[11] Search and Rescue

Teri had no idea anymore of the time. Keeping track with the liquid level in your absurd glass-shaped plastic cup of wine wasn’t particularly precise or accurate, and Jim compounded it when he rose and poured them both a second draught. Well inside her warm and happy buzz, she marveled at the parallel—the more of her wine disappeared, the more of her long solitary years disappeared.

Tucked against the warmth and heat of Jim on the uncomfortable RV sofa, listening to the crickets chirp through the opened windows and watching the moonlight drift in creeping patches over surfaces and the floor, it felt not too different from the nights they’d spent together on the cramped little balcony of her apartment, pressed against one another on the cheap, uncomfortable little patio loveseat they’d scrounged to afford, just so they could do exactly this. To listen to the crickets and watch the moonlight make its way across the floor.

And talk. And laugh. And talk some more.

He held her hand in the sweetest way, wandered slowly along the grassy park as Evie sniffed about on her last time out for the night.

Checking the bottle of wine as they returned to the RV and finding a bit left in the bottle, Teri made to pour it into Jim’s cup.

“Don’t bother.” He took the bottle from her hand, something intent and smoldering in the depths of his ice blue eyes, and tipped the last of it into his mouth, holding her captive in his gaze.

His hand at the back of her neck was warm, firm, and he teased her mouth open with little kisses along her lips, capturing her tongue, the taste of wine still on his.

“We started something earlier.” Jim watched as Teri flushed appealingly. “Something I think we’d both enjoy finishing.”

Old conditioning fought a losing battle with Teri’s independence. There was no family to be ashamed of her choices anymore, and she wanted Jim. If she was only going to get a few weeks before she returned to the life she’d fashioned alone, then she would take them.

Entirely aware of the way he was looking at her—like a hungry wolf stalking a rabbit—Jim was nevertheless unable to stop it. Everything with Teri just felt right, like a perfect fit, and if it came down to this—this relentless pursuit—or spending another decade lost inside and alone, then he’d make certain every bit of his need was apparent. He had her now and he’d never let her go.

Under his watchful gaze, she took a step back and he wondered suddenly if she might be reconsidering, but she only shut off the dim lamp over the stove. It left the soft bedroom lamplight behind her—the paradoxical glowing halo around a succubus—and he followed, as helpless against her as the tides following the moon.

At the door, Teri turned, and with a sharp click, the light vanished. Crossing her arms at her waist, she lifted her t-shirt over her head to find Jim close behind her, reeling her into his chest slowly as she dropped it to the floor.

Brushing her hair aside, he nuzzled the back of her neck, caressing the tender flesh in the small of her back with the backs of his fingers. “The last thing I want is for you to regret this, Teri.” Which wasn’t the whole truth. The last thing he wanted was for her to vanish again.

Against her body, Teri could feel his desire, radiating heat that she returned, her senses drunk with him. “I’ve never regretted being with you, Jim. I don’t intend to start.”


Taking the tender flesh at her nape between his teeth, Jim teased it with the tip of his tongue, sending mixed signals of delight and pain rocketing through her. Fumbling with the fastenings of her shorts, he urged her towards her bed, crawling onto it over her, his chest flush and solid against her back, his manhood straining hard through their clothes and pressed into her from behind.

Obligingly, she arched and twisted as he slid her shorts and panties over her hips and down her legs, then he was over her again, strong arms caging her and lips fluttering dizzying kisses along her spine. With his teeth, Jim tugged at the band of her front-close bra, his low voice its own caress in the dark.

“Take this off.”

Lowering herself to her elbows, Teri’s trembling fingers struggled with the clasp, then fumbled more at the low groan Jim gave at her posture, the feel of his hand sliding along the faint bumpy ridge of her backbone, cupping the rise of her bottom. With his fingertips, he teased the wildly sensitive nerves at the base of her spine, sending static shocks sizzling down her legs and into her core.

