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• Maine •

Walking away from the tree, I notice quickly that I’m in a forest of tall straight pine trees. No wonder it’s known as a pine tree state. They were so incredibly tall and gave no room for any other species of trees.

Oddly there wasn’t any snow for it still being winter. Yet the freezing air held the justice of winter, making snow irrelevant. All I had on was converse sneakers, black jeans and some black cargo jacket that Tiffany packed for me on our trip to Tennessee. All clothes I’ve worn for what felt like a week but had been almost two days.

The clothes weren’t enough for the bitter cold. There were no towns nearby and the only things I saw were trees. Only trees.

Where exactly are we? I thought to my magic.

In Maine, exactly where you need to be...

Scanning the area again, seeing if there was any possible place to use as shelter. Since the sun was getting ready to start setting. Unfortunately the only thing I saw that could possibly be used as shelter was a few fallen trees close together. With my magic I could put together a shelter for the night.

Walking over to it, I then heard a crunch from the crispy thin pine leaves on the ground. Sending my body into gear and my magic into overdrive. I had just scanned the area and didn’t see anything, which made me worried to what stepped near me.

“Why hello there. Who might you be?” A strange young man spoke in hillbilly like accent.

Finally turning around to see an attractive young man that had a full beard and short hair in his head. Looked like he was possibly in his early twenties. Dressed in hunting gear with a gun attached to his side. Thankfully no in hand.

“Umm, lost?” I replied. My body relaxed a little since he didn’t seem much of a threat, even with the gun on his side.

“That and not dressed for the weather. Let’s get you inside where you can get yourself all warmed up. Because golly your nose is brighter than a tomato.” He ushered me to follow and I didn’t dare to disapprove. He came exactly when I needed help and that would truly make us allies.

“What is your name?” I asked him as we continued walking passed plenty of trees, hopefully getting closer to wherever he was taking me.

“Golly, how rude of me. My name is Austin.” He stopped his tracks and turned around to shake hands with me. “But people usually call me Salt.”

“Why would they call you that?”

Austin chuckled from me asking.

“It’s because my last name is Saltzman, Salt for short since it can be a bit of a mouth full for some folks.” He turned back around and continued walking forward.

This had to be pure coincidence. The fact his name started with an ‘A’ didn’t help. The last name. His face didn’t resemble the Saltzman family I knew back home in Louisiana. Doubting the coincidence.

Austin had strawberry blonde hair with a chalk colored white complexion, along with plenty of freckles. Unlike Tony and Tiffany who had a darker tan colored complexion. Austin’s eyes were a solid color dark blue, as if drawn with one color and none other. No texture to the color to his eyes.

Austin’s built was much larger as well. It was hard to tell if it was fat or muscles underneath all the hunting gear. His face wasn’t puffy looking so it must be muscle.

“Lucky for you it’s almost supper too, you look like you haven’t seen a proper meal in awhile.” He continued forward without looking backwards.

I glanced down to my legs and the pants that were loose on me. All the stress of everything going on, I didn’t feel hunger quite the same. Wasn’t sure the last time I ate something substantial and that was concerning.

Every time I went in the book, it was as if my hunger didn’t exist. Which made sense since time was incredible different.

The weird part was how the time didn’t change when I blasted out of the book. It might have been possible that Leo did that to age people faster. To make their souls drift into the book sooner than later.

Though the book had been useful in the moments I needed it, I was native to where the magic truly came from. It was only an ancient book because Leo was. He was the creator of it and it only existed because of him. Fooling a lifetime of relatives.

Heavily in my thoughts. I look up to the partially covered pine trees alongside the shadowed sky. The silhouette of the trees had a gloomy essence to it but it felt more comforting than a bright sun would have been.

“If I may ask, how did you end up out here by your lonesome self? Our land isn’t easily accessible to main roads.” He asked as we still continued to walk forward.

“Oh, sorry. I didn’t know it was you land.”

“It’s alright, it’s so big that we can’t boarder it. But had it been my momma hunting instead of me, she might of just shot you instead.”

I gulped harshly and was quite appreciative of it not being her.

“I’m not quite sure how I ended up here. One minute I was with my friends and the next I ended up here.” Which was true in context.

“You must be one of them party animals my momma tells me to stay away from.” He said with enthusiasm. “Must have gotten so rocked you blacked out.”

“I guess so.” Not sure how that would would have possible to end up there after being blacked out.

I still couldn’t fathom how I traveled here to the have met someone who had the last name, Saltzman. All when I was trying to look for Leo.

After a few more minutes of walking, in the distance was a small shack like home with smoke traveling out of the homemade chimney. Making me starve for warmth.

“Don’t say nothing to my momma. I’ll do all the talking. Or else she might shoot ya.”

Even though he contradicted his words, but I understood what he meant either way.

“Alright.” I didn’t dare to test.

When approaching the door, I heard a woman yell in a similar accent as his own.

“Bub, is that you I hear?” Her voice was deep for a woman and gave me a glimpse of what she may look like.

“Yeah momma, I also got someone here with me that I want you to meet?”

I could hear rumble through the walls of the house from the outside. The woman was rushing to come outside to see who I was.

A larger woman with brown hair pushes through the homemade door. The glimmer in her eyes when she saw what I looked like freaked me out. Looking me head to toe and examining my appearance. Only to show signs of being incredibly impressed. Though I was trying my best not to show I felt violated by the way she was eyeing me up and down for approval.

“Is this what I think it means?” She thrilling asked.

“Yeah momma. I’d like you to meet my girlfriend, Stephanie.”

Stephanie? I did my best to smile and play the part but everything felt so wrong.

“That girl you were telling me about, the one at Church?” Her focus was now on her son.

