Danger Zone Ch. 01byvvolfe©
Emma stood at the edge of the bluff and took a deep inhale of the forest air. Man it felt great to be in the mountains, and what a view!
She turned away and continued on her hike, shifting the shoulder straps on her backpack as she thinks over the past few months. In the last 4 months, she bought her first home (at 24 thank you very much!), got promoted at work and finally caught the eye of the cute maintenance guy who works in her building. This was a massive shift from when she thought she was skating a razor edge at work, she had to move back home because she couldn't afford rent and she couldn't even make eye contact with a man because she was extremely self-conscious about her weight. This backpacking trip was her way of celebrating her new confidence. It's a shame her mortgage and insurance payments forced her celebratory trip to occur in the national park near her home, but Emma didn't mind. She knew the parks like the back of her hand since she had spent a summer out there working for the parks.
A fact she had to remind her mom when she voiced her concern over Emma camping overnight in the backwoods all by herself. "What if you run into a bear?" her mother asked worriedly. "I will season it with bear spray before I roast it over an open fire" apparently wasn't the answer she was looking for.
"What if you fall down a cliff and can't walk out?"
"That's why you have to inform the rangers where you're going and when you expect to be back, even when you travel in a group. Geez mom you let me go to Nepal by myself, I'm just driving 2 hours out of town."
"Well I don't like that you go on all these trips by yourself. Why don't you invite one of your friends out, or your cousins?"
"My cousins? Now would that be the cousin that has 2 kids under the age of 5 or the one who thinks roughing it is a 3 star resort in the Bahamas?"
"Fine what about your friends? I'm sure one of them would go."
"They aren't interested. They like hiking but the idea of backpacking is a foreign concept to them."
"You need new friends."
Emma sighed as she recalled that conversation. Luckily her mom eased off after she agreed to get a sat phone, big heavy clunker that it was. She lightly touched the bear spray attached to her hip belt and quickly reviewed the procedure when encountering a bear. While this wasn't bear country, wildlife has a nasty habit of ignoring "migration patterns" and going wherever they want, when they want.
She arrived at the campsite about an hour before the sun set. None of the other sites were in use due to it being so late in the season so she quickly set up her campsite and set off to look for a source of water where she could wash up a bit before starting dinner. She wasn't overly excited about her dinner. Somehow, chili is not the same after it's been dehydrated but she accepted it as part of the backpacking experience.
The rest of the evening was an uneventful affair. She prepared and ate dinner, cleaning her dishes in the nearby stream then she hung out and star gazed for a bit until her fatigue got the best of her and she crawled into her tent to get some well-deserved rest.
She woke up to the sound of something sniffing at her tent. "Oh shit, Oh Crap, Oh Shit, Oh Crap" She thought as she mentally reviewed her campsite set up. Did she hang up her food? Yep. Was it in air-tight, bear-proof containers? Yep. Did she wash all her dishes, cutlery included? Yep. Then what the hell attracted the bear to her campsite?
She quietly picked up her bear spray and flashlight and debated the pro's and con's of staying in her tent and waiting until the bear moves on, risking the bear collapsing the tent and trapping her inside or getting out of the tent to scare off the bear with the heavy duty pepper spray and risk being attacked by the bear. "But surely the bear must be able to smell me so if he/she was going to attack, they would have already. Yes, it's just curious. I should stay here and leave it alone and it will go away and tomorrow I will double bag everything." She thought confidently.
After waiting 5 minutes for the bear sounds to disappear, which they didn't, Emma tensed again as she heard another animal approach from the other side of the campsite, growling. "Son of a..." She thought. "Now there's going to be some crazy territory fight between the 2 animals and I'm going to be killed! Dammit!" Emma may have acted confident in her skills as an outdoors enthusiast but the truth was she was chicken shit when it came to outdoor survival situations. She quite enjoyed her nights back in the city curled up with a good book. She would have given anything at that moment to be home reading about some poor idiot who had gone hiking by themselves and was trapped in the wilderness with wild animals sniffing at their tent.
"Why don't you come out here Princess? We just want to talk." She heard a man call.
"Among other things..."mumbled another man.
She heard the heavy thud of a fist connecting with a body then the muttered "Sorry Sir".
"What about the bears?" She asked, straining to hear the sounds of the bear that she could have sworn was just at the front of her tent.
"The...animals are gone now, you can come out Princess."
She cautiously exited the tent, keeping a death grip on her bear spray. She came face to face with a giant that towered over her, blocking the stars from her view. She couldn't see much because it was the middle of the night so she fumbled with the flashlight in the other hand, trying to get it on so she can get a look at her rescuer. He sighed and took the flashlight, flipping it on and handing it back.
"Why are you calling me princess? Who are you?" She said as she shone the light into the face of an attractive man in his early twenties with a cocky smirk and molten gold eyes. He had an elevated scar on his bottom lip that she was tempted to trace with her tongue and when he caught her staring at his lips his grin grew bigger. "See something you like?" He teased.
She was startled by the blunt laugh from somewhere behind her. She spun around with the flashlight looking for the source of the harsh laugh and found a stocky man that looked about as tall as he was wide with shaggy hair and dark eyes. He raised an eyebrow and snapped his teeth at her causing her to take a step back into the tall man who took a hold of her shoulders and spun her around to face him.
"That's Eddie, I'm Damon and I call you Princess because you will be my Queen once I kill my uncle."
She licked her lips nervously and started to back away "I'm...really not interested. Maybe you guys should leave."
Eddie laughed again, reminding Emma of a foghorn, diverting her attention away from the fact that Damon was staring at her with a predatory gleam in his eyes and was starting to stalk her.
"We can't do that Princess, because you're mine, and you aren't going anywhere without me." Damon purred as he grabbed her wrist and pulled her back into his chest.
"Crap." She thought "Think Emma. I need a plan to get the hell out of crazytown."
Damon's grip on her chin pulled her from her thoughts as he moved to make eye contact with her. "Now are you going to come willingly or will I have to hurt you to make you come with me? I don't want to hurt you Princess, but I will."
Emma clenched her jaw stubbornly and clenched her fists reminding her that she still held the bear spray. On impulse she held her breath, closed her eyes and released half the can into his face. The shock caused him to let go of her wrist, allowing her to turn and spray the rest of the can into the other man's face. She grinned triumphantly, feeling mildly guilty about using bear spray on a human.
Unfortunately, having been so close to her intended targets, she had inhaled some of in and started to cough violently. She was glad that it hadn't gotten it in her eyes; it felt like live flames were travelling in and out of her lungs every time she took a breath. She stumbled out of the campsite with her flashlight, intending to get as far as possible from the crazy men. Her sandals were definitely not the greatest footwear to stumble through the dark with and her stubbed toes will probably be black and blue tomorrow but it would be better than the alternative of sticking around and being raped by a couple of crazies.
Not 5 minutes later she heard a familiar voice "Going somewhere Princess?"
She spun around, looking for the giant stalking behind her and found nothing. She turned back around, believing she was just hearing voices only to run into the rigid chest of a very livid Damon. If looks could kill, she would be Tartar. What was worse is that he didn't even seem affected by the spray whereas Emma was still struggling to take a breath and with the incidental contact with his contaminated t-shirt, the irritant was now in her eyes and causing tears to run in a constant heavy stream from her eyes.
"What the..." She didn't even have time to think as his hand came down, launching her into a tree and knocking her unconscious.