Chapter 1- Maybe a Home.

Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found
Just know you're not alone
Cause I'm going to make this place your home

Phillip Phillips- Home

I found myself standing in front of a little cabin, surrounded by three others that looked just like it. A small front porch was the first thing I noticed, big enough for a small table and two chairs that looked out over the lake. It wasn't magnificent; it wasn't huge like the house I had grown up in, the house I was accustomed to. I looked down into big blue eyes, eyes that looked exactly like her daddy's. Pain shot through me for a moment, cutting deep. I shook myself out of it. I did this for her; my pride and joy, my beautiful daughter. At eight months old, she was the light of my life. I'd do anything for her. Even move from the big city, away from my family, away from the grandeur I was used to. She was worth it. I looked back up at the house with new eyes… It was perfect.

We stood waiting for the landlord, I'd only talked to him over the phone, it was way too far out of my way to come look at the place before I decided on it. I saw blurry pictures on craigslist and a description that consisted of "cute little cabin on the lake, two bedroom two bathroom with a loft, living room, dining room and kitchen all appliances included." And I made the call right away and took it. I couldn't let my family know where I was going. There were reasons I left, and reasons I couldn't be found. I'd done my best to make sure I couldn't be traced. From the moment I found out I was pregnant I slowly took money out of my trust fund and stashed it away. My parents thought I was just going on a crazy spending spree because of pregnancy hormones, and I let them believe it. For people who were so concerned with detail in their work, they sure didn't pay much attention to detail concerning their one and only daughter.

Finally after what seemed like ages an old greying man pulled up in a jeep with the hood and doors off. He shut it off and gave me a small wave and smile before rummaging around in the back of his jeep for a minute. Arianna wiggled around in my arms a bit. I looked down at her and she grinned at me, showing me her four front teeth and squinting her eyes before looking back over at the jeep. "Who is that?" I asked her. She made an "oooh" sound before looking back in his direction, wiggling in my arms to get down. She had recently learned how to walk and now had very little patience for sitting or being held. I set her down but held onto her hand, which she glared at me for that, but held on.

We made our way over to the jeep where Bob got out. Our new landlord wasn't exactly what I expected him to look like. He had a beard that hadn't been shaved or trimmed in what seemed like ages, a balding head on the center with a ring of hair around the sides. He was dirty looking, like he had just come from a garage. His stomach bulged out slightly, just the beginning of a beer belly; the rest of him was slim. His face was weathered, but his eyes were kind. He smiled at Arianna before turning his face up to me.

"You must be Ember," he said in his old gruff voice. He held out his hand to me. I took it and gave it a firm shake.

"And you must be Bob," I replied. "Thank you so much for being willing to do everything over the phone. This place is a lot cuter than the pictures showed," I complimented with a smile.

"You sounded like you needed a place fast. We're known to attract stragglers here. You sound like a level headed person with a plan, that's good enough for me, no questions asked" that was the best thing he could have said. I instantly felt a lot better.

"Thanks, I appreciate it. Could we see the inside of the house?" I picked Arianna up as I asked, much to her dismay. She leaned over my arm, reaching for the ground making a grunting noise. "Not now baby, we get to go see our new home!" She heard the excitement in my voice and stopped her fighting to grin at me.

"Sure thing," he answered as he walked up the stairs to the porch. He unlocked the door and then handed me the key. "If you lose this, there's another one under that rock, right there next to the stairs," he said pointing to a medium sized rock by the porch stairs. He opened the door and I followed him in. My first impression of the place was that it was homey. The walls were all a nice golden wood, a fireplace was to the left and it sat angled in the wall surrounded by stones. A set of stairs was immediately to the right and it led up to the loft which had a very sturdy looking railing with rails close enough together I wouldn't have to worry about Arianna falling through. Straight ahead was the kitchen and dining room, a bar separated the living room from the kitchen. He led us that way.

