Authors: Jennifer Hayden
ISBN 13: 978-1481993203
eBook ISBN: 978-1-63001-446-9
AFTER THE RAIN
Copyright © 2013 Jennifer Anne Hayden
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now or known hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording is forbidden without the written permission of the author.
This is a work of fiction. All characters, names and situations in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation to any persons either living or deceased. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or deceased is completely coincidental.
Kylie Rhodes stared at her broken down jeep in disgust. The damn thing was overheated again. Smoke billowed out from under the hood of the fire engine red vehicle. It had seemed like such a great purchase four years earlier—sporty, but durable. It was the first real piece of property that she had paid for one hundred percent on her own. Now this was what was left of it. A hundred and fifty miles back she’d had various hoses replaced. Billy, the mechanic at Swift and Speedy Auto, had assured her she was all set. His toothless grin should have clued her in to his level of expertise. He had sucked a hundred and seventy dollars off her credit card before she’d left him—and for what?
She swiped a long strand of blond hair out of her blue eyes, frowning at the continuing, though slowly dissipating, smoke coming from her pride and joy. A hundred miles ago, her destination of Callahan, Arizona had seemed so close, only half a day’s drive. Half a day’s drive
car trouble. She had ten miles to go, and here she was. Stuck.
Cursing, she thought her options over. She could have used her cell phone to call her friend Faye Talbot, who lived in Callahan—except that her cell phone was dead. Her charger, along with her radiator, had decided to quit on her. Ten miles was a hell of a walk in hundred and ten degree heat.
Faye wouldn’t be expecting her either. Kylie hadn’t bothered to let her friend know she was coming. She had decided to surprise her. The trip had been Faye’s idea, initially. Kylie had turned her down at first, insisting she didn’t have time for a vacation. She’d planned to spend the summer fixing up her new digs—a two-bedroom house, not far from the school she’d taught kindergarten at for the past three years. It was a fixer, but full of potential. Only, the minute Kylie had begun pulling up floorboards and stripping paint off the wall, she had realized how lonely she’d become—how much she missed her best friend, Faye, whom she’d spent nearly all of the great times in her life with. She had packed up her things and hopped into the jeep, barely taking the time to lock her house up and stop the newspaper, before heading for the high road. Though Faye had suggested flying, Kylie had chosen to drive, for some reason craving an adventure—the freedom of the open road. The drive from Riverdale, Montana wasn’t a quick jaunt. She’d made several stops along the way, over the past two weeks, in no hurry and under no stress to be anywhere at any certain time. She had traveled only during the day—a rule of hers that she never broke. She’d convinced herself she had all the time in the world—the entire summer, really. She hadn’t picked any place in particular when she’d pulled off the highway to sleep—just somewhere she’d never been before. Somewhere that looked safe and comfortable.
She looked at her watch, grimacing as she realized it was after two in the afternoon. At least the hot sun was beginning to lose some of its scorch. She knew her shoulders were red already. Even sunblock wasn’t a hundred percent.
Reaching through the open window, Kylie grabbed her road map from the passenger seat and scanned it. Maybe Callahan wasn’t ten miles away. Maybe it was closer than she thought. Her eyes perused the paper, her brow furrowed in concentration. She cursed a moment later. It was actually eleven miles to Callahan, from the point she stood on the highway. It figured. She threw the map back into the jeep and let out a breath. She wished she had a bottle of water right then. Of course, she’d fed her last two bottles to her radiator, not that it had done any good.
Admitting defeat, she leaned back against the car and looked at the scenery around her. Arizona was the driest area of land she had ever seen. Dust and dirt lined the sides of the highway. An occasional cactus popped up here and there. Other than that, there was nothing but Desert. She felt slight unease as she realized just how alone she was on this quiet stretch of highway. There was no phone, no real traffic to speak of. She was completely by herself.
Standing up straight, she felt sweat bead itself on her forehead. The beginnings of acute anxiety took hold of her and she tamped down on it, quickly. It was broad daylight. She could walk the eleven miles to Callahan. It was possible, that along the way there would be a rest stop—some place that had a phone. She could call Faye for help then.
Suddenly, the purr of an engine entered her radar and she whirled around to face the sound head on. The vehicle was far enough away that she couldn’t get a good look at it. Her first instinct told her to get in her jeep and lock the doors. Before she could think about it, she had climbed inside and secured the locks, silently thanking God that the hot, blaring sun had kept her from taking the top off the jeep.
As the vehicle approached, she felt her heartbeat pounding a mile a minute. She cursed herself for being stupid enough to take such a long trip without having her car checked out thoroughly first. She watched the SUV approach quickly, praying it would just drive on by and let her be to figure things out on her own. As it got closer, she narrowed her gaze. Were those lights on the top of it?
