A stand alone short story, featuring the cast of Uncommon Animals.
Chelsea had dreamed of the prairie often since leaving. She had never imaged she’d return the same way she had arrived, exhausted and heart-sick.
The cop studied her license. “Chelsea Childling? Did your dad write comics?”
“No.” She wasn’t in the mood for banter over her name. She had driven for sixteen straight hours and wanted some sleep.
“Says here you’re from Georgia?”
She nodded and deliberately thickened her accent. “Yes, sir. Born a peach, die a peach.”
“I love you. I wish we worked.”
“I love you, and we both know why we don’t.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Somehow, I really doubt that.”
Keegan laughed. “I’ll miss you, princess.”
“You are such an asshole.” She wiped at the sudden tears. “I already miss you.”
Tall and thin, with wavy dark hair, the stranger didn’t exactly look like Keegan. But the way she stood, all languid long limbs and a certain sense of amusement, screamed Keegan.
“How… do you… have a… job?”
“Why?” He didn’t smile, but he seemed pleased with himself. “Are you offering to be my sugar mama?”
“I hate you.”
He chuckled. “I think that’s a new record for your declaration on undying hatred.”
It wasn’t much a town. A bad Chinese buffet and a few run down fast food joints. The glass and stone turtle by the highway was the high point. Chelsea had seen it flashing in the desert sun from miles back. She assumed the town survived based on its proximity to Reno.
Wind shook the camper. Chelsea sat up, chest heaving, panic screaming in her brain. Beside her, Jackson Hawk lay snoring. And that picture of naked relaxation did nothing to calm her.
The camper was cramped and dark, a dry cave, covered in Jackson’s clothes. The hunter hurried ahead of Chelsea, grabbing shirts and pants as he went, apologizing over his shoulder. “Have a seat. Throw shit at me if it’s in your way. I’m just getting back on my feet and I wasn’t expecting company.”
“It’s healed.” She crossed her arms, with no pain or hesitation. She liked this hedge doctor, even though she knew damned well she shouldn’t. That contradiction meant it was more than time to be on the road. “I promise not to go nuts and attack any more elemental rock monsters. I will stick to small stuff and work with teams. But I am leaving tomorrow.”
David’s calloused fingers moved her arm. “This will hurt I’m afraid, but it’ll feel better soon.
A tear slid out. “That’s what everybody says.”