For disclaimers, see chapter 1.

Adventures in the Dust Trade, Part 7

By WolfDragon.

Wednesday, Oodnadatta Track, Central Australia

Nicole kept her attention on the small book she was studying, not daring to say a word. Kris' temper hadn't improved in fact, it was getting worst by the hour. She knew that when her friend was in that type of mood, the only thing she could do was to leave her to her brooding. Eventually, Kris would either calm down or make an effort to speak. But anger wasn't the cause of the dark haired woman's silence.

From the corner of her eyes, Nicole could see her partner frustratingly scratch her head, trying to get rid of the itch the sand was causing. She had a good idea how she felt, her hair was as grimy as Kris' was.

Before leaving the sand trap, they had done their best in washing their faces and hands with the water they had in the trunk, but it wasn't enough. The dust still clinging to their bodies was very uncomfortable and no matter how much they pulled at their clothes to dislodge the sand, it would simply cling to another part and cause more itchiness. One thing was for sure, both of them would race for the shower once they arrived at the next stage!

At least they weren't the only ones to suffer this uneasy situation. Shannon was as filthy as they were and as for Kyle… Nicole cringed when she thought back to the man. He was only lucky that Kris had acted more out of frustration than anger or else, things might have been worst.

"If you think this is funny…" Kris' voice rumbled as her lips curled up into a smile, showing nothing but white teeth. "I'LL show you funny…" She gripped the man's jacket tighter in her hands and chuckled.

Kyle quickly stopped laughing when he saw the look on his friend's face and groaned. "Oh jeez! I'm in for it now!" He closed his eyes when he felt himself lift off the ground and went along for the ride.

The stuntwoman easily flipped him over her shoulder, sending him crashing to the ground on his back. The impact was hard enough to make him lose his breath and cause a cloud of dust to surround his body but it didn't do much in making his clothes and comfort worst than the women.

Kyle coughed as he sat up and waved his hand in front of him to clear the air. He opened one eye and looked up at a grinning Kris. "Okay, guess I deserved that." He brushed his lightly duty pants and laughed. "Could've been worst."

Kris shook her head. "It's not over yet!" With a nod toward Nicole and Shannon, the three women started shoving sand on the hapless man, using both their feet and hands. Caught by the sudden attack, all Kyle could do was close his eyes and protect his face with his arms. That was all Kris needed. She reached for the man and with a quick motion rolled him onto his belly, wrapped her fingers around his belt and pulled it up.

"Wha…" Kyle squeaked in surprise. "What are you doing?"

Laughing, Kris grabbed a handful of sand and shoved it down the man's pants. "Just making you understand what I'm feeling right now."

Nicole laughed softly as she remembered the look on the stunt technician's face. If only she had her camera with her then, it would have made an excellent picture.

"What are you laughing about?"

Startled by the sound of her partner's voice, Nicole shifted her eyes from her book and looked at Kris. "Just remembering Kyle. I wonder how he's feeling right now."

"Hmm," she grunted. "Hopefully he's feeling worst that we are."

"I'm sure he is," Nicole chuckled softly. "But did you have to pull his underwear and give him a wedgie too?" she asked and shook her head. "That was so funny. I can still see him walk away and shake his leg at the same time. It reminded me of a dog shaking a wet paw."

Kris looked at her partner and let a tired smile cross her lips. "I don't think he'd appreciate much being compared to a dog, but you're right. It was pretty amusing. I never saw Boomer laugh so much." She briefly looked at the tourist book on Nicole's lap before she turned her attention back on the gravel road. "What are you reading about?"

"Oh, well, the fence we had to open and drive through a few kilometers before Coober Pedy and the one coming out got me curious," Nicole explained as she searched through her book and flipped a few pages back. "I really thought I'd given you the wrong road and we'd ended up on a private property. I found a section in there and what we saw was the Dingo Barrier or like they call it in South Australia, the Dog Fence."

With a raised eyebrow, Kris spared a glance at her companion. "The book actually talks about a simple fence?"

"It's not that simple," Nicole replied as she searched for the exact information she was looking for. "Ah, here it is. They say the Dingo Fence is dedicated to the protection of the sheep industry. It's nearly two meters high and a total of five thousand one hundred and thirty one kilometers long, approximately 3 times the length of the Great Wall of China."

"Guess the farmers must have a real problem with dingoes."

"They do," Nicole agreed and closed the book to put it back into her bag. "One animal can kill 12 sheep but will only eat one. That's the reason the government has a ten dollar bounty on every dingo." 

Maybe that's why I saw the skinned carcasses hung on the fence. The hunters must bring the pelts to be paid, Kris silently thought. She wasn't sure if Nicole had seen them the first time they drove through the gate but if she did, no comments were made. In fact, very little had been said since they had left the sand trap. I don't blame her for being silent. I'm so damn grouchy when I'm tired, I'd even refuse to talk to myself! She grumbled as she rubbed her burning eyes. A low growl escaped her lips and she scratched her itchy scalp again. I swear at the first sight of water, I'll jump fully clothed in it!

The gesture didn't escape Nicole's watchful eye. Kris was getting irritable and that was a bad sign. She took the folded map strapped to the sun visor in front of her and trailed her finger along the track they were driving on. There was only one possible stop they could make until they reached the next stage at Marree. If she wanted to put her plan into effect, it would have to be there.

Without taking her foot off the accelerator, Kris glanced at her partner and asked, "Left or right?"

"What?" Nicole lifted her head in time to see that they were rapidly approaching the end of the track. Her eyes opened wide in surprise. "Right! …Turn right!" she quickly said and held on to the roof handle as Kris put the rally car into a side slide to take the new direction. The vehicle bounced a few times over ruts and potholes then settled into a smoother drive as they raced down the well-graded gravel road. "Why didn't you tell me we were coming up to the end?" she asked then waved a hand to stop Kris from answering. "Never mind, I'm the navigator, I should've known."

Shifting gears, the stuntwoman chuckled and gave her companion a wink. "It was worth not saying a thing just to see your face."

"Ah…ha," Nicole replied dryly but smiled anyway. She went back to her map and tapped a section with a finger. "There's a town not too far away from here. Why don't we stop for some gas? I could get us something to eat at the same time." And it'll allow me to get my plan into motion.

"Sure," Kris nodded, "good thinking." And I'll look for a bathroom and get as much dust off of me as possible! She relaxed somewhat knowing that her hellish state wouldn't last for long anymore. A bar of soap and fresh clothes…heaven!

