Mountain Hideout Ch. 02byRenee_Stevens©
Two Weeks Later
"God, I'll be glad when this damn thing comes off," Trace muttered as he drove back up to the little mountainside resort he'd been staying at the last two weeks. Before he'd left home, he'd had to assure the chief that he'd find a doctor to see while he was gone. According to the guy he'd found, his arm was slowly mending, though it looked like he'd be in the brace for longer than he'd originally thought. As he pulled up in front of the cabin he was alarmed to see the door propped open. "What the hell?"
He reached over and pulled his pistol out of the glove box and was careful not to make any sounds as he climbed out of the truck with Hercules at his heels. Deciding not to risk the sound of the door closing he approached the cabin cautiously. He listened carefully and when he heard sounds he sent Hercules in ahead of him, for all he knew, there could be a gun trained on the open doorway, and Hercules was much more equipped to act quickly.
He heard a yell only seconds before he heard the sound of a door slam followed by Hercules's frantic barking and preparing himself for anything he might encounter, Trace flicked the safety off and made his way into the cabin. Instead of finding someone on the floor like he had at home, he found Hercules in front of the bathroom door, clawing frantically at the wood in an attempt to get in.
"Hercules come," Trace ordered as he moved around until he was crouched behind the couch, his pistol aimed at the door. Once the dog was at his side he called out, "Come out slowly and keep your hands where I can see them."
"I'm not coming out there with that damn dog," answered a deep voice.
"You don't have a choice," Trace answered. "You can come out, or he'll come in, it makes no difference to me."
"Fine, hold your fuckin horses, I'll come out," said the same voice only moments before the door started to slowly open.
Trace heard Hercules growling ferociously beside him, but kept his gaze trained on the door and the figure that stepped slowly through it, the man's eyes instantly focusing on Trace and the gun that would have been trained at his head if he hadn't been so tall.
"Who the fuck are you?" Trace asked through clenched teeth. Damn, e could feel himself hardening in his jeans at the mere sight of the stud standing in front of him. 'Stop thinking with the wrong head' Trace thought to himself. Despite his resolve, his eyes travelled the length of the man who must be over six foot. Deep blue eyes stared back at him and instead of the fear that Trace had expected to see, they held a hint of anger.
"I'm the damn owner of this place," the man answered angrily
"The owner I remember was older," Trace answered back. Granted it had been quite a while since he'd been here, but he remembered that much.
"You probably remember my grandfather; he died about five years ago and left the place to me. Now call your fucking dog off and point that damn gun somewhere else."
"In a minute," Trace replied casually as he got to his feet. "What were you doing in here?"
"I just came to replace your towels and clean up. I don't like to intrude on my guests and so I wait until they are out and about, just like a maid service would do in a hotel. Do you even have a damn permit for that gun?"
Trace couldn't help the laughter that bubbled up in him, he couldn't see anyone meaning to do him harm as worrying about him having a permit. 'Just cause it would be out of the ordinary doesn't mean it couldn't happen' the voice in his head told him.
"Let me see your driver's license," Trace ordered as he moved out from behind the couch with Hercules standing guard next to him.
"Why the fuck would I give you my license," the man asked angrily.
"Maybe because I'm the one holding a gun and the one who has a dog that really wants to rip you to pieces," Trace told him.
"Fuck," the man answered as he reached behind him.
"Slowly," Trace ordered as Hercules growls intensified even more.
Trace watched as the man slowly pulled his wallet from the back pocket of his shorts. Even not knowing for sure who the people who wanted him dead were, the address on the license would give him a good idea of whether or not this guy was who he claimed to be. He studied the proffered license carefully before lowering his pistol and giving Hercules his release command.
"Sorry about that," Trace told the man.
"You should be. After that I should throw your fucking ass out," the man Trace now knew as Jackson Montgomery spat at him.
Trace sighed as he put the safety back on and tucked the pistol at the base of his back. He contemplated his options as Jackson studied him. The direct gaze made Trace uneasy as he felt like the other man was looking right through him. "Should?" Trace questioned, surprised at the choice of words.
"I haven't decided yet," Jackson confirmed. "Figure I can at least give you a chance to explain what the hell just happened before I make up my mind."
"What if I can't?" Trace asked. He knew next to nothing about Jackson and wasn't entirely sure that he wanted to tell the man what he was doing hiding out in the cabin. It wasn't just a matter of trust, but Trace also didn't want to involve anyone else in the mess that his life had become over the last few weeks.
