Sparky was behind the wheel of the black rig, Dana in the passenger seat. It was nearly dusk. Shelly was on the couch, trying to sleep but not having much luck. Jules was sleeping in the bedroom.
“How much longer until we get to where we’re going?” Shelly asked, sitting up.
“Jules said we’re going to a place outside of Los Gatos,” Dana said. “Isn’t that right, Sparky?”
“What?” Sparky asked. “Sorry, I wasn’t listening.”
“We’re going to that place outside of Los Gatos, right?” Dana asked. “Shelly was asking.”
“Oh,” Sparky said. “He’s mentioned that location, but he told me to get off on Bailey Avenue before he went to take a nap. That’s kinda far south of Los Gatos.”
“He’s probably running us through a bunch of back roads,” Dana said. “Ought to be fun in the dark.”
Sparky chuckled. “He said he wanted to drive when we got off the 101. Must be why. He wants Shelly up front watching, too.”
“Oh, brother,” Shelly said. “I’m going to be in trouble if I don’t get some sleep.”
“Well then go into the bedroom,” Sparky said.
“She won’t sleep if she goes back there,” Dana said. “Neither will he.”
“Oh, please,” Shelly said. “Will you get off that?”
Sparky looked at Dana and grinned.
“You shut up too,” Shelly said.
“Hey, I didn’t say anything,” Sparky said.
“Okay, I’ll back off,” Dana said. “I’m just teasing you. It will be easier to sleep back there, though.”
“Jules sleeps like a rock,” Sparky said. “If you’re careful, he won’t even wake up.”
Shelly sighed. “How long till we get to this turnoff?”
“At the speed we’ve been going, a couple of hours,” Sparky said.
“If I go back there, will you tease me later?” Shelly asked.
Dana snickered. “Probably. No, I’m just kidding. Go ahead. You could do a lot worse, you know.”
Shelly rolled her eyes and went to the back of the coach, sliding the door open as quietly as she could. Jules was under the sheet, the bedspread shoved off the end of the bed. It was warm, heat from the rear engine making it feel almost cozy. She slid the door shut and went to the back wall, getting onto the right side of the bed in her clothes. Her mind was spinning, going over all the things that happened over the last few days, and all of the things she was afraid would happen in the next few days. Will I even be alive?
Jules’s breathing changed for a moment, and he turned onto his right side, facing away from her, settling back into the rhythmic snore. It was almost soothing. Shelly tried to settle down. It was too warm. She looked over at Jules, and then carefully got out of bed, shedding her pants and shirt, pausing for a minute, watching Jules. Then she shrugged and took off her bra, setting all of her clothes down on her side of the bed, within easy reach. The coach hit a bump, almost knocking her down, the snoring ending for a moment. Shelly covered her chest, waiting for him to turn towards her. He went back to his snoring, so she climbed into bed carefully, pulling the thin sheet all the way up to her neck. Sleep. She tried to clear her mind, but it wasn’t working. The low rumble of the engine below her was more helpful, so she focused on that, and on Jules, his light snore and the rising and falling of his chest. She calmed down and drifted off.
Shelly woke with a start as the coach slowed down suddenly. She was sweaty, and then she felt it. The hairy arm across her torso, body molded against her side as she lay on her back, the breath dusting her forehead. She felt the urge to move away, but didn’t, turning instead, her back towards him, not moving as he adjusted, closer to her, still asleep. She fell asleep again, feeling at peace for a little while.
There was a soft rap on the door an hour later, Shelly’s eyes opening wide. Jules stirred, backing away from her quickly when he realized she was there.
“Oh, sorry,” he said sitting up. “You came in. Not sleep on couch?”
She looked at his bare back, more hairy than she was used to. “I couldn’t sleep out there. Sorry. I tried not to disturb you.”
“I like, but you already know.” He turned back to the door. “Dana, are we almost there?”
“Yes,” Dana said. “There’s a truck stop coming up. Sparky said we should top up. You okay with that?”
“Yes,” Jules said. “We out in minute.”
“Okay,” Dana said. “Take your time.” Shelly could almost hear her giggle as she walked back to the front of the coach.
