The blizzard never really let up as we slid a bit too rapidly towards the airport. Although the traffic picked up a bit, the silence in the truck was definitely noticeable, even with the racket of various cars honking and swerving to avoid each other as they fought for space on the narrow roads. We didn't even have the thumping sounds of bass from the radio inside the truck since we'd left the Wal-Mart parking lot. Whatever had happened in the ten or so minutes I'd been shopping had yet to be discussed, but whatever it was left both Riley and the driver all but growling aloud. Tense would have been a better situation. This was more along the lines of explosively toxic.
Keeping my thoughts to myself, I figured once we got to the airport I'd head to the women's restroom with my bag before checking in, and pop in and out with the sword. I didn't trust anyone enough to check an unlocked piece of luggage through the airport system. The temptation to steal was well documented. The lovely sword was rare and I didn't want to lose it. I had promised Uncle Harry that I'd actually fly in and out of Michigan like a normal person, but I didn't want to put the sword in jeopardy. I was risking not landing at Uncle Harry's library, but I'd been there forever and was positive that it was not a portal to another world. The restroom at Detroit was a definite risk, but I was willing to take it. Riley'd never have a clue and after all, everyone knew women took forever in the bathroom, so he wouldn't question my possible delay.
Smiling inside with my idea, I let the two men pout -- or whatever it was they were doing. The testosterone in the cab was thick enough to choke a horse but I didn't much care. I had to get on a plane with Riley in the next few hours and try to be civil. That was going to be tough because he was still upset that we'd been separated beneath in the mines -- through no fault of mine -- not trying to be clever with words, but it was true. Star was the one to blame for the door closing between us, I knew that without question.
Riley sensed my distraction and asked, "What are you plotting now, Emma?"
"How to get a window seat," I glibly replied while ignoring the driver's quick glance at me. I wasn't completely lying, but it was enough to make the creature question me. He snorted and shot a look at Riley in the rear view mirror.
"Sucks to be you, fur boy." The driver seemed amused.
Riley flared and puffed out, nearly flipping to his werewolf form. I picked it up from his eyes going to the golden were-color; I'd seen them change more than once now. His werewolf side wasn't fuzzy and cute, but was terrifying, and I didn't want him changing in traffic, blizzard or not. I doubted that even the most jaded Detroit driver would be able to ignore such a switch. He was trying to keep calm, but I could see he wasn't having much luck.
"Nah, it sucks to be you when I tell Uncle Harry that you were such a fucking prick." Signs along the road indicated that we were a mile or so from the airport, and if he kicked us out I was fairly sure we'd survive the distance, even in this weather. I'd stunned him with my comment and I watched his teeth clench on the end of his foul-smelling cigar. Looking at the disgustingly chewed bit, I reached over and yanked it out from his mouth and tossed it out of the cab through the crack in the window on my side.
"And you really shouldn't smoke. It's a disgusting habit." The huge man's face was worth a picture. I didn't grab the new cell that Uncle Harry had got me and take the picture, but I was really itching to, because I doubted this man had ever been stunned before in a good thirty or forty years. He took the exit for the airport and kept his opinions to himself. Once we got to the drop off point he snarled, "Bye, never hope to see you again. Either of you."
Riley got out of the back of the cab and leaned inside saying, "Oh, you won't see me. Ever."
That threat went unchallenged but the driver sped off like his tail was on fire. Given how deeply Riley was inhaling and exhaling it was probably best. Riley would kill him if he ever saw him again. Giving Riley a careful glance I figured that creature definitely had made an enemy -- Uncle Harry's buddy or not.
"Not even going to ask. I need to use the restroom." I took the suitcase from his hands and walked quickly towards the well-marked bathrooms just inside the airport.
"I'll meet you at the kiosk over there," I pointed to the airline kiosk that Uncle Harry had said was where he'd prepaid our flight. Riley looked disgruntled but allowed me to flee. There weren't folks waiting for flights so I was happy to find the large restroom pretty much vacant. I went to the handicapped stall and locked myself inside. I took the sword out of the suitcase and took a deep breath and thought of Uncle Harry's library. Closing my eyes I willed myself otherly and popped right in front of the fireplace I'd been thinking of at Uncle Harry's place. I set the sword down carefully on the large coffee table and then, hoisting my backpack over my shoulders, I shut my eyes and thought of the restroom and the piece of luggage. To my complete relief when I opened my eyes I was precisely where I wanted to be, and I could hear some girls laughing at the sinks, talking about how exciting it was to be in a blizzard. They were heading back to somewhere south and warm and found the storms delightful and amusing. I took advantage of the restroom and waited until I heard them depart before heading out to see if Riley had got us our tickets.
