Janine packed the last of her clothes into the canvas rucksack; she’d stuffed as many in as she possibly could. They were only going camping for five days but she liked to prepare for every eventuality. It was sunny now, but what if it was raining when they arrived? What if the temperature suddenly plummeted? Feeling justified that the huge mound of clothes she’d packed was quite necessary, she zipped the bag and dragged it down to the hallway.
Her friend, Zoe, was due in half an hour, so that gave her enough time to do her last minute checks…window locks, door locks, answering machine on…the list went on. They would be travelling in Zoe’s car as it was more reliable than Janine’s, also, Zoe’s had more boot room and glancing back down at her enormous bag, they were going to need it! As Greystone Park was a four-hour drive away, they’d decided to share the driving. That way, neither of them would be too tired when they arrived. The two girls had never been camping before but the idea had always appealed, so with a holiday due from work, they’d decided to take a risk and try the outdoors for style.
Zoe’s brother had kindly lent them his tent, which he’d found highly amusing as both girls usually preferred beach holidays. He’d earned himself a playful punch on the arm for laughing at them and, once he’d got his mirth under control, had rummaged around to find them two sleeping bags, a Tilly lamp and cooking utensils, everything they would need for their outing.
A car horn beeped outside the front, announcing Zoe’s arrival. Janine opened the front door and heaved her heavy bag towards the step.
“Blimey, Janine! What the hell are you taking?” gasped Zoe as she walked up to the door, looking down in dismay at the huge bag.
Janine shrugged. “Oh, nothing much…just clothes and stuff. We’ve got to be prepared for all weathers, haven’t we?” She threw her friend a reproachful look.
“Yeah, but for how long? We’re only going for five days—not a month!” Zoe shook her head and laughed. “Oh, come on, I’ll give you a hand.”
Between them, they dragged the bag to the car, heaving it up into the boot. Zoe slammed the lid down and smiled. “Right, let’s go. Have you got the map?”
“Yeah. It’s in my pocket. Hang on, I’ll just lock up.”
Once Janine was satisfied her house was secure, she ran back to the car, jumped in the passenger side and slammed the door.
Zoe already had the engine running. “Come on, get a move on! I want to get there this side of Christmas!” She laughed, shaking her head at the amount of time Janine was taking.
“Oh, funny, Zoe, I’m sure!” She turned, giving her friend a grin. “Well, go on then, get moving!” As Zoe put her foot down on the accelerator, Janine pulled out the map and began to call out instructions. Four hours later, they arrived at their destination.
The park was breathtaking. Huge mountains rose up in the background amidst a mass of fir trees, sparkling brooks running through the rocky outcrops to open out into vast lakes.
“Oh, wow! Isn’t it beautiful?” gasped Zoe.
Janine was negotiating a narrow track and nibbled on her lip anxiously as the car went over a large bump. “Yeah, but this road’s a bit bumpy, Zoe. Are you sure this is the right way?”
“Yeah! It shows it on the map. It leads down to Freshwater Lake. Honestly, it does…just stop worrying, will you?”
“I hope you’re right!” After a few more nerve wracking manoeuvres, the road opened up and there before them lay Freshwater Lake, the sunlight bouncing off the small ripples as it sparkled amidst the tranquil setting.
“Oh yeah…this is camping!” wowed Janine. She pulled the car to a stop just off the track and both girls jumped out. Janine sucked in a lungful of air, exhaling slowly. “Oh, now that’s fresh air. You can almost taste it!”
Zoe wandered down to the water’s edge. “It’s so clear.” She watched, fascinated, as a small fish swam past.
“Come on, Zoe, stop daydreaming and lend a hand!” shouted Janine from the car. She was standing at the boot, hands on hips, waiting impatiently to start unloading. Zoe ran up and, between them, they pulled out the tent bag. They laid it on the ground and began to assemble their dwelling for the next five days.
After half an hour of muttering and grumbling, they only had part of the tent assembled. What had seemed like an easy thing to do was slowly turning into something off the Krypton Factor.
“Where does this part go?” enquired Janine, looking puzzled as she held up one long metal pole.
Zoe scratched her head. “Fuck, if I know. Perhaps it goes in there?” She pointed to an opening in the tent where another pole was sticking out.
Janine looked from the pole back to Zoe and buried her head in her hands emitting a giggle, then another, until she was laughing uproariously at their predicament.
Zoe joined in with her infectious laughter and sat down on the ground. “Oh, man. This isn’t easy. Do you think that’s why my brother laughed so much when he heard we were going camping? I reckon he knew more than he let on!”
Janine sighed and wiped her eyes. “Oh, I think your brother definitely knew. Little sod!”
Zoe reached over and lifted the long pole, trying it in another slot. To her joy, it fit. “Hey, it fits!” she marvelled. “Come on, we only have a couple more poles to attach.”
Between them, they fit the last two poles and, finally, a tent shape emerged. Pleased as punch, they high fived each other and crawled inside.
“This is quite roomy for a small tent, isn’t it?” remarked Zoe.
