The paths of life are not always easy
The river, it runs dark and deep
But there’s a bridge over troubled water
We must step out with childlike faith
For what we cannot see
are God’s angels of love
Flying low, keeping watch, always near
I am not alone
I must never forget, He sends
Someone to Watch Over Me
- Rebecca Schaefer
Canyon blinked his eyes.
He rubbed them and looked again.
“What in the world?”
From his hunting stand perched halfway up a big sycamore, Canyon watched in disbelief as a cute-as-dickens girl wearing pink rabbit ears and a red cape shooed an eight-point whitetail buck away before he could get a good shot.
“Run, baby, run.” She waved her hands at the big animal who seemed transfixed by the woman. Canyon checked through the gun’s sights again, but there was no way he could fire without endangering Miss Up-in-his-business. “Dammit.”
As Canyon climbed from the tree stand, he grumbled all the way down, “Infernal, meddling female.”
A few dozen yards away, Seren sensed danger. Whirling around, she saw Canyon lean his rifle against a tree. “Oh, no.” Quick as a flash, she covered the distance and knocked the falling firearm aside just before it went off with a blast.
“Holy shit, that almost got me.” Canyon gaped at the adorable female who blew out a relieved breath as she adjusted her ears, which were sitting a little askew on top of her head.
“Whew, it sure did. I almost didn’t get here in time. My bad.” She turned around slowly in a semi-circle, shielding her eyes as if on the lookout for further danger.
As Canyon tried to make sense of the situation, he couldn’t help but take in the beauty of his uninvited guest. She was petite. Adorable. The odd outfit she wore, which consisted of some type of silky bodysuit, did nothing to hide two handfuls of soft, succulent breast flesh. Her dark hair tumbled down her back in a cloud of spirals. Every time she moved, the corkscrew curls bounced off a sweet, rounded ass. “Where in Sam Hill did you come from, baby?”
His words seemed to shock her. She whirled around, her hair flying out behind her, big blue eyes wide with amazement. “You can see me?”
“Uh, yea,” he drawled. “I’m not blind and you’re not invisible.”
She pooched her lush lips out and wrinkled her nose, a delectable little furrow forming between her brows. “Well, dang it. I usually am.”
“You’re usually what? Invisible?”
She covered her face and moaned. The sexy little noise caused Canyon’s cock to twitch in his jeans. “Yes, I am invisible. All of my kind are.”
Canyon frowned. Just his luck, he runs into a gorgeous woman in the woods, only to find she’s escaped from the booby hatch. “You realize you’re not making any sense. People can’t be invisible.”
Seren smiled. “You say that, and yet you’re the one wearing camouflage.” She put her hands on her hips. “You stare at yourself in the mirror and say…” She then dropped her voice to its lowest octave, “Can you see me now?”
Recognizing something he’d done and said just this morning, his jaw dropped in amazement. “How did you…have you been watching me somehow?” He could just envision his web cam being used against him.
“Of course, I’m a watcher.” She made her announcement as though it made all the sense in the world.
“Well, I wouldn’t brag about it if I were you. People shouldn’t invade another person’s privacy.” If she’d made herself known, he probably would’ve invited her inside for a spell. Canyon was having to fight to stay annoyed. His every nerve ending was tingling with excitement, he’d never been more attracted to a woman in his life. “Are you taking some kind of medication to make you act this way? Or maybe you missed a dose of meds you’re supposed to be taking?” He glanced over his shoulder, wondering if Bull heard the commotion. His best friend and confidante currently occupied the deer stand next to the creek – while he found himself in la-la land with a sexy Super Bunny who was clearly off her rocker.
Seren stared at the leaf-strewn ground and tapped her foot. “I wonder how this happened? Did I eat something I shouldn’t have?” She pulled on her ears and whimpered, “I’m in deep doo-doo, Canyon.”
Standing in the middle of the private hunting land, he took a moment to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. He stomped his boot into the leaf-covered earth. The ground seemed real enough. He sniffed the air, noting how the doe-pee he wore vied for predominance with the most intriguing heavenly scent he’d ever smelled. Leaning forward, he traced the tantalizing aroma to the sweet, female hallucination who was driving him bananas. “And how do you know my name is Canyon?”
She gazed at him with what seemed to be immense patience. “Why wouldn’t I know your name is Canyon? You belong to me.”
He belonged to her?
