Bursting With Love

By: Melissa Foster

He turned back around to the group and shoved his knife back into its sheath.

“We’re in the woods. What part of that don’t you understand?” Jack knew he was fuming at himself in the memory, but he couldn’t stop the hurt from coming out as anger. “Was I not clear back there? Snakes live here. We are the interlopers. We are the villains, not them. If you shriek, that tells me there’s a bigger danger—a bear, a coyote, a madman—something that we really do need to worry about. A snake will slither away.” As he turned back to continue the hike, he noticed that the smirk had left Pratt’s lips, replaced with a furrowed brow. His eyes shifted across the woods. He wanted to know what expression Savannah wore, but now not only did he have to avoid eye contact, it was apparent that he needed to avoid verbal contact as well.

“You don’t have to be such an ass. She’s young. She got scared. Cut her a break.”

He took one step and stopped at the sound of Savannah’s aggressive accusation. He let out a breath and turned back around, meeting Josie’s eyes instead of the challenge in Savannah’s. He calmed his voice enough to speak instead of yell. “Let’s try to keep the screaming to a minimum.”

JACK IGNORED SAVANNAH all afternoon. When she’d challenged his answers, he’d shaken his head, and when she’d asked questions, he hadn’t looked at her when he answered. Now Savannah sat on a log at what would be their base camp, struggling to put together the poles to her tent, and she’d be damned if she’d ask him for help. What was she doing here anyway? She grew up on a ranch with a house, working toilets and showers, and horses to ride up mountains. She had no camping experience, and she hadn’t had time to research how to construct the darn tent before leaving for the trip. When she’d purchased it, she had been so busy worrying if leaving town was the right thing to do that she’d completely zoned out and hadn’t registered a word of the salesman’s lengthy instructions. She hadn’t had time to do much of anything before making the impetuous, stupid decision to go to survival camp. Why hadn’t she listened to Max, her brother Treat’s new wife? She should have gone to one of the many retreats they owned instead of coming into the wild to live like a Neanderthal alongside this mountain madman. When Jack had spun around with that enormous knife in his hand, all she could do was remain silent and still. Her mind had screamed, Run! but her legs had been rooted in place. And the way his eyes had changed in an instant—as if the slightly crazy woodsman had turned into a wounded puppy and then morphed right back into the angry man—had rattled her.

Elizabeth, Lou, and Aiden had their tent fully constructed. Pratt helped Josie with her stakes, and Savannah wrestled with getting the poles through the stupid little rings of vinyl. Each time she got one in, another would slip out before she could secure the two pieces together. She plopped down on a fallen tree and let out a loud breath, then took it all apart and started over. I could be in a five-star resort right now in Hawaii, or Nassau, or anywhere else but the fucking woods. Maybe I should call someone to come pick me up. Treat would charter a plane to rescue me. Savannah and her brothers had significant trust funds, though none of them flaunted their wealth. But at a time like this, an extravagant expenditure seemed like an acceptable thing to consider. She shoved one pole through the loop and finally secured the other to it, pinching her finger in the process.

“Darn it,” she snapped and put the hurt finger in her mouth.

Jack looked over with a pinched and annoyed look on his face, then turned and walked away.

Jerk. Wasn’t he supposed to be teaching them? How was this teaching? She’d show him if it took all afternoon. She struggled with the next set of poles, determined to get the tent set up without any help.

She heard Josie tell Pratt, “We should help Savannah.”

Pratt headed in her direction.

“I got it. I’m fine,” she snapped. Savannah was capable of doing anything they were. She was just having trouble focusing. She glanced at Jack standing with his back to the group, his hands on his hips while he looked out over the ravine below, and narrowed her eyes. It’s you. She’d lost her edge when she was with Connor, and Jack’s attitude wasn’t helping. It was time she got it back.

In the courtroom, she’d know her next move by watching the jury’s reactions to her opponent. She scanned the other tents, noting their construction. She didn’t need instructions. She needed only to focus. In the next few minutes, she was able to visually match the construct of the other tents. She was done being the helpless woman. I’m reclaiming my mojo, so watch out, Jack Remington. There’s nothing I can’t do.

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