When the clasp released at last, Teri pushed up, shrugging her shoulders out of the flimsy ridiculous thing, only to have Jim push her back down.

“I’ll do it.” His hand bunched in the fabric, stretching the straps to release first one arm pulled up behind her, then the other, and tossed the bra off the side of the bed.

Teri heard the soft slither of fabric over skin, the dull quiet thump as it followed her bra, and when he bent over her again, pressed his smooth warm chest against her. His hips ground into the exposed flesh of her backside, the rough cotton of his shorts dry and scratchy against her soft petals. Exhaling a warm breath across her shoulders, Jim growled at her shiver. 

“It’s been so long, Teri. Too long.” He caressed her back with his murmured words, one hand following the rise of her hip before sliding under her, long strong fingers seeking, then stroking along the tender lips between her thighs. “Yes.” The word dragged out of him, almost sinister and low, at her trembling sigh. “I want all of it—all that I lost—all of it back.”

Beneath him, Teri moaned aloud, supporting herself on one elbow and covering Jim’s hand with her own. How he still knew each pleasure point precisely, knew just the right pressure necessary to force her nether lips to surrender to his touch, to expose her slick folds to his probing fingers, she couldn’t guess. Nor could she think with his fingertips gliding the length of her entrance, teasing at the swelling bud before dancing away only to return seconds later to spread more of her wetness over it.

She convulsed with a high-pitched moan when he slipped one long finger inside, stretching her entrance, his thumb rolling against the excited hooded button in the same smooth stroke. Red-hot delight singed along her nerves and throbbed in her spasming core, her fingers clutching reflexively at his wrist. Teri whimpered as he withdrew, her velvety walls sucking in fluttering kisses, trying to keep him inside.

His next stroke was achingly slow as, this time, Jim eased two thick fingers into her. “So tight,” he groaned, his hips thrusting towards hers as his thumb massaged her aroused bud with light flicks in between short thrusts into her depths with his fingers. Granted, she was petite, but she’d had a husband, had a child— and yet around his fingers, Teri gripped like a vice. In his cargo shorts, his rigid sex burned maddeningly at the thought. He buried his fingers deep inside her, massaging the walls of her tight tunnel, peppering her shoulders with kisses to ease her when he scissored inside.

Jim levered himself to an elbow as Teri’s cries grew more frantic, kissing her neck and whispering gentle soothing sounds as he eased his fingers out of her. Lifting himself, he crawled backwards above her trembling body, still heaving with harsh pants. He paused, indulging himself more than her, kissing her lower back with an open mouth so he could arouse the sensitive nerves there with his tongue.

Groaning with this delicious torture, Teri forced her tense body to relax, willing her spasming entrance to do the same. Jim had always been bigger than her, but likewise, he’d wielded his overwhelming size deftly and without hurting her. Still, he was right, it had been a long time—a really long time—and it would take patience to work her open to take him again.

She gasped, feeling his large warm hands cupping her bottom, let herself get lost in the wet circles his tongue traced over her delicate sacral nerves. White-hot fire zipped across her synapses, clawing its way up her spine to light her brain up like a supernova and she groaned, leaning into his lips, then slumping with a frustrated sigh when his mouth withdrew.

Her body jerked hard, a loud rasping moan escaping her in the next instant when Jim spread her cheeks and his hot wet tongue swiped over her puckered hole. His hand shot out, catching her hip and holding her in place before she could get away. “Shhh,” he soothed. “Don’t run,” then his tongue slid over it again, this time slower, lingering to massage around it with lazy circles.

With a guttural cry, Teri collapsed, her arms beneath her, one cheek pressed into the bedcovers as she was swept into the wildly spiraling sensations this new taboo pleasure aroused. Dark heat coiled inside her core, and she could feel the fresh trickle of wetness slick her nether lips, then surge again feeling the pressure of Jim’s tongue working itself into the taut hole. She had no idea when he’d learned this, nor did she care where, she only knew it felt so good, aroused such an aching desire each time the soft tip of his tongue penetrated the tight pucker, spreading her open even that minute amount. 