They soon arrived at Williams Creek, the 'town' Nicole had spotted on the map. Both women were surprised to see that it was nothing more than a single long timber building in the middle of nowhere. The lone establishment proudly proclaimed itself as the area's pub, motel, and service station. The back yard served as campground, while the pub's car park also doubled as the airport. Not too far away was the only golf course, which basically was one big sand trap.

"Population eight," Nicole read off a sign as they drove by. "You think they all know each other?" she smiled. "I'd go nuts if I lived in a deserted place like this."

"I'm sure there's enough people stopping here to make things interesting." Kris stopped the car next to the gas pumps and stepped out. "Why don't you check out the pub while I fill the tank up? Maybe use the bathroom before I take it over?"

"Oh, to feel clean again!" Nicole smiled and nodded. "Okay, I'll meet you in there." The younger woman grabbed her overnight bag with a change of clothes then started walking towards the building and stopped as she spotted a tall pole. Nailed to the post and pointing in different directions were wooden planks with the names of cities from Australia and others from all over the world written on them. "Hey Kris, look!" she called out and pointed to the pole. "Only 14 235 kilometers away from Munich."

"Will you be walking or swimming that?" the dark haired woman teased.

Nicole chuckled as she continued to look at the post. "It reminds me of a totem," she murmured. One board caught her attention and she was surprised to see that Coober Pedy, the town they had left was only two hundred kilometers away. Seems like we've been on the road longer. She unconsciously rubbed her sore rear end as she thought that then entered the pub…and stopped walking once again at the sight that awaited her.

The walls of the Williams Creek hotel were smothered with business cards, ID cards, licenses, and all manners of paraphernalia from all over the world, some items finding themselves several layers thick. Nicole slowly stepped in further into the pub, amazed at finding one strange thing after another. She lifted her head and smiled when she found t-shirts, hats and small flags dangling from the ceiling. "I don't believe this!" she shook her head and laughed when she noticed something else hooked on a wooden beam. "Some women even left their bras. Kris is gonna love this!"


Having filled the tank with gasoline, Kris drove the car and parked it in front of the hotel between a Range Rover and an old beat up pickup truck. She stepped out of the vehicle and popped the hood open to make a quick inspection of the engine while Nicole was cleaning up in the bathroom. Once the fan belt and oil levels were checked, the stuntwoman walked to the trunk and took a gallon of windshield fluid out, preferring to fill the small tank now instead of waiting for it to be empty later. Running out of windshield washer while racing on a dusty road wasn't the best thing to do.

Kris was about to walk back to the front of the car with the gallon when she noticed an older looking gentleman inspecting the Mitsubishi. She nodded when the man smiled at her and continued with the maintenance she had started. From the corner of her eyes, she saw him approach the vehicle and she sighed softly. She wasn't in the mood for small talk with a stranger.

"G' Day," he smiled as he tipped the edge of his weathered hat with two fingers. "Nice lookin' wheels."

"Thanks," Kris mumbled as she poured the windshield washer fluid in the reservoir.

"That's a racing car isn't it?" he asked the tall woman and saw her nod in answer to his question. "You've got a number seven on the door, you part of a rally or something?"

Kris nodded again. "That's right." She dumped the empty plastic gallon in the trashcan behind her and started checking the engine's oil level once more just to give her something to do. Come on, Nick. How long does it take to wash up?

"I was in a rally once," the older man continued, apparently not noticing that the dark haired woman was paying very little attention to what he was saying. "That was many years ago though. What was the name of that thing again?" he asked himself and pushed his hat back to scratch his gray hair, thinking.

I'm tired, I'm cranky and the sand in my shirt is driving me nuts! Kris growled and she glared at the man, wishing that he would leave her alone.

"Ah yes, now I remember. It was the Paris/Dakar. What an event that was. You know about that rally?"

Of course I know it, Kris silently replied as she rolled her eyes. It's just the most famous rally. "You were a participant?" she asked for the sake of being polite and to keep her end of the conversation.

"Yep mate, I was," the man proudly replied. "You should have seen it. There were drivers from all over the world and we…"

Kris closed her eyes at the endless one-sided conversation. Now would be the perfect time to show up, Nicole.

"…Some drove motorcycles, others raced with trucks, I was driving a car, it was awesome. We… "

"I bet," Kris replied as she wiped her hands on a rag. The man simply wouldn't shut up. Be civil and stay polite, she chastised herself. All he wants is to talk with someone. She took a calming breath and asked, "How well did you do?"

"Oh, about three hours and a half."

"Behind the leader?" the stuntwoman asked, impressed.

"No, that's how long I lasted. The car broke down soon after we started the race," he explained then continued talking about the famous event, giving precise details about his few hours as a rally driver.

Kris looked up at the sky and sighed. Where the hell are you, Nicole?

"You okay?"

At the sound of the familiar voice, Kris gazed down and saw her partner stand next to her. Nicole's hair was wet and she had changed into clean clothes. "Yeah, I'm fine." she growled and briefly looked at the older man who was still talking. She shook her head and turned her attention back to her friend. "You washed your hair in the sink?"

"No," Nicole smiled as she handed the tall woman a key. "I arranged for us to use a shower, you can thank me later," she said with a wink. "Who's your friend?"

Kris took the offered key and smiled. "Would you like to chat with him while I take a shower? He's very nice, trust me." Without waiting for Nicole's answer, Kris waved at the man to silence him. "Listen, I'm very sorry but I need to clean up. This is my friend, maybe you'd like to tell her what you just told me?"

"Sure!" the man beamed at having another person to talk to.

"Hi, I'm Nicole," the blonde introduced herself and caught the smirk on her lover's face. I wonder what she's up to?

"I'm Bob. Are you in the rally too?"

"Yes, I am," she nodded. "Oh! I almost forgot. Kris?" she called after her partner and smiled at the older man. "Excuse me for a minute." Nicole stepped next to Kris as she reached in the car for some extra clothes. "When you come out of the shower, see a woman named Lyn, she's preparing a lunch for us. She should have it ready by the time you're finished. I already took care of everything."

"I will, thanks. I'm starving!" She kissed Nicole on the cheek and whispered, "Have fun chatting." With a grin, the tall woman left her partner with the smiling man.

Nicole heard Kris' chuckles and with a shrug, she turned to look at the man. "Hi," she said again.

"Hi. Did you know that I was in a rally once?" he asked with a smile. "That was a long time ago, but still, it was great. I forgot the name of the race again." He frowned as he searched his memory then snapped his fingers. "I know! It was the Paris/Dakar rally. What an event that was. We began the race…" he started to ramble, lost in his story.

Nicole slightly turned her head and looked in the direction her lover had taken. She glared at the closed door. Oh Kris, I'm gonna get you for this!


