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Rainy rolled over in bed and yawned. Pulling the crisp, white sheet over her head, she wanted nothing more than to go back to sleep. Disappointment crept in when she thought of how she might already have been at home sleeping in her own bed. It took great resolve to lower the sheet and open her eyes. She glanced at the clock and noted the lateness of the hour and moaned.
"Why do we have to do this tour now?" She had so longed to spend time with her mother and talk about the future. Her mother was the only one who would really understand her feelingswell, besides Sonny.
Sonny always seemed to understand, but at twenty-seven years old he thought himself perfectly lucky to have escaped matrimony, while at the same age, Rainy felt that life was passing her by. Her mother assured her that God had someone special for hera man of quality and spiritual conviction.
"Sometimes," she could hear her mother say, "he's right under your nose and you don't even realize it."
"Well, if he's here," Rainy said, sitting up, "I sure wish God would make him more clear to meand me to him."
After a long hot bath, Rainy sat drying her hair with a soft cotton towel. Still the thoughts of her future refused to be pushed aside. For so long she had planned to be marriedto perhaps have children. She had buried herself in college studies for the early years of her adult life, but even there she thought that surely she would find a proper matea man who shared her passion and enthusiasm for history and archaeology. But the men who joined her in those classes only seemed intimidated by her grades and intelligence. The other women, few though they were, avoided Rainy as well. It soon became clear that Rainy made the others uncomfortable with her knowledge, and no matter how she tried to downplay her abilities and intellect, no one wanted to be her long-term friend.
"I can't help it if I'm smart," she said. Sighing, she tossed the towel aside and went to where her suitcase sat half packed.
Rainy picked up her stockings and stuffed them into a corner of the case. "I just want a husband, Lordone who will respect me and love the things I love. Is that too much to ask for? Are compatibility and shared interests such unthinkable requirements?"
She often prayed like this. Chatting with God as though He reclined nearby in one of her chairs. Her mother had taught her early on that, while God was more than willing to listen to their petitions, people often avoided bringing the details of their lives to Him.
Rainy stuffed the rest of her things into the case and closed the lid. "I'm twenty-seven years old. I'll be twenty-eight in June, Lord. What good are my education and a good job when all I really want is a husband and family?"
But it wasn't all that she wanted. She'd had her chance at a couple of men who worked at the university. Of course, that had been before she'd been forced to resign from helping her father. The memory still left a bitter taste in her mouth.
Another glance at the clock reminded her that she'd have just enough time for lunch if she hurried. They were scheduled to leave at two and there was no arguing with those well-established timetables.
A knock and the opening of her door revealed Sonny. "I came for your luggage."
Even his good-natured smile did nothing to break Rainy from her mood. "I just finished packing. I was about to braid my hair and then get something to eat. Have you had lunch yet?"
Sonny nodded as he retrieved her suitcase. "I just finished. Mrs. Rivera suggested you were sleeping in, and I figured it was probably for the best. Go ahead and get something and meet me at the hotel." He paused at the door. "Oh, and there will be a surprise for you on this trip."
"The trip itself was a surprise," Rainy said as she set to braiding her still-damp hair.
"Well, this one will be a pleasant surprise."
"What is it?" Rainy asked, pausing to look up.
Sonny grinned. "I'm not telling. It wouldn't be a surprise then." He pulled the door closed behind him, whistling as he went on his way. Rainy knew he always whistled when he was pleased with himself. Frowning, she only wished she knew what it was that brought him such satisfaction. Sonny had been acting strange of late, and every time she thought to question him about his mood or actions, it seemed something happened to prevent her from learning the truth. If she didn't know better, she'd think he was in love.
"Strange," she murmured. "We've always been so close, and now I feel as though I'm losing touch with him."
Rainy finished her hair and pulled on her Indian jewelry. The Detour management encouraged the girls to buy and wear as much Indian jewelry as they could. This was in hopes of promoting the very same articles in the Harvey shops. The idea was that the tourists would see the beautiful objects and rush to buy their own copies. Sales were down in the Harvey shops, however, just as they were most everywhere. Rainy thought it almost silly to encourage the purchase of an expensive silver-and-turquoise necklace when the economy was so questionable. Of course, the only people booking passage on the Indian Detours were those who had plenty of money to splurge. The common person had no hope of making such expensive sojourns.
After a quick lunch, Rainy hurried to La Fonda to find Sonny. She saw him standing behind the touring car talking to Duncan Hartford. Her stomach did a flip-flop as Duncan looked up and smiled. He wore a dark blue suit and looked quite stylish with his necktie and felt fedora.
"Here's your surprise," Sonny announced. "Duncan is coming with us. He's a new driver-in-training."
Rainy frowned. "You're working for the Detours Company? Why didn't you say something last week when we had supper together?"
Duncan looked momentarily uncomfortable. "Well ... that is ... I didn't know then that I would be hired."
"You could have at least told me you were considering it. We could have talked about the various tours," Rainy replied, feeling as if Duncan had somehow betrayed their friendship. She knew it was silly, but she almost felt as though he'd lied to her.
"It kind of came to me out of the clear blue," Duncan admitted. "I wasn't sure I would ever do anything like this, to be honest."
"He's going to make a great driver," Sonny threw in. "He knows this area like the back of his hand. He's a little sketchier with Arizona and he hasn't done the Puye route, but I told him we could easily teach him the ropes. He'll be mastering the tours before he knows it."
Rainy knew there was nothing to be done but welcome Duncan. "We're glad to have you on board. We've had some real questionable recruits before, eh, Sonny?"
"That's to be sure. One man arrived all decked out in his cowboy attire not even knowing how to drive a car. I'll never know how he put that one over on the company, but he was out of here faster than a jackrabbit crossing the railroad tracks."
"Then there was the guy who kept eating all the picnic food," Rainy said with a teasing lilt to her voice. "You aren't likely to sneak around eating up all the food, are you?"
Duncan laughed and his expression revealed his genuine amusement. "I promise not to raid the picnic basket."
"Oh, and don't forget that one driver who when faced with a tire going flat called back to the shop and said, 'I have a tire going psssst. What do I do?' Let me tell you, he was out of a job mighty quick. You have to change a lot of tires in this business," Sonny said, shaking his head. "It's a good idea to get used to that fact up front."
"Well," Duncan began, "I not only can drive, but I can change a tire as well. I've lived in this state nearly twenty years, so I'm pretty familiar with New Mexico. My parents are pastoring a small church in Taos, but prior to that they had a church in Gallup, then one in Socorro, Magdalena, and even Las Vegas. I moved along with them until I decided to settle here in Santa Fe ten years ago."
"Sounds like you should have a good knowledge of the land, then," Rainy admitted. "Are you familiar with the height of various mountains? Can you explain various land formations and weather patterns?"
"Pretty much so. That was one of the reasons I got this job. There are a few routes Sonny was mentioning that I'm not that familiar with, but he promised to help me note the important issues on my map."
Sonny looked at his watch. "Rainy, you'd probably better go gather our tourists. They're supposed to be at the front desk by one-forty-five. It's that time now."
Rainy realized he was right and turned on her heel to go. So Duncan Hartford was going to share the next five days of her life. Could this be God's way of answering her prayer? She tried not to get too excited. After all, she was forever trying to help God arrange things. Her mother had chided her for such attitudes in the past, but Rainy always thought it a simple matter of being tuned in to what God wanted you to know. It's not like I'm trying to be God or take His place, she thought. I just want to help Him out and make sure I don't miss any subtle direction change He might send my way.
Beneath a Harvest Sky (Desert Roses, Book 3) by Tracie Peterson
Copyright © 2003, Tracie Peterson