Shadow of Time: Dark Dreams - Jen Minkman - darmowy ebook
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All Hannah needs is a nice and quiet vacation after her first year of teaching French at a high school. She joins her brother Ben for the summer in their mom's log cabin in Arizona. There, she meets Josh again, Ben's childhood friend from the Navajo reservation. The little boy from the rez has grown up fast, and Hannah can't help but feeling more for him than just friendship.But fate apparently has something else in store for her. And it's not peace and quiet. Night after night, Hannah is plagued by strange nightmares about the past of Navajo Nation and terrifying shadows chasing her. They seem to come closer - and why is Josh always present in her dreams?Sometimes, the past has a way of catching up with you.'Shadow of Time' blends the best of the paranormal romance, YA and NA genre to give readers a unique story!

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Shadow of Time

Dark Dreams

Jen Minkman

© 2012 by Jen Minkman

Cover design by Clarissa Yeo

This book is copyright. Apart from fair dealing for the purpose of private study, research, criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part may be reproduced by any process without the prior permission of the author. You are welcome to share this book with friends who might like to read it too, however.

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page

Shadow of Time: Dark Dreams

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

11.

12.

13.

In beauty may I walk;

All day long may I walk;

Through the returning seasons may I walk.

Beautifully will I possess again

Beautifully birds

Beautifully butterflies...

On the trail marked with pollen may I walk;

With grasshoppers about my feet may I walk;

With dew around my feet may I walk.

With beauty before me may I walk

With beauty behind me may I walk

With beauty above me may I walk

With beauty all around me,

may I walk.

In old age, wandering on a trail of beauty, lively;

In old age, wandering on a trail of beauty, living again...

It is finished in beauty.

(Traditional Navajo prayer)

1.

––––––––

“Come on, car. Just a few more miles.”

Hannah Darson sighed so hard she blew strands of dark-blonde hair from her face that had slipped out of her ponytail. Tightly gripping the steering wheel of the old, gray Datsun, she tried to relax her tense shoulders. Not to mention the rest of her body. She was exhausted from being on the road since early morning, driving from Las Cruces to her mother’s log cabin close to Lake Powell. Even more importantly, she was anxious, because she was practically out of fuel. And out of options – she hadn’t passed any gas stations for a while.

Hannah shot a nervous glance at the fuel gauge on her dashboard. It had been in the red for some time now. The route through Navajo Nation hadn’t exactly taken her through densely populated areas.

When the road curved to the left, Hannah suddenly spotted a small gas station next to the exit to Glen Canyon Dam. Hallelujah! Danger of getting stranded without fuel averted.

“Whoohoo!” she shouted at the top of her voice, gunning her Datsun to the entrance of the station. Nothing would rain on her parade now. Summer had started, her first year of teaching was over, and she was going to spend July and August here, in Arizona. Ben, her younger brother, was already waiting for her at the log cabin in St. Mary’s Port. She’d missed the place. The last time she’d stayed in their cozy little cabin was four years ago.

Endless days on the beach and sipping drinks in the shade of umbrellas lined up on the deck of the local restaurant were awaiting her. Plus, there’d be countless trips to the Navajo reservation. She and Ben even had childhood friends there.

Humming happily to herself, Hannah parked her car next to gas pump number two. "It’s raining men!" she sang-shouted, blaring along to the song on her car stereo.

The guy standing next to pump number three was just done getting gas for his motorbike. He looked sideways and his mouth curled up in a smile. The Datsun’s roof was down, so he’d caught her shouting her lungs out.

Hannah bit her lip. Damn. Her neighbor turned out to be a total hottie. She shot him a look that lasted a tad too long, then blushed, rummaging through her bag to find her money and pretend she’d already forgotten about him. As if.

Furtively, she looked him over again as he strolled off to pay, helmet in one hand and sunglasses on. Yup, this was typically her – scaring off the local hunk by being a total idiot. She rolled her eyes at herself.

The motorcycle driver was clearly from the Navajo reservation. His red-brown skin was dark and offset by the white of his sleeveless shirt. He had a small hair braid on one side, a turquoise bead and a red feather decorating the bottom. That feather had to be the symbol for one of the local clans of the Navajo – or Diné, as they called themselves. Her once-best-friend on the reservation, Emily Begay, also belonged to the Feather Clan. Emily should be about twenty-one by now, just like Ben. Hopefully she’d run into Em this summer.

