Bugout! California Part 83 – Los Gatos Vineyards


Kaitlyn and Seth walked quietly into the big house and up the stairs. It was getting late. Seth opened the door for Kaitlyn, closing it behind them after they walked inside.

“Okay, Seth, I need you to tell me now that we’re alone. Are you really ready for this?”

“I wasn’t lying out there,” Seth said, his arms circling her waist, pulling her closer. They kissed, Kaitlyn breaking it before Seth was ready.

“Don’t change the subject,” she whispered. “Are you really ready? Do you really want me?”

“You can’t tell?”

“I think I can, but this is a big deal. It’s our whole lives. I don’t want to do this more than once.”

He kissed her forehead and then released her from his embrace. “Sit down. Let’s talk this out.”

She nodded and sat on the bed, Seth sitting next to her.

“Thanks,” she said.

“Are you having doubts?”

“I knew I wanted you the first time I laid eyes on you,” she said. “I keep waiting for my feelings to diminish, like they have with other men I’ve had relationships with.”

“That’s not happening, is it?”

“No, the opposite is happening,” she said. “It’s scary.”

“Why scary?”

She thought silently for a moment. “I feel out of control. Look how I blurted out that comment in front of Sam and the others.”

“That was cute,” Seth said. “The way you covered your mouth, and looked so worried.”

“I didn’t think it was cute. I thought it was embarrassing.”

“You know us guys like when women tip their hand like that,” Seth said. “It’s exciting.”

She looked into his eyes, searching. “What do you want. Really. No BS.”

He smiled calmly at her for a moment, taking in the beauty of her face, and her earnest look.

“C’mon,” she said.

“I want you in my life. Every day. I want to see you carrying my children. I want to raise them with you and settle down. I want that to start today.”

She looked at him through tears. “How do I know this isn’t just infatuation?”

He sighed, looking down, then back up at her face. “You’re just going to have to believe me for now. If you need more assurance than that, you’ll have to watch me over time. If you’re that worried about it, we can hold off with Tyler for a little while. Not too long, though.”

“Why, are you going to lose interest if we don’t move forward?”

He chuckled. “No, I’m just anxious, that’s all.”

“Anxious for what? You already have me in most ways. We’ve been kinda like bunnies since that first night at the motel.”

Seth smiled at her. “That was almost our last night.”

“Don’t remind me,” she said.

“You’ve known that I want you since before that,” Seth said. “I could tell by the way you looked at me.”

“How did I look at you?”

“Like my mom looked at my dad,” Seth said.

Kaitlyn’s face turned red, and she looked at him. “That’s it.”

“That’s what?”

“The way you look at me. I have you, don’t I?”

“Yes,” Seth said, “and I thought I had you, until this discussion started.”

“You think I don’t want you?”

“I didn’t say that,” Seth said. “I think you’re cautious about pulling the trigger so soon. That’s all.” He paused to look at her again.

“You’re going to say something else, but you’re not sure about it.”

“I know you want me,” he said. “There’s no doubt in my mind. We belong to each other. It’s clear as day to me, but I didn’t really realize it all the way until just now. It was wishful thinking before. Hoping.”

She leaned against him, on the verge of tears. “So, we should do it, then? You sure?”

“I’m sure,” Seth said. “I can’t wait, actually.”

“Why? Do you think things will change once we’ve gone through it?”

He smiled. “Yeah, I do, but I can’t put my finger on it.”

“I think I know,” she said. “We can start that now. We don’t need to go to the pharmacy after all.” She stood up and pulled her shirt over her head. Seth reached for her, his passion building fast.

“I was afraid you were going to back out,” Seth said.

“I was afraid you weren’t really ready,” she said as she undid her bra.


Sam and Sid followed Ed and Tyler back to the sheriff’s office. They went inside and sat back down.

“Well, what do you think?” Ed asked Sam.

“About what?”

“Erica,” Tyler said. He looked at Sid, and they snickered.

“She’s very nice and quite beautiful,” Sam said, “but I’m not ready. Not for a while.”

“What’s the verdict?” Sid asked.

