|Cover Art by BitterGrace|
Book 1 – Guarding Morgan
Book 2 – The Only Easy Day
Book 3 – Face Value
Book 4 – Still Waters
Book 5 – Full Circle
Book 6 – The Journal Of Sanctuary One
Book 7 – Worlds Collide
Book 8 – Accidental Hero
Book 9 – Ghost
Book 10 – By The Numbers
Jake spends every Christmas at Sanctuary One.
From a small child the cabin was home for his family in the special season, and with the third anniversary of his dad’s death approaching he arranges for Kayden, Beckett and himself to meet at the cabin a few days before Christmas. When a snowstorm means Kayden is blocked in NY with Beckett, Jake ends up in the cabin on his own.
Sean is being hunted and the only place he can run to is somewhere mentioned in an old journal – the original Sanctuary Cabin. The cabin is no longer in official use but it would be a good place to heal and take stock of just what the fuck is going on with his life.
Neither man is prepared for being stuck together for an entire week, nor for the secrets that threaten to get them both killed.
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Joyfully Jay – 5/5 – “….and The Journal of Sanctuary One brings the investigation back to its very beginnings, including something I didn’t see coming, and back to Jake Callahan whose father started the Sanctuary organization and who built Sanctuary One. The author really pulls together all the elements from each book, including some I didn’t realize were important, to finish off the Bullens once and for all. We get a closer understanding not only of who Jake is, and what has driven him all these years, but that of Sean Hansen, an enigma whose story we have been waiting to hear. Scott has included most of the characters we love from the other stories, even if we only see and hear them over the phones and Skype….”
Hearts on Fire Reviews – 4/5 – “….The range of emotions that both men feel are written beautifully in this very satisfying wrap up story. There was just enough of a future plan for Sanctuary itself that Ms Scott can write stand alone stories in the future. It was good to reconnect with many of the characters from previous books and to get a better feel for the man steering the entire project. This story is a must read for any fan of the Sanctuary series….”
Padmes Library – 5/5 – “….I found it to be a well written, character driven tale that is definitely worth reading. As I started out with, I think it should be read as one long story to get the sweeping effect of both the mystery and the love as well as the friendships that are explored….”
Mrs Condit & Friends Read Books – 4/5 – “….I was excited when I read there would be another book in the Sanctuary series. The Journal of Sanctuary One by R.J. Scott features Jake Callahan and Sean Hanson. The more books I’ve read in the series, the more I’ve wanted to read Jake’s story. As the leader of Sanctuary, I knew he was destined for love at some point. Seems authors always love to save the leaders for the end!….”
Heading north on I-87 gave Jake one hell of a long time to think. His mind went from cases, to allocating resources, to family and Sanctuary. The landscape outside the car, a blur of green and then concrete-gray, passed mile by mile and in his head he ticked off everything he needed to get out to think on. Maria would be good in Ops, she should move there. Manny and Josh needed to work up the next stage of the Bullen case, Joseph had left a message with Ops for Dale that he was coming home, and hell, Beckett had to have training if he wanted to think about working with Kayden.
“Earth to Jake.”
Think of the devil and he appears. Kayden’s cheerful voice was in his ear and interrupting his peace.
“Hey,” Jake offered. Indicating, he pulled out to pass a slow-moving logging truck, and then concentrated on settling back in his lane.
“Good news or bad news, bro?” Kayden said. Jake could feel his heart sink. He had seen the weather forecasts before he left; he knew what the bad news would be.
“Hit me all at once,” Jake sighed.
“We’re frozen in up here.” Kayden and Beckett were in New York, and the ice storm that preceded a predicted ten inch dump of snow was likely to cause chaos even in a city that was used to the white stuff. “I’m not seeing us getting out of here any time soon.”
“It’s not a problem,” Jake said. It wasn’t the first time the winter weather had delayed a visit to the cabin and it wouldn’t be the last. “I don’t want you driving even if they did get your roads open and clear.”
“Storm front is chasing your ass up north, Jake. You may wanna think about pulling off soon and finding the next Motel 6. Get yourself some luxury.”
Jake snorted at the mention of the infamous Motel 6. No way in hell was he going to be stopping off at one of those, not after the incident a few years back with the cockroach. Anyway there was no need to pull off. He didn’t need a sat nav to know exactly where he was. “I’m only ten miles to the turnoff.”
