Stars blanketed the dark sky and the air was cool as Amanda pulled into the motel parking lot. This would be her last stop before reaching Copper Harbor, her final destination.
After check in Amanda went back to her car and took out her overnight bag and returned to her room for a quick shower and a short stroll around the motel grounds breathing in the cool fresh air. "Mmmmm, now this is heaven," she said quietly.
As she returned to her room she noticed a rugged looking man walking up to the motel. "Good evening ma'am," the stranger said and added, "lovely evenin' isn't it?"
"It's better than that, this is heaven," Amanda replied stretching her arms out as if trying to touch the stars.
Amanda recalled the day she spoke to the travel agent who helped her decide on a destination for her vacation as she returned to her room. "Things are much different up north than they are in the big cities of the lower peninsula," the agent told her and continued, "The folk in the UP are friendlier than back here and it's not uncommon for a total stranger to strike up a conversation with visitors and town folk alike."
As Amanda arrived at her door she glanced back to see the stranger with the heavy backpack leaving the motel and as she put the key in she heard him say, "Now you have yourself a great vacation and enjoy your stay in heaven."
"Thank you and you have a safe journey yourself," she added as she opened her door, walked in then closed and locked it behind her. Amanda's long awaited vacation was passing quickly as she visited every attraction that was on her agenda as well as a few that weren't mentioned. Several times throughout her vacation she saw the rugged stranger she met her first night in the UP. He didn't always speak to her but he did acknowledge her presence with a tip of his hat or a friendly wave in passing.
Nine days into her vacation she ran into him when she stopped for lunch at a quaint family owned diner. After Amanda was seated at the last available table she noticed the man waiting for a table himself. She walked up to the man and said, "You look awfully tired, would you like to sit and have lunch with me?"
"Why thank you ma'am, but I don't want to intrude... I can wait for the next table," he said as he tipped his hat to her.
"Okay, well I'm right over there if you happen to change your mind," Amanda said as she pointed across the tiny diner to the table near the swinging doors by the kitchen.
Shortly after Amanda returned to her seat the waitress came over with a menu and right behind her was the rugged man. "I'd like to take you up on your offer. Is it still okay?" he asked placing his hat to his chest.
Amanda nodded her head and motioned for the waitress to bring another menu. Putting out her hand she said, "I'm Amanda, Amanda Wells."
"It's a pleasure to meet you Amanda Wells, I'm Sean Curtis," the man replied as he shook her hand, staring into her bright brown eyes and smiled.
The pleasure's all mine Sean Curtis. You sure get around don't you?" Amanda asked him as he skimmed through the menu. "I've seen you quite a few times while driving around," she added.
"How long have you been hitching up here?" Amanda questioned and continued, "Where are you headed?"
Sean replied, "I've been up here for quite a while," not really giving her a definite answer to her question but added, "I just love it up here so much I can't bring myself to the point of returning home."
Sean already knew the answer to Amanda's question regarding her, but was curious why she was traveling alone and asked, "Why are you up here traveling all by yourself?"
Amanda told him, "My friends back home are city lovers and couldn't bare the thought of traipsing around in the woods and call it a vacation much less relaxing," then she laughed as she continued, "and I don't have a man in my life at the moment either. So when I want to take a vacation or just get away for the weekend I always end up going by myself, which sometimes can be a blessing in disguise. Know what I mean?"
Sean smiled and nodded his head in agreement to her comments as he finished the last bite of food on his plate.
Amanda finished her meal as well and motioned for the waitress to bring the bill. When the waitress put it on the table Amanda grabbed it immediately saying, "this one's on me, thanks for the company Sean." After she paid the bill and left a tip on the table Sean walked her to her car and opened her door for her after she unlocked it. "Can I give you a ride anywhere?" she asked as she got behind the wheel.
"Awe thanks anyway, but I like walkin'," Sean replied and as he turned to begin walking again he added, "perhaps we will run into each other again before the end of your trip."
