Home > Deacon (Unfinished Hero #4)(14)

Deacon (Unfinished Hero #4)(14)
Author: Kristen Ashley

I didn’t care.

I had this one shot, the only one I knew I’d ever get, so I was going to take it.

He would give nothing, this I knew.

I didn’t care about that either.

I was going to do what I had to do.


I was going to take what I needed and give what I wanted.

Therefore, I said, “Gonna call it a night,” as I unwrapped myself and got to my feet.

I threw the blanket over my arm and made to move between our chairs as Priest remained silent.

I stopped by his chair and I looked down at him gazing at the trees.

“I know you don’t wanna hear this,” I started quietly. “I know you don’t do friendly. But I don’t care. It’s still Christmas and I still get to give friendly and you’re gonna take it.”

He didn’t move and he didn’t speak.

I did.

“It was a good Christmas, John.”

I didn’t see him tense but I sure as heck felt it.

That didn’t stop me.

“It was going to be a crappy one, but you showed and made it good. I’ll remember it forever, the year the stranger who wasn’t a stranger saved me from a lonely holiday.”

Before I lost my nerve, I bent to him, my lips at his ear. So close, I could smell his scent. And it was his. Not cologne. Not aftershave.

All Priest.


“It meant a lot,” I whispered. “So I thank you for that, John Priest.”

I moved my head, my lips now at his temple while he remained stone-still.

“Merry Christmas,” I finished softly, brushed my lips against the dark hair beyond his temple, and quickly, before he could rebuff me and take away all the goodness he’d given me, I scurried to the door and through it.

I made sure the house was locked up (all but the side door off the kitchen so Priest could get in, of course), but kept a few lights on to lead Priest’s way to bed.

I got in my own and laid there for a long time, listening.

He didn’t come up for ages. I checked my alarm clock and it was over an hour.

Only when I heard the door close in the hall did my eyes finally drift shut so I could go to sleep.

And I slept not knowing that the man in my guestroom sat outside for over an hour, quietly, unmoving, all the while waging war.

He won.

But he lost.

And so did I.

Because the next day, before I got up, he was gone, but he left behind three hundred-dollar-bills on my registration book, taking away the kindness I’d given him, seeing as he paid for it.

And two months later, when he came back, Christmas had not changed him. He rented cabin eleven. He paid in cash. He spoke few words. After he checked in, I barely saw him. And when he checked out, he shoved the key through the mail slot on my door.

Three months after that, more of the same.

Six months after that, the same.

This lasted for four years.


I told myself I wasn’t doing it, but I kept cabin eleven open as best I could, just in case. It was always the last cabin I rented when I was full up.

And I did it so every time he came—not constant, but consistent—the only thing I had to give him was open for me to give.

* * * * *

That was the way it was.

And that was the way it remained.

Until that night.

That night that would be the best night by far in my entire life.

A night that would also be the worst thing that ever happened to me.

Chapter Four


My eyes opened the instant I heard the loud music start.

I knew.

I knew by the looks of the family there was going to be trouble.

Three boys, all the same age, obviously not brothers and they couldn’t be a day older than eighteen.

Two parents in a fancy Escalade, the boys in a not quite as fancy Navigator. Two parents that checked them in to a cabin and I hadn’t seen them since. Checked them in because they knew no way in hell the proprietress of kickass cabins in the Colorado Mountains would let three underage boys itching for spring break fun stay alone in one of her cabins. Checked them in and took off, probably to check in to their own fancy condo closer to the slopes.

Checked them in and left them to their spring break to do what those boys clearly, by their car and clothes and snowboards and attitudes, felt entitled to do.

That being whatever the heck they wanted.

It had been so far, so good. Three days and they were mostly not there. No noise. SUV gone. More than likely hitting the slopes and carousing elsewhere.

I’d gone to bed and done it after checking the lot.

When I did, they were gone.

Now I knew they were back.

I threw off the covers and quickly dressed. Jeans. Bra. Thermal. Socks. Boots.

I grabbed the baseball bat I’d kept by my bed since that woman was assaulted in one of my cabins and Priest got angry about it. On my way out, I also nabbed my flashlight.

I left lights on in the foyer, the motion sensor lights outside coming on as I went out. I locked up after me, turned on the flashlight, and headed swiftly down the lane toward the cabins where the loud music was emanating.

It was late March, still high season, and now spring break season. The last few years, the country had hit a recession, but somehow I’d survived it. Rentals dipped occasionally but I always had customers in more than three cabins, which worked for me. Things were looking up for the economy and my rentals were up. Right then, I had nine cabins rented.

As I walked down the lane, my head turned right, toward eleven, which was also rented.

Priest was there.

He had been for two days. I’d checked him in and after, as usual, hadn’t seen him.

However, at that precise moment, his cabin was dark and there was no black Suburban parked outside it.

He was somewhere else.

Interesting. He’d been there when I’d checked the lot at ten o’clock. I had no clue he took off and stayed out late, mostly because I made a habit of not paying attention.

It was interesting but none of my business.

I kept walking, thinking that in the last four years he’d updated his Suburban. It was still caked on the side with mud most of the times he came to stay, but it was newer. It just didn’t seem to matter to him it was newer. He took the same care of it as he did the old one.

He wasn’t alone in getting a new vehicle. Three years ago, I’d bought a dark green Range Rover. My baby. I freaking loved it. Much better than my car. Especially when I had to hit Costco and load up on laundry soap in bulk.

Also in the last four years, a bunch more had happened.

I’d had all the cabins re-insulated, for one. And I’d had swamp coolers installed. I’d upgraded the furnaces. I’d attached flower boxes to all the windows of the cabins that faced the lot, and in a few weeks, I’d be filling them with bright flowers and lush greenery. I’d had permanent fairy lights wound around a number of aspen by the parking lot and dotted through the woods to add more light to the night and do it in a way that was attractive, quirky, and welcoming. They were on timers. Turning on late dusk, turning off at eleven-thirty to let the five dim overheads do the work of lighting the space.

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