Serial Story: Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1, Ch. 12

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. Thanks for reading, and enjoy! 

No, I still haven’t decided on the title. One should come to me eventually. Just gotta keep writing….

Rattlesnake Falls Book 1

Chapter 12

“Shelley. Hey. Time to wake up.”

Something nudged her thigh, and reluctantly she allowed herself to be pulled back to the present, but it still felt like a dream. Blinking her eyes until they would open all the way, she sat up and yawned. The road had turned to gravel, though the truck moved over it much more smoothly than her car had the day before.

“How long did I sleep?” She stowed the pillow back behind the seat and smoothed her hair as well as she could with her hands.

Dillon shrugged. “Long enough for us to be getting close to the spot where your tire blew. I can reach your car, if there are still things you need. It’s not going anywhere until a tow-truck can get out here. Andy, the guy who owns the garage in Rattlesnake Falls said he’d be out sometime later today or tomorrow.”

Shelley shook her head, not wanting to slow down for anything. “I’ve got my bag — thanks to you. Anything else can wait.”

Dillon nodded, and then pointed to her right. “There’s your car. Slid broadside right into those trees — you’re lucky the passenger side hit instead of the driver’s side.”

Shelley stared at the mangled mess as they drove by. It seemed so surreal, like it wasn’t even her car, but something tragic that had happened to someone else.

And now she was sitting here with someone who was still practically a stranger, going up into the mountains to rescue her cousin who was lost in the woods with another guy who was practically a stranger, on the stranger’s home turf.

If she’d been watching a horror movie with this plot, she’d have already left to avoid watching the whole killing-and-never-finding-their bodies scenario.

Considering she was living it, she had no choice but to keep moving forward. With any luck, it wouldn’t turn out to be a bloodbath.

The trees were getting denser and the road was climbing in front of them. Shelley felt like they were driving right into the mountain.

“So how does one go about buying a mountain resort?” she asked, leaning as far forward as she could to peer out the windshield at the thickening canopy above.

Dillon shrugged. “Knowing the right people helps.” The corner of his mouth turned up in a slight smirk. “And you may not have been completely wrong in your assessment the other night. I dabbled in a little IT work right out of college. In the bigger cities, it pays better than anything we could find around here. Spent a few years socking money away, came home, bought the camp.”

She nodded. “So you always knew that’s what you wanted to do though. Run the camp, I mean.”

“Yep. I never wanted to be stuck working in an office building somewhere looking at other office buildings. I always wanted to be outside, be close to nature and away from lots of other people. So I did as much time as I had to, and escaped.”

“I take it you knew the people who owned it before?”

He nodded. “Josie and Daniel Humbart. The camp started out as their homestead, and I spent a few weeks every summer up here with them when I was a kid. They always said that’s what gave them the idea to turn the place into a camp. So they could take more derelicts like me off their parent’s hands for a week or two every summer.” He turned to grin at her, and she could see the mischievous boy he’d been in those eyes and that knowing smile.

“Well that seems like an incredibly nice thing to do. I’m sure they were happy to pass it along to someone who would take care of it and keep it going.”

He nodded, eyes back on the road. “They lived up there with me for the first two years, showing me the ropes and making sure I could do okay with it. It was a sad day when those two took off. But we all knew it was coming.”

Shelley frowned. “They just packed up and left? Where did they go?”

“No one knows. They didn’t take anything with ‘em, not even a vehicle. Just stole away in the middle of the night and no one ever saw ‘em again.”

“Wow.” Shelley shook her head, watching as the road finally flatted out, and a huge green meadow full of green grass and white, purple and yellow wildflowers spread out in front of them, more mountains framing three sides. It was like driving through a gate into heaven, she thought, momentarily speechless.

“It is pretty spectacular, isn’t it?” Dillon pointed at something to their left and off in the distance. “That’s the main building right out there. There are small cabins up where the mountain swells, a kitchen and dining hall, a chapel, and an activities shed where we keep equipment.”

They were almost to the turnoff, and Shelley saw emergency vehicles parked haphazardly between buildings. As Dillon turned in, a uniformed officer stepped out of a car sitting just off the road.

Dillon pulled his wallet out of his pocket and set it on the seat before he brought the truck to a stop.

“Here we go,” he said, rolling down the window.

Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 13!

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Serial Story: Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1, Ch. 11

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. Thanks for reading, and enjoy! 

No, I still haven’t decided on the title. One should come to me eventually. Just gotta keep writing….

Rattlesnake Falls Book 1

Chapter 11

“How long will it take to get there?” Shelley looked anxiously out the window as she and Dillon cruised down the highway at a cool ninety miles per hour. They’d just left the city limits, and while technically the speed limit was sixty on this stretch, she appreciated Dillon’s willingness to leave that in the dust, so to speak.

She just hoped they wouldn’t find Tabitha too late.

“A couple hours, give or take. You should try to rest, if you can. There’s a pillow just behind the seat.”

Shelley shook her head. “I appreciate that, but I couldn’t possibly sleep thinking about Tabby. How long has she been out there now? It seems like forever.”

“It was yesterday morning when she took off — you were at the hospital all night. Mike found the trail this morning, so she was on her own for at least twenty-four hours. Hopefully Mike has found her by now. I’m sure someone will call if there’s any news.”

She nodded. “I know. I’m sorry. And I can’t believe I was out for so long. Or that I didn’t check my tires before I left home to come up here in the first place. If I had, we’d have been there already, and not lost nearly a whole day’s worth of light to look for her.” A stabbing pain shot through her side when she reached up to rub an eye. She didn’t make a sound, but couldn’t quite keep the sharp intake of air to herself.

“Does it hurt pretty bad?” Dillon glanced at her sideways, and she tried to play it cool.

“Not too bad, all things considered,” which was code, of course, for the fact that she wasn’t entirely sure she could raise her hand over her head again without passing out. “The doctor said it was just bruises.”

“Yeah, but they still hurt like crazy.” Dillon gave her a pointed look. “Do you always act this tough?”

Shelley narrowed her eyes at him. “I don’t act tough. Pain is mostly in our heads anyway — my dad said that once upon a time, so to speak. Guess I take him at his word for that.”

