Today's Reading

She hadn't seen another vehicle in well over an hour. Two hours, probably. She couldn't know for sure because her phone had died, and she couldn't recharge it because she'd loaned Jeremy the charging cord she kept in her car. She didn't wear a watch. The only jewelry she regularly wore were earrings and the diamond solitaire that Jeremy had given to her last New Year's Eve.

She glanced down at her ringless left hand. Had she really taken it off and flung it at Jeremy while shouting they were done, before storming out of the B&B? She wasn't a drama queen. She didn't do scenes like that.

She had today.

She hadn't meant it. Well, maybe she'd meant it at the time, but that was in the heat of the moment. Her feet were killing her. Tears stung her eyes. Again. She wasn't ordinarily a crier. She'd cried more today than in the past ten years put together.

She needed to get a grip. Every couple fought. This was not a big deal. So what that Jeremy had hurt her feelings? She'd surely hurt his too. She should have stayed and talked it out, not let herself get angry and scared, and leave. Leaving never solved problems.

Although, she'd had a right to be angry. Jeremy had been in a mood, himself. Words were weapons, and he had certainly wielded his words like a sword. He could be an actor on Game of Thrones or Outlander. Sir Jeremy of Lost Pines Inn. He'd wounded her, left her bleeding from a thousand cuts, so she'd probably been right to walk away. Not that she'd walked. She'd run down the stairs and dashed to her car and spun her tires upon pulling away from the inn.

Gillian never spun her tires.

"If only—" She broke off, halting her steps to work another pebble from her shoe. Maybe she should try going barefoot for a bit. At least the farm road was clean. She probably wouldn't step on broken glass. Or a rusty nail. When had she last had a tetanus shot? How soon did one die from tetanus, anyway? Did tetanus kill people? She wasn't sure. If only she'd grabbed her bag before leaving the B&B, she'd have had a change of shoes, the cute sandals with the rhinestones. If only—

Stop it!

If and only were the two most useless words to use together in a sentence. If only Gillian had paid attention to where she was going. If only that stupid feral hog hadn't run across the road right in front of her. If only she hadn't swerved to miss it and hit a pecan tree instead.

It was a beautiful tree. Probably a hundred years old. Gillian hoped her little crossover SUV hadn't hurt it.

She sniffled. Whimpered. Whined aloud. She was lost. She couldn't believe she was lost!

Then, she heard something. She straightened and turned an ear toward the sound, listening intently. Help? Finally?

An engine. Not a car engine. Not a pickup driven by a kind, gentle, friendly cotton farmer.

Gillian heard a motorcycle headed her way. Coming fast.

A motorcycle. Roaring down a two-lane road.

She pictured the driver. He'd be a big man covered in tats, wearing a black leather vest over a wife-beater shirt, with a chaw of tobacco stuck in his cheek. Huntsville prison wasn't too far from here. He probably just got out of the pen where he'd done twenty years. For murder. And he hadn't had a woman in twenty years.

She really needed to stop listening to those true-crime podcasts.

What to do? What to do?

She couldn't very well hide. She was wearing red and surrounded by cotton fields. If she tried to hide, she'd look like a dead body lying in a field, and she didn't want to give him any ideas.

She needed help. She was lost, had no water, no shelter, and she really needed to pee.

He was coming fast. He'd be here in moments. Should she attempt to wave him down? He didn't 'have' to be a convict fresh out of Huntsville. He could be a doctor or a lawyer from Austin who rode Harleys as a hobby.

She hated this. She couldn't believe she'd put herself in this position. How could I have been so stupid? It was embarrassing. She hated being embarrassed. And, she was frightened too. Scared down to the Big Apple Red polish on her toes. This was definitely the second most horrid day in her life, headed toward first.

What to do? What to do?

In the end, she did nothing but wear her best deer-in-headlights look. The man was dressed all in black, a full-face helmet obscuring his features. Darth Vader on a Harley. He blew past her like a proton torpedo.

Gillian released the breath she'd been holding. "Okay. Okay. I'm lost, but at least I'm alive."

For now.

Up ahead, the motorcycle had slowed. The driver started turning around.

This excerpt ends on page 15 of the paperback edition.

Monday we begin the book Wild, Wild Rake by Janna MacGregor.
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