Adventure Lover

Jill Martin loves adventure—as long as it comes between the covers of a book. Preferably one with a bare-chested hero on the front. But to reinvent their flagging business she has to reinvent herself into the kind of heroine who will brave the unknown. Her assignment: a week-long backpacking trip through the Olympic High Divide.

Soon she’s forced to cope with bears, blisters, and a basic instinct to get horizontal with her vertical guide. Ryan Lowe’s as hard as the ground they sleep on and his heart’s as icy as the glaciers that surround them, but since she only wants his body that shouldn’t be a problem.

Just when she thinks she’s figured out how to cope with both Ryan and Mother Nature, they run into geocachers using the remote location to stash stolen loot. Her wilderness adventure exposes her to physical risks she never imagined, but it’s Ryan that puts her adrenaline in overdrive and leads her to the biggest risk of all…making it last when the trip is over.

By reading any further, you are stating that you are at least 18 years of age. If you are under the age of 18, it is necessary to exit this page.

By reading any further, you are stating that you are at least 18 years of age. If you are under the age of 18, it is necessary to exit this page.

“I have blisters on my feet,” Jill said the next morning, staring at the evidence of yesterday’s unaccustomed activity.“Want me to put Band-Aids on your owies?”Part of her wanted to say yes and then sit back to let him do just that. But the woman she was reinventing herself as would get her own first aid kit and deal with the problem like a competent outdoorswoman, so Jill said, “No, thanks,” and pulled out the small kit she’d packed.

She smeared on ointment, then applied Band-Aids, and covered them with a clean pair of wool socks. She wiggled her feet inside the socks, testing. The thick knit didn’t rub on anything.

“Didn’t you break those boots in before you came out here?” Ryan asked.

“No.” And she’d pay for that today. But she wouldn’t make that mistake again. She’d caution her clients about it too. Jill finished dressing, and started in surprise when Ryan’s hands closed on her waist.

“Hey.” He turned her around to face him. His dark eyes met hers. “Are you upset about last night?”

“Upset? Why would I be upset? Consenting adults. Yadda yadda.” She gave him her best bland expression and hoped she looked unmoved. Underneath it, she was all too aware that she was far from unmoved. She’d been dynamited and blown across the alpine meadows, where bits of her were still scattered and waiting for her to collect them into some kind of cohesive whole again.

“I shouldn’t have let things go so far.”

“What was too far?” Jill looked back at him, trying for the brazen look she’d been able to pull off yesterday, but today it wasn’t just her feet that felt raw. “The fact that we had sex? Or the fact that it wasn’t the vanilla variety?”

A hint of a scowl crept into his expression. “You were all in favor of kink last night.”

“Ah. So it’s the non-vanilla.” Jill patted his chest. “It was an experience I’ll never forget.” There was a little too much truth in that statement, so she pulled away and turned her back to him. Ostensibly so she could put away her first-aid supplies.

“Jill. Dammit, look at me.” Ryan put his hand on her shoulder, turning her.

“What do you want, Ryan?” Fury bubbled up inside her. He’d made her want, damn him. She’d been fine until she met him. She would have continued to be satisfied with undemanding, uncomplicated sex, but that was all over now, because now she knew what she’d been missing.

It was like having good dark chocolate. One taste, and you were ruined for cheap imitations forever. She could buy dark chocolate anywhere, but Ryan was a taste she couldn’t indulge so easily.
He didn’t flinch from her reaction. “I want to know that you’re okay.”

“Oh.” She deflated like a helium balloon left in the sun all day. “Right. I’m fine. Thanks for asking.”

His jaw tightened. “You don’t sound fine. And you were out of bed before I woke up this morning.”

Jill blinked, amazed that he’d mention that. “I got up because I woke up wrapped around you like ivy on brick. If I’d stayed there one more minute, I wouldn’t have stopped at cuddling. Since it’s going to take half the day to get to our next site and I am not the world’s greatest hiker, I thought that would be bad. So I got out of bed.”

“I didn’t mind having you wrapped around me like ivy on brick.” Ryan tugged her toward him. “I don’t mind getting a late start, either.”

“Oh?” Jill let herself be urged closer. She was already ruined for lesser experiences, what could it hurt to go back for another taste of him?

A series of sounds outside the tent made her freeze. “What’s that?”

Ryan cocked his head, listening. “We might have some visiting bears.”

“Bears!” It was a scream of a whisper. Jill would have screamed for real, but she was too afraid of instigating an animal attack by making the wrong kind of noise.

“It could be elk.”

If he’d meant that to be reassuring, it wasn’t working. She’d read about elk in rut attacking people. Jill huddled closer to him. “What do they want?”

“They live here,” Ryan pointed out. “They don’t want us. Wild animals avoid people, as a rule. We didn’t leave anything out that would attract bears. You didn’t pack any food items that weren’t sealed or canned, right?”

“Right.” She’d followed his instructions to the letter, as if her life depended on getting it right. She’d figured it probably did.

“Then nothing to worry about. We hang tight, and they wander off.”

She let out a thread of a whimper. It was unworthy of the woman she was trying to become, but she couldn’t change everything all at once.

Ryan folded her close, and she burrowed into him as if he could keep her safe. “This sucks,” she whispered. “If I get eaten by a bear, I want a refund.”

His shoulders shook with silent laughter. “I don’t know how you expect to claim one under those circumstances.”

So she was irrational. Apparently that was the new her. She’d gone from placid and serene and predictable to dizzying peaks and drops, a roller coaster of emotion.