Haven Page 33

I stood next to Peter, my feet rooted to the spot. That hug was going on for way too long, and Bodo didn’t seem all that interested about breaking it up. I let the ball-biter comment slide for now. I had bigger problems, that much was obvious.

“How nice of her to come to our rescue,” I said. I was only being partially sarcastic. I did wonder what her motivations were and if they were entirely altruistic, especially when I noticed how hard she was mashing her boobs into my boyfriend’s chest.

“Friendly, aren’t we?” said Peter under his breath.

“A little too friendly,” I agreed, walking towards them.

“Don’t do anything stupid,” said Peter, walking fast to keep up with me.

“I never do anything stupid.”

“Okay, don’t do anything overly emotional then.”

“I never do that either.”

“Yeah, okay. If you say so.”

I looked at him as we walked. “Are you saying I’m a big whiney baby or something?”

“No, I’m just saying you’re a girl, and girls get emotional when it comes to their boyfriends, and now you have that supermodel having vertical sex with him and no one would blame you if you eye-gouged her. That’s it. That’s all I’m saying.”

I took his hand in mine and squeezed. “Thank you for that … whatever it was.”

“It was a pep talk, and you’re welcome.”

I would have kept right on walking until I was between Bodo and Kirsten, but Peter stopped all of a sudden and jerked my hand so hard I almost fell onto my butt.

“What?!” I yelled, preparing for another lecture.

But Peter wasn’t looking at me. He was staring at the gate.

“Oh my good lord in heaven and baby Jesus in a manger. Do my eyes fail me or has the most beautiful man ever created just arrived at my door?”

I rolled my eyes. “If you’re talking about Paci, then yes, he’s there.”

Peter whipped his head to stare at me. “Paci? Oh, ho, ho … how interesting that you’d choose that person over aaaaall the other ones available.” He wiggled his eyebrows at me. “Mmmm-mmm-mmm … the plot thickens.”

My face flamed red. “Shut up. I was only joking. I knew you were talking about Trip.” I pulled my hand away. “And I’ll have you know …”

My next planned attempt at throwing suspicion off myself was interrupted by the frenzied barking of Buster at the door to the prison. Someone had let the little pink beast out, and he was streaking across the open space to the gate.

“Oh shit. What’s he doing?” I asked. We had a few dogs with us, not to mention all those other animals. I hoped he wasn’t about to get eaten or trampled.

I got my answer when he launched himself into Trip’s arms, lick-attacking him so enthusiastically he was practically crawling up the guy’s chest vertically to get to his mouth.

“Gah! Buster! Down, you mangey mutt!” Trip shouted. He didn’t sound angry at all.

Peter put his fingers to his mouth, his eyes getting all shiny. “Oh my god, would you look? Is that not the sweetest thing you’ve ever seen in your entire life?” His voice had gone up into the high soprano ranges.

“Uh, no. It’s not. It’s pretty gross, actually. I hope you don’t plan on kissing his doggy drool mouth. And the whole thing is offensive too, now that I think about it. I got nothing from that naked poodle, did you see that? Not even a hello. How come Trip gets all the poodle love? When did I fall so low in the ranks around here?”

Peter arched an eyebrow at me. “Oh, you want some poodle love? We can take care of that.” Before I could stop him he started clapping and calling out, “Oh, Busterrrr! Someone over here wants to say hello!”

Buster heard his name and turned. As soon as he spotted me he launched himself with a sharp bark out of Trip’s arms and came streaking across the grass towards me.

“Thanks a lot, butthead,” I said, crossing my hands in front of me, trying to block the inevitable tongue bath.

Peter bent down with me when Buster arrived, and we let him dance and bark and whine between us.

“Yes, okay, Buster. I’m happy to see you too. Yes, yes, yes, you’re a happy guy. A happy naked poodle who stinks like rotten snails. Yes, yes, I’m happy to see you too. Jesus, lay off the licking would you? You’re going to run out of saliva and dry up like an ugly little raisin.”

He was panting so hard I was afraid he’d have a heart attack. He started choking and gagging, but struggled to keep licking me anyway.

I picked him up and walked him back to the front door out of sheer pity. Poor little guy was going to love me until it killed him. Buster left no doubt in my mind; no one does a welcome home party like a poodle does.

As I approached, Kirsten and Bodo split apart. She looked very happy to see him, but his posture and expression told me he felt a little uncomfortable. That seemed more like the appropriate response for a guy who’d been kidnapped, drugged, and nearly raped, so I was happy to see it. I stopped next to him, letting Buster down before addressing Kirsten.

“Kirsten. Nice to see you again.” I held out my hand.

She ignored it and pulled me into a hug. My sore arm stayed awkwardly at my side, but I patted her back with my other hand. “Whoa. Enthusiasm. I like it. I think.”

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She pulled away. “I’m glad to see you survived your trip.”

“Thanks for coming to Haven’s rescue. I heard about the EWS. How’s the baby?”

“The baby’s great, thanks. And good, I’m glad you heard about the system, because I’ve come bearing gifts. Have you picked your code reader yet? My sister sends her regards by the way and says thanks again for the trade.” Kirsten looked over at Bodo and the expression on her face made me sick to my stomach. There was regret there or my nickname wasn’t ball-biter.

