“So this is the living room,” Chris said, dropping their bags to the hand-braided rope rug beneath their feet. “Real wood burning fireplace,” he said, tossing her a smile over his shoulder.
Jess’s returning smile was thin at best. “It’s nice,” she said flatly.
The front door opened into a living area that was log cabin standard: leather sofas, recliner, rugs, mounted deer heads, antler chandelier, and a stacked stone fireplace that dominated one wall. Above the mantle, a hunting scene, complete with hounds and horses, tilted askew on its hanger; no doubt, the giant tree crashing into the house had rattled it.
“Are you cold?” Chris asked. “You want me to start a fire?”
It was all she could do to keep her lips pressed together, keep almost-smiling, and nod. “Sure. That’d be good.”
He left the bags and moved around her toward the door. “Dad keeps the wood around the side. I’ll grab some.”
She was glad he stepped out; she didn’t want him to see her face when she inspected the damage.
The bedroom wasn’t hard to find. A prickly pine bough thrust through the door out into the main part of the cabin. The light dancing in through the hole in the ceiling was another clue. She dodged the branch in the threshold and braved the room; the smell of fresh sap was cloying, the cut of the air ice-cold as it whistled in between missing shingles.
The tree had taken out the wall down to waist-level, and a rectangular section of roof, and then ceiling. Jess could see the exposed beams of a small attic space, pink tufts of insulation that had sifted down to scatter across the mattress. It wasn’t a big bed, but serviceable, with faux (or real, she didn’t know) fur throws across the comforter and marshmallow pillows. The trunk of the tree was lodged in the opposite wall, its branches trailing across the bed, scratching at a dressing table and mirror, pressing deep into the corners of the room, blocking the closet, a chair, a window that no longer had any glass. A bright wedge of blue sky above was filled with the silhouettes of surrounding trees and a single V of geese flying overhead.
It felt like a sign. Like the universe telling her to get her butt back in the truck and go home, because clearly, Jess Haley wasn’t supposed to have a quiet, romantic week away with her husband. She’d bought that inn; she was supposed to run it. The tree lying across the bed was a big middle finger to the stupid notion that she’d somehow deserved time to herself.
With a resolute sigh, she retreated to the living room, and then the porch, down to the truck. If she was going to make the best of this week, she’d have to unpack the groceries. And her comically large Hershey bar, since wine wasn’t an option.