Home > Crash Into You (Dare With Me #1)

Crash Into You (Dare With Me #1)
Author: J.H. Croix

Chapter One

 

 

Daphne

 

 

A moose lumbered across the road in front of me, and I came to an abrupt stop, the SUV jerking when I slammed my foot on the brakes. “Holy shit!”

No one was in the SUV with me to hear my irreverent reaction. Although I’d done some research and knew wildlife was abundant in Alaska, it was still rather startling.

While the moose appeared to be moving slowly, its long stride covered the ground at a deceptively quick pace. Inside of a few seconds, the animal had crossed the road into a field abloom in fuchsia flowers. Its rump disappeared into a cluster of evergreen trees. I gave my head a small shake and realized I was stopped in the middle of a highway. It wasn’t exactly busy, but nonetheless, it was a highway.

Laughing to myself, I eased off the brake and put my foot on the gas pedal again. Alaska’s roads weren’t crowded. As I glanced to the side while picking up speed, my breath caught at the ocean glinting under the sunshine splashing across its surface.

To one side of this highway was mountains and trees, and to the other was Cook Inlet, stretching inland from the Pacific Ocean into Alaska. I’d already counted two glaciers and marveled at the way the ocean lapped at the base of the mountains on the other side as I drove along.

My GPS wasn’t being too helpful. And I’d quickly discovered that the cell reception wasn’t great here either. It was spotty at best and seemed only decent when I passed through the small towns scattered along this highway, which could take me to the farthest western point in the United States if I followed it that far.

“Dammit,” I said as I glanced at the GPS on my dashboard screen.

The marker on the map still showed me sitting in a parking lot in Anchorage. “Please don’t tell me you’re broken.”

I wished the friendly computerized voice would assure me she was not, in fact, broken. But she—the GPS voice in this SUV I’d rented, that is—remained stubbornly silent at my plea.

“Thanks for nothing,” I muttered.

Anxiety, the worst kind of close friend, tightened in my chest. For the past year and a half of my life, I felt as if I’d been flung off a cliff with nothing in sight. I still felt as if I was spinning helplessly, trying to find a sense of equilibrium and somewhere to land. The last thing I needed was to get geographically lost rather than being metaphorically lost in my mind and heart.

“It’s okay,” I assured myself. “You know where you’re going.”

Side note: emotional trauma could lead to lots of soliloquies. Out loud. Thank God, I was alone more often than not, or I was certain people might consider me crazy.

Roughly an hour later, I was cursing my silly decision to try to be easy-going about my planning. Cell reception was total shit. My GPS seemed to truly be useless. To add to the mess, my SUV apparently had some kind of electrical malfunction because the speedometer kept blinking in and out. I presumed said electrical problem was the reason my GPS had abandoned me in my time of need.

“You’re just looking for the name of the resort. You can find it. There will be a sign.”

Yup, conversations with myself were the thing these days.

In most places, highways had signs—lots of signs—but Alaska kept it simple. There were mileage signs marking the distance to various towns, but I hadn’t seen a single billboard. I recalled reading that Alaska had banned billboards upon its inception as a state. I supposed that was nice in theory, although I really, really wouldn’t have minded one announcing my upcoming destination right about now.

The view was spectacular, and I’d seen several more moose as I’d traveled south. The one small problem, though, was that I was flying blind. The sun was starting its bow, and I was praying to reach my destination before it disappeared behind the mountains. Although it was August, the mountain peaks still had snow. Climate change was coming, but Alaska was hanging in there, at least at some elevations.

Walker Adventures was roughly twenty miles outside of one of Alaska’s gems, Diamond Creek. Diamond Creek, the adjacent town near the resort, was where I intended to spend a month. That’s right, an entire month in the wilderness. Me, Daphne Bell, doing something so wildly out of the ordinary that basically everyone I knew thought I was crazy.

I needed this almost as much as I needed air. My actual life, the one I left behind, was an epic mess and littered with regret, recrimination, and almost unbearable pain. Maybe, just maybe, I could piece myself together if I was far enough away.

“Oh! A sign! All you have to say is resort,” I muttered to the green highway sign in question. “A little specificity never hurt anyone.”

Fuck it. I took that left turn. The pavement stretched for a few miles and then transitioned. “Oh, hell,” I murmured as the little blue SUV rumbled confidently over the gravel road. At least I made sure to rent a trusty vehicle with 4-wheel drive.

I kept on going, telling myself the same thing over and over again. You’ll find it, you’re meant to be here, and it’s all going to be okay.

Considering I was thoroughly acquainted with just how not okay life could be, my faith in the universe was shaky at best.

Roughly forty-five minutes later, with one wheel mired deep in a mud puddle, I was staring at a bear. “Are you a brown bear or a grizzly bear?” I asked from the safety of my SUV as said bear ambled along the opposite side of the road, giving me nothing more than a cursory glance.

“Since when do roads not have shoulders?” I looked at my cell phone and glared at the no signal warning. “Fuck you.”

The bear in question had caused me to swerve off the edge of the road, promptly dropping one rear wheel deep in the mud. I tapped my GPS button on the dashboard screen but got nothing. I didn’t even know if I’d been speeding on the gravel road. My SUV seemed to be working, but the bells and whistles definitely weren’t.

I heard a plane above and looked up at the sky through my windshield. Mind you, I didn’t dare open my window in case the bear came over and ate my face.

“Oh, the plane’s landing!”

The small plane descended in the sky and appeared to be landing not too awfully far away. But as the crow flew, or in this case literally as the plane flew, it could be as far as a few miles away. I didn’t dare climb out and walk. Because: bears and God only knew what else.

My stomach growled, and I slapped my hand over it. I hadn’t brought enough snacks. The resort promised a dinner tonight, and I thought for sure I would get there with hours to spare, so I’d eaten my last granola bar a few hours ago.

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