Mailing List Sneak Peek
The fire crackles, twigs snapping and catching as the kindling takes light. I smirk to myself, laying some bigger sticks across the growing flame and sitting back on the log I dragged over to my little fire pit.
The smug look on my face grows. Yeah, this city girl can do the shit out of some camping.
It’s been years since I got out into the wilderness, longer still since I was even in Kentucky. Camping used to be something I did to get away from it all sometimes. But then, it was usually with my dad before. And ever since his passing a few years ago, it’s just felt like I’ve never had the time anymore.
Time. The smugness drops from my face as I’m suddenly reminded of the reasons why I’ve now got all this free time for a three-day-long camping trip into the hills of Kentucky. Reasons like getting fired from my job with the ad agency back in Atlanta. Reasons like finally being single.
I wrinkle my nose, glaring into the fire. A getaway is great, but I know this trip is more of an escape than anything else. My dad would’ve called this running from my problems, and he’d be mostly right. No job, a failed, shitty relationship, and a dwindling bank account. And here I am basically off the grid in a place called Sugar County with a tent, a backpack, bad cell reception, and a trashy romance book most people I know would roll their eyes at me reading but that I can’t wait to dig into.
I poke the fire with a stick before I toss a larger log on top to get it going. Dinner is lasagna with mushrooms and lemony asparagus, and I’m going to need some hot coals to get things cooking after I go for a swim in the stream. No, I’m not the world’s most accomplished woodland chef — this dinner and the rest of my meals are all pre-made, air-sealed “camp cuisine” dishes from the same place I bought my new tent and the plastic water bottle with the wide screw-on cap.
I stand, stretching before I kick my hiking boots off, bending over to peel off my socks. Today was a light hike day, mostly just poking around up in the hills looking for old coal-mining camps in the area. I pause for a second and roll my eyes, thinking of the old guy working the counter at the gas station back in town where I filled up my car and the backup “just in case” generator.
“Where you off to up in those hills, miss?”
“Oh,” I smile. “Just a little light camping. Looking for old coal mines.”
His face darkens. “You’re staying up there? Overnight?”
I smile again. “I’ve been camping all my life sir, it really won’t be—”
“Not up there you haven’t.”
His lips tighten as he shakes his head.
“Not up there in the hills with the Sugar Devil.”
Back at the gas station, I brushed off the old man and his stories about some maniac living up in the wilderness. The Sugar Devil. “Liquor King” was his other name, apparently. But c’mon, I’ve heard ghost stories before. Okay, I’ll admit that I jumped that first night at the sound of rustling off in the trees, and at the sound of snapping twigs. But please. A devil? More like a white-tailed deer — maybe a coyote hoping for some dinner scraps.
But beyond that? Yeah, right. I even heard the twigs snapping again last night, when I’d come out of a pre-bed swim in the stream. I’d scowled, pissed that the weird old guy at the gas station had even tried to spook me with his bullshit. C’mon, I needed this. I needed to be outside and away from it all and thinking about nothing but which trail to find the next day and if the batteries in my book-light would last long enough for me to finish the next chapter of my trashy romance book before bed. What I did not need was creepy bullshit folktales about the “Devil of the hills.”
Please, the only devil was Lyle, my ex. The devil who’d cheated on me with another girl from my office, knocked her up, and then tried to tell me he was “ready to settle down with me” a month after he’d left.
Uh, yeah, no. Check please.
I scowled as I unbuttoned my jean shorts, shoving them down and kicking them away before I peeled my t-shirt off.
Hell, if there was a “devil” up here? Well, it had to be better than the douchebag I’d dated for two yea—
The sound of a twig snapping has me whirling, my heart jumping into my throat a little as I scan the early evening tree line behind my camp.
Stories. That’s all there is to it. Hell, the gas station guy probably saw my out-of-state driver’s license and decided to fuck with me. And I hate that it’s working.
I swallow, my eyes darting over the trees, seeing nothing. I sigh. This is ridiculous. I don’t need to sit here jumping at sounds and clutching my pearls at shadows. I just need to escape from life for a while. I need to eat some pre-packaged lasagna, maybe crack the bottle of cheap whiskey I brought along, and read my damn book.
But before that, I need to take a swim.
I reach back and unclip my bra, tossing it down onto my pile of clothes before I hook my thumbs into my panties and peel those down too. I shiver a little, a heated, teasing feeling tingling over my skin at the feeling of being completely nude in nature. It’s a primal feeling, even a little sensual, and I bite my lip as I turn and skip towards the water.
…I’m thinking there’s something else I might need to do tonight too. Something that involves sinking into my sleeping bag and sliding my fingers between my legs. It’s been a bit of a dry spell since Lyle, and it doesn’t help that I’ve been having some very nice dreams since I got up here to the hills. Last night’s in particular was…wow.
…Let’s just say I woke up and very much needed a change of panties.
I gasp as I step into the freezing water of the stream. It’s warm out, even in the evenings, but this stream is definitely fed from up on a mountain somewhere. But damn does it feel good after a long sweaty day of hiking around.
I sigh deeply as I sink into the chilly stream, my skin tingling and my nipples puckering to little pink points. I can feel the water rushing between my thighs, and I close my eyes, opening my legs a little wider and letting the current tease over me.
…Yeah, maybe dinner will have to wait its damn turn.
I bite my lip, letting my hands slide over my hips, feeling my body relax in the water. My fingers tease over my skin, my pulse skipping as I start to lose myself a little.
More than a little, actually. I start to lose myself so much that when I hear the snapping of twigs again, I don’t even give it a second thought. I start to lose myself so much that I don’t think I even hear the second or third snaps, moving closer.
I start to lose myself so much, my fingers teasing lower and lower down my tummy and deeper between my legs, that I don’t hear the splash of something entering the stream behind me.
It’s not until the sound is right behind me, and not until I realize that splashing sound isn’t the stream, it’s footsteps, that I whirl suddenly. And my heart leaps into my throat.
It’s the piercing blue eyes that get me first. Sharp, clear as ice, and gorgeous. Then it’s the perfectly formed lips, and the flash of white teeth. It’s chiseled jaw, and the bare, muscled chest carved out of marble, and the tattoos covering his skin.
…And all right in front of me.
I shriek, my hands flying to try and cover myself, but his hands are faster. I scream as the shirtless man grabs me, snatching me up out of the water like I weigh nothing at all. His muscles ripple as he tosses me over his shoulder, my bare body pressed tight to his skin in a way that sends forbidden heat searing through me.
I scream again as his big hands tighten on me, clamping me down against his shoulder as he drapes me over it. I squirm and hit, my fists slamming against his chiseled, tattooed back, but it doesn’t even seem to faze him. He whirls, storming out of the stream holding me fucking caveman style, his bare shoulder against my tummy.
My nipples rubbing over his back muscles.
His hands firmly holding me by the back of one thigh and my ass.
“Let go of me!” I shriek again, the adrenaline thundering through me as he steps from the stream and starts to storm right for the trees. “Get your fucking hands off of me and let go of—”
“Can’t do that,” he growls, his voice deep, rough, and honeyed, like whiskey and earth.
“I said, get your fucking—”
“Uh-uh,” he purrs deeply, the sound rumbling through my body. “You’re mine now.”
His hands tighten on me as we step into the woods, heading up the hill away from my camp. Heat sizzles from his warm, muscled body, and I can smell the masculine aroma of earth and woods and sweat washing over me.
“You’re mine now, Winona.”
Coming Monday, September 17th!