Authors: Lilou Roux
by Lilou Roux
All Rights Reserved
eBooks by Lilou Roux
Moon Claimed Series
Table of Contents
he crack of thunder woke her and she was grateful for it.
Running a hand over her eyes and face
Tess sat up straighter in her seat and looked out the window. Darkness stared back at her, only disturbed by small, silvery rivulets of water fighting for their life against the wind on the reflective surface.
’d had that damned dream again. The one dream she woke out of at least once a week, the dream that was probably – no, make that definitely – responsible for her being here. Here being a bus, on a road in North Dakota, in the middle of the night. Tess didn’t really care about the destination as long as she ended up
. She had no idea where exactly it was she wanted to go, she just knew she had to go.
hat was putting it mildly. Try itchy heart, body and soul.
two months she hadn’t been able to function properly, always daydreaming and feeling as if ready to explode. She had trouble sleeping and had lost her appetite. Her heart had been a hurting, yearning mess inside her chest. Yearning for what, she didn’t know and that had made it only more frustrating. It had been her sister who had suggested for Tess to escape her four walls before she ended up going through the roof.
Apparently it had been a good advice, since she had started feeling less edgy the moment she had grabbed a bag and packed up a few things.
And to her own surprise she had even pushed out a sigh of relief and actually smiled as the first bus she got on pulled out, taking her away from Virginia. The restlessness was still there, but it was laced with eager anticipation now. It felt good, this pain and pleasure mingling in her heart. The only trickle of worry there was due to the fact that she had never hesitated, not even for one second, each time she had chosen a new bus, a new destination. It unsettled her – deep down she was able to admit it – but in the light of day Tess preferred to brush it off as fate’s intervention.
There weren’t a lot of other passengers on the bus.
Looking at the reflections in the window Tess watched the pretty brunette that she had noticed earlier get on the bus. Maybe seven years her junior - probably fresh out of school - and smiling peacefully in her sleep, everything about the girl screamed innocence, even though she tried hard to hide it under make-up and an arrogant curve of her mouth when she was awake. Nevertheless Tess doubted it was her first trip; at that age only a naïve or hardened girl would travel alone. Judging by the way the girl’s eyes had subtly and quickly scanned the rest of the passengers Tess assumed she belonged to the second group. Though for now there was no real need to worry. Not one of the other passengers, a young couple and an older guy, tried to hide sickening thoughts behind the shadows in his eyes. But one could never know. Traveling by bus attracted all kinds of people - the solitary ones, the interesting and the adventurous, but also the dangerous.
Tess’s thoughts were interrupted
as she saw a sign at the side of the road that told her that they had crossed into Montana by now. Pulling up her knees she settled into her seat and gazed out the window as the first hues of dawn touched the horizon, the light steadily growing stronger and quickly catching up with them.
The next time the bus turned off the interstate Tess almost sighed with relief. Another rest stop, finally. She had dozed off after watching the sun rise and had slept through the last stop. Grabbing her bag she got out as soon as the doors opened.
After hours inside the bus the fresh breeze was a welcome, awakening slap in her face. Taking a deep breath she marveled at the air that was scented so unlike the one she was used to.
The air close to the coast always held a hint of salt whereas here she had the feeling it was crisp and yet sweeter and rich in oxygen. She liked it. The bus had stopped in a small town in Western Montana. Houses, fashioned with dark wood, that looked sturdy and yet warm and inviting snuggled against rising mountains. With a smile on her lips Tess raised her face towards the sun high in the sky before heading inside the small shop.
As she waited
in line for the restroom she used the time to throw a look at her reflection. Well, what did one expect after hours of sitting and sleeping on a bus? After finger-combing her long, dark blonde hair that held reflects of copper in it when the light was right she pulled it up into a loose bun, washed her face and then quickly brushed her teeth. Her green eyes sparkled back at her, filled with more peace than she had seen in a while. Apparently she was on the right track. Now all she needed was a little snack and she was good to go.
he shop had probably everything. From food to all sort of outdoor stuff and souvenirs. And even paintings.
As she was about to pay for her purchases her gaze caught on the painting behind the clerk. A forest that was a beautiful twirl of autumn colors, surrounded a deep blue lake. It wasn’t just the life pouring out of every drop and brush of paint, but the theme and scenery
that had her heart missing a beat before drumming away in her chest.
It looked like the lake in her dream.
Wetting her lips, since her mouth had gone dry, she nodded towards the painting and asked, “That’s beautiful.”
The clerk’s eyes were friendly and
appeared to be much younger than the rest of his wrinkly face and gray hair. He didn’t even turn around before answering, “Come back in a few more weeks and you’ll see that it’s also happens to be true. Autumn can be quiet beautiful here, if the weather holds up, that is.”
“So that lake exists?”
He looked at her. “Of course, it does. Who the hell would paint stuff that isn’t even there?” That stunned look of his made Tess almost forget her nerves and smile.
Uhm…is it far away? The lake?”
He extended his hand with the change.
“You want to hike up there?”
The bus blew the horn to signal its imminent departure.
Tess looked at it over her shoulder, then back at the painting. The lake. Longing tugged at her.
Well, she had gone away from home because of a dream and maybe now it was time to stay because of it.
She took the plunge. “Yes. That’s exactly what I want to do.”
