The log cabin was bigger than Bree Matthews had expected. Of course, when her friends had suggested they rent a place up in the mountains for a few days during winter break, she knew it would have to have a lot of rooms in order for all of them to comfortably fit, but this place looked more like a mansion made of wooden beams than a traditional log cabin.
"Woah! This place is massive!" Bree's boyfriend, Jason Owens, said as he stared up at the house.
"You're telling me." It was nighttime, and due to Jason's classes ending later than most everyone else's, they were likely the last to arrive. After a long day in school and a three hour drive, she was ready to get inside, see friends from high school she hadn't seen in a long time, and maybe have a drink or two.
"Let's go!" Jason said, bounding up the steps. “I need a beer like nobody’s business.”
Snow lined either side of the pathway, but the walkway looked clear. Bree grabbed her suitcase and followed behind him, hoping there wasn't any ice--and wishing he would've taken the bag for her. It wasn't like Jason to think of something like that, though, and she was tired of always reminding him to be a gentleman. So she took it up herself.
When they reached the door, he threw it open without knocking. Bree prayed this was actually the right place. "Hey! Someone order a party animal?" Jason announced stepping inside.
Thankfully, Bree recognized the loud, squeaky laugh of her best friend from high school, Nora Phillips. She was the only one who had ever even met Jason before since she'd visited Bree a few times at college. The rest of the gang saw her and realized who he must be, and everyone jumped up to tell her hello and meet her new flame.
"Bree!" Nora said, a wine cooler in her hand. "Thank goodness you're here. We were thinking about sending out a search and rescue party."
Bree giggled and hugged her. "We hit some snow on the west side of Lexington," she explained. "It slowed us down."
"You? Since when is Bree Matthews afraid to drive on a little snow?" another friend, Abby Quinton, said, also hugging Bree.
"I wasn't driving," Bree replied, trying not to roll her eyes.
"Well, we're so glad you're here. Christy is about to fall asleep."
"I am not." Christy Rice stumbled backward into the arm of the couch. "Okay, maybe." She was a tiny girl, and by the looks of it, she'd had one too many drinks. Bree stepped over and embraced her.
"It's nice to see you, girl. How's Tennessee State?" Bree asked.
"Ugh. Let's just say… D is for diploma." She took another drink of her beer. "Oh, Bree. This is my boyfriend--Devon Stahl. Devon, this is Bree. I know she's beautiful but hands off!"
"Please, babe. You know I only have eyes for you."
Devon, who had to be at least six foot five, unfolded himself from the couch and wrapped his arms around Bree. "How's it goin'?"
"Don't!" Christy shouted.
Bree laughed nervously. Jason was across the room, already chummy with some of the other guys. "Very funny. Nice to meet you Devon." She excused herself and was promptly introduced to Abby's boyfriend, Ed Thorton, and Nora's date, who wasn't her boyfriend--yet--a sweet, but shy guy with red hair named Flint Vance.
"Where's everyone else?" Bree asked, once she'd introduced Jason.
"Playing pool," Christy said, practically falling into Devon's lap. "You guys should go check out your room."
"I had to save it for you." Abby's eyes bulged. "I tried to tell Grant's girlfriend that because they didn't pay as much, they couldn't have one of the rooms with the ensuite bathroom, but she was being such a--"
"Bother about it," Nora finished, making a face at Abby as if to say there was no need for name calling.
"Great. Thanks," Bree said, going back to pick up the suitcase where she'd dropped it by the door. Jason still had his duffle bag slung over his shoulder.
"You need some help with that, Bree?" Devon asked as she hauled the luggage to the stairs. Devon looked at Jason like he was worthless.
"No, it's okay. I can manage." She'd made it up about two steps before he came and took it from her. Jason was already at the top of the stairs.
"Thank you," Bree said.
"Sure. I don't mind helping a lady out." He smiled at her, and Bree couldn't tell if he was hitting on her or just being polite. From Christy's warnings to him not to flirt, she got the impression he was a little bit of a lady's man.
"Which room is ours?" Jason shouted.
"Third on the left!" Nora screamed up the stairs.
Bree hadn't quite reached the landing when she heard Jason yell, "Sweet! This is a big ass bed!" She felt all the color rush to her face. She hoped Devon didn't get the wrong impression. Jason hadn't been her boyfriend that long, and they hadn't taken their relationship to that level--yet.
Devon didn't say anything, only set the suitcase down outside of the door. "Here you go. I know some of the guys in the other room were looking forward to seeing you, so… don't let Romeo get too carried away." Devon winked at her and then headed down the stairs.
Bree picked her jaw up off of the floor and entered the bedroom..
"This is awesome!" Jason was bouncing up and down on the bed like a little kid.
It was a nice room, but she wasn't ready to stay in it just yet. "I'm going to head down to say hi to the guys in the pool parlor. You wanna come?"
"Sure. I'll be right down. I hope they have plenty of beer."
"After what I paid for a stocked fridge and pantry, they better." She forced a smile and headed back to the stairs. Jason hadn't shared any of the cost since he said they were her friends. Bree had been working every weekend for weeks to save up for this. While she loved playing the guitar at local clubs and singing, she would've also loved it if her boyfriend wouldn't be so stingy with his cash.
When Bree reached the bottom of the stairs, Nora was waiting for her. "So… Jason seems… nice."
"Yep.” She heard the sarcasm in her voice but didn’t want to explain herself to her friend at the moment. “I'm gonna go say hi to the other guys. Are Hank and Isaac both here, too? Did they bring dates?" She was already walking through the living room toward the sound of pool balls in the back of the house.
"Uh… Hank did, but… Isaac didn't. His girlfriend broke up with him. Since he had twin beds in his room anyway, he brought someone else."
"Oh? A friend from college?"
Nora didn't need to answer that question because as soon as Bree walked into the room, she saw exactly who Isaac had invited. "Oh shit," she muttered, her mouth falling open in shock.
"Nope," Nora said. "Surprise."
Surprise wasn't even the half of it.