"I'd like that Sean," Amanda said shutting her door, staring into his deep blue eyes. As she drove off she felt a warm sensation creep over her causing her palms to become clammy and her heart to pound a bit faster. "What a nice guy," she thought to herself, "and very good looking too", as she headed to her next destination, Pictured Rocks.
A few days later Amanda saw Sean hiking down the highway once again. She pulled over to say hello, asking where he was headed.
"I'm on my way to see the Minnewawa Falls and then look for interesting plants to photograph in the forest," Sean said.
Amanda told him she'd already been to see those falls and was on her way to do some trout fishing and hiking in the woods. "Have a good time Sean, those falls are beautiful," she added, putting her car in drive and slowly merging into the traffic on the highway.
Several days passed without Amanda seeing any signs of Sean. She was hoping to run into him to say goodbye and thank him once again for being so nice to her. On her last day before her long ride home she finally ran into Sean again at the same motel as on her first night. "Did you happen to see the ghost town over in Mandin?" he asked.
"No that will have to wait till my next trip back here," Amanda replied and continued "I spent a night on Isle Royale and hiked around all the waterfalls, Pictured Rocks and the Porcupine Mountains." It was a wonderful vacation, but unfortunately it's time for me to return home, work is waiting," she finished with a disappointing sigh.
"Sounds like you really enjoyed yourself," Sean said then continued after a brief pause as he looked up to the sky and inhaled a deep breath of fresh crisp air. "Would you like help with your bags ma'am?"
"Oh no, thanks anyway," Amanda said as she only removed her overnight bag, leaving the remaining gear in her trunk.
Amanda positioned the strap of the bag over her right shoulder then shut the trunk. She turned to lean on the back of her car, inhaled a deep breath and sighed once again. "Ohhh, I wish I could live up here, everything is so peaceful and unrushed," she said. After a few minutes she continued, "I can hardly believe this is my last night here. Three weeks couldn't have gone by that quickly. Back in the city the weeks just seem to drag on and on."
"Well it was nice meeting you Sean, but I should be getting some rest for my long ride back home in the morning," Amanda said as she turned to shake his hand and head to her room.
It was mid-afternoon as Amanda packed her car and the weather was gorgeous. She returned the room key to the front desk, thanked them for a wonderful stay then returned to her car. Before hitting the highway she chose a few relaxing CD's from her case, placed one in the CD player on the seat beside her and hit the play button.
The music started softly as she turned her car on to the two-lane highway heading south and began her journey home. Absorbed in the music from her CD player she drove for about three and a half hours without a care in the world except where to stop for dinner, that is until she smelled smoke and her engine ignited. The smoke billowed from beneath her hood and she immediately pulled to the shoulder and released the handle labeled 'hood' beneath her steering wheel.
"I guess I shouldn't have done all that driving on the back roads," she said as she quickly exited her flaming vehicle grabbing only her purse and keys, kicking the front wheel as she passed it; angry with herself for not having a cell phone.
"Oh I could kick myself right now, I should have gotten that cell phone everybody kept telling me to get in case I had an emergency like this. Damn it," she said in a huff as she attempted to douse the fire with the bottle of water she had in her purse. "Now what am I gonna do?" she questioned herself aloud and continued. "There probably won't be another car pass by here for quite a while and if I'm right, the next town with any kind of service repair or gas station is one hell of a hike from here."
Thankful that she decided to wear her tennis shoes instead of her sandals, she crossed her fingers hoping to catch another motorist passing by then flung her purse over her shoulder and began the long hike to look for help. She walked for about ten minutes when in the distance on the opposite side of the highway she saw Sean hiking toward her. "I wonder if he knows where I can get some help closer than the place I remember passing on my way up here?" she thought to herself as she watched him wander up the highway.
Sean saw Amanda and darted across the road to see what the problem was. She told him about her car fire and he immediately removed his backpack tossing it on the ground. He opened it and removed a large jug of water and ran back to her car. Amanda picked up his heavy pack and followed him back to her car.
Sean did everything in his power to douse the flames before much damage occurred but it was too late for that. He did however manage to get the flames out just as Amanda returned with his backpack. The two of them watched the smoke and flames dissipate.
