Posts tagged “Stranger

Chasing Truth: Chapter 10

Posted on 22/08/2014


Mari took her time going over the list of equipment all guides carried on hiking tours with their newest hire, Jeremy. He was a quick study and she was confident they’d get good use out of him. He was tagging along with her today and then with Keon the next. Three tours and she’d bet he was ready to lead one one of the shorter ones.

“Let’s go ahead and toss these in the truck,” she said once he loaded his pack.

He grabbed the bag and followed her out the door. The door shut behind them as a SUV pulled into the parking lot. Four men climbed out ranging from tall to shorter, but it was the driver that stole Mari’s attention. He was the tallest of all of them with a broader, solid build. He wore a hat but it didn’t cover all of his sandy brown hair and the Sakina shirt he wore almost made her laugh. He should have looked like the average tourist. He didn’t. There was something…off.

She led more tours than she could count over the years. That’s why when she got a check in her gut after seeing her scheduled hiking group for three o’clock she pulled Jeremy to the side. The younger new hire frowned at her but came willingly.

“I want you to look like you’re telling me you’re sick and you can’t do this tour.”

“Why?” He coughed into his arm as he asked.

“Go inside and call Keon. Tell him I need him to fill in on a hiking tour. Do not call Raoul. Got it?”

“Got it.” He frowned and held a hand to his stomach.

“You’re a solid hire.” She reached out to press a hand to his head before gesturing him away. “Go ahead. And tell Keon to make it fast. We’ll reschedule for tomorrow.”

She stepped toward the tour group with a smile on her face. “I’m sorry, gentlemen. Our tour is going to be delayed by just a few minutes. One of our guides isn’t feeling well. Another will be here shortly.”

“Are you Mari?”

“I am.”

“Then we don’t need two guides. I hear you know your way around this entire island with your eyes closed. We’re okay with just you,” the tallest one assured with a smile.

His smile did nothing to reassure her. He was the main one leaving her unsettled. His eyes were a little too hard, but she kept her own smile in place. “I appreciate the vote of confidence, but I think you’ll get the most out of the experience with two of us. Keon will only be a few minutes.”

“That him?”

One of the men gestured behind her and she spun around to see. Beaming, she set the pack down.

“No, excuse me for just a minute.” She wasted no time walking up to him. “Tyler.”

“Hey sweetheart.”

“What are you doing here?”

“You like to run on granola bars.” He lifted up the bag he carried and toyed with the strands of her hair. “I’ve got to take care of my girl.”

She smiled as warmth shot through her. “Thank you. You take very good care of me.”

His hand cupped her cheek and he leaned in for a kiss. He lifted his head and his eyes darted over her shoulder. A frown formed as he got a good look at her tour group. He brought his focus back to her.

“You’re not taking that tour alone.”

It hadn’t been a question, but a firm demand. She was reminded he once worked security when he looked like that. All gentleness faded and there was no give in him. She arched a brow.

“I’ve been touring since I was five. I’ve been leading my own tours since I was sixteen. I don’t need a babysitter. I don’t need anyone telling me how to run my tours either.”

He didn’t look away from the group. “That’s too many grown men we know nothing about. I want somebody with you.”

“I’m going to take this as sweet and protective rather than overbearing, sexist, and controlling. Don’t push it.”

He smiled then and the hard man of seconds ago disappeared. “Sweet and protective is the right way to take it. You and I both know you’d shoot ‘em if they try anything, but I don’t want them trying.”

“Much better.” The gun she always carried with her wasn’t for show.

“So you’ll take someone with you?” His hand moved from her cheek to comb through her hair.

“Todd was going anyway.”

“Brat.” He kissed her again, this time lingering over it. As always, she got a little lost in it. It took her a moment to open her eyes and process his next words. “Dinner after?”

“You like me that way and yes, dinner after.”

“I like you a lot of ways.” He kissed her once more and glanced over her shoulder again. “I’ll meet you back here.”

“You’re pushing,” she warned as Keon pulled up. She watched his gaze go from her to the tour group waiting. His jaw firmed as he got out of the car and approached.

“I’ll see you later,” she said to Tyler and went to meet Keon.

“Did they try anything?” he asked quietly.

“No, but I know when I’m in over my head.”

He looked pointedly at Tyler who had yet to leave. She elbowed him. “Those are two different things. And I’m not over my head with him.”

“That’s up for debate.”

“Whatever. They want to tour Pa Nali. Two hours.”

He nodded and together they joined the tour group. Keon extended his hand to the tallest man whose eyes were still on Mari.

“Sorry about the delay, gentlemen. I’m Keon, your second tour guide today.”

“Well let’s get moving then.”

She and Keon shared a look and led the men to their trucks.


