3 Home in the Trees
Mid week and I’m on my way to the reservation with a top up order, apparently for a party. I have never been to this reservation, no one has, it’s not a public access one. After a solid forty-five minutes of lead foot driving I see a sign saying private access only, turn back.
‘Well that looks friendly.’
I roll my eyes for the hundredth time today. In, out and back home, though I can’t lie, the scenery is nice!
Home is relatively flat and open, the further I get the more rolling the landscape becomes. The forests are thick and green, there’s even a river near the road off and on. I take one final turn and the forest opens up to a large clearing.
The main house is breathtaking and huge! I’ve never seen anything like it before in my life. Multi-story made of wood and stone, the mansion looks like it was crafted from the very forest around it. There are people of all ages milling about; clearly a lot of people live here.
As I drive up to the front door, I see Jace and Xavier exit the house with two women. Jace smiles and waves me over.
“Where are the strawberries!? Don’t tell me you forgot them,” Jace whines like a brat as he digs through the back. I reach in the back seat and grab a basket and hand them to him as he lights up.
“There you go you big baby,” I say, rolling my eyes as I laugh. His grey eyes shine in delight as a giant grin splits his face.
“Not so fast!” Says the first woman. She’s in her late twenties, tall and willowy with long dark brown hair and eyes. “That’s for desert, hand it over.” She holds her hand out for the basket and Jace breaks out into the most dramatic pout; big eyes and pouty lip as his eyes lock on hers.
“Give it up Jace, those big puppy dog eyes won’t work on me. Hi I’m Claire, Xavier’s mate, you could say I’m the head cook here,” she says, turning her attention to me.
“Oh, hey there,” I say as I reach out and shake her hand. She’s not who I would expect to be with Xavier, far more outgoing and happy but I guess opposites attract.
“What else did you bring me, little elf,” I hear Jace say from the back of the truck. He has the attention span and boundaries of a child as he searches through the crates.
“Just Grandmother’s order, take it up with her,” I joke as I check the surroundings out. “This place is amazing, I’ve never seen anything like it!”
The house is impressive from a distance and up close it’s amazing. Massive doesn’t even capture it’s scale, some of the boulders used in the facade are as big as I am. The way the stone work and timbers come together give it such an organic feel like the mansion was grown, not built.
“You’re just on the front lawn, you haven’t seen anything yet, little elf,” he teases.
“Elf? Really?” I raise an eyebrow.
“Well it’s elf or pixie, humans can’t grow this good,” he laughs, running a hand through his already messy golden brown hair. I can’t help but roll my eyes and groan at his exuberance. “What about sprite? Oh, or fairy!”
He’s far more impressed with himself then he should be.
“Elf it is,” I grumble in defeat which earns me a hearty laugh from everyone. “So where would you like me to unload all of this?”
“Oh don’t worry about that,” Claire quickly cuts in. “The boys can take it in, we are just preparing for a big dinner and everything’s such a mess.”
Well, that didn’t sound rushed at all.
Movement out of the corner of my eye catches my attention as I see the boy from the market running from the house. “So this is where you come from, hmm,” I muse quietly to myself.
“Oh? Where did you meet Ethan?” The second woman asks. She has been quietly staring me down since I arrived. I didn’t get a particularly hostile vibe from her, but by her stiff posture, she clearly wasn’t comfortable with me being here.
“He’s been at the market a couple times, quite an appetite,” I say, trying to brush it off. Her dark eyes narrow so clearly that wasn’t the right thing to say. “He didn’t cause any problems, just has a sweet tooth so I bought him a couple cookies and gave him some cherry tomatoes.” Success, she visibly relaxed.
“Sara! Where is everyone? Derek will be here any minute?!” Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome from the market yells as he steps out the front door.
Chris was it?
I didn’t even notice I was staring until his hazel gaze met mine. Panic snaps me out of my trance and I quickly drop my gaze. He starts to make his way over but someone intercepts him for a quick question.
Suddenly feeling flustered I take it as my hint to leave. Claire hands me an envelope with their payment, I thank them quickly, shut my tailgate and head out. Looking in the rearview mirror, I see Chris staring as I drive off. There’s something so intense about him.
Once I am past the first bend and out of sight, I feel like a weight is lifted off my shoulders.
What the fuck? Why am I flustered like this, and why does he make me so uncomfortable? I thought I finally had my shit together, maybe not...
I’m safely home by mid-afternoon. Since there’s less work today, there’s not too much left to do for the end of the day. My stomach is still churning from my earlier nerves, so I settle on some veggies and dip for dinner. I grab a plate and sit up on the deck watching the fireflies dance as dusk settles in.
Nights like this remind me of just how much I love it out here. The peace and tranquility as I unwind at the end of a long day.
I see the same grey wolf from the other day walking up the back lane way. He’s cautious, sniffing the air regularly as his crystal blue eyes scan the area. I take the opportunity to study him, I would say wolves are rare here but that makes twice now in the same week I’ve seen him.
His blue eyes settle on me as he relaxes under a nearby tree. I swear he’s studying me as much as I am him. He’s beautiful and bigger than I thought wolves were. Now that he’s a bit closer, his size is undeniable.
He looks like the size of a pony, is that normal?
