Into the Hollow
Rigby put the case away in his pack and we went back outside into the cold as Christina was done readying their horses for the jaunt back home. I wanted nothing more than to stay inside with my ass parked by the fire, but I didn’t want to be rude either and not see them off.
I was just leaving the cabin when Christina came up to me, thrusting a small vinyl bag into my hands.
“Here,” she said, zipping it open. Inside was a folded piece of paper and two walkie talkies. “I know Rigby gave you his map but I thought you’d want my map. I don’t want to tell him how often I’ve been out before and after the accident or he’d freak. But I circled some spots that I thought were kinda weird.”
I eyed her carefully, seeing sincerity in her big eyes. “Kinda weird?”
She looked over her shoulder at her father who was getting on his horse, and took a step closer. “The other day I found a deer gutted from belly to neck. All its organs were gone.”
I both frowned and grimaced. “The other day? You came back out here?”
“I had to know,” she whispered harshly. “Dad was in town so I thought I’d explore. Nothing happened to me, obvs, and I was on Taffy. I didn’t tell him cuz he’d be totally mad but I thought you might wanna know where it happened. It looked like it had been dragged a few feet too and then left behind. I don’t know why. It was too gross to look closely and smelled raunchy, so I booked it home after that. Anyway, I circled it on my map for you.”
“Oh,” I said uneasily. “Thanks, I guess.”
“And the walkie talkies are also for you guys. I know your phones don’t work here and Rigby and I have a set back at the cabin. In case you get into danger. Mitch doesn’t even carry one so, you know, thought it would make you feel safer.”
Actually, it kind of did. I thanked her and she beamed in response before running back to Taffy.
“Well,” Rigby said, leaning lazily on the horn on his western saddle. “I’ll be leaving you guys for a few days. I probably should have packed some walkie talkies for you all…”
“I just gave them to Perry,” Christina piped up as she swung up on Taffy.
He looked to me in surprise and I picked up one of the talkies out of the bag and waved it at him.
“Oh, good,” he said, straightening up. “Glad I’ve got a daughter with bigger brains than I. Well, God forbid anything should go wrong, but if it does, just use those and I’ll come a running. I’ll leave it on all day and night, just in case, so don’t you worry.”
I swallowed hard at the thought but managed to look confident.
“Safe ride back,” Dex said to them with a wave, before coming toward me.
I watched Rigby and Christina coax their horses into a walk and soon they were out of sight, leaving only me, Dex and Mitch. Alone. It took Dex standing in front of me and staring down at my hands to realize I had been gripping the bag until my knuckles had turned white.
Dinner that evening was stiff and awkward between the three of us. Dex decided to take over Christina’s role of making dinner, which normally would have been quite sexy, but him being preoccupied meant that I was alone in the living room with Mitch, both of us staring at the fire.
Well, I was staring at the fire. Mitch was staring at me. And he hadn’t stopped staring at me for the last fifteen minutes. It would have been creepy on its own, but it was made worse by the incident we had earlier.
After Rigby and Christina left, we all went inside to get warm and plot out the rest of the day. Mitch had toyed with the idea of going hunting, for what I didn’t know, while the sky was still clear. He invited me to come and be his spotter and when I immediately declined, he decided he wasn’t going to go after all. Just great.
So Dex took the initiative and began to plan out the next few days. Over bags of Rigby’s homemade venison jerky and cups of coffee, the three of sat around the table figuring out our shooting schedule. Mitch wanted us to go camping the next day but Dex decided that it would be best to have the cabin as a home base for as long as possible and maybe ditch the whole camping idea all together. Mitch was used to the outdoors but we weren’t and we didn’t want to camp in this weather until we absolutely had to. There was still plenty of stuff to film around the cabin and we couldn’t ignore the fact that Rigby mentioned it would snow for the next 48 hours.
Mitch relented, though he told us in order to reach some of the places on the map, we’d have to pack up the llamas and make a night of it. I didn’t like that idea at all, but from the quick look I had at the map, I knew short journeys were out of the question. At least Dex and I had convinced him to be in the cabin for the next few days.
It was after this conversation when Dex excused himself to go to the bathroom. I watched him leave the cabin, feeling alone and nervous, and I quickly got up to busy myself by making another pot of coffee.
I had my back turned to Mitch and didn’t even hear him until he breathed down my neck and said, “You making me one?”
I gasped and turned around, nearly spilling the instant coffee container. Mitch was nearly pressed up against me, way too close for comfort and way inside my personal space. I had to lean my head back to feel remotely comfortable and my hands gripped the edge of the counter.
“Sorry,” I said, my voice heavy with annoyance. “I can make you one if you want.”
He grinned and I hated that I was so close I could see his front teeth were all fake, their whiteness not matching the rest. He had obviously lost them all somewhere and I didn’t care to know about it.
“Girly, you making one for him?”