I found the kiosk and Riley was holding some papers while impatiently tapping his foot.
"What?" I knew I hadn't been that long, and was more than happy that there wasn't a portal to some strange world in that particular spot; folks were strange in Detroit, it could have been hard to tell.
"Our flight isn't going out for another three hours." He waved the printed boarding passes to empathize his words and then asked, "Want to grab something to eat?" He was watching me carefully. He suspected I'd been up to something, but wasn't sure what. There was no way he was going to ask me, which was part of his not-so-sweet charm.
"Yeah, I'm starving." I really wasn't but I knew that he had to be ravenous. I'd order twice as much as I wanted and let him scarf down some protein. Maybe he'd calm down before the flight. If not, his mouth would be full and that was something.
Not all the places were open, but eventually we found one that only had a twenty minute wait time. We went to the bar and asked the hostess to let us know when our table was ready. I ordered tea while Riley ordered beer. I knew he wasn't going to get drunk, but the carbs would fuel him until we got food. With that in mind I ordered the appetizer platter and a side of wings. I figured it would keep him occupied until the table was ready. It wasn't that the restaurant was full, but that they didn't have many waiters. The ones that had shown up during the blizzard probably lived close by and needed the money, and since there were a ton of people wandering around looking lost in the airport, they were probably making a fair amount of money in tips.
The bartender was slammed with customers, but polite enough taking our orders. Looking at the lines on her face, I asked, "How long have you been on shift?" Exhaustion etched her face and she said, "What day is it?"
"Ouch." I slid her a twenty and said, "Thanks."
Her eyes flew wide up into mine and she said, "I can't take that!"
"Sure you can. Besides my friend here is paying for my dinner and I had it set aside to spend."
Her eyes ducked but she still slid the money quickly off the bar top and said, "Wow, thanks so much. You have no idea." If I'd have more money handy I would have given it to her. I'd seen enough of the local news to know how hard Detroit had been hit with all of the auto companies pulling out, and the crappy politicians stealing from the city whatever hadn't been nailed down. I flipped my hand to her, waving her towards a drunk customer at the other end of the counter wanting another drink.
Riley looked at me and said, "You didn't have to do that. I was going to tip her decently."
"It wasn't about you." It really wasn't. At times I felt guilty for how well I had been treated since Uncle Harry had found me. It wasn't much but at least she'd appreciate the money.
Silently we sipped our drinks and once the appetizers arrived Riley tore into the plates without talking. The bartender was busy on the other end of the counter and didn't notice that Riley was inhaling ninety-nine percent of the 'nibbles.' We'd just finished them when the hostess came over and told us our table was ready. Riley paid the tab and we went to dinner. The meal was unremarkable but Riley ate everything but the plates and silverware. I kept quiet and let him refuel. I wanted to know what the driver had done to piss the werewolf off, but didn't think he'd appreciate me asking in public.
Soon our flight was announced and we made our way down to the TSA screening. First we stopped off and put my piece of luggage through to be checked and stored beneath our plane. Knowing I'd just bought the luggage and stuffed random clothes in it along with the sword, Riley hissed, "What are you doing?"
"Took care of it. Making us look legit." I hissd softly while dipping my face down so me words were soft and not able to be overheard.
Growling, he said, "Your trip to the restroom?"
I flashed him a grin and handed the luggage to the airline counter representative. (I never knew what to call them.) I handed the ticket over and my driver's license. Then we were on our way to be groped and wanded by the TSA crew. The hour it took for us to arrive at the gate wasn't unexpected, just distracting. There were far more travelers in the airport than we'd seen on the other side of the gates. I guess flights were really leaving and soon I'd be trapped in a metal tube hurling towards California. Keeping my dark thoughts to myself, we stayed penned like cattle in the holding area to be called for our flight.
Uncle Harry had sprung for a decent airline, but still I wasn't happy with the feeling of being just a number. Thankfully we had the assigned seats in first class, but the airplane was full to the brim. I shoved my backpack in the overhead bin space with the hovering stewardess trying to take it from me. Riley gave her a flat glare and she scurried off to assist another passenger. The blizzard had created some very anxious travelers and nobody gave a damn about anyone but themselves. The stewardess returned to ask if we'd like pre-flight cocktails while the rest of the passengers boarded, and I swear Riley growled.
She fled without taking an order. Riley really didn't like flying.
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