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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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):

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Serial Story: Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1, Ch. 6

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 6

“You really don’t need to go to any trouble for me. I just appreciate you letting me stay.” Shelley followed her hostess down another narrow hall and took the quilt Diane handed her from a closet. It was thick and heavy, a patchwork of multi-colored squares sewn together and tied in the centers with yarn. How the woman even pulled it out of the closet would have been a mystery if Shelley hadn’t seen her take the roaster out of the oven earlier.

“My mother made that,” Diane said with a smile. She handed Dillon another quilt from the closet, and then motioned to a door on the right just a few steps past. “You can take that room, and Dillon will be right across the hall if you need anything. My room is just over there.” She pointed to a door they’d passed before reaching the closet. “Now, is there anything you want to get from your car? Dillon could fetch your bag, if you have one.”

Momentarily confused, Shelley blinked. Had she really forgotten that her car was still down the street at the gas station? It felt like a lifetime since she’d started walking through town, looking for signs of life. And a map. She’d been looking for a map. And now she had a human one. Standing right beside her, looking at her strangely, probably because she hadn’t answered Diane’s question yet.

“You really don’t have to,” she finally told Dillon. “I should bring my car over here anyway, so it’s ready to go in the morning. I can just walk down and get it.” She moved to go past him, but he stepped into her path, blocking the hall. He wasn’t that big, but he certainly had presence. She remembered how it had felt, that five seconds in his arms when he’d kept her from falling behind the bar…was it only twenty-four hours ago? Too soon to ask for a replay, she supposed.

“It’s really not a good idea for you to go out there in the dark. You could trip over something and get hurt, and that would make me look bad.” He leaned in, his cheek almost touching hers and his personal scent actually making her a bit light-headed. “Come on. Let me play hero for five minutes. The only person watching is my mom, and she loves it when I help a lady out. Makes her feel like she raised her son well.”

Considering how he affected her senses, Shelley could only think of two options at that exact moment. Choosing the safer one, she took a step back, pulled her keys out of her pocket and held them up between them for him to take.

“Well, I wouldn’t want to…uh…make you look bad,” she managed, the warmth of his fingers brushing hers as he took the keys sending yet another jolt of awareness skimming under her skin. Was he feeling this? Was she the only one apparently enthralled by this seemingly simple exchange?

He swallowed hard, and for a moment she thought he might pick the option she’d discarded and pull her in close for one of those amazing first kisses that really only happen in movies. Then he held his hand up and jingled her keys, looking just over Shelley’s shoulder.

At Diane, no doubt. For a few brief moments, Shelley had forgotten there was anyone else in the room. His mother! Thank goodness the hall was dim, so Diane couldn’t see the heat Shelley felt in her face.

“I’ll park your car out front. Which bag should I bring in and where is it?”

“Uh…the one right behind the driver’s seat, if you don’t mind. It’s…black. I think.” She frowned, looking away for a minute to regain focus because really…who could concentrate with this guy right in her field of vision? “Definitely black.”

He was grinning when she looked at him again. She looked at his mother, who also had a smile on her face.

“What? Did I say something weird?” Wouldn’t be the first time…

Diane patted her shoulder and stepped between them, pulling Shelley down the hall and out of the pheromone beam that emanated off Dillon. “Nothing at all, dear. Don’t you mind us. Let Dillon get your things and I’ll show you where the towels are so you can take a shower before bed if you’d like.”

Shelley made a point not to look back as she heard Dillon leave behind her. “Thank you – that sounds wonderful.”

Twenty minutes and a somewhat guilty conscience for the water usage later, she stood behind the bathroom door wrapped in a towel and wondering if it was safe to dash out and across the hall to her room. The thought of putting her clothes from the day back on was unappealing at best, but…what if Dillon saw her?

Because there’s no possible way he’s ever seen a woman in a towel before, right? Mentally rolling her eyes, she gathered up her clothes and made sure the towel was secure. She listened at the door for a few seconds, took a breath and opened it, then fast-walked across the hall to her temporary room. Once inside, she closed the door a tad bit harder than she should have.

Nothing happened. No one was in the hall, no one saw her, and she was alone in her room with the black bag she’d requested sitting on her bed next to the quilt Diane had loaned her.

It was kind of disappointing, really.

Opening her bag, she found the over-sized t-shirt she liked to sleep in, and pulled it on over her head. Setting the bag aside, she spread the quilt out over the bed, and drew back the covers just as there was a tentative knock at her door.

