Posts tagged “Tour

Chasing Truth: Chapter 11

Posted on 29/08/2014


            Mari and Keon fell into an easy rhythm even before they hit the trail. She drove while Keon filled them in on some of the history of the island and the sites they were passing. The men were quiet for the most part but the tallest one, Damon, had a few questions about the jungle that bordered almost every part of the town and then the caves off of the beach.

She took the lead on the trail with two of the men and Keon followed up with the other two. She hit her stride easily. Her concern faded, confidence boosting knowing Keonhad her back if she needed it.

She set a strong pace as they began the climb up.

“So Ms. Mari, how long have you lived on this island?”

Damon walked up beside her and easily kept pace as they hiked up the steep trail. He was never too far from her.

“Just Mari will do. And pretty much my whole life. I was raised here.”

“Makes sense. A lot of people assured us you were the best guide, that you knew this entire place like it was a personal playground. Apparently to tour with anyone else is only a shadow of what it is with you.”

She laughed. “That might be a little exaggerated, but I’ve explored a lot.”

“What about your parents? Do they still live here?”

The question was easy, casual. Small talk. In fact, Damon had done nothing to unnerve or bother her since they left the shop. Maybe she overreacted. Maybe her radar was a little off.

“My mother passed away, but my dad lives here.”

“That’s tough. You look like you made the best of it.”

She shrugged. “We tried. What about you? What drew you to our little island?”

He didn’t hesitate, his eyes falling to her. “The sights. I’ve been told they’re second to none and I’m beginning to believe it. Although, I should’ve guessed a beautiful woman like yourself would be taken.”

She smiled politely at that and recalled Tyler’s visit. There had been no doubt after that she was seeing someone. That was probably part of the reason he’d been so affectionate. Not that he wasn’t usually affectionate anyway.

“You’re too sweet.”

“Have you been with him long?”

“Long enough.”

“That’s a classic answer for not long.” Damon said it with an easy laugh and pushed a tree branch out of the way for her. “I’m sorry he beat me to you. He’s a very lucky man.”

“Thank you. I’ll make sure to remind him of that tonight.”

His laughter boomed then. “Yes, a very lucky man. You make sure he takes good care of you.”

“He already does,” she assured with a grin as she ducked under a tree limb and wound around the curving path.

By the time they finished the hike all Mari’s trepidation was gone. Damon was all laughter and charm until she was convinced she misread him earlier. His childhood wasn’t as pretty as hers. He was raised in a less than stellar neighborhood and she had the feeling there were a lot of fights in his past. He glossed over it all, but it gave her enough for a good picture. Maybe that explained the edge that put her guard up and she relaxed with that knowledge.

Allison was manning the desk when they returned to the shop. Mari and Keon handed out bottles of water while she assisted the customers browsing the selection.

Damon took a long drink and smiled at her. “We might stick around for a little while. If we do, we’ll definitely be interested in another tour.”

“We’ll be here,” she promised.

“Good. I’ll want you to be our guide.”

“I’d enjoy that, but even if I’m not available, any of our guides can give you more than your money’s worth.”

A quick look out the window showed Tyler pulling into the parking lot and she wasn’t surprised at all. She looked to Keon who waved her on.

“I’ve got another tour in an hour. I’ll close out with Allie.”

She nodded and Damon and his friends followed her out of the door. Tyler was already out of the truck. He strode toward her with purpose, slipping an arm around Mari’s waist and kissing her full on the mouth.

“Hey baby. Did you have a good time?”

“I did. They were an interesting group.”

Damon approached with a broad grin on his face.

“Tyler, this is Damon. Damon, meet Tyler.”

“Hey man, this woman here is amazing. You don’t know how lucky you are to have someone as sweet as this one.”

Tyler held her closer and his smile didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Oh I know exactly how lucky I am. She’s my good luck charm.”

Damon laughed at that and offered his hand. “Good man.”

Tyler hesitated and Mari frowned as the two men locked eyes. Tension coated the moment. Tyler slapped his hand into Damon’s and shook it without letting go of her.

“Glad you got your money’s worth. How long are you and your friends enjoying our island?”

“I certainly did and it’s made me give some thought to sticking around for a little bit. We’ve still got some vacation time. Thanks for the good time, sweetheart. I’ll see you around.”

She smiled and waved as Damon slipped a hand into his pocket and walked off whistling. Tyler stared after him for a long minute and what she called his “security face” fell into place. She gently tugged his arm.

“Come on. I’m starving. I had to save the plate you brought me for lunch tomorrow.”

He stared for a moment longer, but let her pull him to the truck. It was going to be an interesting night if the look in his eyes was any indication.

 << Chapter 10 || Chapter 12 >>

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 >>


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