“There’s a certain logic to that,” he said, shooting her a lazy half-grin. “Is dear old dad still alive?”

“’Fraid not,” she said. “My dad died a few years back of a heart attack. The nurses say my mom died of a broken heart a few months later, but I’m not sure if I believe that or not. She did die, but they never could find a cause for her death.” Shelley breathed.

Dillon glanced at her with something other than the expected grief and pity.

“I’m sorry to hear that. It sounds like you loved them a lot.”

“Thank you.” Shelley looked out the window trying to figure out how to change the subject gracefully. The emotional stuff wasn’t her strong suit, and it was easier to avoid it when she could.

“I think I will rest for a little while, if you don’t mind.” She reached behind the seat, trying not to wince and found the pillow he’d said was there earlier. Turning away from him, she propped it against the door for her head and got as comfortable as she could.

Just a few minutes, she thought, and closed her eyes.

Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 12!

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Priorities & Forced Balance

Last week wasn’t nearly as bad as the week before in general, which is kind of odd since work was decidedly difficult. The difference is, I dealt with it much better, and while I didn’t stay caught up all the time, I did prioritize a lot better. It’s amazing how much just setting solid priorities can alleviate so much stress – and allow us to get more done than we might otherwise.

The poetry challenge was especially “challenging” this past week, but I managed to end Saturday caught up for the week (I’m behind a poem again as of right now, but I’ll catch up tonight). Poetry is all about “flow” and ironically, fitting it into my schedule has been exactly that. Looking for the proper flow, so I can slot it into each day at some point.

I think I mentioned that I was trying to use some of my nightly knitting/crochet/TV time to catch some of the overflow, and my body told me very quickly that it was just not going to happen. My eyes went downhill again, my brain refused to work, and pretty much every night sitting there with the computer on my lap, I eventually just gave up and shut it while I finished my hour-long TV show.

Incidentally, we’ve been watching Iron Fist and Wynonna Earp on Netflix. Iron Fist is entertaining, but I highly, highly recommend Wynonna Earp. So, so good!

In any case, that hour is very necessary down-time, and my body & brain were quick to correct me when I tried to use it for work. So…it would appear that time is just as sacrosanct as my writing time. This week, I’ll get the knitting back out while watching TV.

My neck is healing, but very slowly, and I’m kind of to the point where it feels like it just needs gentle stretching and then to build up the muscle around that nerve to protect it from being pinched again. I have to be careful, as it still won’t really “work” at several angles, but I’ve started doing light weight training in my shoulders/arms again. We’ll see how that goes, but hopefully it will be helpful. Stupid neck.

In any case, my writing output increased again last week, and no matter how much this poetry thing stresses me out, I am *loving* what it’s doing as far as just getting me back in the daily writing habit. That right there was worth the cost of the workshop (though I’m obviously learning so much more…).

And for those who have been following along weekly – yes, my taxes are done and will be in the mail on April 18th. I’m not efiling because I owe the feds money, and they can just wait for my check to get there, thank you very much. This coming Friday night, I’m adding some dedicated bookkeeping time to my weekly business hours.

I’ve been thinking lately of pulling a couple of shelved drafts out and reworking them for publication. The basic plot is sound enough, but they need revision/additions to work. I do believe that might be something to work on after poetry month is over. I’m excited at the prospect, and I hate revising with a passion. So there’s gotta be something there, right? We’ll see.

Serial story chapter coming Friday, and another week’s worth of poems Saturday. Stay tuned!

Serial Story: Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1, Ch. 10

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. Thanks for reading, and enjoy! 

No, I still haven’t decided on the title. One should come to me eventually. Just gotta keep writing….

Rattlesnake Falls Book 1

Chapter 10

“What did the sheriff’s office say?”

Dillon’s hushed voice was the first thing Shelley heard when she came to, and she instinctively turned her head toward him. He was pacing in front of a large window, cell phone to his ear and worry lines creasing his face.

Her throat was dry. She swallowed hard, and then reached for a cup on the bedside table, but only managed to knock it off. Dillon turned, and he smiled, though the worry lines didn’t quite go away.

“Hey  — Shelley’s up. I gotta run. I should be back in a few hours though. Have everyone stick close to camp until I get there, okay?”

“What’s wrong?” Shelley managed. Dillon got her cup from the floor, washed it in the sink and filled it with water from a nearby pitcher.

“Let’s start with the good news instead.” He grinned. “The docs say you’re perfectly fine, just took a hard hit to the noggin and a few other parts of your body. They want you to rest for awhile, but the good thing is, you can do that at home. They’ll discharge you in an hour or two, or so they say. I can set up a ride to take you home when you’re done, if you want.”

Shelley took a long pull on her water, and set the cup down. “What’s the bad news? Who were you just talking to?”

“That was Jerry — our foreman at the ranch. He oversees day to day operations when Mike and I aren’t there.”

Her heart nearly stopped right then and there. “Why isn’t Mike there? Did he find Tabby? Are they on their way home? Why isn’t that good news? What aren’t you telling me?”

Dillon sighed deep and crossed his arms over his chest. Leaning one hip against the side of her bed.

“I’m sorry, but they haven’t found her yet. Mike found her trail and went after her, but neither of them have come back.”

He reached out to lay a hand on her arm, but she pulled away.

“We have to go — we have to get out there and find them. They could be hurt or stuck somewhere! How fast can you get us to your camp?” She reached over and was about to pull the IV out when there was a knock on the door.

Not waiting for an answer, a tall, young guy in a white coat and full beard approached her bed. She thought he was smiling, but it was hard to tell with all that hair around his lips.

“Hi Shelley — I’m Doctor Grant. And you are one lucky lady to have survived that crash without any real injuries as a result. You’re going to be sore for a few days, but there’s nothing major to worry about.”

Shelley nodded, impatient. “So can I go then, Doc? How long does it take to get out of here, because we have a long drive ahead.”

The doctor looked at her strangely. “I didn’t know you were from out of town. Where do you live?”

