We kept our eyes directed towards the road to avoid the snow blowing in our faces, and focused on paying attention to where we stepped. Chase moved the flashlight back and forth over the treacherous terrain, keeping us from veering off the road or breaking a leg. We trekked through the snow at a steady pace to stay warm.
“Did you see that?” I squinted through the snowflakes. I swore I glimpsed a flash of light ahead of us, but because I was freezing and my nerves vibrated like a wired outlet I wasn’t sure. I pulled Chase closer to me. “Do you hear that?” I yelled, teeth rattling over the wind. “What is it?”
He came to an abrupt halt, concentrating hard on the sound. “I think it’s a snowmobile. It’s getting closer, maybe Killer found Max.”
I pulled out my gun and gripped it as firmly as my frozen fingers would allow me, just in case the intruder wasn’t Max. The metal hung heavy in my hand, like a huge icicle, made my palms tingle and numbed my fingers to the touch. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to pull the trigger if I had to with my unfeeling hand.
Chase kept a tight grip on my belt loop, as we started hoofing it up the road again the snowmobile suddenly appeared, barreling down on us, its light so blinding I couldn’t see who was driving. We came to a halt, I aimed my gun at the snowmobile and held my breath.
I quickly lowered my gun. “It’s Max and he’s pissed.”
“It’s amazing how you know these things.” Chase stated through chattering teeth.
Max passed us, turned around, and pulled up beside us, his lips pressed together in a thin line. I pictured him murdering us on the spot. “Put the gun away and climb on now,” he growled.
Chase and I scrambled onto the snowmobile and Max took off at full speed causing Chase to quickly grab a hold of my waist. I did the same to Max.
“You’re right, he’s mad.” Chase whispered in my ear as we held on for dear life.
Max cut the engine at the steps in front of my deck. Chase and I jumped off the snowmobile and ran into the house, straight for the fire, which thanks to Max was burning hot.
We planted ourselves by the fire to warm up, looked at each other and burst into giggles. I think it was a nervous reaction from the secret fear we both held inside on our trek home. We glanced at Killer, who was toasty warm already, and began to laugh harder. Max walked in with a dark scowl on his face. One look at him and we had to sit down, grabbing our sides from laughing so hard.
He sat down on the couch, patiently waiting for us to grow up again. It took a while for us to settled down. Once we did I held it together for a moment as I wiped the tears from my eyes. I made the mistake of glancing at up at Max. His scowl deepened and I fell into the infectious laughter again, creating a domino effect on Chase.
Max got up and shook his head at us. “I’m brewing some fresh coffee; get it together before I get back.”
We took a couple of deep breaths and I put my finger to my lips, letting Chase know not to say a word about today. Once we were calmer we started peeling off our wet clothes and shoes to dry in front of the fire. My last sock had a suction cup effect when I tugged it off my foot. I stood up in my shirt, and boxers, not quite sure if I was colder with my wet clothes on or off. Shivering, I ran upstairs to find some sweats for us. I hopped on one leg, trying to get my black fuzzy socks on when a giggle escaped my mouth. The image of Chase wearing my clothes skittered through my mind. He was taller than me and the sweats were going to look funny on him. I stifled the giggle, ran back downstairs and tossed the clothes to Chase.
Chase had just finished getting dressed when Max walked in with our coffee. Max took one look at Chase, slowly put down our mugs and began to laugh. “Chase that is not your style,” he stated when he caught his breath. “Drink your coffee then go down to Roses and get some of your own clothes, check on the animals too while you’re down there.”
“Not a problem boss.” Chase said, he took his time drinking his coffee.
Max silently held my gaze after Chase left. I lit a smoke and offered him one without breaking the eye contact. I wasn’t about to let him intimidate me.
“I want your cell phone number and I want you to keep your phone on you from now on,” he finally said.
“You mean you don’t have it. You’re privy to everything else about me.” I replied in a sarcastic tone.
He glared at me. “I need to be able to get in touch with you, at any time, night or day.” Blowing out a breath he said more softly, “humor me; I’ll make sure you have my number too.”
I put out my smoke and stood to refill my coffee, in one motion Max swept me into his arms. He gazed longingly into my eyes, brushed his lips against mine, and then proceeded to kiss me so thoroughly I felt like I was being branded. Before I could think I was back on my feet, at arm’s length.
