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"Can this guy go any slower?"
Bailey strangled the steering wheel and rolled her eyes. A huge red Ford had blocked our path for the last fifteen miles, churning up dust left over from the dry Carolina summer. The monstrosity of a truck barely fit on the right side of the road and made it impossible for us to pass.
"It's just a barbecue at the Elks Lodge for Christ's sake. They'll still have plenty of food when we get there." I chuckled. "And maybe we'll see one of those aliens everyone's been talking about on the way."
Bailey's frown deepened and her eyes left the road to scan the trees on either side of her Jeep. I gave her a nudge. "You look like you actually believe the rumors." When she didn't answer, I nudged her again. "I'm waiting for my favorite skeptic to speak up. Don't tell me you believe all that nonsense."
"It's on film, Winter. Green balls of light followed a flying saucer-like object down into the northern neck of the swamp. Cliff at the Herald took the pictures himself." Bailey tightened her grip on the steering wheel. "And the National Enquirer was in town."
"The Enquirer, eh? That should be your first clue it wasn't a UFO. Some people said it might be swamp gas." I pressed on. "Did anyone from the government show up in black suits and sunglasses?"
She took her gaze off the road again to glare at me. "No. They probably thought a bunch of drunk hicks made it all up as a prank."
"You think there's something to it?"
When she gave no response, I went back to the previous subject. "Any idea what the driver up ahead looks like?" I craned my neck to get a peek, but the dusty roadmade it impossible to tell if the driver was male or female.
"Why? You wanna ID him after I beat him to a pulp for driving too damn slow? He's going more than twenty miles below the speed limit." She sighed in frustration and added, "You'd think he'd want to floor that bad-ass truck through these rough roads."
I arched a brow in her direction. "What makes you so sure the driver's male?"
Bailey narrowed her eyes. "Winter Anderson, you honestly think a woman would waste her money on that frivolous, alpha-male toy?" We hit a particularly bad patch of road, and sleek strands of blonde slid from her ponytail, framing her plump face.
I offered an alternate theory. "As close as you are to the bumper–which by the way is probably why the driver keeps getting slower and slower–you should notice that the license plates spell out something we women joke about all the time."
"Huh?" Bailey leaned over the wheel to get a better look.
I read out the letters in a teasing drawl. "S-Z-E-M-T-R-S. Size Matters."
"Well, size might matter to this jackass, but speed limits and gas prices apparently don't." Bailey shook her head in disgust.
The truck's taillight flashed, announcing a right turn. Bailey's Jeep followed. She eased up on the gas pedal and gave me a fearful look. "You don't suppose they're going to the Elks', do you?"
"I'm guessing they are. What else is back here besides good ol' Lodge No. 45?" Then, realizing this was a plea for reassurance, I decided to torture her a little. "Hopefully, he or she won't beat you to a pulp for riding their ass all the way there."
Bailey blew a lock of hair out of her line of vision, then stuck her tongue out at me.
I grinned. "And if they're going to the 45, we'll get to meet the mystery driver."
Sure enough, the truck pulled onto the bumpy path leading to the lodge. The truck parked close to the entrance and far away from all the other vehicles.
"Must be worried someone's gonna hit his precious hunk of metal." She refused to look at the driver when we passed.
I spun around in my seat to see who it was. "It is a man. And he's as massive as his vehicle. At least what I can see of him." I giggled before facing front again. "And if he's pissed that we were riding his ass, tell him I was driving."
Bailey frowned. "Why the hell would I do that?"
I checked my lipstick in the rearview mirror. "So you can tell him that I deserve the same treatment I gave him."
Copyright © 2006 by Laura Bacchi.