This is a challenge, Anita Kovacevic sent me the picture, and the challenge was to write a 1000 word story. I used two characters from one of my upcoming stories in The Big Sky Series. Tiare dropped back against the wall and tried to catch her breath. She slapped her hand on her sternum as though it might help calm her heaving chest. Though the old tunnel was cool, sweat ran down her tee shirt. She looked toward the narrow path behind her, it was empty. Relieved she had lost them, she still stepped slowly through the darkened tunnel fearing anyone on the other side. With her fingers, she wiped the sweat on her forehead and pulled her sweatshirt over her head, tying it on her waist. Maybe her bright pink tee would help throw them off. Next she pulled the band from her thick black braid, letting her long hair fall loose. Up ahead a store merchant swept the sidewalk. Though she spoke fluent Italian, she would avoid any conversation. The last two days events raced through her mind. She thought she had arrived in Italy unnoticed, but somehow her father and his mob had found her. She had spied the same two men outside the hotel at the airport yesterday. Same hats, same coats, and probably the same brand of cigarettes. Her plan was to drive to Perugia, go for a fast paced jog, backtrack to her car and be free of them. It didn’t take long to gain distance from them so when she reached the Via Appi, she sprinted a guarantee the winded men would not be able to follow easily. As she stepped the Centro Storico, or the main town center, the sunlight blinded her. She squinted. The water Fontana Maggiori, sparkled with falling diamonds of water droplets and a few tourists milled around it. She moved in that direction. Tiare’s stomach growled when a whiff of bread from a nearby café floated past her, reminding her she was hungry. Crossing the plaza someone bumped into her, startling her. Tiare turned to bolt, but a hand grabbed her arm. “Don’t run,” he said in perfect English. She pulled her arm, his grip tightened. “Who are you?” The sun still blinding her. Tiare was sure he wouldn’t be one of her father’s men. They were all Italians, he hated anyone who wasn’t Italian, her mother included. He wore sunglasses and had his blond hair cut short. She blinked. “Mac? What are you doing here?” Mac was her neighbor in the US. He began walking, now holding her hand, and pulled her along. Mac stopped and her increased her surprise when he bent low and placed a kiss on her lips. “Sweetheart, I can’t believe you went jogging without me.” He bent and whispered in her ear. “I’ll explain later.” Tiare, too stunned to speak let him pull her across the plaza. Mac’s presence changed her plans. If her father would kill her, he wouldn’t skip a heart beat in killing Mac. Chills ran down her back at the thought of anything happening to Mac. They reached the opposite end of the plaza. As they exited the plaza, a car pulled up and Mac opened the door. Tiare knew she needed to act. She spun, pushed Mac and took off on a sprint. He grabbed her from behind. “No Tiare. Don’t run.” “But you don’t understand Mac. He’ll kill you. He’ll kill me and I’m his daughter.” Her heart raced. Every moment they stayed together put Mac in danger. She could risk her own life, but not his. Mac had been her closest friend for the last two years. They had grown close and over time, she had silently fallen in love with him. Ten long years of moving, changing names and identities, but no longer. She wanted to tell Mac she loved him, she could sense he cared for her too, but didn’t risk it until she solved her problem. A noise, like a small crack hit the wall near them and the old cement splintered. Mac grabbed her and shoved her into the car, throwing himself on top of her. The car sped away, tires screeching. It stopped momentarily and Mac sat up and slammed the door shut. Tiare sat. The car sped down the short streets toward the highway. “I appreciate your help, but I need to take care of something. Just let me back at my rental.” She looked at Mac who was smiling at her. “We’ll take care of your car later and the polizia will get the two goons who chased you.” “What are you talking about?” Confusion washed over her. “The night you suddenly disappeared, in Montana, I went to your apartment and searched it. I found the safe under the floorboards and broke into it.” She opened her mouth to protest but Mac silenced her with his finger on her lips. “Let me finish. I was able to put it all together and I called in the company I work with, SCS Security.” He brushed a piece of hair away that had fallen in her face. “We used the Italian police to drop a hint to your father you were arriving.” “Y-you what?” “It him into hysterics apparently. He became so focused on getting to you, he left his fortress barely guarded. We sent a team in and retrieved the papers you had snapshots of in your apartment.” “I had it all written down in the notebook so you knew exactly where to look.” “Yes, and the Guardia di Finanza were happy to take them off our hands when we retrieved them. Your father and his men are being arrested as we speak.” His hand stretched out and the man in the front passenger seat, who Tiare had not even noticed until now, handed Mac an envelope. Mac held it in front of her. “Your birth certificate. Proof your uncle was really your father, and also the will leaving you his heir. I knew you would need this if you were ever going to marry me.” Before Tiare could respond, Mac leaned over and kissed her again.