My thoughts are cut short by a howl in the distance and he snaps his head in that direction. A couple minutes later another howl sounds, but this one sounds a bit closer. An uneasy feeling seeps into the air, making me nervous. I gather my plate up to go in and notice the wolf is now gone. With a final look around, I head in for the night.
I pause, standing up from the row of pepper plants I’m working on and wipe the sweat off of my forehead with the back of my arm. Even in a tank top and thin yoga pants it’s too hot and it’s only mid-morning. I’m clearly not getting anymore done here today so I decide to swing by the market.
I pull up and catch a big grin from Jude as I head to the tail gate to grab the cooler I packed with cold drinks and freezees. As I head into the market area, he happily takes the cooler from me, insisting on carrying it the rest of the way. We head over to Trish who is sitting, fanning herself desperate for some relief. Her regularly pale skin is flushed red from the heat.
“Come to me my beautiful, cold, sweet caffeine,” she gushes as she eagerly takes the bottle of iced coffee I held out to her. We both stare like she’s finally cracked, but she ignores us as she gulps it down.
“What can I do you for, Jude?” I ask, scanning the options. He cocks an eyebrow, as a slow smirk creeps onto his lips. Instantly my face flushes in response.
What is going on?! I’m blushing like a schoolgirl.
I shake my head trying to wash the feeling away. “Um, drink wise I mean, um,” I stammer as I trail off. With a winning smile, he grabs a pop. I smile back as I cut open a blue Freezee for myself.
Ethan appears out of nowhere; I look around for Grandmother or anyone else from the rez but it’s just him. He’s got his golden eyes locked on my Freezee. “Suppose you like Freezees too?” I ask. He quickly nods and turns the puppy dog eyes on me again.
‘Thought you didn’t like kids?’ ‘It’s just Ethan, cool it.’
I hand him a red one, which he takes but still looks at my blue. “Sorry dude, there’s only one blue.” His shoulders slump in defeat as he stares at the red dramatically.
I hold out my blue, he swaps and takes off.
Whatever, red’s my second favourite.
“So you delivered and made it back in one piece, eh? No one seems to come in or out of that place,” Jude states matter-of-factly.
“Yeah, super off the beaten path, but it’s beautiful, definitely worth the drive. The main building is like the illegitimate love child between a castle, mansion and log cabin; I’ve never seen anything like it.” I was surprised to see Jude cross his arms and roll his eyes, and wonder what’s eating him. “Got a secret interest?”
“Please,” he scoffs, “I made a wrong turn when I was new to the area and got the less hospitable side of them, not impressed.” I raise my brow at that.
Is he pouting? Jealous?
“Yeah what’s to be impressed about, eh? Mansion in the woods, privacy, peace and quiet... Oh and that landscape, such a torment,” I say, rolling my eyes dramatically. He’s full out sulking now, grumbling incoherently.
Trish, seeing the conversation sour, quickly drives it in a different direction. “So I was telling Jude about some of the good places to go around here, got anything to add?”
“Um, sorry, I’ve got zip, I don’t really do anything?” I wince as I finish saying that, I hate sounding so pathetic.
“You don’t do anything?” He drawls out, skeptically. Shoot me now, Trish jumps on my silence to push even further.
“Poor thing spends too much time working,” she says in a fake, sweet, concerned voice. I’m going to kill her, so I send her a glare to let her know I’m dead serious to knock it off. She flashes me a grin and I know I’m screwed and she has less than zero interest in stopping any time soon. “She was just saying how she needs to get out and destress more.”
His face lights up. “What a coincidence, you need to get out more and I need a tour guide, perfect don’t you think? Crap, gimme a sec, someone’s at my booth, I’ll be right back!” Jude says before he sprints off.
I turn and glare at Trish. “The fuck dude!?” I exclaim lowly, trying to point out how over the line she is. She’s either oblivious or doesn’t care. Her giant grin says it all and I just groan, knowing full well she’s not done yet with her matchmaking.
“Listen, you said you’d go out more. Jude is cute, and nice, and you already know him. I’m not saying you have to date him or screw him or anything, though he looks like he’d be fun,” she trails off as I blush, AGAIN.
“K, first of all, I do not know him, I say hi in passing at the market. And second, I’m not looking for anything,” I say lowering my eyes.
She puts a reassuring hand on my shoulder, “it’s well past time, but just go and have fun as friends, you guys seem to bring out the best in each other.” At times like this she feels more like a mother then a friend, she smiles down at me waiting for me to get on the same page as her.
“Fine,” I say quietly. “Bubby’s Burger is pretty good and it’s been quite a long time since I’ve been.” Her victory squeal splits my ears as she practically breaks out into a happy dance. “Jezus chill man, or so help me I’ll duck out,” I warn. She throws her hands up in surrender and takes it down a notch by the time Jude returns.
“Sorry about that,” Jude says, running his hand through his hair, looking a little nervous.
“No worries, Jess was just saying she hasn’t been to Bubby’s Burger in a long time, you should start there!” She grins and turns back to her booth, happy with her win.
“Sounds good to me, how about Wednesday?” Jude asks, blue eyes locked on mine, shimmering with hope.
“You’ve got rez delivery that day, don’t forget!” Trish chimes in from the peanut gallery.
“Thursday it is,” Jude amends with a small laugh. I smile and nod, what else can I say? “I’ll pick you up at six!”
“Okay,” I agree as I get up to head back out.
Why do I feel like I just got played? Freaking Trish!