Handing Sean his backpack, Amanda asked, "Do you have any idea how far I am from the nearest repair shop?" Sean told her of a small town not too awful far ahead in the direction she was headed.
"There's a small repair shop there and if they can't help you they will at least tow you to one that can," he said. She thanked him, gathered her things and not wanting to be a burden sent Sean on his way then turned to begin her new journey.
Sean walked the opposite way of the smoldering vehicle and Amanda briefly. Feeling guilty for leaving a damsel in distress he ran back to take the journey with her. "You shouldn't be out here alone. You don't mind if I walk with you do ya?" he questioned as they began to walk.
"He seems like a nice guy and he seems to know this area better than I do," she thought to herself then answered, "No, I would enjoy the company, thanks." Secretly Amanda was glowing inside. Sean had an effect on her and she was hoping to enjoy it as long as possible.
They walked for hours and she was beginning to think he wasn't as honest as he first seemed.
"Where is he leading me," Amanda questioned herself. Seems like we have been walking much longer than it would have normally taken to reach a town. I don't know if this was such a good idea, letting him guide me like this, but what other choice did I have other than to go it alone?"
That's when she saw the sign, Eagle Harbor 45 miles. By this time she was exhausted. "I'm never going to make it," she said. Sean suggested they go off the road to rest, Reluctantly, but with no other choice Amanda followed him.
Once Sean found a clearing to rest he removed a sack from his backpack and handed it to Amanda. "What's this?" she asked.
"Just some dried nuts and berries I have for munching on between meals. It's okay take some, you gotta be starving by now," he told her.
Amanda took a handful and handed the sack back to Sean who also took a handful before putting the sack in his backpack and fastening the hook.
Amanda took her time eating the nuts and berries then Sean handed her a canteen filled with water and she took a big gulp, laughing as the water trickled down her chin. "Thank you, that tasted good," she said handing the canteen back to Sean. She closed her eyes and imagined the lips that were on that canteen before hers actually touching hers and she smiled, bringing her fingers to her mouth briefly.
Amanda felt a yawn coming and tried to hide it, wanting to appear brave to Sean, but he saw it anyway and advised her to relax, "I'm not gonna do anything to you, it's okay, sleep if you need to," Sean told her as she propped herself against a tree, using her purse as a head rest. Amanda felt her eyes get heavy and quickly dozed off.
The next thing she knew it was morning. She rose to her feet. Sean still sleeping beside his bag, she awakened him gently and when he opened his eyes and faced her he smiled. This caused another stir in Amanda and she backed off slowly, starring at him all the while. On their way once more, they managed to get a ride from a farmer who dropped them short of the next town and signs of civilization by only ten miles and they continued on foot.
"Hey, there's a restaurant up there on the left Sean. Do you think they will have a phone I can use," Amanda asked nudging his arm gently, looking for any excuse to touch him again without looking needy.
"Yep, they have a phone and if I might add, some great food too," Sean said excitedly, being hungry and wanting to sit for a while and spend more time with Amanda just talking and looking at her. They went in to clean up, grab a bite to eat and look for a repair shop. When Sean went to the bathroom to clean up Amanda called the waitress over, explained her situation and asked to use the phone.
"Where's your car located, sweetie?" the waitress asked.
"I'm not certain, I know it's on that highway back quite a ways, about 3 and a half hours outside Copper Harbor and we've been walking forever," she told the waitress.
"I will get someone out here to help you, now sit back, relax and enjoy your breakfast," the waitress said as she placed two menus on the table and poured two cups of hot coffee.
The tow truck arrived shortly after the waitress made the call and drove them back to her car. Sean wished her luck and was on his way again. "I wish I could repay you for your kindness somehow," she said seriously. "You've been such a help to me."
"Hey, Don't worry about it, just concentrate on getting your car fixed," Sean replied and walked away.