"The stove, refrigerator and dishwasher are all new. We had some local shops donate them when we were remodeling. Your neighbor on the right does all the work on the houses. He winterizes them, fixes any leaks or electrical problems, he's pretty much a jack of all trades. His name is Brian. He'll be home soon and I'll introduce you. I know you don't know anybody here, but we're a very close knit community and that will soon change. You'll feel right at home in no time!" He said enthusiastically.

"I hope so," I agreed quietly. I was never good at making friends, more of a loner, shy is what most would call me.

"Anyway, all of the floors are new. I'd suggest getting a large area rug to cover the living room floor, more comfortable for the little one. What's her name?" He asked, grinning down at my daughter.

"Arianna," I answered. She looked up at me as I said her name. "Yes, we're talking about you sweet pea," I cooed.

"Very pretty name for a very pretty girl," he said tapping her under the chin. She giggled and hid her face in my hair. I kissed her head and took another look around. The kitchen had a nice set up, it was cozy and the walls were painted a dark green color, breaking up the wood from the living room. The counters were marbled in browns and gold, the refrigerator was huge and there was quite a lot of space for such a small house. He walked us through the dining room down a short hall, at the end of which stood a washer and dryer. On one side was a bathroom with a claw foot tub, a nice sink with good storage area underneath and a huge mirror, and of course a toilet. Across the hall from that was a small bedroom. I walked in and looked around, it had drywall but was a plain white color, no one had bothered painting it.

"Could I paint this room?" I asked him, ideas floating through my head of what I could do to make this the perfect place for my little princess.

"Sure, I only ask that when you move out it's back to a neutral color. And be careful of the floors. The carpet is all new too," he added. I smiled. I had never painted a room before; we hired people to do that for us where I came from. But it'd be an awesome new experience, one of many I was assuming. And I did love to paint on canvas. I looked to the window in the room; it was huge and stuck out with a cushion for a seat. My smile grew. A perfect reading spot! I had grown up with one of those in my room and though no one ever read to me, I would read to myself and stargaze at night as an adolescent. The closet was average sized, nothing to tell the press about, but it would do. We stepped out of the room and back towards the living room. I followed him up the stairs and immediately knew this was the perfect house for us. The loft was as spacious as the little cabin would allow, it had a balcony with huge sliding glass doors and windows, letting the perfect amount of light in. I could set up my photography studio here. I just needed to get a customer base built up again. Having to start from scratch really had its downfalls. But I had faith in my talent and knew I could do it.

We went into the door at the top of the stairs and it opened into a decently sized bedroom. It had two doors in the room, one led to an awesome walk in closet and the other to a bathroom with a stand up shower, Jacuzzi tub and counter with two sinks. I looked back over at Bob.

"Okay, so what's wrong with it?" I asked him suspiciously. He tilted his head in question. "It's on the lake, it's small but extremely nice on the inside, why is rent so cheap?" He grinned at me.

"You obviously aren't from a small town. We aren't about making money around here miss; we're about community and companionship. Everyone who's come here, not including just tourists, has stayed. We survive on the prosperity of locally owned businesses and farming. If rent prices were high, we'd have an even lower population. I could raise the rent if you'd like," he added with humor when his speech was done.

"No thank you," I laughed. "I just wanted to make sure there wasn't something horrifically wrong with it or anything."

"Nope, nothing wrong with it. It's well insulated and we put plastic coverings over the windows for the winter. There's no air conditioning though, so you have to rely on fans and open windows to cool it down in the summer. Or you can buy one of those window ones, but I'd much rather have fresh air any day." I nodded, though I wasn't sure if I could really agree, I'd always had air conditioning.

