In Windsinger, we met Manni, an Earthsinger who’s got a bad feeling about the state of the world. We also meet Matt, a trucker with a heart of gold and dog who’s one smart cookie.
We get to know them a bit better in Seasinger, and by the end of that book we set them up for book three: Earthsinger.
Here’s a little peek at the moment Manni and Matt come face-to-face….
“Flowers, flowers…look for the flowers,” he repeated. He rubbed his knee, realizing he’d bruised it when he fell. He glanced down at himself and shook his head.
“What a crap trip,” he mumbled. Wash stared at him, still panting from his run. “You better have taken a leak while you were out there,” Matt warned him. “I ain’t stopping again till we get there.”
Wash settled himself back down, head on his paws and studiously ignored Matt, who was squinting at a patch of color off in the distance.
“That’s gotta be it,” he said, pulling off onto the dirt road. He brought the rig to a stop, wondering if he was going to sink into the soil once he was loaded up. They might have to load further out, on the other road.
He jumped down out of the truck, wincing as his knee protested, and Wash tumbled out after him, this time sticking close. Matt wasn’t stupid enough to think the animal had learned his lesson.
“C’mon,” he said to the dog. “Let’s get this over with.”
He walked past the plants and flowers, onto the porch lined with wind chimes that rang and tinkled in a strangely pleasing harmony, considering there were so many of them. He looked around for a doorbell, but saw none, so he curled up his fist and knocked three times.
She opened the door, and holy shit, he forgot his own name.
“Hi.” She smiled the kind of smile that said she knew what effect she had on men, and found it really amusing.
“Are you lost?” she asked.
“I don’t usually get visitors this far out. You must be lost.”
“I’m not lost.” He felt Wash push his wet nose firmly into the center of his palm, and that snapped him out of it.
“Yuck! Wash!” He wiped his hand on the side of his jeans, then extended it to the woman. She glanced down, raised her brows, and he pulled it back sheepishly.
“Sorry,” he said. “I’m Matt Nunzio. I’m here to pick up a load.”
“A load?” She looked offended. “Vand is such an asshole.”
She stepped back into the house, calling over her shoulder, “Come on in.”
Matt watched her shapely rear for a moment, then remembered his manners.
“He can come in,” the woman said. “I’m Manni, by the way.”
“You’re Manni?” Matt followed her into the living room. “Kai didn’t say you were a girl.”
“The full name is Chumana Numkena,” she said, pulling a few things out of the cupboard and placing them into a leather satchel. “That’s a bit of a mouthful, so I stick with Manni.”
“Nice to meet you.” Matt looked around. “Was I supposed to drive to a warehouse? Is the load out back or something?”
She turned to face him. “You’re looking at it.”
“You’re the load?”
“I’ve got a couple of bags I’m bringing with me, but I’m it.” Her eyes dropped to his shirt. “What the hell happened to you?”
Matt glanced down to see that his chest had bled through his shirt again.
“Ah, it’s just a scratch,” he said. “Got tripped up chasing my stupid dog.”
Manni looked over at Wash, who was making himself at home on the sofa. “You let him talk to you like that?” she asked.
Wash tilted his head as if to say, “What’s a dog to do?”
“Wash! Get down!” Matt admonished.
“He’s fine.” Manni headed off down the hallway. “Gimme five. I wasn’t expecting you till tomorrow.”
“I made good time,” he called after her. “Hey, Kai didn’t say nothing about picking up a passenger.”
“That’s probably because he didn’t want anybody to know,” she called back.
“You in trouble with the law or something?”
“Nope. Just bored and looking for adventure.”
He didn’t know what to make of that, so he didn’t say anything. Manni emerged from the back bedroom with two small suitcases, and set them down next to the leather bag.
“That’s done,” she said. “Now…take off your shirt.”
He was staring at her again so it took him a second to put that together in his brain. “Huh?”
“Get the shirt off,” she said again, as she reached into the leather bag. “Let me clean out that cut before it gets infected.”
He reached down for the hem, peeling the shirt up, and Manni’s eyes widened at the washboard abs and beefy pecs he revealed. Under the dark furring of his chest hair, he had several colorful tattoos, and a few more dotted his arms.
“Ready,” he said, and she realized she had been staring. She motioned him into the kitchen, and soaked a few paper towels to clean off most of the debris. Then she applied salve from a jar in her bag, and stood back with lips pursed to peruse her work.
“Something wrong?” he asked.
“If I bandage it, it’ll rip out your chest hair.”
“I don’t need a bandage,” he said, making a face.
“It’s not terribly deep.” She prodded it gently, her fingers lingering over the hard slab of muscle underneath. “You should probably stay shirtless for a while, till it scabs over.”
“You don’t mind?”
Somehow, she kept her face neutral. “It’s fine.”
“When can you be ready?” he asked. “Kai said I need to get you to Georgia as fast as we can safely get there.”
“I’m good to go,” Manni answered. “You need a bathroom break or anything?”
“Nah, we’re good. Come on, Wash!” Matt picked up Manni’s two suitcases, and pushed out the door.
The dog lurched to his feet, then down off the couch, ambling over to stand next to Manni. He nudged her leg with his head.
“Hey there,” she said, giving him a friendly scratch behind the ears. “You been with him long?”
Wash gave short bark, then nudged her again.
“Me?” she answered. “I’m here to protect him.”
Wash licked her hand, and together they walked out the door.
Earthsinger should be breaking in early June (fingers crossed). You’re going to love the dynamic between these two!