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ELAINE WALDRON'S OFFICIAL SITE
Elaine Waldron welcomes you to her world of the paranormal romance and other interests. However, before you take a look around, here is her brief bio:
Besides being a novelist, Elaine is also a former newspaper journalist. She has had numerous short stories published in such publications as: Amazing Journeys, Mudrock: Stories & Tales, Trail of Indiscretion #3, and Trail of Indiscretion #4 - winning best story based on cover art for that issue. She has also been published in Chaos Theory, Second Annual Northwoods Anthology, Third Annual Northwoods Anthology, Fourth Annual Northwoods Anthology , Fifth Annual Northwoods Anthology, Dan River Anthology 2006,and Dan River Anthology 2008. She has short stories online with Scars:tv. She also wrote for Amazon Shorts.
Elaine loves the outdoors and good music (from Classical, R & B and Heavy Metal to Soft Jazz). The Mephisto Waltz, Rhapsody in Blue, and Prokofiev's Concerto No. 3 are her favorite musical works. She also loves Chopin and Bach. Favorite singers -- Tom Jones, Lou Rawls, Adam Lambert, Tina Turner and Cher. Her favorite authors are: Isaac Asimov, David Waine, Noel Hynd, L.J. Smith, Mickey Spillane, Ray Bradbury,Edgar Allen Poe, Stephen King, Stephenie Meyer, Jack Engelhard, and John W. Cassell. She enjoys Shakespeare and her favorite poet is Rainer Maria Rilke, and she mostly reads and listens to his works in German.
She is an advocate for preserving our planet, believes in God, and recycles. Loves animals...Has two cats. And when she's not writing or watching her grandchildren, she plays the piano and paints with oils, watercolors, pastels and acrylics.
Other interests include: astronomy, quantum physics, ancient history, religions of the world, and mythologies. She has been studying German for the past three years, when she can take the time to do so.
Her favorite TV shows are Moonlight ( though cancelled much too soon), The Vampire Diaries, The Universe, Through the Wormhole, NCIS, Smallville...Favorite actor of all time - Oskar Werner. Loves the Twilight Series, movies included. And hopes that Moonlight will be made into a movie!
May email here:
Vampires! Aliens! Romance!
While Elaine writes other paranormal romances as well as science fiction, she also writes mystery/thrillers.
BE SURE AND CHECK OUT THE RESISTING ORDINARY PAGE.
All works of art -- with the exception of "George", "Trails of Indiscretion" and "Violet Dawn" covers -- are by the author, Elaine Waldron.
For your enjoyment, I am posting the first chapter of "Powers" for you to read. This doe not include the prologue. I hope you enjoy it enough to want to read the rest.The entire series is available on Amazon, Apple and Sony.
Amber Dalziel eased her Subaru Outback into the long, tree-shrouded drive. She sat there momentarily, eyes focused on the sunlight splashing through the tall pines above, before finally resting her gaze on the somewhat dilapidated front porch. “Ugh!” She was having second thoughts now about her hasty decision to buy this two bedroom cabin in the middle of the woods in the Pacific Northwest, ten miles from the nearest store and gas station. Her mother, Ruby Taylor, told her she’d lost her sanity. Maybe she had. Losing Derek so suddenly and unexpectedly, after only six months of blissful marriage, had been the hardest thing she’d ever endured in her twenty-two years. They’d planned everything out so perfectly – three kids, a home by the bay somewhere along the Texas coastline, a dog and cat. They really hadn’t minded living in the garage apartment in Texas City by an alley. It was only temporary. He’d meant to keep working for Amoco until they had enough money saved to buy that house.
Her gaze lingered on the three steps leading up to the front porch. A board was loose on the right at the top. She’d definitely have to nail that down, the sooner the better. Good thing she was a bit of a “handylady”, something Derek used to tease her about. Although, he actually liked the fact that his wife could “fix” things, as they say in Texas.
Her thoughts drifted and tears pooled in her eyes as she remembered being shaken out of her bed at four a.m. by the explosion at the plant. The one that took ten lives, including Derek’s. She could still hear the sirens wailing and her mobile phone ringing seconds later – Her mother frantically calling to see if she was okay, not saying what was really on both their minds – Was Derek okay?