She convulsed again, feeling his fingers swipe through the thick wetness coating her roused and swollen nether lips. When his mouth withdrew, replaced immediately with his slicked fingers spreading her wetness in firm circles, she groaned at the increased pressure, arching her hips to him.

It had been a spark of pure inspiration as Jim’s desperate mind had sought a painless way to open her—with such sensitive nerves at the base of her spine, it made sense that here, around the clenched closed little hole, she’d be just as sensitive. To find Teri so uncontrollably responsive though, that was exciting beyond measure. To say he’d been pleased to find her lips and folds swollen and trembling eagerly, drenched in her thick lubricating wetness, was a vast understatement, but he’d quickly taken advantage of it.

Drawing her hot slick up with his fingers, he’d coated the darkly arousing puckered hole, massaging the sensitive flesh around it until the cries coming from up the bed were crazed with unadulterated pleasure. Then he’d pressed with just the tip of one finger, started working the slick fluid in, until each time he pushed, it yielded easily. With his other hand, he kept spreading her wetness upward, pausing when there was enough at the tight hole and working her swollen clit with his thumb instead.

Unable to move under the sensory onslaught, Teri stay as she lay, moaning and panting and begging for more as Jim drove the tension up and up, higher and higher to a frenzied peak, then kept her there in a holding pattern, her orgasm denied. Her body felt like it was cracking open under the unbearable tension. Surely, she’d break and crumble into quivering pieces any moment, torqued so tightly she thought she’d explode.

When she felt his thumb leave her clit, probing at her slick folds then sliding in easily, the thick penetration adding a new depth to the carnal assault on her senses, Teri couldn’t stop her shuddering scream. Balling her fist, she bit down on one knuckle to stifle the cry. “Jim, I need you! I need you!” she hissed around the finger in her mouth and behind her, he groaned.

Easing his thumb out of her tunnel, he thrust in one long finger instead, brushing her velvet walls with the tip as she welcomed him eagerly, and sending a dizzying wave of delight clutching and tearing along her spine into her violently excited reptile brain.

Breathing hard, Jim eased his finger out of her smooth tunnel. Though he’d been using the wetness to keep her back entrance lubricated, with his own arousal rapidly mushrooming out of control, he had to taste her. Once he did, immediately he regretted it.

Teri’s sweet nectar melted on his tongue, sending his need into overdrive. He sucked at his fingers desperately, consuming every drop. One handed, he unfastened his shorts, let them slide off his narrow hips and pool about his knees. Freed, his rigid member strained towards her, eager for her tight velvety tunnel.  

Drawing her wetness up to her taut hole once more, he deposited it there, slicking his thumb generously before pressing the tip against the pucker again and sending Teri into another frenzy of incoherent begging. Moment of truth, he thought. If she could take his two fingers, she could take him, though as aroused as he was, he doubted he’d last more than a few strokes. Pressing his fingers into her, he groaned when her entrance yielded, completely swallowing both long fingers up to the joint with his palm. 

Jim’s control snapped. Yanking his fingers from her, he smoothed Teri’s wetness over the aching head of his sex, then pressed it against her nether mouth.

“Yes yes yes yes yes yes,” Teri panted, feeling the rounded tip of Jim’s manhood, hot and rigid and poised to open her, to penetrate deep inside her desperate and aching core.

Guiding his sex with a hand at the base, Jim pushed slowly, feeling her stretch to take his girth, opening without pain around the raised head. “Do you want my finger too?” he asked huskily, applying slightly more pressure to her back entrance, surprised when it yielded, swallowing his thumb up to the first knuckle.

Fireworks screamed across Teri’s vision, the base of her head exploding with pleasure unlike any Jim had ever brought her before as the blunt head and stiff length of him slid inside her clamoring tunnel and his finger spread open and penetrated her puckered entrance. Her high-pitched moan rose in harmony with Jim’s as her hips bucked, driving his full length into both holes.

