Authors: Reon Laudat
“All those doughnut holes you scarfed down at the
Shangri-La buffet table. When one fell to the ground, you looked as if you were
seriously considering the five-second rule. And there was the way you risked
your life to get to that box of Twinkies.”
Jaimie unwrapped a Ding Dong and took a greedy
bite before starting the engine. The cake disappeared in three bites and the
second one was stripped of its wrapper before they rolled away from the Pac ’N’
Mitchell stared at the road ahead. “Got quite an
appetite on you for such a skinny thing,” he tossed out as a droll afterthought
as they headed down the road.
Jaimie rolled her eyes, but didn’t launch a
counter attack because of the chocolaty goodness filling her mouth.
With both of them in Grundieville hot on
Richardson’s trail, she’d get a chance to even the score.
At the Mustang, Jaimie discovered running out of
gas was the least of Mitchell’s automotive troubles.
The car wouldn’t start with a full tank,
but the temperature gauge showed overheating. The car required a tow to the
town auto shop. By the time they reached the Bluebird Inn, where she had
reservations, daylight had passed and the last of her patience had skidded away
me get this straight.” She pinched the bridge of her nose and dragged in a deep
breath. “Every room in this place is booked?”
The desk clerk, whose curly hair gleamed with too much hair gel, sat
riveted to the portable television on the counter and a round of
. “Buy a vowel, fool…E…E”
Jaimie tried to get his attention again. “Excuse
me, but I had reservations. You do, too. Right, Mitchell?”
“Well, not exactly.” Mitchell had been leaning on
the counter, quietly taking in Jaimie’s exchange with the desk clerk.
“What do you mean ‘not exactly’?” Jaimie asked.
“When I told you I had a room here and you asked to tag along, I assumed you
had reserved a room here, too. Where do you have reservations?”
“I don’t recall actually telling you I had
reservations,” Mitchell replied. “I just figured I’d find some place to crash
after I got here.”
“ ‘Some place to crash’? Don’t tell me.” Jaimie
clucked. “It’s that thing you have against handling details, right?”
“If all had gone as planned, I would’ve hooked up
Shangri-La. That is, if
hadn’t gotten me thrown out.”
He shrugged. “I figured I’d wing it on
the sleeping arrangements.
sounds as if I’m not the only one who has to wing it.” Mitchell glanced at the
desk clerk. “Right, my man?”
“Yup,” the clerk said. He finally pried his gaze
from the television and looked at Jaimie. “When you didn't show up or call by
three p.m., we rented the room you reserved.
Lots of people are in town for that
four-day paintball thing, you know. Most of them ended up in hotels in nearby
counties. You might try Marion or Grant County, but forget about Potts. They’re
having their big garlic festival this weekend. I doubt you’d find anything open
there. Oh, and you lost your deposit, too.
Sorry! Them’s the breaks.” The clerk turned his attention back to the TV
screen. “ H…H…H”
the breaks’?’ Why, you…”
Before Jaimie could rip into the clerk,
Mitchell grabbed her arm and dragged her away from the counter. “Hey, you need
to take it down a notch. This guy might be useful.”
“Useful? I doubt it.” Jaimie glared at the clerk
and crossed her arms across her chest. “He can't seem to pull himself away from
that stupid game show long enough to do anything. I don't believe this! I can’t
believe these last two days! It’s been like something out of some crazy
nightmare! And it's all your fault!”
“So it's like that now, huh?” Mitchell hammered
her with a hard, assessing look. “You think I actually emptied my gas tank on
purpose and then broke my serpentine belt on the off chance that you’d happen
by and pick me up?
If you believe
this, you’re losing it.”
“Well…” Jaimie drew the word out. The accusation
was ludicrous, but her nerves were frayed.
Mitchell stayed calm enough for both of them.
“Look, I know you're angry. I don't blame you, but let's consider our options.”
