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!
Don’t Look Away
Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1
Chapter 34 (Final)
The next morning Shelley woke to someone pounding on her front door. She groaned and just barely refrained from telling whoever it was to go away in rather colorful terms. She’d been up long past midnight shuttling her things in from the car and digging out necessities like blankets and the tea kettle, counting on the fact that she could set her own schedule now.
Or so she’d thought.
She sat up and shoved her feet into slippers, thankful she’d collapsed in her sweats and t-shirt so she didn’t have to try to find her robe. Whoever it was knocked again, and she stood up, yawned, and made her way to the front door, only stubbing her toe once on a box.
Pulling it open a crack, she peered out, squinting at the bright daylight. It took a few seconds to register the face peering back at her.
He smiled and held up both hands – a keyring with two keys on it in one, and a brown paper bag in the other. “I have gifts. Can I come in?”
Stepping back, she opened the door wide and wished like hell she’d taken a peek in the mirror. Or at least pulled her hair back. It was probably everywhere, and the thought of how she must look made her blush.
“Of course…please. I don’t have much furniture yet, but there’s a bench in the kitchen.”
She closed the door and followed as he zig-zagged through the boxes and piles until he found both the kitchen and the built-in breakfast nook. Sliding in on one side of the bench, he put the bag and keys on the table, then unzipped his jacket and pulled out two bottles of plain iced tea and set them out as well.
“Wow.” Shelley sat down on the bench opposite him. “Those are some big pockets to hold iced tea bottles. Thank you. I found the kettle last night, but haven’t unpacked the tea just yet.”
“I figured.” He opened the bag and pulled out two napkins, placing one in front of each of them, and then brought out two of the most delicious looking Danishes Shelley had ever seen. “Mom told me you stopped by yesterday, and said you’d bought this place. Said your car was full, but that you were alone. I thought I’d drop by and see if you needed help. And also give you these.” He pushed the keys toward her. “She told me what she said to you. I’m sorry. She shouldn’t have treated you like that, and I told her so. Those are for your new PO box. You can just leave the rent in the box, next time you go into town.”
“It’s okay – I understand.” Shelley took a bite of her Danish – possibly the best she’d ever tasted. “Dillon, I’m sorry–”
He shook his head, held up one hand while he finished his own bite. “No apologies necessary. Like I told Mom, you had a lot happen to you, and so did I, and you needed space to deal with that. It’s okay. I was angry at first, but I get it. I needed some space to work things out myself.”
“So you’re not mad?” Shelley didn’t know whether to believe him or not. He seemed fine, but it wasn’t a small thing she’d done. “I want to make things right between us. I…” She wasn’t sure how to say what she felt. “I mean, if you’re still–”
He reached across the table and took her hand. “I am. And I’m glad you are. But you didn’t have to move all the way out here – we could have figured something out if you wanted to stay in the city.” There was a teasing note in his voice, and she smiled, relieved on so many levels that she suddenly felt lighter than she had in weeks.
“I needed a change – a big one. I really didn’t like my old job, and I’m excited about freelancing and setting my own schedule. I was tired of all the people and bustle, and I’ve been wanting something quieter for awhile now. Tabitha moved back in with her mother for the time being, so she can finish her therapy, so she wasn’t coming back, and I figured this place would be as good as any to start a new life, so to speak.”
Dillon nodded, still holding her hand. “How is Tabitha? I take it she’s talking to you again?”
Shelley shrugged. “Sort of. She texts. Every week it gets a little longer, but she’s still cool. Maybe eventually we’ll be able to be friends again. She’s got a lot to deal with right now, and Jane still in her ear. But that seems to have less influence than it did at first, so there’s hope.”
“Good.” Dillon released her hand to pick up his danish, and Shelley missed his touch immediately. “Hope is good. You don’t deserve what Jane did to you. I hope Tabitha comes around eventually.” He finished off his danish and looked around, his gaze settling on a stack of boxes nearby. “So, what can I do to help?”
Shelley stood up and held a hand out to him, her heart pounding in her chest. “I can think of a few things,” she said as he took her hand and stood too. “But one thing first, if you don’t mind.”
He grinned as she moved closer and slid her hands up to circle his neck. Pulling her close, he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her forehead, her nose, her lips.
“I don’t mind at all,” he murmured before he claimed her lips again.
Thanks for reading along with the first draft of this story! I’ve got quite a few revisions I want to make, so it’ll be different by the time it comes out, but I’ve enjoyed the journey of discovering this story, and I’m glad you came along for the ride.
Stay tuned…starting next week, I’ll be serializing one of my earlier novels. Anyone want to revisit the campy fun and romance of Fantasy Ranch? I hope you’ll join me!