Outside the bus pull
ed out. Smiling with excitement now, she turned back towards the Clerk and added, “Uhm, can you tell me where I can find a room for the night?”
“There’s a nice B&B, Joanne’s, not too far away, they should have a room for you.” He gave her a card and tapped a finger against it. “
You’ll get to see more paintings there, by the way. Joanne’s the one who drew this one. Lake’s on her land.”
Really?” Interest piqued, heart thumping, Tess looked at the card in her hands. It felt as if she was holding pure fate. “Well, then. Thanks for everything.”
See you next time...”
“Your cabin’s right here, honey.”
Tess followed Joanne up the stairs to a small but cozy looking log cabin that could have jumped right out of a fairytale or an ad from a travel agency.
“You got it all to yourself. If you like some calm and quiet to relax, this is the right place.” A burst of clear laughter escaped her as she fumbled for the key. “If you want some action, you should ask my sons.”
Joanne was a curvy woman and looked to be in her late forties
. Short brown hair framed a face glowing with friendliness and highlighted by clear green eyes sparkling with love of life. She was a bullet of positive energy. Just being near her made Tess smile.
“Calm and quiet sounds pretty good to me.”
Joanne winked at her and opened the door to the cabin before handing her the keys. “You got it all to yourself. Porch goes around to the back and there’s a balcony upstairs.”
The cabin was lovely. Wood
, a color as if dipped in honey, was everywhere and its spicy scent filled the air. Everything was open. A small but efficient kitchen turned smoothly into the living area with a modern fireplace. Stairs led up to a bedroom and bath. Candles and flowers here and there were subtle feminine touches that Tess appreciated.
I know we’re a B&B, but I don’t care about the details. Thing is I love to cook and with two sons who can eat you out of house and home… what I want to say is, whenever you’re hungry just come by, okay?”
Tess smiled at her.
“Good. I leave you alone now. See you around.”
Left alone Tess went out the back, onto the porch.
The view of the woods was spectacular and Tess supposed it would be even more so from the balcony upstairs. Looking at the woods that already showed touches of yellow and announced the approach of autumn she wasn’t surprised by the feeling of longing. But what did surprise her was the rightness flooding her as she stood there, on the porch of a log cabin somewhere in Montana.
Closing her eyes she took a deep breath and then pulled out her cell.
Her sister answered after the second ring. “Tess?”
Hey, sis. You okay?”
Erin’s deep laughter bubbled up. “You’re asking me? I’m not the one out there in the big, bad world. How are
? Oh, and
are you?” Her sister’s usually raspy voice sounded even huskier.
“Did I wake you?” Tess briefly closed her eyes
as realization dawned on her. Time difference. Her sister had been in bed already. “Damn, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t worry. Where are you?”
“I’m in Montana.” She brought Erin up to date while walking back into the kitchen and looking through it.
“Wow, so you, my sister
who thinks a spur of the moment needs planning, just hopped off the bus on a hunch? Nice. Good to know, at least my education comes through when you need it.”
Then she spotted the wine. “Wow.”
“What is it?” Erin demanded.
“Joanne, the owner, stocked an entire wine rack. Red, rose and white, everything’s there.”
“Love her already. Now,
you earned one of those bottles, so you grab yourself a nice wine and relax. Got it?”
“You know, tonight you really don’t have to tell me twice.
The bus was okay but at the end it had gotten kinda uncomfortable.”
Erin chuckled, “We aren’t getting any younger. When you’re eighteen the bus is cool, it’s a world to discover, but going on twenty-five you start looking at it a little differently.”
it differently, to be more correct.” That got another chuckle out of Erin.
ll leave you to your wine. Bye for now!”
“Bye.” Tess hung up
and put the phone down on the kitchen island.
As her head came up the wine rack
caught her gaze again. Erin was right, she needed to relax. The last two months she had been so wound up and edgy…she shook her head at a particularly embarrassing memory. Tess spoke four languages and loved knowledge and history, so it had been natural for her to start working as a tour guide. A week ago she – calm and sensible Tess – had lost her temper with a group of tourists she had been guiding just because one kid wouldn’t stop asking her the same question over and over again. She had been too out of it to notice that he was mentally retarded. It was a fist to the gut, and she had realized that Erin was right, this wouldn’t pass easily and she really did need a time out. She had stayed at home for a few days, but it hadn’t help. The dream still haunted her and her four walls had seemed to cave in on her. That’s how she had ended up with nothing but a light duffel bag on a bus, and in the end here.
Looking out the window over the sink, she smiled softly. Here was a good place to
restore her soul and recuperate. She had sensed it right from the start. It was almost…like a sense of belonging. Foolish dreamer, she chastised herself. Shaking her head at her own thoughts Tess finally settled for a bottle of red. After opening the wine she left it to breathe while she explored the floor upstairs.
The bedroom was
simple – no corny, silk-draped four poster but a wooden queen-sized bed filled most of it – and yet classy. Tess moved towards the bathroom. When she saw the wooden bathtub that had a rustic touch to it but was actually modern and large, her skin tingled in anticipation. It was time to let go and enjoy. She started the water before hurrying downstairs to get her wine. After pouring herself a glass Tess was about to return upstairs as she hesitated. Cocking her head to the side, she pursed her lips and then shrugged before finally turning around and grabbing the whole bottle.
Why restrain herself?