Gone Wild by Dakota Madison
Genre: Romantic Comedy
â SYNOPSIS â
Go BACK TO BOOKMAN with USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR Dakota Madison's new #LoveinMidlife #ComingofMiddleAge romantic comedy series.
Tenured English professor Bly Daniels believes the short walk from her campus office to the university library is too much exposure to the harsh elements of the outdoors. She would prefer to spend her days (and nights) comfortably seated indoors reading classic literature.
When Bly is arrested for reading one of the great books while driving home, a judge sentences her to thirty days of community service with The Wild Way, a therapeutic wilderness program for troubled teens.
There she meets Turner Wild, the owner and operate of the wilderness program. Turner is everything Bly despises: rugged, unrefined and outdoorsy. For Bly a trip to hell sounds more desirable than spending an entire month with Turner and his band of hooligans as they traverse the woods of rural northwest New Jersey communing with nature.
Bly certainly never expects to form a bond with the troubled teens she's been assigned to mentor and forge an unlikely relationship with their fearless leader, Turner Wild.
Each full-length novel in Dakota Madison's LOVE IN MIDLIFE romantic comedy series can be read as a stand-alone or as part of the series. Each story features one of the graduates of Bookman College attending their 25th reunion.
â PURCHASE â
â EXCERPT â
âThis is as far as I go,â the crusty old cab driver barks as he stops in front of a long dirt road that disappears into the woods.
âHow far is it to the wilderness camp?â I ask.
âPretty far, I would imagine. Itâs not visible from the road at all.â
âAnd how am I supposed to get there?â
âI guess youâre just going to have to walk.â
I laugh until I realize heâs not joking. He expects me to walk into the woods on a dirt road that is God knows how long.
Then I realize Iâll also have to carry my bag as well. I could barely carry my suitcase to the front stoop for him to place in his truck.
âI can only take the cab on paved roads,â he tells me. âCompany rules.â
Is that supposed to make me feel better? It doesnât.
I heave a huge sigh. âHow much do I owe you?â
I hand him three ten dollar bills, plus a five dollar tip.
âLet me get your bag out of the trunk.â
When he exits the cab I take a moment to compose myself. Iâm already so far out of my comfort zone I feel like Iâm having a panic attack, and I havenât even made it to the camp yet.
Youâre an intelligent woman with a doctoral degree, I remind myself. You can do this.
By the time I exit the cab my bag is already on the side of the road waiting for me.
âGood luck,â the cab driver says.
It probably wasnât the smartest idea I ever had to wear a dress and pumps. In my defense I donât have much else in my wardrobe. Work attire and lounging outfits for around the house are about it. When I teach I always wear a dress or a suit with dress shoes. I wouldnât be caught dead outside of my home in one of my lounging outfits.
Calling the dirt pathway a road is extremely generous. The trail is much rockier and uneven than I initially thought. The shoes Iâm wearing are not even close to being appropriate for the conditions. Iâll be lucky if I donât turn an ankle.
My suitcase is another problem entirely. I can barely make it a few feet before I have to set it down. The muscles in my arms are already throbbing and I havenât even made it far enough to spot the end of the trail yet.
Luckily itâs still early in the day. Iâve got many hours of sunlight left. Even if it takes me several hours walking a few steps at a time I should make it there before dark.
Unless itâs a few miles to the camp, then Iâll be in a bit of trouble.
Two hours and thirty seven minutes later Iâve had about all that I can take. My feet are blistered and aching. Iâm afraid when I finally remove my shoes my feet will be bloody as well.
My arms are so weak I donât think I can lift the suitcase again.
And Iâm on the verge of complete exhaustion.
What was I thinking packing so much stuff? I was thinking Iâll be here an entire month and I need reading materials.
Here is no water but only rock
Rock and no water and the sandy road.
Those words from T.S. Eliotâs âThe Waste Landâ seem appropriate right now. I take a seat on my suitcase and wipe the sweat from my brow with a tissue that I just happened to have shoved in my pocket. I canât even remember the last time I sweated. It may have been in high school when we were forced to play those utterly horrendous sports in our Physical Education classes.
I was supposed to be at the apex of my career this year. I was finally promoted from Associate to Full Professor. Edgar had been hinting that when he retired I was first in line to take over as Chairperson of the English Department. I was just a few months away from paying off the mortgage on my house.
Now it looks like I might lose everything, and Iâm sitting in the middle of the woods helpless to do anything about it. Edgar was not happy when I told him I needed to take a month of personal leave and heâd need to find a substitute to teach my classes. That coupled with the fact that my arrest and conviction has tarnished the reputation of the institution does not bode well for me still having a career upon my return from this journey into the wilderness.
