A Tutelarius Love (Chapter Four, page 1 of 6)

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The serpent raised its ugly head, the beady black eyes measuring Megan as its tiny forked tongue flicked in her direction. The leathery coils of its shiny body lay in a heap, stacked at least three tiers high.

Heart pounding, she slowly retreated, pausing only when the heel of her shoe reached the edge of the porch. Then, never taking her gaze off the snake, she backed down the steps. Selecting the back door key, she finally tore her attention from the serpent and took a step toward the back of the house. Before her, the knee-high grass waved with a slight breeze of warning. How many of the snake's relatives lurked in the grass?

Taking a deep breath, she lowered the groceries to the steps and retained her grip on the broom. Wasn't this why she had come to Arkansas? To prove she could take care of herself? She balanced the broom handle in clammy hands and slowly advanced up the steps. What if she was bitten? How long would it take to get medical attention? She hesitated and then shook her head, muttering to herself again.

"You can't stand here all day. You came here to test yourself, and here's the first challenge. Don't flunk."

Extending the broom as far as possible, she gently nudged the snake. She shuddered involuntarily as it slowly uncoiled, stretched across the porch and eventually disappeared off the edge into the tall grass.

Swallowing an urge to retch, she retrieved the groceries and dashed to the door. "Give yourself two points for that one," she breathed as she unlocked the door.

Inside, the cabin was hot and stuffy. As she moved around the cabin opening windows, she examined every inch of the floor for possible entry routes a snake might utilize. Finally, satisfied the house was safe, she put the groceries away and began cleaning the cabin.

The sun was bathing the cabin in orange by the time she had finished cleaning and hanging her clothes. She hesitated at the front door, scanning the porch for snakes before she stepped out into the cool evening air. The rocker was comfortable and a soft breeze caressed her into a blissful silence. Birds flitted from tree to tree, chirping at each other and battling over the best roosting sights. As the light faded from the treetops, the birds grew silent and insects began their orchestra of night sounds.

Megan closed her eyes and imagined she was in a rain forest along the Amazon. It might as well have been, for all the noises she could identify. She breathed deeply of the moist night air and relaxed, stretching her feet toward the edge of the porch.

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