After months of increasingly sensual flirting, it’s time for Max and Jessie to take their relationship to the next level. A remote cabin in the wilderness seems like the perfect place to finally give in to the volcanic desire that’s been building between them.
Their first night together is every bit as amazing as Jessie anticipated. But the weekend quickly takes an eerie turn as strange things start happening and a mysterious dark figure begins stalking them in the woods. Something far more powerful and terrifying than they’ve ever known….
Available now at:
“Recalculating,” the GPS said.
“Shut up, Karen,” Max said, visibly irritated, and shot Jessie another apologetic look. “Sorry.”
Jessie burst into laughter. “Karen’s the GPS?”
He nodded, watching the road as he fiddled with the unit. “Yeah, you can pick the voice for it. John, Alex, Lisa…”
“And you picked Karen.” Jessie laughed again, wishing she could lean over to kiss his face right off but keeping herself in her seat instead. There’d be plenty of time for kissing when they got to the cabin—at least if she had anything to do with it.
“Yep.” Max grinned.
They’d been introduced by Jessie’s friend Kelly, who was dating Max’s friend Len. Kelly had confided to Jessie that Max had had a spectacularly bad breakup that he wasn’t really ready to date anyone, that he was a super-sweet and nice guy who wasn’t going to expect a lot from her, but they really needed another couple to get this great deal on a night out at the local casino, and would Jessie please, please, please do Kelly this favor and agree to go out with him? Jessie, wary because Kelly had set her up with a couple of real douche bags in the past, had only agreed because Kelly promised to pay for her share of the night out. As far as Jessie was concerned, a steak dinner and a hundred bucks’ credit for the slots was worth a night out even with a total jerk—though Max had turned out to be anything but. He was everything Kelly had promised, and more. They’d become an easy foursome after that for nights out, and after a few weeks, Max had hesitantly asked to exchange phone numbers “so we don’t have to go through Kelly if we want to get together.” Five months later, they were on their way for a weekend of camping in the remote wilds of northwestern Pennsylvania, and Jessie was determined that it was going to be a romantic weekend getaway.
Five months since that first “not a date,” three months since Max had asked her if it would be okay if they went to the movies without Kelly and Len. He’d taken her to see a truly awful superhero flick and left her on her doorstep with nothing but a kiss on the cheek. Since then, they’d graduated to casual hand-holding, a few make-out sessions that had always been inconveniently interrupted by one thing or another and a lot of increasingly suggestive text message exchanges. Max was a flirt, but he seemed more comfortable with innuendo over the phone or online than in person. He’d told her he thought people took things too fast, and while it had been refreshing at first to discover he was such a gentleman, Jessie was ready for more.
So funny, she thought, watching him as he concentrated on the road ahead, occasionally glancing at the GPS to confirm they were still on route. Five months of being together almost every day, if not in person, then on the phone or messaging, had taught her a lot about Max. Jessie knew his favorite color, his brand of cologne, that he hated raisins cooked in anything and called them “Satan’s boogers.” She knew the name of his first dog, where he’d grown up, his shoe size and that he loved pecan pie but hated lemon meringue. She knew so many bits and pieces of him that she didn’t doubt she knew the whole…except for the parts about his ex. That was an open, blank space in the lexicon of Max.
They were both in the early thirties with several relationships under their belts. Jessie, in fact, had been married once already to her college sweetheart, Doug. He’d been vindictive and nasty, fought with her over money and levied accusations at her with such vehemence that Jessie had found it difficult to believe she’d ever once loved this guy enough to think she could spend the rest of her life with him. Yet, to her, Doug still had a name. He was an asshole, but she wouldn’t have called him crazy. She wasn’t afraid to talk about the mistakes she’d made with him, but she didn’t feel like she had to go over them ad infinitum either. She understood Max’s hesitance in moving forward, but not his completely closed-mouth attitude about it. Whatever had gone on with Max and his mysterious ex must have been horrifying to have affected him that way.
“In point two miles,” Karen intoned, “take exit 4A on the left.”
“We’re almost there.” Max tapped the steering wheel and gave Jessie another grin. “Just about another forty-five minutes or so once we get off the highway.”
“Good.” Jessie shifted in her seat. She needed to use the bathroom, stretch her legs, soothe the growing rumble in her stomach. They hadn’t stopped since lunch, both of them eager to make the four-hour trip as fast and easy as possible.
“It’s so beautiful here,” she said a few minutes later when they’d taken the exit as Karen instructed and then another couple of side roads. Tall evergreens rose on both sides of the road, so thick she couldn’t see more than a few feet beyond the twisting two-lane road. “How’d you find out about this place?”
Max shrugged. “Online. A buddy of mine told me about this site where you can book out-of-the-ordinary weekend getaways—stay in a castle or a tree house, things like that. I figured a cabin in the woods wasn’t all that exotic, but I wasn’t sure you’d be into something…weirder.”
“So long as there’s indoor plumbing and hot water, I’m good.” She looked at him when he didn’t answer. “There is indoor plumbing, right? And hot water?”
He burst into laughter, looking at her. “Yes, there’s—”
“Look out!” Caught up in looking at him, Jessie hadn’t been paying attention to the road in front of them. A dark flash of something big moving in front of them caught her gaze.
Max swerved. The Chevy Suburban shuddered as it crossed what would have been the center line on a bigger road. The tires dipped into the rut on the side of the road as Max yanked the wheel in the other direction, keeping the big vehicle from going into the ditch but sending them bouncing so hard that Jessie’s seat belt locked against her shoulder and neck. The suitcases in the back rattled, the clink and clank of bottles in the boxes of food they’d brought along becoming the alarming crunch of broken glass. Jessie was sure the SUV was going to cross the road completely and hit the trees on the other side, but it came to a skewed stop with a squeal of brakes.
“Are you okay?” Max unbuckled his seat belt to lean across to her. “Jessie?”
Touched that his first thought was for her but a little too shaken to speak, she nodded. Something big and dark moved at the passenger side window, skittering around the back of the Suburban. With a gasp, she twisted in her seat to look out the back window.
“Something’s back there,” she said.