Grasping her hip tightly, Jim rammed into her with wild abandon, their flesh slapping together loudly with the force of it, but Teri didn’t care. With his thumb stuffed in and hooked inside her, the taut hole stretched open, clamped and sucking at him and his hard sex plumbing her smooth tunnel to its full depth, the holding pattern was over. The violent orgasm wrenched through her, hard shudders wracking her body as her feminine core, released at last, fluttered and clenched around him tightly.

But Jim didn’t stop with her orgasm. Driven to his highest state of arousal, he continued to plunge into her, pumping with his thumb and forcing her climax with him. “Keep coming! Keep coming! Keep coming!” he urged, in harsh pants, thrusting into her spasming walls without stopping, without letting himself go.

Pausing only long enough to shuffle his shorts below his knees, Jim pushed her hips forward to align them better. She heard the wet sucking sound as he covered his fingers in saliva, then massaged it around her back hole.

Stretched open as it was, his circling fingers grazed previously unexposed nerves and Teri bit back another scream as her vision exploded with fireworks again, and then again, feeling him ease his thumb out of her, her twitching puckered hole forced open still wider to accommodate his thicker knuckle as it withdrew.

With both hands, he pushed her hips down, collapsing on top of her. Supporting his weight on his elbows, he laced his fingers with hers then pounded into her depths. Teri couldn’t gasp in enough air as inside her and in this position, Jim’s sex was grinding against the spongy bundle of nerves inside her core with every thrust, driving her to another powerful climax.

Biting down on the back of her shoulder, he plowed into her, feeling her tension building again. “Come for me, come to me,” his repeating whisper rasped at her ear.

Limp and boneless beneath his hard body, Teri quivered and shook. “I can’t, Jim. I can’t,” she choked out in weak gasps.

With a primal growl, he yanked himself out of her weakly fluttering walls, and lifting himself to one side of her, flipped her over in one smooth motion. Shoving her knees apart with his, Jim aligned their hips again, his hot sex seeking and finding her abused and swollen entrance. Looping her knees over his arms, he rammed himself inside her. “Yes, you can,” he growled. “I promise you.”

Clutching desperately at the bedcovers above her head, Teri held on for dear life as Jim thrust into her, the hot pressure building again in her core. Gritting her teeth, she squeezed her eyes shut, certain he would break her to pieces this time. He must have been able to see her, because she felt his hot breath near her ear. 

“I can’t live without you, Teri. Stay with me.”

Teri’s eyes flew open to find Jim’s directly above her, not blue but black in the dim moonlight. His brutal pounding slowed to long slow sweet strokes, and as he released her knees, supporting his upper body on his elbows, he kissed her passionately. The raised head of his sex dragged over the hot center of her pleasure buried inside, intensifying the pressure more surely than any of his violent love-making had. She groaned, a breathy desperate sound rising in pitch, and tangled her fingers in the sweat-damp waves of his dark hair, shuddering and twitching beneath him as she climaxed, then arching up to receive the hot jets of his pleasure flowing into her and coating her insides soothingly.

Even the crickets were silent, drowned out by their heavy pants, their sweat drenched bodies, hot and clinging to each other.

With his arms threatening to collapse and crush Teri’s dainty form beneath his, Jim eased himself to her side still inside her, turning her into him. A thousand words ached to be spoken, and he could manage none of them. Kissing her once more, his eyes closed and his body relaxed towards sleep.


Teri snuggled against Jim’s chest, exhausted and content. Against her ear, Jim’s heartbeat was strong and sure, his arms around her protectively. With her movement, he turned his head to settle his face on top of her hair. He sighed deeply, running a hand down her back to wrap her waist, before his breath settled in its regular rhythm. The fire that had flared between them was banked for the night, but aftershocks of pleasure still rippled over her at his touch, the casual brush of his body against hers.

