Welcome to Means
Billie Ward turned the truck into the gravel driveway that led to the house that she would be spending the next few months renovating. As the crunch of the gravel echoed underneath her truck, she sucked a deep breath inside her body. The cabin came into view and Billie smiled. It was a gorgeous two story cabin with a porch in front. There were spaces in front of the cabin that was overgrown with weeds. She parked the truck off to the side of the cabin. Billie opened the door of her truck and pulled out her backpack. She opened the bag as quickly as possible and pulled out a bag of herbs. Billie walked towards a few yards away from the truck and started to scatter the herbs on the ground. She started to murmur words from a dead language as she scattered them on the ground around the cabin. After she made a complete circle around the cabin, she took a knife from her pack and sliced her hand. She squeezed the blood onto the completed circle. The magic raised up from the ground and encircled the house. It wasn’t magic she liked to use but it was the only magic she was able to use without causing alarms. With this barrier up, she could practice her magic without a care inside. She sighed and walked to the door of the cabin.
As she walked the porch, she mentally took note of all the things that she needed to fix. She slid the key into the lock of the cabin and walked inside the building. Billie had met a wonderful woman at her last job. When she was preparing to move to the next town to escape from him, her friend, Ciara, caught wind of it. She convinced her to take her aunt’s cabin that needed to be renovated to allow her to rent it on airbnb. Billie quickly accepted it the deal. It allowed her a place to stay and something to do for six months. Billie could fix this cabin up and six months in one place sounded like heaven. It was up to her to not screw it up. She sighed. No magic outside of these walls. At least, not traceable magic. Billie still wasn’t even sure how he found her at her last location. She dug into her backpack and drank the potion in the bottom. She would have to make more and make it stronger. This potion prevented all magical creatures from finding her. She presented as a human as long as the potion was in her veins. She couldn’t screw this up. This was her chance to be happy for a few months. He was finding her quicker and quicker. She must have screwed up and didn’t realize it. Not this time, she thought.
She pulled her phone out and texted Ciara, I’m here. Thank again. Tell your Aunt Lily I said thanks. She slid her phone back into her pocket. She had changed her number after she left town. It hadn’t seen her but she saw the signs in the nearby city. He was coming for her. She walked to the truck and pulled out her duffel bag of stuff. She traveled light due to her existence of needing to run.
Means was a small town on the edge of a forest. Billie drove her truck towards the middle of town where her GPS said there was a hardware store. She slowed at the location the robotic voice said to turn. Instead the hardware store was a block down. She sighed as she pulled into the parking lot. Problems with living in a small town. She walked into the store as she pulled out the list of things she needed to fix the cabin. Billie walked the aisle with the light fixtures. She tilted her head up as she looked at all the options.
A deep voice interrupted her thoughts, “None of the lights in this aisle will shine as bright as you.”
Billie sucked in a breath. She didn’t move yet. Dammit, how did she let someone sneak up on her? Let alone someone with magic. She could feel the magic radiating off this man. Unfortunately due to her life, she didn’t know what he was but was sure he wasn’t a demon. She sighed and turned towards him. Her eyes widened as she took in the sight beside her. This man was like a model. A chiseled chin that was covered in a few days of brown stubble. He had bright blue eyes which was partially covered with shaggy blonde hair. His smile showed off a little dimple on the left side. He was wearing a pair of jeans and a tight tee shirt. HIs muscles rippled underneath his shirt. His face lit up as Billie looked at him.
“Oh. Well, if that isn’t a line,” she said. “Does that work?”
He blinked. “Does what work?”
“That line. It was a bit cheesy, you know?”
He shrugged. “I haven’t seen you around here before,” he said.
She shrugged as she looked back at the light fixtures. “I’m new in town. Fixing a cabin in the woods. Gonna be an airbnb,” she said.
“Oh, airbnb,” he murmured as if the news was alarming to him.
