By Peter Gray

Chapter 1: The Caretaker

There was something wrong even then, and I shouldn’t have turned a blind eye and ignored it.

It was pure folly.

Pure folly to convince myself that I could change the situation, that my influence over him could

have steered the course of our fate.

But I was wrong.


“You’re an idiot!” The loud scream behind me startled me. Ben was standing out of his car seat,

pushing his head through the sunroof to let the cool autumn breeze blow hard upon his face. His

screams echoed through the car before trailing down the old country road. His boyfriend, Taylor,

did his best to pull on the side of his jeans while chuckling in hysterics.

“Ben, get down!”

“This is crazy!” Ben happily responded. He stretched his neck back all the way before letting out

a long howl like a wolf. Ben was having the time of his life, but unfortunately for him, his sister

had the good sense to slow down the car and pull over.

“What are you doing?” Ben complained to his sister, Ashley. “I was having fun up there.”

“I’m not getting pulled over by the cops because of you,” Ashley snapped. “Sit your ass down.”

Ben grunted at his sister in annoyance, but he was obedient enough to slip through the small

sunroof and plummet back into his seat. Taylor did his best to hold back his giggles with the

palm of his hand, knowing Ashley would lash out her anger at him as well if they didn’t behave.

Ashley pulled up her dark shades and settled it over her wavy brown hair with golden blonde

highlights. “Will I regret inviting you guys to the campsite?” she sighed out with a hint of worry.

“No,” Ben and Taylor answered back at the same time as if they were misbehaved children. It

often felt that way when they were together, it was rather hard to believe that there was a five 

year age gap between them. Taylor was the older, he was just a few weeks short of reaching an

unbearable quarter life crisis.

Turning twenty-five would not feel like such a big deal if it wasn’t for the fact that Taylor was

the oldest one in the car. In normal situations, Taylor with his shortly trimmed brown hair and

large black eyes would give off a mature air about him, especially when it was accompanied with

that famous brooding look of his. Once his long-time boyfriend Benjamin Shaves was around

him, Taylor’s behaviour would entirely change. Whether it was for better or for worse,

sometimes it was so hard to tell.

Apparently, Ashley didn’t have the patience for their childish behaviour today. “You know, I

didn’t have to invite you,” she reminded them harshly. “I was fine with just going on this trip

with Sara.”

“You need a man with you,” her brother jeered. “Who else will protect you out in the wild?”

Ashley pressed down on a button to close the sunroof. “I would hardly call it the wild,” she shot

back as she looked overhead to make sure the sunroof was closed all the way. “It’s a campsite.”

“Yeah, an abandoned one,” Ben shot back, which immediately brought another fit of giggles

from Taylor. “Why else would you get it so cheap?”

“Look!” Ashley turned around in her seat with her finger pointing at her younger brother.

“Money is tight and I’m on a budget.” Her arm stretched outwards with her finger hovering over

her brother’s chest. “I don’t need you to make snide comments. You know I just bought a new


“Yeah, I know,” Ben drawled out with boredom, while he brushed his fingers through his curly

honey blonde hair.

“And unlike you, I don’t have a partner to help pay for it.” Ashley made sure to turn her head to

Taylor now that he was in control of his emotions. “So, the two of you shut up and behave.”

Ben smiled at his sister playfully, and then gave a slight nod of his head in open submission.

Ashley was satisfied, so she turned in her seat to start up the car.

“How much longer, Ash,” I finally spoke up, “until we get there?”

She glanced down at her phone and rapped out, “Fifteen minutes.”

“Good, because I have to use the bathroom at some point.”

“It won’t be as nice as the ones we have back home,” my friend reminded me. “But that’s

country life for you.”

“More like, camp life,” I teased, and then rolled down my window to let in some fresh air. It was

a cold October day, but I was tired of feeling the heaters blow all over me. My hand stuck out to

feel the frigid air, noticing how the small hairs on my arm flickered upwards with goose bumps

prickling my skin.

My black nail polish matched the sleekness of Ashley’s vehicle; a jetty black shade that reflected

the sad grey lighting overhead, as if the sun had given up shining for the day. A lone road

stretched before us, curving and winding through deep forestry, a world where only crimson

coloured leaves shone in the shallow sunlight. An occasional yellow would peep into view,

fading leaves that warned of a bleak winter fast approaching.