Watching the shadows lengthen and shift across her bedroom, she marveled at the mess she’d gotten herself into. In a matter of hours she’d undone years of careful planning and deliberate effort to keep herself and Zoe hidden, private, and the lives of others, including Jim’s, unruffled as she believed they desired.

With a few words, Jim had opened up nearly everything she’d locked away, dropping himself neatly into the middle of it to sift through and explore like the anthropologist he was. A destructive process, he’d said of excavation, with ethical concerns. Well, that was possibly the truest thing she’d ever heard. Not only was he making her question everything about him she’d believed for more than a decade, even her body was turncoat to his cause.

And really, what was his cause? After ten years, what could he want? Sure, they’d had a great relationship in college—loving and romantic, safe and secure, and aside from the occasional issues with Johansen and the sneaking around her parents, uncomplicated. That wasn’t either of their lives anymore—well, maybe it was his, but it wasn’t hers.

It was one thing to think kids were great when you only had to deal with them for a few days, not years. Besides, even if Jim did like Zoe, how on earth was she going to explain why she hadn’t told him in the first place? Someone would see. Jim would see. The resemblance was already there, physical evidence Teri couldn’t deny.

And what would she say to Zoe? How would it hurt the most important person in her world to learn her mother had denied her a relationship with her father—something she’d asked about and secretly yearned for, envying her classmates and friends quietly for years.

Before Teri could continue her internal debate, a bright white light flooded the room as one of Jim’s phones buzzed to life. Lifting her head, she searched for it, following the light to his shorts on the opposite side of the bed. “Jim.” She wiggled her shoulder gently against him to shake him awake.

“Hmmm? What is it?” Jim rolled to his back, cracking his eyes a bit and flinching at the room’s brightness.

Rolling up onto an elbow, Teri reached over him, her breasts pressed against his chest, sliding her hand inside the pocket to retrieve the glowing vibrating phone.

A low moan issued from his throat at the feel of her soft warm body sliding over his. Raising his head to take advantage, Jim kissed her throat, delighting in her high-pitched squeal of protest.

“Jim, stop,” Teri giggled. “It’s your phone.”

“Oh.” He relaxed with a disappointed huff, waiting as she retrieved the device, setting it on his chest and snuggling under the covers beside him. Dimming the brightness, he held it up to skim the message, then cursed and sat upright.

“What is it?” She lifted herself onto her elbows.

Jim tipped his head back, groaned through clenched teeth. He dropped the phone into the covers, rolling on top of Teri to press kisses to her neck, shoulders, and breasts. He lingered at the latter, his tongue teasing the tips to harden, reveling in the breathy gasps it elicited from her.

Tearing himself away from her, he groaned, rolling out of the bed. “Grrrr, I don’t want to go!” Rifling through the covers, he located the phone, checked the message again. “I can’t catch a damn break!” He tossed it on the bed, shuffling around the floor for his clothes. “I really want to stay with you.”

Teri was sitting up now, the blankets clutched to her chest. She touched the switch for the small bedside lamp, filling the room with a soft golden light. “Okay. I guess you’re leaving. What’s happened, Jim?”

He pulled his shirt over his head, realized it was inside out and pulled it off again. “Search and rescue.” With his shirt in place, he located the shorts he’d worn earlier. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he aligned his boxers inside the shorts, then pulled both up his legs. “Missing hiker.”


Jim quickly caught Teri by the shoulders, cursing himself to be more careful. “No,” he reassured her. “Not Zoe. The kids’ camps are all south and west of town. Nearby. Because, you know, kids. We try to keep them close to home and medical care. This is out in Arches.” Feeling her relax, he rose. Facing her again, he fastened his shorts. “Do me a favor and skip the run today, okay?”

“What? Why?”

“Don’t go running.” Grabbing his shoes, Jim sat on the edge of the bed. “Unless you’re escorted, I don’t want either you or Zoe out alone, not even with the dog.” He felt her hand on his shoulder, urging him to look at her. Sighing at her expression, he looked at the bedcovers. “It’s a twenty-two-year old college student that’s missing. Possibly abducted.”

