Winter Rain, part 61

The narrow valley opens up before us as we crest the ridge, a dense expanse of green and copper beech from edge to edge. Brennan down-shifts as we plunge into the darkness beneath the canopy, barely holding the road as it pulls sharply to the left, before straightening out down the valley wall.

“Torrin owns all this?” I ask—not without a little envy—as I peer out into the warm green twilight.

“Uh huh,” she replies bouncily. “The whole valley. There’s a river and everything.”

I glance across Brennan’s arms, down the slope, but the trees are too thick, and the light too dim—I can’t see through to the bottom.

But I have more pressing concerns. I tear myself away from the scenery.

“You think he’s likely to have human visitors today?” I ask.

“I don’t know . . . probably? Like I said, he did every other time I’ve been here.”


“How did your father . . . deal with them? I mean, how did he get Torrin alone to speak with him?”

“Oh, well . . . he didn’t have to say anything. I mean, they know each other—Torrin just excused himself and took us into his office.”

I nod just as a group of pheasants break cover and flee up the slope to our left. I spin around in my seat to watch, but they disappear from view in the dense underbrush almost instantly.

I can’t help but smile. This place . . . he can’t be all bad, not if he chooses to live here.

I drag my attention out of the forest and back to Keely.

“He’ll recognize you?”

She nods. “I think so. It’s been a while since I’ve been here, but, you know . . . it’s not like he’s going mistake us for humans, right?”

I chuckle—no . . . that’s not likely to happen.

She frowns, and adds, “I just hope the dogs aren’t out.”

My smile vanishes in a heartbeat. Dogs?

Brennan shoots me an anxious look, suddenly very alert. He lifts his foot off the accelerator, too.

“You can’t be serious.”

She holds my gaze for a moment, then nods apologetically.

Fuck. “Big dogs? Little dogs?”

“Um, pretty big? Setters, I think they’re called. Um, mostly? One or two wolfhounds. A few others—maybe a dozen in all, last time I was here?”

“A dozen,” I repeat.

I realize my mouth is hanging open and I feel the muscles around it twitch, like they don’t know whether I should laugh or cry.

A lone wolf. Hangs around with humans. Has a pack of dogs.

“What the fuck is with this guy?”

She shrugs apologetically and shakes her head slowly as she says: “Um, they were pretty friendly, last time I was here. I don’t think they’ll give us any trouble . . . .”

“Great.” I plaster on a tense smile and look away.

Outside, the forest slips by, full of warm light and quiet promise, in total opposition to how I feel. But it calls to me, in a way few other places have—its dark underbrush, its giant trees, so thick you’d need three people to reach all the way around them. The urge to be out in it, to run in it, is suddenly almost overwhelming. I want to be out there, free of all this mess. Free of all these weird people.

Is that so much to ask?

I snort out a breath.

Okay. fine, whatever. I’m going to have myself a nice, surreal little visit in the country. Two minutes, we’re in, we’re out. It’ll be fine.

I chuckle, though not because anything’s funny, and ask her, “So, is there anything else I should know before we get there?”

She shakes her head.

I wait a moment for her to change her mind, but she doesn’t. I settle back into my seat, and look down the road, through the forest I can’t go running in.

I guess it won’t be long now.

16 Responses to “Winter Rain, part 61”

  1. Naughty Chris.  First day back from hiatus, and nothing happens!!!  Arg!!!!

    Sorry, everyone.  Stuff will happen soon, I think.

    Also note the new update schedule, in case you missed the announcement: Mondays (only), henceforth — at least, until I have more free time.

  2. Miladysa says:

    Most enjoyable and so worth waiting for!  Like kicking off my shoes and taking my first sip of hot tea after a long hard day at work! 

    “”A lone wolf.  Hangs around with humans.  Has a pack of dogs.
    “What the fuck is with this guy?””

    That made me snort too LOL You should have a new section for our favourite lines from the story – there’s some real crackers :D

    (Something I noticed “to the the”)

  3. Oops — fixed.  Thanks.  :-)

    Fun fact: one of the hardest things for me when writing these roadtrip parts is keeping straight which side of the car who is sitting on.  I keep slipping into a North American arrangement in my head, while writing a story set in a place somewhat like Ireland.

  4. Sonja says:

    I liked the characterization in this one.  :)  Looking forward to next week.

  5. srsuleski says:

    Is a wolf owning dogs somewhat like a human owning human slaves?

  6. Sonja — cool.  :-)

    MeiLin — yay! 

    Sarah — no, I think Tiergan’s expressed his disdain for dogs before.  To be honest, it’s a little over-played here, but what I had in mind is that he finds the whole idea somehow beneath Torrin’s dignity.  Like hiring children to run your investment bank (although, that said, children might prove to be more honest . . . . )  He has more practical concerns, too, but I’m not going to say anything more about those.  ;-)

  7. Kunama says:

    I can’t help but smile.  This place . . . he can’t be all bad, not if he choses to live here.


  8. Vercin says:

    Practical concerns . . . I’m thinking of dogs that see a Terminator, the barking bit. We have examples of whatshername meeting those two dogs, and Tiergan musing about doggie love and doggie hate (but no doggy “Hi how ya doin? OK, see you later”) which suggests that dogs may not react well to shapeshifters, as a general rule.

    I don’t mind the lack of action here, given the hiatus—it eases us back into the story. Kinda like sticking your toe into the bathtub instead of diving into a cold pool.

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