Her Dominant SEAL (Midnight Delta Book 9)(3)By: Caitlyn O Leary
“I found you something. We didn’t actually have a car in the class that was on your confirmation, but we have an SUV. It’s a higher price.”
Drake raised his eyebrow.
“Of course, there won’t be any additional charge,” Roger said quickly. Drake handed over his license and credit card. “Will you need a map?” Roger questioned.
Roger quit asking questions and processed the paperwork.
Soon Drake was on Hwy 321 toward Jasper Creek, and he was dismayed with what he found. Before Christmas, he’d watched the news of the fires that destroyed acre after acre of the treasured countryside, but to be there and driving through it months later was another thing entirely. It hurt to see the burnt-out shells of businesses beside the road.
As he drove past Floyd’s gas station a little past Gatlinburg, he saw the out of business sign on the husk of the small store where his mom used to buy cigarettes. Drake remembered using his very first fake ID there to try to buy beer and being thrown out. He wondered whether Floyd hadn’t had insurance, or if he had just given up.
Drake wanted to drive faster, but he knew that speed traps were as abundant as Elvis sightings. He didn’t want to do anything that would jeopardize getting to Piper as soon as possible.
Which means quit turning your head, Avery!
But Drake couldn’t help noticing Pearl’s Diner. The building was a burned down mess, but the iconic sign with a winking fifty’s waitress holding a tray with a burger, had been refurbished and was good as new. The building had a sign that said that it would reopen in the spring. He remembered his mom taking him, Trenda and Evie there once. It had been a real treat. He and his sisters had shared a root beer float and French fries.
Finally, he saw the highway turnoff to Jasper Creek. He continued past it towards the campgrounds. He’d googled it when he’d been in Denver making his connecting flight. He couldn’t remember the name of the campgrounds, and he hadn’t thought to ask Piper when he’d had her on the phone. All he really remembered is that it had a creek and a puppet stage. When he had looked up the campgrounds near his old hometown, he had eventually hit on a name he remembered, Camp Smoky. Not necessarily the right image for those who wanted their children to not take up smoking, but it made sense in the Smoky Mountains. As he drove, continuing to watch for Camp Smoky, it began to sink in that after twelve years he was finally home. It was surreal.
There it was over on the left. He waited for traffic, then pulled in. He was surprised to see a few cars besides his own and three RV’s. Now, all he had to do was find Piper. Drake got out of the car as if he were on a mission. He pulled a blanket of anonymity around himself. He and his teammates had learned how to walk around almost unnoticed by changing how they moved, which at six foot six inches tall, and two hundred and sixty pounds, Drake sorely needed.
He watched as a father and son carried a cooler, while the mom and sisters smiled and followed behind them on the way to their car. Drake was used to seeing that type of scenario play out in California, but it seemed odd to have it happening at the campground. Not in the dead of winter. He kept moving and surveilling, knowing that just because Piper thought she’d gotten away, didn’t mean that she hadn’t been tracked down.
At last, he got to the communal area that contained the restrooms and showers. There were some picnic tables as well. He scanned the area and didn’t see her. She could be in the women’s restroom. He took another lap around the perimeter, so it didn’t look like he was loitering outside the ladies’ room. A small figure came out of the concrete structure. She had the raven black hair of all the Avery’s, it was twisted into a braid that swung down the middle of her back.