Read Online Books/Novels:
The Babysitter (Professionals #5)
Author/Writer of Book/Novel:
He went to the woods to get away from it all. His past, the demons ever at his heels. And, perhaps most importantly, people.
|Books in Series:|
|Books by Author:|
The woods were a breathing thing. The way the wind whispered through newly budding trees. How the dry underbrush hissed across the floor, catching against shrubs and stacking up with half-moldering piles of fallen leaves.
The sounds were long since familiar, ones I heard nightly for years. In the barns, the roll of furry bodies against hay was as predictable as the chorus of crickets, as intermittent as the lonesome-sounding hoot of the occasional owl high in a tree.
My home kept as many secrets as it disclosed – the silent pads of rodent feet, the inaudible swish of fins in the lakes and rivers, the quick, cunning bodies of foxes attempting to steal under my chicken coop only to be thwarted by the four feet deep fence and cement underneath, keeping them safe as they puffed up their feathers to ward off the early spring chill.
But there were some secrets it never could keep.
I’d been unable to sleep, work-weary body begging for rest, mind unable to slow enough to slip into unconsciousness, making me swing my legs off the side of the bed, soles touching down onto the furry side of a German Shepherd who made a grumbling noise before turning on her side, snuggling into one of the seven other bodies scattered across my floor instead of the living room where their beds were, the fire likely having died down, chilling that space.
The house was quiet as it so often was, just the heavy breathing of dogs, the snoring of them, the whimpering or scratching of their nails on the floor as they chased something through the forest floor in their dreams.
The crackling of the dying fire met me as I moved out of my bedroom and into the main living space, going over to throw another log on, knowing it would be several long, cold hours before the sun teased through the windows, warming surfaces, making a fire unnecessary. I could probably get through the night without the fire, but the dogs would start shaking. The same dogs that – all winter – bounded through feet of snow like it was cotton candy. But it meant nothing to me. It wasn’t like there wasn’t enough wood around us to keep us all as warm as we wanted to be.
One-point-one million acres of wood, to be exact. Sure, it was protected which meant that cutting it down was technically a crime, but when you chose to build an entire homestead on government land without permission, you didn’t fuss too much about a little firewood.
I moved a pot of water over the fire, figuring if I wasn’t going to get some sleep, then a head start on coffee was going to be necessary.
Spring meant more work than usual just to get all the gardens and the greenhouse ready for new planting. I was working from sunup to sundown from March through May. And then, well, it was weeding and harvesting. It never let up save for the winter.
It had been a long, cold one, though. And I found myself itching for the work, for the tiredness in my muscles, the bone-deep exhaustion that would make sleep possible.
I had just been pouring the grounds into the press when I heard it.
A sound that didn’t fit.
A secret the woods refused to keep.
Putting down the spoon, I moved over toward the front door, pulling it wide, feeling the night air – still slipping under freezing – slap my shirtless body, making the skin prickle in objection.
I paid no mind, though, as I moved a step outside, bare feet on the cold ground, chin tilted up, listening, needing to hear it again to be sure.
The Pine Barrens was a desolate place, full of animals and ghost towns. But quiet places were a magnet for some people too. Ones like me, drawn to the emptiness, the isolation, needing to get away from a world that was hard to breathe within. Those I left alone, knowing how badly my soul had needed this place when I first stepped through the tree line many years before, how much I still needed it now.
The others, they came here for the lack of population as well. But not for their own peace of mind. Not for their own bastardized form of therapy, recovery.
They came to disrupt, to destroy.
Stupid teenagers touring the ghost towns, tagging the crumbling brick in heinous, unnatural neon spray paint. Ridiculous street names, immature, unoriginal curses, declarations of undying love. The paint would outlast the relationships by decades.
Others still came by the truckload, beds loaded down with kegs, cases of beer, giant handles of hard liquor, pockets loaded down with pills that would make the trees come alive, chase their hallucinating selves through unfamiliar terrain.
Campers came, often needing a search party. Or, more often, me, to get them back to land where they most likely ended up needing a digit or two to be surgically removed.