Page 57 of Tripping on a Halo

“Wait,” I called out. “It was unlocked? What if someone’s hiding in there?”

He grinned at me, the door half open. “It’s a pretty small place. I’ll see him.” He stepped inside and I fretted in place, certain that I was moments away from a blood-curdling scream. He stuck his head out. “You coming?”

“It’s safe?”

“Super safe.” He disappeared back inside.

I gingerly climbed the steps and slowly stepped inside, relaxing when I saw the cozy cabin. It was actually really cute. There was a queen bed set in the middle of the back wall, and a rocking chair in one corner. A sink and toilet took up the other corner. I looked around for more. “Where’s the shower?”

“There’s an outdoor one around back.” He crouched down next to the toilet and fiddled with something. “There. Water’s on. Do you need to use it?”

“Uh, no.” I shook my head. “I’m fine.”

“Do you mind if I…” He nodded toward the toilet, one hand on his belt.

“Oh! Sure.” I backed toward the door and almost tripped on the transom. Jumping down the steps, I stopped on an open patch of pine needles and tried to block out the incredibly loud sound of Declan Moss peeing. Sound insulation had not been a factor in construction.

He was a hand washer. I listened as he used the sink. When he stepped through the door, he dried his hands on his shirt as he came down the steps, glimpses of abs showing with each step. My examination in the car had been a test of wills, his skin warm and tense under my hands, our proximity a little too close for professional comfort. Once, I’d felt certain he was about to kiss me, my body leaning into the action, begging for the touch, and I’d catapulted to the other side just to keep from crawling into his lap.

Ever since that moment, the thought of kissing Declan had been heavy on my mind. I glanced back at the path, hoping that Nate and their client would get here soon.

He stopped before me and looked down at my feet. “You brought other shoes, right?”

I nodded. “Should I get them?”

“Better put them on now. The critters are going to run right past those flip flops.”

My snake boots, hardly used since I went all Crocodile Dundee on the backyard, were stiff. I sat on the tailgate of the truck and pulled on a pair of thick socks and worked them on, watching Declan carry my bags into the cabin. He shook his head each time he picked up a round of duffel bags, a slow smile stretching over his face as he trooped back and forth, wearing a path in the wet leaves.

“What?” I demanded, hopping off the truck and grabbing a lantern out of the back.

“Your propensity to prepare for the worst is entertaining. Think you’ll be disappointed if someone doesn’t get hurt tonight?”

“That’s morbid.” I followed him into the cabin and looked around to see where I should set down the lantern. The cozy space was suddenly a little tight, my stuff stacked along the wall and eating up any spare floor space. To get to the toilet, I was going to have to use the bed as a steppingstone.

“Here.” Declan held out a hand and I passed him the heavy lantern, watching as he reached up and hung it from a nail on one of the rafters. “I’ll move it down before you go to bed.”

There wasn’t enough room for him to pass me, so I stepped back outside, watching as he took the steps and headed to the truck. He glanced my way. “I’m going to open up my cabin now. You coming, or you want to rest here?”

“Coming.” I opened the passenger door to the truck and got in, glancing back at the cabin. “When is Nate arriving?”

He glanced at his watch. “He might be at the camp house now. We can swing by there on the way and see.”

It took four minutes of treacherous driving to make it to the camp house, and I blanched a little at the realization of how far away everything was. Why didn’t they put the cabins closer together? It seemed incredibly antisocial to be so spread out. I voiced my opinion and Declan chuckled. “I think the guys who built this place valued their privacy. And it helps if there are different groups using the land. Sometimes you don’t want to see or interact with anyone.”

“If no one knows where anyone else is on the land, how do you keep from shooting each other?”

He came to a stop at the fork in the road and pointed to the glove box. “Open that up and grab me the yellow map.”

I did as he asked, and watched as he unfurled the map, pinning it against the steering wheel and pointing to the different landmarks on it. “This is where we came in.” He showed me a dotted line, coming in off the highway. “Here’s your cabin.” There was a blue X helpfully labeled as Cabin 1. I leaned forward, interested. “We’re here now.” He moved his finger a millimeter over, stopping at a place between Cabin 4 and a square labeled Camp.

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