Just to make sure, Hannah completely filled up her Datsun so she wouldn’t be short on fuel anytime soon. When she was done, she went into the building and got in line for the pay desk.

There. The Navajo guy had just paid for his gas. He stuffed the receipt into the pocket of his jeans and sauntered to the exit, passing the shelves with chewing gum and candy bars. And then, out of nowhere, he looked her right in the eye.

“Hi.” His voice was deep and beautiful and just as impressive as his looks. He stared at her through his tinted sunglasses, a hint of a smile on his face, like he was amused by some private joke.

Hannah looked up at him dumbfounded. Wow. He wasn’t blanking her. He was still talking to her. So maybe she should talk back.

“Um – hey,” she stammered feebly and stared at him all owl-faced. For a moment, it seemed he wanted to say something more, but he didn’t. He just gave her another sunny smile before leaving the building. Navajo Hunk started his motorbike and put his helmet on before tearing off at break-neck speed.

Hannah groaned inwardly. Way to go with her conversational skills. She quickly paid for the fuel and got back in her car to drive the last few miles to St. Mary’s Port.

It’d be nice to cook a big meal together with Ben. Or maybe they should go to the local restaurant. Ben wasn’t famous for his culinary talents, and the last thing she needed now was slaving away in the kitchen herself. Hannah fumbled around in her bag to find her phone. One missed call, from her brother. She phoned him back.

“Heya sis!” Ben picked up on the second ring. “Where the heck are you?”

“I’ll be there in ten. Where the heck are you?”

“On the beach. Where else? I’ll come home and help you unpack.”

“Okay, cool. See you soon!” She clicked off.

When Hannah turned into the driveway next to the log cabin, Ben was sitting on the stairs leading up to the porch, smoking a cigarette. His dark-blonde hair had already turned a lighter shade in the sunlight. He was wearing a big, showy pair of sunglasses to shield eyes just as bright-green as hers.

“You’re here!” he boomed enthusiastically, jumping up and giving her a bear hug.

“Hi bro. How’ve you been?”

“Incredibly hot. I’ve been on the beach a lot.” Ben dragged Hannah’s suitcase up the stairs, while she carried two heavy bags with food and toiletries. She put the food in the kitchen and walked to the door of her old bedroom.

Opening the door, she fell silent for a moment. Everything was just as she remembered it. The big, comfortable bed in the corner, the sturdy table against the wall, the flowery curtains in front of the window looking out on the lake – it was like no time had passed at all.

“I’ve already made your bed,” Ben pointed out, coming in after her and putting the suitcase down.

“Thank you so much. That really helps. My back hurts from all the driving.”

“Let’s go out for dinner tonight, then. We don’t need to cook. There’s a nice new place at the beach with grilled fish on the menu. We could try that.”

“Sounds great!” Hannah went out to get the rest of her stuff from the car. In the meantime, Ben grabbed two beer cans from the fridge. He and Hannah toasted when they sat down on the porch.

“To a long and carefree summer,” Hannah said.

Ben grinned. “Sure thing. St. Mary’s Port has missed you.”

“How’s Emily, by the way? I was thinking about her at the gas station. There was a Navajo guy walking around there from the same clan.” She felt herself blush and quickly took a swig of beer from her can.

“She’s fine! She was asking about you.”

“Does she still live in Naabi’aani?”

Ben nodded. “Yeah, she just finished her studies. She’s a certified naturopath now. Her practice is on the rez, in Naabi’aani, but she also works at the homeopathic pharmacy in town.”

“Wow! Good for her. And what about Josh - have you seen him yet?”

“Sure. We meet every summer. He still lives there with his parents. He just finished high school.”

Hannah smiled, staring out over the lake spreading out at the bottom of the hill like an unfathomable, giant mirror. It was great this place hadn’t changed in her absence. Everything was still as beautiful as she remembered, and their old friends were still around too.

Hannah glanced down at her watch. “When does the pharmacy close? Do you think I’ll have time to say hello to Em?”

“She’s not working today.” Ben dug up his cell phone. “But she will be tomorrow. She asked me to tell you to call her. I have her number here.”

“I’ll send her a text. Once Emily starts talking, there’s no way to stop her.”