The idea sounded better to Canyon than he cared to admit. A deep chuckle caused him to whirl around to find Bull Redford approaching with a shit-eating grin on his face. “I heard you take a shot. Did you get something?” Coming closer, he whistled. “Why, what have we here? I swear, nobody but you, Brady. You’re the only man I know who can find a Playboy Bunny just wandering around in the woods.” He tipped his hat. “How do, ma’am. You all right today?”
Canyon grimaced at his friend. “So, you see her, right?”
Bull kept his eyes on Canyon. “Yes, sir, I do. I’d be looking at her closer, if I didn’t have a feisty little Spanish bullfighter waiting at home for me. She’d brand her name on my butt if I dared look at another woman – not that I’m tempted, mind you.” His face went soft. “Isabella’s incredible. She’s the love of my life.”
“Hush, Bull. I’ve got a situation here.” Canyon looked toward the sun, which was fast going down in the west. Meeting the girl’s eyes, he asked, “What’s your name, honey?”
Seren, who was still worrying over her unfathomable predicament, waved her hand dismissively. “I don’t have one, not like you. They call me Seren.”
Canyon pulled off his hunting cap and raked his hand through his hair. As pretty and intriguing as this woman was to him, she clearly needed to go back where she came from. “Are you sure you don’t have a number assigned to you? Like a patient number?”
She flung her cape over her shoulder and tilted her chin up to look at him. “No, I don’t have a number.” For a second, she looked dismayed. “I’m just so confused, you’re not supposed to be able to see me.”
“What’s going on, Brady?” Bull eased a bit closer. “Does she need to go to the hospital?”
“No, I don’t need to go to the hospital.” Seren shook her head. “I don’t get sick.”
“Lucky you.” Bull nodded, reaching back to rub his lower back. “I’ve been getting this twinge. I think I pulled a ligament.”
Canyon threw up his hands. “This is a nightmare.” He glared at his buddy. “I’m going to do more than pull something if you don’t help me figure out what’s going on here.” Facing Seren, he spread out both hands. “Look, we’ve got to go. I don’t want to leave you out here wandering around in the woods. You’ll get eaten by a cougar or something. Tell us where you came from, and I’ll take you back there. You can get some help.”
With a perplexed expression, Seren studied Canyon’s face. “I came with you.”
“No, you didn’t,” he muttered. “What the fuck? Don’t you think I’d know if you came with me?” Or was he losing his mind? Geesh!
Seren folded her arms under her high, firm breasts and narrowed her eyes at Canyon. “You got up at the ungodly hour of three in the morning and stared at yourself in the mirror, trying to figure out if you were getting any gray hair – which you’re not, by the way. You showered using unscented soap, then doused yourself with doe urine. When you went through the kitchen, you ate a brownie for breakfast, one that Libby McCoy made for you. You poured yourself a glass of milk, which you proceeded to knock off the counter.”
“No, I didn’t,” Canyon protested. “I set it on the edge, but it just wibbled and wobbled a bit.”
“Yea,” Seren agreed, “because I caught it and set it up straight. You were padding around barefoot like some hillbilly. If you’d wear shoes, you’d make my life a lot easier. I stay busy, scampering ahead of you to move sharp rocks and glass so you won’t cut your feet.” She stomped her own small foot. “You take too many chances. I constantly watch so you don’t get burned on the forge. You drive too fast. I have to keep putting out your cholesterol tablet, so you’ll find it, or your arteries would be clogged with all that sausage grease you eat like it’s going out of style!”
Both Bull’s and Canyon’s eyes were wide with shock. Bull recovered first and laughed. “I can’t figure out if she’s a wife you’ve been hiding or your guardian angel.”
“The latter,” Seren huffed the word. “Only I’m not an angel. I’m much lower on the totem pole.”
“See, I don’t rank a full-fledged angel. She’s a watcher,” Canyon clarified, then shrugged his shoulders, raising his eyebrows at Bull.
Bull looked behind himself. “Do I have a watcher? Where is she? God, if she looks like you, Isabella’s not going to be happy.”
Canyon glared at Bull like he was crazy. “Do you hear yourself?”
“I don’t know,” Seren admitted. “We’re not allowed to see one another while we’re working. I guess it would be distracting. My focus is Canyon, especially since he…”
Now, she had his attention. “What do you mean? Since I what?” He didn’t like this, the whole thing made him uneasy.
Not wanting to hurt him, she tried to phrase her answer vaguely. “Since you tried to…”
He held up his hand. There was no way she knew about that. No one knew about that.
“Since he tried to what?” Bull asked, coming a step or two nearer to them both.
“Nothing. Not important,” he stated, slicing his hand through the air emphatically.
