Friday Excerpt: Tempest
Charlie's gaze drifted to the sky, hoping the weather would hold. The weather on any mountain was bound to be unpredictable, but Tempest had a reputation for throwing surprises at unsuspecting hikers no matter what time of the year it was. She'd heard it had something to do with the surrounding topography and where the mountain sat in relation to the jet stream, not that it mattered when a freak thunderstorm or blizzard hit. The landscape was incredible though, especially the area around Tempest Lake, formed from a dormant volcano crater a hundred years ago. For Charlie, there was no better way to spend the summer than guiding people over the mountain, regardless of the risks.
A tingling sensation built between her shoulders. Someone – or something, was watching. She eased off the boulder, her pulse jumping as she scanned her surroundings. Reaching for the yellow spray canister on her belt, her gaze swept over the trees to her left, paying close attention to the thick bramble between. Bears could be foraging lower for food this time of year, if the upper elevations were depleted. Her senses were on full alert and she turned in a slow, deliberate circle, her instincts urging her to run. Hide.
Then she swung toward the parking lot. Her gaze locked on to a gorgeous pair of intense chocolate brown eyes and she nearly gasped at the jolt of awareness that shot down her spine. It had been a long time since a man had triggered that particular feeling.
"Dr. Charlotte Reynolds?" The smooth, velvety voice resonated through her body, and Charlie felt the blood rise in her face at the amused up-turn of his full, soft-looking lips. "I didn't mean to startle you."
She blinked, swallowing hard as she dropped her gaze, deliberately replacing the bear spray while she tried to recover her composure. "It's okay. I—um..."
Words failed as she caught sight of his black leather work boots, and followed them up to military style pants tucked in. A black t-shirt pulled tightly across a rock-hard chest did nothing to slow her racing heartbeat. Just below his chin a small scar beckoned to her for a kiss. Moist heat pooled between her legs, and she looked away, her eyes lighting on the others, all watching with ill concealed interest.
Great first impression, professor. Pull yourself together. Looking back down at the clipboard, she scanned the list.
"You must be Jake Nelson?" At his nod, she checked off his name, and then remembered the woman who was supposed to be with him. Desire doused with reality, she peered around the distracting new guy to find a petite redhead standing slightly to the side. "And you must be Adrienne Winters."
The girl nodded, her long hair hanging in frizzy ringlets that framed her narrow face. She looked bored, not exactly dressed for hiking in her tennis shoes and designer shirt. Charlie noticed a large backpack with two bedrolls attached leaning against a nearby tree, and guessed that Jake would be carrying the supplies for them both. She couldn't help the tinge of disappointment she felt.
"You can call me Charlie," she said briskly, checking Adrienne off the list and stowing the clipboard in her gear. "If you'd both join the rest of the group behind me, we can go over a few safety rules and then get started."
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