After Hannah tapped out a text message to her old friend, she and Ben leisurely strolled to the beach and sat down at a table on the deck of ‘The Winking Shrimp’. Hannah let her gaze wander over the calm water of Lake Powell, where people were swimming, riding paddle-boats or walking along the shoreline. She took in the red rocks of Antelope Island across the water, their almost luminescent shapes like ancient castles in the setting sun. The nameless small island just off the coast looked like a dark, blood-red stain on the water.

“We have new neighbors, by the way,” Ben told her. “The cabin to our right was bought by a couple with two daughters our age. Ivy and Amber.”

“Oh, really? That’s great! Let’s organize a barbecue and invite them sometime.”

“Good idea. I took the old barbecue from the shed yesterday and cleaned it. I was in one of those moods again.”

“A cleaning mood? What do you mean, ‘again’?”

Ben smirked. “As friendly as ever. Come on, pick something from the menu. Anything at all.”

Hannah smiled. “Are you buying?”

Ben opened his mouth to say something, then fell silent. His eyes widened. “Oh,” he mumbled, patting his pockets. “Oh, damn.”

“Yeah, right. Drop the act.”

“Look, I’m really sorry. I think I left my wallet in my car.”

She laughed. “No worries. I’m used to your chaotic lifestyle by now.”

“What do you mean, chaotic? I’m getting better at planning my life all the time. Don’t tell me you didn’t notice I brought my textbooks.”

“I saw a pile of something in the living room, yes.”

“Well, that pile means I’m gonna catch up on stuff from last year,” Ben said, a self-satisfied look on his face.

“Good for you. Any resits straight after summer?”

Ben didn’t reply. He was staring at the water. “Hey, I think Josh is on the beach.” He got up from his chair. “Hold on, I’ll tell him we’re sitting over here.” He walked off the deck toward the water. Hannah tried to see where he was going, but the beach was still quite crowded and soon she’d lost sight of him.

After some minutes, she turned in her chair to see whether Ben was coming back yet. His glass of beer had been on the table for a while, and her brother hated lukewarm beer – with a passion. She spotted him down by the jetty with the small rowing boats, enthusiastically waving his arms and telling a tall guy next to him some elaborate story.

Hannah swallowed hard and squinted against the sunlight. That guy next to Ben – but that couldn’t be. She couldn’t believe her eyes. That was the Navajo guy. The guy who’d laughed at her poor attempt at singing. The guy who’d playfully said hello and given her this intense look while she gaped at him like a dumbstruck idiot. So Ben knew him?

Her heart skipped a beat when she suddenly realized why the local native hunk was walking next to her brother.

That was Josh.

2.

––––––––

This couldn’t be happening.

How could she have missed that it was Josh? Then again, he’d changed in four years’ time. Nobody aged seventeen should even be allowed to look that grown-up. Ben’s younger, scrawny Navajo side-kick was most definitely a thing of the past.

All of a sudden, Hannah was painfully aware of the creases in her T-shirt, her poor excuse for a hairdo and the bags under her eyes. On top of that, there was sheer panic. Panic because all those trivial things apparently acutely mattered to her so much. She had to get a grip. He was seventeen and she was twenty-three. She was miles above all this.

Hannah forced herself to let out her breath, releasing her death grip on the table at the same time. Still turned around in her seat, she shouted to Ben: “Your beer is getting warm! Hurry up.” Then her eyes darted to Josh, who was now coming up to the table.

“Oh – hey,” she managed to say in a surprised tone of voice. Again, the same line. Sure, why not? Since it had worked so well the first time around.

“Hi.” He sank down on the chair next to her. “Again.”

“So... I already met you this afternoon.” Hannah tried to give him a casual smile, quickly reaching out to shake Josh’s hand. He grabbed hers and she felt the water on his skin. He’d just been swimming in the lake. Drops of water still clung to his broad shoulders, and his hair was wet at the tips.

“Yep.” His grin suddenly made him look cheeky and young, but incredibly irresistible. “I must say, it was a touching reunion.”

Hannah laughed nervously. “So, you recognized me?”

“Of course. But I guess you didn’t see it was me.”

Hannah bit her lip. “No.”

“I see,” he said softly. “Is that why you blushed when I said hi?”

Hannah froze, praying to the heavens she wouldn’t blush yet again. “Um, yes. I was a bit surprised, I guess.” She slowly pulled her hand from his, quickly grabbing her glass to busy herself.

“So you already ran into each other today?” Ben asked with a smile, apparently unaware of the tension between them. “Small world, right?” He gulped down some beer and pulled a face. “Yuck. It’s too warm.”

