I wasn’t sure if it was my imagination or the history of creepies and crawlies in Dudleytown, or the thought of felons, dead people, curses, or the depth of darkness that encroached on us from every angle—maybe my eyes were just playing tricks on me, but I swear Shannon’s light was going out. It looked yellower. Dimmer.
A lone coyote yipped in the valley and I swallowed my voice so I wouldn’t embarrass myself by shrieking. I squeezed my fist so tight my fingers went numb.
Get a grip, Strauss.
I thought Shannon was grousing at me, but the road branched and he stalled. I slammed into his back again.
“Quit stopping right in front of me.”
Shannon’s dim light searched the ground. To the right, a path made entirely of grass and loose boulders vanished into the forest. To the left, the broken road continued through the mountains. He grunted and swung the light in an arc. “How many roads are up here?”
“I think this is it. Plus the hiking trails, but those have been closed for years.”
Nailed crookedly to a tree was a No Trespassing sign, a Road Closed sign and a threatening informative notice that violators would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Someone had spray painted a penis on it.
“Seventy-five bucks for trespassing.” Shannon spat on the ground. “He must have hit his head pretty hard to come this way because I don’t have seventy-five bucks to chase him. I don’t have ten bucks to chase him.”
“Get over it. Do you see any cops? It’s not like we’re going to get a ticket for trespassing.” No. We were going to jail for hit and run, driving under the influence, assault with a vehicular weapon and trespassing.
Jail was not going to look good on my résumé.
He raked his fingers through his hair again. “Where the hell did he go? How could he get this far ahead of us?
“Maybe he’s behind us.” I cupped my mouth and hollered, “Ricky!” and just as quickly, regretted screaming into the bleak emptiness of the mountains. Something just felt wrong here. Something that kept the two of us quiet. My big voice carried on the wind and it only made us more desperately alone.
A twig snapped and I smacked Shannon in the shoulder. “Quit freaking me out.”
“Quit being so jumpy.” Shannon checked the ground like an Indian scout and pointed. “He went this way.”
Naturally, Ricky had chosen the grassy trail that disappeared into a tunnel of trees and rocks. I expected to see a line of breadcrumbs, but all I got was a few chunks of deer shit and some footprints. “Great. Of course, how do you know that’s from Ricky’s sneakers and not someone else’s?”
“I don’t. Maybe it’s one of those escaped convicts.”
The flashlight blinked out and I choked. “Knock it off, Shannon. You’re not funny.”
“Are you kidding me?” Shannon banged the flashlight against his hand. The light sputtered and then failed altogether. My hands went from adrenaline-numb to ice cold as Shannon fumed beside me. “Can you believe this shit?”
“Yes. I can believe anything right now. I can believe in the tooth fairy at this point. I even believe that you packed extra batteries.” My voice cracked as night swallowed the air.
“These are my extra batteries.”
My shoulder ached as if the temperature dropped another five degrees. I slid my backpack off, found my nuts and glared at the spot where Shannon should be. I willed the flashlight to work. Work. Work. When that failed, I let my eyes adjust to the gloom. “You’re always so prepared—"
His heavy hand landed on my sore shoulder.
“Shhh. Be still. Do you hear that?” Shannon yanked me against his chest. I was too surprised to do anything but dangle there until he led me into the thicket by the hand. He pulled me behind him close enough that my groin snuggled his ass with every step.
Except for the backpacks knocking me in the face and the blood on my hands…in any other circumstance, this would have been a dream come true.
Oh, fuck it. This was a dream come true. We were reenacting a moment straight from one of my favorite porno flick Boys & Bears.
Yes. This was absolutely the worst time to think about sex, but his calloused fingers gripped my wrist and he dragged me into the underbrush and holy shit, his firm ass wiggled against my firming crotch. I got hard—I wasn’t proud of it. My dick stiffened like a good not-so-little soldier as his hips kissed my groin and, once we stopped, his lips brushed my ear. “Shhh.”
Torture. Absolute fucking torture.
I closed my eyes and stifled a moan. In that movie, the big guy, Duke, had fucked his little camping buddy against a sturdy tree trunk while owls hooted and coyotes howled in the distance. Naturally, they’d remembered to bring lube and condoms, and through good lighting and amazing balance they’d shucked their clothes (except somehow they’d left their boots on) and screwed as furiously as animals against the rough bark of a towering oak. Or maple. And no one had gotten a splinter in the ass.
Even so, I had tweezers...
But that wasn’t on the program for this evening—so I got a grip.
We had a minor skirmish over who was shielding who. We could have alerted the mayor two towns north of here with the ruckus we made getting ourselves hidden behind our own sturdy tree trunk, until Shannon finally wriggled behind me and his crotch ground into my ass. He clapped onto my biceps with his strong hands. “Stay put, Allie.”
How could he be oblivious to the sexual nature of our position? I mean, really? He was on top of me, holding me and speaking in that rumbly voice. The way he said my name…Allie…it was like sex talk. It was all I could do not to slide my hands around his hips and drag him against me.
Our bags lay in the dirt, and I focused on staying alert and useful instead of being mind-blowingly turned on. The minutes slogged by, but the night sounds were a great distraction. Chirps, ticks, snaps and crackles. Wild animals. Wings. The wind blew endlessly through the treetops and pinecones landed in the dirt like shrapnel. Shannon’s breath waxed and waned, fluttering into my hair. My heart beat…heartily…and his chest pressed the full length of my back.
Frankly, he was a little closer than he needed to be.