“Hell, you made it up the mountain already?” Kayden sounded surprised, but the journey so far had been smooth. One stop for coffee and indulging his weakness for chocolate and he had made good time.
“I’m assuming you’re not making it up for tomorrow then?”
“Sorry, Jake. All packed but there is no way we’re getting out today or tomorrow. We’ll try on the twenty-third.”
“Don’t worry about it, K, there’ll be a logjam on the roads out of the city. Stay where you are and have Christmas in New York with Beckett.” He looked in his rearview mirror and the ominous snow dumping cloud formation really was close. “Looks like the snow is herding me to the cabin.” He laughed although he didn’t really feel the humor.
He’d been snowed in at the cabin before. Many a family Christmas had been spent stuck in snowdrifts with no way down off the mountain. Just… this Christmas was only the third since his dad had died and selfishly he kind of wanted to have Kayden—and by extension, Beckett—with him. Having Kayden here would cement the memories he had of his mom and dad, Max and Emma, and he and his brother before everything ended so suddenly. His mom and dad dying in a plane crash in these mountains three years ago had stopped everything abruptly—as only death could.
“Good news though?” Kayden prompted gently. His soft words pierced through the memories of happier times.
“There’s good news?”
“Manny came through on the Senator Bullen case, pulled out some more content from the encrypted files.”
“What did he find?” Jake slowed on the main road off of I-87 and fishtailed slightly in a thin layer of snow and ice that had accumulated on the old road. The off-road SUV ate up the slippery and uneven road. Snow began to flake around him, light and soft and beautiful, each individual crystal wending its way down in a random fall blown by the soft wind. Of course it wouldn’t stay this way, but when the snow started it was a mesmerizing thing.
“There are files talking about the FBI: watch lists, connections, all kinds of things.” Kayden continued.
The Bullen case had ended for Sanctuary with the arrest of both Senator Bullen and his brother, Alastair. Well, officially it had ended. In fact Jake had given blanket approval to any and all outside work by his operatives on cracking the files or following up leads. He wasn’t the only one who was dissatisfied with how the case had been left. Too many links to nebulous other parties involved. Not least the FBI and Sean Hanson.
Jesus. Every time he thought of what Sean had done, double-crossing the FBI and Sanctuary, working with the Bullen family, bitterness rose in him and threatened his temper. Fucking asshole had worked as an FBI/Sanctuary liaison and had been selling them both out. For what? Money? Manny hadn’t found any kind of money trail for Sean and he had tried damned hard to get something. Anything.
“You’re thinking about Sean aren’t you?” Kayden commented with his uncanny perception as to what the hell was in Jake’s head at any given point. Adopted brother he may be but Kayden still had a freaky connection to Jake’s thoughts.
“No,” Jake lied.
“Liar. Manny got a hit on him in Albany, but he didn’t get any further than notice that Sean was accessing bank accounts. Oh, and he used the access to follow a money trail for Sean and it’s not looking good. Regular deposits from two sources, one we can link to the Bullens directly.”
Every tiny hope that Jake had about Sean being redeemable died at that moment. So Sean had been paid for information. Sean had also disappeared. On a hijacked prison transport he had been released and literally gone to ground to God knows where. Damn good at his job, he had even evaded the normally infallible Manny. Jake concentrated on the road for a second as it forked, and he took the left that led him higher into the mountain.
“Sean is still a person of interest,” Jake confirmed. Like Kayden or Manny or anyone at Sanctuary would think otherwise. The bastard had made friends with everyone, come across as the consummate FBI guy with a smile that lit up the room and a brain that would not quit. He’d come into Jake’s life and turned it upside down and then without a second thought betrayed every single one of them. Why did thinking that in black and white hurt so much?
“You going to be okay up there on your own?” Kayden said. He was evidently moving away from the Sean situation and focusing on Jake. Jake was more than happy with that.
“More food than I need, a generator with a month’s fuel, books, the internet, the comms room for work, TV, a spa bath, and a steam shower? I’ll manage.”
Kayden groaned. The cabin may well be old but it was luxurious and relaxing. “Promise me one thing, Jake?”
Great. Kayden was using his ‘I’m your brother and I love you and you worry me’ voice.
