"There's some sort of eating area over here." The sweet voice belonged to a hefty-built, olive-skinned woman with salt-and-pepper hair. She gestured with one hand and thrust the other ahead of her like a linebacker clearing a path. "Come on and sit down, honey. We'll take care of you."
The next few seconds were a blur, and Nikki gladly leaned into the warmth and support of Joan's arm. Her legs felt like noodles and her stomach gave one final twist of rebuke as she dropped onto a long dark green park-style bench at the back of a small eating area.
"If you're in any kind of trouble--" Joan began.
Nikki shook her head, choking on a bit of laughter. "I'm okay. I just had a close encounter with a sheep's head. It kind of grossed me out." She looked down at her hands, caught tight in Joan's.
"Sorry. I guess I'm in defender mode." Joan colored a little and pulled her hands free.
"What are you doing here?" It was on the tip of her tongue to accuse Joan of following her around, that maybe her parents had hired her to bring her home. Nikki knew that was ridiculous.
"Showing off." The woman Joan had called Margie settled down on the other side of the bench, sandwiching Nikki between them. "This is the greatest place for shopping, period, but they donate a lot to charity. That's going to help us out when we're up to speed."
"Nikki, this is Margie, the head of the Storm Shelter. Remember, I was telling you about it when we met at the carnival," Joan said."Oh. Right. The women's shelter." She nodded, scrambling to remember anything else Joan had said. "So everything worked out?"