Lily Atkins can’t believe she’d been guilt tripped into taking care of her much younger sisters again. Nor can she believe that they convinced her to take them and fourteen of their closest friends on a canoeing trip down the Loxahatchee River. What sounded like a reasonably bad idea at the time turned into one of the biggest mistakes of her life. The twits left her in the middle of the wilderness and ran off with all of the canoes and her purse! She’ll kill them, just as soon as she figured out how to get back to civilization.
Trace Lagun knows something’s up the minute the all-girl group returns. Their curvy, quirky chaperone is nowhere to be seen. After confronting the girls, he heads upriver, anxious to “rescue” the damsel in distress. Maybe she’ll be so grateful she’ll open her petals for him. He’s been post-pollisexation for so long, he beginning to wonder if he’ll ever find his mate, but a few off-the-wall words and looks exchanged between them and he can’t wait to spend some time alone with the beautiful Lily.
Green things were touching her. No, not just green things, brown things too. Icky, slimy, dirty things. Never again. Never again could the little brats charm her with pleas of, “Sissy, we wanna…” Ungrateful, noisy, obnoxious little shits!
Lily squatted a little lower, eyes trained on the foliage in front of her as she struggled with holding her khaki shorts out of the way. Thank God she’d gone for the loose fitting, comfortable clothes instead of what she’d look best in. After being dumped in the river more times than she cared to count, her appearance no longer mattered. What mattered was emptying her bladder and getting the damned kids with their evil friends back home without maiming them first.
She tugged the material of her shorts further forward and willed her body to relax. Just pee, damn you! For some reason, her bladder didn’t like letting go in the wild any better than her brain did. To top it off, no matter where she moved, things touched her.
Just as she’d managed to release a few drops, something slid across her left ass cheek and dipped into her crack. She straightened with a squeal and fell face first into the mud surrounding a nearby mangrove tree.
Now, covered from head to toe in mud with a full bladder and surrounded by bushes that couldn’t seem to keep their leaves to themselves, she knew her day couldn’t get any worse. Fuck it. She’d pee when they got back to Can You? Canoe Rental or when another one of Rose and Violet’s friends decided to dump her fat ass in the river. Again. Somehow the sneaky teenaged bastards managed to flip her into the water with ease, while remaining in the canoes, high and dry.
Sure. Taking her much younger sisters and a few friends out for a day of canoeing sounded like fun. Sounded — past tense. Two teenagers who happened to be sisters, both together? A recipe for trouble. Fifteen teenagers? Fucking disaster. Lily was too old for this shit. It wasn’t her problem good ole dad couldn’t hold on to a wife, and when he landed a new one they seemed to be younger than the last. At least with this one, he’d been with her a while and had fathered two of the fifteen brats on the riverbank.
Being one of eight from her father’s four different marriages, Lily had become used to the differences in her siblings’ ages. Only Rose and Violet were born close enough together and from the same mother, which led them to become thick as thieves and just as sneaky.
Hoisting herself off the ground, Lily rolled to her knees. Using a nearby tree to help her balance, she stood, wobbling and fighting the constricting hold of her shorts still pooled around her ankles. She bent to tug them up her legs and a cool smooth leaf stroked her lower back and patted her right cheek with a soft slap. She didn’t even bother screaming in outrage or jerking away. She slid her bathing suit bottoms and shorts over her hips to cover her ass and whirled on the offending foliage.
She gripped the leaf and attached branch. She was close to snapping the stupid thing in two when suddenly the eerie quiet washed over her. Quiet. Too quiet. There were no screams, giggles or curses floating on the air. Nothing but the soft gurgle of the river sliding by and the wind flitting through the trees reached her ears.
Lily dropped the errant branch and took a step toward the river. She couldn’t see the murky waters from her position deep in the trees, but she followed the same path she’d taken before.
Gingerly, she stepped around bushes, branches and the weird, gangly roots of the mangrove trees. With every step she took, her heart rate increased. By the time she felt soft, shifting sand beneath her feet, it felt as if her heart would burst from her chest at any moment until… Finally she broke through the last bits of vegetation, eyes wide in shock. The bitches had left her. Fucking left her.
She loved them. She truly did. But right now, she didn’t like them all that much. Right now, she wished she’d disobeyed their father when the girls were growing up and whacked them on the rear end a time or ten. Instead, everyone had bowed to his wife’s wishes and put them in time-out. And where did time-out get Lily? Stranded on a beach in the middle of the Loxahatchee River with no sunscreen, no food, no phone… nothing. She had the clothes she wore and an entire forest of frisky foliage. Lord, not only had she lost her sisters and their thirteen friends, she’d lost her mind too. And to top it all off, she still had to pee.
Lily took a deep, cleansing breath. Someone would be by and they’d let her crawl into their canoe, and eventually she’d get back to Can You? Canoe Rental and the girls and she’d kill them. Good thing they were on the river, it would wash the blood away.
Then the owner’s words echoed through her mind. “You’re the only group hitting the river today. We’ve got a nasty storm that’s supposed to blow through this afternoon. I know you’ve signed up for the half-day trip, but try to make sure you’re back here by two. It’ll get nasty after that.”
Of course, as he’d gone through his spiel about safety and the weather and blah, blah, blah, Lily had been staring at the man like he was the last piece of chocolate cake on Earth. And she was hungry for some chocolate. Then her ears had perked up when she’d heard the word “nasty.” Figured he wasn’t talking about doing “the nasty” but just focusing on the weather.
Well, nothing she could do about being stranded now beyond making sure she got out of this on her own. With no one else traveling the river, it was up to Lily to get her own butt back to civilization. She slid out of her flip-flops and threaded them onto one of her arms. She’d need shoes to chase the girls down once she got back to Can You? No sense in leaving them on the little beach to be eaten by some animal.
She strode into the water, stopping when the cool fluid lapped her knees. She could do this. Yes, things lived in the water just like they lived in the forest, but she’d never get back if she didn’t take some initiative. The girls would probably high-tail it home, giggling over the newest prank they’d pulled on Sissy and not say a word until later tonight.
Decision made, she took another step into the water when a movement twenty feet away caught her eye. Slick as silk, the creature slithered through the current. It didn’t appear to have any true destination in mind, but its eyes… its eyes were on her.
No way in fucking hell was she getting in a river with a damned ‘gator.
Out of the Ashes TROUBLE will Rise!