“What?” Jake said. He knew exactly what Kayden was going to say and already Jake had his defenses up. Kayden was going to go on about not working, and sleeping, and eating right, and all the other shit that he threw at Jake when he was worried. Jake hated when Kayden got his doctor’s hat on.
“Have at least an hour a day when you don’t think about work?”
Jake was a little startled by the soft tone. He and Kayden were close but his brother was usually more telling than pleading. Clearly Beckett was having a softening effect on him.
“I will.” Jake could promise that easily. After all he had to sleep. And not all of his dreams revolved around Sanctuary. Some of them, the ones he pretended he didn’t have, were about Sean.
They ended the call and Jake guided his SUV up the last mile to the cabin past the tourist camping areas. Empty and dusted with snow, their normal muddy look softened by the white blanket to make them look halfway beautiful. He turned onto the private road and about a quarter mile up the track he slid to a stop. A tree lay across the road and he smiled at the memories. This particular tree had been threatening to topple over for years, in fact his dad had promised each year that he and Kayden would need to go out and cut it back. Smiling fondly at the downed trunk he resolved to get the power saw to cut it down and transport the wood up to the cabin. Of course that wouldn’t happen just now as he needed to walk the remaining three-quarters of a mile to the cabin itself with the snow starting to become a little heavier.
Parking the 4×4 to one side of the road to leave room for Kayden if he managed to get up here, and with memories of his dad and Christmases past keeping him warm, he hoisted his backpack on to his back and heaved out his other bag. Neither were that heavy, some books, a Kindle, a laptop, and a few clothes. This cabin was a home away from home and held a complete closet of clothes suitable for rustic mountain Christmases. Walking the short distance in the crisp cold mountain air was like stepping into a cold shower. Every cell in Jake was alive and sparking to keep him warm and his breath puffed in small clouds as he exhaled.
Enough snow had fallen to make the ground crunchy underfoot but not enough to mask the road or the landmarks that Jake recalled from all his previous visits. The tall fir that Kayden had wanted as the Christmas tree when he first came to the family, but had then decided was going to be his tree and should be left to grow tall. The rocky outcrop covered in shrubs and snow where they used to sit and talk as boys. Where Jake learned about Kayden’s life before he’d been repatriated from the compound his father had created. Where they talked about Kayden’s father dying, of his hopes and his dreams, and where Jake realized that the younger man he grew to call brother was some kind of super-brain who could ace advanced calculus and biology without studying.
The last part of the journey was more level and finally Jake rounded the corner. He stopped walking for a second as the beauty of the scene stole his breath. The cabin was exactly as he remembered from his last visit in April. Low and spread out on one level, it was set back onto an acre of open land with a large expanse of pasture in the front. Surrounded by a fence it was covered in a thin layer of snow and looked stunning. With a grin at the thought of the peace awaiting him inside, he finished the walk and keyed in the entry code for access.
After stamping to remove the light covering of snow from his boots he closed the door behind him and shrugged off the backpack and his jacket. The heat was on and Jake sent a mental thank you to the O’Briens who owned the next cabin over, some three miles away. They had long ago been entrusted with Sanctuary secrets and kept an eye, when no one was here, on the cabin that used to be Sanctuary One. Of course the place wasn’t used as a safe house now and it had long since stopped being a useful place to hide or protect anyone. The systems inside were all cutting edge; by definition it was upgraded as soon as every other cabin was. But the place wasn’t far off one of the new extreme mountain trails and as such had been passed back to Jake’s dad, and now to Jake and Kayden.
Jake turned immediately right from the mud room and down the corridor to dump his bags on the end of his bed. Stretching tall he attempted to unkink himself from driving and being cold. Then, with hot coffee warming him from inside he slid into the chair in front of the two computer screens in the small comms room. Once logged on he scanned his e-mail. Manny filtered his messages and only passed along to Jake those that were deemed important. There was an invitation to a fundraiser in March, perfectly suitable to the billionaire Callahan. He hated attending them but he made useful contacts so the evenings were never a complete loss. After adding the date to his calendar he glanced at the other two mails. One was a request for clearance on a new operative, and another contained a round robin joke that had been forwarded by Manny.
Connecting to Manny himself he smiled when he saw his right-hand man appear on the screen.
