Ryen Justice lives a quiet existence in Sequim, Washington, running a successful horse farm with his twin brother and sister-in-law. Still, something nameless in him yearns for more.
An old barn on the farm becomes Ryen’s haven where he spends evenings watching the moon and stars. With Halloween approaching, he volunteers to decorate the barn for a party, knowing the job will guarantee him more time alone.
One night as Ryen labors, a man walks out of the woods. Ryen knows he should feel apprehensive, but he is intrigued by the dark-haired stranger who calls himself Kamer. What Ryen doesn’t know is that lurking beneath Kamer's handsome face lies something that could prove dangerous to both Ryen’s body and soul.
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Publisher: Independently Published
The weather grew colder as Ryen cleaned out the barn and the fiery colors in the fall foliage increased. Myles pestered him to use the generator, but Ryen opted for quiet over warmth most nights. He carried a thermos of tea on his trips to the barn and set up more camping lanterns to illuminate the space. During his breaks from sorting and hauling, he brought his cup to the door leading out to the barnyard and sipped the warm, sweet liquid while the wind stirred the night air.
The moon hung full and bright on the evening Ryen saw movement in the fir trees beyond the fence. He blinked at the figure who walked out of the woods and stood straighter, eyes on a slim man about his height. A part of Ryen’s brain knew he should be apprehensive—the farm’s nearest neighbor was over five miles away, and visitors always used the entrance from the main road. He felt only curiosity, though, and set his tea down on the table at his side.
The man moving toward him with measured steps was dark-haired and dressed in simple, black clothes. Sudden nerves curled in Ryen’s gut, and he picked up the lantern before he stepped outside. He crossed the yard, staring at the face on the other side of the fence.
The stranger’s features came together with a startling harmony, all big, liquid eyes and sharp bone structure, his skin washed out by the bright moonlight and the glow of the lantern in Ryen’s hand. Then he gave Ryen a smile, and the words Ryen planned to speak faded on his tongue.
“I did not expect to see anyone else out tonight.” A lyrical accent Ryen thought might be Middle Eastern sharpened the man’s syllables and lent a richness to his baritone voice.
“I … Same here,” Ryen managed. He silently hoped the moonlight concealed the color heating his cheeks. “I’ve never seen anyone out here at this hour. At least not on the other side of the fence.”
“I sometimes have trouble sleeping.” The stranger stepped forward and rested his hands on the top rail of the fence. His eyes moved over Ryen’s face before he smiled again. “I find that a long walk before bed can help. I do not usually walk this way, however. I decided to try a new route tonight.”
“And here you are.”
“Here I am.”
Ryen stepped closer to the fence without meaning to. “Do you live nearby?”
The man’s smile grew somehow shy. “Not really. But I wanted a long walk.”
“And that happens to you a lot? The trouble sleeping, I mean?” Ryen’s voice sounded hesitant to his own ears, but he moved another step closer. He was growing more accustomed to the stranger’s accent now, and the way it curled around the words he spoke.
“Quite often, unfortunately.”
The man stood just out of arm’s reach from Ryen, and the edges of the quiet world around them blurred as their gazes locked. The wind lost its chill, and the earth beneath Ryen’s feet and the barn behind his back faded. A feeling stirred in his chest, like a hum that slowly filled him.
“What’s your name?” Ryen asked.
A smile lit the stranger’s face. "I am Kamer.”
Kah-mer, Ryen repeated to himself, memorizing the elegant roll of the ‘r.’
“It is an old Turkish name,” Kamer said. “No doubt you have never heard it before.”
The mischief in his smile made Ryen chuckle. “Well, you’re right about that. I’m Ryen.”
“It is nice to meet you, Ryen.” Kamer glanced at the old barn and met Ryen’s gaze again. “Are you working out here by yourself?”
“Yes. My brother and his wife are back at our place.” Ryen gestured in the direction of the farmhouse. “I like coming out here after work so I can relax and clear my head.”
“You enjoy being alone?”
“I’m used to it, I guess.” His heart gave a little flip at the frown that crossed Kamer’s face. “I try to give them a little space when I can, and I promised my sister-in-law I’d clean the place up for a party. It’s full of all kinds of junk, so that’ll take me a few days, and I can kill two birds with one stone.”
“I see.” Kamer cocked his head. “So you would not mind if I passed by here again?”
“Not at all.” Ryen’s face went hot again. He hated sounding so goddamned eager, but Kamer merely nodded, his eyes kind.
The ping of Ryen’s phone in his pocket snapped the world back into place around them.
“It is growing late, you know.” Kamer said. “No doubt your family is wondering where you are.”
Ryen frowned. He actually had no clue what time it was. “It’s easy to lose track out here. I should probably get back. What about you?” he asked. “Can you find your way?”
“Of course." An expression Ryen couldn’t read crossed Kamer’s face. “The moon is very bright tonight, and I have a flashlight in my pocket if I need it. I will not get lost.”
“All right then.”
Kamer raised a hand. “I will see you tomorrow, Ryen,” he said before he turned back toward the woods.COLLAPSE