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Safeword: Storm Clouds(5)

By´╝ÜCandace Blevins

Once Kendra and Eric were in his Range Rover he asked her about her house and house mates. "You live in a beautiful house. Well, a mansion really, I don't think you can call that a house. And you must have made some interior decorator somewhere quite wealthy. Who do you live there with?"

"It's kind of complicated. They are like family to me, I guess. There's no kinky sexual arrangements going on between my house mates and I, if that is what you are wondering. Tell me, why has an adrenaline junkie chosen to live in Chattanooga?"

"Are you kidding? I'm an hour from the Ocoee River, one of the best places to kayak in the country. I'm also an hour and a half from the Lookout Mountain hang gliding launch, one of the best places in the world to hang glide. There are literally hundreds of places to rappel within an hour of the city, possibly thousands. I can make it to a dozen different backcountry wilderness areas from here within three or four hours if I want to hike. There are so many caves in the area it's a caver's paradise. There are enough mountains to climb in eastern Tennessee and northern Georgia and northern Alabama and western North Carolina to last me for the next fifteen years. And the Tennessee River runs right through the center of town. This is an adrenaline junkie's dream come true."

"What do you do for a living to support your adrenaline habit?"

He laughed. "I create video games for couch potato adrenaline junkies. I don't need to go into an office for that, I can work from anywhere in the world."

"Where do you live? What part of town?"

"Not too far from you at the moment. I live in a yacht currently parked at the marina just down the road from here."

She grinned. “Why am I not surprised."

They talked easily as they drove up one of the mountains surrounding the city. Eric was twenty-five years old, and she avoided telling him how old she was by changing the subject when he asked. She'd been twenty-three when she was turned, but she had lived a very hard life and looked more like twenty-eight than twenty-three. Since she intended to eventually tell him she was a vampire, and she didn't want to lie to him, she would avoid questions that required a lie. When he stopped to get snacks she said she'd eaten shortly before she talked to him so she just wanted bottled water. Again, not a lie, she'd had some blood before leaving to go to TBR.

Once they reached the top of the mountain and drove for a bit he turned onto a dirt road. She looked at him quizzically and he said, "We can't do this on easily accessible public lands because they have rules against rappelling at night. If you're nervous about going into the woods with a stranger though, I'll understand, and we can do something else."

She smiled. “I think you're safe enough. Plus, you met my friends, they know your name and what you drive. If you wanted to take someone into the woods to do bad things to them I don't think you'd want to meet their housemates first. You'd have said that what I was wearing was fine."

Once they reached the top of the cliffs and turned the engine and headlights off he asked her if she wanted him to light the area up. She said she’d rather they just did this by the light of the moon, that she thought it should be plenty light enough once they let their night vision get used to the darkness. He gave a smile that told her he approved, and they got out.

Kendra watched him pull several things out of the back of the Range Rover, and then put what looked like carpet samples around the trees. He wrapped some sort of webbing around the carpet samples, and then attached the rope to the webbing. When he was done, each rope was attached to two trees, not one.

"What's with the carpet?"

"Ropes can hurt the bark, hurt the trees. The carpet protects the trees. Most people just use rope around something protective, but I don't like to depend on one tree, and the webbing is easier to work with when you are using multiple anchors. The way I've got everything connected here, with the ‘biners, the rope is pulling fairly equally on both trees so if one tree fails you've still got one tree holding you up. Also, with two trees sharing the weight, they are less likely to fail."

Kendra hadn't thought about the rope hurting the trees, but if this was a popular spot for rappelling she guessed the trees would eventually take enough damage to their bark that it could compromise them. Damn, this man was just doing more and more things to make her like him. Once he had the ropes ready to throw over the edge of the cliff he retrieved a shorter rope from the Range Rover and attached it to a big hook that had been wedged into the top of a large boulder, and then he began helping her into the harness, which involved a good bit of touching. She was getting a little bit turned on but was pretty sure she managed not to show it. There was no smell of arousal on him while he worked – he seemed intent on getting the harness right, more intent on safety than on flirting. She was both impressed and a little disappointed.