She laughed. Why dwell on the past? Here she was, in one of the prettiest places on God’s green earth, wallowing in self-pity. How pointless was that?
She climbed back into the car. “Left,” she decided, and started driving. When the GPS’s mechanical voice became increasingly agitated, she reached up and switched it off, and then rolled down her window so she could smell the sweet honeysuckle blossoms that twined the trees lining the road.
As she drove, she felt the tightness that always lay coiled inside her loosening, and the tension draining from her shoulders. She hadn’t felt so light and free in… Actually, she couldn’t remember if she’d ever felt this way.
Nobody knew she was here. Nobody could find her. She wouldn’t be checking in to the boarding house under her real name. Her friend Katherine had made the reservation there a year ago, and then been unable to keep it when she’d been offered an internship as a pastry chef in France. Lainey had agreed to take over the reservation. She’d even had Katherine pay for it with her own credit card, and then paid her back in cash, to make absolutely sure that nobody could find her here.
For the next two weeks, she was Katherine McNamara, woman without a past. A woman who’d never heard the name Miles Bauer. A woman who could reinvent herself as whatever and whomever she wanted to be.
Her instincts seemed to have led her in the right direction, because on the road ahead she could see a big wooden sign that said “Welcome to Blue Moon Junction.” It was decorated with a picture of a blue moon, and on the face of the blue moon was a howling wolf.
She’d heard that Florida was a shifter-friendly state. In Pennsylvania, shifters made up about twenty percent of the population, but in Florida, the numbers ran more like forty percent. Many shifters tended to gravitate towards states with more woodlands and rural areas.
She’d also heard that Blue Moon Junction was a tiny, sleepy little backwater, so far from any large cities that few visitors ever travelled there except during a big, statewide, shifter festival in October called Howl-o-ween. This was not festival season.
The remote location of Blue Moon Junction had appealed to Katherine, who was an amateur bird photographer and who’d been dying to travel through the swamps and take pictures of the rare bird species there. It was definitely appealing to Lainey, who’d just had her heart rolled over with a bulldozer and then spit on for good measure. Lainey wanted nothing but peace, quiet, and privacy.
As Lainey rolled down the main street of the town, however, it didn’t look particularly sleepy or quiet. There were dozens of cars lining the street, and a sizable crowd of people clustered in front of a store which bore the sign “Hooper’s Jewelry Store, est. 1914.” There were also several sheriffs’ vehicles, and men in uniform talking to the people in front of the store.
A group of older women with hair in curlers, wearing pink polyester gowns, were standing at the edge of the crowd. It looked as if they’d just piled out of the Kurl Up And Dye Salon which was across the street from the jewelry store, and they were watching the goings-on with avid interest.
She managed to find a parking spot behind a large landscaping truck which bore green and gold lettering announcing that the truck was owned by Calloway & Sons.
Surely someone here could direct her to Imogen’s Boarding House, she thought.
She climbed out of the car and walked towards the crowd. Something unfortunate had happened, but she didn’t know what. It didn’t look as if anyone had been injured; there were no ambulances or fire trucks.
People were crowded around a handsome, muscular man in a sheriff’s uniform. He was standing with his arm around the waist of a plump, pretty girl with wavy, red hair, who had a big sparkly engagement ring on her finger. They were both wolf shifters. Lainey could tell by the scent, but also from their eyes. Shifters had eyes with the same color and pupil shape of their animal species.