Chapter Thirteen

When Allegra came to, the first thing she felt was cold.

Jesus. Did the heat die in the middle of the night last night, or what?

She tried to bring her arms up and wrap them around herself for warmth, though it soon became apparent that that wasn't going to be a possibility. Someone had bound her wrists together behind her back with a thick rope.

What the hell?

There was a brightness that nearly blinded her when she opened her eyes, and she found herself instinctively squeezing them shut again an instant later. She shifted, noting that the ground beneath her was hard and uneven, and it was only then that she realized that she wasn't in her bed at the apartment.

The last thing I remember is sitting outside the Blue Station Lodge. Skye showed up, and then...

"Son of a bitch."

Allegra cursed aloud. That's right. Julie and JP were there with her. They're...a couple.

They'd acted very rudely toward her, and though they'd stuck mainly to taunts and snide remarks at first, the situation had quickly escalated from there. Skye, Allegra remembered, had actually come to her defense several times throughout the encounter. In fact, for a while it had almost seemed to Allegra like Skye was trying to protect her from the ugly impulses of her friends.

The events all came back to her in a flash, and Allegra squinted, forcing herself to open her eyes at least somewhat so that they could truly begin to adjust.

Snow. That was the first thing she saw as her vision gradually began to come into focus. There was snow in every direction for miles on end. It was early afternoon—she could tell by the position of the sun—and there was barely a cloud in the sky. Allegra blinked. No wonder the world had seemed so bright to her at first.

The next thing she noticed were the evergreen trees. They were peppered across the stark white landscape, and it was only then that she realized she must be somewhere in the uncharted territory of BIG Mountain, presumably on one of Peak One's back country slopes.

Those mother fuckers.

Allegra let out a howl of fury. Now she understood. Julie and JP were behind this. They'd knocked her unconscious, tied her up, and brought her to no man's land.

And left her to die.

Allegra wasn't about to let them win, though. She shifted again, crying out in frustration when she tried to move her legs, only to find that she couldn't. They had also been tied together by a rope.

Allegra grunted, using all of her strength to try and force her legs apart, testing the durability of the rope, but it held strong.

"Fuck," she breathed. Then, louder: "Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck..."

That's when, suddenly, she heard a rustling sound from somewhere nearby. Allegra stilled, listening for it again. Several seconds passed, and then she heard a muffled shout. Both sounds appeared to have come from a thick brush that lay about fifty feet or so to the left of where she was sitting.

"Who's there?" Allegra shouted, and again she heard a muffled voice, like someone was trying to speak against a cloth or gag.

"Hang on," Allegra said, shivering as a gust of wind whipped by, chilling her to the bone. "I'm coming!"

She allowed herself to fall forward, hands and feet still bound as tightly as ever. She got a face full of snow when she did this, though she tried her best to ignore it as she awkwardly wiggled her hips and began scooting forward, shimmying her body in the direction of the overgrowth. Almost like a snake.

Or a drunk one, anyway, she thought, gritting her teeth. She forced herself to keep going despite the many aches and pains she could already feel flaring in her legs and torso. This better not be sound kind of lousy trick...

When she finally made it, she had to hold back a shriek of surprise as she got to her knees and cautiously peered into the brush.

"Skye?"

The Aussies's eyes widened when she saw Allegra, and immediately she began screaming and thrashing about. Allegra had no idea what she was saying, though, because her mouth had been sealed off by a strip of gray duct tape. She had also been tied up similarly to the way that Allegra had been.

"Jesus." Allegra shook her head in disgust. "These assholes really aren't messing around, are they?" She sighed when Skye gave her an exasperated look. as if to say: Hurry the hell up already.

"All right, all right. I'm coming. This ain't gonna be fun, though."

And it wasn't. For the next several minutes, Allegra concentrated her efforts fully on attempting to remove the strip of tape from Skye's mouth. Doing so was extremely difficult, however, and required Allegra to make a series of maneuvers that she really would have rathered not attempt while in a bind—literally. The circumstances were dire, though, and she didn't have any other choice.

On her knees, she scooted as close as she could to Skye without physically sitting on her. Then, she turned so that her back—and her hands—were to Skye before proceeding to use her thumb and index finger to tentatively pull at the tape covering the Aussie's mouth. It probably took close to ten minutes, and Allegra had never felt like a bigger idiot in her life than she did at that moment, but finally, the tape tore free, and Skye didn't waste so much as a single moment before saying, "We're fucked."

Exhausted and out of breath, Allegra let her head roll back against the trunk of a tree. "Wow. Really? You don't say."

"No, I mean it's even worse than all this." There was no denying the panic in Skye's voice as she spoke. "Right before he left, JP told me that there are avalanche warnings out today for Peak One. It's why the stupid bloke picked this particular spot to dump us."