Knowing Canyon as well as she did, Seren knew he’d shared this difficult time with no one. “I shouldn’t speak out of turn.”
“You don’t know anything about me,” he barked at her harshly. Canyon wasn’t buying this for a minute. Still, he couldn’t leave a defenseless woman alone in the wilderness. “What am I going to do with you?”
“Keep me?” Seren suggested hopefully. “I couldn’t leave if I wanted to, which I don’t.”
Canyon didn’t even know how to process what she was telling him. At least, he could get her out of the wilderness and back to civilization. “I don’t know how you got here, but let’s go.” He picked up his rifle and turned to Bull. “I think we’d better leave before Bigfoot and the witch from Hansel and Gretel show up.”
“Sure thing. Come on, Angel-face.” Bull nodded to Seren as he took off to lead their little procession through the woods and over the creek to where he’d parked his truck.
Canyon didn’t say anything, but he didn’t much like his friend using an endearment when he spoke to Seren – or whatever the hell her name was. Okay, time for some straight talk.
“All right, Miss…Seren, where can we drop you off?”
Seren let out a long breath, as if she were trying to be patient. “I came with you in Mr. Redford’s truck. From your house. I rode in the backseat on the cooler. When you two decided you wanted a beer, I had to move over and sit on that scratchy, wool blanket you bought at Cabela’s last year, the one with the bear motif. You two talked about Canyon shoeing your horse, Mr. Redford and…” She giggled a bit. “You also talked about which Charmin toilet paper you liked to use, both agreeing on the softer version with the bear on the blue package.”
Bull stared bug-eyed at Canyon. “She was in the truck with us!”
“Oh, she could’ve planted a bug and she probably peeked through your truck window to see the blanket and the cooler.” Canyon was trying to grasp onto reality with both hands, even as he felt himself slipping down the rabbit hole.
“My windows are tinted,” Bull exclaimed, “and I had the truck locked up tight, Canyon.”
“Maybe she was hiding in the backseat the whole time and we didn’t see her.”
No one commented on his suggested explanation.
As they neared the clearing where the vehicle was waiting, Seren moved ahead of the pair of men as if she were a scout checking the perimeter. Canyon couldn’t help but notice the odd shoes she wore, some gladiator type sandal with a golden cord lacing up her intriguingly toned and tanned legs. “I’m sure there’s a logical explanation, Redford.” With his eyes checking out her lithe limbs, he didn’t notice a tree branch in the path. In the split second when Canyon hung his foot, Seren was there in the next one to place a steadying hand on his arm. The quick movement made him dizzy. “Do you have wings on those sandals?” he asked in a grumbling fashion.
“No, my wings aren’t on my feet like the Greek god, Hermes.” She grinned at him. “I prefer to think of myself as a female Flash.”
“I like Flash,” Bull inserted, good-naturedly. “Although, I just can’t get enough Batman.”
Canyon wondered at Seren’s reference to the character. “So, do you know the Greek gods personally or do you watch TV where you’re from?”
“No, I never met the gods. I do watch television at your house sometimes. I turn the sound down, so it doesn’t wake you.” She shot a playful glance over her shoulder. “If I’m feeling frisky, I hide the remote just to watch you hunt it the next day.”
“Humpf!” Canyon muttered a wordless rebuttal, giving Bull the evil eye when his friend laughed aloud. As they entered the clearing, he found his eyes gravitating back to Seren’s hot little body. He felt like he’d entered some sexy version of the Twilight Zone. As his gaze caressed her from head to toe, he noticed…a tattoo? “Hey, you have a tattoo.” Canyon zeroed in on this fact as a sure sign she was part and parcel of the real world they lived in.
Seren held up her left foot and glanced at the ankle. “That’s a constellation, sort of a map of where I’m from.”
Canyon and Bull shared a look. Canyon brought his hand up and made a circle motion around his ear, mouthing the words ‘cuckoo for cocoa puffs’.
“I saw that!” Seren said, with a touch of warning in her voice. Coming in view of the truck, she threw both arms in the air triumphantly. “Shotgun!”
Bull found all this hilarious. “Ha! I guess you’re riding in the back seat for the return trip, Smithy!”
Canyon shook his head at the absurdity of it all, but crawled into the back seat while the pixie-angel made herself comfortable in the front. She wiggled around, adjusting the air vent, and generally making herself at home.
“Fasten your seat belt, cherub.” Bull directed as he started the engine and put the truck in gear.
Seren did as she was told, talking as she pulled the belt over her chest. “The world has the wrong idea about cherubs, they’re actually warrior beings. Big. Fierce. Very intimidating.”
