Heroes Are My Weakness(2)By: Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Take it slow, another male voice advised from the suitcase in the back. Slow and steady wins the race. Peter, her hero puppet—her knight in shining armor—was a voice of encouragement, unlike her former actor-boyfriend-slash-lover, who’d only encouraged himself.
Annie brought the car to a full stop, then started her slow descent. Halfway down, it happened.
The apparition came from nowhere.
A man clad in black flew across the bottom of the road on a midnight horse. She’d always had a vivid imagination—witness her internal conversations with her puppets—and she thought she was imagining this. But the vision was real. Horse and rider racing through the snow, the man leaning low over the horse’s streaming mane. They were demon creatures, a nightmare horse and lunatic man galloping into the storm’s fury.
They disappeared as quickly as they’d appeared, but her foot automatically hit the brake, and the car began to slide. It skidded across the road and, with a sickening lurch, came to a stop in the snow-filled ditch.
You’re such a loser, Leo the villain sneered.
Tears of exhaustion filled her eyes. Her hands shook. Were the man and horse indeed real or had she conjured them? She needed to focus. She put the car into reverse and attempted to rock it out, but the tires only spun deeper. Her head fell against the back of the seat. If she stayed here long enough, someone would find her. But when? Only the cottage and the main house lay at the end of this road.
She tried to think. Her single contact on the island was the man who took care of the main house and the cottage, but she’d only had an e-mail address to let him know she was arriving and ask him to turn on the cottage’s utilities. Even if she had his phone number—Will Shaw—that was his name—she doubted she could get cell reception out here.
Loser. Leo never spoke in an ordinary voice. He only sneered.
Annie grabbed a tissue from a crumpled pack, but instead of thinking about her dilemma, she thought about the horse and rider. What kind of a crazy took an animal out in this weather? She squeezed her eyes shut and fought a wave of nausea. If only she could curl up and go to sleep. Would it be so terrible to admit that life had gotten the best of her?
Stop it right now, sensible Dilly said.
Annie’s head pounded. She had to find Shaw and get him to pull out the car.
Never mind Shaw, Peter the hero declared. I’ll do it myself.
But Peter—like her ex-boyfriend—was only good in a fictional crisis.
The cottage was about a mile away, an easy distance for a healthy person in decent weather. But the weather was horrible, and nothing about her was healthy.
Give up, Leo sneered. You know you want to.
Stop being such a douche, Leo. This voice came from Scamp, Dilly’s best friend and Annie’s alter ego. Even though Scamp was responsible for many of the scrapes the puppets got into—scrapes heroine Dilly and hero Peter had to sort out—Annie loved her courage and big heart.
Pull yourself together, Scamp ordered. Get out of the car.
Annie wanted to tell her to go to hell, but what was the point? She pushed her flyaway hair inside the collar of her quilted jacket and zipped it. Her knit gloves had a hole in the thumb, and the door handle was icy against her exposed skin. She made herself open it.
The cold slapped her in the face and stole her breath. She had to force her legs out. Her beat-up brown suede city boots sank into the snow, and her jeans were no match for the weather. Ducking her head into the wind, she made her way to the rear of the car to get her heavy coat, only to see that the trunk was wedged so tightly into the hillside that she couldn’t open it. Why should she be surprised? Nothing had gone her way in so long that she’d forgotten what good fortune felt like.
She returned to the driver’s side. Her puppets should be safe in the car overnight, but what if they weren’t? She needed them. They were all she had left, and if she lost them, she might disappear altogether.
Pathetic, Leo sneered.
She wanted to rip him apart.
Babe . . . You need me more than I need you, he reminded her. Without me, you don’t have a show.
She shut him out. Breathing hard, she pulled the suitcases from the car, retrieved her keys, snapped off the headlights, and closed the door.