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Authors: Carolyne Aarsen

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BOOK: The Only Best Place
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“D'you need a ride?” she asked through the open passenger window as she leaned one skinny arm across the back of the seat.
She sounded as tired as she looked. So, obviously not much of a threat.

“That'd be great.” I threw my backpack into the back of the truck and pulled open the passenger door. As it protested with
a rusty screech, I saw the baby in the car seat beside her.

I hesitated a moment.

“I'm not going to do anything,” the girl said, laughing at me.

That did look kind of silly. So I got in. The baby was a little girl, I guessed, from the pink sleeper and the little pink
bow attached to a wisp of hair on the top of her head. Adorable little girl.

I was glad she was sleeping.

“You headed to Harland?” the driver asked as she put the truck in gear.

“If that's where this road goes.”

“This road goes nowhere,” she said, steering the truck with her elbows as she lit up a cigarette. “Every morning, I look out
the window…”

“And it's still there,” I finished the old joke for her.

She gave me a weary smile and waved her cigarette at me. “You want one?”

“No thanks.” I had enough bad habits. Smoking wasn't one of them.

“So, what brings you to this godforsaken neck of the woods?” Her question came out on the breath of a sigh. As if talking
was too much work for her.

“I'm just passing through, seeing where the day takes me.” Though I had told the cop who I was visiting, I got a different
vibe from this girl. Better to keep things safely vague.

“Lucky you.” She glanced down at her baby, as if to let me know that if it weren't for this tyke, she'd be doing the same
thing. She stuck the cigarette into her mouth and reached her hand over her sleeping baby. “Name's Amelia.” She didn't introduce
the baby and I wasn't going to ask.

“Terra,” I said, shaking her hand.

“I'm heading into town to meet up with some friends at the Pump and Grill. You want to join us?”

I guessed the Pump and Grill was a bar, and I guessed her friends were of the male variety.

“I don't think so,” I said carefully.

“Suit yourself. I know I could use a drink.”

I licked my dry lips and lifted my hair off the back of my neck as the wind swirled through the truck, dry and dusty and hot. The
pavement shimmered in front of us, and through the heat waves, I caught a glimpse of the town of Harland. For now it was just
a smudge on the horizon, but it was getting closer. And as it got closer, my heart fluttered.

Leslie didn't know I was coming. I had dropped out of her life the past year. When I last checked my e-mail at the Internet
café, she had sent a ton of messages. I only had time to read the first few. Something about Nicholas being sick. That was
all.

I had my own worries, though.

I glanced over at Amelia. She finished her cigarette and flicked it out the window, then looked at me again.

Maybe getting to know a few of Harland's residents wasn't such a bad idea. Give me a chance to scope out the place. Get the
lay of the land, so to speak, before I faced my sister.

BOOK: The Only Best Place
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