It was my idea to get away, wanting to escape the mundane existence of my all too repetitive life.

It was as though something snapped within me, and next thing I knew I was pulling out my

warmest winter clothing and calling up my parents to dig up my old sleeping bag. Ashley

reluctantly agreed to go away with me this weekend, and it was by pure accident that her brother

and his boyfriend decided to tag along with us.

“There’s a sign,” Ashley piped up with hopefulness. “Finally.”

“Blackthorn Campground,” I read aloud. “We made it.”

“Finally,” Ashley repeated. “Alright boys, you better behave yourself when we get there.” She

tilted her head in my direction. “It’s like they are children.” I chuckled at my friend’s snide

comment, knowing a portion of her words were true. “Sara, can you grab my purse next to your

feet? My credit card is there.”

“Yeah, sure.”

“I think I have everything,” Ashley fretted as she pushed back her long-tousled curls. Strands of

light honey blonde highlights blended well with her warm chestnut coloured hair; an alluring

shade that often captured many a man’s attention. “I’m worried, you know. I have never done

anything like this before.”

“Don’t worry. Camping isn’t as hard as it sounds.” The road widened to show a graveled parking

lot with only an old black pickup truck in front of a wooden building. “Besides we have a cabin!

No worrying about putting up a tent and wondering where to go to the washroom.”


“It will be nice.”

“Sure,” my friend answered me with less enthusiasm than I would have liked. “But it will be


“We have sleeping bags,” I reminded her. “And they probably have cots set up for us.”

“Ashley!” Ben called out from behind her. “Why are there no cars here?”

“Because it’s Halloween weekend,” Ashley drawled out as if it were fairly obvious, “and we are

the only ones stupid enough to camp out here.”

She parked the car next to the old pick-up truck before she eyed it with disdain. I hardly batted

an eye at the ancient truck, since it was a normal sight where I grew up.

Taylor propped open the door first, letting out a relieved sigh once his brown leather boots hit the

graveled ground. “Fresh air,” Taylor teased, as he closed his eyes with pure bliss to truly breathe

it in. “Am I right, Ben?”

“Yeah,” his boyfriend agreed, and then opened the door on his side of the car.

Ashely had her car window rolled down to reapply her lipstick, while I was opening my

backpack to unearth my fall jacket.

“You coming?” Taylor rapped out with impatience. “It’s cold out here.”

“Its fall,” I replied without sparing a glance in his direction. My left hand offered Ashley her

purse, before I began to get out of the car. “It’s not like we’re in Florida.”

“I was just saying it was cold, hun.” Taylor put on his classic aviator sunglasses before he

brushed back his short black locks. “No need to get all testy.” He shook his head at me in a

naughty way before muttering, “time of the month.”

“It’s not, actually.”

Ben was laughing from the other side of the car and a part of me wondered why we even

bothered inviting the two of them.

Ashley shut her car door loudly to get our attention. “Alright, sunshines!” she called out, “time to

get moving.”

“Where?” he asked, with his large hands raised high in the air. “All I see is this car and that

building over there.”

“This is where we sign in,” she stated with half a smile. “Come on.”

Taylor went around the car to get to Ben, both reaching for each other’s hands as they quietly

walked behind Ashley. I was too busy tying up my hiking shoes to keep up with them, taking a

moment to truly enjoy the peace and quiet. The wind was blowing through the leaves, creating a

soft rustling sound that almost lulled me to sleep. Dark red leaves scraped against the ash white

gravel as it blew away from me, following the wind that led to the abandoned forest.

I let my eyes sink into the darkness of the forest, noticing how eerily silent this whole place was

when I listened to it. I swallowed hard nervously, feeling like something wasn’t right. The sound

of Ashley calling out my name brought me back to the present, and I turned away from the spot

to run after them.

“What were you looking at?” Ashley demanded, once I approached the three of them.

“I was thinking.”

“Took a long time thinking,” she noted. “Everything all right?”

I nodded my head as I stared past them to glare at the scratched wooden pine door. “Yeah,” I

lied, and brushed past them to take in the deep marks over the doorway. “You think there are

wild animals out here?” I looked over my shoulder to take in the curious looks from my three

friends. “Bears? You know, something big enough to make marks like this?”