“You’re on vacation,” Manny admonished. He had a stern expression on his face but there was a smile in his eyes.
“Kayden said you have information for us?”
“Well, hello to you too,” Manny said. He shook his head as he spoke.
“Hello, Manny, how are you, how is Josh, and what information do you have for me?”
Manny grinned widely. “Josh is fine, we’re doing good.”
The two had vanished to the Canadian safe house after the arrest of Senator Bullen. Too many people wanted to use Josh as a pawn to get his dad to recant testimony. Until the Bullens were both out of the story that was where they were staying. Jake missed Manny, missed his irrepressible humor; Manny really was the better part of him. The one who calmed him down, organized him, told him how things were.
“So anyway,” Manny continued, “turns out there is a whole other level of connections we are missing here, including some kind of link to the FBI and the Bullens. There’re only a few notes, some deleted files I am attempting to reconstruct, but let’s face it, the Bullens did not only plant someone in Sanctuary, they were using the same person in the FBI.”
“You can connect Sean to it all?” Jake felt his stomach twist. He had wanted to believe in Sean. Seemed there really was no doubt at all Sean Hanson was a traitor.
“No. Nothing explicit, but I’m working on it.”
“Good.” Jake considered adding the same warning Kayden had given him about taking an hour off to Manny but then thought better of it. Cut Manny in half and you would find Sanctuary written across the middle. He was as embroiled as Jake was. At least Manny had a life now. Although exiled away from the main Sanctuary he was with the guy who had stolen his heart and he had left of his own accord. One day they could come home, but not until Manny was sure Josh was safe. Like Morgan, Josh Headley would always be a target for a family they helped destroy.
“You had an email from Owen Reynolds but it went through to a generic address, I’m forwarding it now with attachments.”
Owen? He hadn’t heard from Owen since, hell, he couldn’t remember when, March maybe? His dad’s closest friend, former FBI, former special ops, and advisor when Max had first bandied the idea of Sanctuary, had been out of the country more times than in. Jake saw the e-mail arrive. The contents were a general Merry Christmas and an attached photo of Owen and his wife Martha and their dogs—three huge dopey Great Danes.
“I got it.”
“There’s nothing else for now. All is quiet apart from the normal placing.”
“How many jobs do we have going over Christmas?”
“You don’t need to—”
“Manny, just report as normal. Please.” Jake added the please to soften the demand. Manny was only looking out for him but Jake wasn’t interested in sleeping away the next week or so, he wanted to be strategizing and working on the things he normally had no time to do back in the office.
“We have seven active cases that look to be going over Christmas. One is a family with two small kids.”
“Did you organize—”
“Yes, Santa is making a visit as usual.” Manny grinned widely. Jake found himself smiling back as stupidly as Manny was. They tried to do this for small kids in protection if it was at all possible, a tradition started when they had their first case involving kids after Jake had just taken over Sanctuary
Manny continued. “The other six are single adults. And the freed-up operatives are Dale and Michaela so we can cover emergencies, though this snow is shutting everything down big-time. Dale is following on closing down some loose ends with the Bullen case with me.”
Manny signed off with a final warning for Jake to get his ass into the hot tub to relax with a capital R. Jake flashed back a quick reply to Owen’s e-mail to acknowledge he’d received it. He added he would send more news later. Owen had always been Uncle Owen to both him and Kayden and not keeping in contact was just plain stupid. Owen and Jake’s dad, Max, had been as close as brothers.
Jake leaned back in his chair staring at the blank screen after he had sent the quick mail. This first part of the stay at the cabin was always the hardest. He had the guilt that he wasn’t working hitting him square in the chest and that itch that he should be doing something, anything, instead of sitting here and looking at his reflection in the flat, black screen. He didn’t have a holiday the whole rest of the year but his family had come to what had been Sanctuary One every Christmas and Jake’s internal body clock demanded the annual shutdown. Kayden said he looked tired, exhausted even, but Jake knew it was work and a whole lot of something different.
