Pretty When She Dies (Page 13)

“Hitching?”

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Amaliya looked up, startled.

“Huh?”

“You don't look like a driver. Either your hitching or you're a girlfriend or wife. And you don't look like either of those.” The woman's keen, dark eyes examined her.

Amaliya looked at the mirror behind the woman, suddenly afraid.

“I…yeah.” She didn't know what else to say. She was afraid the woman would notice her lack of reflection and call down the entire truck stop on her.

“Where you headed?”

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“Dallas.”

“Just came through there. I'm on my way to New Orleans. Going home or running away?”

“Bad boyfriend,” Amaliya lied. Well, sort of. Did your murdering vampire professor count as a bad boyfriend?

“Hit you?”

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“Worse.”

“If they are smart, they do it where it doesn't show,” the woman said.

“He's smart.” Amaliya sighed. She tried to keep at the edge of the bench and far away from the mirror.

“I'll see if anyone will give you a ride. Go get something to eat in the restaurant. What's your name?”

“Liya.”

“Nice to meet you Liya. I'm Tammy. I don't like a young woman just hanging out here. Most of the guys are decent, but one or two…well…you know.”

“They're smart?”

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Tammy smiled slowy. “Yeah. They're smart.” Shoving her blush into her makeup kit, she turned her back to Amaliya and began fussing with her bag.

Hastily, Amaliya escaped from the room with the evil mirrors and made her way to the restaurant. Her bag banged against her hip as she walked. A few men took note of her now that she wasn't covered in oil.

“Sit wherever you want,” a forty-something waitress said to her when she passed into the restaurant.

Unlike some of the big cities in Texas, there wasn't a smoking ban here. The smell of stale cigarettes and fried eggs greeted her as she walked past the long counter lined with truck drivers. Sliding into a corner booth, she sat, nervously hoping that no one would see that the window beside her did not hold her reflection. Reaching out, she snagged the edge of a plaid curtain and tugged it over to obscure that fact and hoped for the best.

The same waitress reached her table, cocked her hip, and looked down at her. “Watcha getting?”

“Uh, coffee. Black,” she told the woman. Her name tag read “Rhonda.”

“That it? You're kinda a tiny thing. You need food.” Though her words should have sounded concerned, they sounded more accusatory.

“I ate. On the road. A big burger from Dairy Queen,” Amaliya answered. Lying was coming easier to her now.

“Um,” the woman murmured, and walked away clearly not believing her.

Could she eat? Could she drink? She had no clue, but she was definitely not hungry.

Glancing out at the busy parking area, she watched several big trucks pull out as two more rumbled up to the fuel tanks. It was a whole different world and it felt safe for now. If the professor was still out there, she did not sense him. Maybe she had imagined his presence. But then again, he had said he would be watching her.

Playing with a sugar packet, she wondered how Pete was. He had not looked as bad as the crazy hag she was pretty sure she had killed. It somewhat bothered her that she felt no remorse for taking the woman's life, yet at the same time she couldn't figure out why she should. Pete was a sweetheart and she did feel bad about what happened between them. But the batshit crazy lady just did not make her feel bad. She had been food, smelly, gross food, but food. Beyond that, she had been a homicidal maniac on her way to kill her ex-husband and steal her kids.

Amaliya had a feeling that her morals were slipping fast and that she wasn't thinking clearly. But at the same time, it felt good to not really care. If she was going to have to feed, then she shouldn't have to feel bad, right?

But, still, poor Pete.

And she didn't even want to think about all those people at that party.

The coffee cup was set down in front of her abruptly. It rattled around on the saucer, before Rhonda poured the hot dark liquid into it.

“Thanks,” Amaliya said with a small smile.

Rhonda just gave her a long look, then walked away clutching the coffee pot. Amaliya stuck her tongue out at the woman's wide hips and watched as Rhonda began to refill the coffee cups at a table full of drivers. The waitress smiled for them and flirted a bit.

Amaliya made a face and began to tear open little blue packets of sweetener to pour them into the coffee.

“My name is Rob,” a voice boomed behind her.

