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Serial Story: Don’t Look Away, Ch. 28

This serial story is posted one chapter per week on Fridays, in unedited (draft) form. It may contain adult situations that might not be suitable for children. Missed a few chapters? Email me to catch up. Thanks for reading, and enjoy!

 


Don’t Look Away
Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1

Chapter 28

“I’m just a friend,” she said, instictively showing her hands and trying to ignore her racing pulse. “Dillon was kind enough to let me have his guest room for a few nights.” Pasting a smile on her face, she extended her right hand just a little. “It’s nice to finally meet you – he’s told me so much about you.”

It was clear from the widening of the woman’s eyes that she was taken off guard by that, but she didn’t take Shelley’s hand.

“I don’t believe you,” she said, her eyes narrowing again. “Dillon’s a man, and men don’t just let women stay in their houses without wanting something more. I don’t blame him – men need what they need and I’ve been away working. But I’m here now, so you’re going to have to leave.”

Shelley nodded. “I can do that.” She took a step toward the short hall that led to the front door. “I’ll just be on my way then.” If she could get out of the house, she could run to the administration office and find Dillon before this woman did.

“Don’t you want to get your things?” The woman’s eyes darted toward the other hall – the one leading to the bedrooms, and Shelley knew she must have come in the back door and passed the open guest bedroom on her way to the kitchen. She didn’t want to waste time – she just wanted to go get Dillon, but she had to make this convincing, so she nodded.

“Of course – silly me. Let me just get my bag and I’ll get out of your way.” She moved toward the other hall, slowly. “Have you seen Dillon yet?”

“None of your business. Hurry up.”

Shelley hadn’t seen a weapon yet, but she didn’t feel comfortable turning her back all the same, so she sort of side-stepped down the hall. The other woman definitely gave off an unstable energy, and Shelley just wanted to get the hell away from her. She could see why Dillon was so paranoid.

“That’s a gnarly scar on your face,” the woman commented as Shelley went into the guest room and hastily threw stuff in her bag. “Where’d you get it?”

Shelley considered giving her the same reply she’d used just a minute earlier, but considering things were still reasonably amicable, she decided against it.

“There was an accident when I was a child.” She didn’t offer more, just zipped up her bag and turned to find Dillon’s stalker blocking the doorway. “I’ll just let myself out now. Congratulations on your engagement.” She tried to make it sound sincere, but the other woman didn’t look like she bought it. Not that it mattered, as long as Shelley could make it out of the cabin.

Moving aside, the woman nodded her head. “Thank you.”

It was a tense walk to the front door, and Shelley pulled it open, hoping she could find Dillon quickly.

“One more thing,” the woman said from behind her. Shelley turned and raised her eyebrows, waiting. “What’s my name?”
Shelley frowned. “I don’t think you ever told me– ”

“No, I didn’t. But you said Dillon talked about me all the time so surely he mentioned my name at least once. What is it?”
Shelley shook her head. “He didn’t say your name, I swear. I’m sorry, but that’s something you’ll have to take up with him. I’m sure he’ll be back soon.”

She has no weapon, Shelley reminded herself. Just go. She walked through the doorway and pulled the door shut behind her, even though she thought she heard the other woman speaking again. Striding purposefully down the trail away from the cabin, she didn’t stop, even when she heard the door open behind her, and the woman’s voice following. She had to warn Dillon, and as soon as she knew she was out of sight from the cabin, she started to run.


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Serial Story: Don’t Look Away, Ch. 26

This serial story is posted one chapter per week on Fridays, in unedited (draft) form. It may contain adult situations that might not be suitable for children. Missed a few chapters? Email me to catch up. Thanks for reading, and enjoy!

*Note: Sections denoted with an asterisk are new details that will eventually be added to the earlier parts of the book as well. 


Don’t Look Away
Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1

Chapter 26

Dillon sat beside her, his expression contrite, but there was something else there too. Something she couldn’t quite put a finger on.

