My company has arrived and we are off on our Gold Rush country adventure today. One of our first stops is at Moaning Caverns in Calaveras County where some of us will be zipping.
Show of hands. How many of you have done a Zip Line? Did it look anything like this one?
I’ve zipped twice and I found the experience thrilling and a major attitude adjustment. Embracing your fear to look at the world in a new way is very liberating.
The hero of my upcoming release MONTANA ROGUE is building a zip line near Marietta, Montana. He’s the rogue.
Tucker loves his life, but the physical demands of both jobs have taken a toll, so he’s looking ahead, and Montana called to him. He’s invested everything he’s got–and then some–to build Mountie’s Marvelous Montana Zip Line and Enduro Course.
Here’s a sneak peek from the zip he makes with his summer “roomate-with-benefits,” Amanda Heller:
The morning air couldn’t have been more perfect, Tucker thought the next day. Cool with a hint of the heat to come.
July, he’d been told, was a favorite month for sporting enthusiasts. From online conversations he’d had with other zip line owners around the country, the weather could make you or break you in this business. One place in California kept rain gear on hand for the winter months. Tucker would have to stock up for the spring, but he planned to close the gate and hit the dance circuit at the end of September. Or mid-October at the very latest.
At least, that was the plan. Justin had other ideas.
“Cross-country skiing, man,” Justin said, as he helped Amanda into her harness.
“I’ve heard snowshoeing is popular, too,” Amanda added.
“Great. Who’s going to build the lodge? Cold-weather sports need a place to warm up. The tent won’t work,” Tucker said, stepping into his harness. He pulled it up snug and leaned over to work his shoulders through the top straps like a pair of suspenders.
Glancing to his right, he saw Justin apply the locking carabiner to the two attachment loops at Amanda’s chest. “Get out of the way. Let me do that.”
Justin rolled his eyes. “Picky.”
Amanda snickered, obviously beginning to loosen up. She’d offered a slew of excuses to avoid testing out the zip line this morning, but Tucker remained adamant that she needed to experience the thrill in order to sell the thrill.
Mountie’s Marvelous Montana Zip Line was set to open in twenty-four hours. Most of that time would be devoted to zipping the guides so they could get down every safety measure, but the business side of things was equally important.
That’s where Amanda came in. His website looked great and seemed to be running smoothly. Since Ryker Bensen was still on his honeymoon, Amanda had hired Ryker’s photographer friend to take still shots to plaster around the Internet. And she had a professional videographer lined up to film testimonials from guests as soon as the lines were operational.
“Did I tell you Mountie’s Marvelous website already has had more than a 100K visits and zips are being booked at a phenomenal rate considering we don’t have any reviews posted yet?”
“Yes, you did,” Amanda said. “Did I tell you Bailey Zabrinski and Kat Robinson are bringing a carload of kids to test it out–and talk it up–this afternoon?”
But the morning belonged to Tucker and Amanda.
“Sit into the harness and lift up your feet so I can make sure it’s snug enough,” he told her.
He made a couple of adjustments, his fingers lingering on the sun-kissed skin of her upper thighs. “How’s that feel?”
He noticed Justin watching so he quickly made the same adjustments to his own harness. “I haven’t done this since Mexico. Fell completely in love with the idea of affordable cheap thrills.”
“Isn’t that redundant?” Justin asked.
Amanda stepped between them. “Welcome to Testosterone City,” she said with a laugh. “Are we going to do this or not? My mother is coming, remember?”
She’d broken the news that morning.
“My mother is making an unplanned site inspection,” she’d told him, with such a flat, dispassionate tone she had to have practiced the delivery. “She also plans to attend Molly’s competency hearing.”
Tucker wasn’t completely surprised, since June’s lawyers were the ones who’d initiated the petition to have Molly declared incompetent.
“Are we ready?” Justin asked, taking charge of the zip. “You’re going to make a lateral practice run first. Nice and easy.” He looked at Tucker. “Do you want to go first?”
“Wait,” Amanda said, her hand settling with familiarity and a certain amount of concern on his bare forearm. “Are you sure your doctor cleared this?”
“Yep,” Tucker fibbed. He hadn’t asked his ortho doc specifically if it was safe to zip, but the man had given him the okay to resume normal activities. Jumping around was normal for Tucker. He’d wrapped his ankle just in case and he’d chosen to wear hiking boots that laced to the mid-shin. The boots had protected his ankles through some of the most difficult terrain on the planet. A little zip was not going to be a problem.
As per protocol, one of their newly trained guides, a college girl named Kelly, went through the step-by-step safety instructions. “Feet extended, sit back in the harness and let gravity do its job. Squeeze to brake with a four-to-six-foot lead. Ease to a stop.”
He caught most of her words, even though his gaze remained on Amanda, who appeared to be having a serious conversation with Justin. What are they talking about? Me? The business? The grand opening? The possibilities were endless, and he had no reason to be jealous. Absolutely zero.
So, why was he?
He recognized the emotion, even though he went out of his way to avoid feeling enough of an attachment to anyone or anything to ever be jealous.
“Are we good?” Kelly asked.
“Yes.” He regretted his testy tone when she frowned and looked a little hurt. Hurting the feelings of cute girls was so not his style, but he was too preoccupied at the moment to care. He turned toward his destination pole, pushed off and picked up his feet.
Did his ankle twinge a tiny bit? Maybe, but nothing to worry about. This was a piece of cake.
Except for the fact he completely misjudged his braking distance and wound up dangling like a dufus fifteen feet from the landing pole. Justin’s bark of laughter carried across the pure mountain air. Proof, of course, that Tucker’s focus was shot.
With a little help from the guide who had been braced to prevent his collision with the padded pole, Tucker managed to make it to the platform. His guide disconnected the line and directed him to a safe spot to watch the next zipper. Amanda. Considerably lighter–and with a great deal more grace–she zipped right to the platform, braking like a pro.
Tucker barely noticed. All he could see was the light of joy in her face, the unguarded pleasure in her eyes and the smile that lassoed his heart and squeezed the air out of his lungs.
Oh, good God, he thought. It’s finally happened. I’m in freakin’ love.
Next week, I’ll share some more pics from our travels. In the meantime, have a great weekend!