Kris walked out of the room feeling refreshed and ready to get back on the road. She only wished that she could have stayed longer under the hot water but they had a rally to do. There was always the next stage in Marree where they'd have the luxury to stay in the shower for as long as they wanted. The stuntwoman glanced down her body and shook her head at the racing suit she was wearing. She could have rummaged through her suitcase for something better to wear but that was neatly packed and settled away for the hard drive coming up. With a private grin, she thought, I race in a rally, might as well look the part.

With a towel hanging around her neck and a bundle of her dusty clothes tucked away under an arm, Kris rubbed her long dark hair dry with one hand as she strolled into the pub. The woman cast another look around and smiled. She had seen interesting things in her travels but this place really topped them all. Kris slowed down as she walked in front of a wall, which was covered in interesting pictures and notes from past patrons. Some made her grin as she read them, while others forced a small chortle from her.

"Everybody who comes here leaves a momento," a voice sounded behind her. "What will you give?"

Kris turned around to see a woman standing there with a grin on her face, her brown eyes shinning in amusement. She was a few inches shorter but like Kris, she had long dark hair that went past her shoulders. "Is it because people want to or is it the going price to enter the pub?"

"It's not an admission fee," the woman laughed and walked closer to the wall staring at the many memories from past customers. "Even though I work here, I have no idea how everything started. Maybe somebody decided to leave their business card and things went from there. We could open a clothing store with everything we've got here."

"Looks like it," Kris chuckled as she looked at a hanging bra and lifted it with one finger. "Must have been a hell of a party when the woman left this here. Are you Lyn?"

"No, I'm Cindy," the woman smiled. "Welcome to the Williams Creek Hotel, Kristina."

"Thanks." Kris shook the offered hand. "You know who I am?" she asked as they walked back to the wooden bar.

Cindy nodded. "Of course I do. I saw a documentary on stuntpeople and your family was the main subject. Lyn says it's your friend who filmed the whole thing. Is that true?"

"It is," Kris smiled as she remembered the time spent at the stunt school with Nicole video taping the sessions with the students. She was thankful for that project, which brought her friend to Innsbruck and gave them the chance to talk. Without that documentary, they probably would've never met again. "Speaking of which, Nicole's waiting for me outside."

"Why don't you two stay for a while and relax a bit?"

"We'd love to but we should be on our way," Kris said as she put the room key on the bar. "Thanks for the use of the shower. Lyn is making a lunch for us, it wouldn't be ready would it?"

"I'll ask." Cindy turned to face the kitchen and bellowed. "Hey, Lyn!"

"Coming!" was the shouted response as the door swung open. A shorter woman walked out of the kitchen carrying a large bag in her arms. "Don't get your knickers in a wad," she grumbled at her co-worker then smiled at the blue eyed woman as she put the bag on the counter. "There you go. I made you something that'll last you till dinner."

"Thank you."

Lyn saw the taller woman pull a few bills out of her pocket and immediately stopped her. "No, it's okay, your friend paid for everything. But there is one thing I'd like though." She reached under the counter and took a Polaroid camera out. "Could we get a picture with you?" she asked and smiled when Kris nodded with a genuine grin. "Great! Bob!" Lyn called one of the customers and waved him over. "Take a photo, will ya?"

Kris recognized the older man as the one who had talked her ears off in the parking lot. Thankfully, he was quite busy chewing on something he picked up from the kitchen on his way out. Taking the camera, Bob waited until both Lyn and Cindy were standing on each side of the stuntwoman before taking the picture.

"Thanks!" Lyn grinned. "That'll be one heck of a picture to add to the wall."

"You're welcome. Well, I'm sorry but I really have to go now," Kris apologized as she reached for the prepared lunch waiting for her on the counter.

"Wait!" Cindy suddenly said and opened the closet behind her. She pulled a set of crutches out and smiled at the stunned look on Kris' face. "These are my pride and joy," she beamed. "Would you sign them?"

Of all the interesting artifacts inside the pub, the item the woman was holding ranked number one. The wooden crutches were covered from one end to the other with autographs. Kris walked closer and peered at the famous actors' names. "How did you get so many?" she asked as she took the offered pen and searched for an available spot.

"I go to many sci-fi conventions. The whole thing started with her," Cindy explained as she pointed to a certain name. "I hurt my foot and she autographed the crutches, the other actors at that convention did the same. No matter where I go, I always have them with me," she proudly patted her crutches.

Kris signed her name and shook her head. "It's amazing," she laughed. "With all those signatures, those crutches must be worth a fortune."

"They are," Cindy agreed. "I even had somebody offer me a ridiculous amount of money just for that small section," she pointed to the specific part. "Just because the actress added this to her name."

"Klutz?" Kris read out loud.

"It's considered dedicated. She never writes anything but her name," she chuckled at the memory. "That's when I hurt my foot." Cindy took the pen back from the stuntwoman and smiled. "Thanks for your autograph, Kris."

"My pleasure," Kris smiled and took the bag filled with food.

"Take care." Both Lyn and Cindy waved and watched as the taller woman made her way out the door.


Nicole looked at her watch and sighed. She knew that in no time, Kris would be in and out of the shower, and she needed every minute available to put her plan into motion. "I'm sorry Bob," Nicole apologized to the older man, "I really like, ah…listening to you but I still have a lot to do before we go back on the road." Listening was the operative word since she had barely been able to say one thing.

"No worries," he smiled. "It was nice talking with you, little lady. Be careful on the road, okay?"

"We will." Feeling sorry that she had lied, the young woman watched the man head towards the pub and walk inside. Well, I didn't really lie, I do have something to do and that's learning to drive this thing before Kris comes back. Excited at the prospect of being in control of the powerful racing car, Nicole nervously licked her lips as she slid her hand along the Mitsubishi's body then opened the door to sit down in the driver's seat.

"Here goes," she murmured as she closed the door and found her feet barely able to touch the pedals. "Never thought I was that small," she chuckled, reaching under the seat to adjust it for her size. Can't believe I'm really doing this. She cast one last look at the hotel's door, hoping that Kris would at least unintentionally give her five to ten minutes of practice before she walked out.

Nicole couldn't say that she was a novice at driving. She had her BMW waiting for her back in Innsbruck but handling a racing car wasn't something she had a lot of experience in. The closest she had come to a powerful sports car was riding in Kris' Lamborghini, and that had been as a passenger only.

She took a deep breath to calm her nervousness, snapped the safety belt in place then adjusted the mirrors. With both feet on the pedals, Nicole grabbed the stick with her left hand and studied the positions as she went through the motion of shifting gears. That's first…second…third… she silently thought with a nod, satisfied that she could do it.

