Dream Shard(9)

By: Mary Wine

The cabin was just a tiny one. It had taken her grandfather and father a month to build it. The first half was the living room. The second half was divided into a bedroom and kitchen. The bathroom had been built several years later to replace the outhouse. It was on the back porch with doorways into the kitchen and bedroom. A small washing machine and dryer combo unit was in the corner by the refrigerator. She opened the dryer and pulled out the load she’d tossed in before going up to the waterfall. Her only electricity came from solar panels on the roof. She deposited the dry clothes on the counter and quickly changed.

“Where am I?”

She was still tugging a shirt down when her guest appeared. He didn’t join her in the kitchen but took up a position between her and the front door.

“Nearest town is Colfax.”

The jeans were baggy on him and he’d found a belt to hold them up. The pistol was tucked into the waistband, the black butt a glaring reminder of her circumstances.

“What state?”

She loaded up the wet sheets and closed the dryer door. “California. Northern California.”

He seemed to be processing the information and she felt a twinge of pity for him. But it didn’t mix well with the sight of the pistol. She picked up the quilts and reached for the back door.

“Hold it right there.”

She looked at him over her shoulder. “Are you really holding me hostage? I saved your life. You would be floating dead in that mountain pool if I hadn’t been there.”

He obviously wasn’t used to being talked back to either. His lips thinned and he narrowed his eyes, but she turned her back on him and opened the door. She dropped the wet quilts on the porch table and grabbed one before he made it to the doorway.

“I’ve got things to do, mister. Resources are limited here. I don’t happen to like wet bedding, so get out of my way.”

She shook out the quilt and laid it over the porch railing.

“Where is your electricity coming from?”

He asked the question but didn’t wait for her to answer. He began conducting a search of the back wall of the cabin. The set of narrow steps that led to the roof caught his eye and he was up them before she had the second quilt laid out.

He jumped back onto the porch a moment later. “Nice design.” He stopped in front of her and pegged her with a knowing look. “Where’s your gun?”

Tension drew the muscles of her neck tight. “What makes you think I have one?”

His lips twitched, flashing a peek of even white teeth. “You’ve got electricity, a water source feeding down to your water tank, enough food to last two months. In short, everything to sustain yourself, so that means you have some form of protection.”

“Since you have your own gun, you don’t need mine.”

She made to walk past him and he caught her arm. She gasped but not from pain. This time his grip was solid, driving home just how easily he might make the hold painful if he didn’t control his strength. There was something about that tempering of his grip that unleashed a desire to trust him.

“Let go.” She jerked her arm and watched him decide whether or not to release her. He lifted his hand and she walked back into her kitchen, but a soft footfall behind her told her he’d followed. She lifted a frying pan off a hook and set it on one of the twin burners her stove offered.

“Is that lump on your head making you nauseous?”

“No.” But he reached up and felt along his scalp until he found it.

“Do you remember how you got it?” She pulled some bacon ends from the refrigerator and dropped them into the pan. They started sizzling and she got some eggs out and dropped a couple of slices of bread into the toaster.

He didn’t want to answer her. It was a look she’d seen before, but normally it was from gunshot victims who didn’t want her to file a report with the local police. They could be mighty creative in their attempts to convince her their wounds were from something other than a bullet.

“You were pretty passionate when you came to for a bit.” She kept her tone even from years of practice. An injured person was dangerous and emergency-room nurses had short career expectancies because of it. The upper floors of the hospital offered wards with patients who were much less likely to attack.

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