The constant battle with my lack of self control around Max was driving me crazy, and now I had Alexis and Trina to worry about. What was I thinking taking this on? I was worth a ton of money. I could buy a new house and go to the best doctors for a cure. Of course, the doctors might think I was crazy too, but still, I didn’t have to put myself through this. I pondered Rose, maybe she’d let me buy her a new house closer to Bear. And Chase, I’d really miss him, but he’d understand. I needed to keep my sanity. Max, well, I wasn’t ready for whatever chemistry ricocheted between us anyway.
“Montana,” Max said, gently touching my arm. “We can stay home if you want.”
I shook the doubts from my mind. I had to do this for me, I wouldn’t runaway. I also didn’t miss the fact Max called my house, home.
“No, I need some fresh air. Let me grab my stuff.”
We walked down to the barn in silence, passing a huge snowman dressed in a blond wig with blue eyes, black eyeliner, rosy cheeks, and red lips. Either Alexis, Trina or Chase sprayed gold buttons down the center of the snowman and thrown a purple scarf around its thick neck. Snow angel indentations surrounded the snowman. At least they were having fun, I thought, dispiritedly.
The girls had been busy. A wooden plaque with the name Hershey’s Kiss written in bold silver letters was mounted proudly in front of Chase’s horses stall. A slight grin touched my lips at the name, but quickly faded.
“Where do you want to ride?” Max asked, bringing his horse up next to mine.
“We’ll stick to the meadow today.”
He stayed close as we rode, watching me intently.
“What are you trying to accomplish?”
To use myself as bait. I didn’t tell Max that. It/he was out there somewhere. I could sense him, just barely. I hoped to draw him out of hiding by placing myself out in the open. He wasn’t biting. At least not today.
“Nothing Max, the outdoors helps center me more than anything else I’ve done so far.” I replied in a half truth.
“We should get you out a little more often then.”
After we returned to my house I went upstairs, changed clothes, and found a kick-boxing DVD. I stretched, ignoring Max, who sat on the couch watching me, and programmed the DVD for an hour workout.
By the time I finished exercising I knew what I needed to do next. Still ignoring Max, who hadn’t moved from his spot, I headed upstairs for my computer, time to pull out my notes and do some more research. A shower tempted me, but hopefully if I smelled bad enough Max wouldn’t come near me.
I marched back downstairs to find Max working out. Good, he wouldn’t be bothering me for a little while, anyway. I detoured to the kitchen, grabbed a pot holder, the pot of coffee, some cream, and a coffee cup, before heading back upstairs. Settling on my bed with my coffee, laptop, and notes I got to work.
I slid out the hand-print pictures from its folder. A shiver rolled through my blood from glancing at them and the memories from that morning came flooding back. With shaky hands I laid them down on the bed, flipping them over so I couldn’t see them anymore. Rubbing the goose bumps off my flesh I steadied myself and typed molting, quick, and blends into the background into the search engine on my laptop, coming up with a few hits. Mostly on birds and insects.
I thought about what the girls had said, they saw green skin, nothing about feathers. Birds and insects didn’t seem right. I widened my search, typing in molting only. Birds, insects, crabs, tarantula’s, snakes, lizards, turtles… The list was definitely larger.
I stood up to stretch, while debating between tarantulas and lizards. Nothing else fit. Narrowing my search I typed in reptiles, molting, and camouflage, coming up with much more information than I cared to read about. I scanned through some of the sites before hitting on chameleons.
They weren’t indigenous to the mountains, but they had a lot of similarities to the he/thing out there. They were normally found in trees and bushes, which might explain the lack of tracks around the area. They were uniquely adapted for climbing and visual hunting. They mainly ate insects, but the bigger ones also ate birds. This would explain the nests full of dead insects and birds that were placed on my deck. They also shed their skin and changed colors to blend into the background.
I started to get excited. What if that was what it was doing right now? What color would it become? It would have to be a pale color or maybe white to blend in with the snow. How big was it? Did it have a more human form than chameleon form or vise versa?
I scrolled back up through the article and reread the description of the Chameleon, concentrating on the information about its feet, then slowly went through the images until I found a couple of good quality prints. I picked up my pictures and examined them side by side.
My face turned pale, they weren’t exactly the same, mine were a lot bigger, but they were too similar to each other to deny.
In the process of puzzling out the information I sensed Max coming up the stairs. I quickly shoved my notes under the bed and closed out the web pages, except my email. I bent over my computer, looking busy when he plopped down next to me. He glanced over my shoulder.
“I’ve been catching up on work,” I mumbled, hoping he would go away.
“You stole the coffee.”
“There’s an espresso machine in the kitchen.”
Ugh, what did it take to get rid of this man? I touched the coffee pot. “It’s cold; I could go for a latte.”
“How about you come downstairs with me and I’ll make some for both of us.”
“Okay.” I closed out my e-mail. This would give me an excuse to get outside.
Even though I itched to get outside and see if the psycho-creature had moved in closer to my house, I was also interested in how to make a good latte. Chase and I still hadn’t gotten it down. I watched closely as Max made the lattes. What can I say, I was spoiled and now that I had an espresso machine I needed to know how to use it.
Whipping the milk was all about the position of the wand to make perfect froth, plus a touch of vanilla and cinnamon. Who knew? Chase and I stuck the wand straight down into the milk, causing our lattes to be continually flat. I took a sip and decided that it was the best latte I’ve ever had.
“I’m going outside for some fresh air before I get back to work.” I told Max as I put on my jacket and picked up my cup.
“I’ll go with you.” Max grabbed his jacket. “I thought you were on vacation, what’s up with all of this work you’ve got going?”
“Bear, Tree, Alexis and Trina, what can I say, things happen.”
“I knew about Bear and Tree’s plans. I didn’t know Alexis and Trina needed an investor.”
“I’m looking into a product they have.”
He laid his hand lightly on my back. “Why don’t you leave for a week or two Montana? Chase would understand and I’m sure we could come up with a good excuse for everyone else.”
“Are you trying to get rid of me?” I gave him my best smile.
“Yes, I am,” he replied bluntly.
“I’ve considered it, but I’m not leaving. This is my house, my property. I’m not going to be chased away. Besides if I leave this thing will too. I’m almost positive I’m the only reason he’s stayed here for this long.” At least it seemed that way to me. “You want to catch it and I want it caught. I’m staying.”
He gazed at me intently. “I can’t make you leave and I wish you’d reconsider, but I think you may be right. As long as you stay, he’ll stay. It was worth a try.” He lightly kissed my cheek. “Hell, I can’t blame him.”