It was Shelley’s turn to look confused. “What? No, I live here. If ‘here’ is Billings, anyway. So I can go, right?”

“Yes, but you need to wait for the nurse to get the paperwork done. She’ll be by to remove that IV line too — don’t pull that out yourself. But I’m releasing you to go home and rest, not to travel. Wherever you think you need to go really needs to wait.”

“They train you to put IVs in, right Doc?” She held the arm with the IV line out to him.

“Yes, but…”

“So either you take this out, or I will. I appreciate you guys checking me over, but since I’m okay, we need to get going.” She grinned, hoping it would take him off balance. “Come on. You know you want to. Cut through the red tape for once. We won’t tell.”

Dillon chuckled from a few feet away. “You may as well give in, Doc. I don’t know her that well, but she seems pretty stubborn. Do you really want to risk her pulling it out herself?”

Shaking his head, Doctor Grant put his clipboard down and grabbed a pair of gloves.

“So what’s so important, if you don’t mind my asking?” He got a piece of gauze and some bandage tape from a cupboard and pulled out the IV, putting gauze and pressure on the hole and tying it off with tape.

“My friend got herself lost on a mountain at his — “ Shelley gestured to Dillon “- camp.

“And my friend went to find her, and didn’t come back. Now we need to go find both of them.”

Doctor Grant lifted his eyebrows. “Wow. That sounds pretty serious. Are you sure you shouldn’t just call in the authorities?”

Dillon nodded. “Yep — just had my foreman do that. But the more people looking for them, the better. It’s pretty wild country — just hills and meadows and forest all over. Beautiful, but it can be dangerous at times.”

“Well then, you’d better get going. But do me a favor and drop Shelley off at home on your way out of town. She — “ he looked straight at Shelley — “ need to rest. You’re in no shape to be climbing around in forests or on mountains, much less trying to help bring other people out.”

Shelley sat up and swung her legs over the edge of the bed.

“Doc, I only have one question for you before you can leave and not worry about us one minute more.”

He nodded. “What’s that?”

“Where are my clothes?”

Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 11!

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Serial Story: Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1, Ch. 9

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. Thanks for reading, and enjoy! 

No, I still haven’t decided on the title. One should come to me eventually. Just gotta keep writing….

Rattlesnake Falls Book 1

Chapter 9

“Shelley? Can you hear me? Shelley — wake up!”

She groaned and tried to open her eyes, but couldn’t.

“Don’t wanna. Want to sleep,” she whispered, trying to roll over onto her side but her muscles wouldn’t cooperate.

Why couldn’t she move? And why was it freezing? And why did her entire body hurt like she’d been thrown off a cliff or hit by a truck or something?

With considerable effort, she forced her eyes open and quickly closed them against a bright light. Someone else pulled one eyelid up, and she tried to turn her head away as the blinding light flashed back over her eye. As quickly as that eyelid was released, the other was pulled back with a flash of light.

“Her pupils are responding.” The strange voice was close — too close, and Shelley tried to move away. Her muscles would just not work though. What the hell?

“That’s good, right? A good sign? Is she going to be okay?”

A voice Shelley recognized, finally. Thank God.

“Dillon? What happened? Why can’t I move?” She tentatively opened her eyes again, thankful that the bright light was gone. Dillon was staring down at her, along with another man she didn’t know, and a strange woman. Above them was an ivory ceiling of some sort, and the same ivory color continued down the walls where a bunch of metal cabinets were hung.

“You’re strapped to a backboard, ma’am,” the other man answered. “You were in a car accident, and took a nasty hit to the head. We need to take you to the hospital and have you checked out.”

She shifted her eyes to look at Dillon. “My car?”

He nodded. “You blew a tire. I got your bag, and I’ll see what I can do about the rest once we get you settled into the hospital. These guys are gonna knock you out for awhile — it’ll be a long ride to the hospital. I’ll be right behind you.”

She tried to nod, and then remembered she had to answer. But she remembered something else, too, and her eyes got wide.

“Tabitha! We were going to find her — she’s lost! You have to find her…”

She could feel him touch her arm, the warmth of his skin a welcome contrast to the cold of the backboard.

“Mike’s looking for her, and he’s one of the best trackers there is. He’ll find her, trust me. Might have found her already.”

Again, Shelley tried to nod, and her eyes welled up in frustration.

“Are you sure? I can’t…I can’t just leave her up there alone.” She blinked back tears, knowing he was probably right about Mike. Tabby wasn’t the kind to run too far — she’d hide first.


“Shelley, we need your consent to give you something to help you sleep during the trip. Trust me, you’ll want to sleep.”

She tried to shake her head no, and then tried to raise a hand to wipe the tears from her eyes. Unable to do either, she blinked fast to clear her eyes so she could at least look at the paramedic who was only trying to help.

“I don’t like drugs. Not even legal ones. I get weird side effects. Can I just have a couple ibuprofen? That will be plenty.”

The paramedic shook his head. “Sorry — we can’t give you pills orally while you’re immobilized. But as long as you’re not allergic to morphine, I can start a very light drip to keep you comfortable. It shouldn’t—“

“Cause any pain? Or course not. Give me weird side effects? Probably. But go ahead. Shoot me up. I’m already going nuts — might as well sleep through the rest.”

She looked at Dillon. “You really don’t have to follow me. I’ll be fine, and once they check me out and tell me that, I’ll be back up here in no time.” She felt the prick of the IV needle go in, and saw a bag with clear liquid hung up from the ceiling.

He chuckled. “Well, I’ll follow you anyway — if for nothing else than to give you a ride back to your car. Or what’s left of it, anyway.”

Shelley felt the fluid start flowing into her veins, an itchy feeling that wasn’t pleasant. Closing her eyes, she wondered how long the diagnostics were going to take. She had to get back as soon as she could.

For Tabitha.

Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 10!

Like this post? Support your author (Amazon links):

Tempest | The Biker’s Wench (Fantasy Ranch Book 1) | MacKenzie Saves the World: A Comic Shop Romance

Serial Story: Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1, Ch. 8

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. Thanks for reading, and enjoy! 

