Hello! Today I'm joined by...okay that's not entirely accurate. Todd and Nick Ruger are guest hosting (shanghied) my blog right now. Their special, and very unexpected guests are Sonny James and Luki Vasquez, Lou came along for the ride.
Hi, I’m Lou Sylvre and the reason I’m whispering is because the back seat of Sonny James Mustang is not very far from Luki’s ears, and Luki is sleeping. Not on purpose—I think he’s hypnotized by the monotony of the road. Either that or he’s deliberately snoozing because Sonny is humming while he drives, and he hums very badly.
Very, very badly.
When Luki is awake he tends to silence me with a piercing look from his cold blue eyes if I speak, so this is an opportunity to catch you up on the road trip. We’ve been on the road for most of the past twelve hours (with a couple of breaks), heading west on I-90. We left Portsmouth, New Hampshire this morning, and we’re heading for Ohio to visit with Elizabeth Noble. It was Luki’s idea. He knows Elizabeth’s character Todd Ruger—they chatted some at the Fictional Badass Association meeting last May. They didn’t exactly click, but they did agree Frodo shouldn’t have been the keynote speaker. Anyway, Luki thought it would be nice, since we’re on the Saving Sonny James Road Trip Blog Tour to stop in and see Elizabeth, and she said we’d be welcome—my thanks to her for letting us visit.
We’re just about ready to cross into Ohio now, so it won’t be long...
Oh my god! What just happened? I… I can’t really see for all the dust in the air. There was a huge noise. Oh no… Luki! Sonny! Where are you? Where am I? Where’s the Mustang?
“Be quiet,” Luki’s voice comes to me, and then I see him standing there, combing the dust out of his curls with his fingers. “Sonny,” he calls out, then trots over to a figure hunched on the ground. “Baby! Can you hear me? Are you okay? Can you stand up?”
“Calm down, husband.” Sonny’s voice does sound oddly calm in this—what? I can’t even guess what has happened. He stands up. “I’m fine, of course.”
“Why were you on the ground?”
“Dropping and covering, as I was taught to do in the event of nuclear attack.” Sonny dusts off Luki’s shoulders.
Luki brushes away Sonny’s hand, which is an event in itself. “Well, sweetie,” he says, a tone of annoyed sarcasm in the words, “if that was a nuclear attack I think it was a dud. But I wonder where we are?”
Sonny looks around, sees me. “Ms. Sylvre, you’re okay?”
“A simple yes or no is plenty,” Luki interjects.
“Honey?” Sonny is walking around the immediate area, peering this way and that. “Have you seen the Mustang anywhere?”
“No. But I think we have more serious troubles. I don’t see anything but rocks, a wide river and grass with a light dusting of snow. This is definitely not I-90.” They were surrounded by trees, blocking the view. “If we don’t find somebody that can explain… this, then we… Fuck, I don’t know.”
Meanwhile, a dozen yards away on the other side of the trees…
“It was over here. Todd, I know I heard something over—” A guy, slightly taller than Sonny with thick brown hair and wearing a collar came around what appeared to be a bend in a dirt road and stopped short. “Oh. Uh, hello.”
“Nicky, who are you…well darn.” Todd Ruger came up to the little gathering in the copse, and tossed off some words at Luki. “If you want a mustang, Mr. Vasquez, there is a herd near here. They’re wild. Catch one and keep it if you want. He turned to his mate and spoke with a completely different expression and tone. “Nick, this is the guy I met at that convention you harangued me into attending.”
“It was supposed to make you more sociable,” the guy, Nick, said.
“I’m very sociable.”
“No, you’re not.” Nick’s voice was joined by Luki’s. Sonny was currently ignoring them, looking now up in the treetops, as if he thought his car might have gotten stuck up there.
Todd snorted. “Whatever. How’d you guys get here and why are you looking for a mustang. We have horses you can borrow, not mustangs though.” He turned to Nick. “Was that sociable enough for you?”
