Chapter Eighteen

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Connor, I discovered, was the kind of person who took most things in his stride. Up to and including having a guy he barely knew jump him in front of his ex's place of residence.

An all around lucky break, on my part.

When we'd eventually came up for air, "I'd planned to at least feed you first," was all he'd said before surreptitiously adjusting his cargo shorts and putting the Jeep into gear.

An hour later we'd passed through the town of Delores and were climbing out of the valley. A few additional minutes spent bumping down a dirt road lined with scabby looking pines and we pulled into a dusty and surprisingly crowded parking area.

On the way over Connor had explained that the trail we were headed for was a popular one with both hikers and mountain bikers. That morning it seemed to be mostly the latter. A fact evidenced by the number of empty roof and tailgate racks on the other vehicles. As I cracked open my door and stepped out onto the hard packed earth, I had a sudden vision of being pinged off a cliff pinball style by stoned cyclists. Of all the ways to go, there was something uniquely distasteful about the notion.

"Unpopular opinion, but I don't mind busy trails," Connor way saying, fingers hooked together as he stretched his toned arms above his head. His shirt rode up with the action, distracting me momentarily from our impending deaths via lycra bike short wearing hipsters. "On the one hand, there's always some jackass blaring music and dropping Snickers wrappers. But if you fall and break your ass, it's nice to know that somebody's going to wander by before too long."

"Very reassuring," I agreed, solemnly as I could manage.

"City boy."

Outside of talking about where we were headed, it was the most he'd said since we'd left town. A fact I'd been thankful for, if I were being honest. My brain couldn't seem to decide whether its base mood for the day was going to be pissed, annoyed, horny, or a jumble of all three. Not the best headspace for concentrating on date worthy smalltalk.

Plus, every time he did open his mouth, I was afraid he was going to start asking me about what he'd just heard on the octogenarian grapevine.

Slinging my pack over my shoulder I followed him around to the back of the Jeep, where he'd pulled open the tailgate and was extracting gallon jugs of water from a big, ice filled cooler.

"What's all that for?" I asked.

"Us," he said, looking up from popping the cap on the first jug. He eyed me speculatively.

"What?"

"When you said you'd hiked before..." he said, letting it trail off into a question. "That is, what exactly did you pack for today?"

I told him.

"Okay," he said when I'd finished, his tone passing clear, if unspoken, judgement on my two bottles of water and bag of trail mix. "Would you be offended if I borrowed you a couple of things for the day?"

Then he started pulling equipment out of a duffle like Mary Poppins emptying her carpet bag.

Silently watching as the pile of "a couple things" grew into a couple dozen, I came to the conclusion that while I had hiked before, Connor and I had very different concepts of the activity. Or at least what went into the prep for it. The times I'd ventured up Spencer Butte with Tyler, the Oregon State attending college boyfriend or trudged through Discovery Park with my SPD co-workers, I'd gotten by with a bottle of Dasani and a power bar. Connor, on the other hand, packed like he was preparing for a fortnight in the Australian outback, complete with the usual complement of roving serial murderers.

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