It really had been one hell of a year and he didn’t know where to start to analyze just how tired he was. Sanctuary was three times the size it had been this time last December. Case after case had been thrown at them, as well as more and more operatives whom Jake felt personally responsible for. He loved his job, loved what he did, but he was tired at the moment. Tired, and if he was honest, heartsick. And wasn’t that the kicker. Heartsick. Fucking Sean and his silver eyes that promised Jake could trust him. He’d seen Nik find Morgan, Manny meet and fall for Josh, Dale get his SEAL in Joseph. Hell, even his own brother had found someone who was the other half of him. It could be done and for a few shining weeks Jake had really thought he’d found someone he could spend good time with.
Attraction and lust had turned to hate and guilt and the overwhelming feeling of being completely thrown at Sean’s deception. Even now, despite hating the man, he could remember the taste of him, the feel of him in his arms. They’d danced around each other like combatants on a field of war flirting and kissing and Jake had fallen halfway in love at the possibilities of what he could have with Sean. Strategies for keeping things to themselves warred with an instinctive need to touch. If Sean hadn’t backed off then they would have been lovers. Jesus, imagine the fallout from that. Jake wasn’t just exhausted nearing the end of a very busy year heading up a business like Sanctuary. He was tired, angry, unsettled, sad, and he’d just reached the end of his rope.
Best he stayed in the mountains, licked his wounds, and it was probably a very good thing that Kayden and Beckett couldn’t make it either. He glanced over at the presents he had wrapped for his brother and Beckett and a sudden stupid loneliness washed over him. The silver paper reminded him of Sean’s eyes. Jeez.
More coffee was required.
Sean Hanson was fucked.
There was no way this piece of shit Toyota was going to outrun the huge truck that was bearing down on him. He’d taken the first vehicle he could find keys for and that was the senator’s secretary’s car. Crappy heap of shit. Bullets thudded into the car and he weaved around an oncoming van that only at the last minute managed to avoid careening into the trees. Not for the first time since getting out of New York he cursed the fact that he had gone back for the freaking journal. Damn fucking ghosts in his head making him soft and now he was being chased up the freaking I-87 by guys with guns and clouds chucking down bales of snow like they wanted to clean themselves out in one day. A bullet embedded itself in the door as the road bent around to the left and Sean winced. The snow was a great equalizer between their bigger car and his smaller thin-tired heap of metal but still they had the advantage. According to his sat nav he was still twenty or more miles away from the turnoff of I-87 and from then he knew he had more road to travel to get up into the mountains.
Pain knifed through him as he finessed his way past a driver in a Chevy who had clearly never seen snow before. The pain was a twist in his chest as he leaned into manoeuver. He’d been shot and the bullet had carved a nice entry and exit wound in his right shoulder area. It freaking hurt.
His cell beeped to indicate the first file transfer was complete and his level of anxiety eased.
“Did you get it all?” he asked abruptly.
“All of the first part, some of the second is not uploading past sixty-seven percent. We’ll work on it our end,” Owen Reynolds said. “Where are you now?”
Sean pushed through the adrenaline and attempted to focus on what he was being asked. His damn watch was smashed so there would be no way Owen could track him. He had to pull himself together and give a position. “Just passed the sign for Brant Lake on I-87. I’ve got a tail still.”
“FBI or Bullens?”
“God knows. Some big-ass black SUV with tinted windows and passengers with guns.”
“Lose him,” Owen snapped quickly. Sean liked to think there was concern in the other man’s voice but all he heard was the order itself. Clearly that was what he needed as he blinked back the pain in his head and chest and focused on the snow. Blood was leaving him at a steady rate. He needed to stop and get some bandages or something but the men with guns weren’t leaving him room for decision making. His only focus was getting to where Max had told him to go, and where he would be safe. He’d played too many sides and now it seemed as if everyone wanted him out of the picture.
“Talk later,” he pushed out through a wave of pain. After touching the ‘end call’ image he guided the car in the slippery white storm, pressed the window control then gripped his gun with his left hand. He might be right handed but that arm was numbing with the pain from his injury. He just hoped to hell that his aim was good enough using his left hand. With every ounce of his strength forced and directed to his aim, he waited until the beginning of the next bend on the road and when he could sense where he needed to fire he let off a volley of shots. The SIG kicked back in his hand and he welcomed the snap of pain to clear the exhaustion creeping into his head. The SUV following him lurched as two tires deflated and then slewed across the highway, finally ending against a tree on the side.