Taylor pushed himself past Ben to stand next to me, letting the tip of his fingertip drag along the

grotesque black marks. “Ashley? You sure we are at the right place?”

“I’m not an idiot,” she shot back irritably. “Of course, this is the right place.”

“It’s only …” Taylor let his fingers reach the very bottom of the jagged line, only to pull away

once he noticed the splinter of wood sticking out at the very end. “The place looks abandoned

and there is no one here.”

“A truck,” she reminded us all.

“Yeah, but someone could have dropped it off here.”

“You want to go back home, is that it?”

“I don’t want to be in a place where something …” he pointed at the jagged lines at the bottom of

the door, “… is so determined to force itself inside of there.”

I ignored them all to rap on the wooden door, deciding this was the only way to find out if we are

in the right place after all. I knocked for a solid minute before I heard a lock sliding on the other

side of the door, and then quickly took a step back before the stranger could open it. A hand was 

held over the front of his face, doing his best to block out the pale sunlight that was creeping its

way inside of his darkened home.

“Hello,” I quietly offered. “Umm …” I looked behind me to catch my friends’ reactions, “we

booked two cabins at this campsite. It’s—it’s …” I felt nervous once the man lowered his hand,

letting dark green eyes settle over me with an enchanting gaze. I bit down at my lip, feeling

irrationally nervous under his lengthy stare.

“I thought I sent you an email that it’s canceled,” he drawled out in a low voice.

“We didn’t get that.” I looked over my shoulder to catch sight of my best friend. “Did we?”

“If I had data,” Sara mused aloud, “I could check, but we are too isolated to use it. It’s like we

are in the middle of nowhere.”

“I did send that email,” the man insisted with a sharpness to his voice. “The four of you aren’t

welcome here.” The door was beginning to close, so I stuck my shoe in the tiny crack to prevent

him from closing it completely.

“Hey!” I called out. “We paid for this.”

“Then I’ll cancel it.”

“How do I know you will keep your word?”

The man became silent, which wasn’t exactly a good sign. He let his hold over the doorknob

loosen, placing his long fingers over a corner of the wooden door to prop it open. He glared at us

long and hard, and then through barely parted lips ordered us inside.

I was the first to step in, noticing how black his living room was since there were no open

windows in sight. We passed an open area, and then followed him past an open doorway that

showed his kitchen. Ben was whispering something to his partner, but aside from that there was

no other sound. I took the lead, following this man’s sure footsteps until we reached the back of

his house. He turned on a lamp by pulling on some clear white string, letting a pale light-bulb

illuminate his small office space.

It was only then that I could take in this man’s rugged appearance; his dark brown hair was

significantly curly and wild in a strange sort of way; his jawline was scruffy with bristles of

brown hair peppering its way over his chin. The goatee was the only thing that was kept neat and

orderly, and I imagined if he shaved away his scruff, he would be quite a handsome man.

“Take a seat,” he ordered, once he realized I was looking at him too hard. An old desktop

computer was turning on in front of him, allowing him to sit over the edge of the table so half of 

his body was facing my direction. “I thought I sent you the damn email,” he grumbled out

tiredly. “We don’t have visitors this time of year.”

“Why not?”

“Because all of the caretakers are away. I’m the only one left to take care of the grounds.” He

pulled up his baggy navy-blue sleeves, crumbling them over until it rested over his wiry biceps.

“Can’t you let us stay anyways?” I asked him politely. “Since we came all this way.”

Ashley felt the need to put in her two cents. “Over two hours to be exact.”

“City folks?” the dark-haired man in front of me inquired. “Can hear it in your accents.”

“You do?” I asked out with surprise.

“Yeah.” He turned his gaze to the royal blue screen in front of him and typed in the necessary

password. “I’m opening up my email now.”

“To see if you canceled it.”

“Yeah,” he replied without emotion. “Move your chair back a bit.” He waited until I rolled his

chair away from his desk to stand in front of me. He bent over, giving me a prime view to check

him out if I really wanted too. I wasn’t sure if I really wanted too, so I swiveled my chair to face

Ashley to see she had no qualms to do so. She’s interested, I realized, and couldn’t have laughed

at the irony of it.

