Photographer of beautiful naked men, Michaela Vanz travels the high trails on a regular basis, but the mountains more and more remind her of the man to whom she’s compared all others. Valiant’s hard work building trails through the mountains also built muscle. Handsome, smart, funny and incredibly sexy…how could she ever forget him? She’d spent that summer hinting and finally begged him to make love to her but he’d rejected her and left her to make a life without him.
A lifetime later, when they meet again in the High Sierras, Val is more than ready to say yes, but will their passion last only one day and night or have they found true love in the second half of their lives?
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Val Epstein sank onto a granite outcropping and dropped his heavy pack next to him with a grunt. He’d climbed to the heights where patches of glacial ice remained even on a late summer afternoon, and where few hikers ventured. Instead of peace, his visit to the Sierra Nevadas brought a rush of memories and physical longing. But what had he expected? He rubbed at his cock, hardening in his shorts. Around every corner below the tree line, he’d half expected her to appear, flirting, toying with him, full of youthful sensuality and offering a gift he hadn’t had the courage to accept. Not then. So many years later he’d fall to his knees and beg for her touch.
He’d planned this journey to try to make some sense of a life that no longer offered the satisfaction it once had. But the memories of the woman he’d never been able to banish from his mind held his focus. The past distracted him from decisions about his future.
He squeezed a blob of sunscreen into his palm and the tropical scent revived an ache that never quite went away, lived deep in his bones, brought on a raging hard on every time he thought of her sparkling blue eyes and small, luscious tits. He’d broken into a cold sweat every time she held her ponytail aside so he could rub lotion into the back of her neck.
She’d be laughing at him. As she had when he chased her, offering to apply another layer of the cream one late summer afternoon thirty-five years before. Trying to get a peek into her shirt.
Her reddish-brown curls bobbed behind her as she raced ahead of him up the trail, that afternoon thirty-five years before, the sweet curves of her ass caressed by her worn cutoffs, long, tanned legs flying. She’d danced over the high, steep crags like she belonged there, which, of course, she did.
Each tree, rock, side trail held these images as if projected on the High Sierra itself. Gazing out over the view of the treetops below, from his perch where patches of glacier ice remained all summer and few hikers ventured, he pulled out his rock-hard dick. Closing his fist around it, Val began the slow stroking from root to tip that would ease his craving for a few moments. As he gripped his shaft the scene replayed as if it had been yesterday.
“Slow down, Mickie!” He cast a worried glance at the sun, already touching the top of the highest peaks. “I give up.”
She sped on, her laughter drifting back to him. “Catch me.”
Even at twenty, in excellent condition from his summer job building trails, he couldn’t keep up with her. But, determined to try, he increased his pace. The round curve of Mickie’s sweet ass disappeared from his view and he fought panic. What if she got lost? Even in the first week of September, the nights at ten thousand feet and more above sea level dipped into the twenties…or the teens. Unlike him, she didn’t ever carry any supplies when they hiked. Just a canteen tied to her belt. She acted as if the mountains held no dangers at all. Called him “Scout,” for being always prepared. His own pack slowed him down, which meant it would take him that much longer to get his hands on her. The impractical girl had led him a merry chase from June until the beginning of September.
She could die in these mountains on her own. Why didn’t she understand that? His heart thudded in his ears from the altitude or panic or both.
Driven to save her from her own foolishness, he charged around a corner in the path and crashed into her, sending them both flying to the ground. To prevent his greater mass from crushing her, he caught himself on his hands, stinging gravel digging into his palms. Her ass butted against his cock, which leapt to attention, nudging the crack of her denim-covered butt. Val stifled a groan when she bucked back against him, unaware she played with fire—or stoking the flames?
Shrugging the straps of his pack from his shoulders, he dropped it to the ground.
She shoved her ass against his groin again, and he jerked. “Dammit, Val-iant. Watch where you’re going.”
“Don’t call me that! You know I hate it.”
“It’s your name…Valiant.” Dropping flat on the ground, she rolled to her back.
Her breasts rose and fell with her panting breaths, nipples poking against the soft cotton of her T-shirt. She’d flirted the whole summer, teasing him without mercy, but he’d pretended not to notice. Mickie belonged in the California mountains and he’d be back on the East Coast soon. Beginning grad school. His focus couldn’t be anywhere but on his career. He ran from the choices made by his hippie mother. Eighteen years of commune dwelling cured him of the lifestyle. Success in business first, a personal life second.
