Lacy Buchanan fantasized about leaving a size ten boot print on his ass. A very fine ass that’d commanded far too much of her attention already.
The tight male butt stopped. The equally fine masculine body faced her. Brown eyes snapped with barely restrained hostility.
“Would you hurry up?” The guide waited impatiently by a decaying log, wiping away the sweat beaded on his forehead with a dirty red bandana. The compass on a chain around his neck glinted in the harsh sunlight. “We’ll never make camp before nightfall at this rate. God, what are you? Part tortoise?”
“Better that than part caveman,” she retorted, throwing her Day-Glo orange backpack to the rocky ground. It kicked up clouds of dust. She coughed and flopped down beside it. Something inside it made a horrible crunching sound.
Lacy could care less what survival item she destroyed because her feet were killing her—not that she’d ever mention it to the sullen hiking guide she’d dubbed Ranger Rick. Except after marching the last two hours in near-desert heat, she’d secretly added a silent “P” to his name.
Not even her secret attempt at humor lessened her irritation with the man whose facial expressions registered exactly two emotions—anger and frustration.
“Just go on. I’ll catch up.”
His left eyebrow winged up. “You’d rather I left you out here to wander the woods alone?”
“Yep. I’ve got water and an excellent moisturizer. Just give me your compass and I’ll be set.”
A new expression lit his eyes. Disbelief. “Where is your compass?”
She was so hoping not to have to confess that little mishap to this rugged outdoorsman with the instincts of a wolf and the disposition of a bear. “Umm.” She absentmindedly fingered her charm bracelet. Damn thing was supposed to bring her good luck, not bad. “It’s kind of funny actually.”
His gaze narrowed. He didn’t look the least bit amused.
“Okay. It fell out of my pocket and sank to the bottom of the creek when we filled our canteens.”
“And you’re telling me now? What makes you think you’d survive out here?” He expelled a harsh bark of laughter. “Cupcake, you’d last about ten seconds before screaming your head off for me to come back and rescue you.”
Cupcake? Lacy ground her teeth. So she wasn’t Campfire Girl material, but she wasn’t helpless either. For godssake, she worked in the jungle of Manhattan. She’d spent years honing her survival instincts.
“Rescue me? I wouldn’t call for you with my last breath.”
The first hint of a smile played at the corners of his sinful mouth.
“Careful, that can be arranged.”
Ooh, his testosterone-laden behavior rankled.
“But, if we don’t get going,” he continued, “we may be forced to rely on survival techniques that’ll offend your delicate sensibilities.”
“Oh, I don’t know.” He scratched the sexy stubble on his chin.
“Eating squirrel or grub worms.” His gaze locked on hers. “Conserving our strength tonight by sharing body heat.”
Lacy knew he was bluffing, yet something warm and liquid pooled low in her belly. “In your dreams, Grizzly Adams. Not if you were the last man on earth.”
“Back at you. But at this pace, the human race might be extinct by the time we reach base camp.”
She tossed her head, reaching in the pocket of her cargo shorts for a tube of cherry Chapstick. “Please. Could we hurry back so I can choke down another meal of the prepackaged cardboard you psychos are passing off as food?”
His avid gaze remained glued to her mouth as she spread the waxy substance over her cracked skin.
She puckered and compressed her lips before releasing them with a loud smack. “This is not what I expected.”
He inhaled deeply and muttered, “Don’t ask. You don’t even want to know.”
“Want to know what?”
“What exactly were you expecting?”
“A nightly campfire with cowboy sing-alongs. Horseback riding through flower-filled meadows. A grumpy old man everyone affectionately called ‘Cookie’ scrounging up a kettle of baked beans. The only ones eating well on this trip are the mosquitoes.”
“Spare me the drama. This is backwoods hiking.”
“Well, I didn’t know that.”
“It was spelled out on the damn brochure. How did a woman like you end up here anyway?” A beat passed. His slow, knowing grin was worse than his disdain. “Aha. I get it now. Was this adventure your boyfriend’s idea?”
“Ex-boyfriend,” she spit out.
His gaze lingered on her white silk tank top permanently discolored gray by sweat stains. “You seem better suited for a bed and breakfast in wine country.”
“Instead, I’ll spend another night sleeping on pinecones and deer poop with a man whose idea of conversation is grunting.”
When his eyes flashed, she backtracked. “When are we going to get back to civilization?”
“If we hurry, we can catch the group before they start the trail ride in the morning. If not. Who knows?” He uncapped his canteen, never breaking eye contact as he took a small sip. “None of this would’ve happened had you not drifted off from the main group. How did you get so lost in such a short period of time?”
“What were you doing?”
“I was looking for—” Her mouth snapped shut. No way was she confessing that humiliating tidbit, even if it was a normal bodily function.
Even if bears regularly did it in the woods.
“For what? A Starbucks?” His disgusted gaze zeroed in on her red leather ankle boots. “Or perhaps a Saks? No wonder your feet hurt.”