Just then, I heard a loud rumbling and it was coming closer. Definitely an engine. I peered out the window that looked over the front yard to the parking areas. Down the dirt road that led to the cabins came a car that even I could appreciate. I couldn't tell you what kind it was or anything, I'm no car fanatic. I just know I like mine fast. But I could appreciate a beautiful car. And this one was beautiful. Definitely some sort of sports car, black, spotless, shiny. But what was even more of a gorgeous site than the car was the man who stepped out of it. I couldn't see any details. But he was tall, built, lean, dark hair cut short and standing up on the top. He wore a white wife beater and long plaid shorts with sandals on his feet. Tattoos covered his arms and went underneath his shirt. I couldn't help but stare.

"Brian's home!" Bob said in an enthusiastic voice. "Come on, I'll introduce you," he said heading out the door. Arianna who had been pretty quiet, taking it all in, sensed something new was happening and got restless again. She pointed after Bob and made "uh uh" noises, meaning she wanted to follow him.

"How does mommy look, baby?" I asked her quietly. I was suddenly quite nervous. I had straightened my hair at least three times at the hotel that morning and I had meticulously applied my make-up, making sure everything looked perfect. I picked out my most flattering outfit and made sure I looked way more put together than I felt. But just the glimpse of the man from the window had me doubting myself all over again. First impressions were big, and I wanted people's first impressions of me to be good. She grinned at me and I figured that was as good of an answer as I was going to get.

I followed Bob downstairs and out of the house. He was already chatting with Brian. As I got closer I realized that my view from far away didn't do this man justice. He looked up from Bob and his eyes were dark, curious but reserved. He gave me a small smirk and then looked at Arianna and grinned fully, showing off perfectly white and even teeth. My breath caught. I was in no place to be looking for any sort of romance but I'd have to be blind not to notice his charming good looks. Even if I was blind, I'd just have to touch him to know he was beautiful. His jaw was square, with just slight stubble covering it. His lips were average, wonderfully shaped though. I long straight nose centered perfectly between his gorgeous deep chocolate eyes with thick lashes surrounding them. Even his eyebrows were perfect.

The last time I'd been this attracted to a man, he gave me my beautiful daughter. The thought of her put me in check. I did not need to be having these lustful thoughts for anyone, especially a guy I didn't even know. I snapped myself out of it and gave him a shy smile. He held his hand out to me. "Hey, I'm Brian," his voice was unique. Deep but with an un-placeable twang to it. I took his hand in mine, it was rough, calloused, a sign of a hard worker. His hand dwarfed mine.

"Ember," I said quietly. His hand lingered on mine for a moment.

"Well, welcome to the neighborhood," he said with a smile. "If you need anything, I'm your guy," he added, "got a leak? I'll fix it. Fuse blows, I got it. Any household problems, I pretty much have it covered. Or if you need help reaching something that's too high, I can even help with that," he said giving me a once over, noticing my height, or lack thereof. I laughed, at least he had a sense of humor.

"How about showing me where I can buy some furniture?" I asked hopefully. I hadn't brought anything but my photography gear, external hard drive from my old computer, clothes, personals, Adrianna's belongings, and my car which I bought from an add on craigslist as well. I had changed my last name and gotten rid of anything that could be tracked. Brian looked at my small car, noticing only a couple bags in the backseat with the car seat. The trunk was packed full as well. But I literally had nothing that was a necessity in a household.

"Well little lady, it's a good thing I'm done with work. I'll show you around and get you all the essentials. Ron down the road has a truck with a trailer we can hook up to it that I'm sure he'll let us borrow. Just let me go hop in the shower real quick while you two do whatever you need to do. See ya later Bob," he said and bounded off into his house, which I noticed he left unlocked. Weird, must be a very trusting person.

I followed Bob back into the house and let Arianna run loose. She was happy checking everything out. I signed the lease, talked to him about a few more things and he handed me the receipt for my security deposit and first month's rent. He walked to the door, patting Arianna on the head. Before leaving he turned back to me, "Welcome home," he said with a kind smile. My heart swelled. For the first time in a long time I felt like I was in a place I actually could call home. I had a good feeling about this.