But her flushed cheeks and wet lips drove him on. Her cherry-flavored gloss melted away. His dick bulged in his shorts and he licked the seam of her lips, urging her to open for his questing tongue.
“I prefer Scout.” Mickie met his with hers, sweet and tentative but so seductive he lost what little sense he had left, his rock hard cock doing most of his thinking for him. He’d worked his hands under her T-shirt—her lack of a bra—ever—had not escaped him. Lifting the garment over her head, he choked at the sight. Sweet pale globes topped with cherry red nipples. “Oh, Mickie.”
“They’re small,” she said.
“They’re perfect.” Mouth watering, he buried his face between her tits, closing his eyes and breathing in the soft scent of lavender and the coconut sunscreen from earlier. “I want to taste them.”
She shivered and tangled her fingers in his hair. “Go ahead.”
Val turned his head and blinked his eyes open. Cupping her breast, he licked his lips and closed them around her nipple. He laved the areola, taking in the bumpy texture, the salt of her sweat, and his cock surged against his fly.
When she made no protest, he sucked her nipple into his mouth, rewarded by a low moan. He moved to the other side and repeated his actions, loving her whimpers, her shaking limbs. Pinching the first tight bud between two fingers, he played with them both. She held his head to her chest, pulling his hair in her zeal.
Val couldn’t hold back anymore, about to shoot his wad in his shorts. He released her breast. “I want…I want to—”
She let go of him and pushed him back, grabbing at his shorts, pulling the zipper down and Hallelujah! He just hoped he didn’t come in her hand. That would be damned embarrassing. He just had to hold out long enough to get into her pussy. Then they heard it.
“Oh no!” Shoving him away, Mickie scrambled to her feet. “Quick, where’s my top?” She took it from him, dragged it over her head and leaped to her feet.
As he struggled with his zipper, trying to remember who and where he was, a troop of little girls from the camp ambled around that same blind corner.
“Oh look, it’s Michaela!”
“And her friend that trail guy.”
What the hell were all these kids doing way up here?
The girls surrounded them. They carried packs hung with sleeping bags and were so excited, they didn’t seem to notice anything odd, just happy to see people they knew along the way. They chattered on about heading toward a campsite where some of the staff waited with fun activities planned.
The last one to arrive was their counselor.
Unlike Mickie who worked as a cook at the camp for inner city kids, and Val who built trails for the camp to earn money to supplement his scholarships and student loans, wealthy Julia volunteered her time. She had explained how good this would look on her résumé. Charity work always did.
Well groomed at all times, she never seemed to break a sweat. Her crisp, unwrinkled Camp Freshair polo clung to her high breasts and trim waist as if tailored for her. With her money, it probably was. Her dark, shoulder length hair danced in a perky ponytail in cadence with her words when she spoke.
“Hello, Michaela, Val.” One dark sculpted brow rose. “And what brings you two up here on this lovely afternoon. Isn’t it about time to start cooking dinner, Michaela?”
Mickie’s cheeks burned red, but she held the rich girl’s gaze. “It’s my day off, but thank you for your concern.” Spinning on a heel, she started back the way they came. “I think I’m done here for now. Coming, Scout?” She marched away while he stared after her.
“Yes, Scout…were you coming?” Julia’s gaze drifted to the front of his shorts.
He fought the urge to cover himself, cheeks heating. “Leaving, yes.” He hurried after Mickie, the moment broken but his twenty-year-old hormones in raging awareness. It only took a moment to catch up to her below the tree line and fall into step at her side.
“I hate her.” Mickie walked faster, a twig snapping under her feet like a firecracker in the quiet forest. “She knew too…and she’ll tell everyone, ruin everything.”
“What can she tell?” he asked. “She didn’t see anything.”
Mickie snorted, her back straight in her march downhill, her boobs proudly leading the way. “She saw everything. Don’t kid yourself. Or, at least, she figured it out.”
He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and tugged her closer to his side. “Who cares what she thinks anyway.”
