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.
“This is as far as I go,” the crusty old cab
driver barks as he stops in front of a long dirt road that disappears into the
“How far is it to the wilderness camp?” I
“Pretty far, I would imagine. It’s not
visible from the road at all.”
“And how am I supposed to get there?”
“I guess you’re just going to have to
I laugh until I realize he’s not joking. He
expects me to walk into the woods on a dirt road that is God knows how long.
Then I realize I’ll 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.
“I can only take the cab on paved roads,”
he tells me. “Company rules.”
Is that supposed to make me feel better? It
I heave a huge sigh. “How much do I owe
I hand him three ten dollar bills, plus a
five dollar tip.
“Let me get your bag out of the trunk.”
When he exits the cab I take a moment to
compose myself. I’m already so far out of my comfort zone I feel like I’m
having a panic attack, and I haven’t even made it to the camp yet.
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.
“Good luck,” the cab driver says.
It probably wasn’t the smartest idea I ever
had to wear a dress and pumps. In my defense I don’t 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 wouldn’t 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 I’m wearing are not even close to being appropriate for the
conditions. I’ll be lucky if I don’t 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 haven’t even made it far enough to spot the
end of the trail yet.
Luckily it’s still early in the day. I’ve
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 it’s a few miles to the camp, then
I’ll be in a bit of trouble.
Two hours and thirty seven minutes later
I’ve had about all that I can take. My feet are blistered and aching. I’m
afraid when I finally remove my shoes my feet will be bloody as well.
My arms are so weak I don’t think I can
lift the suitcase again.
And I’m on the verge of complete
What was I thinking packing so much stuff?
I was thinking I’ll be here an entire month and I need reading materials.
is no water but only rock
and no water and the sandy road.
Those words from T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste
Land’ 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 can’t 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 I’m 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 he’d 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 it’s beating down on me. I’m not sure how much of the blistering brightness
my pale skin can take. I should probably edge closer to the tree line where
it’s shaded, but I’m too exhausted to move.
I’m 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 won’t lift high enough.
Instead I choke on the dust left in the
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. They’re 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 she’s beautiful, with long
silky dark hair and perfect features. From the neck down she’s dressed like a
man. She’s wearing well-worn jeans, black combat boots and a green Army jacket.
“Are you lost?” Her tone is accusatory,
definitely not friendly.
I shake my head.
“You know this road leads to a wilderness
camp for troubled teens.”
She looks me up and down. “You don’t look
like you’re ready for the wilderness, and you’re definitely not a teenager.”
“I’m aware of that.” My voice is weary.
“I’m court ordered to be here. Community service.”
She rolls her eyes. “Lucky us.”
“Unfortunately the cab driver wouldn’t take
me beyond the main road. I’ve been walking for hours.”
“Would you like a lift?” She raises an
“That would be greatly appreciated. Thank
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 I’m 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.
“You can’t lift it, can you?” she asks
I shake my head.
“Unbelievable.” She grabs the suitcase like
it’s 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. “I
have some advice for you. Never pack more than you can carry.”
Before I have a chance to respond she
marches over to the driver’s 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. I’m 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 I’m going to climb into this thing,
particularly in my dress and heels.
“Are you coming?” She glares at me again.
She’s very good at glaring. Despite her small stature she’s quite intimidating.
“If you’ll give me just a few seconds I
need to figure out how to get inside of this truck.”
“Oh, for God’s sake.”
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 I’m 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.
“Your truck is very high off the ground,” I
“No shit, Sherlock. Now fasten your
The woman doesn’t 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 doesn’t wait for me to say anything,
not even a thank you. She marches back over to the driver’s side, leaps into
the truck like a frog, and drives somewhere behind the administration building.
not sure what to do. I don’t feel like dealing with my suitcase so I just leave
it where the woman tossed it. There’s not another soul anywhere so I don’t
think it’s 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 wasn’t able to get him to commit to a specific time.
My feet are throbbing. I’m 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 I’m standing on
doesn’t have any chairs, or seats of any kind, so I guess I’m 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 don’t have my nose firmly planted in a
That’s 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.
What’s up there? Is it some kind of animal?
Then I hear stomping—loud, heavy
stomping—right above me. Is it possible for a bear to climb on a rooftop?
My chest tightens and I feel like I can’t
breathe. I’m going to get killed by a bear and I haven’t even started working
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 don’t know how to use hammers. Is Turner Wild on the roof? Or maybe the
woman who gave me a lift in her truck?
“Hello?” I shout when the hammering stops.
“You made it,” 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
“Community service?” He places his hammer
on the porch rail next to him and wipes his dirty hands on the sides of his
“That’s what I’m here for.”
The man is different than how I pictured
him from our very brief phone conversation. I thought he’d be a lot younger,
maybe late twenties or early thirties, but he looks more like he’s my age,
That’s not to say there isn’t a youthful air
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
And he’s wearing a very large knife hanging
from his belt. I’m 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. I’m immediately uncomfortable. I wonder if there is any way I
could contact the judge and tell her I’ve changed my mind. Fifteen months in
jail is starting to seem much more desirable than a month in the woods with this
I extend a hand because I’m not sure what
else to do. “Hello, I’m Dr. Daniels.”
He stares at my limb like I’m a leper. Then
he looks me up and down. “What kind of doctor are you?”
I clear my throat. “I’m an English
He laughs. “So you’re not a real doctor.”
I immediately bristle at his ignorant
comment. I hate when people say that. “For your information the word doctor is
derived from the Latin word docēre
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.”
He pats my shoulder in the most
condescending way imaginable, like I’m some kind of pet. “Whatever you say,
“Why are you touching me?” His hand is
still on my arm. I can feel the heat from his body move through mine. It’s
“Sorry.” 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. “Why did you call me Doc? This isn’t a cartoon. You’re
not Bugs Bunny.”
He laughs again. I don’t like people who
laugh so easily. I’m immediately suspicious of them.
“I’m serious,” I tell him. “There’s no
reason to laugh.”
“Has anyone ever told you that you’re wound
up tighter than Dick’s hatband?”
I glare at him. Does that expression even
make sense? I have no idea what he means, but it feels like an insult. And he’s
smirking, which makes it worse.
He looks me up and down. “You can’t wear
“This is a wilderness camp, Doc. We’ll be
getting down and dirty. Living in the woods. You can’t wear a dress and heels.”
“I’d 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.”
“I could call you Community Service. Would
that be better?”
I shake my head.
“That’s what I thought. What about the
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.