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The Gamble

By:Kristen Ashley

p,” I hastily explained my easily explainable rudeness (for anyone could see it was snowing which would make any smart driver be careful) as I walked across the porch.

The man moved and the outside light came on, blinding me for a second.

I stopped to let my eyes adjust and heard, “What the fuck?”

I blinked and then focused and then I could do nothing but stare.

He did not look like what I thought a caretaker would look like.

He was tall, very tall, with very broad shoulders. His hair was dark, nearly black, wavy and there was a lot of it, sweeping back from his face like a stylist had just finished coifing it to perfection. He was wearing a plaid, flannel shirt over a white thermal, the sleeves of the shirt rolled back to expose the thermal at his wrists and up his forearms. Faded jeans, thick socks on his feet and tanned skin stretched over a face that had such flawless bone structure, a blind person would be in throes of ecstasy if they got their fingers on him. Strong jaw and brow, defined cheekbones, unbelievable.

Though, in my estimation, he was a couple days away from a good clean shave.

“Mr. Andrews?” I asked.

“No,” he answered and said no more.

“I –” I started then didn’t know what to say.

My head swung from side to side, then I looked behind me at my car and the Cherokee then back around and up at the A-Frame.

This was the picture from the website, exactly it. Wasn’t it?

I looked back at him. “I’m sorry. I was expecting the caretaker.”

“The caretaker?”

“Yes, a Mr. Andrews.”

“You mean Slim?”


“Um…” I answered.

“Slim isn’t here.”

“Are you here to give me the keys?” I asked.

“The keys to what?”

“The house.”

He stared at me for several seconds and then muttered, “Shit,” and right after uttering that profanity, he walked into the house leaving the door open.

I didn’t know what to do and I stood outside for a moment before deciding maybe the open door was an indication that I should follow him in.

I did so, closing the door with my foot, stamping my feet on the mat to get rid of the snow and then I looked around.

Total open space, all shining wood, gorgeous. Usually, websites depicting holiday destinations made things look better than they really were. This was the opposite. No picture could do this place justice.

To the left, the living area, big, wide, long comfortable couch with throws over it. At the side of the couch, facing the windows, a huge armchair two people could sit in happily (if cozily) with an ottoman in front of it. Square, sturdy, rustic table between the chair and couch, another one, lower, a bigger square, in front of the couch. A lamp on the smaller table, its base made from a branch, now lighting the space. Another standing lamp in the corner of the room by the windows made from another, longer, thicker branch with buffaloes running across the shade, also lit. A fireplace, its gorgeous stone chimney disappearing into the slant of the A-Frame, in its grate a cheerful fire blazed. A recessed alcove to the back where there was a roll top desk with an old-fashioned swivel chair in front of it, a rocking chair in the corner by another floor lamp, its base looked like a log and it was also lighting the space. A spiral staircase to a railed loft that jutted over the main living space and there were two doors under the loft, one I knew led to a three-quarter bath, the other one, likely storage.

The pictures of the loft on the website showed it held a queen-sized bed, had a fantastic master bath with a small sauna and a walk-in closet.

To the right I saw a kitchen, perhaps not top-of-the-line and state-of-the-art but it wasn’t shabby by a long shot. Granite counter tops in a long U, one along the side of the house, the other, a double top, a low, wide counter with a higher bar, both sliced into the open area and the bar had two stools in front of it. A plethora of knotty pine cabinets that gleamed. Mid-range appliances in stainless steel. Another recess at the back where the sink was, the fridge to the left. And a six-seater dining room table at its end by the floor to A-frame windows, also in knotty pine, with a big hurricane-lamp style glass candle holder at its center filled with sage green sand in which was stuck a fat, cream candle. Over it hung a candelabra also made from branches and also lit.

“You got paperwork?” the man asked and I was so caught up in surveying the space and thinking how beautiful it was and how all my weeks of worries if I was doing the right thing and my seventeen hours of exhausting travel was worth getting to that fabulous house, I started then looked at him.

He was in the kitchen and he’d nabbed a cordless phone. I walked in his direction, put the grocery bags on the bar and then dug in my purse to find my travel wallet. I pulled it out, snapped it open and located the confirmation papers.

“Right here,” I said, flicking them out and handing them to him.

He took them even though he was also dialing the phone with his thumb.

“Is there a prob –?” I asked, his eyes sliced to me and I shut up.

His eyes were gray, a clear, light gray. I’d never seen anything like them. Especially not framed with thick, long, black lashes.

“Slim?” he said into the phone. “Yeah, got a woman here a…” he looked down at the papers, “Miss Sheridan.”

“Ms.,” I corrected automatically and his clear gray eyes came back to me.

It had also dawned on me, at this juncture, that he had a strangely attractive voice. It was deep, very deep, but it wasn’t smooth. It was rough, almost gravelly.

“A Ms. Sheridan.” He cut into my thoughts and emphasized the “Ms.” in a way that I thought, maybe, wasn’t very nice. “She’s lookin’ for keys.”

I waited for this Slim person, who I suspected was Mr. Andrews the absent caretaker, to explain to this amazing looking man that I had a confirmed, two week reservation, pre-paid, with a rather substantial deposit in the rather unl