Luke didn't say anything for a quarter of a mile as they continued around the lake loop. The late-April morning was cool and crisp, with a faint hint of something floral in the air. It was shaping up to be a beautiful day in North Carolina. Maybe he would see if Betsy and Bobby could go fishing this afternoon. He'd promised them he would take them sometime, back when he thought he had all the time in the world. Not less than six weeks.
He couldn't blame Rose. Wouldn't. But it still hurt. Was Zane right? Did they need to try to convince Rose? "I don't think this is about the woman in the car. Not directly. I don't think she suspects Thad of infidelity. I think she suspects us of keeping her in the dark."
"She's no more in the dark than the rest of us." Zane swiped at a branch. "Thad was up to something. I don't believe for a second that there was anything inappropriate going on, but whatever he was doing, it got him killed."
They finished the run with no more conversation. What more was there to say that they hadn't already covered a million times?
Luke slowed to a walk as they exited the tree line and approached the parking lot. Zane fell into step beside him.
They were fifteen feet away from Zane's car—the finest late-model sedan the US Secret Service had to offer—then a shot split the air, and Zane hit the ground.
Luke dropped beside him. Another shot, and the ground spat dirt into Luke's face. He strained to hear something—anything—that would give him a clue as to the shooter's location, but his ears throbbed with the sound of his own heartbeat, nothing else.
"Zane?" Luke hissed.
Zane stirred beside him.
Relief flooded through Luke. "You hit?"
"Missed me. Can you move?"
"Do I have a choice?"
Both men crawled toward the relative safety of Zane's car. Two more shots peppered their path, and the distinctive scent of burnt gunpowder infiltrated the morning haze. A third shot left Luke's leg burning like someone had branded him.
But after the next shot, Zane dropped to his chest and didn't move. Luke gave up all attempts at staying low. He grabbed Zane under the arms and dragged him behind his car, leaving a trail of blood to mark their progress. Another crack split the air, and the toe of Zane's running shoe disintegrated before Luke's eyes.
Luke made sure Zane was completely hidden by the vehicle before he stopped and eased Zane's body to the ground. "Stay with me, buddy. Hang in there."
Luke twisted his wrist, tapped his watch until the phone keypad appeared, and dialed 911.
Zane mumbled something Luke didn't catch. While he waited for the call to go through, he patted Zane's pockets, looking for the keys. Zane grabbed Luke's arm and jabbed a finger in the direction of the car before his head dropped back to the ground.
Luke bent lower to get a look at whatever it was Zane had been trying to show him. The 911 dispatcher was saying something, but Luke didn't respond.
The wires hanging from the axle didn't belong. Neither did the slab of C-4 they were attached to.
Two more shots rang out. This time they hit Zane's car.
"We have to move." Luke wasn't sure if Zane was still conscious, but he didn't have time to worry about that. Once more, he grabbed Zane under the arms and dragged, this time away from the car.
His own car was a good hundred feet away, but staying beside a vehicle that was ready to blow wasn't any safer than risking the trip to the other side.
Around the halfway point, the glorious sounds of sirens filtered through the surrounding trees.
Then the ground shook.
And everything went dark.