Allegra didn't bother pointing out that this line of thought didn't make JP a "stupid bloke" at all. In fact, if anything, it made him the opposite.

"Okay," she said after allowing a moment for that information to sink in. "This does suck...I'm not even gonna lie. But you know what? I'll bet you anything that if we stick out heads together we can come up with a killer escape plan-"

"Escape?" Skye's voice was comically high pitched as she said the word. "No offense, Allie, but have you lost your bloody fucking marbles? There is no escaping from this frozen hellscape. Absolutely none whatever."

"We have to try," Allegra insisted, though Skye had nothing to say in response to that.

"Okay," Allegra said again after a beat. "Let's start with the basics: tools. Is there anything sharp around here that we can use to cut these ropes?"

But Skye shook her head. "Not that I've seen, no."

Allegra did a quick survey of their surroundings anyway. The overgrowth that they were sitting in consisted mainly of snow covered bushes, though there were a few decent sized, younger looking pine trees looming nearby as well. Allegra nodded at the one she'd just been leaning against.

"Have you tried filing your ropes against one of these tree trunks?" she asked. "It's a long shot, but maybe if we keep at it long enough-"

"I'd say 'long shot' is quite the understatement. These ropes are made of Kevlar."

Now it was Allegra' s turn to shake her head. "I don't know what that means."

"It means they're stronger than steel. Well...in theory, anyway." Skye rolled her eyes. "Doesn't matter. Bottom line is that we don't stand a chance at shredding them to bits against one of these little trees. Best come up with a different plan."

"I don't have one yet."

Skye nodded her head grimly. "Yeah. That's pretty much right where I was at when you showed up."

Allegra chewed anxiously on her lower lip. The Aussie's pessimistic attitude was really starting to put a damper on things, and Allegra found that the hope she'd initially had at making it off the mountain alive was rapidly waning.

"So you've resigned yourself to just sit here and wait for an avalanche to crush us?" Allegra scoffed. "I never took you as one to accept defeat so easily, Skye."

The Australian girl bristled at that. "Yeah? I think you'd feel bloody well defeated too, if a person who claimed to be your friend just stood back and watched as her boyfriend tied you up and left you to freeze to death at the foot of a rutting mountain."

Allegra winced, but didn't comment. "So...you know for sure that we're on Peak One, then?"

Skye snorted. "Positive. Don't really see how knowing that helps us-"

"It's just nice to know all the variables involved when you're...you know, facing certain death and all that jazz." Allegra heaved a sigh. "Okay. So we're on Peak One's back country slopes, presumably somewhere near the top of the peak. And there's an avalanche warning out." She eyed the slumped girl sitting across from her. "Any other information I should be aware of? Because now would be the time to speak up."

But Skye just rolled her eyes again. "You know as much as I do, love. It's like I said...there's really no getting outta this. Unless, of course, you're keen enough to try and barrel roll your way down the mountain."

Allegra was about to tell her that it wasn't such a terrible idea; maybe they would get lucky and run into someone from BIG Mountain's ski patrol that they could flag down for help. It was at least worth a shot, in her opinion. Before she could say as much, though, her attention was diverted by a loud rumbling noise above their heads. Allegra looked up, wide eyed, and when she turned to glance at Skye, she saw that the Aussie was wearing the exact same terrified expression.

"It's okay." Allegra took a deep breath, willing herself to believe that what she was saying was true. "It sounded like it was much further up the mountain. Maybe we'll get lucky and that will be the only one."

"Yeah," Skye said, her voice heavy with sarcasm, "and maybe my uncle Tommy's gonna show up in a chopper with a team of clowns from the ski patrol to save our sorry asses. Except, oh yeah...Uncle Tommy died three years ago in a car wreck, everybody who knows anything about anything knows that ski patrol is useless, and no one—and I mean no one—on BIG Mountain even bloody knows we're here in the first place. No one who wants us to live to see another sunrise, that is!"

She was out of breath by the end of her rant, and Allegra turned away from her, shaking her head. She was annoyed by how pessimistic her companion was being. At the same time, though, she had to consider that she might be right. What if there really was no other option but for them to lie down and accept their fate?

As if in answer to her question, Allegra heard another loud, reverberating sound, nearly identical to the one that had caught her attention just a few minutes earlier. Again, she looked up. Several seconds passed before the noise quieted. She didn't know where, exactly, the avalanche had taken place, but there was no question that it had been closer this time.

Much closer.

"Crikey," Skye shrieked, and began moving and thrashing violently about. As if that would help them in any way. "We've gotta get out of here!"

"And how the hell are we supposed to do that?" Allegra snapped back at her. "It's hopeless. You said so yourself."