She turned back towards him. “Do many people do that around here? It would be cake money. The area is gorgeous,” she said.
“No, not really. Most rentals are in town,” he murmured. He shook his head. “Anyways, if you are fixing a place, I do a lot of my place’s fixer ups. I could help you if you need any help.”
“I am quite confident on my repair skills. Thanks though,” she said. She pursed her lips as she glanced at the fixture she had decided on and picked it up. She tossed it in the cart.
“Well, when you aren’t fixing your place up, could I take you out?” He asked.
Billie pursed her lips to the side of the face. Dating for fun wouldn’t be so bad would it? He was awfully gorgeous and he only thought she was a human. He wasn’t trying to use her for her skills. She tilted her head and shrugged. “I guess. You could show me some of the best places to hang out, you know?”
He winked. “I know all the best places. I would love to show you,” he said. “Hand me your phone and I will add my number?”
“How bout you just call me?” She held her hand out and he placed his unlocked phone in her hand. She quickly typed out her number and hit call. After a few moments, she heard her pocket ring. She smiled and handed it back to him. “What’s your name?”
She smiled. “It’s Billie.”
“Wow, that’s a unique name,” he said.
She shrugged. “Think my mom hoped I would stay under the radar with that one.”
He tilted his head. “How so?”
She shrugged. “We never talked about that. We didn’t talk like that,” she said curtly.
Andre shifted uncomfortably. “Oh, sorry.”
She grabbed the light fixture she had been looking at and threw it in her cart. “Eh, life. Whatever.”
A voice tore through the hardware store. “Andre!” Another handsome and muscular man walked towards them.
Andre turned towards the door and winced. “Sorry, that’s my boss.”
The dark haired man stopped beside Andre. “You new in town?” He asked gruffly.
Bille straightened up and narrowed her eyes as she studied him. He also had the same magic rolling off him except it was stronger than Andre’s. Something deep in her soul hated the feeling. She stepped closer to him. If she could have, she would have pushed her magic out towards him but she couldn’t. He stepped back at her sudden movements towards him and looked confused. “Yeah. Here for work,” she said with a small nod.
He nodded and turned towards Andre. “Are you done here?” he asked.
Andre smiled gently at Billie. “Sure. I’ll text you later, Billie.”
Billie awkwardly waved at him as he turned away from her with a wink. She smiled and walked back down the aisles grabbing the things she needed. As she packed everything into her truck, she realized she needed some gas. She turned back towards her home where there was a gasoline station. She paid at the pump and filled up. Billie walked inside and grabbed a drink from the coolers. She walked to the register. The attendant was reading a book with her feet propped up on the counter. When Billie placed her drink on the counter, the attendant with the tag saying, “Ruby” looked up. She scanned the drink.
“Are you new in town?”
“Is it that small of a town? I’ve been asked that like three times.”
Ruby laughed as she shook her head. Her small braids shaking gently around her head. “Yes, it is that small of a town. I’m bored. Come behind here and talk to me.” Ruby motioned to the side of the counter.
“Are you sure? I might be blocking a stall,” Billie said as she motioned towards the pumps.
Ruby rolled her eyes. “You’ll be fine. Come. I’m bored.”
Billie shrugged and walked around. Ruby pulled a stool from under the counter and pushed it towards Billie. “So, you’re name is Ruby?”
“Like your name! Why are you in town? School?”
“No. Job. Fixing up a cottage.”
“Ah. That doesn’t happen much around here. The commune doesn’t like that.”
Ruby’s eyes widened and she smiled. “Have you noticed the super hot guys and girls? Like they are from the woods. I say it sarcastically but there really is a difference between the townies and what I call the commune. They are hot. And if you like the other sex, they are more open than the ones in town when it comes to that.”
Billie stifled a small giggle. “Oh really?”
“But they are great in bed. Like they can’t get enough. So animalistic. Recommend. Four stars but don’t fall in love,” she said.
