Publisher: Amber Quill Press
Genre: Short Paranormal Erotica/Dark Fantasy/Werewolf/Shapeshifter
Ebook ISBN-13#: 978-1-60272-137-1
Cassandra stooped next to the pole on the right side of the tent doorway. Taking hold of the jutting end, she bent the pliable rod into an arch. Then, using her free hand, she searched through the tent fabric and located the metal ring.
The hollowed end of the dowel slipped easily into place. She released the skewered pole and stepped to the other side of the doorway. The weight of the fabric on the bowed rod immediately caused it to sway to the side.
Cassandra leapt forward, grabbing it before it hit the ground. Now she understood why the instructions suggested having an extra pair of hands. Chewing her lower lip, she debated her dilemma.
Darkness approached quickly. The cover of trees above dimmed the light even more. Soon she wouldn’t be able to see at all. She didn’t have time to wait on Heather and Graham to return.
Cassandra huffed, blowing a wayward lock of curly red hair out of her eyes. She decided to secure the rod’s opposite end before moving to the next one. Perhaps she could balance it once both were in place.
Arching the pliant dowel, she tugged the fabric along the bend, slowly raising the center above her head. When she reached the opposite side without mishap, she began to feel a little more confident. Maybe she didn’t need help after all.
Cassandra slipped the hollowed end onto the metal stake. Holding the taut rod with her right hand, she reached to the jutting dowel on her left. If she could just balance the first one while she secured the next…
The floppy arch jutted sharply to the right. “Oh no! Don’t fall!” she begged, lunging for her collapsing shelter. Her fingernails scraped the fabric as it pitched beyond her reach.
Just when she thought she’d been defeated, a thick muscled forearm shot over her head, catching the fleeting form. “Looks like you could use a hand,” a deep voice rumbled above.
“Thanks,” Cassandra breathed heavily, a little taken aback by the man’s sudden appearance.
Not knowing what else to do, she crawled out of the way while he pulled the bent rod back into place. Reaching the outer edge of the fabric, she stepped onto the ground and stood to face her timely savior. She wasn’t sure where he’d come from, but she was grateful he’d arrived.
Her assessing gaze slowly took in his full six-foot frame, starting with the weathered brown work boots adorning his large feet. They looked aged but comfortable, though their thick-ridged soles seemed more apt for climbing or hiking rather than work.
Worn jeans clung to his brawny thighs and square hips, the softened material outlining the strength in his legs and sizable groin with unsettling clarity. Cassandra blushed, focusing instead on the ragged hole marring the material over his right knee. Hoping he hadn’t noticed her wayward investigation of his crotch, she continued her appraisal.
A blue and red plaid shirt hung loose and open from broad shoulders and a wide chest, layered over a slightly stained white tank top that adhered nicely to his bulging pecs and taut abs. The sleeves were rolled up to the elbows, revealing his darkly tanned forearms. A sprinkling of fine brown hair covered his skin.
Her gaze settled on the dark curls blanketing his upper chest. She had the strangest urge to slide her hands through the wiry wisps, tangle her fingers within that glorious nest of manliness. She could almost feel the tendrils wrapping around her skin.
God! She loved a hairy chest.
The man cleared his throat, instantly drawing her attention to his face. Cassandra’s cheeks grew warm. How long had she been staring? Five, ten seconds? Oh, Lord! She must look a fool.
Her stint of self-reproach halted the moment their eyes met. She vaguely took in the dark locks of chocolate-colored hair feathering his brow, the day’s worth of near black stubble covering his square chin and sharp jaw, and the appealing tilt to his firm mouth. But it was his eyes that held her captivated.
Even across the span of five feet between them, they were such a piercing green they hailed her full attention. Not the color of emerald or forest, but rather the stark hue of spring leaves, so bright and radiant they must have been gifted by Mother Nature herself. Or perhaps the devil had granted that soul-startling stare, for there was certainly something feral within those neon depths that made her heart pound with a mixture of excitement and fear.
It wasn’t until she gasped for air that Cassandra realized she’d held her breath. “Sorry, you kinda startled me,” she fumbled, feeling like an idiot.
He chuckled. “You looked like you could use a little help.”
The words caressed her ears, then trickled down her spine, causing her to shudder. Cassandra absently nodded. “Yes, thank you,” she replied tightly.
Had his lips moved? She didn’t recall. Surely so. He had spoken, after all.
Something about him struck her as odd. His clothes were old and a little unkempt. His hair hadn’t seen a comb in at least a day—nothing unusual for someone who’d been camping. Yet, its disheveled appearance only added to his rugged allure.
Still, uneasiness knotted her insides. Something didn’t seem right about him. Where exactly had he come from?
She inconspicuously glanced about the surrounding campsites. All were vacant. It was almost as though he’d simply emerged from the trees.
“If you could just hold that in place, I’ll set the other posts,” she offered, then started toward the protruding dowel on her left without waiting for his reply.
“So…are you camping nearby?” She hoped she didn’t sound too inquisitive.
If he was some crazy serial killer, she certainly didn’t want to encourage him. However, if he were simply a fellow camper happening by, she wouldn’t mind finding out a little more about him. A quick glance at his bare left hand suggested he might be single.
There was a long pause before he answered. Finding his silence a little disquieting, Cassandra glanced over at him. His eyes locked hers in a dominating stare, holding her gaze captive for several long seconds.
Her pulse raced. She suddenly felt hot and sticky. More sweat trickled along her brow. Just when she thought she’d look away, he offered a strangely calming smile.
“Actually, I’m up on Miner’s Ridge, above Gold Bluffs Beach. I was just on my way to use the showers when I noticed your distress.”
Cassandra arched her right brow with suspicion. “Don’t they have showers where you’re at?”
He grinned. “Not in backcountry. That’s primitive camping at its finest.”
“Primitive,” she scoffed. “Camping doesn’t get much more primitive than this.”
He chuckled at her sarcasm. “I guess that depends on whether or not you consider running water and flushing toilets a luxury.”
She hadn’t thought about that. While their site was at the back of Elk Prairie campgrounds, the closest showers and flushing toilets were only a quarter mile down the road—well within walking distance.
Thank God for modern conveniences.