Everyone appeared perfectly comfortable talking and cooking around the grill. I sat down on the back stairs for a little me time before dinner. The sun had set, darkness covered the peeks of the trees even though the stars lit up the sky. The night was ghostly quiet, not one creature stirred. The whole scene set an eerie landscape around me. I almost didn’t feel like I sat on the same planet as everyone else.
“Nice evening,” Bear said, startling me out of my reverie.
“Yes it is.” I replied as he sat down next to me.
“Thank you for taking Rose to the airport for me.”
“Not a problem.”
“I have a special day planned for her tomorrow, so I’ll be picking her up early in the morning.” Bear grinned before becoming serious. “I’ll be taking Max home tonight per Roses request.”
Bear shifted on the stairs, glanced back to make sure Rose and Max were busy, then leaned into me, “I understand you just met me and may not want my advice, but be careful of Max. He’s not an open person and no-one around here knows him very well.”
“I’m already doing that, I promise.” I stood up, “their taking the steaks in.”
Bear was right, I didn’t know him well enough to trust his advice and I didn’t know Max well enough to trust him either. I could only trust my instincts on both of their intentions. Bear didn’t seem to have any bad intentions, Max I wasn’t sure of.
Everyone sat down at the island Rose added for entertaining. The steaks melted like butter in your mouth and somehow baked potatoes and salads were added to the menu. I hadn’t even noticed those being whipped up, but the meal ended up being exactly what I needed.
Dinner was an amazingly quiet event. Rose sat next to me and Bear sat next to Max. Bear and Rose seemed happy watching each other. I caught Max staring at me a few times. Killer sat at the end of the table waiting patiently for leftovers, and because of his good behavior he was rewarded with some steak bones. Killer took them to the fireplace to gnaw on them while we cleaned up and somehow, afterward, Bear got Max to the door and out of the house.
“I’ll walk you home Rose.” I said wishing I hadn’t put away my gun. Rose seemed to be in a hurry after everyone left and I didn’t want to keep her any longer.
I called to Killer, he glanced at me, picked up a bone and made himself more comfortable in front of the fireplace. I left him laying in front of the cozy warmth and followed Rose down to her house. I stepped inside, china cabinets surrounded me, covering every wall. The china cabinets were filled with crystal balls, amethysts, different colored crystals, and of course the assorted dragons, fairies, unicorns, and Pegasus. Some were made of glass, others pewter with the crystals sitting on top, and some were ceramic. Rose loves her dust catchers. I couldn’t help to feel relieved that I wasn’t the one who had to clean all of her knick-knacks.
“Help yourself to some cookies,” Rose said, snapping me out of my thoughts. “I picked up your favorite, Oreos. As you’ve already been told Bears taking me out tomorrow, so I want to give you a few things tonight. I’ll be right back.”
I scanned the kitchen and found a fat baby dragon cookie jar. I tried not picture the shapes of her glasses and other dishes as I snagged a couple of cookies and sat down at the kitchen table. She returned a moment later with a big bag that smelled like Rosemary and made herself comfortable.
“I made these for you,” she said as she pulled out several bunches of Rosemary tied with silver strings. “Like I said they’re for protection, you can put them anywhere, and they’ll last for a while. Keep the ones you don’t use in the fridge, so they don’t dry out.”
“Thank you Rose.”
“That’s not all,” she reached into her pocket, “I also made you this.”
She pulled out an amulet. The amulet was made out of a black leather pouch, sewn up with dark blue beads, and attached to a black beaded necklace. Three small crystals hung from the bottom.
“The crystals on the bottom are blue, green, and black tourmaline. Blue for communication and psychic awareness, green for creativity, prosperity, abundance, the green also represents the life energy of plants, and the black protects against negativity. I filled the pouch with a few things for protection also.” She handed it to me. “You should keep it on you at all times.”
I examined the amulet before putting it on. I could smell the rosemary through the pouch. “I don’t know what to say Rose, this is beautiful. Thank you.”
Really, I didn’t know what to say to her. Apparently this whole protection/rosemary thing was a newly added quirk of hers. I already had several crystals I still needed to unpack from her that carried different healing powers. I stood up to give her a hug.
“There’s one more thing.”
I sat back down. I was ready to go home.
“I prepared the loft for Chase. He’ll be staying here while I’m gone.” Rose sat back in her chair.
So much for my vacation.
“I know you wanted some alone time, but Chase is a nice kid. You’ll like him. Plus he loves Pumpkin and will take good care of her while I‘m gone.”
“I thought he lived with Max.”
“He does, but the horses are over here, and this gives him his own house to stay in for a while. He’s also offered to keep the house clean for me and help you out if you need anything. I know you haven’t meet him yet, and I‘m not sure if you’re going to meet him before I leave, so I‘ll describe him to you. He‘s tall with long blond hair he usually keeps tied back, blue eyes, and he’s very smart and charming. He’s kind of cute, and I believe he’s somewhere in his twenties. He’s not interested in girls right now, but there are a couple of girls focused on him. You shouldn’t have to worry about that though; he promised me he wouldn’t have any company while I’m gone. He understands you want some peace and quiet this winter.”
“That’s fine Rose,” I said, she was starting to ramble. “I’ll keep an eye out for him.”
“Good, I’m glad you’re alright with it.”
I wasn’t sure if I was alright with it, but I didn’t want to tell her no. She’d already done a lot for me.
“I think that’s all.” Rose said starting to stand up.
“Actually before I leave I wanted to ask you why you’re giving me this talisman.” The rosemary I understood and it smelled good.
Rose thought about my question for a minute, “you’re going to be alone in the middle of the woods and even though I like Max, I think he might have some weird Wuju surrounding him. He’s also very interested in you, I could tell tonight at dinner. He was staring at you all night. Please be careful of him.”
The talisman wouldn’t fend off Max, but this was the second time tonight I’d been told to be careful around him.
“Do you know something about him that makes you feel that way?” I asked.
“No, I don’t know much about him at all. He’s attracted to you and it bothers me.”
I laughed “I can handle him Rose,” maybe, “besides I thought you wanted me to have a man. What does Wuju mean?”
“Wuju is something I thought of while watching him tonight. I’m not sure it’s a bad thing, but there’s something he’s not telling us, like he’s very secretive. I do want you to have a man. I‘m just not sure if he’s the right one. Chase might be a better match.”
“Well, don’t worry about it. I’m sure Max has better things to do than hang out around here.”
“That’s part of the problem. I’m not sure anyone knows what he does except for Chase, and he’s not talking. Max might have all the time in the world to hang out with you.”
I hoped she was wrong.
“What’s Max’s last name?” I stilled a big yawn. “And what time is your plane leaving?”
“In the late afternoon. We’ll run your errands, then you can drop me off. I know how much you like shopping.” Rose said jokingly. “It’s Grey, Max Grey.”
“Thanks.” I gave Rose a hug and thought about how much I hated shopping. “I’ll be home. Come get me when you’re ready.”
After checking on Lightning and making sure everything was ready for the next morning I trudged back up to my house while staying alert for anything out of the ordinary. I let Killer out, stoked the fire, kicked off my shoes, and searched the house. No Max, no strange intruders. I found some geographical maps of both properties and printed them out. Getting information on Max could wait until later, I was exhausted. I threw a few things into my backpack, along with my camera, extra bullets, and some food. I made sure my gun was still stashed under my pillow and wondered if I was getting paranoid. Pushing the thought aside I set the alarm and dropped into bed.