VEE HELD THE screen door open as Cory stepped into the farmhouse kitchen. A troop of Jack Russells ran from the other room to greet her, barking furiously, their red tongues dangling.
“Shut up, you monsters. You know her,” Vee scolded, and they ran off to another part of the house. “C’mon in and sit down.” She gestured to a round oak table partially covered with piles of mail and show entry forms. In the center was a wooden bowl containing a thick key ring, a pair of sunglasses with an arm missing, and a few dog biscuits. Cory pulled out a chair, sat down at the only area free of debris, and glanced over at a small yellow notepad with a bold underlined heading: To Do. It was blank.
“We have to have our strategy meeting as soon as Jack gets here,” Vee said, rinsing out a coffee cup at the sink. “I can’t believe it’s April already. We don’t have that many shows left to qualify for Washington.”
She came over, placed a tall glass of iced tea in front of Cory, and pulled out a chair. Cory winced inwardly. She’d never gotten a taste for the sweet tea people drank here. Tentatively taking a small sip, she discovered, to her relief, it was plain. The weather had turned milder. Gauzy curtains billowed into the room on a breeze and were sucked back against the screens a minute later on the whim of the currents. The scent of lilac wafted in, riding on a tide of warm air.
“Ahhh,” Vee sighed, leaning back in her chair. “This morning when I went out to feed, I grabbed my jacket but was happy to discover I didn’t need it.”
Cory knew what she meant. Sitting in a beam of sunlight, her blood felt like something golden and thick, like caramel, oozing through her body slowly, bringing a sleepy haze to her movements.
“But we can’t relax now,” Vee announced, as if reading her mind. “We have to keep the pressure on to make sure Epiphany gets to the right shows.” With a conspiratorial smirk, she added, “And keep Angela on the run.”
The mention of Angela’s name filled the room with an almost palpable stink, as if someone had lifted the top off a garbage bin.
“Yeah, that would be an extra bonus,” Cory replied but inwardly pictured Regina and Prophet being shut out of the ribbons and going home to face her crazy mother. “And I bet she’s really mad after that present you left for her in her truck.”
“On second thought, that probably wasn’t a smart thing to do. That woman’s dangerous, and I don’t know if she has any limits to what she might do to get back at me. I assume she’s figured it out—that it was me.” Vee gathered up a pile of papers from the table and dropped the To Do notebook on top. “Grab your drink. Let’s move into the living room where it’s more comfortable.” She added, almost to herself, “I can spend my whole life worrying about what Angela will or won’t do, or I can move on.”
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