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Authors: Sidney Bristol

Tags: #Erotica

Personal Adventures (7 page)

BOOK: Personal Adventures
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His words echoed her sentiments. Squeezing his fingers, she looked at him. “What is it?”

His eyes lit up. “I bought Adventures two weeks ago. Allen’s going to stay on through the winter season and retire in the spring.”

Carey’s words were drowned out in a rush of blood. Her vision blurred and her heart stopped in her chest.

“Elise?”

She sat and stared at him as if she’d never met him before. This person, she didn’t know him. “You did what?” Her shrill voice echoed off the rocks, breaking the peaceful morning.

He sat up, his brows raised. “I said I bought Adventures. Elise—”

“You bought Adventures? My Adventures?” She scrambled to her feet, hands balled into fists.

She’d gone to work at Adventures in high school. There she’d had not just a place to belong, but an escape. And he was taking it away from her, just like her parents had taken everything else in her life. He was no better than they were.

“Yes.” He stood and reached for her, his voice soothing, but she wouldn’t be soothed. “Calm down. It’s not closing, I just—”

Planting her hands on his chest, she shoved him back a few steps. “No! I don’t want to hear it!”

Elise turned and ran up the stairs. Her dress still hung on the peg by the tub. She grabbed it and pulled it on before fleeing the house. She heard him calling out her name, but she had a head start.

Carey had stolen her dream. The thing that she’d worked for, the haggling with Allen promising to give her time, it was useless. In a flight of fancy, because he felt like buying something shiny and new, he’d stolen everything from her.

* * * * *

 

Carey threw his keys on the kitchen counter, pulled the refrigerator open and grabbed a bottle of water. He’d been to all of their favorite spots and he still couldn’t find Elise. Glancing at the clock, he decided to try Allen one more time.

Fishing his cell phone out of his pocket, he speed dialed his former boss and listened to the phone ring. Allen was avoiding him, and he didn’t know why.

“Yeah?” the old man sighed into the phone.

“Allen. Hey.” Usually he liked chatting with the old hippie, but he was raw and not in the mood.

“Hey, Carey. I imagine you’re calling about Elly?”

His grip on the water tightened.

Allen sighed heavily into the phone again. “She quit. Called yesterday, chewed my ass out and said don’t ever speak to her again. I’m sorry, Carey, I didn’t know she’d react that way.”

Slamming the bottle down on the counter, he was thankful this conversation was happening over the phone. In person, he’d want to punch the old man. “What way? I still don’t know what she’s so fucking upset about.” He clamped his mouth shut. Yelling at the guy wasn’t going to get him anywhere.

“I know, I know. A few years ago, before you were in the picture and when things were going well, Elly and I talked about her buying Adventures. We never talked about it again, and I knew she didn’t have what it took to buy it. I didn’t think she would react how she did.”

Elise wanted Adventures?

It all snapped into place.

Carey turned and paced the length of the cabin. He needed to get out there and find her. It wasn’t his fault he hadn’t known they wanted the same thing, but he was paying for it. “Do you know where she would go? She’s not at home and she’s not answering her phone.”

Allen laughed bitterly. “If she doesn’t want to be found, you won’t find her. Elly used to be a wild little thing. Her daddy taught her how to survive out there before he fell off the wagon. Who knows where she’s gone?”

Carey’s phone beeped. Glancing at the display, he groaned. “Hey, I have another call I have to take. Do you have time to drive me to some spots she might have gone to? I have to find her, and her roommates don’t know where she’s gone.”

“Sure. It’s the least I can do. I’m sorry, Carey.”

“Yeah, so am I. Later.” He clicked to the incoming call. “Hey, Mom.”

“Carey. Hi, honey. How are you?”

He smiled a little as he pushed the door to the back porch open and went to sit on the wicker couch. “I’m okay. How are you, Mom?”

“Busy, as usual. We’re going to be in Denver for a few weeks. You should come up and see us. I know your father would love to have you around.”

“I’ll see what I can do. I’d like to come see you guys, but I need to get things squared away here.” As he leaned back into the couch, his gaze fell on the hot tub.

She dropped the cheery tone. “Are you still buying that place? Carey, that doesn’t sound smart.”

