Haunted by her experience at The Fed, Caroline tries to create a new identity. A new present, a new future. She can’t escape the memories that dog her when she least expects it, leaving her mired in a depression that she finds difficult to escape. Caroline needs to regain her physical and mental strength if she intends on surviving the journey to find the elusive rebellion. But that’s easier said than done with the ghosts of the past constantly whispering in her ear. The road is long and dangerous, and there are no guarantees. She and her companions have no idea what they will find when they arrive at their destination. And what they finally discover may change everything.
Part Three of a Six Part Saga. Sojourn (approximately 89,000 words) is not a standalone and must be read after the first two books in the series. Ends in a cliffhanger. For readers 18+. This book contains adult situations including explicit sex and violence.
“Gabe tells me you’re from around here,” he said. “Suppose I should have figured that out. But I don’t know a whole lot about you aside from what’s happened recently.”
Caroline took another gulp of her now lukewarm hot chocolate. Kudos to Gig for very subtly changing the subject. “I grew up in the northwest suburbs. Unincorporated Deerfield, so pretty much Buffalo Grove.”
“Where’d you go to school?”
Talking about the distant past was much easier than thinking about the last few years. “Stevenson.”
“Got yourself a high class education, then.”
That was one way to look at it. Her high school usually ranked as one of the best in the country. Or it had. She didn’t know what the public schools were like now. “I guess so. My parents lived in a small house in a very modest subdivision. They paid a shit ton in taxes to make sure I went to a good school.”
“Looks like it paid off.”
Caroline looked around the balcony, her expression more than a little ironic. “Yes, because my life is so wonderful now.”
“I didn’t mean that. I meant you actually did something with it.”
Forget reliving happy childhood memories. She hated talking about herself. Always had, always would. “What about you?” Caroline asked. “What’s your backstory?”
“Cicero. Crappy high school. Loyola. Sox fan.”
“You were doing so well before that last one.”
“Bleed Cubbie blue, do ya?”
“A little. It’s funny how the things that used to matter to you seem pretty insignificant as time passes.” Caroline looked toward Wrigley. South of Gig’s place, past apartment buildings, bars, and restaurants, many of which were shuttered closed. She couldn’t see the stadium but knew exactly where it was.
She and the guys had watched some NBA games during her recovery. Professional sports were an effective distraction from the nation’s woes. “Does Major League Baseball still exist?” she asked.
Gig shrugged. “I suppose. The teams from California and Texas pulled out. I hear they’re playing in their own leagues with different players. The Blue Jays withdrew out of solidarity. Canada doesn’t seem too happy with Santos right now.”
“Are they planning on doing anything?”
“Not so far as I’ve heard. But who knows? Maybe the rebellion is plotting with international forces.”
He wasn’t as plugged in as she’d assumed. Another step backwards. She hoped he knew what he was doing when it came to getting them to California. “Maybe,” she whispered.
“You miss this place,” Gig said. It wasn’t a question.
“I do,” Caroline said. “I loved Maryland and D.C., even Pennsylvania in its own way. But my heart is here. The air feels different here. My spirit feels different. Does that make sense?”
“I understand completely,” he said. “This city is my soul. It’ll be hard to leave.”
Gig looked quite unhappy at the prospect. He probably felt the same way she did. His home wasn’t his home anymore.
“It’s not like any of that matters,” she said. “Everything has been altered. I’m not safe anyplace, no matter where I think I might belong. Maybe I don’t belong anywhere.”
“Or maybe that’s why we need to get our asses to California,” he said.
A newly empowering thought. She’d almost forgotten why they’d traveled to Chicago in the first place. “When are we going to leave?”
“We’ll wait a bit, make sure we’ve got a clear path. Then we’ll motor down to Oklahoma.” He nodded toward the door. “We’ll talk about it in greater detail with the guys tomorrow.”
She wasn’t overjoyed at the idea of that journey. Bad things happened to friends who traveled by automobile. Another subject change seemed in order, one that Gig seemed to desire anyway.
“You’re a Rambler,” Caroline said.
“You know your mascots.”
“I went to Marquette. Your school sucks.”
“I see.” He laughed loudly. “I like your sense of humor.”
“Glad somebody does.”
“You’re just pissed because my school’s bigger than yours.”
“Bigger isn’t always better,” Caroline said, then grinned. “When it comes to schools, that is.”
“I’m glad you’re lightening up a little,” Gig said.
She patted his hand. “You too. I was afraid you were a giant asshole.”
He didn’t act offended by her comment. “Even with Gabe’s word I wasn’t sure whether I could trust you guys. Hard to break free of my natural suspicions. Spent too much time wearing the badge.”
“Probably. I’m glad you’re not a jerk. We need to get along in order for this to work.”
“Your friends are worried about you. Maybe we should work on that, too.”
She picked at a stray thread on her sweater. Like she wanted to talk about that with a man she’d just met. “That’s because I’m crazy.”
“No, you’re not,” he said. “You’re going through a rough patch, but you’ll persevere.”
“How can you say that? You don’t even know me.”
Gig turned to look her in the eye. “I don’t,” he admitted. “But that doesn’t matter. You’ll do it because you don’t have any other fucking choice.”