Cades Cove:The Curse of Allie Mae

By: Aiden James

(Cades Cove Series Book 1)

Chapter One

“Yep… I believe this must be it!” David Hobbs motioned for Miriam, his wife, to join him on a rock ledge overlooking a secluded ravine, roughly a mile’s hike from John Oliver’s famous homestead in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. He smiled impishly, like a kid with a dirty secret.

It’s here… right where Ned said it would be!

“Are you sure?” Miriam panted as she caught up to him. Her irritated tone clearly announced the desire to end this unexpected adventure off the beaten path.

“Will you just look at this place!” he enthused, trying to ignore her perturbed glare. “Welcome to the Smokies’ oldest ‘Lover’s Lane’, darlin’!”

He tipped the bill of his Rockies ball cap toward the view. A lush carpet of grass covered the ravine, and colorful wildflowers lay nestled in the shade from tall eastern pines and hardwoods.

She glanced down into the ravine and smirked.

“I guess it’s nice,” she said, lacking enthusiasm. “The horseback ride we planned last night would’ve been better.” She removed her backpack, let it fall to the ground, and sat on a large rock nearby. Her agitated sky-blue eyes peered at him through long, dark hair while she massaged her tired legs and ankles.

“I thought you wanted romantic,” David retorted, smiling, though finding it harder to hide the growing irritation. He had carefully maneuvered their venture to this remote destination, hoping for a new way to sweep her off her feet. “How much more romantic can it get than being here, in this beautiful place, and on a day like this?”

The weather was perfect for October, and the temperature hovered in the mid-sixties with a clear sky above. He winked at her, and she giggled.

“You see? There’s my girl!” Still carrying his backpack, he moved over to hers and picked it up, motioning for her to follow. His knees felt weak. It reminded him of when they first dated, back in college. “Let’s have a look around.”

He stepped down from the ledge into heavy brush, wading toward the heart of the ravine. From the looks of things, no one had been there in quite awhile. A feeling of serenity surrounded him. Immersed in waist-high grass and thistles, he tried not to think about what might be slithering along the ground near his feet.

“Aren’t you afraid of being bitten by a snake or something?” Miriam called after him. “The park ranger back at the Cable Mill said timber rattlesnakes and copperheads are out here!”

David ignored her, and muttered a quiet prayer the snakes had already gone into hibernation. Meanwhile, Miriam’s hushed curses echoed lightly across the ravine as she scurried along the path he’d created.

“Now isn’t this something?” he said, once she caught up to him.

Thick wildflowers were in abundance, and his hunch about the snakes seemed correct so far. Relieved, he thought the out-of-the-way locale mentioned by his boss, Ned Badgett, might be worth the trouble after all.

Majestic oaks, chestnuts, and maples grew along both embankments, and the rutted earth beneath his feet hinted that a stream once coursed through there. The leaves had begun their seasonal change, offering a brilliant sea of red and orange amid towering evergreens. Wild roses, geraniums, and orange jewelweed added even more splendor.

“Yes it is,” she conceded, grinning while she looked around.

David wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her close. His trimmed blonde beard brushed against her cheek as she reached up and kissed him.

“Sorry I was a bitch.”

“It’s all right, baby.” His hazel eyes twinkled, mischievous. “I’ll let you make it up to me after lunch!”

“Oh yeah? We’ll see about that!”

She playfully jabbed him in the side, and he feigned injury. He moved across the ravine to a large oak, where he set the backpacks down.

“Did you notice the markings on all of the trees?” he asked, when he returned.

A multitude of scrawled names covered the tree trunks. Carved hearts enclosed most of them. It sort of reminded him of a guestbook, like a giant version of the one they signed when they picked up the keys for their rented chalet in Gatlinburg the night before. Ned told him the ravine was the spot most frequented by the area’s young lovers during the late 1800s, and into the early1900s.

“This is really something,” marveled Miriam. She scanned the list of names. “Didn’t you say there’s supposed to be like a thousand names here?”

...Mary Ellen + Joshua, Milton + Anna, Shannon + Edmond...

“That’s what Ned told me,” he said, while studying the names cut into the nearest tree. “He called it the home of Cades Cove’s star-crossed lovers. Apparently, his ancestors once lived around here, before everyone moved out in the 1930s.”

...Johnny Lee + Pauline, Samuel + Bertha, Thelma Lyn + Adam...

“Well, that’s interesting. Here’s one with a date,” she said, pointing to one of the more faint inscriptions. Walter Smith + Marylee Oliver, June 13, 1908. “I wonder if there are any more like it.”

David glanced around the ravine. A yellow poplar caught his attention. Harold Potts + Samantha Pope, September 14, 1932.

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