Her heartbeat slowed slightly. They were! It was a police vehicle. Immediate relief overcame her and she watched the Blazer pull to a stop behind her jeep. She made no move to open her door—just watched as the door to the Blazer popped open and a pair of long, muscular legs stepped out onto the hot pavement.
She noticed his boots first, probably because the rest of him was still inside the SUV. They were old and worn, with scuffmarks marring the brown leather. Just above the toes of them, the frayed edges of denim were visible. The fact that he was a man wasn’t all that surprising. The stereotypical cop, even in this day and age, was a man.
When he stood up straight, she tensed. He was tall—at least six feet—and broad. His hair was dark—black really. His skin was tanned and he had a bit of stubble on his face, as if he hadn’t shaved in a day or two. He reached for something inside his vehicle, then let the door shut and walked toward her jeep. Immediately, she felt the beginnings of panic again. Cop or not, he was a man and they were completely alone on a deserted highway.
His knock on the window startled her. She stared at him stupidly, until he motioned for her to roll the window down. She couldn’t see his eyes. They were hidden behind dark, mirrored sunglasses. That made her more nervous. His lips thinned into a frown and he motioned again for her to roll down the window.
Suddenly realizing how stupid she looked, she rolled the window down, staring up at him, cautiously. “I overheated,” she stammered, unevenly, and then cleared her throat. “I mean the jeep did.”
He glanced at the open hood of her jeep. “Want me to take a look?”
She nodded mutely, finally forcing herself to grasp the fact that he was a police officer, even though he didn’t really look like one. That fact kept her sitting in the locked jeep. Most cops didn’t dress in jeans and a T-shirt. Of course, most cops didn’t work in 110 degree heat either.
He tinkered under the hood for several moments.
“Montana, huh? You’re a long way from home.” His voice flowed around the metal of the hood and in through the open window. When she didn’t answer, he straightened and walked around to the driver’s window again. “Your radiator’s got a good-sized leak in it.”
She’d figured as much. “I ran out of water.”
“I have some. I can fill you up and probably get you to Callahan. That’s about ten miles or so up the road. You can get it fixed there.” He looked at her a moment longer and her heart pounded in response. He was too close.
“You should really step out of the vehicle. It has to be sweltering in there. I’ve got air condo in my truck.”
“I’m okay,” she insisted, though he was right, it was sweltering.
He shrugged his shoulders and walked back to his vehicle. It didn’t take him long to fill her radiator up and shut the hood. “Just head straight on this road and you’ll drive right into Callahan. I’ll follow you. You can’t miss the auto shop. It’s on your right-hand side. I’ll radio Pete that you’re on your way.”
She thanked him and chastised herself for being six kinds of paranoid. He was a cop, for God’s sake. What was wrong with her?
Twenty minutes later, and just in the nick of time, she pulled into the auto shop. Smoke, again, was billowing from under the hood of the jeep. Thankfully, this time it had managed to wait until she’d reached civilization. She had thought the police officer would pull in beside her but he didn’t. He gave her a cursory wave and continued down the dusty street.
Thanking God for helping her out of that mess, she opened the car door and quickly stepped out of the scorching interior….and into the scorching exterior. Faye had warned her about the Arizona heat. It was dry and excruciating, if one wasn’t used to it—far different from the kind of heat she was used to in Riverdale, Montana.
It didn’t take long for Pete, who had a full toothed smile and several apparently pleased customers around him, to assure her that indeed, it was her radiator that needed fixing. He wouldn’t be able to get to it for a while, which didn’t concern her too much since she was where she intended to stay for the time being. All she had to do now was find Faye. In a town that boasted a sign reading:
Population - 600
, that couldn’t be too hard.
Checking her appearance in the side mirror of the jeep, she grimaced. The long drive hadn’t been kind to her. Several sweaty strands from her ponytail had long since fallen free and were sticking to her face and forehead, both of which were tinged red from the sun. Her face was free of makeup and her lips were dry and chapped. She cursed herself for not thinking ahead and preparing for something like this. She had planned to get to a motel and clean up before finding her friend. They hadn’t seen each other in three years. She’d wanted to look presentable. So much for that. Cut-off jeans and a wife beater weren’t likely to impress anyone.
Pulling at her sticky tank top, she blew at her bangs, determined to get them off of her skin. She set a pair of sunglasses over her eyes and reached into the jeep for her purse. Pete had told her the best place to look for Faye was at Callahan’s Bar and Grill, the only real restaurant in town. It was down the street on the left. Follow the neon, he’d told her. She could see the place he meant. It wasn’t far from the garage.
The building itself was an older adobe style. A huge neon sign in green, spelling out the word
adorned its front.
On her way down the sidewalk, she passed several businesses, including the Perfect Cut and the Post Office. She noted there was a small grocery stop across the street that might come in handy later on.