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Authors: Hazel Hunter

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“Good morning,” he said.

She knew she must have the most crazy grin on her face.

“Good morning,” she replied.

He let her go.

“There’s coffee,” he said, heading to the kitchen.

She leaned the crutches against the wall next to the brick facade of the fireplace. Carefully, she sat on the wool rug, just in front of the hearth, careful not to use the sprained ankle. The fire crackled in front of her and she was suddenly reminded of the lean-to. Logan came back with two mugs of steaming coffee. He was back in the polo shirt and jeans and she could clearly see the stitches on the side of his knee through the rip. The dressing was gone, no doubt soaked in the shower. As he set the mugs down on the bricks in front of her, she looked up at him.

“I need to put a new dressing on that,” she said.

“In a bit,” he said. “Enjoy the fire.”

He sat next to her as he wrapped his arm around her shoulder and drew her over to lean on him. She handed him a mug and took the other but she couldn’t stop thinking about his knee.

“You say it’s less painful now?” she said. “Your knee, I mean.”

“Mmm hmm,” he said sipping coffee.

“That doesn’t make any sense,” she said, shaking her head.
 

There had to be at least thirty stitches. The bullet had left a shallow trough that the ER doctor had simply closed. Though it’d probably been the most expedient solution, Jules wasn’t sure it’d been the best.
 

“The shrapnel came out,” Logan said.
 

Jules stared at him, his face only inches from hers.

“The
shrapnel?

He finally told her the story, from the downed CC-130 and the deaths of the crew to his eventual extraction by RCAF forces. His voice became quiet, especially when he talked about killing those two men. Out of all of it, that had been the worst. She remembered that yesterday he’d said he’d chosen not to kill someone. He eventually became quiet and she laid a hand on his knee.

“Sometimes they leave the shrapnel,” he said. “I was told that trying to remove it can cause more damage than just letting it work its way out over time. It may take years, but eventually it comes out.”

Though what he said made sense, it still shocked her. The body naturally tried to surround and move foreign particles to the surface but she’d never thought about something the size of shrapnel. Or a medical treatment that was simply to leave it alone.

Images of Logan rubbing his knee popped into her mind. It’d been painful. How could it not be? But he’d never said anything.
 

“So the bullet dislodged the shrapnel?” she asked quietly, as she set her coffee down.

“Or the running,” he said. “Or a combination. It seems as though my knee is a metal magnet.”

He set his mug down next to hers.

“However it started, the shrapnel is gone and a couple of ghosts with it,” he said quietly, looking into the fire, the smile gone now. “The old wounds are starting to close.”
 

She looked into the fire as well, felt his arm around her, and listened to the crackling of the flames and popping of the wood.
 

“I’ve waited a long time,” he said.

She nodded, hardly able to imagine what it must have been like. To carry the emotional and physical scars created by the war, not able to leave one behind without the other.

“It must have seemed like the shrapnel wasn’t ever going to move,” she said.

“That’s not what I was waiting for,” he said.

She looked up into his face.

“I was waiting for you,” he whispered.

She blinked at him.

“For me?” she asked, but even as she said it she understood–the divorce.
 

He’d said in the mountains she was on the rebound. She remembered all the flights and their conversations. Not until she thought she’d lost him did she really understand how much he meant to her. How much she loved him.

“In the forest,” he said. “When you said you heard my voice?”

With a start, she brought his face into focus.

“Yes?” she said. “Never say die.”

He grinned a little but shook his head.

“Are you sure?” he asked.

She frowned a little, perplexed.

“Are you sure it wasn’t that I love you?” he asked.

A smile slowly erupted on her face as she looked directly into his eyes.

“I love you too,” she said, quietly.

He beamed back at her but then he suddenly stood, stooped, and picked her up.

“In the plane,” he said, as she wound her arms around his neck. “When I said I wanted as many kids as I could afford, you never said how many you wanted.”

Her heart skipped a beat.

“Lots,” she finally managed to say.

He grinned at that.

“I’m done with waiting,” he said, heading to the bedroom door. “Aren’t you?”

