He Found Me(7)

By: Whitney Barbetti

Rosa knew I would never be intentionally rude to someone providing me a paycheck. But I also wouldn’t put up with pretentious assholes. “You get me, Rosa. And that’s why you’re my favorite.”

Rosa laughed. “Yeah, and the feeling is mutual. Just don’t tell Clint.” She winked, before heading back into the big house.

“Or Farley!” I called after her. I heard her laugh before I turned around and finished the section of fence I was working on.

After finishing the fence, I ran another report for Rosa and then went into the supply closet off the kitchen to grab a few things to stock the cabin being rented by the mystery author later that day. All of our guests were treated to a welcome basket that had brochures featuring local attractions, some of Rosa’s famous huckleberry popcorn, a keychain with Seven Diamond Ranch’s logo, and other Seven Diamond Ranch swag.

Loading some fresh towels and toiletries into my messenger bag, I glanced at my watch. It was just past noon, which still gave me two hours until check in for the cabin’s month-long guest.

There were fifteen cabins on Rosa’s property, with all of them being set just to the edge of the forest that the entire property was surrounded with. The first fourteen cabins were studio-style, with open areas for the bedroom, living room, dining room, and kitchen. The only actual room in the cabins was the bathroom, which was unusually large. The last cabin, which was the one I lived in full time, had been converted four years earlier with Rosa and Dylan’s help. I’d wanted a separate space for my bedroom. I sacrificed having a bathtub in the original bathroom to make adequate space for the bedroom and installed a stall shower in the bathroom instead. I sometimes missed not having the bath to leisurely lounge around in, but living and working on a ranch kept most of my leisure time occupied.

Each cabin was spaced about thirty feet apart with gravel driveways between them, to allow for some semblance of privacy, though they weren’t soundproof. Which was why I’d chosen cabin fifteen, so my only neighbors were cabin fourteen and the forest beyond the cabins.

The forest served as a reminder of my escape years earlier, something that comforted me. I didn’t often lose myself in thoughts of my former life. I didn’t look behind me as much anymore and I didn’t let myself think too much about the Monster or what became of him. I was safe here, and I was happy. Six visited a few times a year, and Rosa was the foundation of my life. Six knew what he was doing when he sent me to her.

Unlocking cabin ten, I set the basket on the small dining table and brought the towels to the bathroom, pausing to open the blinds and curtains around the cabin. While in the bathroom, I looked at my reflection for a moment. My hair was still in the messy bun on top of my head, with a few tendrils loose, unintentionally framing my face.

I wasn’t naïve or self-conscious about my physical features. I had large, wide, hazel eyes, high cheekbones, and a small mouth, with full lips. I pierced my lower lip on one side and favored a small hoop ring. My mother was Greek, and I had inherited her certain je ne sais quoi that had people pondering my nationality. I still resembled the girl on all the MISSING posters, but I lived far enough away from Michigan to ensure that the chances of someone recognizing me were very minimal. And that lip ring proved enough a distraction that people didn’t get too caught up in the rest of my face.

I turned my head towards the mirror. Today I wore my work face, which was little mascara and lip gloss if I remembered to apply it, with a nice smear of dust gracing my jawline. The nice thing about summer was the tan it gave me, making my need for cover-up or foundation nonexistent. I never knew if I would be crunching numbers, cleaning empty cabins, shoveling hay or horse shit, so I found makeup kind of unnecessary. The horses didn’t care if my lashes were voluminous and they didn’t appreciate lip gloss kisses.

While rubbing the leftover dust on my jawline, I heard the unmistakable sound of tires coming up the gravel road. I knew we weren’t expecting any deliveries, so I slung my messenger bag over one shoulder and walked back to the front door of the cabin I’d left open to see if I recognized the vehicle.

A sleek midnight blue convertible came into sight. The driver, clearly unfamiliar with driving on gravel roads fishtailed up the driveway a bit before slowing to a snail’s pace. I snorted.

Before I knew it, I was stalking out to the entrance of the big house, where the convertible was pulling in to park. As the dust around the car died down, the top of a very dark head of hair came into view. I frowned, trying to figure out who it could be, when the door opened, and the driver climbed out.

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