“I’ll never live this down,” Shelly said, turning in his direction, careful to keep the sheet sealed around her up to her neck.
“Hey, we do nothing, no?” Jules said. “Just sleep. Maybe cuddle a little.”
“Yeah, were you awake when you moved next to me?”
“A little,” he said. “Not for long.”
“Uh huh,” she said, feeling herself blush.
“You no like?” he asked.
She was quiet for a moment.
“Don’t say. Forget.”
“I liked it, okay,” Shelly said. “I wouldn’t have if you would’ve tried something.”
Jules looked her in the eyes. “See, I behaved, no? We can sleep together now? It better than alone.”
“We’ll see,” she said. “Now turn around so I can get dressed.”
He nodded and turned, getting up and pulling his clothes back on. Shelly dressed, and they came out of the bedroom together. Jules ducked into the bathroom, coming out again in a moment. “All yours.”
“I just need to run a comb through my hair,” Shelly said, going through the door as Jules went to the front.
“How road looking?” Jules asked.
“No problems,” Sparky said. “We got a few looks from fellow drivers, but I haven’t seen any sign of UN vehicles.”
“We might have damaged them more than expected,” Jules said.
“Hopefully,” Dana said.
“There’s the turnoff for the truck stop,” Sparky said, taking the off-ramp.
“You tell others?” Jules asked.
“Yep,” Dana said. “We’re all stopping.”
“We keep eyes open. If we get hit, this might be place. Get away from gas pumps fast if anything start.”
“Roger that,” Sparky said, turning onto the driveway of the truck stop. There were already two of their coaches there, and two behind them.
“We lose contact with anybody?” Jules asked.
“Nope,” Dana said. “Everybody is okay.”
“That good,” Jules said.
“How was Shelly?” Sparky said.
“Don’t make fun. We sleep only. She’s sensitive. I don’t want to blow it.”
Sparky looked at him after he set the parking brake. “You really like this one, don’t you?” he whispered. Jules nodded yes just as Shelly was coming out of the bathroom, looking fresh and wide awake.
“I go pump,” Jules said. “Maybe you two should take bedroom and sleep.”
“Yeah, maybe,” Dana said. “You tired enough?”
Sparky looked at her. “Probably, after I settle down a bit. Worth a try.”
“More sheets in closet,” Jules said. “If want.” He opened the door and went out to fuel the rig. Shelly came out with him to stretch her legs. The air was cool.
“Dana and Sparky are going to sleep for a while?”
“Yes, do,” Jules said.
“They might want to change the sheets. I sweated a lot.”
“I tell,” Jules said. “You ready to spot for me?”
“Yes,” she said. “We’re going into roads that will be difficult for these big rigs, aren’t we?”
“Yes, but it be fine,” Jules said.
“Hey, Partner,” Tex said, walking up with Karen.
“Tex, how you?” Jules asked.
“Good, but a little tired,” he said. “There are some advantages to having more than one person in a rig.”
“This true, my friend,” Jules said. “I take lead on this road. Had nap, while Sparky drove.”
“How are you doing, Karen?” Shelly asked.
“Okay,” she said. “Want to go check out the store?”
“Sure,” Shelly said. “You mind, Jules?”
“Of course not,” Jules said. “Enjoy. Maybe get snacks. Something sweet.”
“You need some money, little lady?” Tex asked.
“Still have some,” Karen said. “See you in a few minutes.”
The two walked towards the store.
“Is he still hounding you?” Karen asked.
Shelly shook her head yes.
“Are you okay about it?” Karen asked.
Shelly sighed. “We slept in the same bed. He cuddled with me. Naked, no less.”
“How’d you get yourself into that position?” Karen asked, holding the store door open for her. They went in, Shelly heading straight for the candy isle.
“We both needed sleep,” Shelly said. “I couldn’t do it on the couch, so I joined him. It was my choice.”
“Better watch yourself, girl,” Karen said. “Unless you want him.”
“I know what I’m doing,” she said, picking out several candy bars.
“Hell, you’re buying that for him, aren’t you?” Karen asked.
She turned to Karen and put her finger to her lips.