She froze, her heart beating a million times a minute. If that was him, and she opened the door, was there any hope of not throwing herself at him like a wanton of some sort? And since when had she become “that girl”, anyway? Good grief. Turning, she marched to the door and reached for the knob, taking a big breath and pasting a smile on her face.

“Shelley? Are you still awake dear? I brought you a book and a cup of tea.”

Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 7!

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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!

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. 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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Catchin’ Up

Well then. I kinda got behind on this whole blogging thing, didn’t I? I’m sure the few of you reading along out there were probably busy enough with your own Halloween celebrations (or hidey-hole stocking, for those who don’t participate) that you didn’t even notice I was gone. I should probably do something about that…you know, something to make my posts so charming, so poignant, so completely engrossing that people wait with bated breath until the next missive comes out, but…that just sounds like work.

Save it for fiction, I say. Not that my fiction is especially stunning just yet, but I like to think it’s improving.

On the costumes, hubby and I went to the party as Bob Ross and a Happy Little Tree. It went over very well, thank you very much. The party was a blast…really fun seeing what everyone else came up with. Can’t wait to go again next year!


The yard haunt went really well too, though I haven’t had a chance to transfer the pics from my cell yet. But they’re all over Instagram & Facebook, if you’re so inclined to follow/friend me on either of those. Not many trick-or-treaters, but lots of friends dropped by to chat, which is always fun.

In any case, Halloween is over, the bodies are back in the basement (well, most of ’em), and we spent most of this weekend taking the yard haunt down and just cleaning house in general. I may have even had a brief dalliance with a dust rag…but I don’t think that particular relationship is going anywhere long-term.

My neighbors seem to be a little confused as to the season – most of ’em took down their Halloween stuff and put out Christmas wreaths and flowers and things. I put out a nice autumn leafy-wreath on the door, some faux leaves and squashes in the door basket-decor-thingy by the steps, and another leafy wreath and some fall-leaf garland in the front window. Because as far as I know, Thanksgiving still comes before Christmas, right? And it’s still fall, not winter…

This weekend was also “fall back” to Standard Time, and I love that. I wish we could just stay in standard time year-round, but I like the dark, and I have no problem at all with it getting dark early in the evening. Judging from my facebook feed, I’m in the minority on that one, but at least people are whining about something other than politics for a change.skullcameoroseandlace

I got the second part of my right forearm (outside) tattooed last week too – a bit of lace and a big rose that ties directly in with my skeleton cameo (inside forearm). It turned out just amazing. Once it heals, I’ll try to get a quick video of the full forearm piece. That’s the last tattoo for this year – I need to pay some bills and do some budgeting work, and I also need a break from the itchy-healing process. It’s a really nice one to end the year with though. And the last one that’s really visible on a daily basis, at least until I get a few smaller bees/moths on my other arm to sort of fill in little open spaces.

I have a couple of goals I need to meet before I can get my next tattoo…I’ve decided tattoos are an excellent incentive/reward for completing goals. For the next one, I need to pay off one line of credit (completely) and lose (and keep off) the 5lbs I’ve put on over the last month or so due to bad eating habits and blowing off yoga in the mornings (ironically, part of that was due to healing tattoos, but still…).

I think I can accomplish both of those by next February, so hopefully I’ll be getting my next tattoo then. We shall see…

In the meantime, my husband decided to do NaNoWriMo this year (National Novel Writing Month), and I couldn’t very well let him do it by himself, so I decided to jump in again too. I’m woefully behind on word count already, but I have three days off this next week (Tues and Fri are holidays, Weds I’m taking a vacation day), so hopefully I can make up some wordage during that time.

As to the story I’m writing – I got the idea from my skeleton cameo tattoo. About three days after I got her done, she started talking to me, telling me a story involving a woman on the run, a voodoo priestess, a guardian talisman and a mystery waiting to be solved. Incidentally, her name is Misty. So I’m writing the Mystery of Misty for NaNo this month, as well as trying to get The Time Stone (Book One of The Stone Scavengers – a young/middle-grade story) edited and formatted for release in December. Busy busy!

So then…I think we’re all caught up now. Next time, remind me to tell you about a very cool stamp app the USPS just released this summer. Hopefully by next week I’ll be caught up with my postcard exchange as well, which has been on hold (along with everything else) due to Halloween madness.