Nick grinned and shrugged. “It’ll do.”
“Luki Vasquez, this is my mate, Nick Ruger.” Todd turned to Lou and Sonny, nodding. “Hello. Welcome to Yellowknife Protectorate.” He smirked in Luki’s direction. “Maybe you could introduce us?”
The only thing Luki could sputter out was, “This is your slave? Not what I expected at all.”
Todd smiled. “Welcome to my world.”
Sonny came over just then, mumbling to himself and shaking his head. “I don’t get it. Everything was fine. We were on the highway…” He noticed everyone looking at him, finally, and stepped forward brushing off his hands. “Hey, I’m Sonny James, Luki’s husband."
Nick said, “Oh, yes. I’ve heard you do some beautiful artwork, in your tapestries. I’d love to see them sometime.”
“I wish I could show them to you right now. I hear you do some pretty fine drawing, yourself. I think it might be tough for us to ever share, since we’re usually in different worlds. We’re in your world now, I take it?” When Nick nodded, looking thoughtful, Sonny asked a second question. “Any idea how that happened?”
Nick shook his head. “No,” he said, “I’m sorry. But maybe Todd can figure it out—he’s been out and about in the world longer than I, if you know what I mean.”
Before Sonny could answer, Todd spoke up, his comments relevant to Sonny’s questions, but speaking mostly to Luki—one badass to another, more or less. “No,” he said, bluntly. “Haven’t got a clue but it’s going to be dark and we left our horses over by the river. Let’s get them and head back to our farm and get some food. We’ll try to figure out a next step tonight, but we may not be able to do anything until morning.”
Well, Lou here again… that little conversation worried me. Had they forgotten me altogether? The four of them headed for the river, and I got up to follow, but when I put weight on my right ankle it became clear I had indeed been injured. I didn’t think Luki was aware of me at all, but as Sonny is fond of pointing out, he’s really much kinder than he tries to pretend. He came back and probed my ankle, turned it this way and that. The motions hurt, but I could see him cringe when I exclaimed, and I knew he was trying to be gentle.
“I don’t think it’s broken, Ms. Sylvre, but you’d better not put full weight on it. Can you walk if I support you?”
I (rather bravely I thought) said I’d do my best. He helped me up, and all three of the other men came over, looking concerned. Every one of them acted like they wanted to help, but it was Todd who ended up supporting me on the other side.
“It’s treacherous ground up ahead, Ms. Sylvre, but I think Luki and I can get you to the river. Then you can ride. Nick has plenty of medical supplies at home. We’ll get you fixed up.”
I was thankful and if I hadn’t been hurting, I would have been in one of the higher levels of heaven. But I was hurting, and as the sun fell I was also getting cold. Imagine my surprise when Luki took his warm wool-lined leather jacket and put it over my shoulders. What a sweet guy. Thoughts about pain and the sweetness of badasses occupied my mind as we negotiated the road and then a rocky climb down to the river. But then I almost fell over as Todd nearly dropped me.
“Uh, Nicky?” he said. “How did our horses get on the other side of that river?”
“I didn’t do it,” Nick said. “Don’t worry, Ms. Sylvre, I’ve got some decent pain killers at home. It’s not far, or wouldn’t be if we didn’t have to cross the river.”
“Well, how bad can it be? It’s just a river,” Sonny said. He wandered dangerously close to the muddy bank. “It doesn’t look like it goes very fast.” Turning and walking backward as he spoke, Sonny continued. “Looks like we can just wade across here.”
“No!” Todd held out his free hand.
“It’s a lot deeper than it looks,” Nick added and sprinted at Sonny.
Too late. Sonny must have hit a slippery spot along the bank, or maybe some slim covered rock, but it didn’t matter the effect was the same. His feet went up into the air and his ass plummeted earthward, or more exactly riverward.
A hearty kersplash and Sonny was in the water. Then he was under the water and moving down stream. Fast.
“Shit,” Todd muttered and left me to run for the river.
