Writer’s Retreat AU, Part 1

Summary: In need of a quiet space to work on her next book, MC (Charlotte) accepts the use of James’s cabin and meets an extremely handsome park ranger.

Notes: I just got the idea for this AU fic today so I’m playing with it a bit to see what I can do with it. I have a feeling this is going to be a long series, so hang on and thanks in advance for reading ❤️ This one isn’t NSFW but I promise that many installments will be, so if you love smut, stay tuned!

The pavement gave way to a dirt road that wound its way through the dense trees. James had said the turnoff for the cabin was easy to miss so Charlotte was scanning the road intently, searching for the green mailbox he’d told her to watch for.

“Who the hell buys a green mailbox for a cabin in the woods?” Charlotte grumbled. Suddenly, she slammed on her brakes and her tires scraped against the dirt road. There it was, a dark green mailbox, just the same shade as a clump of pine needles, with “ASHTON” written on the side in white letters. Charlotte backed up her car slightly and then turned up the winding path.

“Seriously, use the cabin in Maine,” James urged, pressing the key into her hand. “It’ll give you the space you need to write.”

“Are you sure no one will mind?” Charlotte asked. “I’m not going to be surprised by your parents, am I?”

James smiled and shook his head.

“No, it’s fine,” he said. “I bought this place from my parents a few years ago since they never used it.” He cupped her face in his hands and kissed her gently. “Use it, write your next best seller.”

“Next?” Charlotte asked as she rolled her eyes. “Try first.”

“I thought your first book was great!” James exclaimed, wrapping his arms around her waist.

“Thanks, but it wasn’t exactly a best seller.”

James brushed off her comments and nuzzled his face into the curve of her neck.

“That’s only because people can’t appreciate literary genius. Not yet, anyway. But they will–you’re going to be great.”

Charlotte suspected that the only reason James had offered her the cabin was because of the wedding. June 15th was quickly approaching and although she wasn’t one to make a scene, James more than likely didn’t want her anywhere near his upcoming nuptials to Vanessa Kingsley, childhood friend, high school sweetheart, and Gloria Ashton-approved match–unlike Charlotte had been. Charlotte, James’s outspoken college girlfriend who was about as far from the social register as a person could get. Charlotte was the sort of person who needed scholarships to get through school, and the Ashtons were the kind of people that gave scholarships through foundations funded by $1,000 per plate dinners. The difference in economic class had never felt like a factor in Charlotte and James’s relationship, but she was certain that when they broke up after four years together, Gloria had breathed a sigh of relief that could have been heard from coast to coast. Then, a year ago, James had shown up at one of Charlotte’s book signings. He’d asked her to coffee when she was done, and then coffee had led to dinner, which had led to drinks, which had led to Charlotte’s apartment, the two of them reunited in an all too familiar embrace.

Charlotte often wondered if Vanessa knew about her. Then Charlotte usually wondered what she was doing with James in the first place. She’d never planned on being the other woman, it had just … happened. Every time, she swore she’d delete his number, stop answering the phone, refuse to see him, and yet she never did. Now she’d been exiled to his cabin in Maine, stashed far away from the wedding at his family’s glorious estate. It’s better this way. At least, that’s what she keeps telling herself.

When Charlotte pulled up to the cabin, she is reminded once again that the Ashtons are not like everyone else. At James’s first mention of a cabin, Charlotte had pictured a small house in the woods, nothing fancy. This house, however, is ridiculous. There’s a four car garage underneath the house, which has a massive deck that looks like it wraps around the whole building. Charlotte parked in front of the house and climbed out of her car, feeling like she should look for a servant’s entrance instead of using the front door. The place looked like it belonged on the cover of a magazine and really, knowing the Ashtons, it probably had been. She pulled her phone out of her pocket and checked the service: three bars. Not great, but it wasn’t like she was completely isolated. Charlotte hit the speed dial for her sister and held the phone to her ear.

“Hi, twin,” Kaitlyn said. “Was there a scarlet ‘A’ waiting for you at the cabin?”

“Ha ha, very funny,” Charlotte said, rolling her eyes. “I just wanted to let you know I got here.”