“Do you like him?” Karen asked.
“Maybe a little,” she said. “He was a gentleman in the bedroom. Completely.”
“I thought you said he cuddled with you naked,” Karen said.
“He didn’t try anything,” Shelly said, “and it helped me sleep, believe it or not.”
Karen shook her head, a sly smile on her face. “He’s going to get you, isn’t he?”
“I didn’t say that,” Shelly said. “Enough about me. You’ve got Tex after you. What’s going on there?”
“Just banter,” she said. “I won’t sleep in the back with him. I don’t think he wants to sleep back there either, after what happened.”
“Don’t blame either of you for that,” Shelly said. “So you’re taking the two beds in the salon, then?”
“Yeah, but the dinette one is too short for both of us,” she said. “I’ve been sleeping on that. May end up joining him on the couch queen convertible, if we can come to an agreement.”
“I’m not falling for him,” Karen said sharply.
“Uh huh,” Shelly said. “You like to talk with him. Your body language together is loosening up. I noticed when you two walked over. I’m surprised you weren’t holding hands.”
Karen froze for a moment, turning to her. “That’s not true.”
Shelly sighed. “Okay, I’ll shut up. We’re quite a pair. Both interested, both afraid. I don’t believe in whirlwind romances during these kinds of times. It’s too convenient.”
“Convenient for whom?” Karen asked.
“Whoever the pursuer is,” Shelly said, glancing at her, face reddening slightly.
“Oh,” Karen said. “Men.”
Shelly laughed. “It’s not just men. Dana is throwing herself at Sparky. He’s resisting her.”
“Okay, you’re right,” Karen said. “Look how the bitch latched onto Gil.”
“Are you still upset about that?” Shelly asked. “That guy is clearly not your type.”
“Who are you to say?”
“It’s just an observation,” Shelly said. “You came from money, didn’t you? What did your parent’s do?”
“They owned a small factory,” Karen said. “Thought you knew that.”
“What, from the hell hole? From captivity? I was completely shut down during most of that.”
“Wish I was,” Karen said, tears forming in her eyes. “I dream about it every night. Their faces above me. Smug and mean.”
“I’m sorry,” Shelly said. “Is that why you’re resisting Tex?”
She thought for a moment. “No, if anything that experience is the only thing that might work for him someday.”
“What do you mean?”
“He’s kind and gentle, and he rescued me,” Karen said. “He was the first one I saw.”
“Then why’d you go after Gil?”
“I kinda knew him.”
“He worked for my dad,” Karen said.
“For how long?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Four or five years, maybe.”
Shelly took her candy up to the counter and paid, then turned to Karen. “You knew him for that long and never got together with him?”
“He was an employee.” Karen got a look of shame on her face, and covered her mouth. “Oh, God. I’m such a bitch.”
Shelly took the bag of candy from the clerk. Karen was about to put hers up there, but then she turned and grabbed a big bag of beef jerky from the end of the aisle behind the counter, and tossed it in front of the clerk along with the other stuff. She paid, and the two women walked out the door.
“You realized something in there,” Shelly said.
“I like to be in control,” Karen said, the shamed look coming back. “I feel like I can control Gil. I don’t think anybody can control Tex.”
Shelly nodded to her as they got back to Jules and Tex.
“Good, we go,” Jules said.
“Hey, little lady, find something you like?” Tex asked.
Karen pulled the bag of jerky up out of the paper sack.
“You got me jerky?” he asked, smiling. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome. Let’s blow this joint.” She followed Tex to the yellow rig, shooting a smile to Shelly. Shelly nodded to her, then went up the steps, Jules following her up.
“Ready?” Jules asked.
“Yep,” Shelly said, getting into the passenger seat with the bag of candy. She dumped it out on the center console shelf.
“Good, I like,” Jules said, looking at it.
“I know,” Shelly said. “Drive.”
Jules fired up the engine and they were off, in the lead, heading into the darkness.
Sam and Sid sat at the table with Silver Wolf and Tyler. They drank down their shots of whiskey.
