Literally just finished the first draft of this chapter (or beginning of a chapter, depending on how long I decide to make chapters)…let me know what you think! My intended audience is young Christian teen girls who have at least some interest in the Christian romance genre. This is so very different from what I normally write (how I go from BrOTPs and angst to romantic comedy I’ll never know) and I’m kind of stumbling around trying to avoid being painfully cliche…but I think the vision I have for the book has at least the potential to be a bit better than the masses of mediocre Christian romance.
If there’s anything you like or dislike I’d be interested to know!
Grace never thought she’d spend the first day of her vacation with an ax in hand ready to slash evil-doers. Everything had started out just as she had imagined it when she arrived at her backwoods getaway cabin in Piney Bend, Kentucky.
Grace climbed down from the ATV and pulled off her helmet. “Thanks for the ride!” she said, handing the helmet to the man who had driven her to the vacation spot.
The man dusted off the snow that had collected on his beard while driving. “Now you’re sure you’ll be alright? That ice storm done knocked out power ‘round most these parts and it’ll be a while ‘fore the county gets back here to fix it.”
“Oh I’ll be fine. Like I said, I’m going to use firewood and keep warm the old fashioned way! Plus, there’s a generator in the cabin just in case, so don’t worry a bit!”
“Alrighty then. See yah next week,” the man replied as he rumbled away.
The cabin was log and overlooked a river nestled between the ridges. With glistening snow piled on every pine branch and smoothing the landscape, Grace’s haven for the week was even more ideal than it had appeared on the rental website. The pine boughs were weighed down with snow like Christmas trees with too many ornaments. It had been years since snow had piled up so thickly in Kentucky, but Grace was glad she got to experience it out in the wilderness as if she was a pioneer in a virgin forest.
The snow almost came up to Grace’s knees as she walked up the stone steps to the cabin. As she made her way to the back porch get a better view of the river, the frosty air caught in her throat. A car was sitting behind the cabin, piled with snow. Someone else was already at the cabin. Grace stood still. It could be nothing, just a random abandoned car. Or it could be the car of a fugitive in hiding. Or a drug lord using the cabin to concoct millions of dollars’ worth of some substance.
She looked back at where the ATV driver had dropped her off. He was long gone. Grace was alone with acres of trees and an unknown intruder. She quietly slid off her backpack and pulled an ax out. Axes were good for more than just chopping firewood, after all. She walked up to the door of the cabin, taking care to step quietly. Grace slowly turned the handle. You’re probably just being overdramatic, she told herself. There’s no way anyone’s really in there. At least she would have the element of surprise against the intruder. Wielding her ax with one hand Grace swung the door open with the other.
Her heart nearly vaulted out of her body as she jumped, nearly dropping the ax. A man was sitting on the sofa. A man was in her cabin. Her heart was pounding, slamming against her lungs. For a moment she was speechless, but she raised the ax. The man shot up out of the sofa, looking almost as started as Grace was. It had to be a man, didn’t it? A twenty-something, athletically-built man. Couldn’t it have been a little old lady intruder? Or a lost child?
She willed herself to stand tall. “Hands in the air! Or I’ll chop your head off!” Well, that was a lot cheesier than it sounded in my head.
The man fired questions, “Where did you come from? How did you get here?”
Grace took a step forward, trying to appear bold. “I-I said hands up!”
The man awkwardly put his hands halfway up. “How did you get here? The roads have been impossible since last night.”
“Somebody dropped me off on an ATV. How did you get here? You’re the one who’s not supposed to be here!”
“A four-wheeler?” He stepped forward excitedly. “Oh god, is he coming back?”
“Stay back!” Grace shouted.
The man rolled his eyes. “Listen lady, I’m not a criminal or anything I’m just crashing here…got caught out in the ice storm.”
Grace kept the ax high in the air, ready to swing if he made a move. “You expect me to believe that line? What were you doing near my cabin?”
“The lady renting you the cabin is named Alice Santonio, right?”
“…How did you know that?”
Grace raised the ax. “Are you a stalker? Did you see my picture in a magazine and decide it would be fun to follow me like a creep?”
“No! Gosh, I was kidding…I’m Mitch Santonio. Alice Santonio is my mom and I help her take care of her properties sometimes. I was supposed to clean the place before you came.”