No, I still haven’t decided on the title. One should come to me eventually. Just gotta keep writing….

Rattlesnake Falls Book 1

Chapter 8

“Shelley? Are you awake? We should get moving — I think your friend is about out of patience. She’s already called twice this morning.”

She groaned, annoyed that the excitement of hearing Dillon’s voice through the door was tempored by the fact that apparently Tabby was being even more needy than normal and bugging the poor guy. Not to mention his mom.

“I’m up now,” she called, forcing herself upright. “Give me twenty minutes, and I’ll be ready to go.”

She heard the faint ringing of the landline in the background.

“Fifteen would be better.”

Dillon’s footsteps faded as Shelley slid out of bed and got her bag from the floor. Swinging it up to the cozy spot she’d just vacated, she fished out clean clothes and hurried to put them on. Tabby had better hope the trip was long enough for Shelley to cool off, because that girl was going to get one hell of a lecture when they saw each other again.

Shoving the t-shirt and shorts she’d worn to bed into a corner of the bag, she slipped on her shoes and did a quick check to make sure she hadn’t left anything.

Giving the book she’d spent way too much time finishing last night a quick half-smile, she turned and walked out the door. Dillon was on his way down the hall again, his expression serious.

“I know she can be a horrendous pain. I’m really sorry for the—“ Dillon shook his head and put his hands on her shoulders.

“I just talked to Mike. They had a fight after the last call, and Tabitha ran off. He’s trying to figure out which way she might have gone. Do you know if she’s ever been up here before?”

Shelley shook her head. “Never — she told me before she left. Are there trails that lead out of camp? She’d probably stay on the trails. She wouldn’t want to get lost. But she doesn’t always use her head either…” she pushed past Dillon. “We have to get up there. We have to find her!”

Aware of him behind her, she stalked out through the small kitchen and into the living room where Diane was sitting in an easy chair, her brows drawn together. She got up when Shelley came in and reached out a hand. Decorum was the only thing that made Shelley stop and take it.

“I’m sure they’ll find your friend, dear. Now you two drive safely. You can’t help her if you get hurt yourselves.”

Shelley mustered up a smile, and then leaned forward and kissed the woman on the cheek.

“Thank you. For everything. I hope we’ll see each other again soon.”

Dillon pulled his mom into a hug.
“We’ll be careful, Mom. I’ll let you know when we get to camp.”

Shelley followed him out to the parking lot. “How long will it take to get there?” She opened the passenger door of her car and tossed the bag on the seat, shutting the door again.

Dillon reached for the door of his truck. “An hour and a half or so, depending on how your car takes the gravel. Don’t go any faster than you have to — I’ll slow down if you do, okay?”

She nodded and turned to go around to the driver’s side.


She turned at Dillon’s voice and cocked one eyebrow up.

“We’ll find her. Mike’s probably got her already.”

Shelley managed a wry smile. “Thanks. I’m sure you’re right.” She looked at him for a long, awkward moment and then half-turned, pointing to her door. “I…guess we should get going then.”

“I guess so.” He gave a rough laugh and managed to look both embarrassed and adorable at the same time. Shelley got in the car before he could see the warmth blooming in her own face.

Good grief, woman — get a grip! She followed him through town and out onto a two-lane highway, wondering just exactly where this trip would take her. She was attracted to the man, that was for sure. And it sure seemed like he was attracted to her too. But they were so different — their lives were so different. She knew people made that work every day, but she wasn’t sure how. It seemed like so much…work.

But relationships were always about work, she supposed. Lord knows her friendship with Tabitha wasn’t ever easy. She’d wondered on several occasions why she didn’t just move out and leave Tabby to her own devices. But she never went through with it. Maybe because Tabby was her oldest friend and the only person Shelley could pour her heart out to in the middle of the night and know that in the morning, her secret would be safe, and the best cure for a hangover would be sitting on her nightstand.

Dillon turned right onto a narrow gravel road and Shelley pulled her focus back to driving. The country they were passing through was beautiful, so green and lush with new spring growth. The fresh smell of rain still hung in the air, and she wondered if it had rained again this morning.

And if Tabitha was out in that forest somewhere, lost on the side of a mountain because she couldn’t control that damn temper of hers.

The constant vibration and shifting of the gravel road set her teeth on edge, and she gripped the steering wheel tightly for better control. Maybe Dillon was right. Maybe Mike had already found Tabby, and she was waiting at the camp already…

Shelley didn’t see the pothole, but she felt the front right tire hit it, and heard a loud pop.

Suddenly it felt like the whole right side of her car was sucked into a vortex of some sort, and she panicked, slamming her foot on the brake. As soon as she felt the back of the car slide sideways on the loose gravel, she knew that had been a collossal mistake. She yanked hard on the wheel, but it was too late. The world was spinning and she was at the center, hanging on to the wheel for dear life until the car slammed side-first into something hard with a jolt that smashed her body into the door before everything went dark.

Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 9!

Like this post? Support your author (Amazon links):

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Serial Story: Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1, Ch. 5

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. Thanks for reading, and enjoy! 

No, I still haven’t decided on the title. One should come to me eventually. Just gotta keep writing….

Rattlesnake Falls Book 1

Chapter 5

“Thank you, but I really can’t stay.” Shelley took a step toward the door. She wasn’t exactly sure why she shouldn’t stay, but it just didn’t feel right sharing a meal with this person she hardly knew. The mother of a guy she barely knew who’d invited her to his camp – which kind of made it even more…weird.

Then again, it also seemed impolite to decline. Small town people tended to get offended if you didn’t stay for supper. And she was hungry.

“Nonsense,” her would-be hostess said. “At least let me make you a sandwich for the trip. You’ve got a good drive ahead of you, and I can tell you from experience that the camp kitchen closes at six. I can also tell you that the guy who runs it is a scary fellow if he catches you raiding the food supplies after closing.”

“I take it you’ve had experience with that too.” Shelley laughed, moving back to the counter. “Maybe I will take you up on a plate. I’ve been eating junk food all day, and that roast smells divine. If you’re sure you’re up for company, that is. I don’t want to be a bother.” It didn’t seem polite to eat and run, especially given how difficult it clearly was for Mrs. Riley to get around. She checked her watch. Tabby and Mike should be at the camp by now – had probably been there for a few hours already. Hopefully everything was okay.

