Author’s Note: It’s kind of hard to balance the suspense and the fun of the antique car run and the relationship between Carson and Mackenna, and I’m sure I’m not doing it right, but they’re just so interesting to be around that every little moment between them wants to go in, and that probably distracts from the suspense of this being a mystery…
“I think taking her up by the Legion would be better,” Mackenna said, studying Phantom with a gleam in her eye that worried Carson a little. He didn’t know for sure how to react to her right now. They seemed to have crossed some kind of line last night, and both of them knew it, but they didn’t want to acknowledge it, either. He wanted to say that was just her doing more to heal, and that was a good thing, not a bad one, but at the same time, he felt like something was off, and he couldn’t explain what that was.
“That’s where they park the cars that run,” Carson said, and she glared at him. He knew she couldn’t argue his point, though. Phantom only moved because they’d replaced the tires, and she did it with a bit of a lurch that was worrisome to him at least. He didn’t know what Mackenna thought of it, and he was trying to respect her opinion as an expert, but that did not seem like a good idea.
“Plenty of people will get a look at her here,” Mac said. “Gonna need to do work on the eight. Engine’s not right.”
Mackenna grimaced. “I thought it wasn’t when we were driving, but I wasn’t sure. You want me to take a look at her? We’ll stay here, you head up to the Legion and take a break. You had to do all that driving, and you deserve it.”
Mac gave her a look, and Carson knew he wasn’t alone in thinking she was up to something again. He would never want to try and guess what was on her mind, but he could tell that much. She had some kind of scheme in mind.
“If you run into Natalie and the others, ask them if they want to do dinner at the Legion or at the diner. Oh, crap. I forgot the card. Do you want to get them one to thank them for letting us stay with them or should I do that after we’re done here?”
She rolled her eyes, going over to Shadow and flipping open the brackets that kept the hood in place. After she did that, she lifted off one side and then set the piece on the ground near the wheel, giving the engine a long look. “Hmm.”
“It’s not going to explode, is it?”
She laughed, shaking her head at Carson’s suggestion. “No. It’s not. I think I know what’s wrong, but it might take me a while.”
“That’s fine. It’s not like we were planning on going anywhere,” he said, shrugging. They didn’t have any events to attend, and the idea was to stick close to Phantom and see what interest people had in her so that they could go from there. They didn’t have a great plan, but they did have one. Of course, a part of him figured she was trying to force him to keep her company while she worked, but he didn’t mind. He was more comfortable with her than he would be with anyone else, as nice as everyone he’d met had been.
She smiled at him. “Would you get the toolbox out of the trailer for me?”
“I’ll leave you to it,” Mac said, walking away, and Mackenna watched him go before letting out a breath of relief. Carson frowned at her, but she grinned when she turned to him.
“You have no idea what kind of an opportunity this is. Even after as many years as I’ve been coming to these things, everyone likes to assume that Mac’s the only one that does any of the work on the cars. I still get people thinking I can’t drive them and if I say that I work on them, they look at me like I’ve grown another head.”
“You want me to go, too, so that they don’t think I’m the one working on the car?”
Her quick refusal made him smile, and he swore he did see some red on her cheeks before she ducked underneath the hood. “I need an assistant, anyway.”
“Sure you do.”
“Where’s my toolbox? I seem to remember asking you for it a while ago.”
He rolled his eyes as he walked back toward the trailer, running a hand along Phantom’s fender and then her hood as he did. He didn’t think she’d ever be what Shadow was, but she’d look better someday. Maybe. He went up the ramp and picked up the toolbox with a wince. He was so not suited to this kind of work, and she’d mock him without mercy if she saw him struggling with it.
He felt eyes on him when he started down the ramp again, but when he glanced toward Mackenna’s direction, she was underneath the car, and so it couldn’t be her. He frowned, looking around. Plenty of people were driving by and a few of them were walking around, but none of them seemed to have any interest in him.
He tried to shake it off. He was just being paranoid, that was all. This place and situation made him uncomfortable, and he didn’t know what he’d find in his memories or someone else’s, so of course he was on edge. It didn’t have to be anything more than that.
Still, he couldn’t help looking around again as he walked back to Mackenna’s side, not wanting to be alone.