"Let's do this before I lose my nerve." With a twist of the wrist, Nicole turned the key in the ignition and heard the engine come to life. She shifted the gear in reverse then turned slightly in her seat to look back, making sure that nobody was behind her. Remembering how little it took for the car to move, Nicole lightly pressed on the gas pedal…and went nowhere. She frowned at the lack of motion and pressed harder.

The Mitsubishi Lancer shot back in a surge of power, surprising the young driver and Nicole quickly pushed on the brake, causing the engine to stall. "Okay, it's either too much or not enough with you, huh?" she chastised the car and sighed in relief, thankful that the parking lot had only few cars parked. She tried once more, this time, backing up more smoothly. She shifted gears again and moved forward, choosing a deserted dirt road to test drive the little beauty.

Nicole couldn't keep the grin that started to form on her lips as she moved the gears up, going faster with every shift. The car bounced slightly on the gravel road but the younger woman handled it without any problems. Finding herself more confidant in her abilities, Nicole gave the engine more power and raced down the track. "It's not as bad as I thought," she smiled. "Should've tried sooner. This is fun!"

She gripped the steering wheel tighter and laughed as she felt the powerful engine's vibration in her small hands. Now I know how Kris feels when she's driving. What a rush!

Having lost herself in the scenery whizzing by, Nicole continued driving down the track and failed to notice the cloud of dust forming in the distance in front of her. The bright reflection of the sun against metal suddenly attracted her attention and she caught sight of a car heading straight for her. "Damn!" she cursed as she realized she was driving on the wrong side and spun the steering wheel to avoid being rammed.

The brusque motion put the rally car into a sidespin, sending a wall of sand to fly up in the air. Nicole did her best to guide the out of control vehicle and eventually stopped it at what she hoped was the right side of the road. Shrouded in the dust cloud, she instinctively closed her eyes and held her breath, somehow expecting to be hit by the other car.

The collision never came. She let go of the breath she was holding and peered outside, trying to see where the other vehicle was. She found it a few feet off the road with the two occupants standing next to it. "Just what I need," Nicole groaned as she saw Shannon and Kyle start to make their way towards her. She rolled down her window and waited for the teasing to begin.

"What the hell…" Kyle barked as he advanced towards the driver then stopped as he recognized who was sitting behind the wheel. "What was that all about? Didn't know you were a hot shot driver too," he said with a smile.

"That was pretty impressive. Taking lessons from anyone I know?" Shannon asked with a smile and bent down to look into the car. She frowned when she saw that Nicole was alone. "Where's Kris?"

"Back at the hotel in Williams Creek," Nicole replied. "She's taking a shower. I just wanted to get a feel of the car in the meantime."

"Wow," Shannon laughed. "Now I'm really impressed. You got her to agree to let you drive."

"Ah…not really. She doesn't know it…yet." Nicole saw that the Australian stuntwoman was about to say something but she stopped her with a warning finger. "I know I'm tricking her but I don't really have a choice. She'll tell me she's okay to drive but trust me, she's not. She's too tired to continue."

"Then why are you driving around while she's in the shower?" Kyle asked reasonably.

"Because I wanted to make sure I drive this thing with credibility." Nicole sighed and rubbed her face. "I don't want to make stupid mistakes once she gets in. Kris is a great driver and I feel a little…well…"

"Intimidated?" Shannon supplied helpfully and crouched next to the driver's door when she saw Nicole nod. "Well, don't feel that way. Kris knows you're not a stunt performer or a rally driver. She might give you a few pointers but that's just to teach you, okay? Hey, it's not as if you've never driven before, you know?"

"The worst will be to get tall, dark and moody, to sit in the passenger's seat," Kyle murmured but loud enough for Shannon to hear. "She won't be easy to deal with."

"Kyle!" Shannon hissed and reached back to slap her team partner's dusty legs then turned her attention back to Nicole. "That's another thing. If you really feel like Kris is too tired to drive, don't let her, even if she argues with you. Just remember that drivers are the worst passengers," she said with a smile. "I know, I'm one of them." She patted the young woman's shoulder before standing up again. "Besides, you know her a lot better than we do. You'll know what to do."

"Thanks Boomer," Nicole smiled. "I guess I'd better head back to the hotel before Kris gets out of the shower." She shifted gears and waved. "See you there."


Walking out of the pub, Kris shifted the paper bag she was carrying in her arms and squinted at the bright sun, trying to locate the car in the parking lot. The Range Rover and the beat up pickup truck were still there but the Mitsubishi was nowhere in sight. In fact, even Nicole was missing. Starting to feel nervous at her lover's absence, Kris put her clothes along with the bag of food on a bench and scanned the area more carefully.

"Nicole?" she called out and walked away from the hotel as she slid the sunglasses perched on top of her head down to her nose. Kris stood in the middle of the parking lot with both fists firmly planted on her hips and searched the deserted surroundings with a frown on her face. "What the…" She turned around as she heard the sound of motors being pushed to their limits and saw two cars barrel down the Oodnadatta Track.

Guess it was just a matter of time before the other participants caught up to us. She watched the two cars race towards her and was surprised to see the lead car suddenly brake, causing the vehicle to fishtail slightly, then continued on a more leisurely pace to finally stop in front of her. A dark eyebrow slowly rose as the driver shyly waved at her.

Nicole rolled the window down and smiled. "Ah…hi?"

"Hi," Kris drawled as she reached one long finger and slowly dragged her sunglasses down on her nose to look at the blonde. "What was that all about?" she asked and cast a glance at the green Lancer behind their car and saw Kyle slowly drive in reverse, looking like he was trying to get away, unnoticed. The tall woman turned her attention back to her partner. "Well?"

"I…hmm, I just wanted to try the car while you were in the shower. Hope you don't mind."

Kris took a deep breath and let it out slowly, glad to see that nothing had happened to Nicole. "No, I don't mind," she said softly. "But I would've liked to be there when you drove the car, I could have given you a few pointers."

"Oh," she gave her a sheepish grin and nodded. If you really want to teach me, you're going to have your wish sooner than you think. "I'm sorry."

"It's okay. So, ready to get back on the road?"

"Yep, I am," Nicole replied but stayed comfortably seated behind the wheel.

Having picked up the bag and clothes on the bench, Shannon approached Kris and handed her the items. "Think these belongs to you," the Australian stuntwoman grinned and stepped back once they were in the taller woman's arms. With a wink directed at Nicole, "Good luck," she whispered but loud enough for Kris to hear.

"Er…yeah, thanks." Nicole reached out and motioned for her friend to give her the bag. "Give me that and we'll be on our way."