“I thought you were a plant,” he said, not bothering to beat around the bush, which she appreciated. “I had a stalker when I came back from California. That’s part of the reason I moved way out here and started running the ranch – so it would be harder for her to find me. I love it here, so it was a good decision, but from what I hear, she’s been hiring private detectives to try to figure out where I am. I thought you might be one of them, playing a part. You were interesting. Too interesting for one of those speed-dating desperadoes.”

Shelley frowned. “But you gave me your card. Why would you tell me who you are or where the ranch is if you were afraid I was a detective? Isn’t that kind of the exact opposite thing you should have done?”

He shrugged. “I figured if you were looking for me specifically, you already knew who I was. I guess maybe I thought if I could just talk to you, I could convince you not to go back to her with the information. But when I had Preston run the background check to find out your “real” identity and you didn’t have any ties to her whatsoever, I figured if we hit it off, we’d eventually talk about the stalker thing and the background check thing and my general paranoia.”

“I see.” Shelley was quiet for a few minutes, trying to process everything. “You have a stalker.” Saying the words aloud felt weird, like she’d been transported into some bad classic comedy. “Is she trying to kill you, or…what does she want?”

“I met her when I was working in Silicon Valley.” Dillon paused to take a sip of orange juice. “We were friends, I thought, but I never asked her out, never even went to lunch with her without someone else around, and I didn’t think I showed any kind of romantic interest. But apparently I was missing some key clues that she was into me, and the next thing I know, I’m getting cards and flowers and gifts at my desk, at home, left on my car…all from her, all saying she loved me and would do anything for me and begging me to marry her.”

“That sounds like more than just a crush.” Shelley took a sip of her own orange juice, relaxing back into the seat. “Is that when you moved back?”

He shook his head. “The company transferred me to another branch – not because of her, just because they needed someone with my skills up there. I jumped at the chance to move and thought that would be the end of it. And it was, for about two months. Then she showed up in town and started the same old shit again. That’s when I quit my job, packed up my stuff and moved back here, without a word to anyone about where I was going.”

Shelley nodded. “How long ago was that?”

“About three years ago. I still have a couple friends in that area who keep tabs on her for me – one of them called last week and said she’d been showing off an engagement ring lately. Which would be great news – except she’s telling everyone that I’m her fiance.” He sighed and reached for the bacon, helping himself to two strips.

“Wow.” Shelley shook her head. “She really is unhinged, isn’t she? The police can’t do anything? Seems like she should be institutionalized or something.”

“Nope. Not unless she does me physical harm. And to do that, she has to find me, but…she seems pretty determined.”

“That’s one way of putting it, I suppose.” Shelley’s stomach rumbled, to her embarrassment. Dillon grinned.

“We should eat something. Is that…are we good? I’m sorry I ran the background check without saying anything, I just needed to make sure you weren’t connected to her.”

“I understand why.” Shelley took the plate of pancakes he offered, and put two on her plate before handing it back. “I still feel kind of…I don’t know. At a disadvantage, I guess. You know all there is to know about me, but I still barely know anything about you.”
Dillon held up one finger and got to his feet. “Hold that thought for two seconds.” He walked to the sideboard and picked up a thick yellow mailing envelope.

“I know this doesn’t make up for it, but I want you to have this. I had Preston run a background check on me too. It’s all in here – I told him not to hold anything back. You can read it at your leisure. It’s yours to keep.”


Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 27!

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Serial Story: Don’t Look Away, Ch. 25

This serial story is posted one chapter per week on Fridays, in unedited (draft) form. It may contain adult situations that might not be suitable for children. Missed a few chapters? Email me to catch up. Thanks for reading, and enjoy!

*Note: Sections denoted with an asterisk are new details that will eventually be added to the earlier parts of the book as well. 


Don’t Look Away
Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1

Chapter 25

A frenzied feathered chorus and the smell of breakfast sausage woke Shelley from a deep sleep. Confused, she shifted on the bed, her pillow too soft and the blankets heavier than her own. She blinked a few times, staring at the ceiling and thinking back to the last thing she remembered.

Falling asleep in Dillon’s truck.

She thought she had the vague impression of being carried into the cabin, but that couldn’t be right. She must have woken up enough to walk inside and take off her shoes. Checking under the blanket, it looked like she’d had enough energy to shuck her jeans too. It was light outside, and she wondered how long she’d been sleeping.