The sun is starting to get higher overhead, and itâs beating down on me. Iâm not sure how much of the blistering brightness my pale skin can take. I should probably edge closer to the tree line where itâs shaded, but Iâm too exhausted to move.
Iâm just about to fall asleep seated on my suitcase when a large pickup truck whizzes by. I try to raise a hand to wave the driver over, but to no avail. My arm wonât lift high enough.
Instead I choke on the dust left in the truckâs wake.
Then to my surprise the trucks comes to a screeching halt, reverses and heads back towards me.
When I rise to greet the driver my legs feel like cooked noodles. Theyâre so weak I can barely control them as I move towards the truck.
My eyes go wide when I see who has hopped out of the vehicle. The driver is a young, petite woman of Asian descent.
From the neck up sheâs beautiful, with long silky dark hair and perfect features. From the neck down sheâs dressed like a man. Sheâs wearing well-worn jeans, black combat boots and a green Army jacket.
âAre you lost?â Her tone is accusatory, definitely not friendly.
I shake my head.
âYou know this road leads to a wilderness camp for troubled teens.â
She looks me up and down. âYou donât look like youâre ready for the wilderness, and youâre definitely not a teenager.â
âIâm aware of that.â My voice is weary. âIâm court ordered to be here. Community service.â
She rolls her eyes. âLucky us.â
âUnfortunately the cab driver wouldnât take me beyond the main road. Iâve been walking for hours.â
âWould you like a lift?â She raises an eyebrow.
âThat would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.â
She lets down the tailgate of the pickup, presumably for me to place my luggage in the empty truck bed.
I do my best to drag the suitcase over to the truck, but I feel like my muscles are on fire. There is no way Iâm going to be able to lift the suitcase into the back of the vehicle.
The woman and I both stare at the suitcase for several moments.
âYou canât lift it, can you?â she asks finally.
I shake my head.
âUnbelievable.â She grabs the suitcase like itâs no heavier than a rag doll and tosses it into the back of her truck. Then she slams the tailgate of the truck closed.
She glares at me for several seconds. âI have some advice for you. Never pack more than you can carry.â
Before I have a chance to respond she marches over to the driverâs side of the truck and hops in.
I hurry over to the passenger side of the vehicle and stare at it for a few moments. Iâm five feet seven inches tall. The woman is easily five inches shorter than me and she got into the truck with very little effort. I have no idea how Iâm going to climb into this thing, particularly in my dress and heels.
âAre you coming?â She glares at me again. Sheâs very good at glaring. Despite her small stature sheâs quite intimidating.
âIf youâll give me just a few seconds I need to figure out how to get inside of this truck.â
âOh, for Godâs sake.â
She jumps back out of the vehicle, makes her way around to my side then gives me an extremely hard shove right on my buttocks which propels me enough that Iâm able to climb into the seat.
She stomps back over to her side of the truck, leaps into her seat with the ease of a rabbit then slams her door shut.
âYour truck is very high off the ground,â I observe.
âNo shit, Sherlock. Now fasten your seatbelt.â
The woman doesnât say another word to me as we head down the dusty road toward the camp.
Thankfully she parks extremely close to what appears to be a main building. It has a placard which says: The Wild Way Administration.
I do my best to hop out of the truck in my heels. The woman opens the back of the truck, hoists my suitcase out of the truck bed and tosses it on the ground.
She doesnât wait for me to say anything, not even a thank you. She marches back over to the driverâs side, leaps into the truck like a frog, and drives somewhere behind the administration building.
Iâm not sure what to do. I donât feel like dealing with my suitcase so I just leave it where the woman tossed it. Thereâs not another soul anywhere so I donât think itâs in danger of being stolen. Not that my clothing and books would be of value to anyone but me.
I walk up the small set of stairs to the administration office. The building is really just a large cabin, much like all of the other smaller cabins scattered about the heavily wooded property.
Unfortunately the front door is locked. I try knocking, then pounding, but to no avail. The place appears to be deserted.
The person with whom I spoke on the phone, Turner Wild, the program director, told me specifically to report to the camp today. I even wrote it down. He was very short with me, much the way the Asian American woman was, so I wasnât able to get him to commit to a specific time.
My feet are throbbing. Iâm not that motivated to walk over to any of the other cabins, which are a significant distance from this one, several hundred yards at least.
The small porch that Iâm standing on doesnât have any chairs, or seats of any kind, so I guess Iâm stuck standing here for a while until someone appears, or I figure out something else to do.