JUNGLE FEVER

An Erotic Expedition Novella

PART 1

By Hazel Hunter

Chapter 1

Somehow Jean had thought the rainy season would be the cool season but apparently Thailand didn’t have one. The ride in the older model Jeep had been hot and humid and she could hardly wait for it to be over. She glanced up at Dr. Liew in the passenger seat. He didn’t seem phased. The driver who’d picked them up from the airport was an employee of the plantation and seemed to be a local. He probably didn’t give the weather a second thought. But Jean had thought of nothing else for the last hour, ever since they’d left the terminal at Phuket Island’s airport. She glanced at the rearview mirror to see the driver looking at her, yet again.

“How long did you say to the plantation?” Jean asked.

His eyes smiled at her.

“Almost there,” he said.

She’d taken off the business jacket at the airport and now fluffed the front of her silk blouse for some air. The pearl necklace rustled over the top of the shiny cream fabric. Wearing silk in the tropics had obviously been the wrong decision but it was still business–high-end business at that.

“Are you feeling okay?” Dr. Liew said, turning to her.

Although Dr. Liew was her employer for this trip, he’d done nothing but take care of her since the journey had started. In his fifties, bald, and with a paunch like a bowling ball, he was exactly what she’d expected for a molecular biologist. Though he was of Chinese descent, he must have been born in the U.S. because his English was flawless. He looked at her over the top of his thick glasses.

“I’m fine, Dr. Liew,” she said, smiling at him. “Just a little warm.”

“Please, for the eleventh time, call me George. Are you drinking enough water?”

“Plenty,” she said. “A lot actually.”

He frowned at that as the Jeep took a sharp turn onto a graded dirt road.

“Hmm,” he said and then turned and hunched over his carry-on bag, rummaging for something. When he turned back to her, he held out a couple of tablets. “Electrolytes,” he said. “To keep everything balanced with all the water.”

He’d said this on the plane too and they had seemed to help but was there such a thing as taking too many?

“I’m fine,” she said. “Really.”

“Take them,” Dr. Liew said abruptly.

The driver gave him a quick look and glanced at her in the rearview mirror.

Dr. Liew quickly shook his head, laughed a little, and smiled at them both.

“I’m starting to sound like I do with my daughter,” he said. “You can imagine what it must be like to have a molecular biologist for a father.”

Though his tone had surprised her, Jean had to smile at that. It was exactly the type of voice her own father would have used. In fact, he and Dr. Liew were probably the same age. She dutifully extended her hand and he placed the tablets in her palm.

“Thank you,” she said.

She took them as the Jeep started to climb upward.

Dr. Liew seemed satisfied and turned back toward the road. On either side of them, dense, green jungle flashed by.
 

A month ago, Jean would never have dreamed she’d be here–a tropical rain forest on Phuket Island in southern Thailand. Typically, adventure traveling wasn’t part of the job description for forensic accountants. In fact, she still couldn’t believe she was here. The job had come together so quickly she’d neglected to mention she’d never had a passport. Dr. Liew’s group had put some type of rush on it. In the end, though, it wasn’t the exciting prospect of travel that had convinced her to come. It wasn’t even the enormous fee that Dr. Liew’s group had offered. It was curiosity.

Rarely was a company so identified with its owner. Clark Peterson, son of the founder, was that owner. He was the company–what was left of it–and the company was him. The two were inseparable. On paper, his presence was everywhere, ever since he’d taken it over. The forensic audit had included his personal life as well–every detail was used to help her build an image of Clark Peterson and Peterson Rubber that few other people were capable of doing. It was a singular talent. And now, for the first time in her young career, she was going to see if that image matched the real thing. The view into Clark’s personal life was an unusual, though not unheard of, part of the audit and one of the reasons for the high fee.

As she gazed out the window, she couldn’t help but think about the money. Older and more experienced forensic auditors were available at her firm and yet Dr. Liew had selected her. Given the rigor of the travel, though, it was starting to make sense.