Her mother and stepfather, Rob Taylor, had come over promptly and they drank coffee and talked about anything and everything but what they feared the most. When the alarm clock went off at six, the time she usually got up to cook Derek’s breakfast, she promptly turned on the six O’clock news. The newscaster was just beginning with his story of the tragedy when there was a knock at the front door. Amber shared anxious glances with her mother and Rob, and Rob took the initiative and answered the door. The officer no sooner got the words out and Amber collapsed into her mother’s arms.
She forced her thoughts back on the cabin, what she thought she wanted. She wanted to be alone and far, far away from anything that would remind her of the dream and her life with Derek that she had lost.
She’d been to Washington only once when she was a preteen, had traveled there with her mother and her mother’s then new husband to visit his family. She’d fallen in love with the tall trees, mountains and cool air instantly, saying that maybe someday she’d like to live there. Only she’d never really believed that she would. That is, not until Derek died.
Her mother had begged her to stay in Texas City with the rest of the family. Amber had two sisters and a brother there with their families. Her father had committed suicide years ago. No one had known he suffered from depression until it was too late.
No doubt her family would miss her, and she would definitely miss them, but the ache of losing Derek was so painful that all she could think of was getting away. Her mother even suggested she go stay with Derek’s mother and father out in Fontana, California. Amber knew that that wouldn’t help. They’d only be grieving right along with her. She didn’t want to grieve anymore, just wanted to get away. The only place she could think of was the wonderful Washington rain forest. As soon as the more than generous insurance money went in her bank, she was out of there and on her way to the Pacific Northwest.
“Well, this is it,” she told herself and slowly opened her door. She went around to the back of her car and took out her largest suitcase, figuring she’d get the smaller one later (the rest of her personal belongings were being shipped UPS), and proceeded to the front porch. There she gingerly went up the steps, careful not to trip on the raised side, sat the suitcase down and fingered for the key, opened the squeaky screen and inserted the key in the lock. She turned the knob and the door fell open.
At first she was leery, wondering if her realtor, Shelia Young, had had all the utilities turned on and had furnished the little cabin with the few things she’d ordered. She sighed with great relief when the light went on and she saw the small love seat she’d ordered from Sears placed as she’d asked in front of the double window to the porch, and off to the right and through the large opening into the kitchen was a small table and two chairs she’d ordered. The little cabin had been sold with a refrigerator and electric range. “Thank goodness!” she breathed. It actually looked almost charming.
She wasn’t sure why she had been worried, but it seemed she worried about everything these days. She had checked Shelia Young out thoroughly before trusting her with settling all the legalities with little house and furnishing it.
As she made a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree turn in the center of the living room, she realized that all looked really good. Clean. Everything that had a place was in place. The wood floors were a dark red mahogany and shone surprisingly bright. She could almost see herself in them. Shelia had had the house cleaned before her arrival. There was a black bear rug in front of the off-white love seat patterned with red roses. The rug being something a little extra Shelia had thrown in for Amber’s generous tip for going beyond the call of duty.
She went to her left then and down the short hall where the two bedrooms were.
They, too, were intact, and hers, the one to her left and front of the cabin, was furnished with a regular size bed, chest-of-drawers, full length mirror on the back of the door and a nightstand by the head of the bed, just in front of the small window there. She had left orders to leave the other bedroom vacant, as she was tinkering with the idea of possibly using it for her painting when she wasn’t working outside.
She liked to paint landscapes in oils and pastels, and tried her hand at an occasional portrait. That was another plus for moving to Washington, all the beautiful scenery she could eventually put on canvass. But right now, first things came first. She laid her suitcase down on the bed and went out to get the smaller one.
By five O’clock, Amber was unpacked. She went to the kitchen and peeked in the refrigerator for the first time, realizing that that was one of the first things she should have checked, but she found she could rest easy. There was fresh milk, a six-pack of canned Coca Colas, fresh vegetables and fruits in the drawers, cold cuts, cheese and several TV dinners in the freezer. On top of the refrigerator was a fresh loaf of wheat bread. She was set for now.
She quickly made a sandwich of sliced ham and cheese and was about to sit down at the little table when she heard a car pull in her drive. Standing up and going to the front window, she saw a tall redheaded woman get out of the car. Amber had never met Shelia in person, but had seen photos of her online before hiring her as her realtor. Sandwich in hand, as she realized she was starving by now, she flung her front door open and went out to greet the pleasantly smiling woman.
