Read Avalanche Online

Authors: Tallulah Grace

Avalanche (3 page)

“I moved up from San Diego,” Chelsea noticed her reticence
and steered the conversation another way. “It’s quite a difference, and I don’t
just mean the geography. Living in a small town is a vast change from living
anonymously in a big city. But I love it.”

“That’s one of the main reasons I wanted to leave. Everyone
knew everything around here. There was no privacy, not exactly a strong selling
point to a teenager.”

“I can imagine. Speaking of growing up here, you must know
my fiancé, Mac Mills.”

“Mac? You’re kidding! I ran into him, just a few days ago,
but we didn’t get a chance to talk. He’s great, you’re a lucky woman.”

“I think so,” Chelsea’s eyes glazed over a little, the way
they always did when she thought of Mac. “And JB? You must know him, as well.
He and Sharon are living together.”

“Yes, I saw them the first day I was in town, last Saturday,
during the festival. They seemed quite happy.”

“They are, but I’ll let her tell you all about that. Let’s
see, who else of our group might you know? Red! Do you remember him? He’s the
Sheriff now, but he also used to live in LA, I believe.”

“Um, yes, I know Red.” Pamela’s face paled when Chelsea
mentioned Red. She wasn’t ready to talk about him yet, either.

“Well then, see? You have lots of friends here, already. And
you’ll love Dana and Robert, they moved here a few years ago from Sacramento, with
their daughter, Molly. They run a giant organic farm, just outside of town. We
get most of our produce from them for all of the businesses.”

“All? Do you have more than the B&B and the restaurant?”

“Yes, we’re also event planners, but Jade runs that business
for us. It’s called Cliffside, and it’s right next to the restaurant. Jade, and
her new love, Justin, are also part of our group. She’s a friend of Robert and
Dana’s, and also moved here recently, from Sacramento. She’s great. Justin is a
developer; he, Robert, and Mac are building a ski resort on the west side of
town.

“Wow, Starsdale is really growing, much more so than I
thought. I can see the improvements in town, everything is so lovely now,
updated, as well as charming. I used to see it as run down.”

“That’s because it used to be run down,” Chelsea laughed.
“Although it always had a kind of charm.”

“Yes, you’re right. But it’s really becoming a destination.
I’m excited to see the restaurant. I heard that it hangs off of a cliff, is
that right?”

“Yes, it does. John Mills, Mac’s dad, had the vision, so we
went with it. He passed a few months back.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know. Since my parents passed, I’ve
been completely out of touch with the goings on around here.”

“Believe it or not, there’s never a dull moment!” Chelsea
laughed, grateful to see that Pamela was becoming more relaxed.

“You surely have your hands full, what with running this
place, and with planning a wedding. When is the big day?”

“It would be tomorrow, if Mac had his way, but I’m leaning
toward next Spring. There’s so much going on, with the ski resort project, and
this place, that I’d like to take my time with the plans. I’d also like for Mac
to be in a place where he can relax and enjoy our honeymoon.”

“That makes sense. You don’t want your groom too frazzled,”
Pamela grinned.

“Exactly,” Chelsea grinned back, glancing up as the back
door opened.

“Brrrrr, it’s getting chilly out there,” Sharon pronounced
as she came inside. “It’ll be winter before we turn around good.”

“I can’t wait, my first winter in Starsdale!” Chelsea smiled
at her friend. “Red or white?”

“Red, please, thanks,” Sharon answered, understanding the
question immediately. “Hi Pamela, it’s so good to see you. We didn’t get a
chance to catch up, before.” Walking straight to her old friend, Sharon leaned
down to give her a hug.

“It’s good to see you, too. Thanks for coming over. I guess
Chelsea told you I was a basket case at the diner.”

“No, but she did tell me that you were upset about
something. What’s going on?”

“I feel silly, and it’s probably nothing, but for some
reason, everything came down on me tonight, you know?”

“I know how that is,” Sharon sat down beside her on the
daybed. “Do you still want to talk about it?”

“No, but I need to tell someone what’s been going on.”
Pamela sighed heavily, preparing to tell her story.

“I’ll let you two have some privacy,” Chelsea offered,
handing Sharon a glass of wine.

“No, Chelsea, don’t go. You’ve been so kind, I’d like for
you to stay.”