“I’m always up for company – we get so little way out here. Come around, dear – we’re not gonna eat standing up at the counter. And flip that closed sign on the door, will you? Then we’ll call the camp and make sure your friend is safe.”

Shelley flipped the sign over and locked the door, then went through the door at the end of the counter and followed her nose through a doorway near the back of the workroom, stepping into a warm, cozy living room with a galley kitchen at the far end where her hostess was opening the oven.

“Here Mrs. Riley. Let me help you with that. It looks heavy.” Dropping her purse on the couch, Shelley rushed over and grabbed a pair of potholders from a hook beside the stove.

The woman chuckled and shooed her off. “You can call me Diane. And I need to keep doing this for myself, or soon enough I won’t be able to. Gotta work these ol’ muscles to keep ‘em!”

Shelley smiled, trying not to worry too much as Diane lifted the roasting pot from the oven to the stove with little effort – no small feat with her back as hunched as it was.

“I see your point, but it’s okay to accept help sometimes. I’m Shelley, by the way. Shelley Franks.”

Diane closed the oven door and put the potholders aside. She wiped her hands on a towel and turned around with a smile.

“It’s nice to meet you, Shelley. Your parents were fans of the author, I take it?”

“Yes they were,” Shelley answered. “Not many people get the connection, but my mom loved reading Mary Shelley. And Frankenstein was my dad’s favorite. So when I was born, choosing a name was easy, or so my mom said.” She took the plate of steaming roast beef, vegetables and a baked potato gratefully. “Why did you make such a big meal for yourself? Isn’t that an awful lot of leftovers?”

“Of course!” Diane filled her own plate and joined Shelley at the good-sized table between the kitchen and living room. “That’s the whole point, dear. Some to share, some to save for another meal or three. If you’re going to go to the trouble of cooking when you live alone like I do, might as well make it worthwhile, I say.”

“Very smart. I should try that,” Shelley commented. “I’ve never liked to cook, so I do it as little as possible. I honestly can’t remember the last time I had a home-cooked meal, so thank you.” She took a bite of roast and mashed potato, all too aware of Diane’s watchful gaze. Luckily it was good. Really, really good, and Shelley closed her eyes for a moment just to savor the flavor.

“Oh wow,” she said, opening her eyes to see a look of pleasure on her hostess’s face. “That is amazing! Where did you learn how to cook?”

Diane laughed. “Oh honey – when I was a girl, that was all we were allowed to do. Cook and clean and keep house. I learned from my mama and grandma just a few houses that-away.” She gestured in the direction of the gas station with one hand.

“Were you born here then? What was it like growing up in such a small town?” Shelley wasn’t sure why she was so fascinated with this woman’s life, but she was. Life out here in the foothills was so foreign to her. She’d driven through small towns before, but the thought that this woman had been living in this same small town all of her life was just…mind-boggling for some reason.

The bell on the front door rang, and Shelley jumped. “I know I locked that,” she said, just before a somewhat familiar voice called out from the front room.

“Mom! Did you see a short woman with long black hair come through town awhile back? Her cousin said she was coming out to the camp by herself and asked me…”

A man came through the living room and Shelley recognized him right away. His lips perked up in a grin when he saw her.

“…to find her. And I just did. I see you two have met.” He gave his mother a peck on the cheek and a squeeze around her shoulders before he got a plate and helped himself to dinner.

“Dillon!” Diane clasped her hand over her heart. “I’m so glad you’re here. We’d planned to call the camp and make sure Shelley’s cousin got there okay before she headed up there herself, but got a little sidetracked with dinner.”

“I guess we can assume the answer is yes,” Shelley said, returning his smile. His whole demeanor was different from what it had been at the bar – more relaxed and at ease. She wondered if it was his mom, or just the environment.

“I’m sorry they sent you to find me, though. I can’t be late, because I didn’t actually tell Tabitha what time I’d be there.”

Dillon shrugged, finishing the bite of food he’d been chewing. “They got to the camp pretty early today. Tabitha was just worried your car broke down or something. She wanted to call highway patrol, but I convinced her to let me drive down here and see if you’d made it this far, at least.”

Shelley rolled her eyes. “She can be rather dramatic at times. How’s she getting along with Mike?” Tabby wasn’t always the easiest person to deal with – she tended to be a steamroller and if you didn’t roll with her, you got rolled over.

Dillon picked up the handset of a phone hanging on the wall. It was one of the older landline styles, and there was even a rotary dial on the base.

“I think she’ll be fine once she knows you’re safe.” He dialed a number and waited. From across the table, Shelley could hear ringing on the other end of the line before a garbled male voice came on.

“Hey Mike,” Dillon said. “Yeah, she’s here. I found her with Mom, actually. Can you put—” Dillon yanked the phone away from his ear and winced. “You talk to her,” he said, passing the handset and its long cord across the table. “You might want ear plugs, though.”

Shelley grinned, holding the phone away from her ear as her cousin rambled on about how worried she’d been. Which they both knew wasn’t strictly true. She may have been somewhat concerned, sure. But Tabby was excellent at acting and she rarely missed an opportunity to make herself look good.

“Slow down, Tab. I’m fine, I just stopped to get my bearings and ended up running into Dillon’s mom. Totally random.”

“Everything happens for a reason, honey,” Dillon’s mom stage-whispered. Shelley smiled and nodded.

“Oh good. I was so worried,” Tabby said, her voice so low Shelley could barely hear. “When you didn’t show up, I thought maybe you weren’t coming…” A long, low rumble outside the post office provided the perfect ominous backdrop to her tone. Of course it would threaten to rain just when she was getting ready to leave.

“You worry too much,” Shelley said. “How’s the camp? Are you and Mike having fun?”

“Sort of.” Tabby sighed. “I mean, mostly. I’ve never actually talked to one guy for this long before. It’s weird. I might actually run out of things to say – and I never do that.”

