Bart squatted by the fire, greasy grey hair tucked behind his ears. “The squonk should be sleeping now, but it’ll be up in a few hours. It ain’t afraid of people or smoke, so we won’t bother it none. They eat hemlock though, and this grove is the biggest in the area.”
Chelsea pulled out a chair. “Morgan?”
“So what are we hunting?”
Morgan sighed as big brown eyes studied the table. “Melon-heads.”
Chelsea stopped and blinked. “You serious?”
Another sigh started the answer. “Yes. They come out of the woods every ten years or so and they’re back now.”
Chelsea found herself laughing. “Fair enough. Who needs some help?”
Annoyance rose her once more. “Who says I’m a newbie?”
Rita’s grin turned sharp. “You ran into the Trojan and didn’t know it. You ain’t been doing this too long.”
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.