what if the beast is a woman instead of a man?
I was about to find out when a mysterious job led to the secluded home of a horror novelist. I’d lost everything: my scholarship, my education, and my way. In denial of my family inheritance, I took the unusual employment as a chance out of a hole, but I found myself buried in the unknown trauma of another situation much deeper.
I had changed my name and my address to keep myself hidden, but my scars were more than physical. Living as a recluse in the woods, I was used to being alone, so I wasn’t happy when a certain someone was always in my space. Our first encounter was less than pleasant and tension continued at every attempt to tame me.
I knew she was keeping secrets and I wanted to help, but she was cutting me down and cutting me off every time she opened her mouth. Our frustration with one another grew until a misunderstanding changed everything. How can I be the next guy after something so tragic? It was a challenge I wasn’t sure I was willing to take.
I looked directly at her. The blue cloak matched her angered eyes and for a moment I thought I saw something else in them. In her bent over position, she looked down at me and I shivered with excitement thinking she was reaching for me, until she leaned forward further and tried to tip the boat.
“Are you…” I stopped. I was going to say crazy, insane, cuckoo.
“Say it,” she snapped.
“I wasn’t going to say it,” I lied.
“Yes, you were,” and she reached for the underside of the boat, but could only touch the side, pushing on it.
I still had a hold on the edge of the dock and I let the boat float away a little as if her push had an effect, before I pulled it back.
I knew I was taunting her more.
“I. Said. Get. Out,” and she reached forward again at the same time I pushed the boat away from the dock. Ella lost her momentum and lunged toward me with a look of shear panic. I caught her around the waist as I let go of the dock, but the force of her coming at me pushed us both to the right and we hit the icy cold lake. It was a short drop, and despite the shock of the water, I wrapped one hand around Ella’s head to protect her from hitting the shallow bottom. I slammed my shoulder into the pebbly lake bottom, landing on a rock as I twisted to buffer her fall. I struggled to hold Ella and free my legs that now balanced above me in the kayak.
Once me legs were free, I easily kicked the soft bottom of the lake and righted myself, still clutching Ella around the waist and head. The cold water had been a shock, but the cool air above the surface was additional pins and needles. I sucked in a breath, clenching Ella to me. I heard her gasp for air as she shoved me hard in the chest like she had the day before behind the couch.
“What the hell are you doing?” she yelled.
“Trying to protect you.”
“Well, I don’t need protecting.”
“You almost drowned us,” I returned her growing anger.
“Us? You almost drowned me. Holding me under the water,” she shouted back at me. She had pushed back from me but now stepped awkwardly closer again in the knee-deep water.
“And you ruined my cloak.” Ella looked down at the soggy material and pulled some of it up. The hood fell back when we’d returned to the surface, and her hair fell in heavy waves around her shoulders. The water glistened off it, making it a darker mixture of fall-leaf tones. I held in the moan trying to escape and clenched my hands into fists at my side. I wanted to shake her madly then kiss her passionately.
“You almost drowned me by thinking you could push me out of that boat.”
“Well, you weren’t getting out.”
“What are you? Two? Cut the spoiled bitch act.” Ella gasped in shock as I shook my head and ran both hands through my hair. I didn’t want to get mad at her.
“Funny. Yesterday you said I was beautiful. Today I’m a bitch,” she retorted.
I took two steps toward the dock in my water sodden clothes before I turned to face her again.
“You are beautiful,” I started loudly, angrily, “if you’d just keep your damn mouth shut,” I added in a whisper and finally pushed myself upward onto the dock. She continued to stare at me as I crouched on the wooden platform and offered her my hand.
“Come here,” I said in an unknowingly seductive voice.
“I don’t need your help,” she snapped back, resigned as she walked toward the dock, dragging the soaking wet, heavy material behind her. I stood.