Blue eyes shifted between Nicole to Shannon and back to her partner again. The smiles shared between the two women didn't escape Kris and her brows contracted as she started to feel like they were planning something. "Okay Boomer, what's going on?" she asked as Nicole took possession of the food. "Good luck for what?"

Here goes, the blonde silently said and smiled at her confused looking friend. "Because I'll be driving until we reach Marree. You're tired and you need to rest." Now she'll say 'I'm okay'.

"I'm okay," Kris replied and frowned when her partner laughed softly. "What!"

Nicole reached for the racing suit Kris was wearing and gave it a gentle tug. "You're so predictable, my love." She pulled again until the taller woman bent down to her level and gave her a tender kiss. "You made me a proposition when we started the rally. I'm accepting it now."

Kris smiled mischievously as she gazed into gentle green eyes. "I made a lot of propositions."

"And I said yes to all of them," she winked. "You asked me if I wanted to drive, well, I think now's the time."

Kris crouched by the door and rested both forearms along the edge of the opened window. "You know, I'm not that tired," she lied.

"Yes, you are. Listen, Kris," Nicole started as she moved forward to whisper to her partner, aware of Shannon and Kyle standing a few feet away. "You're worrying me. Why don't you get some rest while I drive, okay? Besides, after driving this thing, I kinda look forward to doing more. I like it…a lot," she grinned.

The dark haired woman studied her partner and only saw excitement in the emerald eyes looking back at her. "It's gonna be a tough drive, very slippery roads."

"I know," Nicole nodded. "I already figured that one out. It's not much different than driving on snow and God knows I have enough experience with that, especially with the driving I did in Montreal and Innsbruck."

Kris pushed her sunglasses back in place, as she stayed silent for a while, trying to see any signs that Nicole was nervous or had any reservations about the long trek ahead. She found none. "Alright," she finally said and saw a beautiful smile form on her lover's lips. "But you'll promise me something. If you find the road too difficult or if you get tired or too nervous…"

"I'm not nervous!" Nicole quickly said and chuckled when a dark eyebrow shot up above the rim of the wrap around sunglasses Kris wore. "Well…I admit, I am a little, but it's a good kind of nervous… honest!"

"Okay," Kris nodded her agreement. "You've got yourself a deal." She kissed her partner again before she stood up.

Kyle watched in amazement as his tall friend walked around the Mitsubishi and opened the passenger door to sit. "Well I'll be damned. I had to see this to believe it," he murmured, surprised to see that she hadn't made a bigger deal about not driving.

Kris looked over the roof and saw both Shannon and her team partner with a grin on their faces. "What?" she demanded and rose her hands in question. "What!"

With a shrug, the brunette walked to stand next to Nicole and winked at the Austrian. "Nothing."

"Boomer," the taller woman's voice rumbled in warning. "You know I hate it when I get that kind of answer."

"I know…why do you think I replied this way?" Shannon chuckled and leaned over the roof. "I just love to tease you, Stretch."

"Hmph," Kris growled. "You're up to something, I can feel it."

Shannon bent down to look inside the car at the seated Nicole and smiled. "Is she always this paranoid?" she asked the blonde then straightened up again to see Kris with both forearms leaning on the roof. "What makes you think I'm…eek!" she screeched as one of the stuntwoman's hand shot out and tried to grab her. "Heh," she stuck her tongue out at Kris. "You missed me. Getting old?"

"You really want me to catch you?" Kris asked with a grin.

Shannon opened her mouth to reply, glanced at her dirt covered team partner standing behind her, remembering what Kris had done to him, then looked at the menacing woman across from her. She knew that the car separating them wouldn't be a problem for Kris if she decided to go after her. She shook her head. "I'm not in the mood for a sandy wedgie."

"Good girl," the dark haired woman smiled. "See? You're learning. There's hope for you after all."

"And why do you think I'm up to something?" she asked again.

"Because you're grinning like an idiot," Kris deadpanned. "What…are…you…planning?"

Shannon laughed. "Nothing!"

The stuntwoman peered inside the car at her lover and spoke in German. "Nicole, schnapp sie Dir!" she grinned.

The blonde looked outside her window and smiled, seeing Shannon comfortably leaning against her door. With a giggle, Nicole wrapped both arms around the woman's waist and held on tight.

"Hey!" the brunette barked in surprise and tried to wiggle out of Nicole's strong hold. "Not fair!" Shannon whined and glared at a laughing Kris. "You don't play fair, Stretch! …Argh!" she squeaked as she batted at the blonde's tickling fingers. "Nick…"

Blue eyes twinkled in amusement. "I never do," she gave her a rakish grin. "I win."

"Okay…okay, I give!" the Australian laughed and hurriedly stepped back as soon as she was free. "I was telling you the truth, mate. I was smiling because I thought you'd give Nicole a harder time that's all. I'm kinda glad you didn't."

The bald technician snorted. "She would've argued with me for hours if it was me sitting in Nicole's place."

"You would've been dragged out of the driver's seat in no time flat," Kris laughed as she sat down. "No wasting time arguing with you, Curly." She looked at her team partner and asked with a smile. "You've been planning this for a long time?"

"Hmm…yeah," she nodded. "But now's the first chance I had to actually do something about it." Nicole saw Kris shake her head, her face reflecting the amusement she felt and tapped the passenger's seat belt. "Buckle up so we can get out of here. We lost a lot of time already, let's make it up," she said as she rubbed her hands together in excitement. "I'm really looking forward to this."

"We may have lost some time but, admit it, don't you feel more comfortable without sand up your…"

"I get the picture, Kris," she laughed and turned her head and waved at their friends. "See you in Marree!"

Shannon waved back as she watched the rally car blast out of the parking lot, causing a cloud of dust to hide the departing vehicle. "I wish I could see how Nicole handles the road ahead."

"Hopefully, Kris will take it easy on Nick. She can be quite a bit…demanding at times," Kyle said as he turned around and started to walk towards their car to fill the tank with gas. "And with her being tired…"

The Australian followed her team partner and gave one last look over her shoulder at the car, which was now a small dot on the horizon. "They'll be fine. Nicole seems to be the best person to handle Kris. Never thought I'd see that someday, though," she smiled. "Come on, let's get that thing filled up so we can be on our way too."

"What, no shower for us?" Kyle whined and heard the woman sigh.

"Stop complaining, will ya?" she chuckled, knowing full well that the man was feeling uncomfortable, especially after the sand attack he had suffered earlier. "I give you ten minutes. I leave ten seconds later with or without…" she never had the time to finish. Kyle sprinted towards the hotel, trying to make the best of the time he was allowed. Shannon looked fondly at the man and smiled. "You can always ask for my help if you want," but the comment went unheard by the American as the technician disappeared into the pub. 