“I'm not going all the way back home.” Jaimie had
a tendency to sound shrill when perturbed. “That’s almost a three-hour drive,
and I refuse to sleep in my car after the day I've had!”
“Those options don't exactly appeal to me,
Mitchell approached the
desk clerk again. “Hey man, I don't believe I caught your name.”
“No need to be all fancy. Everybody calls me
“Kenny-Wayne. I’m Mitch. Nice to officially meet
Mitchell offered his hand for
a robust shake. “And that’s Jaimie.”
“Nice to meet you, Mitch.”
Kenny-Wayne cheesed. “And Jaimie.”
Jaimie rolled her eyes.
Mitchell leaned against the counter. “Got any
suggestions for us?
Maybe there's a
boardinghouse or something around here.”
“One boardinghouse in town. Already booked up.”
Kenny-Wayne told them before eyeballing Vanna White again.
“J…J…For the big money! Big money!”
“Speaking of money.” Mitchell went for his wallet
and removed some bills. He slid them across the counter. “You sure you can't
think of somewhere else?”
When Mitchell plucked a few more bills and placed
them on the counter he finally had the desk clerk's undivided attention. “Give
me a minute to check something.”
Kenny-Wayne stepped away to use the phone on the opposite end of the
counter. He dialed a number, turned his back, and spoke
low so they couldn’t eavesdrop. After talking
for a few more minutes, he walked back over to the counter. “You’re in luck. I
live at my uncle’s place.
double the inn’s standard weekend rate you and your lady can have my pad over
Uncle Waymon's garage.
on his sofa bed in his family room.”
Jaimie wanted to set him straight. She and
Mitchell were most definitely not a couple! Sharing accommodations was out of
the question, but Mitchell agreed to the deal.
“We’ll take it.” He slid the bills
toward the clerk.
“Hey, wait a minute!” Jaimie slapped her hands on
the money to block the transaction.
Mitchell pulled her away from the desk again and
reasoned in stage whisper, “Look, you don’t have to drive back to Corrinth
tonight or sleep in your car now, and an apartment over a garage sounds a
helluva lot better than a sleeping bag inside a garage now, doesn’t it?
We’re two adults.
I know it’ll be a challenge, but surely
you can control yourself long enough to share a room with me for one night.
Maybe we can come up with another arrangement tomorrow.”
“Don't flatter yourself! Kenny-Wayne, his uncle,
could be serial killers for
all I know! My granny watches those true crime cable channels all the time. And
I’ve seen quite a few of those reenactments. Foolishly trusting young woman disappears
only to be found days later, hacked up in little pieces stuffed inside a Hefty
bag. No, sir. I don’t even know what I was thinking! I actually picked you up,
a gosh-darn hitchhiker!”
hitchhiking.” He got in her face.
“I didn’t have my thumb out. I was
to town before you came
“A hitchhiker who was parading around practically
naked the day before! A perverted, ax-wielding hitchhiker! Maybe that’s an ax
in your duffle bag! My god!”
“Get a grip. That’s my tripod.” Mitchell clamped
onto her shoulders and gave her a little shake. “
could be at the ax
murderer for all I know. But I’m tired.
I’m willing to take my chances with anyone right now…even you and your
mouth that never stops running.”
A rumble of thunder and a clamoring downpour
suddenly shook the inn's roof.
piercing beep drew their attention to the severe thunderstorm warning scrolling
across the bottom of the television screen.
Jaimie threw her hands up in supplication.
Mitchell turned to the desk clerk.
“Guess we'd better get directions to
Uncle Waymon's house, huh?”
About the Author
author of traditionally published romance novels for Genesis Press and St.
Just Her Type
ninth novel. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of
Missouri-Columbia. In a former life, Reon worked as a features and lifestyle
reporter, who covered the fun stuff—pop culture, fitness, television, and
fashion. Her articles have appeared in newspapers across the country via the
Gannett News Service. She resides in the Southeast with her family. Email her
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