She softened, resting against him. “Not me.” They walked on for a while, in silence, the scent of pine trees and sage tickling his nose. “Scout?”
“The summer is almost over.”
“And you’ll be going home, three thousand miles away in a few weeks.” Resting a hand on his arm, she stopped and faced him. “Before you go, I want to do it with you.”
His head spun as all the blood ran south at the image of that creamy flesh beneath him, her pussy clenching around his dick when he drove her to orgasm. If he took that step with her, it would mean more. Even with his cock bobbing in agreement with her idea, insisting he take her into the bushes that moment and fuck her, his brain managed to sort out something it hadn’t before. This was not a woman to screw and leave. Not like the easy girls at school who went from dorm room to dorm room. “Mickie, I can’t do that and just leave.” He was already dreading leaving her—
“Sure you can. I want you to be my first.”
At this point in the fantasy, he always changed it. Said yes. His clenching fist tightened on his cock, friction and the image in his mind driving him toward orgasm. Her parted legs inviting him to be her first, to fuck her into oblivion. To hear her cry out “Yes!” He spurted into his hand, white cum dripping between his fingers, and he sagged back onto the rock and wiped his hand and his dick on the bandana tucked in his belt. He’d need to rinse it out first chance he got.
A movement below captured his eyes and he rustled in his pack for binoculars. A hiker appeared on a trail above the lake. Long legged, fairly slim, but not the ghost of his nineteen-year-old Michaela. He watched the gap in the treetops to see who followed her, but the woman seemed to be alone. Even up here, where crime was a rarity, plenty of other dangers existed— bears and cougars, avalanches and sudden storms—and he didn’t like to see any woman alone. The binoculars made him feel like a peeping Tom, but he couldn’t seem to look away. The woman he worried about had long, . tanned limbs that drew his admiring gaze. Her curly hair stuck out of the back of the baseball cap she wore, hanging down her back in a gray-streaked auburn ponytail.
How idiotic. Some of his friends had girlfriends half their age, all enhanced tits and tight asses, but he’d never gone in for that. Midlife crises were for fat, balding guys who didn’t care about anything but their dicks and had to take something to make them usable. He’d chosen to lavish his passion on the mountains, conquering them instead of silly twenty-somethings. But that didn’t make his dick any less rigid.
He’d never had to worry about little blue pills. Thank god.
His dick hardened at the mere memory of the girl he’d met the summer between college and grad school. But he hadn’t counted on a lifetime passion for the mountains that had him adding the top peaks to his 100 North American Peaks checklist until only McKinley remained—the tallest in the lower 48 states and the one in the Sierras, the range that reminded him of her. As his marriage fell apart, his love of the outdoors grew until it replaced sex and intimacy. He understood conquest, the thrill of standing on a peak and surveying the land far below. Of making business deals involving hundreds of millions of dollars. But he’d failed at Relationships 101.
The woman below him disappeared from view around a bend and he leaned back, allowing the sun-warmed stone to ease the tight muscles in his lower back while the cool, late afternoon breeze dried the perspiration on his face. He cleaned up and tucked his dick back in his pants.
Biting into an apple from his pack, he savored the sweet crunch. Everything tasted better up here, a simple fruit better than the gourmet lunches he shared with clients. Tomorrow, he’d be on a plane back to the East Coast and another six months of seventy-hour workweeks before he could break away again. Wouldn’t it be nice if he had a companion for his trips? A soft, willing body to warm his blood on cold nights.
But then he was used to hiking alone. He only hiked with her in his dreams.
Michaela Vanz shifted her pack higher on her shoulders and tilted her phone forward and back, fighting the urge to toss the useless thing over the cliff edge. Disgust colored her mood. Nobody depended on GPS to find their way this high in the backcountry. At least nobody who wanted to find her way back in one piece. Nobody who knew better.
And Miss Michaela knew better.
She didn’t get to fifty-four, hiking the mighty Sierras and many of the other great ranges of the world, without being smarter than her current behavior indicated. Of course she’d always been the camp cook, able to make a gourmet meal out of a handful of freeze-dried ingredients and some wildcrafted herbs. Silas, may he rest in peace, had been in charge of maps and location. Six months on her own hadn’t improved her abilities to navigate her way out of a paper bag.