Claire glanced at her sleeping husband next to her and shook her head. That man can sleep anywhere! She silently thought and turned her attention back to the road ahead of them. They were driving on a section of track that was badly corrugated and she was surprised that Eddie hadn't even stirred. "Wish I could sleep like this. The slightest bump wakes me up."

Using the time to do some thinking, Claire thought back to the past days spent travelling across the continent. She had lived all of her life in Melbourne, Australia and not once had she spent even one day in the Outback. She was a city girl and she was proud of it. But she was also thankful for the chance to participate in a cross-country rally with co-workers of hers and her husband.

But it would be a lot more enjoyable if those Italians weren't there, she mumbled, wishing that everybody had refused to help them when their car turned over. They were nothing but trouble and she was sure that the group hadn't heard the last from them. It was the first time that both she and her husband had refused to help somebody, and she didn't regret not doing anything, but those men didn't deserve the effort the participants wasted on them.

At least with their little misadventure, they left Coober Pedy last this morning. Smiling at the Italians' misfortune, Claire looked into her rearview mirror, wondering where Tony and Roberto were and was surprised to see a cloud of dust caused by a racing car. The smile was soon replaced by a frown. She was already driving fast and the vehicle behind her was quickly approaching them.

Splitting her attention between the road and the car catching up to her, she mumbled. "They're driving like bloody maniacs!" The special effects technician briefly considered waking Eddie, but the act would be useless. There was nothing either one could do so she decided to keep the car at its present speed and let whoever was behind to simply drive past.

It was madness to drive at such speed on a badly damaged road, but in a matter of minutes, the car was upon them and started to pass. Claire barely had time to realize whom the occupants were before the black and silver Lancia Integrale raced by and disappeared in a cloud of dust.

With her vision totally obstructed, Claire took her foot off the accelerator to eventually reduce the car's speed and wait for the dust to settle. But before she could see again, something crashed against the windshield, causing the large glass panel to break into a million tiny little cracks. "Shit!" Claire swore and slammed her foot on the brake by pure reaction.

"Wh…what happened?" Eddie blurted out, awakened by his wife's sudden curse and the noise made by the rock against glass.

Claire angrily slammed her hand on the steering wheel and opened the door to get out. "God damned idiots!" she yelled. "Those stupid Italians had to pass us like maniacs." She pointed at the shattered windshield. "See what they caused?"

Eddie inspected the damaged vehicle and sighed. "Well, at least the glass broke on the passenger's side. Who was driving?"

"It doesn't matter, Eddie!" the woman retorted, furious. "If they hadn't been driving like assholes…"

"That's enough," the stunt technician said and walked around the car to get to the driver's side. "They didn't throw that rock on purpose, it was an accident." He waited for Claire to say something but the woman kept glaring at the long gone Lancia. He shook his head. "Why don't I drive for a while, okay? At least until you calm down." Without a word, both switched places and drove on in silence.

Eddie could hear low, angry mumbling as his wife stared out of her window, unable to see through the broken glass. He looked at the damage. I really hope we'll be able to find a new windshield for the Celica, he silently thought. Or else, we can consider this rally over. One thing was for sure, Toyota parts for a car like they had weren't easy to find, especially in the Outback.

Sniffing the air for the third time, Claire frowned and looked at her husband. "What's that?" she eventually asked, not able to figure out the strange smell.

"What's what?"

"Can't you smell it?" she asked and opened her window to sniff at the air outside, everything seemed fine. Back inside the car, the air was slightly acrid. She bent forward and got closer to the dashboard. The smell was coming straight out of the air vents. "There's something weird…Eddie, pull over."

"Why? What's wrong?"

Claire didn't know if it was the cracked windshield playing tricks on her vision or if there was really something wrong happening but she didn't want to take any chances. "It smells like something's burning."

The Australian stunt technician peered closer at the dashboard where wispy tendrils of smoke filtered through the vents. "What the…" Another look outside showed more smoke coming out from each side of the hood, getting blacker by the minute. Eddie pulled over by the side of the road and turned the engine off. "Get out!" he ordered his wife, fearing the worst. 

He pulled at the lever under the dash and popped the hood open, letting black sooty smoke escape through the wider openings. "Bloody hell…" he cursed and reached behind the seats to grab the small fire extinguisher. "What else can go wrong?"

Holding her breath at the stench, Claire tested the hood for heat before opening it all the way and locking it in place. She quickly stepped back, waving her hands to clear the air as the smoke billowed up. "Eddie!" she yelled, "I can see flames!"

"Shit!" Rushing around the car, Eddie lifted the small red canister and aimed it at the burning wires, giving short bursts of the powder to try and smother the flames. "Guess that's another way to get out of a rally," he mumbled.

With a sigh, Claire brushed both hands through her shoulder length hair and looked down the road they had driven on. She caught sight of a reflection of sun upon metal and thanked the Gods, her prayer answered. It was one thing to have a vehicle brake down, but it was quite another to have it happen on a deserted road. "Someone's coming."

The woman waved her arms at the approaching car and headed towards them when the Renault slowed down to finally stop. The large number six plastered on the doors indicated the occupants as being part of the French team from the cross-country rally.

Gilbert stepped out of his car and hurried over. "Are you okay?" the Frenchman asked as he made his way towards Eddie.

"We're fine," he grumbled and emptied the last of the fire extinguisher's content on the engine. "But I guess we're going nowhere now."

"What me to call for help?" Stephane asked, holding the two-way radio's microphone in his hand. "I can get base camp to send the helicopter over."

Claire silently nodded and watched as the man sat back in his seat to contact the rally officials. There was a good chance that they couldn't continue with the rally once in Marree because of the broken windshield, but now with the electrical system burned out, things were now official. They were out. "What a stupid way to go."


From the corner of her eyes, Nicole could see how stressed Kris was. It wasn't anything major, just little gestures that she had learned to understand as being signs of tension. It had started with her partner being unable to find a comfortable position in her passenger seat, then by moving her legs back and forth, unable to decide whether she wanted her legs stretched out or tucked against the seat. Next, she had started to lightly rap her fingers along the edge of the window while looking outside at the passing scenery, keeping time with a silent music only Kris could hear.

Nicole chewed her lip in amusement when the tall woman pulled a leather cord out of her pocket and played with it for awhile before tying her long hair into a ponytail. The woman simply wouldn't sit still for even one minute. She briefly considered pulling over and changing places with Kris, but there was a reason why she was now driving and not her partner, so she kept silent and concentrated on the road ahead of them. She only wished that Kris would close her eyes and take a nap. Her constant fidgeting was making her nervous.