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Thoughts on Costumes

It’s so easy to decide what you want to be for Halloween when you’re a kid. Your favorite super hero or cartoon character. Whatever you want to be when you grow up. Whatever bright outfit that catches your eye and is cheap enough for mom to say “yes” too…or a lion, tiger or bear – oh my!

Then you grow up, and you start attaching way too much meaning to the whole concept of “dressing up” as someone other than yourself. Because as an adult, you actually *have* a sense of self, and that sense is naturally kind of weirded out by the fact that you want to be someone else for a night (or maybe that’s just me).

Plus, there are contests. Prizes to win. Other people to impress. It’s a thing. So much more than just school parties and trick-or-treating…and (again, this might just be me), when you get to a certain age, the “slutty-anything-you-can-think-of” costume no longer works with the not-so-beach-body you’re sporting. Besides, low-cut shirts and high-cut skirts are just cold and a pain in the butt, IMO. So basically, my lazy streak is showing again.

If you haven’t guessed by now, my husband and I are dressing up this year. Not for Halloween night – it’s too much to set up the yard haunt and get ourselves dressed in something other than jeans and haunt-watching clothes, normally. But we’re going to a masquerade party at one of our local art museums next Saturday night, and have been sort of agonizing over costumes ever since. There are prizes, of course – and prizes, and we’re totally overthinking it and probably won’t have our costumes sorted until next Friday.

Next Saturday before we go, we need to raise the walls on the infrastructure of our yard haunt, so…yeah. We’ve got this procrastination thing down to a science.

In any case, here are some of the ideas we’ve kicked around:

Alice & the Rabbit (or Mad Hatter)
Little Red Riding Hood & The Big Bad Wolf
American Gothic (the painting)
A Cloud & the Rain

Nothing is quite “gelling” just yet, but we’ll keep looking. It’s been several years since we had a party, and we always dressed up for those. We just need to figure out a personal “theme” of some sort. I lean towards movies and books, he’s leaning towards paintings.

Anyone got any ideas for us? Feel free to jump in…or better yet, tell me what you’re going to dress up as (or what you dressed up as the last time you wore a costume)!

Mood Management & Skin-Tight Capris

I’m pretty sure Keith Richards’ lost love was at MontanaFair this weekend.

Let me back up a bit, and I’ll explain.

I was in a pretty serious funk on Sunday…later I figured out it was probably because hubby and I went out for dinner Saturday night, tried to go see the comedian who was here for the fair, got there too late to find parking and went back home, completely forgetting to take the supplements we normally take with dinner. Yes, I realize supplements are controversial, and it was quite some time before I even talked myself into taking a multi-vitamin. But after experimenting a lot on myself, and helping my husband experiment as well, it’s pretty unmistakable that the ones we take do have a very positive effect on our daily lives, and our moods as well.

It’s actually kind of disconcerting, but without my Super B complex and fish oil, I’m an anxiety-ridden mess who can’t focus to save her life. Scary, but true. Skip one day, and I’m merely a grump. I know this because I’ve run out before, and had to go without for various periods of time. Disconcerting, as I said – in an apocalypse situation, I’d be a much less pleasant person to be around in just a week due to the lack of supplements readily available.

So, there I am on Sunday afternoon, limping through the day on less supplementation and less sleep than I should, walking the fairgrounds with my hubby before the concert starts, thankful the crowds weren’t that bad.

That’s when we saw her.

A character so perfect that if I wrote her, no one would find her even remotely believable. And yet, there she was, in the pasty-white wrinkled flesh.

She had to be at least 70 (I’m guessing older), all skin and tiny bones with long, wavy white hair and a thickly-lined expression that said she didn’t care, and she never had cared what anyone thought of her or her choices. Two long, bony fingers held a smoking cigarette that hung down at her side, but it was her choice of clothing that really said more than anything else.

At an age when most people would give up on zippers and anything remotely snug, this lady was wearing skin-tight shiny black capris with white rock-n-roll style crosses on the front of each thigh. And up top, a black tank with more rock-n-roll motifs. I didn’t notice any tattoos, but they certainly wouldn’t have been out of place. And if it hadn’t been rude, I’d have looked closer and snapped a pic, because she is everything I want to be, as far as attitude goes.

Seeing her made my whole day and snapped me right out of my funk – because *that* is how we should all approach life. She was rocking those rock-n-roll groupie clothes, and she clearly didn’t care what anyone else thought about it either. She didn’t let age hold her back, and she is who she is, even after all these years.

