She stared out at the rain, hoping the pounding drops would give her the answers. But eventually, the only answer she got was, Get your ass back to the car, you idjit, before you get caught out in a flood.
There’d already been a change in the stream she’d crossed that morning to get to her drawing perch and she had to find another way across to keep from soaking her feet. Fortunately, her pad and art supplies were tucked away in her pack, but if she fell, her latest drawing would be ruined.
Making it back to her VW Bug took some doing, but she made it to the parking lot at the trail head. Unfortunately, she’d have to descend into the valley before heading home and she only hoped the little car would be able to chug through the water.
Goddess knows I don’t want to end up like Gran. Although if a hot and sexy firefighter like Connor MacLachlan were there to rescue her, she might not be so unhappy. Och, don’t be daft. Her grandmother’s voice always brought be back from her daydreams. She had to make it home and hope she wouldn’t be caught in the flood.
Dahlia yanked the VW’s door open and threw her pack in the passenger seat before she slammed the door behind her. Her windows fogged immediately, but the little car gamely turned over. That’s what she loved about the old VWs. They kept right on chugging no matter the weather around them. I just hope you get me home tonight.
She recalled one time when it had been iffy as she eased out of the parking lot. The sun had been ducking in and out of clouds all day, but the fall wind had kept them moving. While her little car was pretty sturdy, the wind had been strong and had damn near shoved her off the little winding roads into the trees. She didn’t have to worry about wind this time, but water could do just the same.
She kept her eyes trained on the road as her little wipers flew across the windscreen, her headlights shining into the increasing gloom. It didn’t help that the rain appeared like a silver wall in front of her, hiding shadows and objects on the road.
She'd just reached the front gate to the park when something loomed out of the dark at her. She shrieked in surprise and slammed on her brakes, skidding to halt a few feet away. Allen Sitwell, a park ranger for Chimney Rock National Monument, hurried over to her driver's window, his flashlight bouncing against the fence in front of her hood.
"Oh my gosh, Ms. Whitehall. Are you all right?"
She wanted to tell him she'd damn near had a heart attack and no, she wasn't fine, but some part of her knew better than to give him more to think on about her. He was a nice enough guy, but she didn't want him to know her that well.
"I'm fine, Ranger Sitwell. Just a little surprised is all."
"Allen, please. What are you doing out here?" He tried to get a better look in her little car, but the small size made visibility difficult.
"I was finishing up my latest drawing and decided it was too wet to continue. What are you doing here?" She stared up at him, trying to make her heart slow down.
"I'm closing the Monument. The flooding is getting worse and the want everyone out before shutting it down completely." He nodded toward the gate. "Good thing you came down when you did or you'd have been locked inside until at least Monday."
"That would've definitely put a damper on my weekend for sure." She gave him a rueful smile, but he frowned in return.
"Oh, you have plans this weekend?"
The odd question made unease skitter up her back, but she covered the shiver with a shrug. "No, not really. Just have to get back to my grandmother since she's staying with me for the time being."
His expression cleared immediately. "Oh, that's right. She almost got washed away." He whistled. "It's a good thing those firefighters were there to rescue her."
Something about the way he said it made her unease ramp up.
"Yes, it was, so I need to get back so she feels safe. It was pretty traumatic for her." She nodded to the gate. "I'll get out of your way so you can get home yourself."
He hesitated, but then his smile appeared. "Okay. Sounds good. You have yourself a good weekend, Ms. Whitehall, and stay safe."
"Thanks, Ranger Sitwell." Why did his 'benediction' sound more like a threat?
He grimaced, but stepped back as she rolled up the window and put the car in reverse. She kept her eyes on the direction her car rolled to keep from looking at him, but he was still watching her in her rear view mirror as she drove through the gate toward freedom.
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