Jilted Groom(8)

By: Mia Carson

Kristen paused in her writing. “Can I get your name?”

“Edmund Eastwood,” he said with an air of pride he’d used since he was a child.

She smirked as she jotted it down. “Listen, Ed,” she began.

“Edmund,” he corrected.

Her smile widened and a glimmer of mischief lit up her eyes. “Edmund. Green Valley ain’t big, but we have a nice inn you can stay at and good food and whiskey. It might not be a dream vacation, but you’ll survive for a few days.”

He ran a hand through his messed-up hair and grimaced. “You’re right. I guess I should be thanking you.”

“I’d wait until you get the bill,” she smirked. “I can tell you now, for this car, the repairs won’t be cheap. The parts are going to be hard to find.”

“Money isn’t an issue,” he told her.

Her smile flickered before she turned away from him. “Good to know. Well, I’ll get her hooked up, and we can head back to town. Oh, and a word of warning, the AC isn’t working in my truck.” She tossed the clipboard inside, and Edmund opted to wait outside the hot truck until she was ready to go. He watched her maneuver the truck perfectly and hook up his Mustang. She waved for him to hop in as soon as she was finished, and they pulled out onto the road.

Edmund watched the forest go by as she sped down the road, taking the turns quite fast. He glanced back at his car, but it was still attached and bouncing happily along.

“Don’t worry,” she said loudly over the wind. “I’ll get us there in one piece.”

“You grew up on these roads?” he asked, trying not to sound as worried as he felt.

“I did,” she said shortly.

Edmund debated being polite and making conversation, but Kristen didn’t appear to be in the mood for a conversation. He busied himself by taking in the details of the cab of the old truck. A necklace hung around the rear-view mirror—a pendant of a horse—along with several old car keys. There was no trash, but the cushions were torn in places. A few spare rags lay in the backseat, along with a change of clothes, and even with the windows open, the scent of oil and honeysuckle lingered, drifting past his nose every now and then.

“Well, here we are,” she said as they drove past a town sign. “Welcome to Green Valley, Kentucky.”

“Looks… quaint,” he said, trying to be polite. “Is this the whole town?”

“Three cross streets and no stop lights,” she said. “This is about it.”

She drove towards the edge of a two-lane road and pulled off in front of a large garage with three doors, looking as if it, too, had seen better days. She parked and hopped out of the cab, taking the clipboard with her.

“The inn is just across the road.” She pointed, and Edmund turned, ready to cringe at the sight of what he might see. He sighed with relief at the perfectly normal, three-story building bearing a stone front and trimmed hedges on the curb. “If you want to reserve yourself a room, I’ll swing by in an hour or two with the damages.”

He nodded. “Right then, I guess I’ll let you get to it.”

She patted him on the shoulder with the clipboard. “Might not be as bad as it looks.”

“The way my luck’s been, nothing would surprise me,” he muttered but thanked her and walked away before she could ask questions he wasn’t really in the mood to answer. He needed to get to a working phone and check in with Tommy to let him know about the unexpected chink in his plan.

As he crossed the street, eyes followed him from storefronts and cars. He smiled politely at them all, wondering why they stared. Small town, he mused, but did they never have visitors? He quickened his pace and was thankful for the cool rush of air as he stepped inside the inn and rang the small bell on the desk.

“Well, now, who do we have here?” an elderly woman asked as she stepped out of a back office. “Looking for a room, are you?”

“Yes. I do seem to be in need of one,” he said with a polite smile. “My car broke down. I’m going to be here for at least a day, possibly more. Do you have anything available?”

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