A deep voice broke the silence of the room as the man in front of me uttered, “Thanks for that. It

will be a few minutes, and then we can solve the problem.”

Ashley walked over to the right side of the desk, dropping down her purse to show she didn’t

intend to leave. “We won’t be in your way if we stay here, you know.”

“This place is closed,” he replied quietly as his fingers briskly moved about the keyboard.

“We will pay you more,” she cunningly answered him. Ashely made sure to stand next to him,

uncomfortably close as she uttered, “Twice as much.”

“For this dump?” the man questioned her from the corner of his mouth. He lifted the computer

mouse to navigate his way across the screen, choosing to ignore my friend’s close presence.

“Look!” Ashley exclaimed in a loud tone of voice. “There is no way I am driving two hours back


“Then go find a motel.”

Ashley was not finished with him yet, for she leaned forward and argued, “I don’t think you


“Oh, I understand perfectly.”

She huffed at him, and I couldn’t help but smile at the man that was steadily getting on my

friend’s nerves.

“Damn!” The computer mouse dropped on the table. “I didn’t send it after all.”


“You are still not welcome here.”

Ashley turned in a way to lean her back against the table. She made sure to look at me before she

shot me a playful wink. “You really going to turn away two single girls,” she stated in a sensual

voice. “Two woman that are willing to pay you extra. You must get lonely out here all alone.

Why, you can have some company for the night.”

“Not interested.” The man stood to his feet and walked to the darkest corner of the room to

create some space. “I’m asking the four of you to leave.”

“I don’t understand,” Ashley complained. “Why can’t you possibly let us stay?”

“I already gave you a reason,” he answered her in a loud tone of voice. “Now, leave.”

Ashley picked up her purse with an undignified huff at the man, and then stormed down the

hallway to get away from him. I decided to stay in my seat while my two other friends were

steadily leaving the office space as well.

“I’m leaving,” I assured him once he stepped into the light with a darkened expression about

him. “I just want to make sure we get our money back.”



“Not sure how to do that,” He sheepishly replied. “That’s the administrative staff … higher up

people than I.”

“So, that means?”

“I will have to send them an email.”

“You sure you will remember?” I teased him, which brought a large smile to his face.

“Stay here, so I can type it up now,” he suggested. I pushed my chair closer to him, watching

him open a new tab so he could type up an email. There was a faint pine odour eradiating from

him, as if the deep forestry was in his very essence. He was rugged in his appearance, untamed in

a sort of way that matched his brutish mannerisms. I was sure he wasn’t always like this, but I

suppose living alone for so long a time would make him that way. “Your friends are always that

annoying?” he unexpected rapped out. “Especially that little Miss. Princess?”

“Ashley,” I clarified.

“She thinks she owns everything.”

“It’s her way.”

“She’s rich?”

“Not really, but Ashley comes from a rich family,” I explained.

“She comes in here with designer clothing and waving her wallet at me like she owns the

Goddamn world.”

“It’s her way,” I repeated, after I picked up a random pen and let my finger run down it idly.

“She doesn’t like the fact that you didn’t cave in.”

“I won’t cave in for nothing,” he jeered with something of a smile. “I like you, though.” He

paused his typing to turn his gaze in my direction, letting his mossy green eyes radiate before

me. “You’re nice.”


He nodded his head slowly at me, and then moved back to show the email that he had just

composed. “Read it,” he suggested, and then moved backwards to seat himself at the edge of the

desk. His eyes continued to gaze at my face as I read the bright screen, captivated for some

unknown reason. “So?”

“It’s fine.” I pointed at the bright screen. “But you might need more details, like how you forgot

to email us.”

“Oh.” He let his hand fall over his upper thigh, letting a single finger draw a line from side to

side as he looked at me. “Why?”

“We might get compensated for that extra-long drive we took to get here.”

He smirked at me, liking the sassiness I was currently exhibiting in front of him. “I like you,” he

stated for the second time. “If I let you folks stay, you will have to promise me one thing.”


“Don’t leave your cabin at night.”


Ashley was in a state of disbelief when I transferred the good news to her. “Okay, so what did

you do to him?”

“Excuse me?” I said in a questioning tone of voice.

