Status Update(6)

By: Annabeth Albert

The other RVs were clustered closer to Old Billy’s cabin, in the neatly numbered spaces surrounding the covered picnic area and horseshoe pits. From here, all he could make out was the distant interior lights on the rig closest to Billy’s cabin. Adrian and Noah were down past the off-leash dog area, on a dead-end gravel drive. No seasonal decor down here. Adrian figured that Billy had stuck him and Trent out in a distant space to avoid gay cooties. He didn’t know what Noah’s deal was, but he struck Adrian as the sort of guy who would request the farthest, most remote space.

Noah scanned Adrian up and down, a condescending little smirk like he assumed Adrian was afraid of roughing it and wouldn’t know how to appreciate a place like this.

And yeah, that had been one of Adrian’s arguments with Trent—Trent liked the swankier RV parks with indoor pools and weight rooms while all Adrian had really cared about was the little dog-friendly icon on his trip guide app.

He wasn’t some pampered princess, no matter what Noah assumed.

“You have someone you can call?” Noah asked. His voice was smooth and cultured, like an NPR announcer, no hint of a Western drawl. Despite the outdoorsy exterior, he wasn’t from around these parts.

“Not exactly.” Adrian laughed because, really, what else could he do? “My family’s in Denver,’s complicated.” Besides being eight hours away, he did not want to deal with confessing the whole Trent tale quite yet.

Noah studied him for a long moment, brows creasing in an expression that said he understood complicated.

“I get that. But you can’t stay outside tonight. The temperature will keep dropping.” Noah held open the door of his RV. “For better or worse, I think you’re stuck with me and Ulysses for the night.” He said the last bit all resigned and not as if he was doing him a favor. More like Adrian’s frozen carcass would be a nuisance he’d rather not have to clean up.

Something about that worse gave Adrian pause. Noah had a confident air, the sort of guy comfortable with the outdoors who probably knew a whole bunch of ways to harm someone that had nothing to do with brute strength. It finally struck Adrian how darn helpless Trent had left him. His chest hitched and his throat tightened. Stranded. He left me. Now he was completely at Noah’s mercy, and defenseless was not the sort of guy Adrian was. In fact, that had been most of the problem with Trent—Adrian wasn’t the sort to shut up and take orders nicely.

Adrian stood, wrapping the blanket tightly around him and Pixel, but didn’t rush to follow Noah. This felt...big somehow. Bigger than admitting Trent wasn’t about to reappear. Warm light spilled out from Noah’s RV along with a spicy, meaty scent.

“Well, come on.” Noah motioned impatiently.

Pixel made a snuffling sound in Adrian’s arms. Poor baby was going to freeze out here long before Adrian admitted he was well and truly fucked. He was out of options—no choice but to accept Noah’s reluctant hospitality.

Chapter Two

“I don’t mean to impose,” Adrian channeled his mother’s manners as he followed Noah and his dog into the RV. He wasn’t sure what else to say. “Sorry I’m such a loser” came to mind, as did “Please don’t turn out to be a serial killer.”

Not that Noah exactly had the crazy-hermit vibe—his beard and short hair were much too groomed to pull off the whole Unabomber look—but he did seem to have the recluse thing down pat.

“I should probably put a note over at my space, so Trent can find me when he comes back. Do you have some paper I could borrow?” Adrian’s words came out much too fast, a product of his overactive imagination latching onto the serial-killer thing. However, it was true that he and Pixel were pretty much at the mercy of the man and his giant beast of a dog. Like Pixel, the dog appeared to be some unholy mix of breeds—Adrian detected some black lab along with some shepherd. But where Pixel resembled the smallest varieties of his breeds, Ulysses had maxed out the large and shaggy gene pool.

“I have a bit.” Noah raised one eyebrow as he pointed at the dining nook and small L-shaped kitchenette area. Both were covered in neat stacks of papers and post-it notes. Additional stacks took up the couch opposite the entryway. Noah plucked a sheet off a stack, scanned it, then handed it to Adrian along with a black pen. “Here. You can write on the back of this.”

Also By Annabeth Albert

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