"Then you're out of here," Jackson answered as he took a step closer. Unfortunately for him, Hercules took the move as threatening and instantly bristled and started growling next to his master. "Could you at least lock the dog up until I'm gone?"
"He'll behave," Trace answered as he gave a whispered command to Hercules that had the dog lying down next to him, tongue lolling out of his mouth.
"I'm Trace," he told the other man, holding his hand out.
"Jackson Montgomery," Jackson answered, taking the hand but keeping a wary eye on the dog. "So are you going to tell me what the hell just happened?"
"It would be safer for you if you didn't know," Trace told him, trying to buy himself some time.
"I am perfectly capable of looking out for myself," Jackson answered frostily.
"Doesn't look like it from here," Trace mumbled low enough that he didn't figure Jackson would hear.
"If I had any inkling that I needed to be on my guard I would have been, but I didn't expect to be attacked in one of my own cabins. I'm a former Marine and have been trained in more defense maneuvers than you could ever imagine, so whatever the hell is going on, spit it out or pack up your shit and get the hell off of my property."
A sigh escaped Trace's lips as he realized he really had no choice. The chief had made it pretty clear that he didn't want him to come back until either he had time to heal or they caught the bastards behind the shooting. They had learned that it was in fact all connected to the drug dealer he had arrested and according to the guy they had in custody, Trace was far from being safe.
"I guess if you're going to force the issue, I'm going to need a cup of coffee before we get into it," Trace relented reluctantly and made his way over to the small coffeepot on the counter. "Would you like a cup?"
"Not of that swill," Jackson answered, a ghost of a smile showing on his lips. "I actually have some better stuff in the cabin that I live in, if you're interested, but the dog stays here."
"The dog goes," Trace shot back. "He can stay outside on the porch but that's as far as I'm willing to go with it. I owe that dog more than you could even possibly imagine."
"Fine," Jackson conceded as he cautiously made his way to the door, "but he stays outside."
Trace grinned as he followed Jackson out of the cabin, Hercules trotting along at his side. He still wasn't sure he wanted to confide in the man in front of him, but realized he had no choice if he wanted to stay where he was at. His eyes drifted down to study the perfect ass in front of him as he followed Jackson past a few of the other cabins. As he walked, and ogled, he couldn't help but wonder what a former Marine was doing changing someone else's sheets and bringing them fresh towels. He was so intent on his own thoughts that he failed to notice that Jackson had stopped and ran into him. Without thinking, he wrapped his good arm around Jackson from behind to help steady both of them.
"Sorry about that," Trace mumbled, strangely reluctant to release his grip on the other man. "I guess I wasn't paying attention."
"Don't worry about it," Jackson answered, biting back a cry of denial as he forced himself to step from the arms that were wrapped around him. There was no way he was going to admit that he'd enjoyed the brief contact, at least not until he knew what they guy's story was. "Come on in and have a seat while I get the coffee going, just remember the dog stays outside," Jackson told him as he opened the door to his cabin and led the way inside.
"Stay Hercules," Traced ordered before following Jackson inside. He glanced around and noticed that while the cabin had the same layout as his; it was quite a bit larger.
"You can sit anywhere, I'll only be a minute," Jackson told him before making his way into the kitchen.
Trace heard the slam of cupboard doors as he walked around, looking at some of the pictures on the wall. He came across one of Jackson with the man who Trace remembered from his visits to the cabins as a kid. Despite having already known from the driver's license, Trace felt a little better at seeing proof that Jackson had been telling him the truth.
"That the guy you remembered?" Jackson asked, pulling Trace's attention away from the picture to find Jackson leaning on the doorframe leading in from the kitchen.
"Yeah it is," Trace answered as he took in the muscled arms that were folded across the wide chest. He had no doubt that the chest underneath the t-shirt would have been just as muscled. 'Knock it off' Trace told himself. 'He probably doesn't even swing that way, and all you'd get is a good pounding if you tried anything.'
"So where you from?" Jackson asked as he waited for the coffee to finish up so that they could get down to the heart of the matter. For the most part he was just looking to make conversation as he studied the man who was standing in his living room. The man was closer to his type than he really wanted to admit, considering the fact that he was a customer, there seemed to be a neon sign in his mind telling him to back off.