“Oh no.”

Reaching over, Jim slid Teri onto his lap, wrapping his arms around her tightly. “Please, Teri. Just stick to town. Well-lit public places. Close and lock the doors and windows. I can’t bear for something to happen to you.” When she nodded, he rose, setting her on her feet. Pulling a blanket from the bed, he wrapped it around her shoulders. “Close and lock the door after me. And don’t forget the windows.”

Starting towards the front of the RV with Teri following, Jim cursed then stopped abruptly. “I can’t go.” He faced her, toying with the blanket edges she clutched at her breast. “I really don’t want you here alone.”

“I’ll get dressed,” she offered. “I can go to the hospital. There are always people there. I can get security to walk me in and out.”

Nodding, Jim took a deep breath. He was grateful for the solution but still frustrated to go.

Teri dressed quickly, throwing a few toiletries in a bag to deal with at work and anxious to help him. As Jim finished closing and locking the windows, she grabbed her laptop bag and purse, following him to the door.

Outside, Jim kissed her once, hard, before tucking her into her car. “Come home after it’s light but don’t let anyone in. I’ll be in touch as soon as I can.”


Mark arrived at the hospital shortly after seven. Despite presumably a full night’s sleep, he was bleary-eyed and surprised to see her. “Boss-lady?” He peered at her. “What are you doing here so early?”

“Zoe’s still at camp and I’ve been here most of the night.” She didn’t take her eyes off the monitor before her though her fingers stilled on the keyboard. “Have you talked to Carla?”

“Wait, what?” His brows shot up. “Why?”

Teri had the sudden distinct impression the reason for Mark’s discomfiture was the same as her own. “Were you at her place?”

Mark’s jaw dropped, his expression sheepish. “Uh.”

“I’m the last person who’d throw stones at glass houses,” she reassured. “You saw her this morning?”

Looking at his shoes, Mark shrugged, nodding. “Yeah.” He raised his head suddenly, peering at Teri again. “Wait. Glass houses?”

Teri blushed, looking away.

A wide smile cracked his face. “You and Jim?” Mark fairly danced with glee.

“He’s persistent.” She licked her lips uncomfortably. “He’s out now with search and rescue. That’s why I asked about Carla.”

“Whoa. There’s a story.” He ducked out of the doorframe and wheeled his chair into the office in front of Teri’s desk. “What’s up?”

“I don’t really know. Jim was called out—late.” Teri continued quickly. “All he told me was a college-aged hiker was missing, possibly abducted. He didn’t want me at the RV resort by myself. I haven’t heard from him since we left. It’s been several hours.”

Mark cursed. “Now I’m even more glad I was at Carla’s place. Maybe I better plan on staying every night until this blows over.”

Across from him, Teri giggled at his inappropriateness, shaking her head. It was abundantly clear he adored Carla. “Just plan on changing her name then. Soon, okay?”

Slapping his thighs, Mark stood, wheeling his chair back out to his desk. “Well, on that note of TMI, I’ll bet you’d love a coffee. And, hey! Whada ya know? So would I. Come on, boss-lady.” He waved her after him from the department desk.

Copying the series of commands she’d written, Teri minimized her application so she could send the sequence to Mark to test later. The nearby internet traffic routed through her hijacking device scrolled along beneath as usual. For the most part, Teri ignored it, checking only to see that her deployments positively impacted the hospital’s internet security. But this time she watched as a slew of internet searches rolled past from the network SLPRN-HOME. “Just a sec, Mark.”

Opening her email, Teri dropped the text commands into a draft, then focused on the internet traffic. Typing a command, she consolidated the inquiries through the SLPRN-HOME network. Johansen had been there and using the Wi-Fi, searching the various news sources for “missing hiker”. She checked the associated electronic timestamps. They were all from the middle of the night, a couple hours after search and rescue had been mobilized.