“We’ll allow Tyler, Ryan, and James to go back with you guys,” Ed said. “They can bring their families if they so desire. That is their business.”

“There’s a but coming,” Sid said.

“We won’t commit more warriors to the fight,” Ed said. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry,” Sam said. “I was going to suggest that anyway. Your people have given up enough. You need what warriors you have left to defend yourselves, until we can get the area really locked down.”

“Thank you for your understanding,” Ed said.

“Thank you for your fairness and your sacrifices up to now,” Sid said. “You will always be our brothers.”

“I hope we can spend time together once this is over,” Ed said.

“One other thing,” Tyler said. “If we run into trouble and need a place to hide out, all of you are welcome here with us.”

“Thanks for that,” Sid said. “That’s very generous.”

“You are welcome,” Ed said. “Now I’m tired. I’ll take my leave. Are you heading out tomorrow?”

“We’d like to,” Sam said.

“Good,” Ed said. “I’ll see you off in the morning then. Good night.”

He walked out of the office. Tyler looked at them.

“You guys okay with that?”

“Of course,” Sam said. “We never expected your people to ­­­send more warriors. The main reason for this trip was to check on them. Make sure they didn’t need help from us.”

“Exactly,” Sid said. “By the way, we gave Kaitlyn and Megan a heads up about Ed’s request.”

“And the guys too, I hope,” Tyler said.

“Yes, of course,” Sid said. “They were together when we discussed it with them.”

“Did they get upset?”

Sam chuckled. “Hardly.”

“Good, that’s how I figured it would go,” Tyler said. “I’m going to spend some quality time with my wife and family before we leave. I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Are you bringing them?” Sid asked.

“I’m going to suggest they don’t come,” Tyler said. “I’ll have to promise to be back soon, but I want that anyway. My place is with my people.”

“I agree,” Sam said. “See you in the morning.”

Tyler nodded and left.

“Well, that’s that,” Sid said. “I’m happy about it.”

“Me too,” Sam said. “This is the outcome I hoped for. Finding them safe and sound, and leaving them here.”

“You still think this is a death trap, though, right?”

“Yes, but we’ve got the enemy on the run now,” Sam said. “They won’t last much longer.”

“Let’s hope not,” Sid said. “Joining up with these folks doesn’t sound half bad, you know.”

“I could think of worse things,” Sam said.

“So could Erica, I’m sure,” Sid said.

He looked over at her. “Okay, okay, I liked her. Maybe after all of this is over I’ll find her again. Don’t start telling everybody in our group about it, though, okay?”

“I won’t,” Sid said. “Let’s go to our tents and hit the sack. Tomorrow is gonna be a long day.”


Tex and Karen sat in chairs outside their rig, which was closest to the gate. They watched as Cody and Allison walked back from the highway, binoculars around their necks and M-16s in their hands.

“They gone, partner?” Tex asked.

“Yeah, finally,” Cody said. “Motorcycle went over the cliff. The guy walked away, believe it or not. Took them a long time to hoist the bike back up.”

“It’s almost midnight,” Allison said. “Not that I minded the company.”

Cody smiled at her, then looked at Tex. “We leaving tonight?”

“It’s not safe to stay here, is it?” Karen asked.

“No,” Tex said. “Go report to Jules, Cody. I suspect we’ll be leaving soon.”

Cody nodded. They walked off towards the other coaches.

Karen sighed. “Is everybody getting together in this group?”

“You have a problem with that, little lady?”

“Never mind. Forget I said it. I don’t want to get into one of those conversations again.”

“I thought you were getting to like me a little.”

“I am, a little,” she said. “It just feels like all of us are being pushed.”

Allison is the one who made the comment,” Tex said.

“I know. Like I said, I don’t want to start another one of those conversations with you.”

“Have it your way, little lady,” Tex said.

“Why do you call me that?”

“I call all women that,” Tex said. “Force of habit. Picked it up from my granddad.”

“Oh, brother,” she said. “It makes you sound like a hick.”

“It makes me sound like a Texan.”

“Same difference,” she quipped.

