Alone on Earth (Signal Bend Series Volume 4)(13)

By: Susan Fanetti

grinning. He looked over at Riley and blushed when she grinned back at him.

Finally, Tanner and Mark climbed in and sat down. Tanner looked vexed, but he said nothing. Mark was

texting—probably to Tanner’s agent and/or manager to complain. She couldn’t imagine the leather-clad guy

with the long wallet chain and the heavy boots who was driving this bus cared much about the complaint

being lodged.

“Okay, everybody. We’re about an hour out, little less if I can get some clear road. How ‘bout some

tunes?” He turned on the stereo, and AC/DC started banging out “Highway to Hell.” Riley snorted, then put

her hand up to her mouth, embarrassed. Bart didn’t look her way, but he was still grinning.

He pulled away from the curb and followed the road out of the airport. They were on their way to the

famous biker town. And Riley was feeling much better about the upcoming week. So far, she liked bikers

just fine.


Well under an hour after they pulled away from the airport loading zone, Bart crested a rise in a white

gravel road, and Riley’s breath stopped. Oh, so pretty. They were at the top of ridge to a low valley, and

below them, as Bart drove on, was a sight from a postcard—or, no. A painting in a museum.

The house, which Riley assumed was the hotel, or B&B or whatever, was big and bright white. Two

stories, with a broad wraparound porch. The sun was low in the sky, painting pinks and purples across the

white façade of the house. Across the broad, sparkling white drive and lot was a long barn, painted deep

red, with exactly the white trim—including Xs on the doors—that a barn like this should have.

There was an enclosed field in front of the barn, and several horses grazed lazily on grass. As Bart

pulled up near the house and parked, Riley saw a black and white dog sitting on top of a small stack of hay

bales, watching the field behind the barn. Oh—he was watching goats, who were grazing back there.

On one side of all this quiet loveliness was a dense forest; on the other a wide expanse of farmland.

Riley had lived in Los Angeles her whole life, so she didn’t know much about farmland, but she was pretty

sure she was looking at corn that was ready for the harvest—tall stalks of green and brown, with filmy

strands on top.

Everything was green and white and red and yellow and brown, the colors all so vivid they were almost

heavy. Then she got out of the van, and took a deep breath. The road had been hilly and winding, and she’d

been feeling a little whoopsie. A few deep breaths, though, and her stomach settled. The air here was fresh

and rich, with a damp cool about it that was utterly unlike the air L.A. had to offer. Finding good air in

Southern California required a trip to the mountains.

She wandered away from the van as everybody else was piling out and Bart was opening the doors at

the back. She could hear the goats bleating, and she walked that direction, toward the black and white dog.

He was pretty. Or she. Whichever. Pretty. He turned his head as she approached and thumped his tail once

against the hay bale, then turned back to watch his goats.

There were maybe a dozen goats, all different. Some were big, with heavy horns, some small, with only

stubs. Some were standing and others lying, but they were all eating. Riley saw that they weren’t in an

enclosure. They were loose on this back lawn, only the dog keeping them in line. Not that they looked like

they were in any big hurry to make a break for it.

She heard a sharp whistle, and the dog jumped off his perch and trotted to the goats. As soon as he hit

the ground, they stopped eating and watched him. And with pure, complacent docility, they turned in the

direction he herded them and ambled to the barn. Standing at the wide doors into which they were being

led was a lean guy with long, reddish hair pulled back in a ponytail. He saw her and nodded; she smiled and

waved, and he rubbed his dog’s head and followed the animals into the barn.

That was it. No gawking, no running up for an autograph. He just nodded and went on about his


“Riley? Are you coming in?” Pru was coming up behind her.

“Yeah. It’s pretty here, huh? Quiet.”

Pru nodded, but she made a little face, wrinkling her nose. “Yeah. Kinda smells like fertilizer, though.