“Yeah. Plenty of room for us two, anyway. I’ll go get the sleeping bags and then we can start a fire to cook dinner. I’m starved!” giggled Janine.
Zoe rolled her eyes. “You always are.”
* * *
Matt Lewis, one of Greystone Park’s rangers, ran his hand through his dark hair and turned his face up to the sun, closing his eyes as the heat beat down on his face.
“Here’s your soda, Matt!” Luke Fenton, his fellow ranger, threw a can of soda into Matt’s lap as he jumped into the driver’s seat next to him.
“Thanks, Luke.” He opened the can and drank deeply. The day promised to be another scorcher and they would need plenty of fluids to see them through.
When they’d both quenched their thirst, they headed off to do their rounds in their allotted region. Matt loved his job; he loved being out in the fresh air. At thirty-three, he’d been a ranger for ten years, loving every minute of it. Luke had been his work partner for the last five years and they got on like a house on fire, both having a similar sense of humour and decency.
As they drove along, Matt became aware of the smell of smoke. He immediately became alarmed. Fires spread like crazy when the ground was this parched and one of their jobs was to make sure anything untoward was reported to the fire department, straight away. Once the flames started to spread, they were hard to get under control.
“Hey, Luke, can you smell smoke?”
Luke frowned and sniffed the air. “Hell yeah. We’d better take a look!” He pulled the truck to a stop and they both got out, looking around them, trying to figure out where it was coming from.
“It’s over there… I’m sure of it!” Matt reached into the back of the truck and pulled out two fire extinguishers, two of many they carried on board. Luke adeptly caught the one Matt threw to him, and together, they marched down towards the lake
* * *
Janine was happily singing to herself as she set up the small camp fire, totally oblivious to the fact that two burly rangers were heading in her direction. Zoe was in the tent, setting out their sleeping bags and making things comfortable for their stay.
” Home, home on the range, where the deer and the antelope play…la la! ”
The flames were crackling nicely and a small spiral of smoke was drifting up into the air. Her girl-scout days were long since gone, but at the grand old age of twenty-six, Janine still had the skills with her, never to be forgotten. She smiled proudly at the little fire and bent down to lay some more twigs around it.
The first thing Matt beheld, as they approached the fire, was a pert little bottom poking out from some miniscule denim shorts. Shorts that should be outlawed for being too tiny to be called shorts. He found his eyes glued to the soft curves peeking out from the top of deliciously long tanned legs.
The girl was singing at the top of her voice, not having heard their approach. Matt coughed loudly and the girl spun ’round, her mouth making a small O with surprise! He was immediately struck by her long lashes shading emerald green eyes, her soft chestnut hair framing a small pretty face.
He cleared his throat. “Excuse me, ma’am, I’m Ranger Matt Lewis, this is my partner Ranger Luke Fenton. We noticed you have a fire and, therefore, I’m presuming you haven’t read the signs around, at the moment.”
Once Janine had recovered from the surprise of seeing two men—two good-looking men—appear in front of her, she asked, “What signs?”
Matt narrowed his eyes. “The many signs dotted around the park, ma’am, that state strictly no fires!”
“Oh!” Janine nibbled on her bottom lip. “Sorry… I didn’t see those.”
Matt wondered how in the hell she couldn’t have seen them, as they were all over the place, but gave her the benefit of the doubt. Some people didn’t see things that were right in front of their noses. A human trait!
“Well, now you know, ma’am, allow us to safely dowse the flames for you.”
Janine watched helplessly, as the powerfully built ranger easily stamped the flames out on the little fire she’d been so proud of.
Luke was distracted by the sight of a little blonde head peeking out from between the flaps in the tent. He almost whistled aloud as his eyes wandered over her delicate features. He nodded as she turned to look at him, and she flushed.
“Howdy, ma’am, Ranger Luke Fenton, at your service. We’re just putting out your fire, as fires aren’t allowed at this present time, due to the lack of rain.”
“Oh, I see.” Zoe was enthralled by the large handsome ranger and a frisson of excitement went down her spine as his eyes roamed over her face. “Well…thank you for that. We didn’t know…sorry.”
“That’s why we’re here, to make sure everyone in the park adheres to the rules. Once a fire starts on this dry kinder wood then it’s very hard to stop. Just make sure you don’t start any more!”
She nodded, looking down demurely. Janine was looking dejectedly at her now non-existent fire. Trust them to come camping at a time when fires were prohibited. Typical! She pursed her lips and decided the blame lay solely on this ranger’s shoulders. She folded her arms and glared at Matt.
* * *
Satisfied that the fire was now well and truly out, Matt turned to thank her for being so amenable but the words died in his throat as he caught the sassy glare she was giving him. His eyes grew hooded as he began to get riled, especially when she began to speak.
“Why, thank you so much. Now, I can’t eat! You could have, at least, let me cook something quickly before you put it out!”
Matt’s jaw nearly hit the ground. “What?”
Janine had only just got started. “You heard me! We’re hungry and it wouldn’t have taken long to cook something, even warm up a tin of beans, for fucks sake!”