“I think we need another,” Silver Wolf said. “I’ll bring the bottle to the table.” He got out of his chair and grabbed the bottle, putting it on the middle of the round table.
“Fine by me,” Sid said. “I’ll only drink a couple more, though. We’ve got important things to talk about.”
“That bottle looks really old,” Sam said.
“We found it in the saloon,” Silver Wolf said. “With a lot of others. It was in a metal crate that was buried in the basement, but we were still surprised nobody found it after all the years it was there.”
“The off-roader ban probably saved this place,” Sid said. He tossed back another shot.
“A lot of damage happened from the thirties through the sixties,” Silver Wolf said. “The two buildings that burned were a result of yahoos that were out here camping.”
“Maybe we should stop beating around the bush and talk,” Sam said. “No offence, but we’re tired.”
“Of course,” Silver Wolf said. “What are the plans of your group, what are your resources, and who is supporting you?”
Tyler shot a worried glance at Sid and Sam. Silver Wolf noticed.
“No coaching from the sidelines, Quiet Fox,” he said.
“I’m not,” Tyler said. “I’m just worried.”
“No need to worry,” Silver Wolf said. “Go on, gentlemen.”
Sam looked at Sid, then spoke. “Our plan is to rid eastern San Diego County and all of Imperial County of enemy fighters.”
“What about western San Diego county?”
“That’s controlled by the US Navy and the Marines,” Sid said.
“So the Feds are in control. What will stop them from moving in after we clean things up in the east?”
“I said the US Navy and Marines. They aren’t controlled by the Feds at this point.”
“And how did you get that information?” Silver Wolf asked.
“Our sponsor,” Sid said.
“Ivan the Butcher,” Sam said.
Silver Wolf leaned back in his chair, thinking. “He has resources, to be sure, but he’s an evil man.”
“Depends on your point of view,” Sam said. “Right now he’s on our side. His efforts have won LA County and most of Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties back for the people.”
“You and me,” Sid said. “All of us.”
“This man is no saint,” Silver Wolf said. “He’s a whoremonger and a drug pusher.”
Sam smiled. “He’s all of that and more. You can add murderer onto the list. He hates globalists. He hates the UN, and he hates the corrupt men in the Federal Government.”
“Because they hurt his operations?”
“Partly,” Sam said. “Look, I’m not going to try to convince you that this man is a saint. He’s not. Look at him like Stalin in WW II. We fight a common enemy, and Ivan’s got resources. He’s also got a grudge against the Islamist leader and the leadership of the EU.”
“What was his name again?” Silver Wolf asked. “Saltin or Salton or something?”
“Saladin,” Sam said, his brow furrowed.
“You have experience with this man,” Silver Wolf said. “I can see it on your face.”
“I was in special forces, and fought my last battle against him,” Sam said.
“It didn’t go well, did it?”
“No,” Sam said.
“And now you want to fight him again,” Silver Wolf said. “With my people.”
Tyler started to say something, but Silver Wolf shot him a stern glance, and he shut up.
“Saladin isn’t my fight anymore,” Sam said. “He’s in Utah, and there are others after him. Others that I’ve fought with before.”
“Ji-Ho helped to chase him out of California, and wounded him badly,” Sid said.
“A Korean man, mainly a smuggler and Merc,” Sid said.
“As bad as the Islamists are, the biggest problem in most of California is the UN,” Sam said. “They’ve tried to make this state a pilot for Global Governance, along with several other parts of the country. Washington and Oregon, most of New England, and parts of the Mid-Atlantic. Some of the upper Midwest, although I hear they’re losing there.”
Silver Wolf was quiet for a moment, thinking. Sid poured himself another shot. He glanced over at Tyler and Sam, both of whom nodded yes. He poured for them too. Silver Wolf slid his shot glass over and Sid filled it. They all knocked them back.
“What does Ivan supply to your group?”
“Money, weapons, vehicles, and intelligence,” Sam said.
“And what do you give in return?”
“We fight a common enemy,” Sam said. “That’s enough. Most of us have no part in Ivan’s underworld operations.”
“Ji-Ho has been involved,” Sam said.
“Smuggling weapons,” Sam said.
