“Hold on, girlie. I’m going for a record time.”
No one had to tell her to hold on, just like no one had to tell her to pray whenever Ms. Songs was behind the wheel of anything. Mel wasn’t going to say the woman was a menace but she was scooting up real close to the line.
“Don’t you just love it here?” Ms. Songs asked, completely unaware of just how much Mel’s stomach was flopping about.
“Uh huh,” she responded. Mel was glad she had skipped breakfast otherwise she would’ve been spewing it all over the windshield. That wouldn’t have done anyone any good.
A woman who was as far from high-maintenance as one could be, Mel could get used to a lot of things but she wasn’t sure she’d ever get used to Ms. Songs’ driving. Still, she kept her complaints to herself because she liked spending time with the free-spirited woman. Ms. Songs was not just a mentor but a friend. Plus, Mel figured if Ms. Songs hadn’t killed anyone yet, she wasn’t about to start today. That didn’t mean she didn’t offer up a prayer when they finally arrived at the lodge.
“Amen,” Mel whispered.
“I heard that,” Ms. Songs said as she hopped down from the Suburban.®
“Did you hear God telling you to slow down and take the corners at a lower rate of speed?”
“Nope, but I hear your stomach growling so come on. I need some coffee.”
In Mel’s opinion, the last thing Ms. Songs needed was anything with caffeine or sugar. Of course, that meant the woman was going to have both in large quantities. Shaking her head, she wiped her feet on the mat before entering the lodge.
If she thought there was chaos inside the vehicle with Ms. Songs, that was nothing compared to the chaos inside of the Jendayi Mystery Lodge.
“Mel! Mel! Mel!” was shouted to the accompaniment of hand clapping and foot stomping. All that was needed was for someone to break out a fiddle and it would’ve been an authentic jamboree.
“Um, hi,” Mel said suddenly wary. She wasn’t used to having her name chanted.
“Don’t be bashful, Youngin’,” Ms. Songs said. “You’re the bee’s knees in these parts.”
“Why?” Mel asked.
“How quickly we forget. Fire & Brimstone and 1032 K. We’re almost sold out. I have your share of the gold in the safe next to your guns. Now sign autographs or whatever it is you celebrities do. Bask in the moment. Tomorrow, we need to head back to the still.”
“What do you mean we’re almost sold out? We made a hundred bottles, four days ago.”
“Yeah, we would’ve sold out sooner but some people are slow getting their gold here. Like I told them, you snooze, you drink swill instead of the best shine in these here United States.”
“I don’t think the saying goes like that, Ms. Songs,” Mel said.
“In these parts it does, which is obvious by the fact that we’re about sold out.”
Mel hated to admit it but Ms. Songs had a point. She wasn’t about to tell her that because Ms. Songs would let it go to her head. It was hard enough not to let the reception go to her own head and she wasn’t anywhere near as crazy as Ms. Songs.
They’d almost sold out. Hot damn. Mel did the math in her head. They’d made almost 72 thousand dollars in less than four days. Take away the cost of supplies and they’d still cleared 70 thousand. Her legs suddenly shaking, Mel sat on the nearest surface, which happened to be Peril.
“Ah, s-s-sorry, Peril,” she stammered and rose.
“I liked you sitting there,” he said.
A hard voice cut through the room. “Would you like two broken legs to go with that?”
Turning to the sound, Mel looked right into the eyes of Cadillac.
“By broken legs do you mean, a simple fracture or a compound fracture?” Peril asked even as he held her tighter.
“Um, Peril I don’t think broken legs regardless of complexity is a good way to start your day,” Mel said helpfully.
“I’m a shifter, baby.”
“By broken legs I mean I’ll rip them from your body and beat you to death with them…shifter or not,” Cadillac clarified.
“By beat me to death do you mean…” Peril started.
Not wanting the male to die, Mel scrambled off of his lap. Peril was just as crazy as Cadillac she thought as she stumbled right into Cadillac’s waiting arms. That’s not where she was meaning to go but that’s where the man pulled her. Wrapping his meaty arms around her, apparently, that’s where she was staying.
“The correct answer is ‘no’, Peril.”
“I’m not so sure about that.”
“Well, let me help assure you of that,” he said. Before she could mutter a ‘no, stop, don’t,’ Cadillac pulled her tighter to him and kissed her so thoroughly, all she could do was hold on. Thankfully, the man had the good sense to sit her in a chair, else she would’ve fallen down.
Just like that he went from devastating lover to someone that should have Lexington as a last name. Picking up the massive shifter, he threw him to the floor with such force that if anyone else had built this lodge, the floor would’ve had a hole in it.
“Careful, Cadillac, I almost spilled my shine,” one of Peril’s friends said.
Peril didn’t say anything. He just sort of made a gasping sound.
“When I ask you if you’d like two broken legs, the answer is no, Peril. Are we clear or do I need to take the time to explain it to you?”
Mel had seen her daddies and uncles put some whippins on people but since that happened on days that ended in —y, she was used to it. Something about seeing Cadillac calmly deliver punishment got to her. Despite his size and strength, Cadillac didn’t seem like a man who was easily excitable. If Peril knew what was good for him, he’d just nod at let Cadillac be. But not only wasn’t Peril smart enough to know what was good for him, neither were his friends.
“Cadillac, why should you get to keep Mel all to yourself?” Menace asked. “After all, we’ve been keeping her company while you were gone.”
“Yeah, what he said. Maybe she don’t want you,” Threat said from across the room.
This was not going to end well, Mel thought as she peeked up from under her hat.
Without letting go of Peril’s throat, Cadillac answered. “I can keep her because I’ll kill anyone who tries to take her from me.”
“From what we can see, you ain’t rightly got her.”
“Well, let me help you see better then, Menace,” Cadillac said as he heaved Peril and threw him into the shifter.
Stalking to the pair, Cadillac hauled back and punched Menace in the eye. Shifter or not, that was going to leave a mark. “Can you see now that Melodia belongs to me?” Cadillac asked as he punched him in the eye again.