Matt took a step towards her, really angry now. “Don’t swear at me…and get rid of that attitude, otherwise, I’ll personally escort both of you ladies off this park, right now!”
Zoe called over, her head still peeking out from the tent. “Janine! Please!” She knew Janine’s temper and it looked like it was about to erupt.
Matt raised an eyebrow as he looked from one to the other. Janine capitulated and veiled her eyes. “Okay. I’m sorry. I’m just hungry, that’s all. Guess we’ll just have to have bread and cheese.” She gave him a tight-lipped smile before turning towards the tent.
Realising he was being dismissed, Matt hesitated before walking away. “Okay, ladies, but no more fires…okay?”
Janine called over her shoulder, “Sure thing!” Under her breath, she muttered, “In your dreams, sucker, in your dreams!”
Two hours later…
“Janine, you can’t do that!” gasped Zoe.
“Of course, I can! Those stupid rangers have long gone now and I’m starving!” Janine moved four sausages around with her fork as they sizzled and popped in the small frying pan. Whilst Zoe had taken a quick nap, Janine had started a tiny fire, just enough to cook her sausages. She gave Zoe a sly glance. “Anyway…don’t tell me your mouth isn’t watering at these delicious smells.”
Zoe glanced over her shoulder before answering, almost as if the rangers were right behind her. “Okay, okay. I give in. The smell is heavenly!” She gave a nervous smile and plonked herself down on the ground next to Janine, putting her nose in the air to sniff the aroma of the intoxicating sausages.
“Okay, they’re almost done, go fetch the rolls and ketchup!”
Zoe walked off to the tent and began rummaging around in their bags. A few minutes later, she walked back, ketchup in one hand, a plate of buttered rolls in the other. That was the moment things started to go wrong.
As Janine went to fork a sausage, it fell off to land directly in the fire. Before Janine had a chance to reclaim it, it spat and popped and the dry grass around the gas stove caught light.
“Oh, fuck! Quick, Zoe, get some water!” The fire was spreading rapidly and Janine was doing her best to stamp it out, but the grass was so dry that it was catching light quicker than she could stop it.
Zoe ran straight down to the water’s edge with a small bucket, scooping up a pail full of lake water. She rushed back and threw it down, but it didn’t seem to make any impact. The flames just fizzed a bit then sprang back to life further along. Determined to stop the fire, she rushed back down to the lake for more water, whilst Janine rushed around like a headless chicken, looking for another bucket.
Matt and Luke were parked only two hundred yards away, taking a break from their early evening patrol, when they first spotted the fire. Matt looked up from the map he’d been studying to see a spiral of smoke rising up into the sky. “Holy shit, Luke…not another one!”
Luke was having a quick nap in the front of the truck, but snapped his head up at the alarmed tone of Matt’s voice. “Huh?”
“Look…over there!” Matt pointed to the curling smoke up ahead of them. It was coming from the very direction the two girls had been they’d had to reprimand, earlier. Surely, they wouldn’t have lit a fire, after being told how dangerous it was!
“Oh, fuck!” said Luke. “Quick, let’s see if we can put it out without calling the fire department. We might be able to stop it before it gets out of hand.” Luke set the truck’s engine to life and slammed his foot on the accelerator, causing the back wheel to spin and leave a cloud of dust behind as they sped off up the country track.
The girls were fast losing control of the fire, which was spreading rapidly. So much for their sausages, which were now like lumps of charcoal. They’d used the lake water to try and dowse the flames but, as some of it hit the oil in the frying pan, it made the flames shoot up even higher. They stood back with panic stricken faces and watched the flames travel across the ground.
“What’re we going to do, Janine?” wailed Zoe, looking at the fire in despair.
Janine slumped her shoulders. “We’re going to have to get some help. Where’s your cell phone?”
“In my bag. I’ll go get it!” Zoe rushed off into the tent while Janine sucked in her bottom lip, watching the crackling flames take over the ground. Zoe came rushing back with the phone. “The batteries flat! What’re we going to do, now?”
“Oh, for fucks sake! Why didn’t you charge the bloody thing before we came?” she snapped.
“Leave off, Janine. I didn’t do it on purpose! I thought the bloody thing had full charge. No need to take it out on me.”
Janine closed her eyes and gave a heavy sigh. “I’m sorry! I’m just panicking, right now.”
Suddenly, they heard the squeal of car tyres and the rangers’ truck pulled up on the dirt track.
“Oh no…it’s those rangers again. Fuck…we’re in trouble!” gasped Zoe.
Janine looked over to the frying pan. There was no way she could hide the evidence, as it was still engulfed in flames. Lord…he was going to go nuts.
Matt rushed up to them with a fire extinguisher in his hands. “You girls okay?”
They both nodded, looking at him warily. Luke rushed past with another extinguisher and began to spray the flames. Matt joined him and, together, they had the flames under control, within a few minutes. Matt sprayed the last of the fire with the powder and stamped around to make sure there were no hidden embers.