“I really doubt you have to worry about that.” Shelley laughed as the thunder rolled again. It sounded closer. “Hey look – it’s thundering here, so I should let you go so we can get on the road, okay? But we can talk about it as soon as I—” Lightening cracked hard somewhere outside at the same time Shelley heard Tabby screech on the other end of the line. “Tabby? Tabitha – are you okay?”

Dillon took the phone from her and held it up to his ear. “Hello? Anyone there?” He hung it up and turned back to Shelley, his brow furrowed.

“I don’t like our odds of making it up that road tonight – especially if the camp lost power. That’s normally the second thing to go after the phones. Your friend will be fine with Mike tonight, but I think we should stay here in town. We can head up early tomorrow morning.”

Shelley nodded. “There’s no way to let Tabby know? She’ll be anxious enough with the storm – she hates them. But if I don’t show up, and she’s expecting us…”

“Mike will know I wouldn’t drive up in this. He’ll tell her not to look for us until morning.” He put a hand on Shelley’s shoulder and squeezed lightly, the warmth contagious. “She’ll be okay. Mike will take good care of her.”

“It’s settled then.” Diane got up from the table, a wide grin on her face. “I’ll get some heavier blankets out for you two. The spare rooms haven’t been heated in awhile, but that should keep you both warm until the registers catch up.”

Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 6!

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Serial Story: Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1, Ch. 4

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. Thanks for reading, and enjoy! 

No, I still haven’t decided on the title. One should come to me eventually. Just gotta keep writing….

Rattlesnake Falls Book 1

Chapter 4

Two hours later, Shelley tapped the location for ‘Rattlesnake Falls Lodge and Resort’ into the GPS in her car and watched the suggested route show up on the screen. Tabby gave her crap for not just using her cell phone like everyone else, but she liked the GPS unit. It was simple, didn’t drain her cell batteries, and it had been the last Christmas gift her dad had given her before he died. He’d loved to take road trips, and often told her she should get out more, so using the GPS on the rare occasions she went out of town made her feel like he was traveling with her.

After she checked the route for potential problems and road construction, she drove to the nearest convenience store to fill up the gas tank and stock up with a couple bottles of juice drinks and some trail mix packets. Cranking up the tunes and settling her sunglasses on the bridge of her nose, she merged onto the highway and headed for the hills.

Four hours later, she pulled into the tiniest, grungiest gas station she’d ever seen, cursing her GPS, lack of cell service and Tabby too, for not at least driving with her so they could share the pain of being hopelessly lost in rural Montana. A big Closed sign mocked her from the front door of the shop when she walked up, and so did the rack of Montana highway maps that sat near the lonely front counter. Why they were closed at four in the afternoon was anyone’s guess.

At least the pumps accepted credit cards, or she’d be lost and stranded with an empty tank.

Several small run-down houses dotted the landscape around the station – a town of sorts, though there hadn’t been a sign on the road. Hoping that it wasn’t completely abandoned, Shelley finished filling the gas tank and went across the road to knock on a door she wasn’t sure would hold up to the abuse. Something scuttled around inside, but no one answered. She tried another door, and a third before she finally noticed a house two buildings down from the gas station with a flag in the yard and a small, wood-burned sign that said “U.S. Postal Service” hanging by the door. There was a light on in the window, and Shelley hurried over and pulled the door open, thankful it was still unlocked.

The front counter was flanked on either side by a wall of mailboxes, and on the ceiling beam above the counter there was another painted sign that read, “US Postal Service, Rattlesnake Falls, MT.” Maybe she wasn’t as lost as she’d thought.

An elderly, hunched-over woman leaning heavily on a thick branch carved into a cane came out of a room in the back and ever-so-slowly moved toward the counter. Her gray hair was pinned in a loose bun on top of her head, but not a single strand seemed out of place.

“I was just getting supper on – don’t usually see anyone this late in the day,” she said, her voice surprisingly strong given her physical state. “You the one who bought the old Burnstead place? I suppose you’ll be wanting a room for the night if you did. Place is infested with all sorts of vermin, I hear. Maybe a ghost or two, too. My son wanted to buy it, but I told him not to bother. He’s got enough going on without a project like that to deal with.” She cackled, and Shelley had a hard time keeping a straight face because the sound was so very ‘quintessential witch’.

“No, I’m just passing through,” Shelley said with a smile. “I was wondering if you could give me some directions. The gas station is closed, and I’m afraid I got lost looking for a camp – The Rattlesnake Falls Lodge and Resort. Dillon Riley is one of the owners – do you know him?” Everyone tended to know everyone in these small communities, so she figured there was at least a chance.

“Well of course I do – Dillon is the son I talked out of buying the Burnstead place. I don’t know why he put such a hoity-toity name on that camp of his, but he claims it gets the city folk out and spendin’ money.” The old woman leaned heavily on the counter and looked Shelley up and down. “I suppose you’re one o’them, though, so I shouldn’t be spoutin’ off. That’s what Dillon always says.”

Shelley chuckled. Her dark jeans and tangerine fitted t-shirt did look at little too polished for the boondocks.

“I am from the city – Billings, to be exact. But I like to think I’m not too hoity-toity. Can you tell me how to find your son’s camp? Like I said, I’m a little lost.”

The woman looked out the window and frowned. “It’ll be gettin’ dark soon – sure you want to go driving out there so late? It’s still a good jaunt down the road, most of it gravel and some steep. Might be safer to stay here in town for the night.”

Considering what most of the buildings here in town looked like, Shelley figured she’d be camping either way.

“I really do need to get there tonight, if possible. A friend of mine is waiting – she drove up earlier with Dillon’s partner. So if you could just point me in the right direction…”

Shaking her head and clicking her tongue, the woman – Mrs. Riley, Shelley supposed – got a piece of paper from under the counter and held up a pen with a shaky hand.

“Follow the road through town past here and out about five miles. There’s a turn to the right – it’s just a gravel road, but you’ll see a big sign for the camp pointing up that road. Take that, and it’s about twenty miles back. There’s another big sign at the entrance, which will be on your left. You won’t see ‘nuthin else out there – can’t see the buildings or anything until you get back a ways on the property. Just keep goin’ until you see lights.” She drew a rudimentary map with the instructions on the paper, and slid it across the counter to Shelley.

