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Author Katie Mettner

Butterflies and Hazel Eyes ~ Chapter One

For those finding this blog post and unsure why I'm sharing a chapter a day of a new book, you can read the reasons why here, and what this book is about. *REMEMBER THIS IS UNEDITED! The book will go through a full editing cycle before release. I'm just giving everyone a chance to read it early!*

You hear about places like this. Places where the clock ticks slower than it does in the big cities. Places where the townspeople stay because they know deep in their soul there is no better place than where they are. Places where when the sun shines, be it summer or winter, the magic it reveals steals your breath and holds you captive. When I arrived at the only campground in Plentiful, Wisconsin last night at nearly eleven, I sensed it was one of those places. Even the sky told me so. The stars didn’t twinkle, they sang to each other in a melody of light. The breeze didn’t whiz past you in a hurry to reach its next location. It caressed your face softly to welcome you to its home.

“What do you think of Plentiful, Mojo?” I asked my lumbering oaf of a dog as we trucked up the street. “I like it here,” I answered, since he didn’t. “It reminds me of Michigan. I love being able to see the lake and hear the water lap against the shore. Do you think this is the place we could put down roots?” I laughed at the absurdity of the question and the sound carried across the cloudless blue sky. “You’re right, I never put down roots, but if there was a place I would do it, this would be it,” I assured the dog, who honestly couldn’t care less. As long as he was fed, had a place to sleep, and got an occasional hot dog, he was happy. Mojo is, well, I call him a muttstiff. His mastiff lineage shows in his height and the shape of his back end, and that makes him impossible to lift when you’re my size. However, it’s the rest of him that earns him the mutt moniker. He’s got the face of a collie, the ears of a Doberman, the feet of a sheepdog, and the hair of a schnauzer. Some would say he’s homelier than a mud fence, but I promise you, when he’s at my side, no one bothers me. At the present moment, he was staring me down, his eyebrows furrowed as if to ask are we there yet?

I rubbed his big head and checked the address on the sticky note stuck to my computer bag. I was searching for 100 Industrial Road, which meant nothing to me, since the town consisted of a marina, a bar, a diner, and a small grocery store. Come to think of it, maybe this wouldn’t be a great place to settle down. “There’s nothing here, Mojo.”

I spun in a circle, wondering how on earth I was supposed to find a place that didn’t exist. I’d done my proper homework before accepting the job and had indeed verified a Mr. Gulliver Winsome existed. He runs a company called Butterfly Junction, but what the heck they did there, I had no clue, nor did I care, as long as I got paid. While I did my homework on the man, I should have checked the address on a GPS before setting out. I grabbed my phone from my pocket as I spun in a circle, my gaze searching the street signs for clues. I might have to ask Google on this one. On the third go around, I spotted a silver building behind the marina on the side I had presumed was the lake. Mojo and I trucked toward it and I realized the land kept going in a sweeping shoreline, which was right where 100 Industrial Road sat.

“Yay for not needing GPS,” I huffed as we trotted up the road. Now I could do the job he hired me to do and move on to the next. The problem was, there was no next. I had time to take a break, recharge, maybe take a boat ride on the lake, and a spin around town on a bike. While it made me nervous about not having a job lined up when this one was over, I put the nervousness aside. I’d planned for this over the last six months. Logic told me I had to take a break or I was going to wind up dead of a heart attack or in a ditch on the side of the road. The driving alone would kill most people, but the work itself was often worse. As a white hat working for big name companies, and smaller no name businesses, my work was always a race against the clock. I was usually called in after their business had been hacked or their data stolen, and that made for a stressful work environment. No, once this job was over I’d be sticking around this area, maybe not Plentiful specifically, since there wasn’t much around besides the lake, but somewhere I could enjoy my summer. Maybe I’d head around the bend of the lake and find a grocery store or bar in need of a clerk or a tender. I could do with a change of pace.

I paused at the door of Butterfly Junction and gave it a once-over. The doors were double and glass, but it didn’t appear anyone was inside the building. I checked out my reflection in the spotless glass door to be sure I was presentable in my cargo shorts and plain white T covered with a tie-dye scarf. I think the style is called eclectic in most places, but I call it thrift store chic. Considering I live in a motorhome, and love thrift stores, I’ve decided I have a little bit of hippie in me. I took a breath and tugged open a door as I yanked Mojo in behind me. Directly in front of me was a dark mahogany desk that boasted a computer and a large butterfly diagram, which was oddly fascinating.

“Can I help you?” the receptionist asked as she exited an office further down the hallway. She shook her finger at Mojo. “Your dog can’t be in here.”

I glanced down at the beast and back to her. “I’m here to see Mr. Winsome,” I said, ignoring her dig at Mojo.

Her eyes lit up in recognition of my explanation. “Oh, you must be Charity Puck.”

“I am,” I agreed, a smile filling my face as the girl approached me and shook my hand. “Sorry I’m late. The weather didn’t cooperate most of the way up here from Tampa.”

She brushed her hand at me to wave away the apology. “No worries. Mr. Winsome understood. Have a seat and I’ll see if he’s finished with his conference call.”