Once both men were satisfied that the area was safe, they walked back to the girls.
“Right, mind telling me what you were doing lighting another fire?” asked Matt through gritted teeth.
Janine looked down at the ground, unable to meet his glare. Zoe offered an apology. “We’re sorry…we didn’t think…”
“No, you didn’t think…exactly!” snapped Luke. “We told you not to start a fire, as it could spread, but no…you ignored us, didn’t you?”
Janine bristled and looked at him. “It wasn’t our fault!”
“Oh, and whose was it, then?” Matt moved nearer to Janine so she had to tilt her head to look at him. His piercing eyes held her own. “Perhaps it was my fault…or Luke’s? Hmm?”
She stomped her foot angrily. “No! I didn’t say that! It’s just…well…”
“I told you not to light a fire. There are signs all over the park, saying no fires. We don’t put them there for fun!”
“We were hungry, that’s all. I just fancied something hot.”
Matt shook his head. “Hungry? What happened to the bread and cheese you said you’d have, instead?”
Janine huffed and crossed her arms. “Look, Mister Ranger, or whatever your name is…we’ve come here for a nice holiday; don’t you think we’ve had enough trauma for one day, without you giving us a lecture on fires? We didn’t think it would cause any harm.”
“Listen, ma’am…I’ll lecture you as much as I like. If you go around breaking the rules, then you have to expect to be told off.” His jaw tightened when he saw her roll her eyes.
“Oh, get off our case, will ya?” Janine spun ’round and went to stalk off. Matt grabbed her shoulder before she could move more than a few inches.
“Now, listen here, ma’am…” Janine tried to shrug his grip off but, when that failed, she kicked backwards with her boot. Matt sucked in a deep breath as her boot made contact with his shin and the pain registered. “I ought to put you over my knee for that!”
Janine’s mouth dropped open. “Excuse me! I don’t think so!”
Luke gave a low chuckle and Matt glanced at him, a smile playing on his lips. Janine glared at Matt. How dare they find the situation amusing! If it was one thing Janine really didn’t like, it was being laughed at. She snatched up the first thing at hand, a plastic drinking cup, and threw it at Matt’s head. The impact hit him squarely on the temple; the resounding thud echoing throughout the quiet treetops. Matt blinked a couple of times and reached up to feel a bump growing on his head.
“Oh, that’s it, lady! I ain’t taking no more of this!”
He pulled a protesting Janine with him over to a fallen log and quickly sat down, dragging her reluctant form over his knees. She gasped with indignation as she found herself staring at the forest floor.
Next thing, she felt a searing pain on her bottom as his hand made sizzling contact.
“Oooooouch!” She tried to put her hand back to cover her butt but he slapped it away as he smacked both buttocks, again and again. The stinging pain was too much for Janine and she struggled again to get up, shrieking at him to stop.
He simply pushed her further forward and clamped one of his strong thighs over both of hers. His hand continued to lay into her bottom, intent on giving her a thorough spanking for her bad attitude.
“Do you realise?” Smack. “That you could have set the whole forest alight?” Smack. “You will obey the rules.”Smack. “Or you will leave…simple!” Smack. Smack. Smack.
He paused, admiring her trim little bottom as she lay squirming over his strong thighs.
Witnessing the spanking, Zoe remained in shock, her mouth hanging open slightly and her eyes as big as saucers. She glanced up at Luke, who had a small smile tugging at his mouth as he watched proceedings. Janine had met her match in Matt; no one spoke to Matt like that…none who got away with it, anyway!
Matt let Janine up after her bottom had been thoroughly roasted by his iron like hands. She stood before him, watching him sullenly, her bottom lip thrust forwards in a major sulk.
Matt kept his face stern. “Right, I don’t want to have to come here, again, do you understand? If there is even a sniff of smoke, you two will be sent packing!”
Luke nodded in agreement and folded his arms. “We regularly patrol this area. So help you, if you don’t heed our words!”
Zoe gulped, darting a glance over to Janine. Matt was now towering above her and looking very much like one of the bears in the vicinity, his brow furrowed as he looked down at Janine.
“We’ll leave you ladies to enjoy the rest of your stay, but remember, no fires…and definitely no attitude!”
Janine glared at him angrily but immediately lowered her eyes when he stared just as fiercely back. She placed a hand over her bottom protectively.
When they’d left, Janine huffed and stomped around in front of the tent. “That Matt is mean. How dare he spank me like that! What is he…a Neanderthal?”
“Well, you were a bit rude to him, Janine. He was only doing his job and telling you not to have a fire. I guess we bought it on ourselves, really…what if the fire had spread to the rest of the park? What if the whole park had been burnt to the ground? That would’ve been awful!” Zoe worried her bottom lip as she thought about how disastrous things could have been, if the rangers hadn’t turned up when they did.
“Let’s have some bread with cheese, like we said. Tomorrow, we’ll drive down to the local store and pick up something nice. It’s only for five days, I’m sure we can do without a fire, until then.”
