Rhody & Brendan

an excerpt



Chapter One

Open highway. Blue skies. Lynyrd Skynyrd. It didn't get much better than this. Rhody had both windows down on his rented pickup with the radio cranked so loud, the cargo window was keeping bass time and he was loving every minute of it. He'd been driving for three hours to get to Denali from Anchorage after a fugly early flight out of Spokane. Every mile under his tires put him that much closer to summer paradise. Green was a beautiful color, lining both sides of the two-lane highway he was on. AK-3 would take him right to where he wanted to go.

He had clothes for more than a week, his fishing reels, and not much else. He wasn't even sure if he was going to bother to shave. Just let it all hang out. Who was going to see him? The eagles? A few herons? He had a rented cabin so his closest conversationalist was going to be a fir or pine of some sort. He was perfectly fine with that.

He was due this vacation. He hadn't been out of the mechanic's shop in three years, working a lot of overtime and extra jobs to cover the bills from his father's passing, but those were done and gone and it was just him and clear blue sky now. A quick glance upward sent a warm thought to his father, wherever he may be.

A deep breath of cool Alaskan air was like medicine for his soul. The CD finished and he popped it out, flipping open his travel case to slide it into a sleeve. Sneaking glances from the road, he worked the case by feel. A quick finger tug and he found the next one. Bob Seger. Yeah, he had some interesting music tastes, but he could fully blame his father for them. He waited for the player to cue up and started keeping time on the steering wheel with his fingertips.

Another hour passed and he was almost there. Denali was on the left, and more wilderness and rivers were on the right. Pure nature. Exactly what the doctor prescribed. It took a little time to get checked in at the main office, get the map to his cabin and continuously nod his head as he was given driving instructions no less than three times--so he didn't get lost on the narrow, winding roads.

Late afternoon found him coming to a halt in front of his wooden abode. The cabin was a small, duplex-style building with a decent sized porch and a two-chair and table set. The best part? The creek right outside his front door. The quiet song of the birds and summer breezes playing through the trees was too good to not listen for a few minutes, as he sat in his truck with his eyes closed, taking it all in. Nothing like it anywhere.

Time to get his vacation started.

He gathered two of his bags out of the truck bed and used the key to let himself in, taking in another view that made him smile.

The cabin was a furnished open floor plan with aged, polished driftwood furniture, heavy and sturdy for years of hard use and wear. Something that wasn't out of place in a wilderness or hunting ideal cabin. The bed was a normal double, and with it only being him, he had the whole thing to himself. Not that he'd shared a bed with anyone recently, but it was fun to imagine sprawling leisurely across it. There was a small refrigerator and a grill outdoors. He could drive to the main building for meals if he wasn't up to cooking something.

Windows were open, allowing a slow breeze to flow through, he supposed from the cleaning crew. He knew the park turned over the cabins like hotel rooms. Hopefully, there weren't any surprises anywhere that had been overlooked. It was a tidy space, not extravagant with hardly a square or frame on the wall, but who came to this beautiful park to stay in their room?

He dropped his bags next to the bed, returning for his fishing rods. He grabbed his backpack and slung it over a shoulder.

Carrying his remaining things inside, he steadied them by the door, ready to set up and head out to the rivers to try fly fishing first. Which he knew he sucked at, but that was part of the charm. Being good didn't matter. Catching something wasn't a requirement. Having fun doing nothing, no thinking, no worrying, no stressing was the only requirement he had for the next two weeks.

Just because he could, he took out his phone, turned that sucker off, and tossed it on the table. No one is going to find me. It was going to take him a few days to get into a natural rhythm--no TV and he didn't bring his laptop. And it was still too early for dinner. Not by much, but... Yeah, a good look at the time at the clock by the bed and a debate with his stomach said it was too early.

A little break out on the deck watching the creek roll by seemed like a good idea to just be for about half an hour. He might even run by a store and pick up a few beers to add some color to the refrigerator. He should probably pick up a few staples anyway. Eating at the restaurant every night didn't sound as appetizing as many may think.

Sitting down outside, he kicked his feet up onto the porch rail and bowed into the chair, resting his hands over his stomach, watching the world go by. His eyelids were drooping in the easy quiet when the sound of another vehicle pulled up behind the duplex cabin. It looked like his neighbor was there. They hadn't mentioned anyone when he'd checked in, but it wasn't important. He just prayed they didn't have screaming children. Happy children he could take. Screaming? He'd rather shove a screwdriver through his ear. He was not a child-rearing family man.

He opened his eyes when he heard footsteps. And the footsteps stopped.

They stared at each other for a few seconds, then without a word or more than a head nod in greeting, the other guy unlocked the door to his side and walked in.

Rhody shrugged. He wasn't out to ruin anyone's time at the park. If Grumpy didn't like him being there, there was little to be done about it. He wasn't a loud type of person, that was exactly the opposite of what he wanted to get out of this trip anyway. A moment later, if that, the door popped open and the other guy reappeared. He shut the door and faced Rhody.

He was a huge fella, as his father would've said. Coming close, he held out a bottle of local brew.

"Hey, thanks." Rhody smiled and dropped his feet. "Was thinking one of these might be nice before dinner." He motioned to a chair. The guy got the hint and pulled it around to sit.

Rhody let him get his full frame comfortable before offering a hand. "Rhody."

The man's hand almost engulfed Rhody's. He'd never felt like he was a lacking type of guy, but holy hell and a hand grenade.

"Brendan." His voice was quiet, and it rumbled.

Rhody blinked. "How long are you staying?"

Brendan shrugged, his gaze intent on Rhody's face. "I come and go."

"Live close by?"

Brendan nodded.

"Maybe you can suggest what I do for dinner tonight, then." He thumbed the top off the bottle and slid it into a pocket. Brendan watched him take a drink. The honeyed taste was unusual, a little sweet, a little tangy, but... "Wow. This is local? This shit's good."

Brendan smirked. "I know the brewery owner."

Rhody laughed. "Not a bad friend to have."

"Where are you from?"

Rhody settled on his chair again. "Spokane."

Brendan stretched a little, but didn't add more, or ask anything else.

It was a companionable silence. The creek was a gurgling star in the rustle of the woods on the other side.

They finished the beers and Rhody figured it had to be close to dinner by then. "I'm going to head to the lodge and grab some chow."

Brendan didn't reply, he didn't even face Rhody until he moved on his chair. The man must have been lost in some pretty meandering thoughts.

"Dinner."

Brendan studied him. "Going to the lodge?"

"Yeah."

"Enjoy it. It's all good."

Rhody graciously tipped his head for the advice, now that he knew Brendan hadn't heard a thing. "Thanks for this." He snapped the cap back into place.

Brendan offered a hand to take it. "We recycle."

"Thanks. I'll figure this all out." He thought about inviting Brendan but didn't want to intrude on his time at the park. Besides, he was there for two weeks. If Brendan were there for even a few days, they'd have time to chill on the porch again.

He gathered his keys and wallet from inside, and locked the cabin door. Brendan hadn't moved, though Rhody was positive the man was watching him as he took the three steps to the ground to circle the cabin for his truck.