Somewhere in the Plains Nation.
‘Welcome to Lynchburg.’ Bass raised an eyebrow as he read the freshly painted sign nailed slightly askew over the original bullet riddled town billboard. ‘The new home of Lynchburg honey and lemonade.’ He huffed, derisive, ‘huh… pretty sure Jack doesn’t live here.’
‘Who’s Jack? And no. Just…no. I’ve got a bad feeling about this place.’ Charlie shook her head, lips curled, peering at the collection of tired looking buildings clustered around a few trees and a dingy park off in the distance. Then she glanced up at the billboard. ‘And why the hell would anyone want to put honey and lemon in whiskey anyway? It sounds disgusting.’
He shrugged. ‘Don’t care if it tastes like horseshit, we need supplies so I’ll drink it and smile if it gets us a better deal. I’m getting really tired of rabbit.’
She glared at him. ‘Ok. Then maybe I’ll just stop catching them.’
He rolled his eyes and sighed. ‘Didn’t say I wasn’t grateful, just that a bit of variety would be nice.’
She shook her head harder. ‘There’s got to be somewhere better down the road. This place looks even worse than the last crappy town you insisted on taking us to.’
‘That one wasn’t so bad,’ his lips twitched, ‘once you got used to the smell.’
She glared. ‘It wasn’t just the smell and you know it.’
He choked off a laugh, turning it into a cough just in time. ’So they asked us to piss into their fucking tanning vats. At least they didn’t try to kill us.’
‘No, they didn’t, not until you told them I wasn’t for sale.’
He put a hand over his heart. ‘Charlotte, I’m sorry but I had to say no, you’re worth way more than two mules.’
She kept glaring. ‘Moron. We only just made it out of there in one piece.’
‘Speak for yourself.’
‘Don’t be ridiculous, it’s just a flesh wound,’ She leaned over, smirked and patted the rough, blood spattered bandage wrapped round the hard muscle of his left thigh.
‘Hey, stop that.’ He pulled his leg away with a pained look, ‘you’ll make it bleed again.’
She rolled her eyes but sat back in her seat. ‘Poor baby.’
He ignored that, flicking the reins although the horses just kept plodding on without so much as the twitch of an ear, then he sighed and turned to her. ‘Look, Charlotte. I’m sorry about what happened last time, but we could both do with some real food and the horses need somewhere to rest up for a couple of days.’
She let out a long, long breath. ‘Alright.’ She frowned, her eyes snapping at him, ‘but if there’s anything even a tiny bit weird about this place we’re leaving, no questions, no discussion. And only one of us eats or drinks at a time. Ok?’
For a moment his own eyes flashed hard ice blue at the memory of bloody battle and a dazed, drugged Charlie in a seedy bar in a town very like this one and he nodded. ‘Good thinking, and as a perfect gentleman I’ll even let you go first.’
She gave him the ‘you are a perfect asshole’ look, the one she’d given him in that pool and more than a few occasions since.
He snorted, amused. Working out new ways to get a rise out of Charlotte Matheson was making him feel more alive than he had in months. ‘You could even try out their world famous beverage?’
They were nearly past the billboard but she glanced back at it then slanted a scornful blue look at him. ‘Sounds way too sweet for me, Monroe.’ She smiled, tight and full of Matheson sass. ‘I like my whiskey straight up.’
An eyebrow lifted, his eyes wicked underneath. ‘Same as you like your men?’
She glared daggers then looked away. ‘I’m going to be sick.’
Bass Monroe grinned and flicked the horses on. Her lips had twitched, he’d seen them.