The snowmobile fired, roaring to life in a cloud of oily smoke and Carmen launched, barely clearing the door crawling its way upward.
The chill seared her skin and made her eyes tear up, but she’d seen the break in the trees and kept the nose pointed in that direction.
She heard the gunfire—Gallagher’s shots louder in her earpiece—heard some thwaps against the machine. Doing damn near a hundred already, she didn’t dare to flinch.
A bullet would either knock her off the sled or it wouldn’t.
She made the tree line. Panicked at the trees making blurry boundaries down both sides. The snow was icier in the shade—the machine went squirrelly on her.
Carmen eased off the throttle, let the snowmobile right itself.
The corner came up fast. She took her thumb off the throttle, but it wasn’t enough. Grabbed the brakes and it locked up, sliding into the corner.
She swore and released the brakes, hit the throttle again, letting the weight carry it through.
Then she punched it again, screaming through a gap in the trees not much wider than the machine.
Finally the trail dropped into a low spot and she stopped. Blinking away the tears her eyes summoned to protect them from the wind, she left the machine running and climbed off. Her legs were a little rubbery, but she found Gallagher’s pack and slipped her arms through the straps. Then she went back to the machine, pushing herself back on the seat as far as she could.
With the engine at idle and the wind no longer rushing past, she could hear Gallagher’s ragged breath in her earpiece. He was running fast.
“I’m here,” she said, just so he knew he was running toward something.
Barely thirty seconds later she caught movement in the trees and reached for her gun.
It was Gallagher, his face nearly as red with exertion as the side of his lightweight coat was with blood. He’d been hit.
“You’re wounded,” she said as he slid onto the seat in front of her. “Place my hand so I’m not squeezing it.”
As she shoved forward so her body was plastered against his, he took her arms and wrapped them low on his abdomen, below the wound.
Then the machine roared and they were flying down the trail. Carmen forced herself to become boneless against his back, offering no resistance as he leaned in the corners.
His body was hot and every time she inhaled her senses were overwhelmed by the scent of sweat and fresh blood.
Carmen jerked her head up and dared a look over his shoulder.
A pond. Not a very big one, but there was no trail around it. They had to go over it.
Too bad it wasn’t frozen anymore.
“Don’t panic, babe!” he shouted into her earpiece, and then he pegged the throttle. “Like glue now, and don’t lean!”
What the hell did it matter if she leaned since they were about to crash and—assuming they didn’t die on impact—drown, but she kept her arms low on his waist and did the boneless leech thing again.
She felt the jolt of the machine hitting the water, but the dumb son of a bitch driving never let off the throttle.
“Come on, baby, skim,” he said, but she realized he was talking to the snowmobile and closed her eyes.
She didn’t need to see anything. Frigid water rushing into her lungs would be warning enough he’d failed.
Incredibly, she felt the skis jolt and Gallagher let off the throttle, but she never got wet. He just kept going down the trail.
A few minutes later, when they came out into a back street in town, Gallagher didn’t slow down. The picks on the snowmobile’s track bit into the asphalt, but he navigated to the airport, across the field and straight to the helicopter.
“Let’s blow this joint,” he said, and she pulled her earpiece. She didn’t need him in stereo.
He was a little slow getting off the machine, and she felt a jolt of anxiety. “Can you fly?”
“It’s just a flesh wound. You can slap a bandage on it once we’re up.”
“Let’s go, then, before they catch up.”
“You got it, babe.”
“Don’t call me babe.”