Frowning, I tread water and stare up at the man I hit. From my current position, I look up (and then up, up, up some more) a well-muscled chest. His black T-shirt exposes an impressive amount of powerful biceps and forearms, making him more Mount Muscle Man than not. An equally impressive amount of scar tissue snakes across his left arm. Based on the quantity and size of the ropey marks, he’s lucky to still have an arm. Something bit down on him hard.
He grunts. That’s definitely an unhappy sound. “My face is up here, babe.”
Yes, I got sidetracked. Welcome to my universe. I paddle a little harder to stay in place. I don’t think the water’s that deep here, but no way will I put my feet down. God knows what’s lurking on the bottom. Mud, sticks, fanged beasts, and water snakes… I prefer my bayou from a safer, drier vantage point.
I shift my eyes to his face as ordered. The left side of his jaw matches his forearm. I revise my opinion from lucky to have an arm to lucky to be alive.
He runs a hand over his jaw. The scarred side of his jaw. “You swim too long, and you might meet my buddy. On the other hand, you could paddle on over here, and I’ll give you a lift if you ask nicely.”
He makes the choice sound so simple. Stay in the water and face down monsters. Go to him and get rescued. And it’s not like I really have any good choices here. Sure, I can swim to the bank, but getting out is going to be a bitch. I’ll end up scratched to shit, and then I’ll be mosquito bait and miles from civilization. It’s always possible another boater passes by and I can flag them down for a lift, but this particular part of the bayou isn’t precisely Grand Central Station. It’s more like the train-comes-once-a-week depot in the middle of nowhere. I could be waiting for a very, very long time.
But can I trust him?
He sighs. Loudly. “Pretend I’m a fucking Boy Scout, oui?”