There was no one else on the road that early in the morning. Everything in shadows, shapes indistinct, gave her surroundings a slightly spooky feel, with the sun barely able to penetrate the thick branches of pines that lined the road on both sides. Behind the dark silhouettes of the trees, and anywhere a thin spear of light penetrated, everything glistened with dew, shining softly with the reflected, hidden light. Nikki let her mind wander to the town waiting for her at the end of the winding, narrow road. Was it too much to hope Harper's Point had a chain restaurant of some kind? If not, she might have to go into a restaurant and hope they had carry-out. Or would that be taking too big a risk? Lingering too long in one place might get her too much of the wrong kind of notice. She was a stranger, after all. Maybe no one would pay any attention to her if she went in during the morning rush. Her chances were better if it was a decent local diner. Not one of those dives that always looked like a messy crowd of hockey players had just left. A place where she could order what she really wanted for breakfast instead of settling for whatever they chose to offer.
"Stop thinking about your stomach, dummy."
Gray snorted as if in agreement. Nikki lifted her gaze to the rearview mirror, almost missing a flash of pink moving through the trees up ahead, at the bend in the road. She let her eyes follow the movement while she coasted around the curve.
Just ahead of the curve there was a break in the trees where the mountain slope flattened out into a narrow sort of meadow, high with grass, almost blinding white with the thick, cold dew. A blond little girl in a pink shirt and shorts wandered through the grass that was over her waist. She didn't look around until Nikki was almost even with her, though the sound of the Jeep had to be loud that early in the morning, crunching on the gravel and broken asphalt on that side of the road. Nikki waved and smiled, but the child just gave her a blank look and continued her slow meander, heading across the meadow.
"Kind of funny, huh, Gray?" Nikki muttered. "I thought the map said there weren't any campgrounds on this road. We would have stopped there instead of doing the Gypsy thing in the middle of nowhere, wouldn't we?" She laughed when the Akita shook himself and adjusted his curled up position on the seat behind her. "Who would let their kids out this early in the morning, anyway? Besides, it seems kind of early in the season for family camping. Especially when school hasn't ended yet for the year."