Authors: Roxie Noir,Amelie Hunt
© Roxie Noir, 2015
May not be replicated or reproduced in any manner without express and written permission from the author. This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.
Amelie Hunt Presents
Copper Mesa Eagles #1
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To Ophelia, Vivian, Sennah, Maeve, and Cass, who were nice enough to let me into the club.
The noise started coming from under the hood not long after Seth turned off the main road, a steady
“Don’t do this to me, baby,” he said out loud. His words were lost in a swirl of heat and dust that came through the old truck’s windows. The air conditioning hadn’t worked in years, and the cab was so full of the fine red grit that it was hard to tell what color the upholstery had been originally.
As if in response, the engine coughed, and Seth grimaced.
“Come on,” he said, still talking to the car through the windshield. “Just a couple more miles and then you can die as much as you want.”
From under the hood came a noise that Seth could only describe as a death rattle, and the car conked out, a thin stream of black smoke rising from the right side of the hood.
“Shit,” muttered Seth, both hands gripping the steering wheel tightly as he maneuvered the enormous, old pickup to the dusty side of the road.
Once he was on the shoulder, he hit the brakes and the truck came to a stop with a shudder.
At least that still works
, he thought.
The one thing that does
Not that it really mattered anymore. Seth looked through the windshield at the long, flat expanse of Utah desert stretching in front of him. A busted truck could pretty much just roll forever out here and nothing would happen.
He sighed deeply and got out and reached into the back for an old piece of rebar that he’d gotten from a construction dumpster. He opened the truck and propped the hood up with the piece of scrap metal, since the wire that was supposed to keep the hood open had been missing for ten years at least.
Inside, the engine was greasy and dusty, black smoke rising from the left side. Seth sniffed carefully at the smoke, which smelled like a combo of burning oil and burnt rubber.
Not a good smell. Not that Seth was expecting a good smell, given that his only mode of transport had just crapped out on him in the middle of the desert. In a minute, he’d take a look, but for now the engine was still too hot for him to touch, so he’d have to just wait it out.
He checked his phone. No signal, of course. He figured that when he didn’t show up on time, Brad would assume that his truck had finally kicked the bucket somewhere. After all, it threatened to every day and twice on Sunday.
It was a good thing that his boss was the only person in the town of Obsidian who seemed to like Seth. Then again, pretty much every other person had either turned Seth down for a job or fired him at some point, so Brad was also nearly the only person left who
be Seth’s boss.
It was a small mercy that not
blamed Seth for who his family had been. Just most of them.
He blew his hair out of his face again and leaned against the shady side of the truck, crossing his arms and waiting for the engine to cool.
In the distance, a cloud of red dust rose.
Seth raised his eyes and, for a moment, dared to get his hopes up. The dirt road wasn’t traveled much, and god knew that lots of the people in town would rather leave him there than pick him up. Good thing he had a couple gallons of water in the car and the willingness to walk the miles back home if it came to that, and he knew it probably would.
Oil and rubber weren’t supposed to burn, not even in a thirty-year-old pickup truck. He was gonna need parts and a ride back to the truck.
The column of dust got closer, and another pickup truck emerged. Seth didn’t recognize it, which was a little odd: in a town of a few hundred people, he’d gotten to know what everyone drove right fast, but this one didn’t register. It was green with a yellow stripe along the side but nothing else, like it had been repossessed from the Forest Service.
The driver was also driving
slowly, like they were unfamiliar with the terrain and nervous about the dirt road. That was weird, too — locals tended to drive hell for leather along the dirt roads, their big tires kicking up dust and gravel.
It’s someone new
, thought Seth.
Maybe they’ll give me a ride
He stood up straight and waved at the truck with both arms, stepping slightly into the road, and to Seth’s relief, the truck slowed to a crawl.
Very gingerly, the truck drove to the side of the road, parking behind Seth’s truck, the dusty windshield obscuring his view of the driver.
Seth waited, smiling to himself.
They can’t have been here for long at all
, he thought.
Still driving carefully like that
As an Obsidian native, Seth had never learned to drive carefully. For that matter, he’d never driven a car that wasn’t almost as old as he was — and as he got older, the cars got dicier and dicier.
The door to the other truck opened.
A vision stepped out.
Seth’s mouth went dry and all he could taste was dust, his vision narrowing in suddenly, forming a black tunnel around the short, curvy girl who’d just awkwardly hopped out of the truck.
The sheer lust was near-instant and dizzying, not to mention
. Seth had never felt anything like it before, and he shook his head, trying to clear away the tunnel and restore himself.
It didn’t work. His heart beating wildly, feeling like it had grown wings and was trying to escape his chest.
What the hell is happening?
Am I having a heart attack? Am I dehydrated and delirious?
She shoved the door of her truck shut, squinting at him, a wide-brimmed hat casting a long shadow over her face.