“Careful of that top step!”
Shelia instantly smiled. “Oh, I’m fully aware of it, already. In fact, I had left orders for Sam – our man that does maintenance on our properties – to nail it down. But you arrived a day earlier than we anticipated. I was surprised to see your car here in the drive.”
Amber shifted her sandwich to her left hand and wiped her right hand on her jeans and then extended it. Shelia accepted. They shook. Amber liked Shelia’s firm grip, helped seal the trust that was building between the two.
“Yeah… I was going to spend the night in Oregon. But I figured I’d come so close, I might as well come on in. Arrived here around noon.”
“Glad you’re here.”
“Excuse the sandwich,” Amber said apologetically. “I forgot to eat until now. Didn’t realize how hungry I was until I took the first bite! Would you like a ham sandwich?”
Shelia was right behind her as they entered the cabin. “Oh… No thanks. I ate a late lunch. And, after I leave here, I have one more property to check on.”
“Maybe some other time?” Amber suggested as she led the way into the kitchen. “Would you like something to drink? A Coke?”
“Just a glass of water. The water from the well here is absolutely divine. Of course, I had it cleaned out and checked before you came. It is perfectly safe for drinking.”
“Oh! I didn’t realize I had a well.”
“Complete with old-fashioned pump on the top, just behind your back porch,” Shelia replied with a light laugh. “Of course, you have modern plumbing inside… I take it you haven’t been out there?”
“No I haven’t.”
“To the left of your steps. Only wells way out here. Just be thankful the power lines come out this far.” She pointed to the roof. “And a dish for your television, should you decide you want one.”
After getting the glass of water for Shelia, Amber took a seat at the little table and Shelia pulled out the other chair and sat across from her. Amber was beginning to realize there were many things she hadn’t thought through. It was a good thing Shelia was thinking of them for her.
“What’s the funny look for?” Shelia asked, rubbing the diamond ring on her wedding finger with her thumb.
“I guess I should be really thanking you. I could have come out much worse here. It never occurred to me there would be no city pipes out this far… or that I’d have a well.” She took a bite of her sandwich.
“Amber, I’ve been at this job for ten years. You’re not the first person I’ve helped make the transition from city life to this,” she said, extending an open palm towards the window over the sink. Tall pines filled the view, obscuring the sky from where they sat. “I just hope that this is what you really want. Some people get really claustrophobic after being here for a while.”
“Oh? I hadn’t even thought of that. I just remember the cool air, the fine mist you call rain here, and the beautiful trees. Want to paint, you know. Think I told you already.”
“Yes you did.”
“Well, I want to make this work. Nothing I want more at the moment.”
Shelia drank down her water, scooted back her chair and stood. “You have my mobile number. Should you need anything… anything at all, don’t hesitate to give me a call.”
Amber took the last bite of her sandwich, jumped up and followed Shelia to the front door.
“Thanks so much for coming. I’m just beginning to realize how really quiet it is out here.”
“It’s gonna get even quieter. You may find you do want that TV, even though there isn’t any cable, yet. There is that satellite dish I pointed out. From what the temporary renter told me, he had good reception.” Then she added, “Cable is coming soon, though. From what I’ve been told, they’ve been working on it. However, if you want the Internet, gonna have to get it through your phone line when you get your phone in.”
“I might get a television at that,” Amber noted, glancing around the room, now almost wishing Shelia wasn’t leaving.
“I did get you a small radio, though… a welcoming gift.” Shelia smiled softly. “Left it in your closet on the top shelf in your bedroom, in case you want some noise outside of noisy crows and the animals.”
That’s very sweet of you! Thank you! I am sure I will use it.”
“Well, toodle do. You take care, now. You’ll see me again. You’re not rid of me, yet.”
“Oh you’re more than welcome.”
Just as Shelia stepped off the porch Amber called out to her. “Does anyone else live out here in the vicinity… that you know of?”
Shelia opened her car door and then turned around to answer, looking happy that Amber had asked. “Besides a good-looking bachelor in his late thirties that lives about half a mile from here, I believe there is another cabin closer. Recently purchased I might add… by some fella. One of our guys sold it to him. I believe he’s in his late twenties or early thirties. From New York, I think. From what Ed says, you’d never know it. Ed says the man has an accent he’s not familiar with. He thinks the guy is originally from Europe someplace.”