The clock radio beside the bed said six-twenty in the morning, but that couldn’t be right. They’d left the hospital just after sunrise. She couldn’t possibly have slept nearly twenty-four hours.

Tossing the covers back, she sat up on the edge of the bed and rubbed her face. Those birds outside sure were chipper. And loud. Breathing in deep, she inhaled more of that wonderful sausage scent. Her stomach rumbled. No matter what the clock said, it was time for breakfast, apparently.

Standing, she looked around the room and found her jeans on a chair by the door with her travel bag. She pulled the jeans on and rummaged through her bag for a clean shirt and socks. Pulling her hair back into a neat ponytail at the base of her neck for now, she opened the door and padded down the hall to Dillon’s kitchen.

“Wow.” The word sort of slipped out when she saw the spread on the table. A plate piled high with pancakes sat by a whole pan of sausage and a big bowl of cut-up fruits. Buttered toast, two different syrup containers and a pitcher of orange juice completed the meal. Dillon was at the counter pouring two cups of coffee with his back to her, but he turned when she spoke, and it was all she could do not to crack up laughing at his bright red apron sprinkled liberally with rubber ducks all decked out in different little outfits. with his bare chest and jeans underneath, ti a She grinned.

“Nice apron.”

He looked down, and then back at her with a wink and a smile. “Thanks. It’s my chick-magnet. Get it? Chicks? ”

Shelley groaned and rolled her eyes. “Seriously – that is so bad. And those are ducks, technically. Does it work?”

“That’s up to you. Want to kiss the cook, pretty lady?” He sidled closer and wiggled his eyebrows, turning his head to present his cheek and tap it with one finger. Shelley laughed and leaned in to press a soft kiss just there but he turned his head at the last second and her lips met his instead.

Tentative and gentle, his mouth moved against hers, and she ignored the niggling feeling that she shouldn’t be doing this as his hands slid around her waist and pulled her closer, hugging her tight as he placed tiny kisses down the side of her jaw and neck.
Then he just hugged her close, and she turned her face into his chest and breathed in the warm, comforting scent of him. When he pulled back enough to look at her, she didn’t want to let go.

“You looked like you needed a hug.” He smiled, caressing the side of her face with one hand. “Now let’s eat, before all this food gets cold, and then we’ll talk, okay?”

Shelley nodded, reluctantly letting go of his shoulders. Talking. His revelation from the day before came flooding back, and a sick sense of dread settled in her stomach as she sat down, suddenly not hungry.

“I think we should talk now. Why did you do that background check on me?”


Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 26!

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Serial Story: Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1, Chapter 1

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 1

It’s not easy being right all the time.

Shelley Frank watched the fourth guy of the night walk away and for a second, pretended to wonder what would happen if she just played “normal” with the next one. But she already knew. Guys were so predictable. Which made them boring, which made this whole evening a complete waste of time.

Maybe not a complete waste, she thought as that annoying bell rang and the next speed-dater approached. He wasn’t particularly interesting at first glance, other than the fact that he didn’t actually seem interested at all. Well, that and the five-o-clock shadow that darkened his jawline with a perfect amount of shade. He sat down across from her with a bored look that probably matched her own.

He met Shelley’s gaze with two startlingly-green eyes and she was surprised at the confident dismissal reflecting back.

“I don’t mean any offense, but I’m only here ‘cause my buddy needed backup and you don’t look like you’re any more into this than I am. So if it’s okay with you, we’ll just skip the whole getting-to-know-you bit, and I’ll get a little work done before the next switch. Is that cool?”

Shelley nodded, but didn’t figure he even saw it considering his smartphone was already in hand and his thumbs were moving a mile a minute. The vibe he gave off was clearly a don’t-talk-to-me one, and Shelley pondered that for a minute.

Was it a ploy to catch her interest by appearing to be uninterested? Or was he really not into this whole thing — and if that was the case, why didn’t he just leave? Then again, she was still here too. The clock was ticking, and considering he was the only challenge she’d seen all night, she decided it was worth the risk.