“Of course, if you’re sure.”

“I’m sure.” Pamela smiled at both women gratefully, but the
shadows returned to her eyes. “I don’t really know where to start.” She paused,
thinking.

Chelsea and Sharon looked at each other. Pamela appeared to
be changing, right before their eyes. She withdrew, became almost sullen, with
a palpable blanket of fear spreading over her.

“Wherever you start, we’re listening. No judgments here,
Pam.” Sharon couldn’t imagine what would affect Pamela so. She remembered her
as being outgoing, very personable and one of the smartest people in the class.
Whatever was bothering her had to be bad.

“Thanks. I guess I’ll start at the beginning. After Red and
I broke up, I started seeing Chandler Chase.”

“Wait, what? You and Red were together?” Sharon was
completely floored. Red had never said a word, nor had she heard it from any
other town source.

“You didn’t know? We lived together in LA, for a little over
two years. It wasn’t exactly a secret, but Red knew how I felt about
Starsdale’s grapevine, so I guess he kept it quiet. So did I.”

“I had no idea. Wow. Okay, we’ll get to you and Red later.
This Chandler person, is he who is bothering you?”

“You could say that. He’s been stalking me for months, ever
since I called it quits. At first, I thought it was just annoying, you know? He
kept calling, dropping by, sending presents, things like that. Eventually, he
started threatening me, anonymously. Texts, calls, letters, you name it, he
sent them. Always in such a way that they couldn’t be traced back to him.”

“Did you go to the cops? California has stringent stalking
laws,” Chelsea asked.

“Yes, but they couldn’t issue a restraining order, or arrest
him, because I had no proof that it was Chandler. Also, he’s a big deal around
town, which doesn’t help my case. Apparently being buddies with members of the
city council afforded him the benefit of the doubt.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Chelsea fumed. “I hate it when people
in power get away with things.”

“You said that it was annoying, at first. Did something else
happen?” Sharon asked, also feeling anger.

“Like I said, the phone calls and texts became increasingly
more threatening. Last week, someone broke into my home and left bouquets of
dead roses in every room. Of course, the cops couldn’t do anything. Once again,
he’d left no clues behind. The surveillance cameras I had installed were also
useless, he managed to disable every single one. Don’t ask me how. Anyway, I
packed up that same night and came here.”

“That was last weekend, right? We saw you at the festival.”
Sharon reached over and touched Pamela’s arm.

“Yes, that’s right. I came out to the festival hoping to run
into Red. I wanted to ask him for help.”

“We saw him, right before those kids set off the fireworks.
Did you ever get to talk to him?”

“No.” Pamela dropped her head. “When we met, I could tell he
still hated me. Then he left so quickly, I just couldn’t get the nerve up to go
after him. As the days went on, nothing happened, no calls, no texts, nothing.
So, I thought Chandler had finally given up, or he was still stalking my old
house, thinking I still lived there.”

“So, you never asked Red for help?”

“No. But I’m going to have to, now.”

“Why, what happened?”

Pamela took a deep breath, her eyes growing even more
haunted.

“Tonight, I received a phone call on the landline at the house.
He told me he would see me soon. Obviously he knows my address, otherwise how
could he find the phone number? He could even be in Starsdale right now.” Tears
threatened to overflow, but she managed to keep them at bay. “The only thing I
could think to do was to get out of the house, go somewhere public. I was
trying to figure out a way to approach Red when Chelsea came into the diner.
Now I’m here.”

“We can help you with Red, he’s a good friend of ours,”
Chelsea said softly. “And you can stay here for as long as you like. Even if
the place is full, you’re sitting on a daybed. We’ll make it work. Someone is
always here. You won’t be alone.”

Pamela looked at her gratefully.

“Or you could come and stay with us. Hershey, my Great Dane,
is very protective,” Sharon assured her. “You mentioned that you thought Red
hated you, may I ask why?”

“It’s a long story, but bottom line, I decided that I didn’t
want the life he was offering. He didn’t take the news well.”

“Okaaaay,” Sharon looked at Chelsea, wondering what Pamela
was leaving out. Red was not the kind of man to hate someone over a break-up.
At least she didn’t think so. “No matter what happened, Red is the Sheriff
here. He’ll make sure that you’re safe.”

