Page 52 of Tripping on a Halo

“I’ll help,” Roger offered, his chest still puffed up, and I watched as Ansley bit her lip in response. Weird married people. I elbowed her and she glared at me.


“I put the instructions for Mr. Oinks on the dining room table,” I reminded her.

“Yep. I know. Let him out four times a day. Check his water. Feed him crap. Got it,” she said absentmindedly.

“And scratch his belly.”

“The kids can do that. You know I don’t like how sweaty he gets.” She wrinkled up her nose as she watched Declan and Roger cross over the grass, my bags in hand. “Text me when you get there. And if he kisses you. Or anything else.” She grinned at me and I rolled my eyes, pulling her into a hug.

“I can’t believe you’re wearing those underwear,” she whispered against my ear.

“I can’t believe you think Roger’s sexy,” I whispered back.

She laughed and squeezed me tight. “Go. Have fun. Live a little.”

Live a little. It was strange that, in trying so hard to keep Declan from dying, I had kind of forgotten how to celebrate living. I thought suddenly of Mom, of her manic mood swings—full of happy energy one minute, and bitter and angry the next. When she was up, she was UP. It was like living in a disco ball of fun and love, the mood tampered with the constant fear that it was about to end. And when she’d gone down…we’d avoided her.

Ansley pulled away and kissed my cheek. “Go. Have wild passionate forest sex and tell me all the explicit details later.”

I waved at her and met Caleb halfway across the lawn, bending to kiss him on the head. When I looked up, Declan was rounding the back of the truck, his gaze catching mine. “Ready?” he called, opening my door.

I wasn’t ready, not with Ansley’s words echoing in my ear, or the fact that Declan looked deliciously outdoorsy, in a long-sleeved T-shirt, worn jeans, and hiking boots. His sleeves were pushed up to the elbows, he had a golden layer of scruff on his face, and a baseball cap snug on his head.

“Roger,” Ansley called out. “He’s opening the door for HER.”

I swallowed a smile at Roger’s annoyed grunt and hoisted myself into the cab. “I’m ready.”

“So, where exactly are we going?” I pulled my pillow out of the bag and rested it on my lap, readjusting the seatbelt.

“A hunting lease we have in Marion County. Outside Ocala. It’s about two hours away.” He glanced over his shoulder, waiting for a break in traffic so he could pull out.

“A hunting lease…” I picked at a stubborn hangnail. “How does that work? You rent the land?”

“Yeah. There’s a group of ten of us who got together on it. There’re a few small cabins on the property and a camp house. We all come down when we can.”

“So, there’ll be ten people here?” My fear quadrupled. Ten gun-toting idiots, all likely to be drunk and careless. I mentally flipped through the items I had packed. A gunshot wound kit, epi pens, the biggest first aid kit that Amazon provided, a foldable gurney and three books on wound care. It wasn’t enough. I might be able to protect Declan, but what about all of the others?

“Nah. It’s just us and Nate. Potentially our client, if he brings her along.”

Our client. Her. I sat up a little in the seat, enthused at the idea of a second female. “Is she a hunter?”

He chuckled. “Benta? I wouldn’t think so. Not unless you’re the last designer dress on the rack.” He reached down and picked up his phone. “But the jury is still out on her. I’m waiting for Nate to confirm it.” He didn’t seem pleased with the possibility and I dropped the subject.

“How do you know that no one else is coming? Do you have a booking system? Online calendar?”

He smiled. “Nope. We show up and if someone’s there, we squeeze in. It works.”

Great. We were driving two hours into a complete question mark of a situation. Technically, since he’s bringing me, and Nick’s bringing someone, all ten of the guys could be there, with girls, and how are twenty people going to share a few small cabins? I felt lightheaded.

He gently touched my arm. “Are you okay? You look a little pale.”

“I’m fine.” I found the window control and lowered the glass, gulping in some of the fresh air. “Is Nate pissed that I’m coming?”

He smiled. “Nate doesn’t get pissed about stuff, especially not where women are involved. Plus, this was his idea.”

That surprised me. “Really?”

“Yeah. And it’s good for you guys to spend some time together. You can get to know each other better. His view of you is a little one-sided.”

I pinned my lips together, uninterested in the idea of spending the next twenty-four hours explaining my erratic behavior to Nate Robb. I had seen Nate enough to know what sort of guy he was. The popular one. The sort who had women tripping over themselves. The kind who flirted as often as he breathed, broke hearts with wild abandon, and had probably spent the last six months making fun of me.