Do I know her?
Calm down, Seth. You’ve met attractive women before, you know.
The girl put one hand on her hip and addressed him.
“Your truck break down?” she asked. The wind gusted and she held the top of her hat to her head, even though she had the chin strap securely fastened.
Seth stared. Then he swallowed.
Answer her, dumbass
, he thought.
“Yeah,” he said.
She blinked and walked to the front of her truck, pausing. Even though she was wearing a long-sleeved button down white shirt, jeans, and big, ugly hiking boots, Seth couldn’t stop staring. The swell of her breasts, the curve of her waist, and the way her ass looked in those jeans awakened something deep inside him that he didn’t think had ever awakened before.
“You need a jump or something?” she asked. “I’ve got cables somewhere, I think.”
Seth shook his head and jammed his hands in his pocket.
Suddenly, he found himself totally unable to remember what people did with their hands when they talked.
“It’s beyond a jumpstart, I think,” he said. “I’m closer to needing a fire extinguisher.”
The girl wrinkled her nose, a sea of freckles cascading together.
“Shit, that’s no good,” she said. “I haven’t got one of those. How bad do you need it?”
Seth shrugged, and felt a smile tug at his lips.
“I don’t yet,” he told her, looking back at the truck behind him. “At least, not unless I torch the thing myself.”
To his relief, she laughed.
“That’s one way to solve that problem,” she said.
“There’s nothing out here to burn anyway,” he said. “Maybe I ought to and then collect the insurance money.”
Not that I can afford car insurance,
The girl laughed, and Seth felt his heart explode again.
I made her laugh!
He thought. It made him happier than anything else he’d done for at least a week.
“You need a ride, then?” she asked. “I’m sort of headed off into the middle of nowhere, but I’m not on a schedule, so I can take you back into Obsidian, or wherever.”
“That would be wonderful,” Seth said.
He reached into the passenger side seat of his truck and grabbed his aluminum lunch box and jacket. If he worked after sundown, like he did pretty often for the overtime, it got cold, fast.
Seth took the rebar out of the truck’s hood, slammed it shut, and tossed the metal back into the bed with an enormous clang, making the girl jump just a little.
“Sorry,” he said. “This thing’s a tank, so sometimes I get a little rough with her.”
She just nodded, and if Seth hadn’t known better, he would have sworn that he could see some color rising to her cheeks.
“Is it locked?” she asked.
“Nah,” he said, walking around to the side of her truck. “Anyone who can steal that thing right now deserves it, if they can get it running.”
That wasn’t exactly true. Seth was more attached to the truck than he wanted to admit, even to himself. After all, his parents had owned it, and every time he got into it, for a second he was ten again, sitting in the middle seat, shifting gears when his dad gave him the go-ahead.
He tried not to get nostalgic, though. It was just a truck. Nothing more than a way to get from home to work and back, and not even a good one at that.
Before the girl got into the truck, she took off her big hat and placed it carefully on top of a canvas bag sitting in the back of the cab. There was a tight red bun coiled messily at the nape of her neck, curls and twists of hair already sticking out of it.
“All right,” she said. “Where are you heading?”
Seated, she looked over at him with hazel eyes, green in the center and brown around the edges, and Seth felt like he was looking downward into a perfect, refreshing pool of water in a forest, falling into her gaze.
She raised her eyebrows.
“A couple more miles down this road,” he said. “There’s a left turn, then a construction site a little ways down it. It’s the only thing out here, hard to miss.”
“Got it,” she said, turning the key and bringing the truck’s rumbling engine to life. “You work construction?”
Seth nodded. “There’s not too many jobs out here, but that’s one of them. This one’s funded by the federal government, but that’s all I know.”
The truck clunked into gear, and the girl checked her mirrors, looking carefully over her shoulder. Seth couldn’t help but chuckle.
“What?” she said, sounding just a little defensive.
“Nothing,” he said. “You seem like you’re new out here. Locals don’t check their mirrors much. If something were coming, you’d know.”
The truck eased onto the dirt road, and the girl smiled a little, just barely blushing, and Seth could feel the matching heat rise in himself.
“Good point,” she said. “You’re right, I’m new.”
“I’m Seth, by the way,” he said. “What brings you to Obsidian? We don’t get much fresh blood out here.”
Could you seem creepier?
He reprimanded himself.
Really, fresh blood?
“Juliana,” she said. She held out her right hand, hovering over the stick shift as she barreled along the road, and he took it.
He felt like he dwarfed her, his hand easily a third bigger than hers, and he took it gently, almost afraid of hurting her.
“That’s your handshake?” she said, shooting him a teasing glance with those hazel eyes. “Come on, I thought you worked construction.”
Seth squeezed harder, feeling the flesh of their hands press together, little jolts of electricity running up and down his arm.