“Order a new one,” Josh suggested. “And while you’re at it, order me an apple juice.”

“Fine with me. I forgot my wallet. Hannah’s buying tonight.”

“Am I?” Hannah raised her eyebrows. “You think I’ll be more generous now that Josh is sitting with us?”

“I’m counting on it,” Ben replied with a smug face. “Josh, what would you like to eat?”

“I could do with some grilled trout.”

Hannah nodded. “Great, that’s what we were having anyway. I’ll go tell them to put some extra trout on the grill.”

“I can go,” Ben offered.

“Nah, I’ll go. I have to go to the restroom anyway.”

Plus she didn’t want to be stuck on her own with Josh all of a sudden. She got up and made her way through the crowd seated at the small wooden tables on the deck. After going into the restaurant and changing their order with the first waiter she spotted, she went to the ladies’ room to give herself a good talking-to in the mirror over the sinks.

“Hannah Darson,” she told herself sternly, while trying to untangle her messy hair. “You’re going to act normally around Josh. You’ve known him since he was shitting his diapers. You taught him how to color inside the lines. You helped him build sandcastles on the beach. This will end right here.”

She closed her eyes, remembering how Josh had stepped onto the deck and approached their table – his swimming trunks just a little bit too low-slung on his hips, his shoulders just a little bit too broad for a seventeen-year-old, the muscles in his arms just a little bit too taut to take her eyes off them, and the look in his eyes just a bit too wise for his age.

No. This would not be so easy.

When Hannah came back, Ben was just lighting a cigarette.

“Nasty habit,” Josh remarked.

“Isn’t tobacco a holy plant in your culture?” Ben threw back, taking a drag.

Josh grinned. “Still.” He eyed Hannah as she sat down again.

“Don’t ask me to back you up,” she said. “I only quit myself a few months ago.”

“You were a smoker? I don’t remember that.”

“Just for a short while. During my last year with Greg, when I started working. Mainly stress-related, I guess.”

“Oh,” Josh said, staring into his glass of apple juice. He was silent for a moment. “So... you guys broke up?”

“Yeah, about eight months ago.”

“And now? Are you dating someone else?”

Discussing her love life with him was the strangest sensation. Last time she’d seen Josh, he’d just been a young boy. Hannah cleared her throat and quickly shook her head. “No, actually. I’m fine on my own. You know, a bit of me-time. I need freedom.”

In the silence that followed, she cringed. In hindsight, that hadn’t come out the way she wanted. In fact, she positively sounded like she wasn’t interested in dating for the next ten years. All she needed was a T-shirt saying ‘Don’t Ask Me Out’.

“You know, you’ve always needed freedom,” Josh suddenly said warmly. “You’re like a butterfly. Beautiful, fragile, and hard to catch.”

Hannah blinked. What the hell was she supposed to say to that?

Fortunately, Ben saved her from another awkward silence. “Are you exploring your Navajo background again, Josh? White Americans don’t believe in totem animals, FYI.”

The conversation continued, mainly between Ben and Josh. Hannah decided to play wallflower for the rest of the evening, so she wouldn’t blurt out more stupid remarks or blush again when Josh teased her.

“I’ll pick you up in my car tomorrow,” Josh told Ben after their trout dinner. “We should go fishing. Grilling your own fish is so much better.”

“You have your own car?” Hannah asked in surprise, temporarily forgetting she wanted to stay out of the conversation.

“Yeah, a Mustang. My family gave it to me when I passed driver’s ed.”

“How about that motorcycle? Don’t tell me you own a vehicle fleet on the rez.”

“No. I borrow the bike from my cousin sometimes.”

“You have a license for the bike, too?”

Josh shrugged. “No one’s ever pulled me over,” he replied placidly. “Don’t tell on me.” He gave her a conspiratorial smile, and her heart skipped a beat. Why did he have the power to do this to her?

“Are you planning on passing the test at some point, though?” she quickly went on.

“Yeah, when I turn eighteen and get some extra money.” Josh leaned into her. “It’s my birthday soon, so maybe that will ease your mind.”

“That’s right!” Ben exclaimed. “Beginning of August, right? Are you going to have a party?”

“Of course he will,” Hannah said. “He’s going to be a real man!” Hopefully, Josh hadn’t caught her scooting away as he leaned into her like that. She thought he was man enough now to make her heartbeat go through the roof when he came so close.