“And this I find strange – Because Ed usually never makes that kind of comment – He says the guy is really good-looking in a different sort of way. Now, what Ed means by that, I guess it’s for us to learn. That is, if we meet him. And you probably will, eventually.” She nodded towards the woods behind the cabin. “I think his cabin is back there someplace… quarter of a mile. Maybe closer. I believe there is a trail leading through. Not sure.” She ducked into her car. “Anyway… Good luck! If I don’t hear from you, I’ll be back in a few days.” She waved, threw her car into reverse and pulled out of the drive, heading down the road and out of sight behind more tall trees.
Amber sighed and went back into her cabin, realizing that she was suddenly feeling very lost and alone. “God!” she gasped. “What have I done?” She thought of calling her mother, and then changed her mind, realizing her mother would know immediately what she was feeling and beg her to come right back home. Though part of her felt like maybe she should do just that, phone her mother, the other part, the part that knew that she couldn’t handle going back home right now and her sense of pride, kept her from calling.
That night, Amber didn’t sleep well at all, tossed and turned, waking up every little bit at the slightest noise. It sounded to her like someone was throwing pebbles or sticks at the windowpanes in her bedroom. When she looked out, she realized the wind was blowing with healthy gusts, and that the noises were more than likely twigs or something similar being blown against the glass. Still, not used to being alone in the wilds, she just wasn’t sleeping.
It was the second night of Donnie and Melanie’s campout when the raven returned and hopped inside their tent, waking Donnie first with guttural croaks. Donnie sat up with a start.
“What the hell?”
Melanie’s eyes popped open just in time to see the bird mushroom into a man and grab her husband by his throat. She scrambled out of her sleeping bag and tried to run, but it was to no avail. The monster had her in seconds.
The sleeping forest was awakened by their keening screams for miles around.
“Oh my God! What was that?” Amber sprang up on her elbows, shaking. She knew she wouldn’t be able to sleep now and swung her legs around to the side of her bed and stood. “Mom, you were right,” she said to the air. “This was an insane idea. I have lost my mind! God! Why didn’t I listen to her?”
She trudged off to the kitchen to make coffee and saw that it was a little after four in the morning. Maybe when daylight hit she could go back to bed for a little while. Maybe she would sleep then. Maybe. Maybe she’d just switch around. She’d sleep in the daytime and stay awake at night. Only then, she wouldn’t be able to paint the beautiful scenery. It would be too dark. “Dammit!” she swore and sat down to the table to wait for her coffee.
Clifford Braz sat aside his long-handled axe, wiped the sweat off his brow with the sleeve of his red and white flannel jacket and looked towards his cabin – Time for breakfast. After chopping wood for the fireplace, he was ravenous.
Soon it would be fall and he’d have to seriously speed up his chopping wood for winter. Right now, he was just hungry. He strode back into his cabin, sat his iron skillet on the burner and turned on the gas. He had propane for cooking, just in case the power went out. Electricity was something he didn’t rely on too much in the backwoods.
Clifford cooked four slices of bacon, three eggs, two pieces of toast and a pot of coffee, sat down to his little round table in the corner of his kitchen and began to eat. His gaze went to the small window in the top of his back door. The wind was blowing through the treetops, causing them to sway, looked as though fall was already here.
His thoughts wandered to the strange sounds he’d heard early in the morning. Thought he’d heard someone screaming, but out here in the thick woods, one heard all kinds of noises, especially at night. Owls, fox, deer, wolves, bears, you name it, roamed through the forest all during the night. Some of them made some really chilling sounds. If a body wasn’t used to it, it could be downright frightening.
An unexpected knock at the front door caught him by surprise. No one ever came around. No one! He’d just barely began to eat, so he sat his plate aside and grudgingly went to see who it was that was interrupting his breakfast. He was really surprised then to see Park Ranger Grady Brown standing there, looking all professional in his green uniform and tan, broad-brimmed hat.
“Hi! Grady. Can I help you?” he asked, brow furrowed, questioning.
Grady was stoic. “I hope so. We found some dead campers this morning, down about a mile from here. Man and a woman. Mid thirties.”
This was a first for Clifford. Other than his wife’s mysterious death three years prior, nothing like this had ever happened since he’d built his cabin some ten years ago. “Bear? You think?” He stepped aside and let Grady in.