Sean's heart was breaking, but he didn't want Amanda to see him as being a bum and just hanging with her for a ride and food occasionally so he continued on his way, turning occasionally to watch the tow truck drive in the opposite direction with Amanda in the front seat. "She's in good hands with that driver and they will take good care of her car too," he mumbled to himself as he turned back one last time not seeing the car in tow any longer.
Once in the city the tow driver dropped Amanda and her burned vehicle at the nearest collision shop. The receptionist told her it would be at least a week before she could get her car back and offered a loaner until then. She accepted gratefully, then called work to notify her boss of her shortcomings. She was unsure of what she was going to do in the small town for an entire week and almost out of money.
She checked herself into the motel across the street. She showered and changed her outfit, remembering all the while the rugged man that befriended her earlier. With nothing else to do and wondering if she could still find him Amanda decided to give it her best shot. She found her way to the highway he was hiking on and began driving, exceeding the speed limit somewhat in hopes of catching him.
She passed the restaurant where the waitress called for help, then the scene of her fire, but no sign of him. She came to a hill, slowing down as she drove to the top to look for him. As she began descending the hill she saw in the distance a figure of a man on the side of the road.
She sped to catch up. Amanda drove past the man, looking in her rearview mirror for verification that it was Sean. She pulled to the shoulder to wait for him. When he neared the vehicle she stepped out and greeted him with a large cold drink and a more than friendly hug.
She told him about her situation and said it seemed a great time to repay him. She offered him a ride as close to his destination as possible, but she needed to be back at the garage in a week.
Very tired and sore from his travels and so excited to see her again, Sean accepted. They returned to the open road and soon the questions began. "So what are you gonna do this whole week while you wait for your car?" Sean asked.
Amanda replied, "I'm not sure. I did check into the motel by the collision shop, but that used the last of my spending money." She paused a moment then continued, "I don't know what I'm getting all worried for, I don't really need money to enjoy myself up here anyway, all the things that I love doing best don't cost a dime and I still have some money in my checking account to get food and I have a gas card too. The repair bill is being sent to my insurance company so that won't be a problem," Amanda told Sean as she drove.
The conversation continued with discussions of what the best places in the UP were and which Amanda liked best. Sean began to look at Amanda differently and she noticed immediately, this made her blush.
As day turned to night a chill crept into the air. Sean could see Amanda occasionally glance his way then smile. He took it upon himself to make the first move, a move he had been waiting to take since their first meal together.
He lifted his duffle bag into the back seat, slid to her side and smiled. As moments passed without objection he slid his hand to her tanned leg. Still no objections, he turned slightly and flicked his tongue upon her neck. Amanda melted right then and there, losing control of the rental car. Quickly she regained control and pulled to the shoulder as she tried to clam herself.
There hadn't been any passing traffic in over an hour and she knew this was her chance to thank him. She returned his touch and the fireworks began.
Amanda swore to herself she would contain her urges of taking him right then and there although she wanted to feel his rugged body against hers more than anything, yet she didn't want him to think of her as easy. She reached over and gently touched his face with the back of her fingers as he gently caressed her thigh and then he kissed her.
Amanda slid her hand from his face to the back of his head, gently grasping his hair and pulled him to her for a deeper kiss. The touching and kissing continued well into the night and she couldn't believe how Sean was containing himself and not forcing her to rush things and take them where she swore to herself they wouldn't go, at least on the first night together.
After a few hours of continuous fondling and kissing Amanda reluctantly pulled away, her breathing staggered, her voice raspy, "We should get some rest, don't ya think Sean?" she asked as she pulled back her mussed hair and repositioned herself in her seat.
Sean was a perfect gentleman and at Amanda's request slid over the seat with his back against the passenger door. He then took a flannel jacket from his bag and motioned for Amanda to slide her back against his chest and he wrapped his jacket around her to keep the chill away. He then wrapped his arms around hers, put his head back closing his eyes and whispered, "good night my sweet Amanda," and they both drifted off to sleep.
Amanda was awakened by the sounds of semi's whipping past, jolting her car. She slowly started moving away from Sean, which caused him to awaken as well. "Ah, it's morning and another beautiful day," Sean said as he stretched and yawned.