CASCADE MOUNTAINS OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
The dream still haunted her.
In the early morning hours, Katherine had awakened in her motel room, still aware of the distinct aroma of meat roasting in its juices. Such virtual reality in her sleep was a new and strange experience for her. Perhaps her longing for a simpler time had stirred her imagination. It made sense. What didn’t make sense was the very real smell of cooked meat.
Not that she believed dreams had any prophetic value. On the contrary, she viewed them more as mental scrapbooks with familiar faces and the surroundings of everyday life. Usually they were so uneventful that she rarely, if ever, recalled them in the morning.
Sitting alone in a booth near the door of the diner, she held the white stoneware mug with a two-fisted grip, staring out the plate-glass window toward a highway overpass that blocked the view of the snow-crested Mt. Shasta. Even though the caffeine had cleared the cobwebs of sleep from Katherine’s brain, it couldn’t clear her head of the peculiar dream. She dropped her head a bit and rubbed the back of her neck. These few days of rest would do her good. If nothing else, it might erase the disturbing dream from her mind.
“Need some aspirin?” asked the waitress as she delivered the heaping breakfast plate, placing it next to the empty mug.
Katherine glanced at the spreading puddle of melted butter on top of the English muffin, dribbling down the sides like gravy over a slice of roast . . . The dream again. Why wouldn’t it go away?
When the question about aspirin finally registered in her brain, Katherine looked up at the waitress. “That’s thoughtful of you, but more coffee will do just fine.”
The blond girl shrugged it off with a smile and turned to leave, then hesitated. “Are you a model?”
Startled by the question, Katherine resisted the urge to laugh at the absurdity of such an assumption. Fast approaching thirty, she had clients who would have smirked at the idea of their attorney prancing down a runway or mugging for the camera.
“Actually, I’m an attorney.” She held back the rest—that she was an attorney in the entertainment industry with her own talent agency. The girl would probably start to audition, she thought wryly, then chastised herself for putting this waitress in the same league with the starving actresses who served tables at restaurants near the big studios.
“Lost that bet,” sighed the blond.
“I take it you don’t lose very often.”
“Nope.” She gestured at the crowded roadside cafe. “We get a lot of tourists stoppin’ here. But they’re pretty much average-lookin’ people. Now as soon as we saw you gettin’ out of that Lexus out there, Hank—he’s the one at the grill— says that you’re an actress. But I told him, “Naw, she’s got to be a model.”
Katherine let her pancakes get cold. The small-town friendliness of her talkative waitress was simply too charming to ignore. Maybe she’d leave a couple extra dollars on the table to offset the lost bet. Then suspicion leapt into her thoughts, condemning the girl for suckering another tourist for a big tip.
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