Bored at doing nothing, Kris craned her neck to look at the speedometer and bit her lip, not wanting to say anything. It felt like they were driving at a snail's pace but the speed in which her partner was maintaining was normal if not slightly chancy for this type of road. She saw Nicole look at her and Kris gave her a small smile before turning her attention back to the patches of spinifex littering the area. I never realized how boring a trip could be when I'm not driving. I wonder how long…

"We'll be in Marree soon," Nicole spoke softly, as if reading Kris' thoughts. "Why don't you try and sleep for a while?"

"Nah," the tall woman shook her head. "Want to keep my eyes on the road."

"Don't trust me?" the blonde asked with a smile. "I'm not such a bad driver, you know."

"That's not the reason," Kris replied as she cast another quick glance at the speedometer. "It's…hmm, well…"

"Well, what?"

Scratching her jaw, the stuntwoman cleared her throat. "Don't you think you're going just a little too fast?"

"Too f…" Nicole frowned at her friend. 'This is a race, Kris. Aren't we supposed to go fast?" she asked and looked down at the speed indicator. "We're barely doing one hundred kilometers per hour."

"Yeah, but…" You had to say something, didn't you? Kris silently chastised herself. "This is a gravel and dirt road, it's slippery and…" As soon as she said that, the car bounced over a bump and slid to the right, causing the vehicle to fishtail slightly. It took all of Kris' will power not to reach for the steering wheel and help Nicole control the car, but the younger woman wrestled briefly with it before she brought the Lancer back on track.

Nicole blinked in surprise. "Oh, I see what you mean." Slightly shaken by the sudden spin, she eased her foot off the accelerator and slowed down to a speed easier to handle. They drove on in silence for a while, so long that Nicole started to believe that Kris was asleep. She turned her head slightly and saw that her partner was wide awake and was mumbling to herself, her head halfway sticking out of her window. "What's wrong now?"

Kris pointed a finger down at the road beside her. "I think I just saw a turtle walk faster than we're driving."

"You told me to slow down!"

"Not that much!" the older woman mumbled. "I can drive faster blindfolded."

"Come on, Kris," Nicole smiled and took her lover's hand in hers, giving it a gentle squeeze. "We're doing eighty, it's not that slow." She tore her eyes off the road to look at her partner. "I'm serious, why don't you close your eyes for a while and rest?"

"I can't," she admitted. "I…" Kris cleared her throat and looked outside, unwilling to meet her friend's eyes. "I'll get sick if I do that."

The words were uttered so softly that Nicole almost didn't hear them. "You suffer from motion sickness?" the younger woman blurted, amazed at the latest information. "But, you…I mean…how can that be? You jump out of helicopters and do multiple turnovers in cars and…" Nicole stopped when she saw the beginning of a scowl forming on her friend's features. "I'm not laughing at you, Kris. I just find it hard to believe that's all. It never looked like it bothered you before."

"Hmph…well, believe it," she growled as she continued to stare outside her window. Kris half expected Nicole to tease her, doing exactly what her brothers had done on numerous occasions before, but the younger woman stayed silent. I'm sure she must be having a hard time not to laugh at this, she thought and spied her companion from the corner of her eyes. There wasn't a single hint on Nicole's face, indicating that she was amused. "Thank you for not making fun of me," Kris said softly. "God knows I suffered enough with my brothers teasing me about it. It's so embarrassing."

"It's nothing to be ashamed of," Nicole replied. "But I'd like to know how you can perform this way, how do you deal with the motion sickness? I mean, especially finding yourself in a car that's rolling over many times. I'd get so sick, it wouldn't be funny."

Kris shrugged. "I don't have any problems when I'm doing stunts," she smiled shyly. "Well, not that much in that case. My biggest problem is when I'm in a car like this."

The blonde silently looked at her friend, trying to see if Kris was teasing her. The serious look on her face told Nicole that she wasn't. "You mean you can be sick just by driving around?"

The stuntwoman briefly thought about scaring her younger companion but she looked so concerned about her misgivings that Kris decided against doing it. "No…by being a passenger," she explained instead. "That's why I'm always driving, it gives me something to do." She gave Nicole a smile before turning her attention to the side mirror next to her and saw that there was a car some distance away behind them.

With a gentle laugh, Nicole lightly brushed her hand against Kris' thigh. "Now I know why you've been so fidgety. How are you feeling now?""

"Oh, I'm fine," she quickly reassured her. "I only feel bad if I sleep in a moving car or look down to read something…then I lose it."

Nicole shook her head and scowled at her partner. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"Now you know." Kris gave her a mischievous grin. "Will you let me drive now?"

"Not a chance," Nicole laughed. "You're still tired and need to rest. Just don't close your eyes, okay?"

"Make up your mind," she teased. "First you order me to sleep, now you tell me to stay awake."

The young woman smiled as she chuckled softly. Only a few hours ago, she had feared that Kris' temper would get out of hand. Now, things were improving by the minute and even though Kris still hadn't slept, she looked more relaxed. The dark haired woman still looked bored and slightly miffed at not being able to drive, but the teasing they'd been doing for a while proved to Nicole that at least, she wasn't angry just tired. Guess the quick shower worked wonders.

But she was starting to get a good idea how Kris felt. She herself was having problems keeping her eyes open and she had slept a lot more than her partner did. Thank God for the bumpy road! At least it's keeping me from falling asleep at the wheel. Nicole bit back a yawn and briefly took her eyes off the road to look at her partner.

"Well, which is it?" Kris asked with a grin and reached out to tug lightly on a strand of blonde hair. "Go to sleep or stay awake?"

"Just keep looking out the window and think about something other than driving."

"Like what?"

"I don’t know," Nicole replied. "Maybe think about what you’re going to tell your brother? He’s waiting for an answer to his stunt school proposal, you know."

"You know I agreed to become his partner and instructor."

"He doesn’t."

"Hmm." Looking in the mirror once more, Kris saw that the car behind them was a green Mitsubishi and that it was quickly getting close. "And you're still driving too slow. Boomer and Kyle are catching up to us."

"So?" Nicole spared a look at the rearview mirror and shrugged. "When you're back in the driver's seat, you'll just have to drive faster to make up for the lost time… after you get some sleep."

"Why wait when I could do it now?"

"That’s a little bit difficult to do when you’re sitting in the passenger’s seat," she stated and hid a smile with her hand when Kris growled softly. Another yawn escaped her and Nicole blinked to clear her teary vision.

"I saw that!" Kris exclaimed.


"You yawned" she said as she pointed a finger at Nicole. "You're tired too and you won't let me drive because of it?"

"Yeah, that's right."


