I was raised by my grandmother, which is not only the reason there’s a grandmother prominent in pretty much every one of my books, but it also explains from whom I acquired certain habits. She’s why to this day, I’m still twitchy about strangers touching my hair (they may do voodoo with it!). She’s also why I do sensible things like lock my car doors immediately after my butt meets the seat. She’s why I always tiptoe to the upstairs window to screen visitors who ring my doorbell before I let them know I’m home.
She died without knowing that I’m not so sensible that I wouldn’t meet strange men from the internet and move in with them pretty much right after our first date, much less marry them. That guy I married almost eleven years ago could have been an ex-wielding murderer. He’s not (or isn’t so far, anyway). Still, eleven years ago, internet dating fell squarely in the realm of “Don’t do that.”
When I wrote A Demon in Waiting, I wanted to capture some of that granddaughter guilt with my heroine Ariel. She knows picking up hitchhikers is probably a really bad idea, but for once, she wants to take a risk. She’s lonely. Here’s what happens when she finally gives in to her desire to do something risky. To set up the scene, she’s in a gas station somewhere in Arizona after spending a couple of days driving cross-country solo.
She turned her head and caught a glimpse of the scruffy hitchhiker in her periphery.
No way. Maybe I’m just projecting.
She blinked several times to clear the film from her contact lenses, and turned her head to stare at him dead-on.
Yep. Same guy. He was in the process of switching his knapsack to his other shoulder as he trekked toward the restrooms. He didn’t disappear into the lavatory, however, but stopped at the water fountain and unclipped the aluminum bottle attached to his pack.
She watched, slack jawed, as he put his lips into the arcing stream of water.
Pretty. He was like some expensive bauble in a jewelry store circular. Nice to ogle, but generally beyond her reach. But then again, he was a bum, so what did she know?
He set his backpack on the floor and as he twisted the lid off his water bottle, he turned, likely ensuring he wasn’t holding up the line. There wasn’t one. Everyone else in the store was buying their water.
His gaze landed on Ariel, and it was like the air had been vacuumed out of the room. She couldn’t remember how to breathe, nor did she have the good sense to look away. She understood, suddenly, how Medusa had managed to turn so many gaping idiots into stone.
He let go of the fountain handle and stood, grinning at her. A swath of sun-bleached blond hair fell over his eyes and as if he could hear her willing him to do so, he pushed it behind his ears. His expression said, “Better now?”
She offered a tiny smile and tore her gaze away. It was her turn to pay. She went through the motions of swiping her card and pressing the Debit button on the keypad, but her awareness of him never dimmed. Even as she meditated on the clerk’s repetitive motions—pick up item, bag item, pick up item, bag item—she could tell when the man walked past.
That same electric feeling from before settled into her, dancing down her spine and wracking her body with a shudder. She forced a hiss through her clenched teeth as she punched her debit card’s PIN into the machine.
All this solo driving must be making me delirious. Maybe I should call Momma. Would help to hear a familiar voice on the road.
Yes, she assured herself. That’s all it was. A little asphalt-induced insanity. Maybe he wasn’t even real. He was just a mirage. Had to be. No one else in the store had even turned their heads in his direction.
You may guess from there that Ariel’s unable to resist the pull toward this stranger. You’d be right. That’s what the book’s about, after all!
So, have you ever done anything society overwhelmingly viewed as really stupid, but are really thankful that you did it now? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Holley Trent is the multi-published author of contemporary and paranormal romances set in The South. Her books almost always contain sex and snark, though not necessarily in that order. See her full backlist at holleytrent.com, and if you want to chat, holler at her on Twitter. She tweets as @holleytrent.