The thud from the front porch was definitely a knock.
Kelli Carpenter jumped, clutching the plastic shower curtain to keep from slipping. “Just a minute,” she called as she reached across the cascading spray to twist off the taps. So much for the hot, steamy shower she’d been dreaming about while she lay, freezing her butt off in a stinking mud puddle, waiting for the perfect shot. She squirmed back into her grimy jeans.
From the road, she heard the distinctive roar of Harley engines. The knock repeated, growing more insistent.
“Take it easy,” she muttered. Without bothering to towel off, she slipped her sweatshirt over her head, working her damp arms into muddy sleeves while she headed for the door, her mind racing through the possibilities of who would be there. Only park rangers ever came by. But they wouldn’t pound unless something was wrong. And if they did, they’d call her name. The familiar fear gnawed at her belly. Had someone found her?
Shit. She’d forgotten her contacts and although she doubted any of the rangers would notice—or care—she hadn’t survived as Kelli Carpenter this long by neglecting the details. She hurried back to the bathroom and inserted the lenses, turning her pale gray eyes into a nondescript brown and grabbed her oversize tortoiseshell-framed glasses. “Coming!” She hurried through the living room and peered through the window.
Her stomach flipped at the sight of a total stranger on her porch. Hardly anybody knew about this field station, tucked away in the mountains of Washington state. Behind him, she caught a glimpse of a gray pickup truck, the one that had pissed her off by hugging the center line when she’d driven home.
Calm down. He’s lost and wants directions. Tell him what he needs and he’ll be gone.
“Yes?” she called through the door, trying to remember if she’d locked it.
“I’m looking for Kelli Carpenter,” a deep male voice said.
Kelli. Not Casey. Okay. She inched the door open. Swallowed. Twice. A man waited on her porch, wearing jeans and a windbreaker over a black turtleneck, holding an olive-green duffel bag. He stood at least six-two, with black hair that hung almost to his shoulders, and a five o’clock shadow at least two days old.
“I’m Kelli.” She forced herself to meet his eyes. Dark chocolate brown, they grabbed and wouldn’t let go. He stared, a little longer than necessary and she crossed her arms over her chest, suddenly all too aware her bra lay on the bathroom floor.
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