Tex laughed. “You’re going to be like this for our whole lives, aren’t you, little lady?”

She rolled her eyes.

“What, no comment?” Tex asked, grinning at her.

“That doesn’t deserve a comment,” she said, trying hard not to crack a smile.

Tex’s phone dinged. He looked at it. “Jules. We’re leaving now. Same order as before.”

“Good, then that’ll end this conversation,” Karen said, getting up out of her chair. Tex folded both chairs up and stashed them in the storage compartment as Karen went up the steps into the coach. Tex joined her there in a moment, and got behind the wheel. They watched Jules’s coach roll by slowly.

“There they go,” Tex said as he fired up the big diesel.

“Why is Shelly always riding shotgun?”

“Maybe she’s spotting for Jules,” Tex said.

“Sparky is in that rig too,” Karen said. “He could do that.”

“He’s probably playing house with Dana,” Tex said. “You see them together earlier? I’m surprised they weren’t holding hands.”

“Dammit,” Karen said. “That’s what I was talking about. There’s pressure. It’s not fair.”

“You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do,” Tex said. “I’ve told you that over and over again.”

“But you keep trying.”

“Told you about that, too,” Tex said.

She shook her head. Tex pulled out into his spot, just ahead of Robbie’s coach. Soon they were back on the road, cruising around the curves.

“Is Shelly really getting closer to Jules?” Karen asked.

“Thought you didn’t want to talk about this stuff.”

“I was talking about us,” she said.

“Oh, there’s an us, now, is there? Excellent.”

“Dammit, that’s not what I meant, and you know it,” she said. “I’m just surprised that she seems to be coming around to him.”

“Sitting next to him and coming around are two different things,” Tex said. “Look where you’re sitting.”

“It’s not the same,” she said.

“Why not?”

“Because Sparky is in the coach too,” Karen said. If Ted or Cody were in this coach, they’d be riding shotgun.”

“Don’t be so sure. Maybe I want you up here.”


“You have a calming effect on me,” Tex said.

She laughed out loud. “I’ve been an exercise in frustration.”

“Do you see me reacting as if that’s the case?” Tex asked.

“Now we’re back in that conversation again.”

“You brought it up,” Tex said, glancing over at her.

“Watch the road.”

“You’re watching me,” Tex said. “Caught you.”

“Shut up,” she said. “I don’t think Jules is gonna get anywhere with Shelly, anyway.”

“And why is that? She say something to you, or are you just guessing?”

“I heard her and Dana talking,” Karen said.

“Eavesdropping, huh? That’s not nice.”

“No, it wasn’t like that,” she said. “We were all in the store at the gas station. It was hard not to hear what they were saying.”

“What were they saying?”

“Don’t say anything,” Karen said.

“My lips are sealed,” Tex said.

“They better be. She does like him, but she’s afraid of what he does for a living.”

“Oh, really,” Tex said. “What does she think he does for a living?”

“He works for Ivan’s mob,” Karen said.

Tex laughed hard, then looked over at her, then turned back to the road and laughed some more.

“What’s so funny?” Karen asked.

“Jules hasn’t worked for Ivan in years. Not since the days when Ivan was in Russia.”

“He didn’t work for him in the EU, before Ivan got kicked out?”

Tex shook his head no.

“Then why is he here?” Karen asked.

“He’s an enemy of the guy who is behind this war,” Tex said. “He joined Ivan to fight him.”


Tex chuckled. “Saladin is second in command. He’s like the attack dog, although he doesn’t know it. He’s not the leader, and he didn’t dream this thing up.”

“Then who did?”

“A Belgian man named Daan Mertins,” Tex said. “He’s one evil piece of crap. There’s been a nasty feud between Jules’s family and Daan’s family. It’s gone on for a lot of years.”

“How many years?”

“Oh, about four hundred,” Tex said.


“Europeans are a little different than us folks here.”

“Okay, so what does Jules really do for a living?” Karen asked.

“His family owns a dairy business. A big dairy business.”

“No way,” Karen said.

“It’s the God’s honest truth.”

