I woke up with a knot in my stomach, a sensation that something was wrong. Perhaps all the wine I had drank the other night was taking its toll on me. It only took me a few seconds to remember why I had started drinking in the first place and my stomach churned in disgust as I ran to the bathroom to empty the little food I had left in it. Loki came running in the bathroom noticing I had woken up, immediately waging his tail at me to take him out. I’d named him after Thor – his dad and Hunter’s dog, not his personality. He was an adorable golden retriever who’d been sharing my home for the past two weeks and had made every part of my day feel better and safer because I was never alone.
I petted him behind his ears and said, ‘In a minute, bud.’ willing myself to get up from the floor. I brushed my teeth in a hurry and put on a sweater to take him out. As soon as I opened the bedroom door, Loki shot up and ran down the stairs to be the first to reach the front door. He was jumping up and down enthusiastically so, without thinking I just opened the door for him and let him run free. Closing it behind me I noticed a white envelope lying on the porch and a shiver went down my spine. I wasn’t prepared to open it and let it destroy my world since I knew it wouldn’t be long until someone found me but I prayed it wasn’t what I thought it would be. Sitting down on the stairs in the front porch, I opened the envelope and with shaky hands took out its contents and read them:
Grams is inviting you for tea at the farm today at 12. She insisted I put this in writing and make it more official! I honestly think it’s to guilt you into coming but I’m hoping you don’t go just because of that. Stay safe. -Hunter
I blew out a breath I didn’t know I was holding and tears started streaming down my face. I assumed when an empty envelope showed up on my front porch steps that it would be related to the news I had read last night about James – my husband. Police had found him in the lake close to our house after an anonymous tip had come in about his body being there. The media had tried to make it look as if he fell in the lake during his usual morning runs and drowned but the coroner’s report had shown he’d been mutilated and did die from drowning and several other injuries but he was most likely put there by the person that killed him. I started drinking myself senseless until I passed out after reading that.
I had come here in hopes of running away from the obvious danger, once he went missing after getting involved with some bad people I knew it was a question of time until they’d come and get me in case I knew something about what he was hiding. So, I ran until I got here and rented this cottage hidden in the mountains in hopes no one would find me. It seemed like they wouldn’t but why would these powerful people even allow the police to find James’ body if not to draw me out and kill me as well?
I called out Loki’s name and took him inside the house, quickly changing into some clothes and heading towards Nora’s farm. It was only a little after ten but I would make an excuse for coming in this early since I was too afraid to be in my house, despite having Loki there. I arrived at the farm fifteen minutes later and saw Hunter’s car parked in his usual spot. I sighed in relief because for some reason that gave me comfort. On my drive here I had come up with a million excuses in my head but I stuck with the most normal one: I had a video-call with my editor around 1 and wouldn’t be able to stay long for tea so I had come earlier.
I climbed out of the car and put Loki’s leash on only letting him go once we were secured behind the fence. He immediately left my side probably in search of Thor and Daisy since the rest of the pups had been sold shortly after I had taken him home. I heard a whistle in the distance and turned around to see Hunter walking alongside Silver – the horse who’d been to ill to even stand a few weeks back. I smiled and waved at both, making my way towards them to say hi properly.
‘Hey, what are you doing here so early?’ He asked in surprise but didn’t seem to mind my presence. ‘I have a video-call with my editor at 1 and wouldn’t have been able to stay long for tea so I came a bit earlier, do you think Nora will mind?’ I gave him the rehearsed excuse I’d come up with in the car and hoped he wouldn’t question it.
As it was he didn’t and invited me to join his walk with Silver to kill some time before I went up to see Nora. ‘How are you doing? I feel like I haven’t seen you in awhile.’ He admitted and instantly warmed my insides since this was another way of him telling me he missed me. ‘I’ve been good. Busy. How about you?’ avoiding the question as best as I could, I asked about him somehow a safer topic. ‘Are you sure?’ He asked, somewhat concerned as he looked me in the eye and I felt like he saw everything I’d been through in the last twelve hours. ‘Yeah, why?’ I answered, half-laughing at his concern as if nothing was wrong. ‘Your eyes, they are red so I’m guessing you’ve been crying.’ He placed a hand on my face and traced my dark circles with his thumb sending electric shivers through the rest of my body, ‘and these dark circles…you haven’t been sleeping, have you?’. I shook my head as if what he was saying didn’t make sense but could feel my eyes watering again ‘I’m fine, really. I’m fine.’ Before tears could stream down my face I pulled away from his touch, as comforting as it felt, and ran away from him towards my car as fast as I could remembering on the way that Loki was here too.
By the time Hunter reached me I was shouting Loki’s name and wiping tears from both my cheeks, ‘Hey, it’s okay. Whatever it is, you can tell me, you don’t need to run. You can trust me.’ I wished that I could, my heart told me to just let go and accept the help he was offering but my brain kept telling me to run. ‘You don’t understand,’ I began, ‘You can’t help me. LOKI! Come here boy!’ He grasped my shaky hands in his and looked me straight in the eye ‘Let. me. try!’ I shook my head but he didn’t take no for an answer, pulling me in his arms to hold me for what felt like an eternity where all I could do was sob uncontrollably. He led me into the main barn for some privacy since there were other people on the property besides us, sitting down on a haystack he whispered reassuring words in my ear whilst holding me tight against his chest.
It was there that I felt his soft lips touch my forehead and press light kisses over my head. We had never shared an embrace much more a kiss and yet here we were, me- a horrible mess and Hunter -the only person that made me feel safe right now. Inches away from each other’s lips I realised that if I wanted it, this would be the place where our first kiss would happen but it seemed wrong. Last night I’d seen my dead husband’s body being dragged out of a lake and now I was in the arms of another man about to kiss him. James and I, hadn’t been husband and wife for awhile and the reason he got himself in this mess was because he wanted more than I gave him and he felt I was the one holding him back. Despite our tumultuous time together he and I had been married and it felt wrong to kiss another man after learning of his death. So, I wiped my tears and blew my nose in a very unladylike manner with a tissue and asked Hunter, ‘Do you think we can keep this between us? I don’t want your grandmother worrying’. He nodded and took his hands away from me, our connection broken but still visible in his eyes, ‘As long as you promise to tell me the reason behind it, when you’re ready that is.’
I nodded in agreement and allowed him to help me up and brush off the hay from my legs coming from the stack. I thought he wouldn’t touch me again but I was surprised by his sudden embrace, which this time glued our bodies together and allowed me to feel his scent and snuggle a bit into him until he let go. ‘You’re a good person Hunter.’ I smiled and caressed his cheek, ‘You’re a good person too, Mia’ he replied but I wasn’t so sure.
Note: Follow the rest of the story on my blog’s daily posts with ‘MB’ in the title.