“I know he will. I just hate having to ask him. I hurt him,
a lot. I don’t deserve his protection.”

“Bull malarkey!” Sharon huffed. “When Red knows that you’re
in danger, he’ll be the first one in line to help. That much I know is true.”

“Why don’t I call him? He’s playing cards with the guys,
over at Jade and Justin’s.”

“Now? Tonight? Couldn’t we wait until the morning?” Pamela’s
heart began to race at the thought of coming face to face with Red again.

“Yes, tonight. Did you lock up your house, before you left?
If Chandler is here, he could have followed you to the diner, even up here. Red
needs to know.” Sharon was insistent.

“I didn’t think of that. No, I’m sure I didn’t even lock up
the house, I just left. Do you think he could really have followed us?” Pamela
looked into the darkness, fear in her eyes.

“I didn’t say that to scare you, but we can’t be too
careful.” Sharon nodded at Chelsea. “Give Red a call.”

Chapter Five

 

Red drove the miles between Justin’s house and The Cliffs in
a smoldering panic. Chelsea’s plea had been short and bittersweet. Pamela was
in trouble, she needed his help.

Glancing in the rearview, he saw headlights far behind him.
Mac must have decided not to try and keep up. Driving up the winding road
leading to the top of Sunrise Mountain, Red replayed Chelsea’s words, over and
over again.

Folding the only decent hand he’d had all night had been
easy, compared to the thought of Pamela in trouble. What did that even mean?
What kind of trouble could she possibly have found in Starsdale?

The lights of the B&B greeted him as he threw the car
into park and jumped out. He knew better than to go to the front door; Chelsea
always greeted friends at her personal entrance around the side.

Taking deep breaths, he tried to moderate his nerves as he
walked to the door. This was no big deal, he was here to do a job. It didn’t
matter that Pamela was involved. He was the Sheriff, she was a citizen. Nothing
more.

“Yeah, right!” he whispered, before knocking on the door.

Chelsea opened it almost immediately.

“Hi, Red, thanks for coming so soon. Come in.” Stepping
aside, she gave him a view of the sunroom. He could see Pamela, and Sharon,
looking at him expectantly. “Where’s Mac?”

“He’s on his way,” Red told her, not taking his eyes from
Pamela. “Ladies,” he nodded in greeting to them both.

“Hey, Red,” Sharon offered, but Pamela remained silent.

“Chelsea said that you were in trouble.” Red took in the
circles beneath her eyes, and the fear shining out at him. Was she afraid of
him?

“Y-yes,” she stuttered, feeling truly safe for the first
time in months. Red always did make her feel secure. “Thanks for coming.”

“That’s my job,” he quipped, taking a seat opposite Pamela.

“Would you like something to drink, Red?” Chelsea, always
the hostess, felt the tension coming off Red in waves. This visit was obviously
costing him dearly, though she doubted if anyone else would notice.

“No thanks, Chels, I’m good.” Red tossed her a smile. “Why
don’t you tell me what’s going on?” He spoke gently to Pamela, resisting the
primal urge to take her into his arms. She’d cut out his heart, without a
single qualm, but he still loved her, God help him.

Pamela searched for traces of the anger, the hatred she’d
seen in his eyes, just last Saturday. But all she found was compassion and caring.
In some ways, anger would have been easier to deal with.

“I…um…he...um…,” Pamela looked to Sharon, hoping she would
help her find the words. Her brain had suddenly turned to mush. Not surprising,
but not at all conducive to dealing with Red.

“Someone’s been stalking her for months. He called tonight
at her parent’s house, on the landline. Told her he would see her soon.” Sharon
summed it up in a nutshell.

Red sat forward, resting his arms on his legs. Clasping his
hands between his knees, he focused intently on Pamela.

“And you came here?” he asked softly.

“No, I…I went to the diner. Chelsea found me there.” The
words came easier now, once she started. “I just left my house, probably
unlocked, at least the door to the back porch, maybe others. I didn’t think, I
just ran.”

“That was good,” Red assured her, nodding. “You got out of
the house, went to a public place. Is this the reason you came back to
Starsdale?”

Pamela closed her eyes.

“Yes.” Her answer was barely audible.

“Why didn’t you come to me sooner?” Red’s question took her
by surprise, but she knew he had to ask.