Karen snickered. “So he’s going back to the farm after this is over, then?”

“Jules is rich. He can go wherever he wants to,” Tex said.

“Crap,” Karen said. “If Jules mentioned that to Shelly, I suspect she’d change her opinion. I’d have another couple here to put pressure on me.”

Ted laughed. “Don’t you tell her. That’s up to Jules.”

Karen was silent for a moment. “Wait, if he wants her so badly, why doesn’t he tell her?”

“Maybe he wants to make sure she wants him, not the money,” Tex said. “He probably will go back to the family business. He’s the one who built it up as big as it is today.”

Karen was quiet again, thinking. “Okay, which of you guys do work for Ivan’s mob? You do, don’t you?”

“I never said that,” Tex said. “We’re old friends, and we’re fighting a common enemy. We part ways when it’s over. Same with Ted and Cody. The only person who works for Ivan is Sparky. Oh, and Mister White and Mister Black.”

“Who are they again?”

“Hit men, basically,” Tex said. “You’ve never met them. They helped us to rescue you ladies. They handled the operation inside the Armstrong Theater while we were in the tunnels heading for you.”

“He never planned to take any of us along on this, did he?”

“He didn’t know he’d be rescuing you guys until Sparky and I talked to him,” Tex said. “The folks you should be thanking are Morgan and Robbie. That’s the connection.”

“You knew Morgan, right?”

“Just barely,” Tex said. “I told you about what happened at the card club, right?”

“Oh yeah,” she said. “Morgan thinks you and Sparky walk on water, you know.”

“We both have a problem with thugs who abuse women.”

The convoy started to slow down.

“Oh, crap, what now?” Karen asked. She looked out the windows franticly, her red hair swaying.

“We’re probably there already,” Tex said.

“You mean to tell me that this place was only a few miles past that crash site?”

“Yeah,” Tex said. “Why are you mad about that?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” she said. “I’m just tired, I guess. I thought we had a lot more driving to do.”

“Don’t worry, there’s a few more miles after this turn coming up,” Tex said. “You’ll get to partake of my sparkling personality for a while yet.”

“Hardy har har,” she said. “I’m still going to be in this damn coach with you anyway.”

“Ours is getting retrofitted in the first pair,” Tex said. “We’re staying in the house. Oh, and by the way, they’re tearing out the bed and the floors in the bedroom and replacing it all.”


“So we can use it,” Tex said.

“You’d be okay with sleeping in there?”

“Yeah, after they’ve cleaned it out completely,” Tex said.

“Okay, I could see that, I guess.” She watched as Tex made the right turn, onto a long skinny road lined with trees on either side.

“You okay?”

“You’re supposed to be watching the road,” she said

“This is straight. Not as difficult as that last road. I can glance over some now.”

“Wonderful,” she said.

“You were going to ask me something. I see those gears in your head turning.”

“Oh, stop,” she said. “You can not.”

“You’re like an open book. Go ahead, ask.”

She looked over at him. “Damn you. I was gonna ask what you did for a living.”

“I mostly live off my investments,” he said. “How do you think I got time off to do all of this?”

“Wait, are you rich too?”

Tex laughed. “You mean like Jules? No, nothing like that.”

“Oh,” she said. “What will you do when this is over?”

“Probably follow you around.”

“Dammit, I was serious.”

He just stared back at her quietly.

“You’re impossible,” she said, her anger flaring.

“Why are you so mad? Do you wish I was rich like Jules?”

“No, of course not,” she said. “We’ve been thrown together. We’re spending all this time together, like it or not. I was curious, that’s all.”

“Uh huh,” he said. “I just told you.”

“Follow me around? You mean like a stocker?”

“Also explained that,” he said. “I’ll pursue you until I know you want me to go away.”

“You aren’t very perceptive, then.”

Tex chuckled. “Look, there’s the gate.”

She turned from glaring at him to the road ahead, watching the coaches go through the massive ornate gates. The sign said Los Gatos Vineyards.

“We’re going to a winery?”

Tex smiled at her. “Tough, I know. It’s a little more than a winery, of course.”

To be continued…


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