I cocked a brow and adjusted myself. I wished I had more room to maneuver away from him.
“You his woman?”
I narrowed my eyes in thought. Did I tell him yes or no? I wasn’t Dex’s woman but this was the type of circumstance you were supposed to lie in.
“I’m his partner,” I managed to say. It was the truth.
“You ever been with a real man?”
Had I not been in such a vulnerable position, I would have laughed. I felt a smiling coming on but I swallowed it with a click in my throat.
“Yes I have,” I said, finding strength in my gut. I looked him right in his beady eyes. “And I don’t need you to show me, if that’s what you’re getting at.”
A flash of hatred washed across his eyes, the kind that made my breath hitch, then it was gone. He straightened up and took a step back.
“I’m not getting at anything girly,” he said, looking suddenly nonchalant. “But I’d still like a coffee, if you wouldn’t mind.”
He turned and went back to the table. I watched him for a few beats, a weird knot in my stomach, until Dex came back into the cabin. A cold gust of wind followed him in and he quickly shut the door but I only felt relief. As he brushed a few flakes off his shoulders and hung up his jacket, he said, “It’s really starting to come down out there.”
I nodded and turned back to the coffee preparations. I wasn’t sure if I should say anything to him about Mitch or not. If I did, I had a feeling Dex wouldn’t take to it very well and it would probably mess up the whole shoot. If Dex didn’t get his ass beaten by the giant bald monkey, he’d at least piss Mitch off and everything would be over. So I decided to keep my mouth shut.
For the time being.
Now it was dinner and while Mitch hadn’t made any moves, his staring was driving into my core, making me feel weak from the inside out. I kept my eyes on the crackle of the flames, allowing myself to be hypnotized by them.
When Dex finally announced that dinner was served, I practically jumped to my feet and scampered over to the table. I would have eaten pig’s brains if that’s what he was serving, but it was just grilled cheese sandwiches with a bit of canned Irish stew. Not gourmet but good enough and I was starving.
Mitch brought the bottle of bourbon to the table, which Dex and I both promptly refused. No way in hell was I going down that road again, especially since I felt like shit for most of the day. In fact, by the time dinner was over, even though it was only 7pm, I was ready for bed.
I quickly did the dishes, then grabbed a bottle of water from the box of food supplies and headed to the room. Dex looked up at me from the couch where he was analyzing footage I had shot. Mitch looked at me too with glazed eyes, the bourbon bottle in his lap.
“I’m turning in early,” I told them. Well, I told Dex. I didn’t want to look at Mitch any longer than I had to.
Dex looked concerned and started to get up.
“Stay,” I commanded him. “I’m just really exhausted. Long day.”
Long hungover day.
He bit his lip briefly, then nodded. “All right, well let me know if you need anything. I won’t be up too long either, just want to get an idea of what we need to shoot.”
I smiled quickly and shut the door behind me.
I immediately ran into the wardrobe. I had forgotten how dark the room was when the lamp wasn’t lit and the night sky was moonless as a steady stream of snow fell to the ground in waves.
I fished a flashlight out of my pants and then proceeded to get into my pajamas in record time. Though it was warm by the door, the closer to the bed – and the window – you got, the colder the room was. It was as iced as the air outside, the walls and window providing no insulation at all. By the time I had slipped on a hoodie and more socks, I jumped under the covers and bundled myself up in them until I stopped shivering.
Lying there alone gave me a chance to think unfettered. I wondered what to do about Mitch and if there would be any further weirdness from him. I figured I’d just stick as close to Dex as possible. Maybe I was overreacting and maybe Mitch would get the hint, but it didn’t hurt to be careful.
Of course, it could hurt to be close to Dex. I still felt flushed at the thought of what I did last night and even more flushed when my mind began to pull up some of the drunken memories and dwell on them. The feeling of his smooth skin beneath my hands, the look in his eyes, the hardness of his cock beneath my pelvis. It was like watching a porn in my head, only I wasn’t the star of it. Drunk Perry was and I winced a few times in disbelief at my actions. Though I was mildly insulted earlier when I found out that Dex had stopped me from going down on him, I was mainly grateful as hell. He was right. I would have hated myself and if he had let me do it, I would have hated him. This was one of the few times where rejection didn’t completely suck and a warmness squeezed around my heart. I didn’t know how I felt about that man half the time, but he earned my trust again last night. I just hoped he knew how to hold onto it.
I was half-asleep in these chaotic thoughts, my mind now focusing on the Beast and the stories Rigby had told us, when a light crept behind my eyelids and I felt someone else in the room with me.
I lifted up the covers and poked my head out into the frigid air. The kerosene lamp was lit and Dex was standing on the other side of the bed with his back to me, slipping on his drawstring pajama pants.
Then he took off his sweater and shirt and bent down to pick up another shirt. His back was bare, the tattoo on his shoulder hard to read but totally visible.