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Submitted by Steven ODell on 8 July 2007 - 11:51pm.

Chapter 9

Hunter was carrying groceries into the cabin when they returned. “Hey, you are just in time, Cuz! Introduce me to the lovely lady and then grab a box and make yourself scarce, okay?” He grinned at Denise as he said this and Ron snickered in response.

“Denise, this is my cousin Hunter. He is a man I love and respect, but he is a man that is an incurable flirt. Watch yourself like you were the mouse and he the hawk.” With that he raised a box to his shoulder and turned to take it into the cabin. Denise was unsure as to whether she was to follow or to stay and get acquainted, but she sincerely hoped that Ron had been joking. The answer came before she could get too uncomfortable.

“Don’t mind him, Denise. Ron is a bit possessive when it comes to his women.”

“Women?” The tone of her voice, even in that single word, notified him that he had stepped in it up to his neck.

Hunter stopped short and backtracked quickly. He spoke in partially hushed tones and looked furtively toward the cabin, expecting Ron to see his discomfiture at any moment.
“Well, it didn’t take me long to get in trouble this time, did it? What I meant was any woman, not a series of them.” He paused and again looked like a beaten pup. “Oh, crud…what I mean is that Ron spoke highly of you and…I hope I didn’t just blow it for him. He’d kill me if he knew I’d said that.”

Denise extended her hand to Hunter and replied, “Well, I guess that will have to be our little secret then, won’t it?” And she, too, turned and went into the cabin. Hunter followed slowly and at a distance. As Ron came out for the next load, Hunter told him, “That is one woman with unmistakable class, Ron. You are a lucky man.” He emphasized every word of the last sentence individually.

Ron was a bit taken back, wondering what exchange could have happened in so short a time to prompt such a response from his cousin. He decided to hold his peace about it, after a manner, not certain he wanted to know. “Yes, I am indeed. There is no doubt in my mind at all. None whatsoever.” He, too, enunciated every word individually and he watched Hunter closely as he said this, until Hunter got the idea that Ron could be the jealous type.

Denise found out that Hunter was indeed a big flirt, but he was also a very funny and sweet guy. The next few days were enough to prove that to her. It seems that Hunter had taken over the cabin, previously his father’s, as his home a few years before and he had a few investments that were paying well enough to keep him in food and other supplies. It was not enough to make him rich, but it was sufficient to live a comfortable life, which was all he wanted.

One night Denise asked, “Hunter, I am curious, if you live up here all the time, how do you ever have any social life? How does a man earn a reputation as an incurable flirt when he never sees many women?”

“Oh, I get around enough. I go to town a few times a week and meet with friends. I never had to invite any women at first, just flirt with the ones my buddies brought and they would get so upset with me that they would ask their girlfriends to please invite someone for me next time, so that I would stop horning in on their women. Seems the girls liked me more than their boyfriends. Anyway, it worked for me and I’ve been a hit ever since!” He told this story with a controlled, but obvious and cocky delight that she found funny. He pushed out his chest as he told the story. Denise could see how he would be cute enough that a lot of women would like him. She found herself giggling repeatedly at his comments.

“So, do you currently have any serious romantic involvements?”

“Are you inviting any?”

She laughed aloud at this and Ron said, “I warned you—don’t say I didn’t.”

“And you were right, too. I would dump you in a minute if I had met Hunter first.” She laughed and teased Ron without mercy, winking at Hunter to get a response from them both.

“And I would let you dump him, Denise,” Hunter assured her. This brought even more peals of laughter from her, which delighted Hunter to no end.

Ron warned, “Don’t encourage him! Or should I say, don’t encourage her? I’m not sure who is the biggest flirt here. Denise, I think you’re overly tired and need to go to bed—you’re getting ‘squirrelly’.”

“Squirrelly? What’s that?” She was giggling even as she asked.

“Half nuts, I think he means.” Hunter interjected the comment before Ron could explain. Denise was now nearly helpless from laughter, gasping interruptedly for air and slapping her knee.

“Look, Cuz, I can manage to get myself into trouble nicely without any help from you, okay?”

Hunter grinned sheepishly, adding, “Okay, but if you ever want someone to push you in, just holler.” Denise lost it fully with that comment and was rolling on the floor, holding her sides and making no sound whatsoever, her muscles literally binding so that she could neither breathe nor laugh. When she was able to again catch her breath and regain her composure, she told the men she would indeed need professional help if she did not escape to her bed while she still could. She was so tired she nearly stumbled over her own feet.

Hunter watched her as she left the room. Ron couldn’t help but notice the attentive manner in which he did so.

“Yessir…I hate to see her leave, but I sure do love to watch her go.”

“Careful, you’re on thin ice.” He smiled when he said it, though, not worrying one iota about Hunter’s intentions. His cousin simply admired beauty in the female form and was too uncultured to announce it gracefully. He meant no harm and Ron knew it. “But thanks, Cuz—I agree.”

The men talked for a few more moments, exchanged brief hugs and then retired to their own beds.

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