The ranger nodded appreciatively. “Not really sure. Could be. Right now, it appears to be some kind of animal attack… Bit unusual. Whatever it was went for their throats. Both white as sheets as though all the blood was drained from their bodies. We’ll know more when the coroner examines them – Just wondered if you heard anything out of the ordinary?”
“As a matter of fact, I did hear some bizarre screaming early this morning… around four or so. As you know, I’ve lived here for years. Get some really weird noises from the animals at night. Chalked it off as to being just that. But, I did notice it. Thought maybe a bear had tackled itself a deer. Deer can kind of scream sometimes.”
“Afraid it wasn’t a deer this time, Clifford…. Probably don’t know your new neighbors, do you?
“No. Afraid I don’t. You said neighbors. Plural. Is there one besides that dark-haired fella that just recently moved in?”
From what I found out, one just moved in yesterday. Young woman. Early twenties. Although, God only knows why a young woman would want to live out here all by herself?”
“Probably for the same reasons I chose to live out here. Maybe she just likes her privacy a bit more than others?”
“This is the first I’ve heard of her.
“Well she’s the next one on my list to question. The other one wasn’t home when I went by.”
“If she heard the screaming, she’s probably ready to move back to wherever she came from today.”
That brought on a suggestion of a smile from Grady. “Could be… Well, thanks for your time, Clifford. I may be back. Only, there’s probably not much more you can tell me.”
“Hope I was of some help.”
Grady grabbed the brim of his hat in a half tip and walked out the door and off to his Jeep.
Amber thought it was Shelia knocking when she was disturbed from her late sleep. She groggily slipped into her white terrycloth robe and slippers and shuffled to the front door, just opening it slightly without removing the chain lock. When she saw the olive green uniform and tan hat of the Park Ranger, she quickly unlocked the chain and opened the door. “Yes?” she said, standing back from the open door and staring at the man with sandy hair and an equally sandy mustache.
“Shelia tells me your name’s Amber Dalziel. Is that correct?”
“Yes it is. Why?”
“May I come inside for a moment?”
“Certainly.” She stepped aside for him.
Noticing her tangled hair, “You look like you didn’t get much sleep?”
“That’s an understatement,” she replied, realizing she was blushing from embarrassment. “It’s going to take some getting used to all the noises out here. I kept thinking someone was throwing rocks at my windows.”
“Yeah. I know the feeling. Used to make me uneasy, too, when I first moved out here from Cleveland. Been a few years back, though. Anyway, getting down to business, were there any other noises or anything that really grabbed your attention?”
“You know. There was. Thought I heard someone screaming. It shook me up so much that I got up and made coffee. I knew I wasn’t going to sleep until daylight arrived.”
“About what time was that?”
“I believe the clock read four-fifteen or something like that. I know it was really early.” She blushed again. “That’s why I’m still in my robe now. Went back to bed as soon as the sun came up enough through the trees and mountains…” As an afterthought she said, “I didn’t realize it took so long to get daylight amidst all these trees.”
A light chuckle escaped from him. “Yes. It does take some adjusting to. Well, thank you for your time, Amber. And you be sure and keep your doors locked at all times, until we find out what’s going on here. Most of the time it’s pretty peaceful around here. Folks that live out here usually feel pretty safe. But bears have been known to open doors.”
She gasped loudly.
“But that’s rare,” he quickly added. “Just don’t leave food outside or anything that might attract them. You’ll probably be all right.”
“Should I be worried, if I encounter one?”
“Just play it cool. Don’t run. Remain calm. And don’t give them any reason to want to bother you. Most of the time, they’ll just go on their way.”
“What about the rest of the time, when they don’t?”
“If you’re outside, slowly go back to the cabin and lock yourself in until the bear leaves. Or, if your car’s closer, get in it and do the same. They don’t usually hang around long. And it won’t hurt to have a mobile phone on you. I’m taking it you probably have one?”
“Yeah, I do. In fact, I was surprised that I actually have pretty good reception out here. I thought I wouldn’t. That’s why I ordered a landline to be put in. But they won’t get it in until next week sometime.”
He reached in his shirt pocket, took out a card and handed it over. “If you should need me, here’s my cell and the station number. The station’s only about two miles from here. If you can’t reach me, you can call Ranger Alice Hicks. She actually lives there and is around most of the time. Again, don’t hesitate if you need us. Or if anything else comes up.” He tipped his hat. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be on my way. Hope you enjoy the rest of your day, Amber.”
