“I’m not driving the hamster mobile.” Spike set his jaw and crossed his arms, letting the roller bag he was dragging fall back into an upright position in the middle of the rental car lot.
I was too tired to argue. Our plane had arrived late to Norfolk after flights were delayed for several hours at the Baltimore airport due to lightning and heavy storm coverage. We had limited time to get to the hotel before sunrise now. Though if the dark clouds stayed in place, we wouldn’t have to worry about the sun.
Hanging out in the airport tested my nerves but really got to Spike who was already anxious about the trip to begin with. We were meeting his cousin the next evening, and he’d been more irritable as we got closer and the meeting became more of a reality. I thought the old lady who ran over his foot with her extremely heavy suitcase and then proceeded to yell at him while he was trying to sleep in an uncomfortable airport chair was the last straw. Apparently, I was wrong.
“I’ll drive the hamster mobile,” I offered, tugging my long hair into a bun. “The green color’s not so bad. It matches my eyes. And it was the only one with the darkest window tint that they had left. Plus, I think the Kia Soul is kinda cute.”
Spike snorted. “You would. And your eyes are a much nicer color than that.” He gestured at the car condescendingly.
“Says the guy who drives a Honda Civic. And thank you.” I tilted my head and batted my eyes at him.
“Hey, our Civic is well-constructed. Durable.” Never thought I’d hear Spike utter those words.
“And what we could afford.” I yawned, my jaw stretching wide. “So tired. Can we get going?”
He nodded at my hand. “You have the keys, love.”
“Oh, yeah.” I stared at the fob. Which button unlocked the car? I very rarely drove at home.
Spike peered over my shoulder as I studied the symbols and pressed the button to unlock the car. The doors and trunk unlatched, and Spike swung up the trunk door before piling my bag and then his inside.
“How did you know. . . ?”
“Figured they must be connected.” He slammed the trunk closed.
“Oh. That was majorly unclear.”
Spike smirked and rolled his eyes at me. At least, my lack of car knowledge entertained him.
As soon as we got inside the car and shut the doors, I fastened my seatbelt and then lifted both eyebrows at Spike. “Don’t want to lose you to a car accident. And if we have a kid, might as well get used to it.”
Sighing, he kissed my shoulder. “Fine.” He clicked the strap into place across his lap.
Then, the bottom fell out of the sky. Rain pummeled the windows and top of the car, sounding like someone was hurtling a whole dump truck full of marbles on top of us.
“Guess we have good timing,” I noted as I bent to one side and tried to figure out where to insert the key in the dark. Finding my target, I started the car. Then, I put the car in drive. Each step was exhausting, and I was sagging a bit. The hotel bed was calling my name.
“Yeah?” I blinked wearily at Spike.
“You need lights and windshield wipers.”
“I knew that,” I said trying to sound chipper. Fumbling around the levers and buttons, I managed to turn on the windshield wipers, which began rapidly swiping rain from the glass in front of us. Then, I turned some levers until bright lights swept out, barely making a dent in the darkness, but hey, it was something. I grinned triumphantly at Spike.
“Nice, pet,” he said with sarcasm.
“You know it is,” I returned.
Focusing on the path before us, I followed the row of barely visible car bumpers, straining to see where to go and avoid hitting anything. It would suck to wreck into one of the vehicles. Who knew what the rental company would charge me for wrecking a SUV or fancy sports car? When we got to the end of the path, I leaned forward and strained to see to the left and right.
I made a face. “Which way?”
“It’s not very well marked.” Spike emulated me in trying to sort out our dilemma.
I slumped back in the seat to help him see around me. “No arrows, no signs, no nothing.”
“Try left. There’re red and green lights that direction. Might be an exit.”
“Score one for enhanced vampire vision. Thanks!” I leaned over for a kiss, which he gladly gave me.
As we drove in the direction Spike indicated, I glanced in the rearview mirror. I was so focused on going forward that I forgot to check behind me. It was probably okay for the rental car lot – not so much for the highway. “Hey. I can’t see behind me. The back windshield is too straight.”
“It has its own wiper,” Spike explained, now sounding impatient. He was probably wishing he was driving at this point.
“Oh.” I stared down at the levers and buttons again. Well, crap.
“Buffy, love! Stop before you look down!” Spike growled.
Oops. I slammed the brakes on. Then, Spike reached over and fiddled with the gadgets around the steering wheel. The tiny wiper in the back sprang to life, and viola, the rain was cleared away. When he slid back into his seat and made a big show of putting his seatbelt on again, I drove on without a word, now feeling more exasperated and tired.