Josh laughed. “Actually, I already am. In our tribe, the initiation ritual where a boy turns into a man takes place on the boy’s fourteenth birthday. We all take a vision quest.”

Ben whistled. “Wow, you grew up early.”

“You’re right.” Josh grew silent, staring into the distance. He suddenly seemed lost in thought.

Hannah observed Ben in surprise. How strange Josh had been through an important ritual without telling Ben about it. Judging from the confused look in Ben’s eyes, this was the first time he heard about Josh’s vision quest.

“Well, I still think you should throw a party,” she said, breaking the uneasy silence.

Josh blinked and nodded slowly, coming back to reality. “Yeah, I will. Consider yourselves invited.”

The waitress showed up to clear the table and put down three dessert menus. Ben quickly picked out what he wanted, and took Hannah by the hand when the jazz band in the corner started playing ‘I ‘ve Got You Under My Skin’.

“Come on, let’s dance,” he suggested, pulling her from her seat.

Hannah followed her brother to the edge of the deck, where they stepped onto the sand. Within minutes, more dancing couples had joined them on the beach.

“I’m so glad I’m going to be here all summer,” Hannah sighed, beaming at Ben. “My first year of teaching was kind of stressful. I needed this. It’s just like old times.”

Ben smiled. “That’s why I said you should spend your vacation in St. Mary’s Port. It’s the best place to relax and let go of things. I knew you’d enjoy a nostalgic summer.”

The song had come to an end. With a start, Hannah saw Josh coming toward them from the corner of her eye. Her heart sped up to a hum. Was he going to ask her to –

Josh casually tapped Ben on the shoulder. “Can I have the next dance?”

“Sure.” Ben shrugged, letting go of his sister. Hannah felt her heart in her throat when Josh lightly put one hand on her back and used the other to grab her hand.

“Do I have your permission too?” Josh asked with a smile as Ben walked back to the table.

“Y- yes.” She was momentarily lost for words.

“Wow, you sound eager,” he said dryly.

Hannah laughed nervously, realizing she sounded just like the giggling freshman girls she’d taught this year. Maybe she should have been more understanding toward them – she wasn’t doing a whole lot better at the moment.

“Uhm...” Hannah started out, fumbling indecisively. “I don’t really know what to do.” Because obviously, she’d been wasting her money taking dancing lessons for two years. She couldn’t come up with anything. Anything. Except pressing her body against him and hoping it would look like some sort of dance.

Josh smiled. “Come here.” He pulled her even closer. Hannah felt his body against hers, his hand on her lower back.

“Put your chin on my shoulder,” he mumbled into her ear.

“But – I won’t be able to see where we’re going.” Immediately, she realized just how stupid that sounded. Like Josh would abduct her while dancing on the beach, with her brother in plain sight.

She heard him chuckle. “I’ll give you a live report. Okay?”

Hannah gave up and put her head on his shoulder. She stared at the tables on the deck, the beach stretching out behind them, and the blood-red evening sky. If only the beauty of the surroundings would calm her, but it didn’t. The warmth coming off Josh’s body and his arms around her completely confused her. Although Josh had promised her a live report, he didn’t speak at all during their dance together. He turned her around in a circular dance that had no name, but she didn’t care. It felt perfect.

Did Josh even have the slightest idea of the effect he had on her? She would have loved to glance up and see the look in his eyes, but she didn’t dare. Hannah’s gaze wandered over his shoulders, where small grains of sand were stuck to his skin, catching the light from the setting sun. They reminded her of stardust, and of the starry skies she’d always looked up at when she was a little girl, lying in the grass, finding the constellations.

Her eye fell on a birthmark under Josh’s collarbone. It was shaped like an animal. Strange – she couldn’t remember seeing it before.

“Did you always have that mark?” she wondered softly, absently touching his skin with her index finger. Josh stopped breathing, and she looked up. He was staring at her hand, and then briefly at her. His gaze drifted to the sand below their feet.

“No,” he replied after a long, awkward silence. “Last time you saw me I didn’t have it yet. I got it – after that.”

“Oh.” Well, that was weird. After all, they were called ‘birthmarks’ because people were born with them. “It’s shaped like an animal,” she pointed out, suddenly realizing her hand was still on his chest. She quickly let it slide down.

“A bear,” he said crisply. He avoided her eyes and scanned the deck behind them. “Let’s go eat our ice creams.”