What the hell?

I ignored my irrational desire to punch her in the head. There was no need to get the Amazon nation all up in my grill over a stupid boy, but now I really wanted to have a private conversation with her to pick her brain a little about Bodo’s stay at chez Amazon. Something wasn’t squaring right for me. Bodo’s penchant for secrets combined with her overly affectionate reunion made my ass hairs stand up.

I snapped out of my jealous haze and answered her. “No, we haven’t picked a code reader yet, but we will. We’re totally in with the birds. Seriously, it’s like the best news I’ve had in a year or more.”

“Kirsten wouldn’t tell us anything until you got here,” said Peter. He didn’t sound all that happy about being kept in the dark.

“Bryn is your leader. I talk with the leader, not the city manager or whatever you’re calling yourself,” said Kirsten. She was all business now, and much more like the girl I was used to dealing with. Maybe I’d imagined those stupid looks I saw her making in Bodo’s direction.

“Excuse me … I’ll have you know that the city manager position at Haven is critical.” Peter was definitely in a huff.

“Yes, we know, love buns,” I said, patting his shoulder and squeezing it once before letting him go. “Will you go see to the animals with Trip? I don’t want them settling in by Bodo’s future garden.”

“Fine. But I’ll be back.” He left with his nose in the air.

“Anyone up for some lunch?” asked Gretchen, giving me a pat on the arm as she walked by. “We have a feast ready for you.”

“Or not,” said Bianca, coming over as I walked through the doors to give me a hug. “Welcome home, Bryn. We were all really worried about you guys.” She looked at the others. “The food’s not great, but it’ll keep you alive.”

I smiled at her as she stepped back. “Thanks. We’re glad to be back, believe me.” I looked around. “How’s Fohi doing?”

“He’s good. Better today. He wants to see you, I’m sure. He’s been worrying about all of you non-stop. And we had a hell of time getting him to just lie down and not get his injuries worse. He’s fixated on making traps of some sort.”

“Don’t worry, Rob and I will handle him,” I said.

She winked at me and left me to greet the others.

Everyone came in from the nearby hallways and got up from their spots on the floor to welcome us home. I finally quit after thirty or so hugs and begged to be left to eat. I wasn’t that hungry, but there was so much to do, I needed to sit down with my main group of friends and figure out what the heck we should do first to get everyone and everything settled.

I grabbed a plate of lame food, most of it army rations that were stale, and headed to the alcove where I knew Fohi was resting with Yokci and the others.


After everyone was settled in with food I started the conversation. Bodo hadn’t made it in yet, but I hoped he’d show up eventually. He always had good input, and I trusted him to think of things I’d forget.

“Now that we’re back here and somewhat ready to get things rolling, I wanted to get your thoughts on what our first steps should be.”

Peter was sitting next to me. He pulled a pile of papers from a clipboard he’d put behind him and shuffled through them until he found what he wanted. “I’m so glad you asked. I have input from everyone that was here while you were gone on several issues.”

Bodo walked in and took a seat, giving me a brief smile. It was missing any warmth but not for lack of trying. It was either my paranoia or reality that made it seem fake.

I nodded at Peter. “Good. Go for it. Tell us what you know.”

Peter smiled briefly before getting all serious again. He had his City Manager hat on now. “First, food. Bodo’s garden is planned. We’re just putting the finishing touches on the irrigation part of things, but we have a whole crew of people ready to follow his instructions and we have several gardening books in our library to help educate us.”

Bodo nodded. “I will start tomorrow. Tell dose people on da crew to come see me later.”

“Gotcha.” Peter made a note on another paper. “We also have the cattle to take care of. I assume the kids who came with Trip will manage them in the beginning, and I have about five kids who’ve volunteered to learn and help.”

Derek raised his hand for a moment. “I’m on that list.”

“Good,” I said, smiling in appreciation.

“We have water crews who work on gathering water every day,” said Peter. “They already have a routine and are working on some different projects to make it more convenient to use for both consumption and showering.”

“What about soap?” I asked.

“I’m hoping some of the kids who came from the ranch will be able to help us with that.”

“Not a problem,” said Winky, “especially if they have lye in this place. We can make even better stuff than we had before.

“I believe we do have that chemical,” said Peter, looking through his papers again. When he found the one that must have his chemical inventory on it he paused to circle something before putting the paper back in the stack. “It’s actually pretty amazing how much we do have right now. But it won’t last forever, so we need to figure out how to replace it on a permanent basis.”

“I’ll help with that,” said Winky. “And the weaving. That’s my thing.”

“Good,” said Peter, scratching out another note. “I’ll get to weaving in a minute. Just to finish up food … we also need a hunting group that will be willing to leave the compound and find game out in the trees and swampy areas. It’s going to be several seasons before we’re able to support ourselves with our livestock.”

Trip came into the circle at that moment and said nothing. He took a spot next to Peter and stared out at the other kids. It wasn’t exactly a challenge, but it didn’t need to be.

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