This serial story is posted one chapter per week on Fridays, in unedited (draft) form. It may contain adult situations that might not be suitable for children. Missed a few chapters? Email me to catch up. Thanks for reading, and enjoy!
*Note: Sections denoted with an asterisk are new details that will eventually be added to the earlier parts of the book as well.
Don’t Look Away
Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1
Dillon sat beside her, his expression contrite, but there was something else there too. Something she couldn’t quite put a finger on.
“I thought you were a plant,” he said, not bothering to beat around the bush, which she appreciated. “I had a stalker when I came back from California. That’s part of the reason I moved way out here and started running the ranch – so it would be harder for her to find me. I love it here, so it was a good decision, but from what I hear, she’s been hiring private detectives to try to figure out where I am. I thought you might be one of them, playing a part. You were interesting. Too interesting for one of those speed-dating desperadoes.”
Shelley frowned. “But you gave me your card. Why would you tell me who you are or where the ranch is if you were afraid I was a detective? Isn’t that kind of the exact opposite thing you should have done?”
He shrugged. “I figured if you were looking for me specifically, you already knew who I was. I guess maybe I thought if I could just talk to you, I could convince you not to go back to her with the information. But when I had Preston run the background check to find out your “real” identity and you didn’t have any ties to her whatsoever, I figured if we hit it off, we’d eventually talk about the stalker thing and the background check thing and my general paranoia.”
“I see.” Shelley was quiet for a few minutes, trying to process everything. “You have a stalker.” Saying the words aloud felt weird, like she’d been transported into some bad classic comedy. “Is she trying to kill you, or…what does she want?”
“I met her when I was working in Silicon Valley.” Dillon paused to take a sip of orange juice. “We were friends, I thought, but I never asked her out, never even went to lunch with her without someone else around, and I didn’t think I showed any kind of romantic interest. But apparently I was missing some key clues that she was into me, and the next thing I know, I’m getting cards and flowers and gifts at my desk, at home, left on my car…all from her, all saying she loved me and would do anything for me and begging me to marry her.”
“That sounds like more than just a crush.” Shelley took a sip of her own orange juice, relaxing back into the seat. “Is that when you moved back?”
He shook his head. “The company transferred me to another branch – not because of her, just because they needed someone with my skills up there. I jumped at the chance to move and thought that would be the end of it. And it was, for about two months. Then she showed up in town and started the same old shit again. That’s when I quit my job, packed up my stuff and moved back here, without a word to anyone about where I was going.”
Shelley nodded. “How long ago was that?”
“About three years ago. I still have a couple friends in that area who keep tabs on her for me – one of them called last week and said she’d been showing off an engagement ring lately. Which would be great news – except she’s telling everyone that I’m her fiance.” He sighed and reached for the bacon, helping himself to two strips.
“Wow.” Shelley shook her head. “She really is unhinged, isn’t she? The police can’t do anything? Seems like she should be institutionalized or something.”
“Nope. Not unless she does me physical harm. And to do that, she has to find me, but…she seems pretty determined.”
“That’s one way of putting it, I suppose.” Shelley’s stomach rumbled, to her embarrassment. Dillon grinned.
“We should eat something. Is that…are we good? I’m sorry I ran the background check without saying anything, I just needed to make sure you weren’t connected to her.”
“I understand why.” Shelley took the plate of pancakes he offered, and put two on her plate before handing it back. “I still feel kind of…I don’t know. At a disadvantage, I guess. You know all there is to know about me, but I still barely know anything about you.”
Dillon held up one finger and got to his feet. “Hold that thought for two seconds.” He walked to the sideboard and picked up a thick yellow mailing envelope.
“I know this doesn’t make up for it, but I want you to have this. I had Preston run a background check on me too. It’s all in here – I told him not to hold anything back. You can read it at your leisure. It’s yours to keep.”
Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 27!
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