Chapter 3⎮Flying Beavers

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"Evan Spencer, right?" the stranger asked again, his mouth quirking slightly. He had dressed his athletic frame in the ubiquitous flannel of his brethren, paired with scarred jeans and scuffed dark Blundstones.

I still hadn't answered him, only continued to gape blankly, my tongue suddenly as articulate as a watermelon, and my cheeks still stuffed with granola. Thankfully, though, he was not only gorgeous but seemed to understand my rapid blinking—Morse code for, "Help, I'm pathetic!"

"I'll take that as a yes."

"Yeth!" My hand belated flew up to ward off flying granola, but it was too late. Out came the chunky deluge. I was horrified! With one dry and painful swallow, I choked the granola down like a mouthful of sand and finally managed to utter something intelligible. "Sorry!" My cheeks flooded with humiliation.

"Don't worry, I've been hit with worse." Topaz eyes glittered with humor. They were the most vivid and lightest of Gulf Stream hues—not quite green and not quite blue. Too intense to stare into for long. "I'm Tristan Thorn, your chauffeur."

I diffidently lowered my gaze to his waiting palm. Unlike my fumbling lips my hand was at least functioning reliably today, and without any input from me, it obediently slipped into his. His handshake was confident and warm, just firm enough that he didn't crush my fingers. I almost wished it had been a 'wet fish' sort of handshake because then I would have been far less intimidated.

"H-hi, Tristan." Where was Matt?

"You look disappointed," he said, trying (and failing) to suppress his grin.

It took me a second to clear my head of the fluff that had collected there when our palms had met. "I was told...um..." It's really not that hard, Ev, just take your goddamn foot out of your mouth. "I, uh, expected a Matt."

"Well," he replied, apparently not in the least offended, "I'm afraid it looks like you're stuck with a Tristan instead."

Poor me. Smiling, I surreptitiously wiped at my mouth on the off chance there were any unsightly wet crumbs still loitering there.

Ordinarily, I'd have been thrilled to spend any time in the company of such a superior specimen (preferably without having spat on him first), but right from my initial glimpse, there'd been something primal and sylvan underlying my fascination. It seemed to evade my senses, yet it pawed restlessly at the fringe of animal instinct. Something about him seemed...not altogether safe. If he did pose a threat, however, I figured it was only to my flustered lady bits. He didn't strike me as a sociopath. But, then again, I'd never met a sociopath...

I shifted uncomfortably under his scrutiny, fiddling with the straps of the backpack on my shoulder, wishing he'd look elsewhere. Mom would have told me to fake confidence, so I forced myself to meet his gaze and resolved not to hide my own on the floor again. "How'd you know I was Evan by the way?" Technically I was an Evangeline, a silly name that bore no familial significance. A name I disliked enough to assume a male byname instead.

Tristan's one brow winged facetiously before he shrugged and dragged his eyes dubiously over my copious layers. "You looked...a little lost."

Ain't that the truth.

He, however, looked confident and fresh, and so divinely rugged it made my eyes water. Was it any wonder I'd found my way to the Last Frontier—the last place on earth where men were men and sheep were scared... Wait, did that make me a sheep?

His thick wind-blown hair lay like dark coffee, in perfect disorder, curling slightly at his ears and nape. I followed the angle of his jaw and then up towards that engaging dimple at his left cheek, watching, enthralled, as it deepened under his growing amusement. He'd clearly noticed my gawking.

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