“He was so adamant for us to be gone and then you spend five minutes up there and suddenly he

changed his mind.”

“I worked my charm.”

Ashley cast me a wicked grin. “Sure you did, Sara”

“I didn’t do anything like that!”

“Will I have the cabin all to myself tonight?”

“You’re an idiot!” Ashley laughed at me in good humour, before she went around her car to prop

open the trunk. “What are you doing?”

“Grabbing our stuff.”

“We still don’t have the key yet.”


“He needs another five minutes,” I explained. “I will go get it, and after that you can pull out our

things. Besides, we are nowhere near the cabin yet. It’s out back, you see.”

A loud yawn broke through the air, and I turned to see Taylor leaning over the hood with his

hand hovering over his open mouth. Ben was rubbing the top of his back, sensing his partner’s

drowsy mood. It’s the sky, I thought, noticing how pale it was over our heads. And the cold, I

noted, since the chill only made me want to curl up in a blanket and sleep the day away.

“I’m heading inside,” I announced to the three of them, and turned around to make my way to

the top of the hill. The front door was ajar when I approached it, giving me another opportunity 

to look at the claw marks that worked itself into the pine coloured door. “Hello!” I called out

once I stepped inside, feeling uncomfortable with the never-ending darkness of this man’s house.

“In here!” was yelled from the back of the place, so I followed the sound until I reached his

office space again. “Took me a while to find the keys,” he explained. “It will be in quite a state.”

“That’s alright, I’m used to roughing it,” I joked, which only made his green eyes sparkle. “So, I

noticed there are claw marks outside of your door …” Our gaze was instantly broken, and the

man in front of me became extremely uncomfortable. “Bears?”

“Wolves,” he mouthed quietly. “Lots of them.”


“I warned you not to go outside at night.” He stood to his feet, making sure to avoid eye contact

with me. “And if you and your friends are smart, then you will take my advice.”

“They were hungry?” I joked, but he chose not to respond. He reached into his black pants to

hand me two sets of keys with a white tag dangling over them both.

“One and two,” he explained. “Those are the number of your cabins.”


“It’s a bit of a drive, so you will have to follow me.”


“Two-minute drive, but its rough terrain.” He reached for a long black coat at the back of a

wooden chair and threw it over his shoulders. “And I will have to look at the cabin myself since

it’s been so long.”


He snatched at his car keys and then deposited them in his coat pocket. “Let’s go,” he suggested,

He pushed in his office chair and left the eerily dark room first. Silently he led the way, not

wanting to speak to me until we reached the front of his house. “Let me lock the door.” The

heavy door was shut harshly, and I noticed how he had two locks to secure it. He looked nervous

doing it, doing his best to ignore the claw marks over the doorway as he did his task quickly.

“You guys brought food?”

“Yeah, but we were hoping for a fire.”

“No fire.”

“How else are we supposed to eat?”

“Use my kitchen,” he declared. “But no fire.” He pulled on the doorknob to make sure it was

secure. “Understood?”

“Yeah.” He took a step away, so sudden that I was compelled to follow him. “Nervous of

someone breaking in?”

“No,” he said over his shoulder before he hopped down the steps two at a time. He was in a hurry

to get to his car, looking at the skyline as if he was searching for something. By the time he

jumped inside of his car I was still walking down the pathway, unable to keep up with his fast

pace. “I haven’t got all day!” he jeered, which made me narrow my eyes at him. His car engine

roared with impatience, so I told my friends to get in the car and follow his run-down truck.

“Sara, you upset him?” Ashley asked with some hesitation.

“I think that’s just his mood,” I teased. “Just drive.”

Ashley reversed out of the parking spot and slammed down on the pedal to keep up with the

large pickup truck. It was the right vehicle, for it drove over the steep gravel road with certain

ease. Ashley’s luxurious sedan was not meant for such road conditions, so she slowed down and

softly prayed that she wouldn’t get a flat tire. It took us some minutes to reach a long stretch of

cabins, spread out enough to give each occupant some privacy.

The man’s car jolted to a stop and before a second passed by, he jumped out of his car and

slammed the door behind him. He reached into his pocket, and then visibly looked frustrated to

find something was amiss.