Spike was right. The exit to the rental car lot rose up before us, the red and green lights – blurry from the precipitation – signaling open and closed exit lanes. Well, technically, there was one green light and one open exit lane. Although there were booths by each of the exits, a hunched form hovered by one of the green lit lanes, his body covered in a very ineffective-looking poncho, a clipboard in his hand.
I suddenly remembered something – something very important.
“You’re going to kill me,” I prefaced as I slowed down before rolling up to the poor drenched guy.
Spike responded to this by modifying his level of grumpiness. “What now, pet?”
“I put the paperwork for the car in the front pocket of my suitcase with my cell for safekeeping,” I said with an apology in my voice.
Spike rolled his eyes again. “Of course, you did.”
The seatbelt flew back into its resting place, Spike climbed over the middle console into the backseat. He made small noises of frustration as he reached over into the back and fumbled around with the suitcases. Mine was under his. I heard a zipper and paper being pulled out of something. Then, Spike turned and dumped the paper and my phone in my lap before clambering back into the front seat.
“Thanks,” I said sheepishly.
Spike gave me an eyebrow lift and didn’t put his seatbelt back on. I didn’t say anything and drove up to poncho man, only I didn’t do very well and was too far away from him. The poor drenched guy remained rooted in place. Setting my phone in the cup holder, I unlatched my safety belt, held onto the paper and rolled down the window. Goose bumps flew over my skin as cold rain immediately poured through the new opening. I held out the paper to him, but the man didn’t move. Instead, he held out his hand from far away. Annoyed at Spike and at poncho guy, I emitted a frustrated sigh and leaned out the window, stretching toward him.
Without warning, poncho guy darted forward and grabbed my arm, dragging me roughly out of the rental car and into the rain. Adrenaline flowed through me as panic set in, and then, I knew.
Poncho guy was a vampire, I was now drenched and freezing, and I didn’t have a stake. Damn it.
To confirm my suspicion, poncho vampire growled, and his eyes glowed yellow as he backhanded me. I fell against the car with a grunt, and I heard him mutter, “Slayer,” as he continued to hit me. I braced my body on the metal behind me and tried to bring my legs up to kick him off, but he had me pinned to the slippery surface and hard.
“Hey!” Spike shouted as he leapt over the front of the car and launched himself at poncho vampire, tackling him off me.
They tumbled to the concrete as I bounced to my feet, and then, in the bright car headlights, I saw the rest of the vampires appear, one out of each of the exit booths. Oh boy. I was awake now.
I heard Spike punching the vampire behind me and glanced quickly around for anything to use as a weapon or stake. Through driving rain, I spied a pile of broken wood near the metal fence surrounding the lot. Not very smart of the vamps. I dove for the potential weapons, and the vampires followed.
Fingers fumbling through the wood, I adopted a sharp-looking piece as my new Mr. Pointy and snagged a second equally nice-looking scrap to toss to Spike, I pivoted and launched myself at my fanged pursuers. Spike was holding his own with two vampires, and I shouted his name. He turned briefly the moment he had space and time and caught the wood I threw at him before staking one of the vampires.
With both of us now armed, we made short work of our foes until finally only poncho vamp was left. He’d hung back after the initial scuffle with me and Spike, and now he was a fair distance away. He stared at us, and as I flung my makeshift stake at his heart, he dropped into a swift roll, effectively dodging the wood. Then, he was off and running into the night. I considered going after him and almost darted away.
“Buffy, no, love,” Spike said, coughing a little, his voice barely rising over the sound of the rain.
I glanced back and then recognized the sharp pain in my leg. Glancing down, I saw dark liquid slowly covering the front of my jeans. “Oh.” At least the blood wasn’t gushing.
Spike caught me in his arms as my leg gave out, and he helped me to the passenger seat. With gentle fingers, he examined the wound in the low interior light, ignoring that rain was continuing to come down hard around him. “Didn’t get a main artery. But better not chance it.” Opening the door to the backseat, he rummaged in the back again and found our first aid kit.
As he tended to my wound, my heart rate slowed down. I already felt better with his ministrations and watched him tend to my injury with efficiency. When he finished, he caught me studying him and smiled before kissing me long and deep.
Suddenly, I felt anxious with him standing vulnerable in the rain. Who knew what other vampires might be out there about to descend on us. “Let’s go. Get in.”
He caught my tension and didn’t question my words. After making sure I was safely inside with the door shut, he strode up to the exit gate, and with effort, forced the metal arm up. Then, he joined me, slamming the driver’s side door. We were temporarily shielded from nature’s downpour. I locked the doors. Not that that would help us if we were overrun by an army of vampires. Without another word, he put on his seatbelt and began driving. As he drove, I pulled up the directions to the hotel on my phone and slid my hand into the open palm that he’d lightly extended over my bandaged thigh.