This is a new feature we’ll be doing a couple times through the year – highlighting characters sharing firsts. We can post something from an already published work, a work in progress or something completely new. This time, we’re talking first meetings.
I decided to share the first time Grace met Noah and Ethan in Santuary.
This new world is full of risks, but which is greater…being alone or trusting others?
For Grace Summers, life after the super solar flare and deadly viral outbreak can be summed up in one word. Alone. Having lost everyone she loved, Grace travels on foot to her family’s remote hunting cabin, where her father had stockpiled food and supplies for this type of situation.
Along the way, she meets Noah Hill and Ethan Erikson, a couple traveling the same direction. Grace struggles with her attraction to the pair until they make it clear they are just as interested in her.
With Noah and Ethan, Grace is no longer alone, but can she bring herself to trust them in this new world where everyone is just trying to survive no matter the cost?
The sound of Callie’s growling jolted Grace upright from where she’d slumped farther against the tree trunk. She gripped the rifle and jumped to her feet, even before her eyes were fully open. Bringing the gun up snugly against her shoulder, she scanned her surroundings to find what had Callie sounding the alarm. She didn’t have to look far.
Her heartbeat sped and her breathing stuttered when her gaze landed on two men standing no more than twenty feet away.
“Whoa.” The taller of the two stepped forward, palms out in a peaceful gesture. He stopped in his tracks when Callie let out another low, menacing growl and moved in front of Grace. “Wanna call off the hound?”
“Wanna keep moving?” she returned.
“Not really,” the other man snapped.
“Let me rephrase.” She shifted slightly until the rifle was leveled directly at him. “Keep moving.”
“We’re not looking to cause any trouble,” the first man assured. “I’m Noah; this is Ethan. We’re just passing through, looking for a place to catch a few winks before moving on.” He gestured around. “There’s plenty of room, and we’ll share.” He pointed back at his partner, who sighed and lifted a hand. Four good-sized fish dangled from a line held between his fingers.
“Not interested.” Grace widened her stance and waited. The last thing she needed was two strange men hanging around. She wasn’t going to feel guilty about sending them on their way into the night. Honestly, if they couldn’t understand why a lone woman wouldn’t want two strange men hanging around, they were idiots.
“God, enough.” Ethan stepped forward. “You have no claim on the place. It’s late and dark; I’m tired and fucking hungry. If you don’t like it, you can move on.”
“Ethan,” the other man admonished. “There’s no need—”
“Hey,” Grace interrupted, exasperation edging out the panic. “Last I checked, I’m the one holding the gun, so I’m sure as hell not going anywhere.”
“I’m not your sweetheart!” she snapped. “Do you always make everything so damned difficult? I was here first, and I don’t make camp with men I don’t know.” For good reason. She shook her head slightly and tried to push thoughts of her last, and only, encounter with another person on this journey. Her stomach roiled, and her dinner threatened to make a reappearance.
Ethan let out an annoyed huff of breath, and Noah moved closer to him. Grace watched as he ran his palm down Ethan’s arm then wrapped his fingers around the other man’s hand. Ethan turned his head, and the men exchanged a long look before responding.
“And that’s completely understandable. Smart,” Noah said “But it’s late, dark; we aren’t going to be able to get much farther in any case. We just want to eat, sleep, and, in the morning, we’ll be on our way. How can we make that happen? What can we do to ease your mind?”
Grace’s gaze drifted back to their linked hands, where Noah’s thumb slowly rubbed the back of Ethan’s hand. She tightened her grip on the rifle and inhaled a shaky breath.
“You’re lovers?” she blurted, jerking her head back to look at their faces.