“How’s the house?”

“Massive,” Charlotte said as she popped open the trunk of her car and grabbed her duffle bag. “I’m definitely too poor and unimportant to be here.”

“Poor? Yes. Unimportant? Never,” Kaitlyn said. “I still don’t think it’s a good idea for you to be out there by yourself. I watched a movie once about a woman who was staying alone in a cabin and this guy in a bunny mask started stalking–”

“Kaitlyn, please don’t talk about horror movies. That hadn’t even occurred to me until right this second and now you’ve got me all paranoid … and very aware of how many windows this place has.” Charlotte climbed up the stairs to the front door and dug into her pocket for the key James had given her.

“Holy shit, Kaitlyn, you should see this place,” Charlotte said once she opened the door, dropping her bag on the floor.

“I’m sure it’s beautiful, but I still don’t get why you couldn’t just write at home in your apartment,” Kaitlyn said. “Why did you have to go all the way to Maine?”

“I need to get away from distractions,” Charlotte explained for what felt like the tenth time. “There’s too much pulling my attention at home. But out here, I can focus on writing which I really need to do, my editor is going to kill me if I don’t send him some pages soon.”

“Ah, yes, how is Zack?”

“Anxious for me to send him pages,” Charlotte said. “Hey, I should go get settled, I just wanted to let you know I’m here.”

“Okay, well, I’m glad you got in okay,” Kaitlyn said. “Call me if a murderer in a bunny mask knocks on the door.”

Charlotte rolled her eyes and hung up the phone. She knew her sister meant well, but Kaitlyn tended to forget that not everyone was as much of a horror movie junkie as she was.

Knock, knock, knock.

Charlotte whirled around to face the door and squealed, clapping a hand over her mouth. You’re being stupid, she scolded herself. There isn’t a murderer in a bunny mask knocking on the door at … she checked her watch. 2:30 in the afternoon.

“That’s what’s great about modern horror movies,” she could imagine Kaitlyn saying. “Instead of striking at midnight, the killers showing up during daylight hours and completely ignore the tropes.”

“God dammit, Kaitlyn,” Charlotte muttered as she walked to the door and peered through the peephole. Through the fisheye glass, she could see what looked like a green uniform.

“Is anyone there?” a male voice called, muffled by the thick door. “I’m from the forest service, James Ashton called and said someone would be coming up to the cabin.”

Charlotte opened the door and was about to speak but the words faltered in her mouth when she saw who was on the other side of the door. He was a tall man, a dark lock of hair falling out from underneath his hat across the honeyed, tanned skin of his forehead.

“Hi,” he said, stepping into the conversational gap. “I don’t know how well you could hear me, but I’m from the forest service. James Ashton called ahead and said someone would be staying here, asked if we could keep an eye on you.”

“Oh, that’s nice of him,” Charlotte said, shaking herself out of her thoughts. “Yeah, I’m going to be staying here for a while.” Idiot, he already knows that.

“Well, if you need anything, there’s a park ranger station not too far from here. I just wanted to stop by and introduce myself, let you know that we know you’re here. There’s a town nearby, Hull, if you need to get some groceries. You probably passed through it on your way here.”

Charlotte nodded. The town didn’t appear to be much bigger than a few blocks, but it appeared to have all the essentials, not the least of which looked to be a bar.

“Kind of a strange name for a town,” Charlotte said.

“We like our boating terms in Maine,” the park ranger said. “I guess we’re lucky though that the powers that be didn’t name the town ‘Flying Jib’ or something.”

Charlotte laughed and was rewarded with an appreciative smirk. God, he’s gorgeous.

“I’m Charlotte,” she said, offering her hand. He took it and shook. “Charlotte Ford.”

“Zig Ortega. Oh,” he said, dropping her hand to reach into his shirt pocket. He pulled out a card and handed it to her. “The number is probably posted somewhere in here, but, just in case, here’s the number of the ranger station if you need anything.”

“Thanks,” she said, accepting the card.

“Nice to meet you,” Zig said, tipping his hat at her before he turned and headed down the stairs.

“You, too,” she said, watching him leave.

So much for a lack of distractions in the woods.

Part 2

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