A Mail-Order Hope

By: Janelle Daniels



She rolled her eyes at herself. And she was basing that off what? The fact that he stopped pacing? It was little to go on.

Still… “I wouldn’t be surprised if they had some sort of party soon. There wasn’t exactly time to celebrate their union  . I could talk to Ronan and make sure you’re invited. I’m sure it wouldn’t be a problem.”

Silence.

She stood from the stump but didn’t move forward. “Listen, Mr. Walker. I’m going to keep coming here. Every. Single. Week. I don’t care how long it takes. I know you don’t want me here—you’ve made that perfectly clear—but I’m not giving up. I’m going to visit you and speak of utter nonsense until you open that door and let me in.”

The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end, but she didn’t pay it any mind. In fact, her whole focus was on the house, willing him to open the door.

“Do you hear me, Mr. Walker? Until you open that door, I’m going to keep coming back.”

Her mouth fell open when the door inched open. She’d only needed to threaten to come back? She should’ve done that in the beginning. This all could’ve been finished by—

A shotgun barrel slid through the opening. “Don’t move,” he said.

She swallowed hard as her heart rate sped up with the clear threat. “I’m… I’m sorry. If you feel that strongly, I… ah… I won’t come back.” She retreated a step.

“I said don’t move,” he whispered harshly. His gun angled at her.

“I think it’s best if I just leave—”

A growl sounded behind her. She froze, her eyes widening like a hunted animal. “Mr. Walker?”

He didn’t answer.

She refused to close her eyes, refused to look away from the door. It was almost as if that one link to him could keep her alive.

The animal behind her growled again. It sounded like a bear, but with her limbs frozen, she couldn’t bring herself to check for sure. She was going to die here. Just like that.

Alone.

Finally shuttering her eyes, she prayed for peace, prayed that she would somehow survive this. I’ll do better. I swear it. I’ll make sure Asher lives a good life. I’ll get married and have children. I’ll do anything.

She continued making nonsensical promises to God as seconds ticked by. How long did she have? How long until she was mauled?

A thump of paws hitting the ground sounded behind her, and her eyes flew open in time to see the shotgun barrel waver, then lower in the doorway. She still didn’t move though. In truth, she didn’t know if she could.

After another minute or two, he said, “Come here.”

She didn’t need to be told again. Her legs practically flew her to the porch and into the house—straight into Asher’s arms.

Moving around her, he closed the door firmly, bolting it. If only it was strong enough to hold out the bear if he changed his mind and decided he really wanted to eat her.

Her teeth chattered and she began shaking.

“Hey.” He set the gun aside and stepped closer to her. “You’re okay now.” He rubbed her upper arms briskly. “You’re safe.”

She shivered as she nodded, trying to believe his words, but her body didn’t think she was okay. She’d almost been killed. By a bear. How had she not seen him? She should’ve sensed something, should’ve known. Bears didn’t just show up out of the blue. There were signs. Things like stillness and—the meadow had been dead quiet.

Stupid.

She should’ve realized the danger immediately. If she hadn’t been so focused on getting Asher to talk, she would’ve. “So stupid.”

“Excuse me?”

She knew he’d heard her. He was probably asking who she was calling stupid, him or her. In truth, they both were. She was stupid for letting signs of danger slip by, and he was stupid for holing himself in here, and she was stupid for pushing to get him out, and he was stupid for—nope. She needed to stop that line of thought right there. Besides, it didn’t help anyone to assign blame. “You heard me.”

His hands stopped rubbing her, but she nudged them, asking him for more without saying the words. He complied, but asked, “Why am I stupid?”

“We’re both stupid,” she mumbled.

“I see.”

But there was no way he could see, because even she didn’t understand any of it. She let out a pent-up breath, hoping the motion would calm her. “That bear could have killed me.”

“Yes, but it didn’t. I wouldn’t have allowed that.”

“You wouldn’t allow that?” She snorted. “And how would you have stopped it?” She hadn’t thought a man could be so arrogant. Not that she minded in the least. His self-assured tone helped soothe her as much as his hands.

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