It’s the story of Scott Nielsen, a man at a crossroads in his life. He’s walking away from his job as a wilderness counselor to start his own business. In his personal life, this Dominant is ready to leave behind the casual encounters at the BDSM club and find his own submissive.
When he visits his friend Blake Walker to ask about leasing space for his outdoors school at the Walkers’ remote guest lodge, he meets Blake’s sister Jackie, a strong, determined single mom who runs the lodge.
Their mutual attraction is obvious, but Jackie’s not anyone’s submissive. Is it simply a missed connection? Or fate?
Here’s the opening of WARRIOR MINE.
***WARNING–Occasionally characters have potty mouths. They’re like that sometimes.***
“Fuck you, man! I’m not coming down. And you can’t make me.”
Scott Nielsen closed his eyes and slowly drew a deep, cleansing breath. I’m getting too old for this shit.
Mentally adjusting his professional ‘I have this under control’ game face as six other campers looked on curiously, he tilted his head to look up into the thirty-foot pine.
“Suit yourself, Sowder,” he replied calmly. “The rest of us are going to the mess hall for dinner.” He turned to gaze out across the lake, then flicked his light blue eyes back to the teenager in the tree. “It’s going to be dark soon, and it’s supposed to be a cold one tonight. But you do what you need to do.”
“Fuck you, man,” came the sullen reply.
Scott shook his head. “Now you’re just repeating yourself.”
To the others, he said, “Come on, gentlemen. It’s chili night.” Reluctantly, the group made their way toward the trail that would lead them from the lake to the mess hall located in the center of the camp.
Scott had been almost certain that when the errant camper saw them all leaving, he’d scramble down the tree and follow, not unlike a three-year-old throwing a tantrum. But one last glance over his shoulder told him the young man had opted to stay exactly where he was.
“See you in the morning, Sowder,” he said as he followed the other boys to dinner.
The following morning, Scott was up before the sun. Truth be told, he hadn’t slept much, tossing and turning in his bunk as he thought about Sowder up in the tree all night. He’d given the sixteen-year-old ample opportunity to climb down. And the weather reports had assured him the evening low would remain a moderate 15°C. The summer was shaping up to be unusually dry, too, so there was little chance that young Sowder would be at risk of hypothermia.
Still, Scott didn’t want anyone hurt on his watch. He’d been on staff at Crossroads Wilderness School for the last ten years, following a stint in the Army. Much to his father’s disappointment, the idea of a regular nine-to-five job had never appealed to him, so he’d taken what he’d learned at the government’s expense, along with a lifetime of outdoors experience and a degree in psychology, and he’d forged a career as a wilderness therapist.
Most of the campers at Crossroads were there as guests of the juvenile court system, although there was the occasional voluntary participant. His friend Blake Walker, for example.
Blake had come to Crossroads during Scott’s early days, following a horrific tragedy that had left the younger man emotionally shattered. Later, Blake had returned as a fellow therapist, and the pair had forged an indelible friendship.
Blake had moved on a few years ago, gone home to help run his family’s wilderness lodge outside of Eliot Lake. There were definitely times when Scott considered other options. Like last night, when Sowder refused to climb down out of the tree.
He shook his head and gazed at himself in the mirror of his Lilliputian private bathroom, not for the first time noticing tiny lines etched around his eyes. An idea had been growing in his mind for a while now. Maybe the time was right to consider a new venture. Sighing deeply, he quickly pulled his long blonde hair into a messy knot at the back of his head.
Passing his laptop on his way out of the bathroom, he stopped, pecked out a quick message, and hit ‘print.’ He folded the paper, slipped it into the pocket of his jacket, and headed outside.
“Good morning, gentlemen,” he said as he entered the bunkhouse. He was greeted by a chorus of groans, which he ignored. “Up and at ‘em. The sun is shining—well, not yet, but it will be soon. The birds are singing, and today is a brand-new day. Let’s take the ladder and go get your friend out of the tree, what do you say?”
Following the end of the breakfast rush, the silence in the empty mess hall was deafening. Scott stirred his blue enamelware mug of coffee and surreptitiously glanced at the teen picking at his breakfast across the table from him. He’d noticed the shift in Sowder’s attitude from surly to sheepish as soon as his fellow campers had headed out for a day-long hike into the Canadian wilderness.
“How are the eggs, Sowder?”
The boy shrugged indifferently. “I don’t know why I can’t go with the others, man. It’s not fair.” While his words offered a challenge, his tone was less confrontational.
“Doc says you were pre-hypothermic. We need to get you warmed up and let you rest for the day.”
“It’s all your fault, man. I can’t believe you left me up there all night.” He tried to fix his counselor with a defiant glare.
Feeling his patience wearing thin, Scott leaned forward on his elbows and arched an eyebrow sharply, saying nothing.
Outpowered by age and experience, Sowder backed down, forking another mound of scrambled eggs into his mouth. “It was fucking scary, man. This bear came along, sniffing at the tree. I thought I was going to die.”
“Language,” Scott replied automatically. The camp had rules about campers using profanity. “Anyway, you’re safe now. Why did you go up there in the first place?”
Again, the surly shrug. “I don’t know. I got mad.”
“You got mad.”
“Yeah, man, I don’t know. Everybody got their fire right but me.” He used his fork to aimlessly push his eggs across his plate.
“And so you climbed a tree and refused to get down.”
The teen snorted. “No, man, that would be stupid. Paulsen laughed at me, you know. Pissed me off.”
Eyes sparkling, Scott suppressed a smile and waited.
Sowder looked up. “What?!”
“You tell me.”
The boy shifted his jaw around. “It was a dumb-ass move,” he mumbled.
“Not your most shining moment, to be sure,” Scott agreed, “but you live, and you learn, right? What will you do next time?”
“Take his fucking head off,” he answered before stuffing his mouth with more eggs.
Scott cleared his throat and flashed his sternest look.
“Fuck me, man!” Sowder raised his hands in mock surrender.
“Okay, you have extra dishwashing duty tonight for the profanity. And since you’re not out hiking today, I’d suggest that you spend some time practicing your primitive fire building. Jason is a great resource when it comes to bow drills,” Scott offered, mentioning one of the other counselors.
“He’s working with the younger guys today. If you head over to the pavilion and ask nicely, maybe he’ll help you out.” Scott figured the other counselor would also have the patience to work with the young man.
“Why can’t you help me?” he asked forlornly.
“Because, my man,” Scott beamed at him as he pushed away from the table, “I have the weekend off. But,” he clapped the boy on the shoulder, “I’ll be back in time to leave for our two-weeker on Monday. Get a handle on that fire building, and you can be on fire detail Monday night.”