“There ain’t no cell service out there, so if you get stuck, you’ll have ta walk either in or out, whichever is closer. So I hope you have good shoes and a coat. Follow the road and make noise so the bears don’t bother you.”

“Bears. Right. Are there a lot of them around?” Once again, Shelley was reminded of how long it had been since she left the city. Even longer since she’d been out in the wild. She glanced at the paper before slipping it in her purse.

“A few. Some black bears and a few grizzlies, though they tend to be better behaved in these parts than some farther north.” The woman smiled. “Don’t you worry, dear. There’s plenty of food this year, so unless you get between a mama and her cubs, they’re not gonna bother you.”

Shelley returned the smile, though she suspected the woman was just trying to make her feel better.

“I’d better get going, I guess. Thank you for all your help – I really appreciate it. I’ll let you get back to your dinner now.” She tried to ignore the smell of cooked beef wafting from somewhere in the back, but her stomach growled, traitor that it was.

“You should stay for dinner, dear. I’ve got more than I need, as usual. Let me just fix you up a plate.”

Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 5!

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Serial Story: Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1, Ch. 3

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. Thanks for reading, and enjoy! 

No, I still haven’t decided on the title. One should come to me eventually. Just gotta keep writing….

Rattlesnake Falls Book 1

Chapter 3

The next morning Shelley padded out to the kitchen in her robe with a smile on her face and a slight headache that she didn’t resent one bit. A hot bath, several glasses of wine and a romance novel with a hero that she’d imagined looked a lot like one Dillon Riley had kept her up far later than normal. It had totally been worth it though, for the dream she’d actually remembered when she woke up.

She was waiting by the coffee pot, mug in hand when the apartment door swung open and Tabby blew in like a breeze, looking far more rested than anyone who’d spent all night out on the town had a right to. Her hay-blond hair wasn’t even stringy, and Shelley resented that as she brushed one of her own dark and in-desperate-need-of-shampoo-locks out of her eyes.

“Pack your bags, Seashell! I got an invite from the hottest guy on the planet to visit his family’s camp, and there’s a rustic little cabin with our name on it waiting and reserved. You have the next two weeks off, right?” Tabby stopped in the hall and looked back at her and raised an eyebrow. “What are you waiting for? We need to pack!”

“Coffee.” Shelley held up her empty mug and chose to ignore the hated nickname for now. “You do know that ‘rustic’ means tiny and probably without heat, right?” The coffee pot finally spit the last bit of dark liquid into the carafe, and Shelley grabbed it, filling her mug. Tabby didn’t drink coffee. Probably because Tabby wasn’t entirely human.

Her cousin waved off her concerns with a flick of the wrist. “Whatever. It’s summer – we won’t freeze to death. And besides, we know there’s at least two hot guys up there to keep us warm by the big campfire at night too. Now get packed – that’s an order!” She winked and went down the hall, where Shelley heard her rummaging around in her room.

Against her better judgement, Shelley followed, mug in hand. “We don’t know anything,” she said, leaning on the door jamb of Tabby’s room. “Two hot guys, huh? Do you even know anything about these guys, aside from whatever they told you last night…or this morning? I mean, it could just be a ruse to lure us up into the woods and kill us. Or scam us out of all the money you like to make people think we have.”

Tabby stopped tossing things into a duffle bag and peered over her shoulder.

“You are seriously demented. I mean, how do you come up with these things? What if it’s just two guys who want to get to know us better and happen to own a guest camp up in the mountains? And the worst case scenario isn’t that we’ll die, but that it’ll rain the whole week, the guys will turn out to be jerks and we’ll come back and never see them again?”

Shelley shrugged. “Well, they want to get to know you, anyway. I’m just the wing-girl. Do you know anything at all about these guys? Where is this camp? What’s it called?”

Tabby pulled a card from the back pocket of her jeans and flipped it at Shelley. “I don’t remember – snake-something-or-other. I think you met one of the guys last night – he was your last speed-date, if I remember correctly. His partner was partying with me and said we should come up for the week.” She finished shoving what looked like random items of clothing into her bag and zipped the top. “So unless you’re sure the other guy is a serial killer, let’s go have some fun!”

“Rattlesnake Falls?” Shelley looked at the card that was almost identical to the one in her bag, this one with the name Mark Ellis on it. She wondered if Mark was as good looking as his partner. It was pretty safe to say he was probably more outgoing, since he’d been hanging out with Tabby’s crowd last night. She took another sip of coffee and handed the card back to Tabby.

“Well, I can’t let you go alone,” she said finally. “But you have to let me finish my coffee and get properly packed. A couple of hours, minimum.”

“But they’re leaving in forty-five minutes, and if we hurry, Mark said he’d drive us up there. Save some gas, save some wear-and-tear on the cars…it’s a no-brainer!”

Shelley shook her head. “No way. We are not going up into the mountains without our own way of leaving if we need to. That’s just stupid. And you’re right, I did meet Dillon last night, and he gave me instructions. So just let Mark know we’ll come up later today. Excitement is no reason for stupidity.”

Tabby rolled her eyes. “You’re worried about nothing, cuz. I tell you what – you bring the car later, and I’m going with Mark now. I trust him, and a long drive is a great way to get to know someone.” She held up a finger when Shelley tried to interrupt. “My life, my choice. Besides, he won’t dare do anything if he knows you’re following right behind us, right?” She grinned and slung the bag over her shoulder, pushing past Shelley into the hall and moving toward the door as Shelley followed.

“These are nice guys. Not everyone in the world is out to get us.Try to remember that, K?”

And just like that, she was out the door again. Shelley went back to the kitchen and refilled her mug, leaning against the counter as she sipped the hot elixir. What were the odds that out of all the guys in her entourage last night, Tabby would hook up with Dillon’s partner? And what the hell was she thinking, just running off on a road-trip like that with a guy she didn’t know?