“I…I thought it was over. He didn’t call me all week. Until
tonight.”

“Did you file a report in LA?”

“Yes, but it was useless. He’s a friend to the city, and I
don’t have any proof that it’s him.”

“Are you saying that you
know
who is stalking you?”
Red asked, surprised.

“Yes. His name is Chandler Chase. We, um, we dated for a
while.” Pamela didn’t meet Red’s eyes as she spoke. Telling him of another man
seemed like a betrayal. “When I broke it off, he started stalking me.”

“Chandler Chase, isn’t he that do-gooder who’s always
getting his picture in the paper?”

“Yes.” Pamela still didn’t look at him.

 “And you’re sure he’s the one stalking you?”

“I’ve seen his car parked across from the condo, sometimes
for hours at a time. The calls, texts, and gifts started after I broke up with
him. I can’t imagine who else it could be.”

“But you’ve never actually seen him in the car? Or leaving a
present?”

“You sound just like the cops in LA. Sorry I bothered you,
Red. Go back to your card game!” The venom came unexpectedly, especially as
Pamela had been so meek, up to this point.

“Whoa, there, no need to get testy with me!” Red put up his
hands as if in surrender, glad to see that his Pamela was still around. This
was the woman he knew, full of fire, and passion. Not the scared mouse who
couldn’t even articulate a sentence. “I’m just trying to get clear on the
facts, that’s all. What about when his car was parked across the street, did
you see him then?”

“No, he has tinted windows. But it’s the same model, same
color. I know it’s him!” Pamela had had enough. Retelling the story to Sharon
and Chelsea was one thing, retelling it to Red was entirely another.

“Okay, okay. Sit back down, I believe you.” Red didn’t want
to aggravate the situation by standing up with her, but it was a struggle, not
to wrap her in his arms. She looked so tired, so distraught, yet so beautiful,
he could barely stand to look at her. Being this close to her, after so long,
had every nerve ending in his body on alert. It was always like that with her.

“What? Oh, sorry.” Pamela sat once again. She hadn’t
realized that she’d stood up during her last outburst. “It’s just that it’s so
frustrating! I can’t get a restraining order, can’t have him arrested, all
because he’s smart enough to remain anonymous. What about my gut feelings? What
about the timing of it all? What about the fact that he’s threatening to kill
me, is that not enough for a conversation with the man? I don’t care if he
built the damn Staples Center, he cannot treat me like this and get away with
it.”

“He built the Staples Center?” Sharon asked, looking between
Pamela and Red. The air between them was charged with electricity.

“No, I’m just saying he’s supposedly done a lot for the
city,” Pamela answered, pulling her eyes from Red’s.

“You’re right, he’ll get no special treatment from me, but
we have to be smart, Pam. As smart as he is. If Chandler Chase is really the
man stalking you, then we’ll need foolproof evidence to bring him to justice. I
don’t like it any more than you do, but that’s the way it is. Innocent until
proven guilty, remember?” Red tried to placate her.

“Oh, so after he kills me, you’ll have your damn evidence.
Then
you can arrest him!” Staring at Red, Pamela threw up her hands.

“No one is laying a finger on you as long as I’m around!”
Red shot back, the electricity between them skyrocketing. “You know that’s not
what I meant. Calm down and let’s think this thing through. Rationally.”

“So, now I’m not being rational? How rational would you be,
if someone had been stalking you for months? Months, Red, not weeks, not days.
Months!
Threatening phone calls and texts, at all hours of the day and night. Frequent
gifts left at my front door. Finally, he disabled the security cameras, broke
into my house, and filled the damn thing with dead roses. Tell me, Red, how
calm would you be, after all that?” Pamela’s voice broke, but not from tears.
The anger she’d been tamping down during the whole ordeal finally came to the
surface.

“I understand why you’re upset.” Red forced his voice to
remain calm. In the old days, he would be right in there with her. Their
passion ran deep, in and out of the bedroom. Arguments, hot and loud, were a
way of life for them. He almost missed it. “You have every right to be. I want
to help you, Pam, but you have to help me do that.”

The fact that Red remained calm had a soothing effect on
Pamela. Relaxing against the daybed, she nodded.