“I already bought it. I told you I was, and it’s a good investment. Did you look at the stuff I put together about it?” He’d brushed off his old marketing skills to put together a fancy presentation and sent it to his parents as a test market.

“Well, yes. It looked nice. I just want what’s best for you. Are you sure you don’t want to go back to work for your father? It’s been such a long time since all that nasty business happened.”

“Mom, I love working at Adventures, and I’m going to turn it into something even better. It makes me happy. Working for Dad never did.”

There was a long pause. He could imagine his mother sitting out in the sun room at the back of the house. She was probably wearing one of those skirt suits in some pastel shade with pearls. She always looked classy and perfect.

“I just want you to be happy.”

“I am, Mom.” Or he would be, as soon as he found Elise and tied her to his hip.

“Okay, that’s the last I’ll say of it then. Do you have any of these tours people as old as your father and I can go on?”

He laughed. “Mom, you’ll end up loving it.”

“I wouldn’t say that.”

They chatted for a while longer and, try as he might, Carey couldn’t stay focused on the latest political scheming. Usually he loved to talk politics with his mom and dad, but he couldn’t muster an interest in it. Not when all he was thinking about was that in a few hours the sun would set, and Elise would be out there alone when she should be here with him. It pissed him off. They had a lot to talk about, but he’d start with an apology.

Chapter Nine

 

Elise stopped in the shade of the trees surrounding the cabin. Lights illuminated the interior through the panes of glass, but she hadn’t left them on. No car in the driveway meant whoever her visitor was, they must have walked. The people who knew she was using Danny’s family hunting cabin could be counted on one hand. All of them knew she wanted privacy.

She glanced behind her, the trail disappeared into twilight and she briefly considered returning to the wilderness. But she didn’t have anything to eat and going hungry when she didn’t have to anymore held no appeal. Grasping the straps on her pack, she took a deep breath and walked into the large clearing.

No one moved inside of the cabin as she approached, and neither did she spy anyone in the cabin when she passed by one of the windows.

Suspicious, she slowly turned the knob and pushed the door open. The local news narrated softly in the background, but no interloper appeared. The bathroom was a small, walled in area in the back, right corner of the house. The kitchen backed up to it and extended toward the door. It was all old, well-used appliances and furniture. Things passed from generation to generation and cared for. A plank table sat to her right, pushed up against the wall next to her. On that table top she could trace the marks of countless children learning to use a knife. To the left, two couches partitioned off the living room, and an old TV struggled to remain relevant with tinfoil dressed rabbit ears.

There was only one other area to hide. The loft, which also served as the bedroom. But first she wanted to check the bathroom. Anyone could have stopped by. Danny’s family was large, and the boys all liked to hunt.

She tiptoed to the bathroom and stuck her head in. An old claw foot tub, toilet that you had to jiggle the handle and a sink that didn’t work was all that was present. But no one waiting to leap out at her.

“There you are.”

She flinched at the sharp, clipped tones and hunched her shoulders out of habit. Stepping out of the bathroom, she looked up the stairs at the woman descending. She might have been beautiful once, but time and a sour disposition had ruined her. Long black hair was matted and tangled around her shoulders. Her t-shirt and jeans were rumpled, no telling how long she’d been wearing the one change of clothing. Her face was prematurely lined around her eyes and mouth from scowling, an expression that was now directed at Elise.

“Hi, Mom.”

“Don’t you, “Hi,” me. Where have you been?” She descended the last steps and planted her fists on her hips.

“Hiking,” she mumbled.

Her mother made a disgusted sound and threw her hands up. “Hiking.”

Elise forced one foot in front of the other. She was an adult, and she had every right to be in the cabin. Repeating that mantra, she headed for the table and slipped her backpack off.

“What brings you out here?” Her mother was not an outdoors kind of person, and the cabin was very close to nature.

“Eddy kicked me out.” She rolled her eyes and shrugged, as if it were nothing serious.

Elise blanched and gripped the table. “Didn’t you just get remarried in Vegas?”

“Yeah. When he gets over himself he’ll take me back.”

“What happened?”

Her mother crossed her arms and thrust her chin out. Juvenile behavior was common for her, though Elise had only been able to identify it as an adult. “I was walking from the fire pit to the back porch and fell. I could have broken my nose and died! All he did was laugh at me. So I told him you weren’t his daughter.”