And she’d avoided this particular area for a long time, unsure of why she approached it today. Trail of unfulfilled needs and heartache.
She glanced at the lowering sun. Another hour of light before it sank behind the frosted peaks and, once it did, the temperature would plummet. Not that she couldn’t keep warm, but she’d planned to return to her car by evening and was running pretty low on food. Scraps of beef jerky and one small apple wouldn’t do much to keep her company on an early September evening. A photo shoot location search shouldn’t have led to her being lost in the backcountry. Not with the hundreds, maybe thousands of hours she’d spent in the High Sierra. But not very many alone.
She’d managed to make it through the summer by sticking to existing trails. Her moderate successes had made her overconfident. But a memory of a particular one path drew her, maybe her loneliness added to the desire. Also she’d heard of a lake deep in the mountains that sounded like a perfect backdrop for her latest photo shoot.
She’d promised Silas, sort-of, to try to find a new hiking companion, but hadn’t made the effort. They’d been partners for over thirty years; who could replace him? Most of the mountaineers she knew were so much younger, she didn’t get their campfire humor or know any of the songs she liked to sing and that took the fun out of the whole thing. That and the fact that she had this naughty love of camping sex. Some happy-go-lucky kids were not her choice for “hiking companions.” Maybe she could sign up for some matchmaking site.
Fifty-four year old photographer seeks hot alpha hiker for long nights in the mountain fucking our brains out. Limp dicks need not apply.
Did Val still hike? Did he ever think of her, with fondness or regret? Lust?
The shadows lengthened, covering the trail ahead of her as she descended toward the lake—well, a lake. Whether the one she sought or another of the many other jewels scattered throughout the Sierras, this side of the glacier, she couldn’t be sure until she got closer. Everything in her demanded she stop, set up camp, and ensure she didn’t freeze during the night. If the glimmer of sunlight on the breeze-ripped whitecaps represented the wrong body of water, heading into the valley, where cold air lay stagnant, she could be sealing her fate.
Drama! Of course she’d be nervous when she rarely overnighted alone…having someone at her side made her feel safer, more able to handle a crisis. She stumbled over a tree root at the edge of the path and cursed. If she’d fallen and hit her head, she could have bled to death and nobody would have known—since she’d have been dragged off by wild beasts and devoured.
Twenty years from now, thirty maybe, someone hiking through here would find her white, polished skull, a lurid testament to what the bears like for dinner. Shreds of worn fabric tangled in the branches of a tree then much taller than when she’d been murdered, maybe a faint stain of rusty red on the rock where she’d suffered her mortal injury.
They’d all be sorry…they’d…but who would?
In a fit of self-pity, Michaela sank to the rock, an innocent hunk of granite holding no bloodstains whatsoever. Truth was nobody would miss her. Oh, her assistant might be a little sad and she had some dear friends, but nobody who would be heartbroken, whose life would be left with a gaping hole if she never returned from her foolish journey. Sometimes she missed Silas a lot. With him at her side, she’d never worried about anything.
But not as much as…well, no point in trying to relive a past so long ago she’d no doubt changed the details to suit her. And Silas had been a great and noble companion, trailing her on her adventures without complaint, even if their relationship had been best friends first, lovers second. But why was his face not the most vivid in her imagination as she knelt to brush aside some branches and twigs and make a place to spread her bedroll?
How many years could she hold the visage close to her heart…the face of a man who left her before they even had the chance to find out if they had a future together? Who’d rejected her offer in such a brusque way?
Michaela hung her pack on a high branch about fifteen feet away from her camp spot, then moved back, unzipped the bag, and slipped inside, removing her shoes once she’d closed it around her. She’d be warm enough and, with her pack out of easy reach and not right next to her, she’d be less likely to attract wild animals.
Fires were a no go at this season, too easy to start a wildfire, but it wouldn’t be her first night without one.
As she fell toward sleep, her imagination conjured him there with her. Not Silas, but her old crush. Odd but she could still remember his arms tight around her, how masculine and enticing he smelled when she buried her nose in his neck. How exciting when she’d first felt his rock-hard appendage pressing against her belly. And her ass.
She remembered everything.