And if she’s single, and Keith Richards is looking, I doubt he’ll find a better match…though I dare say she’s probably not always that easy to handle.

In any case, we got some fair food, got confused as to what happened to the main exhibits we normally see (some of which we never even saw), and enjoyed the Theory of a Deadman/3 Doors Down concert even though the sound sucked where we were sitting. Murphy did fine in his cone for the extra time we needed him too (poor thing), and I got home in time to finish the laundry and get this post written/posted before bed.

All in all, not a bad weekend, if it was a little chaotic. I tell you what though – seeing that lady at the fair made everything that led up to us being at that exact spot on that exact day and time was totally and completely worth it. It was one of those pivotal moments in life that sticks with you forever…in the best possible way.

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Elwood & The Art of Naming Things

Elwood the Horned Lizard <br>(still a bit swollen)

        Elwood the Horned Lizard               

Saturday was a pretty fun day (which was nice, considering last week felt like it was never gonna end). Hubby and I dropped in at a retirement party, and then I went straight from there to an appointment with the guy who does my tattoos, where “Elwood” was “born”. He’s a horned-lizard, colloquially called a “horny toad” (I’ve no idea why – they look nothing like toads), and like Charlie, the rattlesnake just opposite him on that wrist, his species is native to Montana.

Yes, I name my animal tattoos. Well, the ones that don’t already have names, anyways. I mean, my skunk isn’t just any skunk, he’s Pepe le Pew. But the snake on my ankle (the BSB logo snake) is named Erwin, the one on my shoulder is George, and the one on my wrist is Charlie.



I kept looking at my new lizard all weekend and thinking he was just so adorably plump (ahem), and the name Elwood just jumped out at me and stuck. Which is way better, in my opinion, than my buddy Carol’s idea of Sam. As in, Yosemite. Sheesh. No. Just no.

I have another appointment on the 27th to get a grasshopper and a barn spider on that same forearm (workin’ my way around), and those two already have names. But I’m not telling yet, because I might do a “guess the name” contest when they are done. I’m still trying to work out what to give away for that. I kind of think I need to come up with a tattoo story (yes, I already have several ideas – ideas are never in short supply around here).

In any case, Elwood, Erwin & Charlie are not named after or for anyone. Those particular names just seemed to fit the images in some way or another. I thought Erwin sounded somewhat “old school literary”, which is a great thing for the Brazen Snake Books mascot, eh? Charlie…well, Charlie is beautiful but deadly, and the name seems to portray that in a sort of “harmless-until-provoked” sort of thing for me.



Elwood…well, it just feels kind of antique and a little bit sneaky but mostly harmless and easy-going, as long as his daily routine isn’t interrupted. Which reminds me of someone, but not an Elwood. Who could that possibly be, I wonder? 😉

George is named for my husband, and I think he was a bit tickled by it, actually. I’d post a pic, but he’s on my shoulder blade and I don’t have the energy to try to bendy-twisty enough to get a decent photo. Maybe next time.

And no, I have no names actually tattooed in my skin, nor will I ever do that. Not my thing.

It’s funny, because I was thinking about names and naming things and characters after Elwood’s name came to me, and it’s odd how much perception can be skewed or manipulated merely by choosing one name over the other. Names tend to evoke a sort of emotional, pre-loaded response to the person on the other end for many of us, which is probably why some people have such a hard time naming babies and pets. Naming (or re-naming, as I usually do) a dog is no small feat. It requires days, sometimes weeks of thought, and about a dozen side-eyed looks at the husband for tossing out absolutely absurd options (as men generally do).

One of the few things that really gives me pause at the start of writing any story is…character names. Because the reader is going to have all these built-in perceptions of a person depending on what their name is, which makes it a vital early piece of information. But it’s not just for the reader – it’s for me too. Because I also have a whole bunch of perceptions attached to any number of names, not even based on who I may have met before, but also on how the name sounds and “feels” when I speak or hear it. And since I don’t consciously “write” my characters…I more just watch them live and transcribe that, the name gives me a whole bunch of information about the character too. Even better if that information turns out to be wrong later in the story…character twist!

Names are important, and have long-term implications. Isn’t that the oddest thing? But if you think about it, it really is true.

Now…about that redhead named Sam in a cowboy hat. I wonder if she’d be the tattooer, or the client? I think I might write her story and find out. Thanks a lot, Carol. There’s another book in my to-be-written queue… *sigh*