Yawning wide, she set her mug down long enough to get a blueberry bagel out of a bag on the counter and took it, and the mug down the hall to her bedroom. She couldn’t let Tabby just disappear into the wild with some random guy, so she had no choice now but to go check out Dillon’s camp.

Maybe Tabitha was right. Maybe it would be fun.

This was definitely going to require more coffee. And a shower.

Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 4!

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Tempest | The Biker’s Wench (Fantasy Ranch Book 1) | MacKenzie Saves the World: A Comic Shop Romance

Serial Story: Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1, Chapter 2

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. Thanks for reading, and enjoy! 

No, I still haven’t decided on the title. One should come to me eventually. Just gotta keep writing….

Rattlesnake Falls Book 1

Chapter 2

“You know, I don’t think a woman has ever actually thrown herself into my arms before. It’s flattering, I guess, but kind of hard on the back. You okay?”

Thankful for the darkness, Shelley felt her cheeks warming and probably going bright red. Embarrassed as she was, her current location was far better than the one she’d been headed for a few seconds earlier.

“Not as hard as it would have been on mine if you hadn’t caught me,” she said, not entirely sure how to extricate herself from his grasp. “I’m sorry if I hurt you, but thank you, for catching me. I truly don’t go around just throwing myself into strange men’s arms.”

He grinned, the expression lighting up his face.

“You’re calling me strange now, on top of all the other things you called me in there?” The arm around her tightened briefly while he helped her up onto her feet, which were still on the top step. Gaining her balance, she moved away enough to look back at him. Was that a flicker of interest she saw? Couldn’t be. It never was, with her. Not once she’d spoken, anyways – and she’d done plenty of that with this guy.

“Ha. You know what I meant. Are you okay? Did I really hurt you?” Her bag had fallen down the stairs ahead of her, and she stepped down, kneeling to gather her things. He knelt beside her, picking up a few items that had rolled his way.

“I’m tough,” he said, holding out her coin purse and a folded oriental-style fan she wasn’t sure why she carried around except that she liked the idea of it. “It would take a lot more than that to actually hurt me.”

Shelley put the two items in her purse, and reached out for one more item he’d picked up. His own business card. She took it, holding it up briefly before putting it back in her bag.

“Outdoor enthusiast – right. Obviously I was way off in there, but you really don’t look like the outdoorsy type. Where is Rattlesnake Falls, anyway?” She wasn’t sure why she kept talking…there was a nice, hot bubble bath and a cozy bed in her immediate future, and she’d probably never see this guy again. Having a conversation was probably a waste of time.

Still, she was interested in what he might say next. And in hearing that voice for a little while longer, too. It was deep, but quiet, and even though his gaze was intense, his presence was somehow calming.

“Head up towards Big Timber, and then just keep going. You’ll see the signs.” His tone was friendly and when he stood up and offered her a hand, she took it with a grin.

“Maybe I should. I’ve been told by at least three people lately that I need a vacation.” A nervous laugh slipped out as she stood and reluctantly let her hand slip out of his grasp. She wasn’t serious, of course. The vacation part was true. Her boss had actually said he didn’t want to see her back for two weeks and that she really should consider a vacation out of cell range, but those weren’t details one normally shared with a stranger. At least not intriguing strangers who might think that sort of thing was odd.

He nodded. “Well, if you call the number on that card, they can hook you up with a room. I know we’re not full this week and next, but after that we’re booked for the rest of the summer.” He eyed her up and down. “We do have some nicer cabins, but you would still have to bring a sleeping bag, I’m afraid. Maybe a quilt, too.”

Reaching up to tuck a few errant strands of hair behind her ear, Shelly laughed. Dillon quirked an eyebrow up at her.

“Did I say something funny?”

She shook her head and started walking – slowly – to her car. “It was just the look on your face,” she said, her heart beating fast as he followed. “You don’t think I can handle ‘roughing it’, do you?”

He shrugged, the sides of his mouth quirked up just a tad. “Maybe you can, maybe you can’t. Won’t know until you show up and try, will we?”

“That sounds more like a challenge than an invitation.” She tilted her head to the side and smiled. Oh God. Was she actually flirting? She could never actually tell. Her smile wavered just a little and suddenly she needed to be in her car and heading toward the safety of home.

He turned away, looking back just far enough to wink over his shoulder. “Take it any way you want. You have a nice night now. It was…interesting meeting you, Shelley.”

“You’re an interesting man yourself, Mr. Riley. Maybe I’ll surprise you.”

“I get the feeling you’re full of surprises.” He laughed as he pulled open the door of his truck. “G’night, Ms.—”

“Frank. Without an ‘s’. Shelley Frank, that is. With an ‘s’, of course. Uh, I mean Shelley with an ‘s’, but Frank without one…” Shutupshutupshutup! Her face burned as he laughed again and held one hand up in mock surrender.

“Shelley Frank. With and without the ‘s’, respectively. Got it. I hope to see you up at the camp soon. We could use a bit of color this time of year.” With that, he climbed in his truck and drove off, waving one last time as he went by.

She opened her own door and stepped around it, her bag nearly getting caught on the edge as she watched him go, waving sheepishly and feeling ridiculous.

“Color?” She looked down at the black turtleneck and blue jeans she’d chosen for the night. Granted, her hair was a reddish-brown from the henna-based dye she preferred, but it certainly wasn’t bright, by any means.

“Just stop,” she murmured to herself. A handsome guy was no reason to go all hyper-analyst on every little thing he said or did.

“Especially not someone who lives half a state away and makes his living crawling around the mountains.” Nature was great and all, and she could handle a few nights of roughing it, but she really was partial to warm showers, late mornings and not checking her shoes for creepy things every morning before putting them on.

Shelley realized she was still standing half-in and half-out of her car, the door ajar, talking to herself.

Out loud.

She shook her head and slid behind the wheel, finally heading for home, a bubble bath and a big glass of wine.

Maybe a fantasy or two.

Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 3!

Like this post? Support your author (Amazon links):

Tempest | The Biker’s Wench (Fantasy Ranch Book 1) | MacKenzie Saves the World: A Comic Shop Romance