They’d all walk away from it but at least the threat was neutralized. Pressing the window control to stop the snow from creating a new storm inside the car, he then fought the wheel as the damned heap skittered and danced on the road’s surface. I-87 was as empty as he had ever seen it and he thanked the heavens for the opportune snowstorm. It kept people at home and away from him. He attempted to put the gun back in the holster but it slipped and slid down the side. He didn’t need it. There was no one else behind him. He’d find it when he stopped.
Ten miles to the turnoff, a few more to where the road split in two then another mile to the cabin. Max said there would be medical supplies there, blankets, probably food. Somewhere to hide and the irony of it all was the fact that it used to be a freaking Sanctuary safe house. Christ, if any of Jake’s team realized he was using Sanctuary property he would be strung up. And if Jake himself realized? It didn’t bear thinking about.
Jake. He needed to say sorry to Jake now it was all over. Jake hated him—he’d seen that in the man’s face. Hell, given that it had taken Jake months to trust Sean enough to lower his guard, it had to hurt like a bitch when Sean betrayed him and his Sanctuary teams. Pain twisted in his shoulder and he blinked at the sudden wash of unconsciousness that had him closing his eyes. He didn’t want to look but he had to. Driving one-handed as carefully as he could, he looked down and peeled back the shirt and sweater—far too much blood for his liking and way too much pain. He hoped to hell the bullet hadn’t nicked anything vital.
The turnoff was upon him before he realized and he had to press the brakes harder than he would have liked causing the little car to slew sideways then shudder to a stop. After starting the engine again he backtracked on the normally densely packed interstate and managed to get back to the right exit. Following the road he cursed as thin tires made him feel every single hill and hollow in the way, his head bumped the ceiling of the compact more times than he cared to count. He’d give himself a concussion if he didn’t bleed to death.
The road split into two and he turned the small car to the left. The back slid out and he lessened what little acceleration he had until he slid to a gentle halt. If it wasn’t for the blood and the guns and the middle of a freaking snowstorm, he might have laughed. Depressing the accelerator, he inched the car forward and it stuck in the deepening snow. Pressing his foot a little more he was surprised when the car was released and then shot forward. He attempted to get it under control but there was no stopping as he careened and slid on the icy ground. There was a car, a black 4×4, to one side and then a lump, a wall in the road, a white wall. His Toyota went head first into the wall and did this whole bounce-slide movement to the opposite side of the road to the 4×4. Sean simply held on for the ride and cursed a blue storm as the sky tilted and he was sliding backward down the side of the narrow road. The car came to a sickening halt and the momentum pushed him forward and then back, the belt digging cruelly into his chest and jarring his injured shoulder. Black spots swam in front of his eyes and he breathed through the pain in harsh, gasping breaths. Blinking away the darkness he focused on his sideways predicament.
He could see nothing out of his driver’s side window and only blinding snow out of the passenger side, which was facing the sky. What the hell did I hit? Shit. He couldn’t be far from the cabin and he’d walk the rest if he could just get out of the damn car. Cautiously he felt his arm and his fingers slipped in the sticky, oozing blood from his shoulder. Pausing for a moment to think the situation through, he experimentally attempted to move each muscle and was relieved that he didn’t appear terminally trapped. Okay, immediate peril was a near zero, apart from the bleeding, but he’d bled before, everything would be fine. The belt was stuck tight and the only way he was getting out of there was to cut himself out. Reaching into his pocket as best he could, he pulled out his small pocket knife and began to cut away at the strong webbing material. He blinked as something trickled into his eye, and wiping the back of his hand over the eye and his forehead displayed yet more blood.
Great. Clearly he’d hit his head, probably given himself some kind of concussion. Groaning he realized that explained the pain in his head; yet another thing to worry about. The belt finally came free and no longer being held in place meant he was now slumped against the window dug into the ground. Everything freaking hurt. He tried to locate his bag and finally spotted a handle but it was well and truly wedged by the push of the engine back into the passenger’s seat. Where was his SIG? It had fallen on the floor and he needed his freaking weapon if he was to hold anyone off. He spotted it forced under the bag. Shit. There was no way he was going to get either out of the car. Groaning at the increasing pain behind his eyes he tried one last time to wrench the bag free but he had no energy in him so in the car it had to stay.
