Jeff leaned in, ax in hand, illuminated from behind by the Jeep’s headlights. “Heeeeere’s Jeffy!” He laughed maniacally for a moment, then looked around the cabin. “Jas? Where the hell are you?”
“Over here,” Jasper stood, waving his hands over his head.
Hana stood hesitantly, leaning against Jasper as her knees gave out. Tension and fear, combined with no dinner and her legs were shaky. He lifted her in his arms, carrying her to the bed. He set her down and looked for their shoes. He found them near the fireplace, their socks were harder to spot, but he found hers, still damp, under the edge of the table.
“We’ll have to come back in the morning and repair the damage and clear this lumber away. Meanwhile, I think we can rig something. I’ve got a piece of plywood in the back of the Jeep. Watch your step coming out,” his father called over his shoulder.
Jasper lifted Hana over the wreckage of the door. Jeff took her from his arms, carrying her to the Jeep. She was grateful for this, not certain she could stand. He set her on the front seat, hugging her gently.
“Miss E.’s been scared stiff since the storm. Mom thought she was gonna have another stroke.”
“We tried to call,” she told him. “There wasn’t any service out here.”
She pulled the phone out of her back pocket. Turning it on, she saw they were finally back in a service area and she dialed her aunt.
Enid answered anxiously. “Hana!?”
“It’s all right, Auntie. We found a cabin. Just the phone didn’t have a signal, and then the storm— It was horrible, but Jasper took good care of me.”
“Thank God! I’ve been worried sick!”
“We’ll be back soon. I love you!”
“Me too, sweetie. Hurry home!”
Jasper helped his father nail the plywood in place. His father’s face was stern. He didn’t speak until they were nearly done with the makeshift repair.
“It’s a damn good thing you told Jeff and Marnie where you were headed, otherwise I don’t know if we’d have found you until morning. Enid wanted us to call the sheriff, but once we thought of the cabin, we decided to start here. You’d never have taken the horses’ saddles off if you hadn’t found shelter.”
“Thanks, Dad.” Jasper hugged his father.
“I’m so glad you’re safe.” He thumped his son on the back and gave him a punch on the shoulder. “Where’s your shirt?”
Jasper pointed to Hana. His father eyed him disapprovingly.
“It’s not what you think. We were soaked, we had to get out of our wet things.”
His father’s dark eyes flashed in the headlights, his brows lowering as he frowned. “You know how I feel about taking advantage of a lady, son. That’s all I’m going to say.”
“Let’s get home.”
They piled back into the Jeep, three big men squeezing into the backseat. Jasper leaned forward, head between the two front seats. “You all right, Hana Belle?”
She smiled back at him, tugging a damp lock of his hair. “I’m good, Jasper. Just hungry.”
“Grandma has dinner set by for you.” Jeff told them. “She started cooking as soon as we found the horses. Some people pace, others wring their hands, Grandma cooks. There’ll be a feast for us when we return, victorious!” He beat his chest, throwing his head back to howl loudly.
Jasper popped him in the ribs and he stopped mid howl. “Ow! Fuck, that hurt, Jas!”
“Watch your mouth,” Tyee told him over his shoulder. “There’s a lady present. I apologize for my nephew. He’s not got any manners to speak of. None of them do.”
“We’re guys, that’s why, Uncle T.” Jimmy chuckled behind her. “We’re not supposed to have manners. It goes against nature.”
Tyee chuckled, his dark eyes dancing in the moonlight. “I don’t know why I bother.”
“There’s always that small hope that one day it will take.” Hana grinned at Tyee. She liked Jasper’s father. He had a quiet, reassuring strength. “Thank you,” she said, feeling it was completely inadequate.
“You’re very welcome. Can’t have the women folk stirred up, nor can I have my son missing. Despite his faults, I’m fond of the kid.”
Hana thought she saw a tear in his dark eyes. He blinked rapidly, smiling down at her. She could see Jasper’s face in his father’s.
They drove into the parking area outside the big house a few moments later. A huge crowd of people gushed forth, all arms and hugs and kisses. Hana jumped from the Jeep, shoving between the others, looking for her aunt. She found her leaning in the doorway, propped up by the door jamb, chair forgotten behind her. Hana ran to her, taking her gently in her arms. Enid hugged her tightly, nearly choking her with enthusiasm.
“Oh, my girl! I was so worried! I want to hear all about it after we get back inside. I’m about to drop.” She sat feebly in her chair.
Hana got her settled and wheeled her back into the sitting room. She gave a brief rundown of what had happened. As she spoke, the others dribbled back in the house looking for her. Marnie ran over, grabbed her around the neck and hugged the life out of her.
“There you are! How did you slip by? Never mind that, are you okay? What happened?”
“I was just telling Auntie.”
©2022 Dellani Oakes