“Thank you,” I said politely, leading Mojo to a small loveseat in the corner. The space was industrial yet homey. There were several long, rectangular windows facing the street, which let in light from outside. They were clean, as was the rest of the office, and the polished hardwood floor reflected my face back at me. On the walls were groupings of photos with butterflies of every color depicted in them. They were obviously taken by a talented, experienced photographer. All in all, it was a neat office space, even if I didn’t know what they did in it.

“Miss Puck, follow me,” the receptionist said.

I took a gander at her nameplate on the desk on my way past it. “Just call me Charity, Chandra,” I said, keeping Mojo tight to my leg. It was more like I kept him tight to my hip considering our height discrepancies.

“Of course,” she said smiling, “if you need anything just let me know.”

She motioned for me to go through the office doors and then silently closed them behind her. A man sat behind a desk, which was also mahogany, but executive height and covered in papers, folders, and computers. He wore a button-down plaid shirt covered by a sweater sporting … what were those? Bees? Beetles? Dragonflies?

He glanced down at his sweater and back to my face. “Grasshoppers.” His hand shot across the desk for me to shake. “You must be Charity.” The awkward smile on his face told me I wasn’t what he was expecting.

I dropped Mojo’s leash and he lowered his butt to the floor, while I shook the man’s hand. “I am, and you must be Gulliver Winsome.”

He released my hand and motioned at himself dramatically. “You’re looking at him. I’m Gulliver Winsome, the lucky guy who was saddled with the worst name in the history of the world.”

I laughed, his easygoing manner putting me at ease immediately. “Well, you know what they say. You win some, you lose some.”

His eyes smiled and he laughed, the sound easy and comfortable. “Never was that joke delivered in a more perfect manner. Have a seat,” he said, indicating the chair in front of his desk. I lowered my butt into the chair and he pointed at my companion. “What’s the dog’s name?”

“Mojo,” I answered immediately.

His eyebrow tugged up toward his hairline and his delectable hazel eyes hit me like a shot to the solar plexus. I’d never seen a guy with eyes the color of his before, but they were definitely a pair I could get used to seeing. I tore my gaze from his, afraid he could read my mind.

“You named a dog Mojo,” he said, more in a statement than a question.

“I did. I’ve always wanted to say to someone, ‘I’ve lost my Mojo, will you help me find him?’”

He jiggled with laughter as the image played out in his head. “That would be epic.”

I held out my hand as if to say, I know, right? “The problem is, he’s never run away in the five years I’ve owned him, so he’s kind of a disappointment.”

He laughed again, this time a tinge of uncomfortableness creeping in at the end. “Chandra said he’s your service dog? Are you disabled?”

He leaned back in his chair as I eyed him. It didn’t matter that he asked if I was disabled, since I run my own business and he’s not hiring me as an employee, but it was a bit odd, and slightly rude, to ask.

“I never said he was my service dog, actually, but he comes with me to every job, regardless of how many times people tell me he can’t. I’m four feet six inches tall, a woman, live in a motorhome, and work only at night. Mojo is all I have to be certain no one puts me in an early grave.”

His eyes shuttered, but he nodded once. “I see, well, you will be here at night, but you won’t be alone. I’ll be here working while you are. I don’t leave the business empty with only an independent contractor inside.”

“Perfectly acceptable. I never expect to be alone, but you wouldn’t believe how often I am. Also, I don’t have a car so I hoof it from the campground, which means he’s my only protection.”

He tapped his pen on the desk as he eyed me for longer than necessary. “I’m afraid I can’t allow you to be walking around town in the dark alone, even if you have Mojo. There are too many wild animals, namely wolves, in this area. I’ll pick you up tonight at eight and stay until you’re done.”

“Okay,” I answered agreeably. After all, it was his business. I didn’t care what he did as long as at the end of the night I got paid.

His eyes flashed with an emotion I couldn’t decipher. “Okay? You mean you’re not going to give me a hard time? Most women give me a hard time when I order them around.”

“Gosh, I can’t imagine why,” I said, tongue in cheek. “But, to answer your question, I’ll gladly take a ride, considering it took me thirty minutes to get here by foot.”

“Excellent. How about if I show you around?” he asked.

I stood up, motioning for Mojo to stay down, not that he had any intention of moving. “Sounds great. Mojo will stay here. His aura says big and bad, but mostly, he’s just lazy.”

He bent over, as if tying his shoes, and when he straightened, he had a pair of crutches on each forearm. He hoisted himself out of the chair and crutched his way around the desk.

My mouth dropped open as I took in his easily six-foot-two frame standing before me. “Now I understand why you were upset about Mojo,” I admitted and he chuckled, his head shaking.

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll admit it does irritate me when people pretend to have service dogs just to take them shopping or inside a restaurant.”

I grasped my hands behind my back and bit my lip. “That’s definitely not something I do or would think to do. It must be hard for you when you run into those situations, though.”

“Hey, you don’t grow up like I did without developing thick skin, which is good since I have thin bones,” he said, waiting to see if I would get the punchline. When I didn’t, he sighed. “Rickets,” he explained, motioning at his leg. “But don’t worry, everything else below the belt developed perfectly.”

He crutched off toward the door and left me standing there with my jaw slightly ajar. Who is this guy and is he for real?

Chapter 2 ~ Live 10/30

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