“Hey, Mark?”

“What’s up, Boss-lady?”

“You listen to the radio on the way in to work—the local news—right?”

“If you can call it local. Not much usually happening in Moab, so it tends to be regional or top syndicated stories.” He poked his head around her door frame.

“Did you hear anything this morning about the hiker?”

He shook his head, none of the carefully styled blonde spikes moved. “Carla watches a morning news program too. There was nothing there before I left. Might be now. Want me to check?”

“No. I’m sure as more folks get going there’ll be some kind of coverage.”

Typing another command, Teri mapped her hijacked internet server’s monitored area. She’d chosen the radius to pick up all areas of the hospital. As a result of her location inside the building though, Teri’s radius also included signals from a few other locations off the hospital campus. One, to the south was a neighborhood of duplexes and the other, to the east, was a mobile home park.

With an ego like his, Nick Johansen would not live in either place. What the hell are you doing, Johansen? she thought.

“Coming?” Mark called from outside her office.

Never mind. I’m not in a fit state to deal with it and it’s not a priority. I’ll look into it more later. Teri cleared the search criteria, then restored the email draft. She provided Mark the necessary instructions and pressed Send. Locking her laptop, she grabbed her clutch and walked out to Mark at the department desk. “Let’s hit the bricks.”

“I think we’ll drive, if you don’t mind.”


As soon as Mark engaged the engine in his car, the radio came to life. As Teri had expected, the breaking news was about the missing hiker. Before engaging the drive, they listened to the story.

“A ground search for a missing hiker last seen at a campground in Arches National Park late last night continues this morning and deputies and local search and rescue are now searching by air.

“Deputies said 22-year-old Celina Baumann is traveling with a mountain biking club from Connecticut. The group arrived in Arches National Park and set up camp two days ago to use as a base for their trail rides. Miss Baumann and her traveling companion had earlier reported being followed around the campground by an unidentified man, but safety concerns were disregarded when no further encounters occurred after the first day.

“Baumann left the campsite sometime after eleven PM last night to use the nearby bathroom.  When she did not return as anticipated, the mountain biking group began a search. She was reported missing to local law enforcement after midnight and search and rescue teams organized and deployed.

“Deputies describe Baumann as being 5 feet, 4 inches tall, and weighing about 105 pounds with hazel eyes and brown hair. Deputies said belongings she would still have with her are a flashlight and a smartphone.

“Anyone with information on her location is asked to call 911 and/or the Grand County Sheriff’s Office.”

A heavy pall settled over the car, distracting Teri from thinking about Johansen.

“Well, it’s certainly on the news now.” Mark turned the radio off and eased his car out of the lot.

The trip to the coffee shop was quick, but the two had to park around the corner and walk as the parking lot was full. The shop’s usual local business had amplified with tourists since Teri had begun working at the hospital after Memorial Day, but it was noticeably crowded this morning.

“Did you hear that?” Mark asked Teri in a whisper as they waited in line to place their order. When she shook her head, he continued, “The missing hiker story is being shared. Fear’s bad for business.”

“Fear’s bad for everything, Mark. Probably especially for the missing girl.”

It took nearly a half hour to get their order and return to the hospital. Though still exhausted, Teri felt better with a bit of sugar and some caffeine in her bloodstream.

As Mark parked his car, she noticed the administrative conference room was packed with people. All the chairs were full, and more people stood along the walls. Among them, she recognized several Board members sitting together in a group, including the hospital’s medical director Dr. Pai, Bob Silas and Jonah Martin. Without taking her eyes off the room, she tapped Mark on the shoulder, then pointed to the conference room. “Something’s up. Look.”

Squinting, Mark’s gaze flicked about the faces visible from his car. “Couple of those suits are C-suite from Salt Lake. I sure hope I still have a job.”

“Somehow, I get the feeling this has nothing to do with you, Mark.”

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