She turned and looked at a huge man. His shirt was stretched over his enormous stomach and his face was jowly.

“I hear you are looking for a ride?”

“To Dallas, right.”

“Okay, I can give you a lift that far. Then I'm heading up to Wichita Falls.”

She smiled. “Do we need to go now?”

“Finish your coffee up and I'll meet you outside. Mine is the big blue truck right there.” Rob pointed, his expression a mixture of pride and nerves.

“Okay, great! I'll be right out.”

Nodding, the big man lumbered down to the cashier, his white ticket clutched in his hand.

Looking down at her coffee, Amaliya considered it, then slowly picked up the cup. Gingerly, she took a sip and let the hot fluid glide down her throat. It burned a little, but it seemed to settle down inside of her without an issue. Taking another slow sip, she looked up to see Rob disappear out the door, and she sighed with relief. She just needed to reach Dallas tonight, then Eastland tomorrow. It was a short drive from Eastland to the small town of DeLeon where her Grandmother lived. She could probably call her cousin Sergio for a ride.

Raising her hand, she motioned to Rhonda. The waitress sighed dramatically, and headed over to her. Obviously, Rhonda thought she was a hooker or something terrible from her expression on her face and her irritation.

“I need the check.”

“Rob took care of it. Says he's giving you a ride,” the waitress said in such a way that the word “ride” took on a whole new connotation.

“Yeah. To see my grandmother.” Amaliya stood up and glared at the woman. To her surprise, the older woman stepped back, looking startled. “I hope he didn't tip you. You've been a total bitch.”

Brushing past the woman, Amaliya headed out.

Stalking across the hot parking lot, she gave Rob a quick wave. She was used to people treating her differently because of her tats and her piercings, but the woman could have given her a freaking break.

“Thanks for the ride,” she said to the big man. She tossed her bag up into the cab.

“Need help?” Rob offered.

“Nah, I got it.”

She grabbed the handhold and lugged herself up into the seat. The special hydraulics in the seat shifted under her and she settled into the surprisingly comfortable chair.

Looking solemn, Rob climbed in and slammed the door shut.

Finally, Amaliya thought. I'm out of here.

Now if only her luck would improve.

Tammy entered the restaurant and looked around for the pretty tattooed girl with the raven hair. Hands on her generous hips, she looked over the tables and booths. There was no sign of the young woman and she looked over the counter at Rhonda, who was busy checking out a customer.

“You see a girl with pretty eyes and tattoos on one arm in here?”

“Yep,” Rhonda answered, and gave the tall man in the leather vest his change. Nodding as the man handed her back a few ones, she looked toward Tammy. “She left with Rob.”

“You're kidding!”

“Nope.”

Tammy sighed and shook her head. “I told her to let me get her a ride. Jackson was going to take her.” She gestured toward an older black man with a scrubby gray beard. “Shit. I can't believe she got a ride with that asshole.”

Rhonda shrugged. “I have a feeling that kinda girl will do just fine with Rob.”

Looking a little disgusted with Rhonda's words, Tammy shook her head and headed out to tell Jackson his passenger was gone. She was startled when a tall man with broad shoulders and very pale blond hair bumped into her and jostled her a bit.

“Sorry, madam,” he said in a prim British accent.

Despite herself, Tammy blushed deeply. The man seemed very out of place with his fine black silk shirt and gray silk trousers. He was holding a cola in one hand and a DVD in the other.

“S'ok. I'm fine.”

The man smiled at her warmly. “Have a good evening,” he said and moved on to check out.

Despite herself and her husband back home, Tammy couldn't help but check out his posterior as he got in line. Feeling guilty in a good way, she moved on to talk to Jackson.

Chapter Seven

Propping her feet up on the dashboard, Amaliya played with the screw top of her soda that Rob had bought her. She thought it was a kind gesture, though she had no real desire to drink or eat. Once she had sated herself on the blood of the crazy woman, she had lost what she now defined as the “need.” Rubbing the side of her nose with her finger, she felt the tiny stud in it scratch her skin. It was a comforting feeling for some reason and she let it sink into her.

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