I wait for what feels like an hour, but when I glance at my watch I realize only twenty minutes have actually gone by. Time seems to pass very slowly when I donât have my nose firmly planted in a book.
Thatâs when I hear rustling on the roof of the administration building. Panic begins to set in when some tree debris fly off the roof and nearly hit me.
Whatâs up there? Is it some kind of animal?
Then I hear stompingâloud, heavy stompingâright above me. Is it possible for a bear to climb on a rooftop?
My chest tightens and I feel like I canât breathe. Iâm going to get killed by a bear and I havenât even started working here yet.
More tree debris rain down on me: branches, bark, pine cones.
What is going on up there?
Then I hear hammering. To my knowledge bears donât know how to use hammers. Is Turner Wild on the roof? Or maybe the woman who gave me a lift in her truck?
âHello?â I shout when the hammering stops. âHello?â
âYou made it,â a male voice shouts back.
I nearly jump out of my shoes when the guy, presumably Turner Wild, jumps down from the roof and lands on the porch next to me.
âCommunity service?â He places his hammer on the porch rail next to him and wipes his dirty hands on the sides of his jeans.
âThatâs what Iâm here for.â
The man is different than how I pictured him from our very brief phone conversation. I thought heâd be a lot younger, maybe late twenties or early thirties, but he looks more like heâs my age, mid-to-late forties.
Thatâs not to say there isnât a youthful air about him.
Everything about this man is rugged and outdoorsy. His brown hair is cut in a short, military-style haircut. His strong features look a bit rough and weatherworn. His dark jeans and t-shirt are tight fitting and display every one of the large muscles on his exceptionally masculine body.
And heâs wearing a very large knife hanging from his belt. Iâm not surprised he runs a wilderness camp. It would be difficult to imagine someone who looks the way he does doing anything else.
Well, maybe serving in those Special Operations Forces in the military. I could picture him in one of those SEAL teams like the one that killed Bin Laden.
I decide there are only two likely vocations for this man: killing bears or killing Bin Laden.
His sea green eyes are like lasers as he stares at me. Iâm immediately uncomfortable. I wonder if there is any way I could contact the judge and tell her Iâve changed my mind. Fifteen months in jail is starting to seem much more desirable than a month in the woods with this frightening character.
I extend a hand because Iâm not sure what else to do. âHello, Iâm Dr. Daniels.â
He stares at my limb like Iâm a leper. Then he looks me up and down. âWhat kind of doctor are you?â
I clear my throat. âIâm an English professor.â
He laughs. âSo youâre not a real doctor.â
I immediately bristle at his ignorant comment. I hate when people say that. âFor your information the word doctor is derived from the Latin word docÄre which means to teach. The title Doctor has been used for centuries in Europe as a designation for someone who has obtained a research doctorate such as a Ph.D. Thus a person with a medical degree is more accurately described as a physician, not a doctor.â
He pats my shoulder in the most condescending way imaginable, like Iâm some kind of pet. âWhatever you say, Doc.â
âWhy are you touching me?â His hand is still on my arm. I can feel the heat from his body move through mine. Itâs extremely disconcerting.
âSorry.â He stares at me for a long moment before he removes his hand.
I try to brush away the tingly feeling flowing down my limb. âWhy did you call me Doc? This isnât a cartoon. Youâre not Bugs Bunny.â
He laughs again. I donât like people who laugh so easily. Iâm immediately suspicious of them.
âIâm serious,â I tell him. âThereâs no reason to laugh.â
âHas anyone ever told you that youâre wound up tighter than Dickâs hatband?â
I glare at him. Does that expression even make sense? I have no idea what he means, but it feels like an insult. And heâs smirking, which makes it worse.
He looks me up and down. âYou canât wear that.â
âThis is a wilderness camp, Doc. Weâll be getting down and dirty. Living in the woods. You canât wear a dress and heels.â
âIâd appreciate it if you called me something other than Doc. Dr. Daniels would be fine. Or Ms. Daniels. Or my first name, Bly, if you insist. Just not Doc.â
âI could call you Community Service. Would that be better?â
I shake my head.
âThatâs what I thought. What about the clothes, Doc?â
â ABOUT THE AUTHOR â
USA TODAY Bestselling author Dakota Madison is known for writing romance with a little spice and lots of heart. She likes to explore current social issues in her work. Dakota is a winner of the prestigious RONE Award for Excellence in the Indie and Small Publishing Industry. When she's not at her computer creating spicy stories Dakota likes to spend time with her husband and their bloodhounds at their home outside Phoenix, Arizona.