we’ve been waiting—”

“Working on it,” snapped Wake.

“Of course, can’t rush the creative process, can you?” said Maine. “I hope this isn’t too presumptuous of me, but I’m the night host at the local radio station. Any chance I could get an interview? A best-selling author doesn’t come through these parts very often, and—”

“I’m on vacation with my wife,” said Wake. “Trying to keep a low profile.”

“I understand completely,” said Maine, winking. “Still, you change your mind, I’m an easy man to find.”

Wake walked back to Alice.

“I got some good shots,” said Alice, pushing her hair back. “Nice to see you making friends.”

“Yeah, we swapped bundt-cake recipes,” said Wake.

Alice lightly punched him in the arm. “Wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen. You might actually enjoy yourself.”

Wake didn’t respond. He stood shoulder to shoulder beside her at the railing, eyes half closed, enjoying the sensation of her wind-blown hair tickling his face.

He had lied to Pat Maine about his next book. He hadn’t written a word in two years, and had no idea if he would ever write again, but standing beside Alice, Wake put aside all thoughts of the books he had written, and the books he might never write, put aside the frustration that tore at him night and day. There was just him and Alice. That was enough. For this one perfect moment, that was all he needed.

“Oh yuck,” Alice said softly.

“What?” said Wake, not wanting to look, wanting to stay where he was, smelling her perfume and forgetting everything else.

“There’s the creepiest guy watching us,” said Alice.

Wake opened his eyes, the perfect moment gone now, popped like a soap bubble on a summer afternoon. He saw a grubby man in his forties staring at them from the far end of the ferry, an insolent grin on his face. The man wore camouflage pants and a hunting vest, a stained ball cap and scuffed work boots. A cigarette dangled from his lower lip.

He started walking slowly toward the man. “Do you have a problem?” Wake challenged, raising his voice to be heard over the rumbling engines.

The man didn’t react, just took a long, slow drag on his cigarette, and kept staring.

“Alan, don’t,” said Alice. “Stay here. This is no way to start a vacation.”

Wake allowed Alice to steer him back to their car, neither of them saying a word until they were both inside.

“You… you scare me sometimes,” said Alice.

Wake watched the vein at the base of her throat pulse, angry at himself for upsetting her. “I’m sorry.”

“Men like that… they’re not worth worrying about,” said Alice. She squeezed his hand. “You just have to learn to back away.”

“I can’t do that,” said Wake. “The world will eat you alive if you let it.”

“That’s not true,” said Alice. “Most people are good.”

Wake snorted.

“Alan Wake, they most certainly are.”

“What about the ones who aren’t good?” said Wake, looking past her as the town came clearly into view, a collection of bright storefronts and a few small houses scattered across the surrounding hills. People and cars waited at the ferry dock. He turned back to her. “What about the ones who want to hurt us?”

“Why would anyone want to hurt us?”

Wake reached over and kissed her. “Envy. Who wouldn’t want what we have?”

Alice kissed him back, her lips warm and pouting. “Well, they can’t have it.”

Alice drove the car off the ferry and onto the dock, past the fishermen lining the railing and people waiting to board. There was a chill in the air now, clouds building up on the horizon. Locals in quilted jackets clomped down the sidewalk, eating ice cream cones, enjoying the sunshine. No seagulls, which was odd, since they usually hovered around the waterfront, looking for scraps and leftovers. No seagulls. Just ravens watching from the roofs and power lines. Wake shivered.

“It’s nice, isn’t it?” said Alice. “Quaint. No one seems to be in a hurry.”

“Wait until Deerfest,” said Wake, “the place will be throbbing with activity.”

“See, I knew you were going to like it here,” said Alice.

“Don’t get carried away,” said Wake. “I was just kidding.”

“That’s what I mean,” said Alice. “Your sense of humor… it’s coming back. I’m so happy. These last couple of years you got so serious.”

“Well, these last couple years, things were serious,” said Wake. “Not today, though. Today, we’re going to pick up the key to our cabin and officially start the vacation, and if you’re good, very, very good, I’ll take you to Deerfest and let you pet Bambi.”

“You need to take a look around and see where you are, city boy,” teased Alice. “Around here, they don’t pet Bambi, they eat him.”

CHAPTER 2

“WHO AM I supposed to get the key to the cabin from?” said Wake.

“A Mr. Carl Stucky.” Alice stopped at the traffic light, the only one they had seen in the town. “He said he was at the Oh Deer Diner every afternoon about this time.”

Wake looked around as the car idled, waiting for the light to change. Nothing here but a dozen storefronts of dull, weathered brick, the whole downtown located on one street that ran along the water. Bright Falls was a tidy, small town, with no litter, no graffiti and no parking meters. On one side of the street a hardware store touted deals on chain saws and generators, on the other side a shoe store announced a sale on steel-toed boots. A banner over the intersection declared, JUST TWO WEEKS UNTIL DEERFEST!

“Welcome to Mayberry,” he said.

“Don’t be such a snob,” said Alice. “It’s quaint. Very quaint.”

Wake watched a dog amble across the street. “Quaint means no Starbucks, no deli, no cable, and the film playing at the single screen movie theater has been out on DVD in the real world for six months.”

“Some people would find that a relief.”

Wake sighed. “It’s just hard for me to relax.”

Alice squeezed his hand. “That’s why we’re here.”

“You’re right.” Wake smiled in spite of himself. “I’m an idiot. I don’t know why you put up with me.”

“Well… you do have your charms.” The light changed, but Alice ignored it.

Wake watched her in the soft, late afternoon light. She was long and lean beside him, her movements languid and sensuous as a cat stretching in the sunlight. “Let’s pick up the key and I’ll do my best to make it up to you.”

Alice glanced over at him. “It’s a deal,” she said, starting through the intersection. A block later, she slowed and came to a stop in front of the Oh Deer Diner, leaving the engine running. “You get the key from Stucky and I’ll pick you up after I get some gas.”

They watched as a lone parade float drove slowly down the street, a heavy-duty logging truck decorated like a gigantic deer, antlers impossibly large.

“You’re not just going to drive away and leave me here, are you?” teased Wake.

“It might do you some good,” said Alice. “Give you a taste of the simple life.”

“Not without you. What kind of fun would that be?”

Alice pointed at the news rack beside the door, change glistening on the stack of newspapers. “Look at that.

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