“You got it.” I winked at her as I spoke. Using a similar accent to them which seemed silly but fooled her easily.

Not sure where I grasp the courage to talk, let alone do that, was beyond me. When I feel awkward, I suppose I do the strangest things.

The woman rushed over to me to give an awfully large squeezing hug, forcing me to hug back. Leaving me with a sick feeling in my stomach.

“Why, you’re freezing up out here. Come on in.” Rushing her hands to hand inside. “I’m almost done with supper. A mean brisket with gravy and taters.”

The woman rushed back inside and my attention went immediately to Austin. Giving him one of the most nastiest looks I’ve ever given anyone.

His face was guilty and all he could do was mouth the words sorry. Which made me roll my eyes at him.

Though I was upset with how he introduced me, it could have been worse. The woman could have shot me like he claimed she would have done. Not like she would really have gotten away with it.

Austin went first to the door and opened it for me. Catching me off guard but since he claimed I was his girlfriend, it would have probably made his momma upset to know he didn’t open doors for women. Even though he seemed pleased to do so as he smiled at me as I walked me. I on the other hand was avoiding all eye contact.

“Would you be alright with water, Stephanie?” The woman’s voice alarmed in my ears. To my new name.

“Yes, that would be great.” I told her in the same accent again.

“Now, Stephanie, what’s your family like?” She asked another question.

“I’ve got a pretty decent family. Two brothers and a younger sister. Loving parents.”

“Wow, that sounds like a happy family.” She handed me the glass of water and urged us to sit down. “I would have loved a big family like that. Sadly his father passed when he was younger.” She turned back around to the food.

I looked at Austin and he seemed suddenly sad about it on the inside, trying to force a smile.

“He told me, it’s something that we had in common actually. My father passed away a few years back. I just pretend he’s still alive so I don’t sadden others with my own grief.” Almost breaking character by losing the accent, gladly catching it before I spoke how I normally do.

“Oh darlin’, I’m so sorry to hear that. Glad you can bond on grief. Let’s you know you aren’t alone in the world.”

“Agreed.” Austin spoke up, flashing me a genuine smile.

Making me think he was starting to catch feelings, which was not something I wanted.

“Bub, why do you still got your hunting gear on at the dinner table. You know I don’t like that.” She rose her voice slightly at him.

“Sorry, momma.” He gets up from the chair making a loud noise from moving the chair against the ground.

Austin heads to the hooks on the wall near the door. I couldn’t help but wait to see what he looked like underneath all of his hunting gear. To confirm it her was muscled or not.

The zipper of his jacket is pulled down and he pulls the large jacket off his body. Revealing incredibly large muscle, hugged with a red plaid shirt. Making him look like a muscular lumberjack man. Making it hard to keep my eyes off of him.

He also removed his hunting pants that were extremely baggy over the jeans he had on underneath. As he was bent over, I got a clear view of his butt in the blue jeans and my heart rate speed up a little too fast.

I’ve hadn’t seen a body quite like his and you could clearly see he did hard and heavy work around the house. Whatever his job was, it was physical labor.

When he turned around back to me, our eyes met quickly before I looked away. Feeling guilty since I already had a boyfriend that I loved dearly. Even though it was a rocky road for us currently, I knew I still loved him.

It was as if there was this additional urge towards him. Which I then put the pieces together. He in fact had to be related to Tony some how. Austin was indeed a Saltzman man, just branches a different way in the family tree. Which would also classify as someone to remove the curse.

I felt horrible even thinking about it for a second, killing someone I had just met to be with someone else. I’m sure it could be valid but it felt so wrong and horrible to even think about doing it.

“Alright, here ya both are.” The woman settled the two plates in front of us as Austin sat back down.

The table was clearly a handcrafted table with the carvings on it being raw and sanded poorly. The chairs didn’t match the table and didn’t even match each other.

I looked down at the food, which the smell of it made my stomach growl uncontrollably. Wanting to only eat immediately but I’m sure they wanted to pray or something before eating.

“Enjoy.” The woman announced without introducing prayer. She probably saw how hunger I looked staring at the food.

I grabbed the fork and took the first bite, leaving me to take another larger bite. Since the food was incredible.

My mom was one that loved to cook but she never made anything quite as spectacular.

“I must admit, this meal is unbelievably delish.”

“Umm, thank you.”

They were both staring at me as of I had done something wrong.

Then I figured out what had happened, making me cover my mouth. I broke my accent and felt like a complete idiot.

Austin’s mom was now staring at him, expecting an explanation.

“Who is she really?” She raised her voice.

“Momma, she’s my girlfriend.”

“No, I’m not. I last remember being at a party. My friends abandoned me into the woods overnight. Not sure how I got there and all I could do was keep walking. He found me and was gracious.”

“Geez, one of those reckless party girls!” She quickly got up and headed for the side of the old refrigerator. Leading her hand to a shot gun, lifting it to face me.

“Momma! Stop!” Austin yelled.

In a mere second, I used my magic to freeze her before she could even pull a trigger to me. Making Austin’s eyes open wide from how shocked and scared he was. His mom on the other hand couldn’t move a muscle, even if she tried with all of her strength.

“I’m starving and need to eat. Could you please let me or I’ll have you in her state as well.” He said firmly.

“How did you do that? Is she going to be okay?” She asked as I sat back down to eat.

“I’m gifted.” I went ahead and took a bite.

He sat down as well, only to stare at his mom with concern.

“She’ll be fine. I froze her in time. She doesn’t even know she’s frozen. When I release it, I’ll take the gun out of her hand and be miles away.”

“Maybe you could help us instead.” He said with a serious tone. Making me believe that there was something truly wrong. Him witnessing my magic meant the issue had to have been more than they could handle.

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