I was right; we crossed over the bridge and cruised onto his property. I surveyed the land, trees, and rocks, looking for my landmarks, trying to figure out where I’d gotten lost. His property was enormous. The land appeared different in the light of day, the snow covering the trees, and the sun sparkling off the snow. I didn’t recognize anything.
Max slowed down when the trees became dense and we gradually wound our way in between them to a small clearing that led to his house. His house sat, or I should say, big cabin, sat inside the center of the clearing. I spotted a dirt road in my peripheral vision, or what I thought might be a dirt road. The snow covered most of the tread marks from his truck and smoothed out in the distance. A fortress of trees encompassed his cabin on all sides, making the area a hard place to find. I’d have to pay better attention to my surroundings on the way back home, just in case I needed to get back here on my own one day. As we coasted to a stop, I noticed an empty pen, but no wolves.
Max hopped off the snowmobile and followed my gaze. “They’re roaming my property,” he said. “I don’t pen them up, but they do come back at night on their own and sleep in there.”
“Why do you have them?”
“For protection, they don’t let anything unwanted in.”
My face paled. I’d been scouting Max’s property with my dog and my horse while the wolves ran loose. Did the wolves know I was here? Would they have attacked me if they knew?
“Are you alright?”
“Don’t worry, you’re safe here.”
“Rose said you’re building a barn. Where is it?” I was pretty sure Max didn’t have enough space to build a barn in the clearing.
“Umm…” A touch of guilt flashed in Max’s eyes.
“You were planning on leaving your horse in my barn for the duration, weren’t you?” Great, I’d already been stuck with Max before I moved up here.
He grinned and shrugged his shoulders.
“You do realize there was a good chance you wouldn’t like me or want anything to do with me. I could have been fat, ugly, and mean.”
“I did my research, so I knew you weren’t fat and ugly. Mean is debatable.”
I laughed, “You haven’t seen mean Max.”
Max’s cabin stood two stories high, with a balcony on top and a deck on the bottom. The log posts were hand peeled. Through the windows vaulted ceilings with hanging ceiling fans gleamed in the afternoon sunlight. Of course, I only had a view of the back of the cabin, but it was magnificent and fit him well.
“I need to make some phone calls. Make yourself at home.”
We entered the cabin and he crossed the living room to what I assumed was his office. He closed the door behind him, leaving me standing there. Were all men like that? Hot one second and cool the next? Yet, another reason I preferred to stay single. I stayed rooted to my spot for a second, debating what I should do next. He just gave me the perfect opportunity to snoop around and I was trying to resist the temptation.
I pivoted in a circle. The downstairs was big with very little furniture, my kind of guy, if I was looking for a guy. The kitchen was almost as big as the living room, with granite counter-tops, black appliances, and a huge butcher block placed in the center. Copper pots hung over it.
A huge fireplace, couch, and two chairs, graced the living room. I didn’t find a TV or entertainment system. I walked to the back of the house where Max disappeared. I passed a full bath and an extra bedroom with a made up bed for company or Chase. I wasn’t sure which, if Chase did live with Max he didn’t own much. I tiptoed back out, passed the closed door, and searched for the stairs leading up to the second floor.
I stopped mid step and backtracked, I’d walked right by them and hadn’t even seen them. Between the kitchen and hallway a small alcove hid the stairway to the upstairs rooms. Why hadn’t I thought of that?
The master bedroom and bath consumed the upstairs loft. The entertainment center stood to my right, against the enterance wall. Max’s king size bed was placed on the back wall, across from the entertainment system. I sat on it for a moment, smoothed out the black down comforter, and surveyed the room. A second fireplace was built into the corner of the room, a couple of unused candles sat on the mantle. I stood up and searched around for some personal effects that might lead me to a clue as to who he was, but didn’t find anything. What exactly did he do? Was he a naturally secretive guy?
I opened the doors across from the bed and found a massive walk in closet, on one side of the closet his clothes were hanging up. I flipped through them. I turned and riffled through his dresser drawers on the other side of the closet. A safe, small toolbox, and guns hanging from pegs on the wall were neatly placed by the dresser. Funny, I never recalled seeing him with a gun. I eyeballed the 12 gage and rubbed the meaty spot under my shoulder, remembering the fierce recoil, and bruise the 12 gage gave me the last time I shot it. It took two weeks for the bruise to heal. I haven’t picked one up since. Two semi-automatic rifles hung next to the 12 gage and below them hung a 9 mm, a tranquilizer gun and an empty slot. The guns spiked my curiosity. I opened the metal drawer under the guns and found boxes, and boxes of ammo.
I continued to rummage through his possessions, as I wandered to the end of closet I stumbled onto his master bath. I smiled, his bathroom was similar to mine, with granite counter tops, a separate shower and tub, but without the Jacuzzi. We apparently had a lot in common when it came to decorating, less is better. I sauntered back out into the bedroom and ventured out to the balcony.
A hot tub rested in the corner of the balcony. I lifted the lid, warm steam rose up into the sky, enticing me to strip down and climb in. I could easily picture myself sitting in the hot tub, watching the stars light up the black sky, all the tension leaving my body. Max entered my dreamy picture, sitting next to me, naked. I quickly closed the lid and stepped over to the railing. I had to absolve myself of this problem quickly. Max was invading my space in my daydreams. That was a bad sign.
I lit a smoke and leaned on the railing. I tried to shake off the nagging disappointment of not finding out anything about Max, in his own house none-the-less. The air became still. The forest felt completely wrong. He was here. Adrenaline shot through my body, my heart raced, and yet numbness consumed me at the same time. Where were the wolves? I bent over the railing further and glanced around wildly. He appeared in my peripheral vision, in the pine trees below, just barely. I stared intently in that direction trying to get a lock on him.
“Montana?” Max asked, stepping onto the balcony.
I didn’t answer; I was focused on trying to spot the thing again. If I wasn’t mistaken he wore some kind of camouflage to blend into his surroundings.