The blonde frowned at her companion and slapped her arm. "No!"

"You're no fun," the stuntwoman replied. She let herself slide down in her seat and crossed her arms over her chest, a slight pout on her lips. The gesture caused the woman to burst out laughing. At least I amuse her, Kris thought with a low chuckle. Just wait until I'm back in the driver's seat. I'll give you a ride you'll never forget. The sound of a horn made her look across at Nicole and she saw that Shannon had brought her car next to them. The Australian stuntwoman waved the microphone she was holding, mouthing something unintelligible.

Realizing that their CB was off, Kris switched the radio on, took the handset and pressed the button to speak. "Hey Boomer, what's up?"

"We've been trying to reach you for some time. You know, it would be much easier to contact you if you had that thing working once in a while."

"It's working now," Kris said. "What do you want?"

"What do I want?" Shannon repeated. "That’s a little rude, don’t you think?"
"I can switch the radio off if you…"

"Grouchy aren’t we?" the Australian continued with her teasing and saw Kris scowl. "I just have some information for you."

"Well? What is it?"

"You can be so impatient sometimes."

"Boomer…" Kris warned with a growl.

"Okay, okay! Claire and Eddie had to drop out of the race," Shannon announced. "The car's electrical system totally burned."

"Are they okay?" Nicole asked and listened while Kris relayed the question to the Australian driving parallel to them.

Shannon nodded. "Yeah, but the car needs major repairs." There was a brief pause online before the stuntwoman continued. "They're heading back home to Melbourne and they don't know if they'll meet up with us at the finish line in Brisbane."

"Hey Kris, this is Stephane," the voice of the French driver sounded over the speakers. "Claire gave me an envelope for Nicole before they left. Remind me to give it to you when we reach Marree."

"Okay, thanks," Kris said and took her finger off the switch to talk to her partner. "What’s the envelope for?"

"Don’t you remember?" Nicole asked and whispered, "What we talked about with Shannon's mother?"

Kris was momentarily lost until she recalled the chat they had with the veterinarian and the beginning of a plan forming that day to help the animal refuge. "Oh…that," she nodded. "But why are you whispering? My thumb is off the button, Boomer can’t hear you," she smirked.

"So, what's in the envelope, Nick?" Shannon's voice sounded again.

The blonde took the microphone from Kris and spoke into it. "Nosey aren’t we, Boomer?"

"Nick!" Shannon whined. "I’ve heard you whispering to a few drivers."

"So?" Nicole laughed.

"Come on, tell me!" the Australian pleaded. "Please?"

"We're not ready to let you know yet."

"That's not fair."

"I know," the young blonde smiled as she kept her eyes on the road and handed the microphone back to Kris.

"Well, if you're gonna be this way, I'm leaving."

Both turned to look at the green Lancer in time to see the Australian stuntwoman stick her tongue out at them and watched as her car quickly disappeared in a hazy cloud of dust.

Worried at the way Shannon had left, Nicole chewed her lower lip and spared a glance at Kris. "You think she's upset?"

"No way," Kris laughed. "Annoyed at not knowing what our plan is? Maybe, but not angry."

Relieved by her partner's answer, Nicole smiled. "At least it looked like Kyle's enjoying seeing her this way. Did you see him laugh at her?"

The dark haired woman nodded then continued to stare at the passing desert scenery, lost in her thoughts.

Nicole glanced at the odometer then at her watch and smiled. If they kept up with the present speed, they'd arrive in Marree at seven thirty in the evening, less than forty minutes from now. She really wasn't upset at stopping for eight hours. Both she and Kris needed much rest and sleeping for at least six hours sounded divine right now. Once in town, they'd get their bags out of the car, get their room and take a long hot shower before going to bed.

Having driven for a while in silence, Nicole looked at Kris and saw a slight frown on the beautiful woman's face. "Something wrong?"

"Huh?" Kris blinked in surprise at the sudden question and looked at the driver. "Oh, no…just thinking about the electrical fire in Claire and Eddie's car," she said as she rubbed her face with her hands then stretched her legs as best as she could before settling back straight in her seat. "Last night in Coober Pedy when Shannon was assaulted, didn’t she say that she spotted her attacker near the Finns' car? I'm not sure but I think Claire's car was parked right next to theirs."

"You think the guy may have sabotaged it?"

"I’m not sure." Kris shrugged. "It's something to keep in mind." But why would he go after Claire and Eddie's car? They were so far behind, that they weren't any threat to the number one position. She scratched her jaw and frowned. We, on the other hand, are closer to the Finns. He might want to try something once we're in Marree. Better keep an eye open, just in case.


Ludwig drove into the parking lot in time to see his sister walk into the motel. He quickly shifted the gear in park and turned the key to shut off the motor. "I’ll catch you later, Greg." With a hurried motion, he opened the car's door and jogged towards Nicole who was also making her way toward the motel, her overnight bag slung over one shoulder. "Hey Nick! Wait!"

Having heard her name, Nicole stopped walking and turned to see her brother-in-law heading towards her. "Hey Lou, what's up?"

"Glad I caught ya," the muscular man smiled and stopped in front of Nicole. "Listen, I know that I gave Kris some time to think about it, but she hasn't said a word so far and it's driving me nuts. Is she interested or not?"

Knowing full well what Ludwig was talking about, Nicole decided to have a little fun with the older man. "Interested in what?"

"The stunt school…my offer…" he frowned at the look of confusion on the blonde's face. "Kris didn't talk to you about it? Her teaching at the school?"

"Oh that…yeah, she did," Nicole answered as she turned around to hide her smile and continued walking.

"Well? What did she say?"

"Why are you asking me?" she asked over her shoulder. "You should speak to her instead."

"I did!" he retorted and jogged after the smaller woman. "But she never answered. I thought that maybe you would…"

"Nuh uh," Nicole waved a finger in warning. "Don't get me involved in this. You asked her, she said she'll get back to you…eventually," she grinned.

"Come on," Ludwig groaned. "At least tell me if there’s a chance to…"

"A chance to what?" Kris drawled from the motel's doorway. "And why are you bothering Nick?"

Ludwig stopped dead in his tracks as his sister suddenly appeared in front of him. He blinked nervously, not certain how to interpret Kris' tone of voice. He just hoped that he hadn't blown his chance at having her as an instructor and partner. "I'm not…I wasn't bothering Nic…I just…wanted…"

Nicole stood next to her partner and softly whispered in her ear. "Let him off the hook, okay?" she asked with a smile. "He's waited long enough for your answer."

"You have such a big heart," Kris whispered back and motioned for her brother to join them. "Come on, Lou. Let's have a talk."


Continues in chapter 8.



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