“He looks pissed,” Ben observed behind us, taking note of how the man was quickly striding his

way towards us. “What did we do?”

Ashley rolled down her window, expecting the man to yell at us the second he stood in front of

her car. “What is it, love?” she teased out lightly, hoping that would diffuse the situation.

He dragged a heavy hand over his mouth, letting it settle over the dark threads over his chin as he

glared past Ashley to stare straight into my eyes. “You have the keys, right?”

“They’re in my pocket,” I sweetly replied, hoping that would sooth his temper.


I opened my door first and gave him a skeptical look. “You forgot?”

“I have a lot of things on my mind,” he drawled out lifelessly. He dropped his gaze away from

me as he uttered, “can I use it?”

I walked around the hood of the car, wondering how I was able to tame this man so easily. It was

clear I had an influence over him, making him more civilized if that was the proper word. The

man held his hand out in front of me, making sure to have eye contact with me as I placed the

keys into his hand. “Thanks,” he muttered out softly, though it sounded almost sad-like in a way.

“Should we leave our stuff in the car?”

“For now.”

He turned away from me, waving his hand as a small invitation for me to follow him. My friends

were unsure whether to come along or not, so they stayed in the car since I was the only one that

seemed to have any power over him.

The caretaker opened the first cabin door, holding it open for me until we both walked inside. He

made sure we walked at the same pace, slowing down a little so I could be at his side. His hands

were awkwardly held in front of him, two fingers playing with a ring on his right hand. “This is

it,” he observed, and then stretched out his left hand to show the bleakness of our small cabin.

“I’ll get you some new sheets, since I don’t know when last it has been changed. He cracked

open a door to the left of him and flickered on a light. “Here is the bathroom. I’ll get you some

fresh towels as well.” His voice was softer as he added, “You take baths?”


“I will grab you some of those nice bath bombs we save for our special customers.” He winked

at me slyly, so sudden it was gone before I took note of it. “May have some wine for you as


“Are you planning to join me?”

“Never thought you’d ask,” he teased, before he leaned against the bathroom door. One hand was

shoved into his pocket as he took a good long look at me. A tiny smirk crept over his face.

“Usually the man that does the asking though.”

“And yet, you are the one that offered to bring me wine.”

“Ah.” He raised an eyebrow at me playfully, obviously feeling in a flirtatious mood. “Well, your

friend did say you were single.”


He turned his head to the left, looking at the closed blinds over the bathroom window. “You will

keep your word, won’t you? Not to go outside at night.”

“I won’t.”

“Even the folks that work here won’t go outside,” he commented. “They know how dangerous it

can be. I swear to God, even if I hear your screams, I won’t come out to save you,” he warned in

a dark voice. “I’ve seen too many things to do that.”

“Like what?”

“Might as well not tell you,” he slowly uttered, “I’m starting to like having you around.” He

tilted his head downwards to rest his chin over the top part of his chest. “Even though it’s a little

selfish of me.” His lips curled downwards, and he became sober as unknown thoughts flickered

though his mind. “I will go get your towels and stuff then.”

“Is it at your place?”


“I will help.”

“It’s light, you know,” he replied in that strange northern Canadian accent of his.

“I can still help.”

“Thanks,” he replied with a lighter expression. “My name is Damian by the way.”


“Nice to meet you Sara,” he said with sudden glee.

“Nice to meet you too.”

He pushed himself off the doorway and slowly strode away, using a much lighter step than I was

used too. Once we stepped outside, he blocked the grave sunlight with the back of his hand,

looking less than pleased that it should hover over him. He never let his arm go downwards until

he stood in front of the car, and then inserted his key into the car door to swing it wide open. I

walked past his pick-up truck to let Ashley know what was happening, assuring her she could

take out our stuff to put it inside of the cabin. The second key was tossed in the backseat between

Ben and Taylor, knowing the two of them would fight over it like they always did.

A small chuckle escaped me after I shut my car door, and then I strode towards Damian’s pickup truck where he was still waiting for me. “It’s open,” he mouthed, so I pulled on the handle 

and heaved the heavy door open. The first thing I noticed was the overwhelming scent of mint

from his car air freshener, and the second was the bundle of clothes stashed at my feet. I was

going to point out the absurdity of it all, but the sternness of Damian’s profile made me change

my mind.