Shock slapped her in the face. Elise’s jaw dropped and her stomach threatened mutiny.

“What? You’re joking, right?” Her voice wavered.

“Why would I joke? He knew it was a possibility. I just told him what he already knew.” She wrinkled her nose and looked at the kitchen. “Are you going to cook? I’m hungry.”

Of her parents, she’d been closest to her father. When she was younger, and he hadn’t relied on the bottle, he’d taught her how to track and hunt, what places made good camping spots and how to live. His lessons had made her youth survivable.

“Are you serious? My dad isn’t my dad?”

The furrows on her brow deepened. “I don’t know. He could be, but it would surprise me if he was. I’d like chicken salad, if you can manage it.”

Elise watched her mother walk to one of the couches and flop down. She couldn’t deny that she was her mother’s daughter, but her father? She’d often lamented that she didn’t look more like him.

Whose daughter was she?

Who was her father?

Did she want to know?

Who else knew?

It was her pre-teen years all over again. Her cheeks heated and her gaze latched on to a scratch in the wood floor. If it was true, then others knew. How many of the pitying glances had been for her father, raising a daughter who was not his? Why hadn’t her real father wanted her? Why would her mother tell her now?

“Do you even have internet out here? Why can’t you stay somewhere nicer?”

“Danny offered to let me stay here.” Her mouth was dry and her stomach fluttered. She could taste bile on the back of her throat. Could Danny be her brother? What clan did she belong to if her father wasn’t her dad?

Her mother lifted her head from the arm of the couch and narrowed her eyes. “You aren’t cooking yet?”

“No, Mom, I’m not cooking tonight.”

Slinging her backpack over a shoulder, Elise didn’t stop until she’d crossed the meadow. With only the mountains filling her vision, she sucked in a deep breath. The scent of pine was almost overwhelming. Her eyes stung with unshed tears. She cast around her for one of the paths, but didn’t recognize any of them. Nothing was familiar or right. She kept to the wide track used as a road, stumbling in the semi-darkness.

Her parents were fighting again, and this time the fallout smacked her between the eyes. She wanted to curl up somewhere and mourn the death of their family. Even if she was her father’s daughter, the question was there. There was no doubt that her father would take her mother back, it was that precious, tiny bond with him that was gone. Blood was all that was holding them together before, now, not even that mattered.

She missed that fleeting feeling of being loved and cherished by Carey. If she could rewind, she would have done things differently. She’d villainized Carey in that split second after he’d shared his closely guarded secret with her. He’d become her father in a new skin, and they were nothing alike. But she could not watch her dream be molded by someone else. He was a visionary, and he’d take chances that wouldn’t work because he didn’t know any better. For once, she wanted to be in control of something in her life. If she went back to Carey and he forgave her, she’d be an employee. A valued member of the staff, but that was it.

All her hopes and dreams for Adventures went back in a box, and filed away in her mind. She was still young enough to find something else to throw herself into, but it would never be like Adventures, or what she could have had with Carey. He’d been a big part of her life, all of her enjoyable memories were wrapped around him. And she’d screwed it up.

As a child, there had been a handful of happy years under the watchful eye of her grandmother when they’d been a real family. After her death, the fighting and drinking started. Too young to fend for herself, she’d often gone hungry because she was too afraid of the other children to ask for help. As the only child on the reservation of mixed heritage, she’d been an easy target for cruelty.

It hadn’t gotten easier. Though her father had taught her the hallmarks of their heritage, she’d had to hone her skills on her own through trial and error. Hunger and humiliation had driven her to a solitary life, and yes, she’d been wild, choosing to spend her time outdoors instead of at school. If it weren’t for Lou and his mother tutoring her, she’d never have graduated high school. But she’d never felt as though she could trust them. It had taken years for her to learn that kind of trust.

A rumbling heralded a vehicle of some sort, so she stepped off the track and put her shoulder against a tree. She shielded her eyes against the headlights as they made the turn. The breaks squealed as they were engaged, and the engine dropped to a steady rumble.

“Elly?” The door squeaked as Danny got out. He came into focus the closer he came. “Hey, why are you crying? What’s wrong? Did Carey do something?”

