Home > Runaway Vampire (Argeneau #23)

Runaway Vampire (Argeneau #23)
Author: Lynsay Sands

One

Mary stifled a yawn, and then gave her head a shake, trying to ease the sleepiness closing in around her. Having slept in this morning, she’d started out late and shouldn’t be tired yet, but it turned out driving for hours at a stretch was exhausting. It hadn’t seemed tiring when she’d had Joe with her on these travels down to Texas from their home in Canada. The two of them had passed the time chatting about this and that and the miles had seemed to fly by. Of course, he’d also helped by plying her with coffee after coffee as well, as she had done for him while he drove. Now, though, it was just endless hours of long roads and nothingness.

Bailey sat up beside her to nudge her arm with a concerned whimper and Mary smiled faintly. Keeping her eyes on the road ahead, she reached down blindly to pet the German shepherd. It was as if the dog had a sixth sense when it came to her moods and was always offering comfort whenever Mary’s thoughts turned to her deceased husband.

“It’s all right,” she assured the dog. “I’m fine. We’re almost there. Another hour and we should reach our next stop.” She forced a smile and sat up a little straighter in the driver’s seat as she returned her hand to the wheel.

In the next moment, a thud startled the smile off her face, and Mary slammed on the brakes as the right wheels of the RV rocked over something in the road. Despite pretty much standing on the brake pedal, the vehicle continued forward a good distance before coming to a shuddering halt that sent drawers and doors flying open, loosing items to tumble out onto the floor.

Jaw tight, Mary glanced into the side mirrors, then the rear camera view as well. She’d hoped to see what she’d hit, but there were no streetlights on this lonely back road and the side mirrors only reflected darkness. As for the rear-view camera screen, despite the camera’s night vision capabilities, she couldn’t spot what she’d hit. She’d have to get out and look, Mary realized with a sinking heart.

“Probably just someone’s trash tossed out and left on the road,” she muttered reassuringly to Bailey. Certainly she hadn’t seen anything before the thud, just the paved road revealed by her headlights.

Maybe she didn’t have to get out and look.

Mary barely had the thought before she was pushing it away. Her eyes weren’t as good as they used to be, but she might be more tired than she realized. Had she hit a deer that had lunged out of the trees? It might even have been a pedestrian in dark clothes or something. It was the possibility that she might have hit someone walking on the side of the road that forced her out of her seat.

Pushing the button to ease the driver’s seat back several inches, she stood in the space she’d made and then paused, kept in place by Bailey, who had stood up and was now blocking her way.

“Move, girl,” she ordered and the shepherd obeyed at once, trotting toward the door behind the passenger chair. Able to move now, Mary shifted to the right a few steps and opened the pull-up doors above the front passenger window to retrieve the large flashlight that was stored there. These doors were among the few that hadn’t slammed open in the stop, she noted. A good thing too; she and Bailey would have taken a beating had these opened and allowed their contents to crash down over them.

Flashlight in hand, Mary moved up behind Bailey to reach for the lock on the door. It would have been easier without the dog in the way, but it was a dark lonely road out there and Mary was more than happy to let the shepherd lead the way. Not that she was that worried. Of course, she’d heard the stories of RVers getting jacked on lonely stretches of highway and such, but most RVers wouldn’t take this route, they’d stick to the highways. Surely smart criminals wouldn’t sit around out here for days or weeks on end waiting for that one idiot RVer who eschewed the highway for the more scenic route?

On the other hand, who said criminals were smart? Mary asked herself as she pushed the door open. Bailey immediately bound down the steps and disappeared into the darkness.

“Bailey! Wait for me,” Mary barked, rushing down the first two steps, only to pause on the last of the inside steps so that she could turn on the flashlight. She then swung the beam over the gravel and grass below, before stepping down onto the metal stairs that had dropped down when she’d opened the door.

Cool damp air slapped her face as she stepped down onto the side of the road, but Mary barely noticed, she was shining her flashlight around in search of her dog. Catching a glimpse of Bailey’s tail end disappearing around the back of the RV, Mary muttered a curse under her breath and moved a bit more swiftly, which still wasn’t very fast. The side of the road was uneven, littered with stones and weeds. The last thing she needed was to stumble and fall and break something in the middle of nowhere. Help would not come for a while out here, if at all.

“Bailey?” Mary called as she reached the back of the RV and was startled to hear the slight quaver in her voice. She sounded like a scared old woman, and the knowledge annoyed the hell out of her. Irritated now, she snapped, “Bailey! Get back here or I’ll get your leash.”

A bark sounded to her right, on the driver’s side of the RV and she started in that direction, but paused when Bailey appeared before her, tail wagging and excitement in every line of her body. Once Bailey had her attention, the dog barked again.

“What is it?” Mary asked, and in her head heard Joe’s voice finishing the question with “Did Timmy fall down the well?” It was one of his little jokes. He’d had many of them and they’d always made her smile no matter how often he used them.

Pushing the thought away with a little sigh, she turned her flashlight to run it over the road behind the RV. By her guess it must have taken them a good twenty or thirty feet to stop, but it may have been as much as sixty or even a hundred. With 20,000 pounds of weight behind it, the RV wasn’t designed for fast braking. Mary often thought that should be written on the front and back of the large vehicles. “Give wide berth, RVs need space to stop.” It would certainly help with tailgaters and those idiot drivers who seemed to like to cut her off on the highways. That was the reason she was on this lonely back road. She hadn’t wanted to have to deal with aggressive drivers on the highway today. And perhaps she’d also wanted to avoid the stretch of highway where Joe had suffered his heart attack last year.

Pushing that thought away as well, Mary swung the flashlight from left to right on the road, frowning when the light didn’t reveal anything but wet tarmac. It had obviously rained here earlier, the road was soaking and the air was heavy with moisture.

Raising her flashlight to see farther down the lane, Mary started away from the RV, but hadn’t gone far before she began to feel unaccountably nervous at leaving the safety of the RV behind. It was silly, she supposed, but the night was so very dark out here. And there was an odd almost waiting quality to the silence around her. The only sound she could hear was the rustle of leaves in the breeze. Shouldn’t there have been the chirps and hoots of crickets, frogs, and owls or something? For some reason the lack of those sounds bothered her a great deal.

“Nothing,” Mary muttered nervously, and found herself easing backward step after step until she felt the bumper of the RV against the backs of her legs. She almost turned and hurried back inside the vehicle, but her conscience wouldn’t let her. She’d hit something. The best scenario was that she’d run over garbage, but if that were the case there would be trash all over the road, and there just wasn’t. The next best option was that she’d hit a deer or some other animal but there was nothing on the road. She hadn’t just hit something; she’d run over it. Mary distinctly recalled the way the RV had bounced over something in the road. She’d think whatever it was might have got caught and been dragged, but there had been two bumps over whatever it was—front tires and back.

Of course, whatever she’d hit could have got caught behind the back tires and been dragged, some part of her brain pointed out, and Mary turned to shine the flashlight under the RV. The double back tires were a good six feet before the end of the RV and she bent at the waist to see more, then straightened abruptly when Bailey began to bark. The dog had moved up the passenger side of the RV and Mary stepped out beside it to find her with the flashlight beam.

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