He reversed backwards with ease, using the manual stick without having to look down at it,

before he did a sharp U-turn and let the car drive down the bumpy road. I looked over my

shoulder to look at the back seat, taking note of the long gun case that laid over top of it. There

was an emergency first-aid kit in there too, and a large flashlight that must have been extremely


“What made you want to come here?” he asked as a way to spark a conversation.

“Get out of the city,” I simply replied, since it was the painful truth. “What made you want to

live out here?”

“I like the isolation.”


“I don’t like people,” he stated, but something in my heart told me it was all a lie.

“Why not?”

“I just don’t,” he replied in a bored voice. “What do you have planned for dinner?”

“Hot dogs.”

“Over the fire?”

“Well, not anymore,” I replied with attitude. “Since someone told me I couldn’t have it.”

“You can use my kitchen.” I knew he was ignoring me, but I was expecting at least some kind of

reaction from him. “But you will have to be out of there before sun-down.”


“You just have too.”

“Okay,” I said with curiosity, just before he pulled into the car driveway. “What do you have for


“Some fish.” He put the car in park, and for once in his life took his time to undo his seat belt.

“Not enough for the four of you though.”

“What about two?” I teased, since I wanted a reaction out of him.


I rolled my eyes at him, which earned a dark chuckle from the man beside of me.

My seat belt was undone at this point, and I cracked open the door to step outside. The air was

brisk, showing the drop in temperature as the day gradually drew itself to a close. The car shook

after Damian slammed his door, proving he was stronger than he looked. He stalked his way up

the hill without me, letting his hands fall deep inside of his coat pocket. I liked the way his high

collar just brushed against his chin line, taking note that his coat was the only expensive thing he

owned so far. He stepped inside of his house without me, leaving me to follow him only by the

sound of his footsteps. I met the back of him around a corner of a wall, realizing he was standing

in front of a narrow staircase.

“I realized …” He removed his hands from his pocket and turned around to face me. “I shouldn’t

bring you upstairs, since the two of us don’t know each other very well.” He licked his bottom

lip meditatively. “I will grab the bed sheets— my bed sheets to be exact. Umm … it will be too

much work opening the other place, and I have no idea where they store the stuff for the rooms

are kept. Just make sure you keep my sheets clean.” He blushed slightly, realizing that he was

implying something that he really shouldn’t. “I’ll—I’ll be back,” he stammered out, and then

crept up the stairs silently.

Damian really was a curious person. I would say he was a hermit, but he didn’t strike me as that

type of guy. He was isolated to be sure, and nervous, but for what reason was still a mystery to

me. I took the liberty of turning on the hallway lights to see the empty hallway was a creamy

shade of tan brown. It was odd to see no pictures up, or even paintings for that matter. This place

didn’t feel like a home, and I was starting to wonder why that was the case.

He came down the stairs eventually, carrying clean white sheets with a heavy blanket in tow.

Damian instructed me to put it in the truck, assuring me it was still unlocked before he headed up

the stairs for more blankets.

The short moment in the truck alone allowed me to investigate his backseat more, taking note of

the hunting knife on the truck floor. There was an open box of fishing hooks and other items that

Damian must have used for fishing. I couldn’t see a fishing rod though, a curious thing, unless he

laid it out in the trunk. The mint smell was alluring to me, making me not want to slink out the

car but eventually I did. Damian was waiting for me outside of the front door, holding up another

handful of blankets with a suspicious gaze.

“Looking around?’ he darkly remarked, since he must have caught me snooping.

“I was …”

“Yes, I know what you were doing.” He dropped the heavy items into my arms and then closed

the front door behind him.

It’s like he has something shoved up his ass.

I stormed down the steps and turned to the grassy hill where his pick-up truck was waiting for

me. I dropped the items in the backseat since there was no more room in the front and made sure

to move the heavy gun case until it was no longer touching the blankets.

Footsteps came from behind me, and Damian came into my view with a heavy cardboard box in

hand. “Towels,” he commented. “And some snacks that you guys might want to eat.”


“Wine,” he confirmed with every attempt to not smile at me. “You can get in.”

“Thanks,” I said with sudden sarcasm, and walked past him to get around the front of the car.