“Crap.” Nick was right behind him. Todd must have hit the same slippery spot, he did some sort of uncoordinated quick step before his feet slid out from under him and he hit the muddy ground. “Nice save,” Nick said.
“Shuddup. We need rope,” Todd grumbled.
“We need to get my husband out of that water!” Luki let go of me and ran toward the river. Apparently he hadn’t learned from Todd and Sonny since he ended up mud covered and on his considerably finely attired ass. He tried to scramble up out of the mud, but it was almost like quicksand, and seemed to suck him down toward the water. I sat there helpless as he slid helplessly down the bank, and the two already in deep flailed and shivered. It reminded me of the events in Saving Sonny James where Sonny swam out too far in the straits. Luki rescued him then, but that just wasn’t happening this time.
I struggled to my feet but I was just no use. Fortunately Nick really had his stuff together. He ran back to a small brush covered hunting blind I hadn’t noticed before. He came out with a thick rope, knotting it as he high-tailed it back to the bank. He hit the muddy patch, but was better prepared than Luki had been and avoided getting stuck or losing his balance. I struggled to my feet again; by this time the moon had risen and its light limned a long, almost straight branch that had gotten stuck between some rocks. A serviceable crutch. I made my way down to the bank.
Todd had run into some trouble, finding it hard to keep his footing in the muck. I called out, “Todd, take the end of the branch with one hand, I’ll anchor you from here.”
“Good idea,” he said, and followed suit. He threw the rope out, and Sonny latched on, then Todd. So far, so good, but when Luki took hold, the weight of all those muscles pulled Nick and me down the bank and Luki splashed right out into the current. They were all three trying to fight the current, but they were losing.
I was no help at all after that—I had wrenched my wrist when I landed on a rock. Thank god for Nick. He’s stronger than he looks, and very smart, and he wasn’t about to let the river take his mate—or anyone else if he could help it. Back on his feet, he shouted, “Grab the rope again! Don’t let go!” He turned his back to the river, hunched down, and holding the rope with two hands, belayed it over his shoulder, and hauled with all his hidden strength.
And it worked. Sonny, the strongest swimmer, got close enough to the bank to swim up to the shallows. Once there, he dug in his heels and lent his own wiry strength to the task. Luki and Todd made it to within a few feet of him, dropped the rope and wrapped arms over each other’s shoulders, helping each other the rest of the way.
All of the men who’d been in the water were weak and shivering, but Nick ran to and from the cache and brought back dry tinder and a few chunks of wood and a striker. In no time he had a fire going. Luki, though I know he barely had half the strength he usually had, nevertheless came over and lifted me as if I was no heavier than a child, and settled me by the fire. I was blubbering, and I was going to give him his jacket back, but Nick said, “No, hold on to it, Miss Lou,” and in minutes had everyone covered in blankets, eating chocolate bars, and watching coffee boil.
“Nicky,” Todd said, still shivering a little. “First, I really love you. Second, where did that cache of stuff come from?”
“Oh, Todd! Don’t you know. Miss Elizabeth puts them around for us in case of emergency—we can use them as long as we’re not actually in a book.”
“How did you know?” Todd looked totally perplexed.
“She told me.”
“Elizabeth Noble told you about these emergency hoards?”
“Uh-huh. I thought she told you, too,” Nick said sheepishly.
“Nope. She likes you best, like I said before.”
“Todd, don’t say things like that. Just remember to write her a thank you note.”
“Good idea. I think I’ll send her a little tapestry.” Sonny looked relaxed now that Todd had passed him a cup of hot camp coffee.
“Okay, I’ll get in on this, too,” Luki said. “I’ll sing her a song.” And he did, he started right into the strains of a song I loved when I, Lou Sylvre, was a teenager. “You and I must make a pact… we will bring salvation back.”
How fitting. All of these guys were there for each other, petty disagreements shoved aside. Badasses are nicer than they look, and nice guys are stronger than they look, but in the end, every character needs his author.
Welcome to My World