Home > Drawn to Him(3)

Drawn to Him(3)
Author: Willow Winters

I chew the inside of my cheek, wondering if I should tip him. Obviously I should. I didn’t tip Drew though, he seemed offended I offered. I shake off the memory of the way he looked at me and take a look around.

I’m definitely not in Philadelphia anymore.

The sound of a critter rustling in the dry leaves behind me makes me pop up and off the swing in an instant. I turn around just in time to watch something run off, my hand on my chest and the chill of the morning breeze traveling through the gap in my jacket. A deer, maybe? I’m not sure. But I let out a small huff of a laugh at how absurd I am. Of course there are animals here. Online it said the population of black bears here is higher than the number of humans.

Just as I turn back to face the gravel dirt road that leads to the cabin, Ada steps out onto the porch. At the same time, an old Chevy pickup truck pulls into the driveway. I watch Ada’s face as she cocks a brow in surprise and purses her lips.

The truck comes to a stop, and the sputtering sounds of the engine are silenced. Her cousin, I think she said his name was Brant, opens the faded red door as she walks out to meet him.

I clear my throat, feeling the tension between them as she asks him, “You couldn’t bring the car?” in a voice that makes damn sure to display her irritation.

I bend down to pick up my purse; it’s heavy as hell, and the thin straps dig into my shoulder. It feels like I’ve stuffed it with bricks, but it’s only my laptop that has it feeling so damn heavy.

I walk slowly down the steps, moving closer to the truck with a smile plastered on my face. I couldn’t care less what car we drive in so long as I get to my appointment on time.

The two of them turn to me, stopping mid-conversation which only makes me self-conscious. Maybe I should have stayed on the porch.

“It’s so pretty out today.” I barely get the words out, the strength in my voice diminished by them staring at me. I clear my throat as I feel my smile falter.

Brant looks up and nods his head, patting his keys on his jeans. The plaid coat he’s wearing appears rumpled as he shoots me a smile. “Not so bad today. It’s gray a lot here, so you got lucky I suppose,” he answers in a deep voice.

“You’ve got everything you want to take?” Ada asks me, but the same look in her eyes from last night is back. All morning things were smooth and easygoing. I thought last night must’ve been my mistake. That maybe it hadn’t been as awkward as I thought it was. But right now, clear as day with a full cup of coffee in me, I can feel something’s off.

“I’ve got everything,” I say and nod once, feeling my body tense and my expression change. She must see it too, because the other version of her comes back.

“Have a good trip,” she says cheerily and starts to walk back to the porch. “Oh, and interview,” she adds with a nod, although her voice is lower and more subdued.

I watch her over my shoulder, shuffling the straps of my bag slightly until Brant slaps his hand down on his truck and asks, “You ready?”

 

* * *

 

It’s awkward. We're sitting in silence. Well, the radio is playing softly, but ever since I got in the cramped back seat of the truck, no small talk has been made. The front seat has no seatbelt, so I’m tucked away in the back, safe and sound. I suppose I could comment on the weather… again.

My purse is next to me, leaning against a toolbox that’s definitely seen better days. My boots kick a pair of cleats sitting in the back of the truck as we drive over a hole in the road.

“How long do you think it’ll be?” I raise my voice to ask Brant, and his eyes find mine in the rearview.

“Another half hour or so,” he answers me. He turns down the radio and glances at me in the rearview again. “What’s the interview about?”

“The island mostly,” I reply. Sharon Hartfield, my boss and the editor of The Morning Reads, was adamant I interview Mr. Kulls. But the typical synopsis and agenda were missing. Sharon didn’t give me anything to go on other than, “Whatever you can get from him.” It makes me nervous. She’s been giving me more and more responsibility, but this interview is different from the usual protocol.

“The island,” Brant repeats easily, nodding his head and looking over to the left as we come to a red light.

“The views here are amazing,” I speak without thinking as my breath is taken away. The small town is old and not quite updated yet, but it doesn’t feel as though it’s needed. There’s an undeniable charm to the aged buildings and traditional touches. What’s striking is how it’s intermingled with nature, which is also untouched.

I watch a small stream of water flow down the foreboding mountain on my left. Utterly gorgeous. “What about the island?” Brant breaks me from my thoughts as the truck moves forward, bringing us back to the interview. To work.

I clear my throat and pull at my seatbelt. “Well, the island is mostly self-sustaining and I’ve heard it’s due to traditions and in a good part because of the Kulls?” I say although it’s really a question. More of a hunch I’ve gathered.

Brant nods his head slowly, but doesn’t speak. Just as my hope of gaining a little intel dies, he says, “The brothers brought back more jobs, a better economy I suppose.”

“What do you mean?” I ask.

His hands twist on the wheel as if debating on telling me something. I almost have to press, but after a moment he sighs and says, “His father was different is all.”

“Have the Kulls always…” I don’t know how to end my question, but I don’t have to.

“Everyone here descends from ancient clans. Mostly two. And we followed those traditions, but Alec’s father did not. It was more about money than anything else.” He huffs in obvious disapproval, but continues. “They already had it all. They’re the wealthiest and determine most of what goes on around here.”

I reach into my purse as I ask, “What traditions did their father stray from exactly?”

Brant’s eyes find mine in the mirror as he answers, “All of them.”

My pen clicks in the quiet air as I get out my small notebook. It’s leather-bound and filled with scribbled notes. I turn to a clean page and ask, “So the new generation of Kulls, they’re bringing back the old traditions?”

When he doesn't answer me, I look up to see Brant smirking as he says, “Not quite.”

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