“You have everything?”

“Just have to lock the door.”

“And then triple check it,” I quipped.

Damian ignored me once again, simply shutting the door with a loud sound before he strode up

the hill as fast as he could.

Maybe I shouldn’t have said that.

I propped the door a little to let in some fresh air, hearing an unfamiliar whistle from a bird that

was native to this area. The sound of heavy boots pounding against the gravel made me look

upwards and to my left, seeing Damian opening the door with a lengthy gaze on my person.

“Okay, we can go,” he muttered, and then climbed into his car seat beside me.

“Sorry about what I said earlier,” I apologized, hoping that would ease away the tension between


“I just want to be safe,” he uttered with uneasiness.

“That’s why you have a gun?”

He nodded his head slowly, while he let his hand hover over the key ignition.


“Yes,” he said in a thin voice. “A lot of wild animals out here.” He placed the key into the silver

ignition. “Coyotes, foxes, and sometimes moose.”

“You said wolves.”

“Wolves too,” he replied in barely a breath.

“You’ve been attacked by them?”

He wore a smile, but it was false looking. He sharply turned his head to me, letting his gaze

search all over my telling visage. “No,” he exclaimed. “I haven’t been attacked by them.”


“But others have,” he warned. “So, you …” he raised his right hand to point a finger at me, “stay

inside tonight.”

“I will.”

He made no response, only turned the key to make the engine roar. A long arm stretched over the

back of my car seat, bringing his body closer to me as he reversed out of the spot. I took a

moment to truly look at his face, wondering why his eyes looked so eternally sad.

“Hey!” I called out, which made him stop mid-way to lock the storminess of his green eyes onto

my pale blue ones. “You should join us for dinner tonight.”

“I already offered you guys to make dinner at my place.”

“Yeah, but we should spend the evening together,” I quickly replied. “My friends aren’t so bad.”

Damian continued to reverse out of the parking spot, only stopping to put the car in drive. He

hadn’t responded to my statement, which made me regret my words. “Sure,” he replied through

barely parted lips.

“It should be a good time.”

He nodded his head, though he looked like he didn’t believe it.

“I don’t want to force you.”

“It’s fine.”

“You don’t seem—”

“It’s fine,” he interrupted in a somber voice. “I’m not used to company, that’s all.”

“I see.”

Damian slowed down on a particularly bumpy track, not wanting our ride to be more

uncomfortable than it needed to be. “As long as I sit next to you,” he piped up suddenly. “Only


“That works.”

The corner of his left lip curled upwards, compelling him to turn his face away so I could no

longer see it.

“And Sara,” he began in a much more agreeable voice. “You can have some of my fish.” I

laughed at his remark, glad that Damian was finally warming up to me. “But no one else.”


“I like to go fishing.” He slowed down once he noticed Ashley’s car parked outside of the small

cabin. “You could join me tomorrow, if you’d like.”

“I think my friends and I are going for a hike.”

“Yes,” Damian breathed out. “Friends.”

“But …” I let my voice trail away, unsure what I could possibly add to that.

“I’ll give you guys a map for the best trails.”

“Thanks,” I sadly droned, feeling like I rejected his subtle offer.

“First-aid kit since the trails will be rough at this time of year. I maintain it the best I can, but I’m

only one person.” He parked the car and let his hands drop to the side of him. “You will stick to

the paths.”

“Okay,” I smiled, since I liked that fatherly tone to his voice.

“If you are lost, it will be next to impossible to find you. These forests are deep.” He blinked at

me with pain. “Very deep.”

“I’ll stay on the path, but just in case … can I have your number?”


“My friends might do something stupid.”

“Umm … sure.” Damian waited until I pulled my phone out of my pant pocket and then relayed

the information, half smiling once I told him I got it all. “So, it’s only for emergencies?” he

teased, after he stretched out his arm to lay it over the back of my headrest. “Or—"

“We’ll see.”

“Okay,” he said with a grin. “We will see.”

“We should take the stuff out of the car,” I suggested. “It’s going to get dark.”

Damian’s eyes widened at that statement and then he turned to the front window to look at the

skyline. “No, not yet,” he breathed out with relief, and then pushed open his car door to step


End of Sample Chapter