Home > Easy Kisses (Boudreaux #4)(10)

Easy Kisses (Boudreaux #4)(10)
Kristen Proby

“Well, with lots of people around, there shouldn’t be many bears,” I say optimistically and laugh when Violet’s eyes go round.

“I thought he was kidding when he mentioned bears,” she says.

“Nope,” Todd says with a laugh. “But don’t worry, this trail isn’t well known for bear activity.”

“Remind me not to go on the trails that are known for bear activity,” I mutter to Heidi, making her laugh.

The guys shrug into backpacks, loaded down with bottled water, granola bars, and beef jerky.

“Let’s go!” Simon says, his eyes shining like a boy on Christmas morning. This is clearly his thing. I can’t get over how different the wilderness is here compared to Louisiana. Of course, there is no swamp here, thank goodness. It’s warm, but it’s a dry heat, so I’m not immediately covered in sweat. And the trees, these tall, beautiful evergreens, are so close together in some places that you can hardly see through them.

We cross the main road and walk down the clearly marked trailhead to the Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake. The first part of the hike is easy, relatively flat, and gorgeous. Deep green ferns cover the ground, and according to placards along the trail, this is the only place inland from the Pacific Northwest with an active rain forest.

Crazy.

“How are you, love?” Simon asks as he joins me.

Good God, the English and their terms of endearment should have to register with a federal office upon entering the country.

“I’m great,” I reply and clear my throat. “This is beautiful. And surprisingly easy.”

He smiles and nods. “It’s not easy for too long. We’ll start up the Avalanche Lake trail in a minute.”

I shrug. How hard can it be? If tons of people come here every day to hike it, it can’t be that bad.

A few minutes later, we come to the trailhead and read the big sign that describes the hike.

“A five hundred feet gain, over two miles,” Heidi reads. “That’s not too bad.”

“Gain in elevation?” I ask.

“Yes,” she replies. “But it’s over the course of two miles.”

That’s not too far. Hell, I walk more than two miles when I shop through the French Quarter. I got this.

“Let’s do it,” Violet says and smiles widely. She’s a pretty woman, much taller than me. She has a lean body, jet-black hair, and eyes that match her name.

We all nod enthusiastically and begin to climb. There’s a rushing river to our left, and when we get to the top of a small hill, we stop to watch it rage down through a canyon.

Todd and Simon are talking to each other, but I can’t hear them over the loud water. It’s cooler in here, under the trees and beside the river, and I just take a deep breath, soaking it all in.

Boy, if my family could see me now. They’d laugh their asses off, and ask where their sister Charly is.

The others begin hiking again, and I fall in behind them, bringing up the rear. Heidi and Todd are chatting away, showing each other photos on their phones, the hike not seeming to bother them at all.

And here I am, already winded. Jesus, I might die up here in the middle of the wilderness.

Simon and Violet are just ahead of me, chatting.

“So you’re going back to school in the fall, then?” Simon asks her.

“I am. I took too much time off. I’m ready to be done with it already and start working.”

“You took time to find yourself. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

“Except for the fact that I’m almost thirty and I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up,” she replies with a laugh, then punches him in the arm. “Unlike you, who seemed to know from the time you were in nappies.”

What the hell is a nappie?

“That’s not true,” he replies, and I can’t take my eyes off his ass. I mean, I might die on this trail, but at least this will be my last view. “I was at least sixteen when I decided.”

“See?” she says.

“You’ll figure it out,” Simon replies and pats her on the back. My eyes are drawn to the sleeve tattoo covering his arm. It disappears into his grey T-shirt, and I can’t help but wish that he’d take his shirt off so I can see if there is more to it. He’s been wearing long-sleeved button down shirts during the classes, so getting a glimpse of the ink is a treat.

“How are you doing back there?” Simon asks and turns to look at me. “Whoa, are you okay?”

“Fine,” I pant, ready to pass out. “This is harder than I thought.”

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