"A couple hours away from here," Trace told him, purposely not providing the exact details of where he was from. He hoped that after Jackson heard his story he would understand the vagueness of some of his answers a bit better.
"That doesn't tell me much," Jackson answered as his eyes roamed the length of Trace's body. The other man had to be at least close to six foot, considering he only stood a couple of inches shorter than his own six two. As his eyes moved back up to the other man's face, he was met with a deep hazel gaze. The smile put him a little more at ease until he remembered the whole reason for this meeting. The man that he was practically drooling over had not only pulled a gun on him, but the man's dog had nearly attacked him.
"Looks like the coffee is done," Trace murmured as he watched Jackson's eyes kind of glaze over with disinterest. He had noticed Jackson looking him over and had wondered if he was interested, but before he could do anything to find out one way or another, Jackson's eyes had become hooded.
"Guess it is," Jackson told him dispassionately as he turned and filled a couple of mugs before walking back into the living room. He handed one of the cups to Trace before taking a seat in the lone chair in the room and motioning towards the couch. "Sit, and start talking."
"I don't even know where to start," Trace admitted. When he'd first come up to the cabins, the last thing he had expected was to have to explain his situation to anybody.
"Maybe you could start with why you're packing and why you felt the need to pull it on me," Jackson suggested, a slight hint of steel in his voice.
"It's as good a place as any I guess," Trace answered, though his heart really wasn't in it. He was half afraid that even once Jackson had heard the explanation that he would still make him pack up and get out. "I'm a cop a couple of hours from here, and Hercules out there is a retired police dog," Trace started haltingly. He continued to relay the events of the last few weeks to Jackson, making sure to include the parts that Hercules had a paw in.
Jackson had gotten up a few times to refill their coffee mugs, but other than that he sat in the chair and remained silent. No nuances of emotions crossed his face to give Trace an idea of what was going on his head, giving Trace no idea as to how Jackson was taking the news of what had transpired. When the story finally wound down, Trace felt emotionally exhausted and just sat and cradled the coffee cup in his hands. A movement from the chair pulled his gaze to Jackson and he watched as the other man got up and went to the door. He was pleasantly surprised when he opened the door and called to Hercules. Knowing that the dog probably wouldn't respond to a stranger, Trace managed to croak out the dogs name and within seconds the dog was padding his way across the threshold to sit next to his owner.
"Sounds like you've been through the wringer," Jackson finally commented as he regained his seat.
"Guess you could say that," Trace answered. "I can understand your edginess, but since they don't know where you went, you should be safe," Jackson told him thoughtfully. "Do you honestly believe that they would have tracked you to here?"
"I don't know at this point, guess it depends on how determined they are," Trace told him. "I made sure I wasn't followed out of the city, but that doesn't necessarily mean I'm completely safe."
"If it makes you feel any better, staying here is by reservation only and there are no more incoming guests on the schedule."
"That don't mean they won't show up though," Trace reminded him. "They wouldn't be coming here with the intent of staying, they would only be coming to finish me off."
"True, but now I'll know to be suspicious of anybody else showing up. I'll do my best to help keep you safe, but I can't promise you anything. If they do come, they'll be expecting you to be on your own and they'll be expecting the dog, but they won't be expecting me."
"This isn't your fight," Trace told him. "If they show up you need to just stay out of it, I'm not going to have anybody else hurt because of me."
"Regardless of whether this is my fight or not, if they show up here then they're bringing the fight to me. You seem to forget that I was a Marine and I don't back down from a fight," Jackson told him.
"Well, then I guess I'd better hope even now more than ever that they don't show up," Trace told him before standing up. "Thanks for the coffee, but I think I'm going to head back to my cabin."
"You okay?" Jackson asked with concern.
"I'll be fine, just have some things to think about," Trace told him as he headed towards the door. He was surprised to see Hercules hadn't left his spot on the floor. "Come on Hercules," Trace ordered and once the dog was at his side he headed out the door and began walking towards is cabin.
"Hey Trace?" Jackson's voice stopped him, but Trace didn't turn around.
"If you have any problems, just dial star two six nine and it will ring through to my cabin. If you can't stay on the line then just leave the phone off the hook.
"Yeah, I'll be sure to do that," Trace told him before continuing his walk. He knew that should anything happen, the last thing he was going to do was call Jackson. The other man might have been a former Marine, but Trace had no intentions of involving anyone else in the situation.