Dire (Page 23)

“I heard some of the guys talking. We’re only ten miles from a small town. We can walk that.”

“I’d walk a hundred if it meant getting home.”

He squeezed my hand. “I’m going to get you home.”

“I’m going to get you home too.” I closed my eyes, easily falling asleep in his now familiar arms.

***

My eyes flew open. I spread out my arms, surprised to find so much space. This wasn’t my dorm bed.

In a blur, everything came back to me. I was in the guest bed at Hunter’s house. But why was I back in that room? I was positive I’d fallen asleep on the couch with Gage.

The fire was completely out and the room was cold as I stepped out of bed. How had I gotten back? There was no way Gage would have carried me upstairs, which only left one possibility. Hunter. And that possibility scared me. He’d seemed somewhat normal when we talked, but to physically remove me from Gage’s arms without me knowing? We had to get out of there.

I pulled the sweater back on before using the bathroom and hurrying downstairs. My boots were still a little damp, so I carried them instead of putting them on.

I found Gage sitting up on the couch. Before I reached him he nodded to the side, and I figured out he was telling me to turn around.

I reluctantly did just that knowing exactly who was waiting.

“Mary Anne?” Hunter watched me with amusement.

“Yes?” I forced a smile on my face.

“Did you sleep well?”

“Yes, thank you. I slept wonderfully.”

“It’s a comfortable bed, isn’t it?” He watched me carefully.

“Very comfortable, but the warmth was the most important part.”

“I’m glad I checked on your fire then. Tonight I’ll watch it more closely.”

“That won’t be necessary. Besides, doesn’t it look like it’s lightened up out there?” Spending another night in this place wasn’t in the cards.

He crossed his arms. “Yes, but there’s a solid sheet of ice on top of that snow. We can’t get the trucks out.”

“I really need to get to a phone to call my parents, so I think we might just walk. We can pay you for the clothes.”

“Walk? To town? In this weather?” Hunter’s jaw clenched.

“It’s not impossible,” Gage jumped in. “With the right clothes and equipment it’s doable.”

“Absolutely not. We can try to start digging out later on this morning, but it’s going to be at least another night.”

“I don’t think you understand.” Gage stepped in front of me. “We’re leaving today.”

“And I don’t think you understand.” Hunter pushed a finger into Gage’s chest. “I’m not letting Mary Anne freeze to death. I will not allow it.”

“And you think I would? She’ll be fine. I’ll take care of her.”

“Take care of her? Aren’t you the one who got her stranded in the snow in the first place?”

I had to step in. “Stop. It wasn’t Gage’s fault, and I can take care of myself.”

Hunter gave me a look of pity. “As much as I appreciate your strength, you don’t understand the danger.”

“I know all about frostbite and hypothermia, but we’ll be okay.”

“It’s not just the cold.” He stared out the window.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I put a hand on my hip.

“It means you are staying here tonight.”

I straightened up to make myself seem taller. “You can’t make us.”

“I can’t?” Hunter’s eyes locked on mine. “This is my home.”

“And we can leave it.” Gage nodded at me. “Let’s go, Mary Anne.”

“Chet, Falcon, and Marni, will you come in here please?”

Gage grunted. “What do they have to do with anything?”

All three of them walked in. Chet stood just in front of the other two. “What’s up, Hunter?”

“Gage and Mary Anne seem interested in leaving.”

“Now?” Marni rested her chin on her fist. “Are you guys crazy?”

“It seems we’re not being good enough hosts.”

“That has nothing to do with it. We appreciate everything you’ve done, but we need to get a hold of our families and get home.” I doubted he was actually offended, but I tried to tread carefully.

“Mary Anne?” Hunter’s face softened.

“Yes?”

“I’m going to give you two choices.”

“No. You’re not giving her any choices.” Gage grabbed my arm. “We’re leaving.”

I turned toward the door, but I was pulled away back into Hunter’s chest. Chet and Falcon held Gage’s arms. “Leaving isn’t one of your options.”

“What’s going on? Why do you care if we leave?” My heart was racing. Things were getting crazy.

“Are you ready to hear your options?” There was something frightening about the way Hunter’s voice remained so flat.

I sighed. “Ok.”

“Let go of me,” Gage struggled.

“Mary Anne, I’d suggest you tell your friend to shut up. He might not like what happens if he keeps interrupting me.”

I looked right at Gage. “Please.”

“Okay, let’s try this again. You have a couple of options.”

“What are they?” I decided to play along. What other choice did we have?

“I’m glad you finally asked,” He slipped his hand under the back of my sweater and tank top sending chills through me. “Your first option is that you and Gage both remain here. He agrees to behave, and we don’t kick him out. The other option is that you stay, and Gage leaves either willingly or unwillingly.”

“I’m not leaving Mary Anne!” Gage yelled.

“Okay, so let’s take that option out. Either you both stay or Gage leaves unwillingly.”

“That’s an easy choice. I want Gage with me.”

“Fair enough. Now I believe I misspoke earlier.” His lips brushed against my ear, and I could hear Gage’s breathing pick up. He was angry. I pleaded with him with my eyes to stay calm, it wasn’t going to help.

“What do you mean you misspoke?”

“It isn’t just Gage that needs to behave. You need to too.”

“And what does behaving involve?” I knew I wasn’t going to like his answer.