"You know bloody well not to listen to a damn thing I ever say! Besides..." She leaned forward, trying to catch Allegra's eye. "The Allegra I know would never give up so easily. Especially when one of her friends is in danger."

Allegra realized far too late when she turned to glare at Skye that her eyes were wet with tears. From the wind, she told herself. But even in her head, the words weren't convincing, especially when the next thing she said was, "The Skye I knew would've done everything she could to make sure things never came to this in the first place."

She closed her eyes then, allowing one hot tear to escape down her left cheek. "But I was wrong. That person...doesn't exist. Honestly, I'm not so sure she ever did."

Allegra shook her head before turning away from her former friend. She had absolutely no idea what course of action to take, and was determined to simply sit in silence until she managed to come up with a better plan. If she managed to come up with a better plan.

"Hey."

Allegra was actually somewhat startled when Skye spoke, though she made it a point not to look at or acknowledge her.

"Hey," she said again, this time louder, though Allegra still didn't react.

"Look, I..." A heavy sigh. "I didn't mean for things to wind up this way. You'd be crazy if you think I did. Fact is, though, you're right. I could've put a stop to Julie and JP's fuckery a lot sooner. I could've told you straight out what they were planning to do. Heck, I could've gone with you to the main offices this morning and backed you up, been there for you. You know...like a friend would." Another sigh. "Look, what I'm really trying to say is that I'm sorry. It's just that, Jules and I...we've been friends our whole lives. Thick as thieves since we were seven. Hell, there was a time where she was just about the only person I had. I...was actually a bit in love with her, to be honest. For a while, anyway." A small smile stretched across her lips before her expression gradually morphed into one of bitterness. "Whatever. It doesn't matter. She'n JP met on an online forum about two years ago, and ever since then, she just hasn't been the same person."

Allegra quietly mulled all of this over for a moment before replying. "You seriously expect me to believe that she wasn't like this until she met JP?" She gave a sharp shake of her head. "Sorry, but I don't buy it. Are you sure that everything you just said isn't all just a lame excuse to try and..." She trailed off then, closing her eyes, willing her anger to dissipate.

Don't alienate her just yet, Allegra. You need her. You can discuss all of this later.

That is, if they survived.

"Whatever. I guess it doesn't matter. It is what it is. We're here now, and the only thing we can really do is work together and try to stay alive."

To her surprise, Skye nodded in agreement. "So...whattya say? Apology accepted, or nah?"

Instead of answering, Allegra turned and gazed up the mountain. "Well, have you thought of anything good yet?" she asked after a brief pause. "Because I'm still drawing a blank."

Before Skye could say anything, the sound of yet another avalanche directed both of their gazes upward, near the top of the peak, where Allegra could see that a forest of pine trees had begun to quake and tremble. It was far enough away that she could only just make out the heavy curtain of snow and ice that was steadily making its way down the mountain.

And it was heading right toward them.

"Bloody hell," Skye screamed, and Allegra turned on her sharply.

"Don't be so loud," she hissed. "That'll only make things worse!"

Skye gaped at her before throwing her head back in laughter. "Are you kidding me right now?" she cackled. "That's a myth, you dingbat!"

"The hell do you mean?" Allegra snapped.

But Skye just choked out another laugh. "Loud noises don't cause avalanches, you bloody idiot!" she said finally. "And even if they did, we'd still be better served screaming our heads off right now in the off chance that someone around might hear us." Her tone suddenly turned very serious. "Way I see it, we've got no more than a couple minutes before that," she nodded ominously in the direction of the approaching avalanche, "buries us alive."

And so Allegra did scream. She screamed so loud that her voice was hoarse in a matter of seconds. Skye screamed right along with her, bellowing obscenities that, under just about any other circumstances, would've made Allegra laugh.

"HELP! Oh for Christ's sake...SOMEBODY FUCKING GET US OUT OF HERE! What do I look like, a fuckin' bush wacker? Come on, you bloody cunts...HEAR US!"

The snow just kept coming, though, and the closer it got, the more Allegra began to realize that Skye was probably right. In just a few minutes, they were going to be dead.

But that's when, suddenly, Allegra heard a buzzing noise in the distance. It was so quiet at first that she almost didn't hear it over all their screaming, and for a split second, she feared she might have imagined it. The noise only grew louder, though.

Skye heard it not long after she did. The Aussie's eyes widened, her mouth agape as she stared in the direction that it was coming from.

"A snowmobile," Skye breathed before screeching, "HEY! OVER HERE!"

"HELP!" Allegra was also yelling, and luckily, it appeared that whoever it was had heard them. The buzzing sound only continued to draw nearer, and within seconds Allegra was able to make out the shape of a snowmobile coming toward them. It was still too far away for her to identify its operator, though in the moment, Allegra didn't care who it was.

They were saved, and for now, that was all that mattered.