Janine gave a resigned sigh and agreed, “Guess you’re right. But I don’t want to clap eyes on that mean ranger, again!”
Later that night, just before sleep, she couldn’t help thinking about the spanking Matt had given her and how it had felt to be over such strong thighs. She pursed her lips angrily and turned on her side, pushing Ranger Matt Lewis from her mind, determined not to spend any more of her precious thoughts on him.
Janine opened her eyes and rolled onto her back, yawning. Last night had been quite comfortable, the padded sleeping bag giving ample warmth. She frowned and sniffed the air, then sat bolt upright. That smelled like bacon! How could they have bacon, if they didn’t have a fire? Zoe was already up, as her bed was empty, perhaps she’d been down to the local store?
Janine quickly unzipped the sleeping bag and scrambled out into the fresh air. The first thing that struck her was that Zoe wasn’t alone, second was that she, herself, was only wearing her skimpy short pyjamas, a fact highlighted when she found Matt Lewis eyeing her appreciatively.
“Morning. I thought you girls could do with a hot roll from the local store, seeing as how you can’t cook anything here.” His eyes fastened on hers.
Janine mumbled a quick, “Thanks,” before diving back inside the tent to retrieve a long cardigan. She shrugged it on quickly and went back outside. She still hadn’t forgiven Matt for giving her a spanking yesterday but she happily took the proffered bacon roll and sank her teeth into it.
“Oh, that’s delicious!” she exclaimed.
“I thought you’d like it.” Matt could barely contain a smirk as he watched her devour the bacon roll. Her hair was tousled from sleep and she wore an expression of utter contentment as she savoured the food.
Luke spoke to Zoe, “There’s a storm predicted for tonight. I hope your tent’s waterproofed?” he asked in an enquiring tone.
Zoe frowned and looked over at their tent. “I thought all tents were waterproof.”
Luke shook his head. “They are, when they’re new, but some of them need to be renewed, after a while. Once the elements get to the canvas, the outer protective layer can erode so you need to reproof it. Come with me and I’ll have a look for you.” He stood up and offered his hand for Zoe to take. She looked at him shyly and placed her small hand in his as he slowly pulled her to her feet. Their eyes locked for a moment, before Luke turned his back and strode towards the tent, pulling Zoe behind him.
Janine watched them go, whilst munching on a mouthful of food. If she wasn’t mistaken, her friend was very much taken with Mr. Ranger. She smiled to herself before polishing off the last of her bacon roll and smacking her lips together contentedly.
She realised Matt was staring at her with a smile playing on his face and she couldn’t resist smiling back. “That was delicious and very thoughtful of you. Do you offer all the holidaymakers the same service?” she said, tongue in cheek.
Matt’s eyebrows rose. “Nope. I just thought maybe you’d appreciate some hot food, especially after yesterday’s fiasco.”
Janine looked down, feeling slightly ashamed, but then tilted her chin up defiantly. “Well, that was a mistake and I can assure you it won’t happen again.” She hoped her meaning was clear. She was referring to the spanking more than the fire.
He stroked his chin with one hand before answering her. “Well, let’s hope so. Where are you headed, today?”
Janine shrugged. “Not sure. We were thinking of hiking up the mountain, there.” She turned and pointed to the large mountain behind her. “It’s a nice day and we could do with stretching our legs.” She paused, realising he was frowning at her. “What, now?”
“You do realise there’s a storm coming, tonight?”
“Yes… I’m not stupid, you know, or deaf, either! I did hear Luke explaining to Zoe!” she snapped.
He raised his eyebrows and gave her a warning look. She rolled her eyes and folded her arms huffily before continuing, “Well, anyhow, we don’t intend being out very long. We have to go to the local stores, this morning, to get some food supplies and then we’ll be off, this afternoon.”
“Do you have a map of the area?”
“No. Should we have?”
He sighed. “I suggest you get one from the village stores, it’s a must.” He stood up and adjusted his hat. “One more thing…keep to the designated tracks. Don’t, for one minute, veer off course. These mountains can be very dangerous, if you get lost. Oh, and another thing.” He looked pointedly at her clothing. “Make sure to take warm clothing. It might be warm down here but, up there, it can change mighty quickly and the last thing you two want is hypothermia!”
“Yes, sir!” Janine spat sarcastically. “Goodness, anyone would think we’d never been camping before.”
“And have you?”
“Of course!” she lied through her teeth. This ranger wasn’t going to get the better of her.
* * *
Matt looked at her and just knew she was lying. She was quite transparent and did the classic lying technique of not looking him in the eye. He’d been a ranger long enough and had to deal with people, often enough, to know a lie when he heard it.
He shrugged and reached inside his jacket to pull out a small printed card. He handed it to her. “Here’s the main number of the West County Rangers. If you need any help or advice, just give them a call. They can radio us, if you need help. We’ll also drop by, if we’re in the vicinity…just to make sure you’re okay.” And admire that pretty bottom, he thought to himself.
Janine took the card off him and popped it in her cardigan pocket. “Thanks for the concern, but I don’t think we’ll be needing your help. We’re pretty good at finding our own way around.”
