The Mountain Man's Secret Twins(3)By: Alexa Ross & Holly Rayner
She sent an email to her boss, explaining that she’d canceled her client meetings over the next few days and she’d be in Vermont to “clear her head.”
“Go ahead,” her boss emailed back. “We’ll see you when you’re ready to return.”
From the email, Kenzie realized that her boss had known this day was coming all along. He’d probably recognized Tori and Austin’s affection for one another long before and had decided to stay out of it, for better or for worse.
As she sat, stewing, she clicked around online, checking out a few Vermont cabins near the ski resorts. She imagined having the entire creaky cabin to herself: making tea, reading poetry, trying to remind herself what made her unique, what made her who she was, beyond Austin. The photos seemed fine, displaying a rugged interior and a large, crooked bed.
“Perfect,” she whispered, clicking on the payment options. Before she knew it, she’d booked a stay for the next week.
Her boss gave her a knowing look as she left the office. She wrapped her coat around herself and trudged to her car. That morning she’d been loved, a woman with a boyfriend—one she’d assumed would propose in the next year. But this afternoon she was single, alone, with nothing but the open road stretched before her.
She stopped only once, at her apartment, to grab a few clothes and her skis. Then she swept off toward that tiny cabin in Vermont with fire in her eyes, listening to music as loudly as she possibly could and driving five miles over the speed limit, a reckless action incredibly unlike her.
Vermont became hilly, mountainous, covered in snow around her as she drove into the evening. As she drove farther toward her destination, she found she could no longer hear the gossiping of her coworkers echoing in her ears. She could no longer hear her mother’s words declaring that her only purpose was to find a suitable mate. All she could hear was the music blaring in her ears. She felt free.
The Vermont cabin was tucked away on Mount Mansfield, behind several twiggy trees and up a winding driveway. As she crept up, Kenzie passed one or two other rickety cabins. She wondered who her neighbors were. Perhaps married couples, looking to get away? Or other soulless, single women trying to get over the prospect of love? She imagined she’d never know, as she’d be locking herself away, leaving only for food runs and long, solitary days at the ski resort. She hadn’t come to commune with anyone, or to make friends. She’d come to rid her brain of its current turmoil. She’d come to feel like a person again.
She parked outside the cabin she’d reserved, checking her email quickly to ensure it was the proper address. She shrugged to herself, noting that the cabin looked a bit more dilapidated than it had in the photograph. As a real estate agent herself, she knew the little tricks of the trade, the ways to make a place look better than it really was. Remarkably, the online tactics had worked on her as well. She supposed she’d been a bit distracted, however.
She got out of her car and marched through the snow, feeling the chilly precipitation melt upon her nylons and drench her skin. She walked up the creaky steps, lifting the ‘welcome’ mat to find a key beneath. She smiled to herself, feeling like it was 1950, when people trusted one another enough to leave hideaway keys, and even to keep their doors wide open for children to run in and out.
She unlocked the door, feeling a vague fear pass over her. The door stuck, but she forced it open, revealing the run-down interior. Immediately, she realized the cabin hadn’t been warmed in several weeks, as it was even chillier on the inside than it was on the porch. She walked along the floorboards toward the heating system, flinging the switch up. She waited, tipping her weight forward on her toes, and realized that the heater cranked nothing but dust into the air. She breathed hot air into her hands, scrubbing her palms together, realizing she couldn’t survive in that cabin without heat.
“Shoot,” she whispered. She turned toward the kitchen, with its ’60s-era refrigerator and its crooked sink, and turned the handle of the faucet, thinking she could heat up some water. Nothing but a small, brown trickle came from the mouth. She sighed.