Should he just remain in the car? He was tired and it sounded like such a good idea—to just lie back and maybe someone passing could get him out of this. Call paramedics? Call the cops? Christ, even a cell sounded good at the moment. Fuck. He needed out of this tin can. Closing his eyes briefly, he focused on what he needed to do and after much wriggling and pushing he was finally forcing the passenger window open and clambering out over the crushed compartment of the dead car. He was out and straight into a white version of hell. The blizzard had gone from intense to whiteout in the last few minutes and icy projectiles stung and bit at every part of his woefully exposed skin. He hadn’t exactly gotten away with anything more than the clothes he wore when he was discovered. Little more than a sweater and T-shirt he’d been using to take the edge off of the chill in the warm office. He was really unprepared. Forcing back the aches and pains in his body, he remembered how the car had slid and skidded down the hill. He followed the fact that the nose of the car was pointing uphill as to the direction he needed to be going. As long as he was moving uphill and he stuck to the old track as best he could then he would surely hit the cabin soon.
He stumbled as he came foot to trunk with a fallen tree blocking the road—obviously the immovable object that had forced him off the road. The vehicle he had spotted was a large black 4×4 but the snow around his face was stealing his vision and he ignored its presence and instead took step after step up the hill. He would give it ten minutes to try to reach the cabin then use whatever skills he had left in his brain to hunker down and wait out the blizzard. On the upside, at least, as his core temperature dropped, the bleeding would slow even further, that was a good thing. The only good thing. He was freezing, shivering, numb and every step was an iron-footed torture upward. Have I walked for ten minutes? Have I stopped? Where am I? Several times he became caught in branches and realized he had wandered off of the correct road; once he even stumbled into the deep gulley to the left of the potholed pathway. Up to his knees in driving snow that built and built, he wondered briefly if he was okay to just sit down and rest.
Exhaustion took every ounce of energy from him. If I sit here, the snow will cover me like a blanket and I’ll be warm. That was dangerous thinking, he should keep walking, up and up. He rounded a corner and still there was nothing to see except blinding white. Weary, and way past caring, he stumbled to a stop.
I’ve done my job; convinced everyone of everything and lied to stay alive. I don’t need to do anything more. Owen has enough to put them all away, to find the link. No one needs me. I just need to say sorry, to explain to one person. Jake. I’m sorry.
The thought of Jake not knowing, of not seeing the man who’d pulled away parts of Sean’s armor and exposed the man beneath, was a stubborn kick to the ass. He would get to the freaking cabin. He would lock down, warm up, eat, stay healthy, stop the pain in his arm. He would. Then he’d hand himself over. Manny liked him. Manny had liked him. Maybe he should just sit and let them know where he was. Maybe Nik or Dale would come find him and haul his ass back to Sanctuary. Hell, maybe Sanctuary could hide him away until the shit settled? They’d love that. After what he’d done to them, and to Jake in particular, he was lucky if Manny pissed on him if he was on fire.
One step after another he stumbled up and straight into another tree. Wait. Not a tree. A fence? Forcing his weary mind to focus on the fence in the picture of the cabin in his head he pulled together every ounce of energy left and staggered to the left. Eventually he would find a gap. There. A space he could stumble through. Keeping hold of the final fence post, he straightened his stance with his back to the fence. In his head the cabin was maybe thirty feet ahead but he couldn’t see anything through the snow. Thirty feet ahead… straight ahead. Thirty strides. Simple. Then two steps up to a porch, out of the snow. The strides he took were fire in his legs and he tried to count but nothing was making sense in his head.
Meeting the steps forced him to his knees and he cursed loudly at the crunching pain that radiated up and down his legs. Pushing his hands through snow he clung to the wood of the porch. Just a little farther and he would have shelter. Light flooded over and around him and even through the snow he could see a figure, hear the shouting, the muffled words.
“Fuck. What the fuck?”
Strong arms pulled him up, forced him to let go of the wood and he groaned as his fingers snapped from their hold. He couldn’t stand and he had nothing left to give. The light swallowed him. “Lockdown,” he spat out. “Lock us in.” Didn’t matter who the hell it was who was in this place. They had dragged him in and if this was the old defunct Sanctuary One then they needed to lock the cabin down. He repeated the word over and over again and finally he looked up at the person who had dragged him in. Concerned brown eyes. Angry eyes. Then he lost the battle to stay awake and allowed himself to go.