BENT BOOT ROAD by Lynn Rae
Lydia Back has problems; a dead end job cataloging artifacts no one wants to see, an office in a dusty basement storage room, and she’s just discovered that her friend is missing. Adding to her frustration is the arrival of a too charming private investigator who needs her help.
Carter Harris has no problems; he has his own successful business and is enjoying a few days in a scenic southern Ohio town to gather information on a missing professor. But his local contact turns out to be an uncooperative woman who prefers traipsing around in the forest to having a civilized conversation with him.
Together, they begin to uncover some of the secrets that lurk under the surface of other people’s lives and to appreciate each other’s abilities. When danger threatens, both Carter and Lydia realize it will be impossible to survive alone.
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“I know that my hat looks stupid, but it does keep the ticks from dropping out of the trees right into your hair, like this one must have done.”
Carter had a feeling she was gloating, but the idea of something sucking his blood was so revolting he wasn’t really paying attention to what she was saying. They were back at the Inn, and he was sitting on the toilet as Lydia dispassionately looked at him. He recalled that just the previous evening, he had been taking care of her hands in her bathroom, so it seemed like this was completing the circle. Although he would have rather had cuts and bruises than some bug burrowing into him.
“We seem to be doing this a lot, sitting in bathrooms and administering first aid.” He began to speak, mostly to take his mind off of what she was doing.
“It’s a rough and tumble life.” Lydia started to move the hair on his head to give her access to the tick. He’d felt the bug as they left the Mullins’ house and had almost driven off the side of the road with shock. He felt a slight tug and she grunted. “They must like the taste of you. Do you want to see it?”
She tapped the tweezers in a disposable cup and then began to check his scalp for more of the disgusting things. Despite thinking about what might be crawling around on him, he found that as she ran her fingers through his hair he grew more and more relaxed. She was quiet and worked slowly, and his relaxation began to shift in another direction, something more focused and compelling. Which meant he needed to stop it now. So he reached up and caught one of her wrists. “I’ll check, you don’t need to do that.”
Taking a step back, she watched him rub his scalp gingerly. “Anything else?”
“Check your skin too, and your back in the mirror.” She backed away and left the bathroom “When are you picking me up for dinner with Reggie?”
“At six.” Carter hadn’t felt any more suspicious bumps, and he was dreading checking the rest of his body in the shower he’d soon be taking. “Hey Back, what about you?”
“What about me?” Her voice floated in from the living room. It sounded like she was almost out in the hallway already.
“Do you want me to check you?”
“Nope, I can take care of myself.” And with that the door closed with a thump and she was gone.
“I can take care of myself too.” Carter grumbled as he began to strip, carefully shaking each article of clothing to see if anything nasty had hitched a ride. He’d actually had a pretty good day so far, the police had opened a missing person file on Dr. Cooper, they had discovered that he had been somewhere on Friday, and he had hopes that the upcoming dinner with Reggie might result in even more useful information. Of course, he had just had a parasite pulled out of his skin by a confusing woman who knew what to do with a machete.
He wasn’t sure what to make of Back. She seemed to alternate between liking him and then rushing to get away from him. As he stepped into the shower and ran the water, he thought about her in a shower and his body began to wake up. Just what he needed to confuse the situation, an attraction to a sarcastic woman who lived in the middle of nowhere. In order to divert himself from speculating on what she looked like beneath that absurd, if practical, overall, he began to run his hands over his skin to check for more ticks. That was not erotic at all. But Back would be doing the same thing as soon as she got to her apartment. He should have offered her a turn in his shower, or they could have shared a shower and he could have helped her check her back. And backside. And now he was getting warmed up again. He had been alone too long if just thinking about a woman he barely knew was enough to get him hard. There was no room in his life for a long-distance relationship, as if he would even want such a thing with an aggravating person like Lydia Back. There were plenty of sweet, kind women in Columbus that he could take a shower with. And in his experience, he hadn’t needed to check them for ticks first.
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