Off the Beaten Path (MM)


Heat Rating: Sizzling
Word Count: 39,050
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When Hugh Mathews decides it's time to get out from under his tyrannical father's thumb and away from the life he's been living, he does it in a big way. Packing what he'll need to survive in the wilderness, and with only his dog, Orion, for companionship, he heads into the mountains. When they find a abandoned cabin, Hugh begins the arduous task of repairing it, as well as hunting for food and everything else they'll need to stay alive.

Soon after, Ansel Jeffries, a nature photographer, arrives at Hugh's cabin, seeking an abandoned mine he wants to photograph. After talking with him, Ansel sees the potential for a story in what Hugh is doing -- and why.

Ansel convinces Hugh to let him tell it, meaning he'll be living at the cabin with Hugh. When he moves in, will what becomes friendship between the two men grow into more?

Off the Beaten Path (MM)
0 Ratings (0.0)

Off the Beaten Path (MM)


Heat Rating: Sizzling
Word Count: 39,050
0 Ratings (0.0)
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Hugh took the bow and quiver inside (the cabin) before gathering what he needed and going down by the stream to skin and gut the rabbits -- after ordering Orion to stay in the cabin. He didn't need or want the dog's 'help' while he worked.

He had just finished with the first one -- putting the pelt and meat in the frying pan, and the guts into the stream, as he had with the fish -- when a man came into view at the edge of the trees on the far side of the stream.

"Don't you know poaching is illegal," the man called out as he moved closer. He was tall, blond, and well-built, wearing khaki's and a safari jacket. A camera hung around his neck, and he was carrying a backpack with a sleeping bag strapped to the top.

"It's not poaching since this isn't private land," Hugh called back, gripping the skinning knife defensively in one hand as he stood.

The man arched one blond eyebrow imperiously. "It's also illegal on government land."

"Which this isn't," Hugh retorted, although he had no idea if it was or not. He backed away when the man used a couple of stones in the stream to make his way across. A low growl told Hugh Orion had joined them and was in protective mode.

The man froze, looking between Hugh and Orion. "Tell your dog I'm harmless."

"That's yet to be decided," Hugh replied, not loosening his grip on the knife. "Who are you and why are you here? This is way off the beaten path."

"My name is Ansel," he replied.

Hugh snorted, glancing at the camera. "And your last name is Adams."

Ansel rolled his eyes. "I've heard that one way too many times, considering what I do. It's Jefferies. Ansel Jefferies. I'm a nature and wildlife photographer."

"Wouldn't wildlife be considered part of nature?" Hugh asked snidely.

Ansel smiled. "Touché. It would be, except they're often two different things, as far as the various publications I work with are concerned." His gaze went to the cabin then back to Hugh. "You're squatting, too?"

"Nope. I'm real sure the previous owner is long gone, so I'm taking advantage of his largess. Why do you care?"

"Just making conversation," Ansel replied with a shrug.

"And you hiked hundreds of miles to find someone to talk to."

"Not quite. I have an assignment to shoot abandoned mines. There's supposed to be one around here, according to my survey map."

"If I show you where it is, will you get the hell out of here?"

"Yeah, sure. Tomorrow. The lighting's not right for photographing one at the moment."

"Then go back to wherever you've set up camp."

Ansel shook his head. "I haven't, so I can't."

"Well you're not doing it here."

With a slight grin, Ansel replied, "Since you don't own the land, I don't think you can tell me whether I can or not."

He had a point, and Hugh knew it. Ungraciously, he said, "Feel free to use the field."

"Thanks, I think." He eased back, since Orion was still in protective mode. "If you don't mind my asking, why are you here?"

"Probably not for the reason you're thinking. I'm not on the run. At least not from the law."

With surprising insight, Hugh thought, Ansel said, "From the real world and all the people?"

"Maybe. Or maybe I like being off on my own where I can do my thing without anyone bothering me." He sent Ansel a withering look.

"Hell of a long way to come to do that."

"I suppose." Hugh relaxed -- somewhat -- and gave Orion the signal to sit. Ansel seemed harmless enough, so far. "How did you get out here? You don't look like the kind of guy who likes roughing it."

"Looks can be deceiving. Given the sort of photos I take, I'm often in places where the accommodations are less then four star."

"Which didn't answer my question."

"I hiked." Ansel gave him a knowing look. "Probably by a shorter route than you took. But then I have a map and knew where I was heading, so it took only a day and a half to cover just over thirty-five miles from the town where I was staying. Admittedly, I did take it slow to enjoy the scenery, and camped overnight. If I'd have come straight here at my normal hiking pace, without the stops, I would probably have arrived around midnight last night."

"Still, not too shabby. It took us four days, but then we were meandering, looking for a place to settle." At this point, Hugh felt comfortable enough to get back to what he'd been doing before Ansel appeared.

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