Ruby sighed. “They like…” She shook her head. “When you see a couple. Like a real couple from them. It’s like a romance book. It is beyond a doubt true love. That all encompassing, couple goals. So never fall in love with one unless they are giving you major puppy dog eyes.”
“How do I know if I met someone from the…commune?” Billie asked.
She shrugged. “They just hot. I don’t know. I mean I think I can tell even if I didn’t know everyone at least by face in town but I haven’t figured it out. Also my aunt definitely tells me to stay away from them,” she said.
“Why?” Billie asked with a smile.
Ruby shook her head. “No clue. But that doesn’t stop my flow. There are some hot farm boys and stuff here but I am telling you. The commune is where it is at,” she said.
“I’m not really looking for an intense relationship. I was really here because of a bad situation with my ex,” Billie mumbled.
“Well grab you a forest boy then,” she said with a wink. There was a pause and she lowered her voice. “Was it bad?”
“He kind of stalked me for a while. Just running,” Billie said.
Ruby made a fist and hit her hand. “If you need someone to kick his ass, I am your girl. I can teach him a lesson.”
Billie shook her head. “No, you can’t. He is a bit …deadly.”
“Don’t count me out. I help out on some of the farms for extra cash in the summer and I stock here. Got some guns.” She put her fists near her face and smiled.
Billie took a sip from her drink. “Why would you go out of your way for a girl you just met?” She whispered. “Are you just the town gossip or something?
Ruby touched a necklace in the shape of an eye with a gemstone set in the middle. “Just a feeling. I’m not a gossip but I have the pulse on what is going on here but I am missing something. I just don’t know what I am missing.”
Billie narrowed her eyes on the necklace. She pushed her magical senses out. She could feel subtle magic from the necklace. She returned her eyes onto Ruby’s large brown eyes. Ruby tilted her head and said, “I like you. I see you. My aunt would hate you though. There is something about you. You I trust. You can see what I see, right?”
Billie nervously giggled. “What do you mean?”
“Something is off about the commune folk. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s probably why my aunt tells me to stay away from them. But I don’t.” She hit her leg. “The thing is I know that my aunt goes around them. Like she’s friends. The leader came to her house once when I was leaving. So she is a hypocrite.”
Billie pursed her lips. “So, I did give my number to Andre. I think he might be?”
Ruby’s face brightened. “Ah! I told you. I see you just like I see all the vapid idiots in this town. Now, to warn you, they will keep you at arms length but just have fun.”
“Have you ever?” Billie asked.
Ruby shook her head. “No, not him. He is a good one. Sweet and hot. Like all of them. He will be good for you.”
“Although have you seen the leader? He’s hot. I heard he has a brother but he disappeared a few years ago,” she said.
“No, only Andre and his boss.”
“Hmm, that could be any of them. There is a structure there. I have half figured it out. Just not completely,” she murmured.
“It’s pretty dead here today?”
Ruby looked at the time on her phone. “Ah, it may pick up in a bit. But if you want to hang, come do it around this time. It’s mighty dead at this time. Just text me to see if I am working.”
“Thanks, Ruby,” Billie said with a smile.
“I have probably bombed you with a lot of info. Sorry. I just….ugh…I saw you and was like there. That’s my new best friend.”
“Do you have many friends?”
Ruby shrugged. “I have friends from the commune. I have friends in town. But I don’t have close friends. Get what I mean? I feel like a stranger even in my own family. Like growing up, my mom would just look at me like she was sad and afraid. Would mutter about the ancestors.” Ruby shook her head as she squeezed one side of her mouth tightly.
Billie nodded. “I don’t know what your family was talking about but I completely understand about paying for the sins of others.”
Ruby made a face. “Yep, that’s why you are my new best friend. You get it.”
“Probably more than you understand,” Billie said. A car drove up to one of the stalls. Billie motioned towards the vehicle. “Anyways, I should probably go.”
Ruby nodded and waved. “See ya, bestie!”