But he wouldn’t remember. She’d made an ass of herself, and probably a cock-tease for an entire summer, throwing herself at him in the awkward way of an untried nineteen year old, and he’d never taken her up on it. He couldn’t have made his disinterest—barring of course the natural reaction of a healthy male to a girl in his arms—any more clear.
He’d married that bitch Julia. She’d learned that from an old camp friend, but asked not to be told any more. Her imagination was cruel enough.. They’d probably had several children, each as beautiful as the one before. While she scrambled over scree slopes, laden with camera equipment, he’d be having dinner at his country club, hitting a tiny ball on a manicured verdant course, attending the local philharmonic with his wife decked out in jewels and furs.
Shoving the thought of anyone else in his life aside, she snuggled into the sleeping bag. Her fingers moved under the waistband of her pants and into her panties, wet even now with the memory of the hard-bodied guy she’d craved. Stroking through the silky cream, she let one digit slip inside and moaned. The same fantasy, embellished over the years….
“Come on, what are we waiting for?” Michaela snuggled close to his warmth, wishing she could stay there forever. “You’re flying out, who knows if we’ll ever even see each other again.” She played her fingers down the warm curve of his neck and over his chest. One chance to get him into her wet panties, to learn what it would feel like to have him inside her. Would it hurt, like some of the girls claimed? Val wouldn’t want to hurt her, but if that was the only way?
But after that, him pulsing inside her. Filling her, stretching her.
Val rested his cheek on the top of her head and sighed. “I don’t want our first time to be our last.”
“Let tomorrow take care of itself. You’ll be back, won’t you?” Her heart beat in her throat. “Next summer. Or are you saying tonight is it…no matter what?” Why did it hurt so much? She struggled to pull away, but he tightened his arms.
“I never said that. You know I care for you, Mickie.” Nobody else got away with calling her that. Like she was a mouse or something. It was bad enough to have a boy’s name.
She tried again, pressing kisses against his warm chest, bare where she’d managed to slip a few buttons from their holes, and thrust her breasts against him, hoping her hard nipples would entice him to lick her there again. Her fingers rubbed the hard ridge tenting his pants. “Then why don’t you want to…to do it with me? You don’t want me that way, don’t think I’m enough woman for you.”
He chuckled, his skin vibrating under her cheek. “I think you’re enough woman for anyone. I don’t want to start something we can’t finish.” As she parted her lips to protest, he continued. “I don’t even have any protection with me. What if you got pregnant?”
“I don’t see a downside to having your child. Aren’t we going to be together anyway?”
Now he struggled, managing to leave a few inches between them in the down bag. As if she might get pregnant from cuddling. “I’m just starting my master’s program. Then at least five years of career building before I can even consider marriage and a family, Mickie. If you got pregnant, it would be a disaster!”
Up to the disaster comment they weren’t in trouble, but the moment that evil word passed his lips, she made use of the space between them to punch him in the gut. Hard.
“I’m so sorry the idea of my having your baby is comparable to the Titanic. Let me out of here.” Michaela jerked the zipper down and struggled to her feet, reaching back into the bottom of the bag to fetch her boots.
She laced them sitting on the ground, the cold air chilling her to the bone and making her nipples ache almost as much as her heart. Sobs shook her shoulders and her heart broke.
So Julia told the truth. “You have big plans, Val, and I don’t fit into them. You won’t even make love with me one time before you leave.”
I can’t believe he’d rather fuck that frigid rich bitch than me. Can’t he see how much I care for him?
“Julia is probably a better fit for you anyway.”
Shut up! Shut up! Don’t throw him at her.
But hurt pride filled her mouth with stupid words. “I am sure her daddy’s connections will be what you need to make those five years count. Of course, once you’re married you won’t have to ever worry about career problems, will you?”
She’d fled down the trail toward the distant lights of the camp, too upset to care if she ever saw him again. So independent at that age. All black or white, no shades of gray.
No stopping to wait for explanations.
All or nothing.
No matter how wet he made her, how needy, she’d find a way to live without him. She’d never see him again.
Shaking off the past, Michaela pulled her head into the bag and prepared to wait out the darkness. She’d gotten good at wishing. Wishing for Val to realize his mistake before it was too late, for her career as a photographer to take off, for the pregnancy that Val considered a disaster but Silas longed for, for morning. At least half those things were guarantees.