The dense, almost impenetrable, trees of the rain forest flew by in continuous tones of brown and green. She wondered if these might actually be rubber trees, at least some of them. High above their roof-like canopy, a slice of sky over the road revealed dark clouds that hung thick and menacing.

Maybe if it rains, it’ll be cooler.

Jean fluffed her blouse again.

She hoped so.

• • • • •

Clark Peterson paced the front porch of the main house and glanced at his watch. They were due any minute. Thunder rumbled overhead as a light rain began to fall. Before Annan had left for the airport, he’d left the umbrellas leaning at the railing. The man didn’t miss a thing. After thirty years working for his family, Annan knew what Clark needed before Clark knew it.

But what Clark
really
needed now was an investor.

Clark felt a tight bunching of the muscles in his shoulders. Without thinking, he reached both hands up to a rafter under the eave of the porch and did a quick chin-up. Before he knew it, he’d done a set of ten. Though his pent-up energy could easily have handled another few sets, he dropped lightly to his feet.

Don’t want to be sweating before they even get here. There’ll be plenty of time for ‘sweating’ later.

“Boss?” he heard Tam say from the front door.

He turned to see the slim and stooped old man holding a feather duster in his hand. No matter how many times Clark had told him to stop cleaning, Tam refused to listen. As near as Clark could tell, the man treated it as a sacred task. As his father’s valet, Tam had been part of the plantation in its glory days. It was as though he couldn’t see what it had become or maybe he just couldn’t bring himself to let go of what it used to be.

Clark understood how that felt.

“The rooms are ready,” Tam said, in his high reedy voice.

Clark knew the rooms were ready because Annan had checked them but he smiled at Tam nevertheless.

“Thank you, Tam. I’m sure our guests will be comfortable.”

Tam nodded solemnly.

“Will that be all?” he said, stowing the duster under his arm.

“Yes, Tam,” Clark said.

Tam bowed a little at the waist and turned to go.

“Oh, Tam?” Clark said.

The old man hadn’t yet taken a step but made as though he’d been about to. He turned around. This was their little ritual now.

“I don’t think I’ll be needing anything more this afternoon,” Clark said. “Why don’t you take some time for yourself.”

“Are you sure, Boss?”

Clark nodded.

“I’m sure Annan and Mrs. Juntasa have everything under control.”

Tam seemed to consider that but then nodded. Clark was careful not to grin. Tam would be asleep for his afternoon nap as soon as his head hit the pillow.

“Okay, Boss,” he said finally. “If you say so.”

“I say so,” Clark said.

Tam nodded once more before he turned and shuffled off. As Clark watched him go, he thought of his own father.
What would he say if he were alive to see the state of the plantation?
Clark already knew what his father thought of investors. That was one of the reasons the company was in the state it was. Now, there was no choice.

Clark heard the Jeep before he could see it.
 

They were here.

Dr. George Liew represented a consortium of venture capitalists headquartered in New York. He would be validating the science material. Clark had expected that. In fact, he’d thought of little else in the last six months as he’d created and organized the data. Decades of his father’s work and years of his own had finally bred what genetic modification couldn’t create. The science data was critical in demonstrating that. What Clark hadn’t expected was the auditor. What had they called her? A forensic accountant. Although he’d sent all the financials weeks ago, George had said this was standard procedure for his investors.
 

The Jeep finally appeared in the circular drive. As the tires crunched in the gray gravel, the rain began to pour. The pelting sound of the drops took over seamlessly as Annan brought the car to a stop. Clark opened an umbrella and went to the passenger door.

“You must be Dr. Liew,” Clark said, as he opened the door. “Welcome to Peterson Ranch.”

The man in the passenger seat was quickly zipping up his luggage but stopped to extend his hand.

“Dr. Peterson,” he said, as they shook hands.

“Here,” Clark said. “Let me get that for you.”

Dr. Liew handed the small rolling case to him and awkwardly slid out of the seat. Side by side they went the few short steps to the porch.

“Call me Clark,” Clark said as he shook out the umbrella.

BOOK: The Erotic Expeditions - Complete Collection
4.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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