Matt very much doubted that was true but decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. Zoe and Luke came back from behind the tent; Janine noted Zoe’s face was slightly flushed.
“Tent’s fine.” drawled Luke. “You shouldn’t have any problems with the rain leaking through. I do suggest, though, that you zip the flaps securely tonight; that storm threatens to be a nasty one.”
“We’ll do that, Luke.” breathed Zoe, looking up at him, barely able to conceal her admiration.
Janine almost puked on the spot. For goodness’ sake, you’d think he was some kind of hero, the way Zoe was drooling all over him. Deciding to put an end to the rangers’ visit, she grabbed Zoe’s arm and led her back towards the tent. “Well, thanks for the advice, Rangers. We’ll make sure to adhere to the park rules, won’t we, Zoe?”
“Oh, yeah, sure!”
Both men tipped their hats, got into their truck and drove off, leaving a cloud of dust.
Janine immediately turned an accusing glare on Zoe. “You kissed him, didn’t you?”
“No!” she protested. “He kissed me!” She gave a wicked smile and giggled at the look on Janine’s face.
“Ha! Thought so! Honestly, Zoe…we’ve only been here five minutes and already you’ve engaged the attentions of one of the rangers! Those two are trouble. They have way too much testosterone and are far too bossy, for my liking.” She absently placed a hand on her bottom, remembering Matt’s unforgettable spanking. “Plus, I don’t like being treated like a child,” she huffed as she stomped towards the tent.
Zoe laughed. “Oh, I think you like Matt a bit too much, Janine! I know you…and when you rant about someone, it’s usually ’cause you like them.”
Janine snorted and ignored her last comment, climbing inside the tent to get changed. She rummaged around to find her miniscule denim shorts and strappy top, buried at the bottom of her huge bag. As she pulled her top on, she thought about Zoe’s words. Did she fancy Matt? Sure, he had a heavenly body and a handsome face…plus, she couldn’t help respond to his masculinity, but did she want to get involved with a man who spanks? The answer was yes. Too many times, she’d pushed her boyfriends too far and not one of them had taken her in hand. She knew, without a doubt, that Matt wouldn’t hesitate to reprimand her and dish out the sort of punishment she craved. She shook her head. This was ridiculous; she was sitting here day-dreaming about a man she’d only just met. Grabbing her purse, she crawled back out of the tent.
“Come on, let’s go get our food. I want to start hiking and get some of that fresh air in my lungs.”
* * *
It was late afternoon and the air was still and warm as the girls set off on their hike towards the mountain they’d chosen to climb.
Janine could already feel small beads of sweat begin to roll down her back. She wiped her brow with the back of her hand, muttering, “Lord, it’s hot today!”
“Luke did say there’d be a storm, tonight. I guess the air pressure’s building.”
“Luke said this, Luke said that! Blast what Luke said. What is he, a bloody weather man?”
“Janine! He’s a ranger and knows a hell of a lot more than we do. Anyhow, what’s up with you?”
“Oh, nothing.” She sighed. “It’s just that we’ve only been here two days and these bloody rangers seem to be the main topic of our conversation.”
Zoe gave a sly glance sideways as she watched Janine. “Oh, that wouldn’t happen to be ’cause you fancy Matt, now, would it?”
Janine stopped dead in her tracks and put her hands on her hips indignantly. “No, it wouldn’t! Stop saying that. Just because you fancy Luke, does not mean I’m going to make up a happy foursome,” she snapped. “And stop giggling!” She couldn’t help but smile as she looked at Zoe’s face, grinning at her from ear to ear.
They carried on walking, laughing as they threw jibes at each other. Zoe sighed happily. “Well, they are two of the handsomest men I’ve seen in a long time. Luke’s positively gorgeous.”
“Blah, blah, blah!” Janine rolled her eyes and chose to ignore further comments. Truth was she fancied Matt Lewis more than she’d like to let on but she also found him rather overbearing. A fact she wasn’t sure she was ready to handle, just yet.
Suddenly, she stopped. “What’s that?”
“What’s what?” Zoe asked.
After a few moments, they could hear a pitiful wailing noise coming from their right. It trailed off then began again.
“Sounds like something’s in distress. Shall we take a look?” said Janine, looking into the forest.
“No! We mustn’t veer off this course, remember? Matt and Luke said we have to stay on track or we could get into trouble.”
“Pfffff! We won’t go far; it’s only just in those woods. We can’t leave an animal in pain. We might be able to help, come on.”
Without further ado, Janine strode off towards the noise, leaving Zoe in a quandary whether or not to follow. Deciding she didn’t want to stay on her own in the middle of the track, she sped off after her.
After a few minutes, they still hadn’t found the animal and the cries seemed to be getting fainter. “Where is it?” puzzled Janine.
“Not sure. It seems to have disappeared.” They both stopped and listened in the silence of the forest for the distressed animal. But all was quiet.
“Oh, so much for our mission of mercy. Come on; let’s go back to the track,” Zoe suggested.