“Let me guess,” she started as she had with all the others. He was wearing worn, comfy-looking jeans and a semi-wrinkled teal button-down shirt casually untucked with just a hint of curly chest-hair showing in the vee at the top. His black hair was a little long and naturally wavy, and a few errant strands kept falling across his eye.

With those looks and that always-on attitude, it was hard to draw conclusions without knowing more, but she’d give it a try.

“You’re an IT geek with a boner for the latest gaming system and a God complex. A programmer, maybe, which gives you a sense of purpose and at the same time, takes away your ability to connect with other humans on any meaningful level.” Okay, maybe not that last part, Shelley thought. But if it got his attention…

He didn’t even look up from the small screen and his fingers never stuttered. Shelley figured he hadn’t even been listening, so her assessment was just wasted breath. By the time the bell rang again, she’d decided to call it a night and move to the other side of the bar while her cousin finished running the event.

Her partner for that round got to his feet before she could, and finally looked at her, a sharp, appraising gaze that made her want to take a step back.

“Bored, smart woman who somehow got roped into attending this thing against your better judgement, and you’re trying to make the best of it, but you’d rather be at home curled up on a couch with a book and your beloved…leopard gecko or something. Maybe a glass of wine. But you definitely don’t want anyone here taking a liking to you, because that would make him ‘not boring’, and that might make you think you have a chance for half-a-second. Which you don’t, of course, because you always push people away before they have a chance to do the same to you.”

He paused for a minute, started to say something, and then appeared to change his mind. He reached into a back pocket and pulled out a card, dropping it on the table.

“Just for the record – your first assessment was a little off. Might want to brush up on those people-reading skills.”

Shelley watched him walk away and grabbed the card, moving away from the table to avoid yet another round. Holding his card under one of the dim bar lights, she peered closely at the tiny print.

“Dillon Riley — Outdoor Enthusiast/Tour Guide/Owner at Rattlesnake Falls Lodge and Resort.” There was a PO Box listed in Big Timber, and a cell phone number she assumed was his. She had never heard of Rattlesnake Falls, but there were a few different camps up that way and it was beautiful country for it.

Brow furrowed, she looked up and scanned the room, trying to spot Dillon again. Outdoor enthusiast? Really? He didn’t look even remotely outdoorsy with that pale skin and slender frame. Did he have enough muscle to lift a hiking pack?

She knew she was being both unfair and bitchy, but she couldn’t seem to stop, and that was as good a cue as any to leave.

Slipping the card into her purse, she searched the crowd again – this time finding her target, and pushed through the people to where her cousin was holding court from a bar stool.

“Hey Tabby – I’m gonna head out. Do you need a ride?” She only asked to be polite. Her cousin never needed a ride, and rarely came home on nights like this anyway. Shelley wasn’t sure why Tabitha felt the need to drag her along. Tabby insisted it was to keep her company until the party ‘really got hoppin’, which took all of about ten minutes in any bar her cousin had ever set an insanely-high-heeled foot in.

Tabby shook her head. “You chased everyone off again, didn’t you?”

Shelley just shrugged and smiled. “I’ll see you in the morning,” she yelled over the jukebox and elbowed the ribs of a guy with roaming hands on her right. “Take care!”

“In the morning- sure…maybe!”

Tabby turned back to her adoring fans and Shelley pushed her way back through the crowd, somehow managing to find the door. A gust of cool air hit her face as she pushed it open, and she immediately lost her balance as the lower-but-still-substantial heel Tabitha had insisted Shelley borrow caught on a crack in the concrete just right.

Helpless against both gravity and momentum, she reached for the railing she knew was attached to each side of the three-steps down to the parking lot. Her fingers hit the cold metal and slid off just before her shoulder slammed into something warm and solid. She grabbed on for dear life, hoping whatever or whoever it was would at least slow her fall as the momentum kept carrying her sideways.

And right into a thick, steel band of an arm that encircled the center of her back as if she’d been meant to roll right there the whole time. Strong fingers wrapped around her ribs, and she gasped when the world finally stopped spinning and she found herself staring into the same startling green eyes she’d seen at the table inside.


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