Wow, little licks of flames shot through my veins from the kiss. I turned toward the kitchen and refilled my coffee. When I returned Max sat on the couch like nothing had happened.
I scratched Killer on the head. “I owe you a steak Killer.” I was too full of red hot energy to sit back down, so I lit another smoke and pretended to warm myself in front of the fire. Okay, I was burning up from Max’s kiss and wanted to pace, but I didn’t want him to realize the affect he had on me.
“Are you staying tonight?”
“Yes, and I’ll be sleeping with you.”
Great, that’s exactly what I needed right now.
“I’m going to go make sure Chase is in for the night,” he said, rising, “we’ll sit down and talk in the morning.”
I watched him leave and paced around for a while re-living the kiss, before trudging up to my bedroom. I put on the extra long shirt I bought for when Max slept over and crawled into bed. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to sleep, but apparently the day had caught up to me. I was out in no time.
I rolled over in bed, a constant tap, tap, tap, continued to invade my sleep. I groggily opened my eyes, the sun was up. Ugh, my eyes blearily searched for the clock, 10am, it was about time I slept in. I started to cover my head with my pillow, I could sleep for at least one more hour. The tap, tap, penetrated my brain, unintentionally I focused on the sound.
“So much for sleeping in,” I mumbled as I got up and pulled on some thick clothes.
“Good morning.” Max said when I walked into the office. “This wouldn’t happen to be what you and Chase were doing yesterday, would it?” He asked, showing me an on-line article, while tapping a pencil on the desk.
I avoided his question and glanced at the headlines, “Mystery Couple Donate Food to Charities.” A blurry picture of Chase and I dropping food into a priests arms was placed on the left side of the article. The shelter must have had cameras above the door, uninterested I pretended to read the article.
“Chase said you only went down for zombie movies and lunch. He said you needed to get out of the house.”
“I couldn’t stay here any longer with what we found outside and stop doing that.” I said, pointing at the pencil. “It’s annoying.”
He grinned and resumed bouncing the pencil off the desk. “I don’t blame you Montana, but you did tell me you would be in for a couple of days. That’s one of the reasons I didn’t come back right away, you’re safe in the house with Chase.”
“We needed to get out for a while,” I sighed, “I‘m going downstairs for coffee.”
“Killer, let’s get some fresh air.” I called, tugging on my jacket. I had my first cup of brew, gun, and dog, I was ready.
I peered out the front door, didn’t find any surprises, so Killer and I stepped out. At least 2 ft. of snow covered the ground. The sun shined brilliantly in the horizon, making the white sparkle with beautiful rainbow colors, blinding me at the same time. I checked my pockets for my sunglasses and smiled when I found them.
Either Max or Chase had already shoveled the deck, and my truck was in the driveway along with what must be Max’s truck. It was a black Ford Ranger 4×4 super cab with a roll bar and auxiliary lights. Sweet.
I leaned on the deck, dreaming of driving Max’s truck when pin pricks began crawling up my skin. I took a sip of coffee, willed myself not to run back into the house and ignored the watchful gaze. Pure hatred emanated from the woods. I didn’t have to turn around to know Max was standing behind me. He closed the distance between us and rested his hands lightly on my hips. The blind hatred became absolutely lethal when Max touched me.
“Can you tell me where he is?”
“Take your hands off me and let’s go inside.” I whispered.
He dropped his hands from my hips as I whistled for Killer. Squaring my shoulders I walked back inside like everything was right with the world. As soon as Max shut the door I spun around and grabbed his upper arm.
“It wanted to kill you! Did you not feel the hatred? When you touched me, I swore it wanted to kill you!”
“Calm down Montana.” He picked me up, planted me on the couch, sat down next to me, and lit a smoke. I immediately snagged the cigarette away from him. “I’m not a sensitive like you.”
“Watch your back Max, whatever is out there despises you.”
“It’s actually a he. Can you tell me anything else?”
“No, every time I believe I’ve pinned down his location I sense him in a different direction, he must move fast.” I replied sarcastically.
Max raised his eyebrows.
“I want to talk about this more, but I need a shower. I can still feel his residual hatred flowing through me. Are you staying?”
“Yes, I’ll be here when you’re done.” He rose at the same time I did, enveloped me in his embrace, and held me tightly. I wriggled out of his grip. He raised my hand to his mouth and kissed it, tempting me to drag him up to the shower with me. Damn he was distracting. I left him standing there instead.