“Oh,” Silver Wolf said. “Who is allied with you? How many people do you have?”
“Our core group is small,” Sid said. “It’s never been very large, and we’ve taken losses.”
“Do those losses include our people?”
“Yes,” Sid said. “and some of our own, including Sam’s wife.”
Silver Wolf leaned back in his chair again, choking back tears. “I heard, it was when we lost One Eye.”
“Yes,” Sid said, glancing at Sam, who was maintaining with dignity.
“It sounds like your group is close to dying out,” Silver Wolf said.
“We’re allied with a force of eight hundred men,” Sam said.
“A man named Garrett,” Sid said. “Old friend.”
Silver Wolf smiled. “You mean the cowboy nut from Dulzura?”
Sam chuckled. “He does have a style about him.”
“Silver Wolf looked at Tyler. “How do Garrett’s men fight? Be honest.”
“They saved us twice,” Tyler said. “I’d fight with them any time, in any place, against anybody.”
“Okay,” Silver Wolf said. “Where is your base?”
“Dulzura,” Sam said. “But we’re mobile.”
“Dulzura is almost locked down now,” Silver Wolf said. “We have contacts there watching.”
“So, what is your decision?” Sam asked.
“I don’t decide,” Silver Wolf said. “The council decides. I’m but one voice. I’ll report back, and we’ll discuss it tonight, while you’re sleeping. Tyler, I’d like you to be in the meeting.”
“Of course,” Tyler said.
“One more thing,” Silver Wolf said. “Kaitlyn and Megan. I hear they’ve pair-bonded with two of your people. White men.”
“We don’t have any control over that,” Sam said. Sid shot him a glance.
“Our tribe’s birthrate has dwindled in recent years, as young people take off to find their own way in the white man’s world,” Silver Wolf said. “We’re becoming inbred, and most of the tribes are having the same problem, so we haven’t been successful in working it together as brother nations.”
Sid smiled. “I think I know where this is going.”
Silver Wolf smiled. “I’m glad the couples have found each other. Their parents and I would like them to be bonded via our traditions. Tyler, would you do that? You have that right as War Chief.”
Tyler nodded yes.
“What if they aren’t ready to make that kind of commitment?” Sam asked.
Sid and Tyler laughed.
“What?” Sam asked.
“If I don’t do it, they’ll do it someplace else,” Tyler said.
“They’ll probably also do it someplace else,” Silver Wolf said. “I still want you to run them through the ritual. Doesn’t matter if they marry both under your traditions and ours.”
“Why?” Sam asked. “No offence, I’m just curious.”
“We want the children to be part of the tribe, and we want them to know of our culture.”
“You don’t expect the children to live with your tribe, do you?” Sam asked.
“No, that will be their choice, and the choice of their parents,” Silver Wolf said.
“This is a good thing, Sam,” Tyler said. “Trust me.”
“Yes,” Silver Wolf said. He shot Sam a glance. “Have you met Desert Flower yet?”
Tyler snickered. “I don’t think she’ll need your help, Silver Wolf.”
“What are you talking about?” Sam asked.
“Erica,” Tyler said. “She’s already been asking about you.”
“I’m not ready for that,” Sam said, brow furrowed. “I just lost my wife. I’m not ready to move on. Not for a while.”
“Have you seen her yet?” Silver Wolf asked.
“No,” Sam said.
“We’ll see. You and Sid go grab some rest. Tyler, take them to the tent area. There’s two set up for them, with blankets. Then you come with me. We’ll meet in the big tent, behind the town.”
To be continued…
Bug Out! Texas has just been published in the Kindle Store! This is the story of Texas Patriots and their struggle against enemies, foreign and domestic, during the Bug Out! War. Chock full of action, adventure, suspense, and romance. Pick up your copy of Bug Out! Texas Book 1 today!
The first of my full length novels has been published in the Amazon Kindle store, available now. For those of you have have been readying the Bugout! series, the story involves George and Malcolm, and is set about seven years earlier. This book R rated, instead of the PG-13 of the Bugout! Series, so be warned. Here’s the link to “Never A Loose End”
Copyright Robert Boren 2017