“Small Woman, Big Trouble” blurb:
Deb Steele hikes through a Water Authority reservation. But houses are being built on one section of it, and she can’t get home. She phones Kai Cole, and he and Harry Anders come to get her. While she’s waiting for them, her cell phone battery dies and a young man turns up on an electric scooter. When he realizes she’s quite alone, he plans to sexually assault her. She escapes from him just as Kai and Harry arrive.
Kai worries about how he can protect Deborah if this man is following her, and Harry suggests they learn karate. Kai decides the only way their beginning threesome relationship can progress further is if they all move in together.
But, as Deb is leaving work late that evening, the attacker jumps her once again. Why is he after her? How can the men protect her? And will they ever have enough time to build their friendship into a genuine relationship?
Today was a perfect spring Saturday and she wanted to go hiking, but none of her friends would go with her. After eight text messages and three phone calls all telling her “No way,” she decided to walk by herself. Six months or so ago she and Kai had walked through a Water Authority reservation. It was a wide, three-quarter-circle of consecutive parks and grassed areas, crossed by roads every now and then. Eventually it ended, but a mile from there to the left was the main road that would take her almost all the way back to her home. All up, about ten miles to hike, much of it on grass and walking tracks, the perfect hike for such a lovely day.
Undeterred by the lack of a companion, Deborah shoved three bottles of water, some energy bars, and an apple into a small day pack, checked her cell phone was in the pocket of her shorts, slung a sweater around her neck, laced up her gym shoes, and left her apartment.
Smiling to herself, she walked down the road from her apartment block, turned right, hiked a few blocks, and was at the first park. This bit was the least enticing. It was pretty much just grass with a few scraggly bushes where teenagers hung out to smoke and drink. But after a few blocks, and across another road, the next park was much nicer, with flower gardens and a kids’ play area. Today parents were sitting on the grass while children played in the fort and ran around laughing and screaming happily.
By now she had settled into a steady hiking pace, and was really enjoying the sunshine and the scenery she passed. I’m so glad I came. I needed a nice long walk, and who cares if I don’t have anyone to walk with.
The next couple of miles were steadily uphill, so when she reached an area with flower gardens, she sat on the grass for a break, munching on an energy bar and drinking one of her bottles of water. She looked all around, but she wasn’t high enough to have a nice view. Still, the green of the grass, the multicolored flowers, and their various perfumes were a treat for her senses, so she stretched her back, knotted her sweater into the straps of her day pack, and began walking again.
Less than a mile farther on, her journey started to unravel. A new housing estate was being built all across the grass and park. What had been a reservation was evidently now housing land, and surrounded by a high barbed-wire fence. Deborah guessed she was at the farthest point of the three-quarter-circle from her home, say five miles, so it was a gamble whether she went back the way she’d come or tried to find a new way forward.
All I have to do is get to the next park. So a block to the left, then a block to the right, turn right again and I should see the park from there. No problem.
Deborah headed left and walked. And walked, and walked some more. There were no roads to the right, and very few to the left either. Besides, going left was stupid. She’d be better off turning back and retracing her steps all the way home. She thought about turning back, but the farther she walked, the more she decided there had to be a side road soon. Surely. Eventually she accepted she’d miscalculated and stopped at a side road to the left. Problem was, the side road was named, but the road she was in wasn’t. Thank god the side road wasn’t “Main Street” or “First Avenue” or something there’d be a million of. Unfortunately there was probably going to be more than one “Hillside View.” Hopefully only two or three though and she could work out where she was.
Deborah sat on the sidewalk, dropping her day pack beside her, and pulled out her cell phone, scrolling through the icons for Google Maps. She began with her home and traced her journey through the various parks, looking for the new housing estate. But it wasn’t there. Again and again she ran her finger along the route she’d walked, but there was nothing on the map to indicate which park had become a housing estate, and therefore no way of knowing exactly where she was and how to get home. Apart from walking all the way back. Well fuck! I thought these maps were downloaded from NASA and updated daily.
Deborah shrugged her shoulders and stretched a few times. Either she was a hell of a lot less fit than she’d thought she was, or she’d walked way farther than she’d guessed. Her legs and back were tired, and although she likely could manage walking the entire return journey, she damn sure didn’t want to. So all she had to decide was whether or not to suck it up and turn back and start walking right now, or phone a friend. She looked at the sky, then at the time on her cell phone. She knew her pace had been steady, and she’d only had the one break at the top of the hill. From the elapsed time, she had to have walked about eight miles already. By the time she walked eight miles back it’d be almost dusk, not a good time for a small female to be out alone in a park. Dammit! She really didn’t have a choice at all. Kai was so going to laugh at her.
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