“You too. I’ll try.”
“And welcome to the neighborhood.”
She stood there and watched him walk away. He seemed like a very pleasant guy. She did feel better now in knowing there was someone besides Shelia that she could call if she needed to. But she really hoped she wouldn’t need to.
She decided to take a shower and get dressed. There was a little store and Shell station ten miles up the road that practically kissed the foot of Mount Rainier. She thought she’d take a drive later and acquaint her herself with the proprietor. Maybe pick up a few more things to eat, snacks mostly. Maybe they even had some magazines for her to look at until the rest of her things arrived, as she hadn’t brought any of her books with her.
She liked to read herself to sleep at night. And she’d wished that she’d had something to read when she’s been frightened out of bed so early in the morning. She picked out a red sweatshirt and jeans and headed to the bathroom for her shower.
There were five cars parked in around the little store and gas station when she drove up. She pulled up in front of one of the pumps, deciding she might as well get gas now while she was there. A bell overhead the door tinkled as she went inside. It was a typical small community establishment. A pleasant looking teenage girl with mousy-brown hair pulled back in a pony tail was behind the counter.
And a noticeably handsome guy, tall, with ash blond hair, looked to be late twenties or early thirties, was stocking a shelf with Charmin tissue.
“Hi!” the mousy-haired girl beamed. “You’re not from around here, are you?”
“Wasn’t… But I am now.”
Before Amber could say anything else, the girl continued, “You’re the one that’s moved into Martin Stolk’s old cabin, I bet.”
“About ten miles down the road, around the bend, and in the woods?”
“Yep. That would be the one.”
The blond guy stood and moved her way, extending a hand. “I’m Paul Stevenson and the nosey girl there is my sister, Judy.”
“Amber Dalziel.” She took his hand and liked his strong grip. He had a pleasant squint to his eyes that she found attractive.
His brow went up. “Unusual last name you have there.”
“From my late husband. He was of Scottish-Gaelic descent.” They released hands.
He frowned inquisitively. “Late… husband?”
She caught the flicker of surprise in his eyes. She was very young to be a widow.
“Yes. Derek was killed in an explosion where he worked at a refinery in Texas. Just a few months back. We’d been married… not quite six months. One of the reasons I moved up here… to get away from it all.”
“So sorry to hear that,” he said, apologetically. “Not that you moved up here, though,” he quickly added.
She liked his green eyes. They were almost olive and sparkled with little specks of gold. “It’s okay. Not your fault. Not anyone’s fault. Things just happen.”
He skewed his head slightly. “Yes. Unfortunately they do. Like our folks… killed in a plane crash two years ago. Now, it’s just me and Judy here. Folks left us this store to run. Not much. But it’s a living.”
“Yes it is. With the insurance, I was able to buy the cabin, a new car, and move up here, much to my mother’s disappointment. I’m a self-proclaimed artist,” she said, blushing slightly. “I’m financially set for a while. So, gonna take it easy. Hopefully, enjoy the scenery and see if I can transfer some semblance of the beauty around here to canvas.”
“Sounds like a plan. Judy likes to draw,” he commented, eyeing his sister.
“You do?” Amber asked, attention going to the girl.
“Mostly pencil and charcoal. I’ve thought about painting, but never got around to it.”
“Maybe I can show you a few things to get you started in that direction?”
Judy’s slightly freckled face transformed from a pleasant smile to sunny. “Would you?”
“Hey… That’s really great of you to offer,” Paul noted. “Judy gets really lonesome sometimes when she’s not at school or helping me out here at the store, since our folks have been gone.”
“I do have a couple of girlfriends, but they don’t live close. So, we don’t hang out real often.”
“Only most weekends,” Paul inserted.
Bugging her eyes pointedly. “When I’m not working!”
They definitely acted like brother and sister. “Well, I know I could use a new friend or two. Don’t really know anyone much, yet… My realtor, Shelia. And I just met a park ranger by the name of Grady.”
“Know them both,” Paul said. “Grady’s one of my very best friends. Known him since I was little.”
“Grady’s an old grump,” Judy commented.
“Not when you get to know him, sis. He just takes his job seriously. ” Paul turned to Amber. “Sorry for the arguing. We go on like this… a lot.” He made a funny, apologetic face.
