Ready To Fall

By: Daisy Prescott

To Shawn

For showing me how sexy a man can be in flannel

A HIGH PITCHED wailing entered my dream. Slowly, I shook off the warm breeze and sunshine from the catamaran and opened my eyes to my bedroom. It took a minute or two for me to determine the sound wasn’t from my dream, but coming from next door. From Maggie’s house. Her smoke detector was going off.

From where he stood on the comforter facing the window overlooking the beach, Babe’s barks drowned out the noise. Tossing the comforter and blankets off of me, I leapt from the bed, followed by Babe, and headed downstairs. Kelly rolled over and put the pillow over her head, grumbling about it still being dark out and what the hell was wrong with me for waking her up. Ignoring her, I grabbed my jeans and thermal from the floor, and raced from the room, not bothering to zip my jeans.

I reached the door to the deck where Babe pawed to get outside. The second I opened the door, he bounded out and barked at Maggie’s cabin.

I peered through the pre-dawn gloom, but couldn’t see any flames or smoke. As far as I knew, Maggie was in Portland with whatshisface. There shouldn’t be any reason for her smoke detector to be going off. The battery could be dying, and if that was the cause for the ruckus, I’d give her an earful about changing her batteries with the time change next time I saw her.

The breeze shifted and I could smell the distinct scent of smoke coming from her cabin. Where there was smoke, there was fire.

I ran across the narrow yard separating our properties. Luckily, I knew she hid a key under a frog at the foot of her steps. Searching for the damn frog, I bent over, peering into the dark when the door to the deck flew open and slammed into the wall.

What the hell?

A petite brunette I’d never laid eyes on swung a throw blanket over her head while she attempted to chase the smoke pouring from the door.

Who the fuck is that? I stared at her. Now she ran around the living room, opening windows as the smoke detector continued to squawk its annoying beeping into the sleepy morning.

The smoke appeared to be coming from the wood stove. Miss Blanket Waver probably hadn’t opened the flue. She must not be from around here.

Walking through the open door, I coughed and waved the smoke away from my face as I headed toward the stove.

Without introducing myself, I said, “You forgot to open the flue.”

The woman stood at the kitchen sink, trying to open the window, and jumped at the sound of my voice.

“Cheesy Rice and Joseph!” she shouted and turned to face me, clutching her hand to her chest. “Who the fuck are you?”

Leaning over, I swung the lever to open the flue on the chimney stack. “I’m the neighbor. Who the fuck are you? Cause I know this isn’t your house.”

With the doors and windows open the room began to clear of smoke, but the smoke alarm continued its piercing cadence. Where the hell was the damn thing? I stared at the ceiling and followed the beeping until I spied the red-lighted beast in the hallway. I reached up and knocked it from its perch, removed the batteries, and set it on the kitchen counter.

“Ah, silence,” I said. Observing the woman, I noticed she had wrapped her blanket weapon around her shoulders. Sticking out below the blanket I could see a pair of flannel pajama bottoms and mismatched socks. “You going to tell me who you are and what you are doing in my friend’s house? Or am I going to call the sheriff?”

She tightened the throw around her shoulders and glared at me, but not before I noticed her eyes linger at my waist and my jeans hanging off my hips.

I smiled at her to let her know I’d caught her staring before closing my jeans.

She didn’t blush or glance away, but continued to glare at me. “Do you always barge into people’s homes at the crack of dawn?”

“I do when the alarm wakes me up and smoke fills the air.” I crossed my arms and waited.

“I’m renting the place for a few months. Arrived on the ferry last night.”

She didn’t tell me her name. Nope, definitely not from around here.

“Well, that explains what you are doing here, but not who you are. I’ll go first. I’m John Day. I live next door. The yellow lab out on the deck is Babe. Your turn.”

“Diane. Diane Watson. Well, Woodley, but Watson soon.”

“Nice to meet you, Diane Woodley-but-Watson-soon. Is that hyphenated?” I stuck out my hand to shake hers, figuring it was the polite thing to do.

She laughed, but it sounded hollow, not a real laugh. Somehow the smile didn’t reach her brown eyes. She shook my hand and said, “Just Woodley. Watson is my maiden name. I’m thinking of changing it back.”

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