,” she half choked.
Hawke drove himself into her with grinding pumps. Wet slaps of his body onto the undulating pad of her flesh and bone. He kissed her with a long, deep, probing hunger. Then he let go of her hair and planted his fists knuckle deep in the sand on either side of her head. He rose up on straight arms, pivoting on his knees as he began to rock his stalk in and out of her body’s wet clutch. A bead of sweat rolled along his scar.
Echo’s hips started to undulate to the fluid lunging of Hawke’s straining body. The way she winced and her throat caught on paralyzed breath struck him in the center of his chest. Somehow, in the shroud of abject hunger enveloping him, threads of peace and clarity ran through the same fabric. It was the kind of feeling he caught just a few minutes at a time when he sat under his willow tree and followed the method The Monk had taught him back in prison.
Motion and sweat. Dying desert sun. Circling predators screeching in the sky. A woman out of nowhere cupping the last unbroken piece of his soul in the cradle of her damp thighs. She was flowing like a river flowing through itself.
He needed to show her a snapshot of grace and survival in the hard hours before the great showdown between this life and the next. But she was rippling like a tropical storm inside and he was pounding his flesh through the eye. The tendons in her delicate neck tensed as she wailed in hunger and release – her voice piercing the silence of the vultures above. She balled her fists and beat against his arms and shoulders while her hips and pussy went spasmodic. Her gasping went staccato to the tense convulsions of her body.
Hawke arched his spine until the sun was hitting his wet face. He closed his eyes and felt the electric rush of cum crash through his cock into Echo and swore he was melting into her bloodstream.
She was still gripping his taut arms when he slowly lowered himself toward her. Leaning his weight onto his elbows, he buried his face in her neck. Her fingers dragged lightly across the back of his head.
Lying in the jagged shadow of the dragon’s head, Hawke couldn’t speak, but he knew he didn’t have to. When he kissed her throat, it wasn’t so much to love her as to pull the taste of her skin into his mouth.
They showered behind the house, but there was an urgency to move they hadn’t had to worry about that morning.
Hawke led Echo naked and dripping into the backdoor. The sky was turning colors she’d never seen before. Improbable cobalts and shades of scarlet she thought lava would look like.
In his bedroom, she fished through her pack for something fresh to wear. Blue jeans and a simple floral blouse with short sleeves. She didn’t worry about hiding her tattoos anymore. She was going to wear them as long as forever would last in her case.
Hawke pulled on jeans and a T shirt. He opened a panel in the floor of his closet and pulled out a black, nylon bag. He tossed it on the bed next to the bag of cash he’d given back to her. When he unzipped it she could see it was full of cash, but when he fished through it he pulled out a small bundle of passports bound with a rubber band. He flipped through them, pocketing one and stuffing the others back in the bag with the cash.
He scanned the room, looking like he was trying to decide something, but he finally turned toward her and paused. He seemed focused but calm.
“Is there anything left in the trailer you need?”
She looked at him and then the bag of cash she’d brought with her. Now it had the papers DW had forged in it, too. She shook her head. Hawked nodded, satisfied.
He stood and picked up both bags of cash while she shouldered a small duffel with a few changes of clothes for each of them. Everything they had was in one place.
“Let’s do it,” he said, and she followed him outside.
There was a row of Molotov cocktails standing on the hood of her BMW. She handed him the duffel, and he threw it along with the cash into the cab of his truck. She got a disposable lighter out of the car, and leaving the door open, started lighting the wicks in the bottles of gas he’d syphoned out of her tank. She was on the third one by the time she felt him come up against her side.
He stood in silence while she finished lighting the wicks. She wanted to ask him if he was sure he wanted to do this, but she already knew the answer. He grabbed the first bottle and whipped it through the open door of the trailer. The glass shattered and the fuel burst into flame.
He threw another one into the trailer, then five in through the open door of the house. She walked toward his truck while he heaved the last two through the open window of her car. Everything behind him was burning as he walked toward the truck.
Standing in front of her, he touched her face and met her eyes head on. “It won’t throw him off for long, but it ought to be long enough for us.”
She felt herself smile, and he put his arms around her and tucked her inside him. She silently noted the way he’d said us, then something popped somewhere in one of the fires. Gasoline and propane tanks would start exploding before long. She felt a deep, calm breath fill his powerful body and then seep back out. Then he kissed the side of her mouth, walked around to the other side of the truck and got in. He had the engine running before she pulled the door closed on her side.
He took it slowly down the slope back toward the desert road. She watched him keep checking the rearview mirror as the fires grew but faded in the distance behind them.