“Okay. Which way?”
“I don’t know. I thought you were keeping track of our route?” said Zoe, fast becoming worried.
“No. I thought you were! Oh, my God! What’re we going to do now?” panicked Janine, looking ’round the forest in every direction. “It all looks the same!”
“Look, let’s not panic. We didn’t walk far, so we can’t be too far away from the main path. Let’s think about this positively.” She scratched her head whilst looking in each direction. “I think it’s this way.”
“How can you be sure?”
“I’m not…but it just feels right.”
Janine shrugged resignedly and followed her friend as she walked into the forest…
* * *
Two hours later, both girls realised they were well and truly lost. The original path had never appeared and, now, they seemed to be getting nowhere fast, plus, to make matters worse, it was beginning to rain.
“Oh, this is ridiculous! We’ll never find our way out of here,” moaned Janine.
“I feel sick.” Zoe was beginning to wish she’d never agreed to go camping, in the first place.
Suddenly, Janine came to an abrupt stop. “What was that?”
“Oh, not again!”
Both girls stopped and listened. Something was heading their way and it sounded very large. Janine put a finger to her lips to signal for Zoe to be quiet and grabbed her hand at the same time. Quickly, she pulled her behind a large tree and crouched down.
“What is it?” whispered Zoe, clutching onto Janine’s arm for dear life.
“It sounds like a bear! It’s too noisy to be anything smaller. Just keep quiet and we’ll be fine.” Janine could hear the snuffling of the bear as it moved nearer and nearer to them. Her mouth had gone as dry as dust and she had trouble swallowing, she was so scared, but she knew they had to be quiet. If the bear spotted them, their very lives were at stake.
The bear came closer and closer to them and Zoe squeezed her eyes together tightly, not wanting to see it. Janine put her head down and tried not to breathe, for fear of the bear hearing her. The bear snuffled around a bit, before ambling past. The girls didn’t dare move until it was well out of earshot and, even then, they stood up cautiously, not making a sound.
“I think it’s gone,” gulped Zoe.
“Lord, that was close! I’ve never been that close to a bear before.” Unless you counted Matt. A vision of Matt loomed before Janine’s eyes and she quickly dismissed it, shaking her head to clear her thoughts.
“This rain’s getting heavier, if we don’t get back soon, we’ll end up with bloody pneumonia!” exclaimed Zoe as she looked up into the ever-increasing cloudy sky. “Luke told me there was going to be a storm. I thought I’d be wrapped up in my sleeping bag, nice and cosy, listening to the raindrops on the tent—not stranded somewhere up a blinking mountain!” She reached into her rucksack and pulled out her lightweight raincoat, which had been rolled into a neat ball. Quickly unrolling it, she threw it over her skimpy top and pulled the hood over her head.
Janine followed suit. They might not be warm, but at least, they weren’t getting drenched. She pursed her lips and put her hands on her hips, before rummaging around again in her small rucksack for the map they’d bought at the local store. Realising her intent, Zoe came over and, between them, they tried to ascertain their whereabouts.
“We started here, then we walked up here, and I reckon we veered off track about here. But where the hell are we, now?” moaned Zoe.
Janine scratched her head and tried to look for a landmark of any sort but all that surrounded them were large trees, fallen branches and rocky outcrops. Big drops of rain began to fall on the map from the trees overhead, smearing the print in places, so Janine hastily folded it back up and placed it in her rucksack.
“Let’s carry on along this way; we’re bound to reach some sort of sign, soon.” Zoe, ever the optimist, led the way, once again.
The rain was coming down harder and the sky had almost turned black. The wind was howling around their ears and both girls were now shivering from the cold. A sudden flash and deep rumble of thunder had them both clinging to each other for comfort.
“Oh, my God! I thought this was supposed to be summer?” cried Zoe.
“So did I! Fuck this for a game of soldiers. Come on, let’s walk quicker, perhaps the path will suddenly appear!”
The rain was now coming down relentlessly, their feet were sodden and they had drops of water falling from the end of their noses where it was running off their hoods. Another bright flash lit up the sky and, like a candle in the darkness, a log cabin appeared in their path.
“Janine…look!” exclaimed Zoe excitedly.
“Quick, go see if anyone’s in.”
They both rushed up to the porch and sheltered from the driving rain, whilst Zoe pounded on the door.
“There’s no light on. I don’t think anyone’s in!” she wailed.
“Try the door handle,” urged Janine. Zoe rattled the handle but it was locked.
Janine knelt down and looked under the doormat. Luckily for them, there was a key. She picked it up and showed Zoe. They both looked at it warily, knowing they would be breaking the law if they went in, but surely, the owner wouldn’t mind. They were in distress, after all. The decision was made for them, when another flash of lightning lit up the sky and the thunder boomed overhead.
Janine thrust the key in the lock and turned it quickly, the lock making an audible click as it opened. Pushing open the door, they both ran inside and shut the door firmly behind them.
“Do you think it’s got electricity?” asked Zoe, trying to peer into the gloomy darkness.