Grace weighed this information. He didn’t look like a creep. He had curly hair in an undercut style and was wearing black skinny jeans with random zippers all over them and a vintage Star Wars t-shirt. An annoying hipster maybe, but not quite a psycho creep.
“Wait…a magazine? Are you famous or something? What’s your name?”
Grace lowered her ax. Hah, famous. If only. “It’s Grace. But I’m not famous exactly…I write for a small magazine. I mean, it has a good readership but it’s not quite Southern Living or whatever.”
Mitch folded his arms. “So Grace, are you still planning to turn me into sushi or are you done?”
Grace slid the ax back into her backpack. “Just don’t try anything.”
“So the four-wheeler guy. When is he coming back to pick you up? Do you get cell service out here?”
“Next week. And no, I didn’t even bring my cell phone. But listen, I don’t even care what your whole deal is, but you’re going to have to get your stuff and go now, okay?”
“Ax or not, I’m not sleeping in my car tonight so deal with it.”
“Go home! It might be slow going with the snow but you can’t stay here so you better get going!”
“I’d be freaking happy to, except in case you haven’t noticed I’m snowed in,” Mitch snapped. “There’s like a foot of snow on top of inches of ice. Nobody’s going anywhere for a while.”
“Well you’re going to have to figure it out. Walk to the neighbor’s house or something but you can’t stay here!”
“No chance of that, not in the mood for frostbite. If you can’t deal, you leave.”
Grace let out a long sigh. “Well…I guess you can sleep on the couch then.”
“Thanks for your generosity,” Mitch replied dryly.
“Hey, I’m paying a lot for this cabin. But when the snow plows come in the morning you can leave.”
Mitch chuckled, sitting back down on the couch. “This is Piney Bend, not Louisville. Nobody is coming.”
She knit her brow. “What are you talking about? Of course they are.”
“I’m guessing you didn’t grow up in backwoods Kentucky. There’re only a few snow plows in the county and it takes a long time for them to make it back here after a storm like this.”
Grace put her head in her hand. How could this be happening? Just because she had to put up with unwanted company didn’t mean her vacation had to be totally ruined. She’d just have to find a way to make the best of it. What was that verse? Nehemiah something or another…“Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Strength. She just needed a strong will to follow through with her plans.
Her head popped up. “Okay, listen. For my vacation I planned on living off the land…doing things the old-fashioned way. So that means you have to do the same, so no modern technology. That includes the generator and that computer. But you can read some of my books if you like…I have Robert Frost’s complete works…The Call of the Wild…and a few others.”
Mitch scoffed. “Are you actually being serious right now?”
“Of course! Don’t you believe in self-reliance and getting back to nature? It’s the American way!”
“The only way I believe in is my way,” Mitch replied flatly.
Grace let out a sigh. I know I’m supposed to be tolerant and show mercy and all that, but this guy is such a pain, she thought. Like a thorn in my side. Or more like an entire tree in my side. How could he be so selfish and petty?
The verse flashed again in her mind. The joy of the Lord is your strength. All she was trying to do was have a time of peace and spiritual renewal. Everybody needed some me-time now and then, and this was her time. It would be easy to just roll over and let Mr. Jerk rule the roost…but not today. Today, Grace was standing up for herself.
Grace cleared her throat loudly. Mitch looked up with a raised eyebrow. Grace put her hands on her hips. “Now you listen. I am not letting you disturb my vacation. I work at a small magazine. I don’t get paid much. I had to save for months just to get a few days of peace and relaxation! When I went to Starbucks with my friends and they got a café caramel-macchiato with whipped cream and chocolate sauce and cacao shavings and everything I just got a plain, small coffee! Black!”
“Pretty sure cream and sugar are free…”
“Don’t try to distract me. Look, we can do this the easy way or the hard way, but I’m not letting you get away with ruining my vacation. It’s your choice.”
“The hard way.”
“You said we can go the easy way or the hard way so I choose the hard way.”
“You’re incredible. I bet when you were a kid your parents gave you ice cream and bribed you when you threw a fit, didn’t they? My parents raised me to have respect for other people, so I guess I’m going to have to pass that on to you whether you like it or not!”