“Sorry. I don’t really mean to be so obstinate. My emotions
are all over the place right now.”

Red was surprised by her immediate apology. The old Pamela
would never apologize, but then, neither would he. Maybe they’d both done some
growing up, since they’d been apart.

“It’s okay, Pam. I really
do
understand.” Red also
sat back, putting more distance between them. “The first thing I want to do is
to check out your house, make sure that it’s locked up tight. Then I’ll order a
copy of the police reports from LA. In the meantime, I don’t want you to be
alone. You can come and stay with me.” He said it so matter-of-factly, that
Pamela didn’t react, at first.

“I’m staying with Sharon, she has a dog,” Pamela told him.
It was the first thing that came to her. No way was she agreeing to stay with
Red, her heart couldn’t take it. She looked to Sharon for confirmation.

“Yes, she’s staying with us, for as long as she needs to.
You know what a good watch dog Hershey is, she’ll be safe with us.”

“I would like to get some things from the house. I’ll go
with you, if that’s okay?” Pamela hated to be alone with Red, but she hated to
inconvenience Sharon, any more than she had to.

“That’s perfect,” Sharon answered before Red had a chance.
“I’ll head on home, get your room ready. Come over whenever.”

“Damn, man, you flew up the mountain like a bat out of hell!
What the heck is going on?” Mac came through the door talking, before Red could
comment on taking Pamela with him.

“Hello, love. I’ll explain later,” Chelsea greeted him.
“Everyone was just leaving.”

“Hi, Pamela, nice to see you again. Hey, Sharon.” Mac
greeted them after dropping a kiss onto Chelsea’s forehead.

“I never agreed to take you with me. It could be dangerous.”
Red ignored Mac, speaking directly to Pamela.

“I’ve been living with dangerous for a long time now. I
trust you to keep me safe. Besides, I only need a few things, tonight. I can
get the rest tomorrow.” Pamela rose as she spoke. “I’ve read that most stalkers
are cowards, anyway. He probably wouldn’t dare show up if you’re there with
me.”

“Stalkers? What?” Mac appeared confused.

Chelsea put a hand on his arm. “Really, hon, I’ll tell you
later.”

“Now that that’s settled, I’ll be on my way. See you later,
guys,” Sharon waved to Mac and Chelsea, on the way to the door. “Red, take care
of her.” She pointed to Pamela.

Red chose not to argue about taking Pamela with him. He
wanted to get her alone, learn more about this Chase person. He had a feeling
that she was leaving out a lot of details. As volatile as their relationship
had been, she had always been honest with him. Painfully so. He expected
nothing less from her tonight.

“Alright then, let’s go. Chelsea, thanks for calling me.
Mac, see you soon.” Red waited for Pamela to join him at the door.

“Thanks so much for being there for me tonight, Chelsea. I
don’t know what I would’ve done without you.” Taking her hands, Pamela squeezed
them before turning to Mac. “And you, MacIntyre, lucked out. Congratulations on
your engagement.”

“Thanks, Pamela. You’re right, I’m just about the luckiest
man alive.” Mac put his arm around Chelsea.

“Chelsea told me about your father, I’m sorry. He was a good
man.”

“Yes, he was. Thanks.”

“Come back soon for the tour,” Chelsea told her. “John was
the driving force behind this rebuild, and the other properties. He definitely
left his mark on this mountain, as well as on Starsdale.”

“I will, thanks. I’d love to see everything. And thanks
again, for your offer to stay here. I appreciate it, but I think it would be
best to stay with Sharon. Hopefully, it won’t be for too long.”

“Red will get him, don’t you worry,” Chelsea followed her to
the door.

“Thanks, Chelsea. I know I’m in good hands. Goodnight.”

Mac and Chelsea watched them leave, then Chelsea closed and
locked the door.

“That was interesting,” she told him, hooking her arm
through his.

“What’s this about a stalker?” Mac asked, flipping off the
lights on their way to the kitchen.

“Oh, that’s interesting, but not as much as Red’s reaction
to Pamela. And her reaction to him. Did you know they used to live together?”

“Yes, I might have heard something about that.” Mac ducked
as Chelsea swatted his arm.

“Mac Mills, you’ve been holding out on me.”

“Never, my love. I’m sure that you know more than I do. So
start talking.”

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