Carey.

She wanted Carey to hold her.

She stepped away from Danny. She couldn’t talk to him. What if they were related? What would that mean for his parents?

“Carey didn’t do anything. Can you take me back to my Jeep? I left it at the lodge.”

Danny watched her, his expression hidden by the shadows cast over his face. After a moment he nodded. “Yeah, get in the truck. I was just dropping by to check on you. Can I ask where you’re going at least?”

She stepped past him, her arms wrapped around her stomach. “I just want to go home.”

Her family was down the drain. Adventures was gone. And her best friend and lover might be lost to her. At least she had a home.

* * * * *

 

Carey was on edge. He’d been walking a fine line between anger and desperation for a week. He’d dragged Allen all over the mountains, positive that they’d get word that someone had found her hurt, or dead. He knew Elise was a tough cookie, but it was impossible not to be worried. He hadn’t managed to get much of the winter prep for Adventures done either.

When Allen had first confided in him how bad the business was and that he had no means in his advancing years of securing a loan, buying Adventures had been the obvious choice. He loved the business, everything about it. Adventures had breathed new life into him, and it had given him Elise.

She’d always factored into his plans for the future, regardless of their intimate involvement. He wanted to restructure the business, offer trip packages, both for luxury and the more thrill-seeking clientele. Few people were able to wrangle a boat and keep their cool with people the way Elise could. Even his knowledge of the trickier parts of the river or the advanced rock faces was nothing compared to hers.

Adventures needed Elise. He needed her.

The siren ring tone he’d set for Elise’s roommates blared from the living room. He vaulted over the couch and snatched the phone. He’d found unexpected allies in the girls she lived with, a welcomed break in an otherwise frustrating week.

“Amanda?” he said, hoping he got the roommate’s name right.

“Hey, she just pulled in. She’s—”

“I’ll be there in twenty minutes. Keep her there.” Anger made his voice a low growl.

Snatching up his wallet and keys, he left in a hurry.

The two-story house Elise lived in had been blue once, but the paint was peeling and the shutters were mostly gone. It looked more like a pawn shop out front than a house. There were barrels of god only knew what, a collection of hub caps under the porch and an old Buick on cinderblocks in the yard. He’d been shocked when he pulled up in front the first time a week ago. Sure she’d complained about the house and her roommates, but he never would have expected this dump.

Elise’s Jeep sat in the driveway. Her skinny, chain-smoking roommate was sitting on the front steps. She stood and glanced over her shoulder warily before waving him up.

He parked the truck and stalked up the drive littered with cigarette butts and bottle caps.

“Amanda has her looking at the water heater. In the door, to the left, through the kitchen.” She patted him on the shoulder as he stepped past her. The girls had rallied to his cause, divulging the missing pieces Allen had left out. It was educational to say the least.

“There’s nothing wrong with it.” Elise sighed. “Nicole or Shannon probably used up the hot water. It’s not a big deal.”

He wanted to follow her voice, pin her to the wall and shake some sense into her. She’d gone off without telling anyone. It was dangerous, and he’d concocted all sorts of things that could happen to her, alone, without him to keep her safe. He’d brought her to pleasure. He’d damn well keep her safe as well.

Standing in the shabby living room with its Salvation Army furniture, he tried to identify some evidence of her in the room. There was no touch of her anywhere, and she’d lived in the house longer than he’d known her.

Footsteps dragged his attention to the kitchen doorway. Amanda scuttled out first. She grinned and flashed him a thumbs up.

“Gotta run, Elly.” Amanda snatched up a bag and bounded for the door disappearing into the evening no doubt with her roommate. He appreciated the privacy.

He leaned against the sagging couch and waited.

Elise stepped into the kitchen, her gaze on the floor, wiping her hands with a rag. Her hair was braided again and pinned to her head in a crown. She wore a threadbare Adventure’s t-shirt and jeans. She could wear a trash bag and he’d still think she was the most beautiful woman in the world.

“You came back.” His voice was too loud in the stillness of the house.

Startled, she gasped and wheeled to face him. “What are you doing here?” Her hands balled into fists at her side and she glared at him. He was ready for that.

BOOK: Personal Adventures
2.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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