“Hey, I get it. I have two sisters and a brother of my own. We still argue. I’m twenty-two and they’re all older than I.”
“That’s encouraging,” Judy said with a note of sarcasm. Then she quickly smiled at Amber. “Sorry.”
The bell over the front door tinkled and a noticeably handsome man of medium height and dark hair entered. He was wearing a brown leather jacket over a dark blue turtleneck and had on jeans. He appeared to be around the same age as Paul. His penetrating chalk-blue eyes were manifest under his dark eyebrows. And it was obvious he was wearing boots as he clicked through the store, walking with a noticeable but attractive, self-assured swagger.
He didn’t speak but gave Paul a respectful nod and briefly glanced at Judy, who quickly looked away, and then his gaze settled on Amber as he clicked by. Tiny sparks suddenly shot from his eyes, immediately rendering her weak-kneed, disquieting her normal composure.
She was instantly uncomfortable, which he seemed to notice, for he quickly looked away and went immediately to the back and took a six-pack of beer out of the cooler and continued straight up to the counter for Judy to check him out.
Amber looked back at Paul, who was staring down at her with questioning concern. He had obviously noticed the man’s effect on her. Amber swallowed a lump that had formed in her throat and did her best to regain her composure.
“Well, I came here for gas, magazines and some snacks.” She glanced across the store and saw the display of chips. She pointed towards them. “Just what I was looking for.”
“Magazines are over there to the right of the door,” Judy said.
“How much gas you need?” Paul asked, eyes trailing the dark-haired man who had paid for his beer and was walking out the door, but keeping his eyes straight ahead, not looking at Amber again.
“Tanks about half full. I was planning on filling it up.”
“I’ll do it for you.”
“That’s very kind of you, Paul.”
He smiled slightly. “Just good business. Not too many places pump your gas for you anymore. I try to do it for my customers when I can.”
“More than welcome.” He turned and went out the door, watching the dark-haired man pulling out in his red Porsche.
Amber grabbed a “People” magazine, a couple of bags of chips, some chocolate chip cookies and a pack of gum and went to the counter where Judy was looking at her inquisitively.
“That Mr. Lodovico made you nervous, didn’t he?”
“Oh! Was it that obvious?”
“Couldn’t miss it. Thought you were going to faint for a second there. Honestly, I think he makes everyone a little nervous. Something odd about him.”
“I am tired.” Waving a hand in the air, “I didn’t sleep much at all last night. And I haven’t eaten a lot. Plus I’m tired from driving for three days. He didn’t really bother me that much.”
Judy didn’t look so certain. “Well, he strikes me as being kind of weird. He never says much to anyone. None of us really know him. Besides you, he’s our newest neighbor.”
“You said his name is Lodovico?”
“Yes. Sounds foreign. His first name’s Dorian. You know, like in Dorian Gray. Claims he’s from upper New York. Truthfully, I suspect he came from someplace else before that. He didn’t really say anything while he was here. So you didn’t hear his accent. It’s not real strong, but I think you’ll notice it if you ever hear him speak.”
“After the way he looked at me, not so sure I’m in any hurry.” She blushed slightly. “Guess he did rock my composure a little.”
The door bell tinkled and Paul came in and went behind the counter. “Just over fifteen dollars.” He picked up a bag of chips. “All this is yours, too… I gather. Since there are no other customers in the store.”
“Yep. All mine.”
Smiling warmly with that becoming little squint, he rang up her purchase. She paid him cash and he closed the register. “Glad to have you as a new neighbor, Amber.”
“I’m glad to meet the both of you.” She smiled pleasantly to Judy who was standing behind Paul on his right. She went to turn and walk away, but he spoke again.
“I hope Mr. Lodovico didn’t unnerve you too much?”
She blushed again. “Oh that! He just caught me off guard… is all. Like I told your sister, I am exhausted from traveling, lack of sleep and not eating properly.”
He cocked his head, apparently not totally buying her explanation, but he continued smiling. “Okay. But none of us are really acquainted with him. If he does bother you, in any way, you let me know. Okay?”
She bobbed her head. “Yes! I will. Thanks!” she focused her gaze on Judy then. “Soon as I get settled, I’ll let you know. And maybe we can get together on starting you painting.”
“I’d love that!” Judy replied, beaming again.
Amber waved then and left.