Bull nodded. “Good to know, I’ll remember that when Valentine’s Day rolls around.”
From the backseat, Canyon wrestled with his predicament. “Okay, let’s put the fun and games behind us, lady.” Meeting Bull’s gaze in the rearview mirror, he gave him a pointed look, even as he was addressing their alleged stowaway. “Where did you come from? We need to know which way to head out.”
Seren let out a long breathy sigh. “I told you, I came with you. I’ve been accompanying you everywhere for years. To your job. On trips.” She giggled cutely. “To the bathroom.”
“Hey!” Canyon reacted to the revelation. “Is nothing private?” He placed his palm over his package – which was growing at the idea he’d been observed.
“You know how clumsy you are. What was it? A week ago, you stepped on a bar of soap in the shower and careened against the wall. Why, if I hadn’t been there to catch you, you’d have cracked your skull wide open.”
“Grace!” Bull chuckled as they traveled down the narrow dirt road cutting through the heavily wooded landscape. “I can see it now.”
An odd tingling feeling came over Canyon. He remembered slipping, he also remembered righting himself in some strange fashion. Had that been her? No! Impossible! Still…something was vastly odd about this whole thing. “Okay, let’s settle this here and now. I have a…mark…on my lower back.” Actually, it was so low, it sat just above his butt crack, but he was being polite. “Can you describe it to me?”
“You got a tramp stamp, Brady?” Bull thought it was funny.
Without missing a beat, Seren chimed in, “Actually, it’s a birthmark, right in the center of your lower back. Reminds me of Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. A mark given to identify your strength. You’ve been a blacksmith each time you’ve lived.”
“Is she right about the birthmark?” Bull asked, intrigued.
“Yes.” Ye, gods. She was right about the placement and shape. As soon as he arrived home, Canyon intended to check his whole house for surveillance equipment. This whole fiasco was getting downright spooky. “Each time I’ve lived?”
“Yep,” she answered with a popping noise of her lips. “You’re an old soul.”
Hell, he felt old. “This is crazy.” Despite the mounting bizarre evidence, Canyon was determined to regain control. “Time’s up,” he announced as they neared the paved road. “Where do you want to be dropped?” He watched Seren bow her head as if in defeat. Good…although it didn’t feel good. Maybe she was coming to her senses.
“I don’t have a choice,” she said softly. “Just drop me off anywhere. I assume whatever caused me to be visible will reverse itself soon. When it does, I’ll return to you. I won’t bother you so much if you can’t see me.”
Trying to ignore most of her confusing jargon, he centered on the first bit of information. “Why don’t you have a choice?”
He could see her shrug. “I don’t have anywhere else to go. You’re my sole reason for existing.”
“Hell.” Canyon started to ask her where she’d been before now, but he was beginning to realize she had a story and she was sticking to it.
“Brady…” Bull said his name in a way that Canyon understood his meaning. He was telling him to man up and do what was right.
What the fuck. He lived alone. He liked it that way.
Or he thought he lived alone, now he wasn’t so sure.
Either way, even though he had the room, having someone in his home would be odd. He’d lived alone since before his divorce. He didn’t have company often and women never. In fact, there’d only been a few dates and three meaningless one-night stands since his wife walked out.
Since his son…
When Canyon didn’t respond, Bull Redford did. “We have an extra room at our house, little lady. You can stay with us until you figure out what to do.”
Seren fidgeted in her seat. “I don’t know, that’s highly irregular. I can’t do my job long distance.”
After Canyon’s eyes clashed with Bull’s in the rearview mirror, he threw a hand of surrender up in the air. “Shit, she’s going to be a major distraction,” he muttered lowly.
“How?” she asked from the front.
He frowned, as if her question was absurd. Had she looked into the mirror? “What? Do you have supersonic hearing too?”
“Yes,” was her soft answer.
Canyon wondered at her demeanor. “Why are you acting like I hurt your feelings?”
She still hadn’t lifted her head. “Because you did hurt my feelings. I take care of you. I’ve saved you more times than I like to remember. You’re my responsibility…” Her voice quavered. “And you don’t want me.”
“Awww, Canyon…” Bull put in his two cents in a way Canyon couldn’t deny.
“Fine.” He clutched the blanket, wondering what the hell he’d just gotten himself into. “We’ll play this your way until you decide to tell me the real truth. Deal?”
“I’ve told you the truth,” she insisted. Thinking about what was at stake, she chose to pick her battles. “But…deal!”