The cabin smelled slightly musty but was a welcome relief from the storm that was now raging outside. Janine felt around the wall near the door, trying to locate a switch but there was nothing.
“There must be a candle or torch or something ’round here. Let’s have a look.” Both of them began scouting ’round the room, and after some rummaging in drawers, Janine cried out triumphantly that she had two candles and a box of matches. Quickly, she lit both of them and held them up high. As the light penetrated the small cabin, they could make out a camp bed in one corner, an old sofa in front of an open log fire, a small table and chairs and a sink, stove and cupboards at the other end. She placed the candles on the table and tried to warm her hands on the tiny amount of heat they were giving off.
Zoe shivered and hugged her arms around her. “Shall we try and get that log fire going?”
Janine nodded. She was freezing. So much for the summer weather, it now seemed like the middle of winter. Together, they placed some of the logs in the fire and, after much ado, they managed to start a fire.
Janine went over to the bed and pulled off the blankets, throwing one at Zoe. “Quick, strip off and put that on. We have to warm up quickly; I really don’t want to catch a cold. I haven’t come on holiday to get ill.”
Zoe did as she said and, soon, both of them were curled up on the sofa, wrapped up cosily in their blankets and feeling nice and warm. They could hear the rain pelting against the windows and, every now and then, the cabin would light up with a flash and the thunder rolled overhead.
“I wonder who owns this?” said Zoe.
“Don’t know, but I sure am glad we found it.” Janine stood up and shuffled over to her rucksack. She pulled out the slightly worse for wear map and shuffled back over to the sofa, sitting down next to Zoe. She spread the map out between them and they tried to ascertain where they could possibly be.
“There’s a cabin here…and another one here. Oh, we could be anywhere. What’re we going to do?” exclaimed Zoe.
Janine nibbled on her bottom lip whilst thinking. “It’s no good, we’ll have to call the number Matt gave me. Perhaps they’ll be able to locate us.”
Zoe’s eyes widened. “They’re going to be real mad with us!”
Janine frowned, remembering what happened last time Matt was mad with her. They had no choice though…either that, or stay trapped on the mountain forever. She pulled a face and shrugged her shoulders. “You never know, they may send different rangers, we might be out of Matt and Luke’s patrol area, now. We really have no choice, anyway, Zoe.”
Reluctantly, Zoe went and got her cell phone. Luckily, she had a signal; it wasn’t a strong one, but it was enough to get through to the number on the card Janine gave her. After a brief discussion, the man at the call centre ascertained they were at one of the rangers’ SOS cabins, dotted around the mountain range. The only problem was he wasn’t sure which one. After firing several questions at Zoe, the man quickly deduced they were in Cabin Five, situated only five miles from their actual camp.
When she ended the call, Janine looked at her enquiringly. “What did he say? Does he know where we are?”
“Yep! He said they’ll send help as soon as possible but, for now, we just have to stay put and keep warm. The storm’s going to continue, for quite some time.”
“How did he know where we were?”
Zoe pointed to the door. “There’s a plaque with all the information on it. I didn’t know it was there, until he asked.”
Janine rolled her eyes. “Oh, typical! Trust us, not to see something that was under our very noses. Oh, well, at least we can relax now, until help comes.” She pulled the blanket tighter around her body before reaching into her rucksack and bringing out her bottle of water.
Zoe took out a bag of crisps and, between them, they munched on the food whilst staring contentedly into the flames. Their clothes were hanging on the end of the bed post and would hopefully soon be dry. Before long, both girls’ eyelids began to droop and they fell asleep, snuggled up together on the sofa.
* * *
Matt was sorting through some paperwork, when the call came through from the girls. Bill, the call centre clerk, called over to him.
“Got a couple of girls stranded up at Cabin Five. Can you and Luke set up a rescue operation? I’ve told them to stay put and we’ll send help.”
Matt looked up and frowned. “They haven’t had an accident or anything, have they?”
Bill shook his head. “No, nothing like that. Just lost their way, that’s all. They did the classic veering off track and haven’t got a clue where they are!”
Matt folded his arms. “You didn’t catch their names, did you?”
Bill looked down at his call sheet. “Yeah…Zoe and Janine.”
Matt threw a look at Luke, who raised his eyes to the heavens in despair. After all they’d told them!
Matt’s palm tingled as he imagined what he’d like to do to Janine’s backside when he found it. That know-it all madam had a lot to learn and he’d like to teach her a thing or two. Luke was thinking exactly the same thoughts about Zoe, imagining his palm making swift contact with her pert little bottom.
“Well, are you two going to stand there all day?” sighed Bill exasperatedly. He’d never seen these two burly rangers so preoccupied. He looked back down at the call sheet and looked at the names of the girls again—Janine and Zoe. Hey, weren’t those the names of the girls who’d had the camp fire, yes, that was it! He smirked to himself as he watched the guys get ready for their rescue operation—those two girls were in for a bit of an ear bashing when the rangers found them. Boy, would he like to be a fly on the wall!