<< Chapter 9 || Chapter 11 >>

Chasing Truth: Chapter 4

Posted on 11/07/2014


The sun barely kissed the sky before Mari climbed out of bed to hit the dock. The first trip of the day wasn’t for several more hours but there was a lot of work to be done before then. Whether she wanted to admit it or not, she needed a refresher and time to get back in the swing of it all.

Grabbing the bag she packed up last night, Mari swung it onto her back and opened the fridge to grab a water bottle. She stopped in the middle of swinging around the counter and grinned when she saw the wrapped plates sitting there with a note from Allison.

Eat. And share with Keon. He’s picked up your bad habit of running off granola bars.

Laughing softly, she grabbed the food and took it out to Raoul’s truck before she loaded it up with equipment and drove down toward the beach. She didn’t bother with music. The sounds of the island slowly waking were music enough. She smiled at the sight of the shop that was much like a second home.

She threw the truck in park and hopped out, taking the plates with her. She unlocked the shop door and flipped the lights. It was almost exactly as she remembered from her last trip home. The walls had a fresh coat of turquoise paint highlighted with brown trim. Pictures of the Drake family, other guides, and different tours spotted the walls. Various water sporting equipments and clothing articles decorated the room. She opened the large windows overlooking the beach and entrance, breathing in the scent of the ocean. Everything in her began to relax as she just enjoyed the moment.

Minutes later, she turned back to walk around the counter. She shook her head when she turned on the music and country music began to play. Keon loved the stuff so it was an easy guess as to who’d changed the selection. She left it on as she went back outside to unload the scuba tanks, flippers, re-breathers, and bags of wet suits and other gear.

She was inspecting the second scuba tank’s valve action when footsteps sounded against the wood of the walkway.  She glanced to her right, expecting Keon. A smile tugged at her lips. The man walking toward her wasn’t Todd. It was the man from the party. Tyler. He still looked perfectly at home on the island only this time he’d lost the short-sleeved shirt and the black tank top revealed the weight muscle added to his arms. The sun lightened the brown hair that curled over his forehead and around his ears. The torch light hadn’t hid much. The man was attractive.

“You’re out early,” she said lowering her head back over the tank.

“I could say the same for you.”

She shrugged. “I’ve got a job to do.”

“There’s that, but something tells me you’d be up even if you didn’t. I’m Tyler.”

“Something tells you right. Mari, although you probably know that.”

“I might’ve heard your name a time or a million. It’s an honor to meet Sakina’s darling.”

She laughed. “That would be Leilani Cabral. Once everyone gets used to me being back I’ll be the island’s troublemaker again. Second to Jules of course.”

He chuckled and squatted down beside her. “Yeah, I can see that. I’ve heard a few of your high school stories. Snakes in the cafeteria? Brave woman.”

“I will never live that down.”

“From the way it was told? I don’t think so.”

Mari shook her head and set the tank off to the side.

“That wasn’t all I heard though.”

She arched a brow. “Oh I’m sure it wasn’t, especially if you were talking to Leo.”

He dropped his head back and laughed, giving her the opportunity to study him some more. His features were sharp but the laugh softened them. She really liked the look of him and so far, the sound of him too. He was easy, laid back, and with a good sense of humor to top it off.

“Leo definitely had some stories. The lizard you put in Kai’s pants?”

“Oh he deserved that. He was such a brat when he was a kid.”

“He wouldn’t say the same about you though, would he?”

That tore laughter from her. “Of course he would, but I was a reactive brat. You had to do something first.”

“Ah, the bully police?”

“You could call it that.”

“Leo told me aside from your life of trouble-making, you know all the best hiking trails too. The ones most people won’t hike.”

Her lips quirked up in a grin. “Those are the only trails worth hiking. I might know something about them.”

“Do you mind sharing some of that knowledge when you’ve got some free time?”

She hesitated and looked up at him when he grabbed the next tank to pass to her. His smile was still easy and elbows rested on his thighs as he waited for her response. Her smile came without her permission.

“Yeah, I think I might be willing to share a trail or two.”

“I’m glad to hear it. Does tomorrow work for you?”

“Let me double check the schedule and get back to you.” She reached into her back pocket for her phone and held it out to him.

His hand brushed hers as he took it from her and put his number in.

“I’ll be looking forward to that call.” He smiled and handed the phone back, pushing back to his feet. “Wait until I can join you to stir up some more trouble,” he added as he walked backward.

“I’ll see what I can do but I make no promises.”

He laughed and finally turned to walk away. She propped her arm up across her knee and watched him walk down the beach. Shaking her head and fighting the smile, she turned back to her equipment to finish prepping for the day’s first group.

 << Chapter 3 || Chapter 5 >>

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