Hannah frowned. Something in his attitude had clearly changed after she mentioned his birthmark. “Look, I’m sorry if I was prying.”

He looked down at her, a sudden touch of tenderness in his eyes. “You’re not prying,” he said softly. Then he pressed his lips to her hand – the hand he was still holding – in a quick, soft kiss. He stepped back and headed toward the table. Hannah let her hand fall to her side, exhaling slowly.

With a sour face, she rubbed her forehead. Yep, Ben was absolutely right. St. Mary’s Port was definitely the best place to relax and let go of things.

3.

––––––––

That night, Hannah strolled back home in silence, Ben walking next to her. She would have liked to share with him how the evening with Josh had confused her, but perhaps she wasn’t ready for Ben to know yet. Still, it felt weird not to say anything to him. She always talked to Ben about everything that was on her mind, and he was the same with her.

Absently, she looked up to see some people sitting on the porch of the neighboring house, their faces illuminated by the large candle on the table they were sitting at.

“Let’s go and say hi,” Ben said, following her gaze. He waved at the new neighbors and pulled Hannah along to their front porch.

Hannah was quickly introduced to the Greene family – Ivy and Amber, two red-haired sisters, and their parents Paul and Sarah. She and Ben sat down on one of the porch benches to tell the neighbors some stories about their previous summers in St. Mary’s Port.

As Ben told Paul where the best fishing spots were, Hannah’s gaze wandered to the book Amber had in her lap. “Herbal Remedies,” she read from the cover. “You reading that for fun or for school?”

Amber shrugged. “I’m going to study naturopathy after the summer, but I haven’t started yet. So I guess that means it’s for fun.”

Hannah chuckled. Yup, she and Amber would get along well. “Well, if you like picking herbs and wild plants, you should help me and Ben sometime. We’re going to do a barbecue with some friends from the reservation soon. We used to do those at the lake every summer. Ben and Josh would catch fresh fish, and Emily and I would pick berries. Like real hunter-gatherers.”

“We’d love to join you! Dad taught us how to fish,” Ivy offered. “With us on your team, you’ll never go hungry.”

Hannah groaned. “What? Nobody wants to help me pick berries?”

Ben chuckled, a large grin taking up his whole face. “Oh, don’t worry. Josh will help you out. I bet you can’t wait to go off into the woods with him.”

Hannah opened and closed her mouth again, trying to suppress the blush creeping up her face. “Ben,” she hissed indignantly, shooting him a withering look.

“What?” He shrugged vaguely, turning away from her to light a cigarette.

After talking to the neighbours for a few more minutes, they decided to go home, wishing the Greenes a good night.

As they trudged back to their own cabin in awkward silence, Hannah bit her lip. Shouldn’t she say something? Finally, Ben cleared his throat, sitting down on the porch steps. “Uhm – sorry I offended you before. You know.”

“What do you mean?” Hannah replied softly.

“About the woods.” Ben glanced sideways. “About Josh. I didn’t want to tick you off. You just seemed to have, like, a really great time with him tonight.”

Hannah shifted. She couldn’t really deny Ben’s joke had made her uncomfortable – he’d seen her go red.

“You didn’t tick me off,” she finally said, because Ben kept staring at her, his face a big question mark.

“Then what?”

Hannah sighed. She brushed an imaginary speck of dust from her skirt. “I felt caught.”

“So you like Josh.” It wasn’t a question, but a statement. Hannah looked sideways, suddenly so nervous she wished she could take a drag of Ben’s cigarette. He followed her gaze and held out his cigarette. “Want to share?”

“No, thanks. I shouldn’t start smoking again.”

Ben shrugged. “So – do you?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” Hannah muttered, staring at a dark stain in the wooden floor of the porch, suddenly thinking of Josh’s birthmark. “I mean – I’ve known him since forever.”

“Seems like a good starting point.” Ben put an arm around her shoulders.

Hannah snatched the cigarette from Ben’s fingers. “Just one drag,” she grumbled, displeased with herself and her bad habits.

Ben gave her a warm smile. “I’m sorry, sis. I’ll stop goading you, okay?”

Together, they finished the last bit of the cigarette and then went into the cabin for a good, long night’s sleep.

The next morning, Hannah was woken up by bright sunlight streaming in through the window, shining directly in her face. Oh crap – she hadn’t closed the curtains yesterday. Groaning, she turned her back to the window.