His Captive Mountain Virgin
Mailing List Sneak Peek
Around me, everything burned.
Smoke choked the air, and ash fell like black and grey snow as I stumbled through the hazy heat, calling names.
“James! Amanda! Lauren! Kyle!”
The rest of the kids were already down the trail and hopefully waiting on the school bus with the other teachers. But when we’d realized we had four still missing, I hadn’t even thought before I’d gone dashing back up the trail.
Somewhere nearby, there was a huge cracking sound, and I screamed as a tree ten feet from me exploded into flames.
…This was not how today's field trip was supposed to go down. And the worst part was that this entire thing had been my idea.
School trips for the kindergarten-through-sixth graders at Macworth Preparatory Academy typically went places more befitting, well, their station. I hate to use that term since it sounds like something out of the eighteen hundreds, but when you’ve got a class full of kids whose parents are dropping ninety-thousand bucks a year on private elementary school, it feels like it fits.
Yeah, coming out to the woods up on Blackthorn Mountain wasn’t something the kids I was teaching ever did, and certainly not on a school bus, God forbid. No, the school trips those kids usually went on were on planes to Switzerland, or on luxury cruise lines to the Caribbean. But I’d pushed hard to take them all out here to Blackthorn for a slice of something real — to get these kids outside for once.
And for a solid hour, it seemed like things were actually going well. Despite the grumblings and the wining, and the “where’s the wifi?” complaints, I think some of them had actually started to have fun. But the fire had come out of nowhere, and now, there I was, staggering through smoke and ash, scared out of my mind looking for four kids. And if anything happened to them, I knew I’d never forgive myself in a million years.
I coughed violently, doubling over and gripping a tree trunk as smoke choked my throat. But I pushed on, lungs burning as I screamed their names again.
Suddenly, I heard a sob.
I whirled, dashing past a blazing tree-trunk to a pile of boulders poking through the underbrush. The sob came again, and when I scrambled around to the other side of it, I let out a choking gasp of relief. I threw my arms around the four eight-year-olds, hugging them fiercely and almost sobbing with relief.
“Okay, guys, we’ve gotta run!”
“Ms. Jennings, are we going to die?”
Not a fucking chance, I hissed to myself inside. But I smiled at little Amanda Ramos as I hugged her close.
“No way, kiddo, but we gotta run so we don’t get burned, okay? The bus is waiting for us, so let’s go!”
That got them going, and suddenly, I had Amanda in my arms, Lauren’s hand in mine, and James and Kyle scampering after me as we ran full blast down the trail to the parking lot.
My lungs burned fiercely, and tears streamed down my ash-blackened cheeks. The fire seemed to explode around us — jumping from tree to tree faster and faster, until it was blazing well ahead of us on the trail. The heat was withering, and I was scared out of my mind, but there was one thing that kept me going:
These kids were not going to get hurt here today. Not a chance.
I could see Tricia and Mike — two of the other teachers who’d come today — running as fast they could up the trail to meet us. When suddenly, with a sound like a bomb going off and a shower of sparks, an enormous tree plunged to the ground, right across the trail in front of us.
The kids and I screamed, staggering to a stop just shy of the huge blaze, and I started to lose it. I started to panic, and I almost broke, when something inside of me snapped.
“Catch her!” I screamed at Mike, who barely had a chance to understand what I was saying before I heaved little Amanda right over the burning log into his arms. I grabbed Lauren next, grunting as I did the same. Jake was next, and I was scooping little James up when the blast came.
I screamed again, knocked sideways and rolling to protect the little guy in my arms as the heat blasted over us. I staggered to my feet, barely able to see Mike and Tricia through the flames before I blindly tossed James over to them.
“We got him!” Tricia screamed through the inferno. “Chloe, we got them all! Now get over here before—”
With a sound like the earth breaking open, the whole world went red and hot.
I didn’t even scream this time, as the wind was sucked out of my lungs with the blast. I grunted, thrown sideways and off my feet, and slamming into a burning tree before I crumpled to the ground.
Everything went into slow motion around me. There was a ringing sound in my ears, and I started to stagger to my feet, but a I looked around I realized I had no idea where anything was. I couldn’t see Tricia and Mike. I couldn’t see the trail. All I could see was huge walls of flames, getting closer and closer.
And then I started to cry.
Tears streamed down my face as I tried to stagger to my knees, but the smoke choked me back down. I tried again, but this time when I fell, I knew I wasn’t getting back up again. The world spun around me, and everything started to get dim.
If I was anyone else, I’d have thought of the people I’d wish I could say goodbye to. But there really wasn’t anyone. I was an only child whose parents had died when I was eighteen. And at twenty-two and living in a somewhat hostile new city and working at a cold new job, I didn’t really have any friends. As for someone more than a friend? Well, that was laughable. No boyfriend. No friend with benefits. No nothing, ever.
Yeah, twenty-two, no friends or family, and I was going to die a virgin in some freak forest fire. It was like the ending to some sad, terrible indie movie or something.
The fire grew hotter, the world burned fiercer, and as I sunk into the dead leaves and underbrush, my only thought was hoping that the bus got out okay. If the bus and those kids got out okay, this would be worth it.
This is how it ends I guess, I thought miserably to myself as I felt the air leaving my lungs completely.
And then suddenly, there was a roar, and I froze.
It wasn’t a roar like the fire I’d been hearing. I shivered, realizing it almost sounded like an animal. The sound of smashing wood and breaking branches came crashing towards me followed by another roar, and it felt like slow motion as I rolled over and let my eyes land on…
Oh, now I know I’m dying.
The man I could see running right at me through the flames was shirtless, his lips pulled back in a roar across his chiseled jaw, and his crystal blue eyes blazing through the fire. His muscled arms and chest were covered in tattoos, pumping and coiling as he vaulted a burning stump and crashed through more blazing underbrush.
I wanted to say something. I wanted to tell him to be careful, or to not get burned, but when I opened my mouth, no sound came out. Slowly, my eyelids felt heavier and heavier, until they shut completely.
The last of my air brushed past my cracked lips. I started to go under when suddenly, I felt huge, powerful hands grab me up off the ground. I felt weightless as the hands lifted me effortlessly, and when I felt my body drape over a hard, muscled shoulder, I felt it all go dim.
“Hang on to me,” a rough, deep voice growled close to my ear.
I remember shivering and thinking how beautiful that voice was. And then everything went black.