All I Need Is You | Chapter 26 of 35

Author: Julia London | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 1597 Views | Add a Review

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Chapter Twenty-One

AFTER they delivered the bad news, there was a lot of loud arguing about it for a couple of hours. Olivia and Vince were adamant that no one find out they were stuck, lest the press have a field day with it. "Can you imagine the headlines?" Vince shouted. "World's Biggest Action Star Stuck on the Wrong Side of a Bridge!"

He glared at Rhys when the man had the audacity to laugh.

Eli wasn't crazy about it either. "You think we want Thrillseekers Anonymous held out as the extreme sports outfit behind this fiasco?"

"You're all overreacting," Rhys said, as if he didn't mind being stuck on this side of the bridge. In fact, he was busily going through one of his coolers, muttering to himself.

As for Marnie, all she could think of was a bath, and where exactly she would sleep tonight. She wouldn't mind sleeping with Eli, nosireebob… but she sort of wondered where last night's storm had left them—it wasn't a declaration, it was survival. That's what he'd said, and frankly, she didn't know if her heart was strong enough to survive sleeping with him and then not being with him.

As survival had not been clearly defined, she was a little leery of sleeping in Eli's tent because she had absolutely no self-control. But then, Rhys was weighing in at about three hundred pounds and guarded that spice-cooler-thing with his life, so she figured his tent was out of the question. That left the cabin, and given Olivia's bad mood, which was darkening by the minute, Marnie wasn't sure that was such a great idea, either.

Olivia and Vince were starting to snipe at one another again, too, with Vince blaming Olivia for having to have this "ridiculous, asswipe kind of wedding," and Olivia blaming Vince for "being such a shrimp he couldn't help them out of a bucket."

When Marnie tried to step in to stop the bickering, Vince told her to shut up, and Marnie came very close to punching him. But Eli stepped in before she could take a swing at the shrimp and, standing between Marnie and Vince, said, "All right, folks. Everybody take a deep breath. This bickering isn't going to get us anywhere, so the next one of you who says a disparaging word against another will be the first person we try and build a human bridge with."

He did not look like he was joking. Everyone promptly bowed their heads and glared at the floor.

"That's more like it," Eli said, and was about to say something else, but the bitchfest was suddenly interrupted by the unmistakable sound of laughter in the far distance. And four-wheelers.

"What's that?" Vince asked.

"Dunno," Eli said, looking toward the ravine where the bridge had once been. They all looked at one another and then were suddenly marching toward the ravine.

By the time they hiked down, there were already a dozen cheerful guests on the other side, riding tandem on the four-wheelers, led by Jim and John. By the look of things, they were all having a grand time.

"Who the hell is that?" Olivia demanded of Marnie as the professional guests got off their four-wheelers and helped the others off.

"Jim and John," Marnie said. "Our professional guests."

"What the hell is a professional guest?" Vince demanded.

"Shut up, Vincent," Olivia muttered and walked down to the edge of the ravine.

"Hi Livi!" Olivia's mom yelled.

"Mom! What are you doing?" Olivia cried, spying her mother in a tight spaghetti-strap camisole and even tighter running pants.

"We're riding around!" her mother shouted back. "Oh, Livi, it's so much fun!" she squealed, and stared adoringly at her companion, a dark swarthy guy Marnie did not recognize.

"Dear God, she's doing the cinematographer!" Olivia whispered, horrified.

"Dear God, they've been drinking," Rhys added breathlessly, still huffing from the hike down from the meadow.

"Livi, we brought you something!" Delia yelled, and held up a plastic grocery sack. "Can you guess what it is?"

"Where's my manager? Where's Donnelly?" Olivia demanded.

"Oh hell, I don't know!" her mom cheerfully returned. "Probably in Durango or somewhere. Don't you want to know what this is? It's champagne! No reason you should be high and dry," she said, and the group laughed roundly, as if that were the most hysterically witty comment they'd ever heard.

"You are not drinking the champagne for my wedding!" Olivia cried, horrified.

"Well, what the hell are we supposed to do? You're stuck over there and we're stuck over here! Oh, stop looking like that! We'll just get some more," Delia shouted, and handed the bag to the cinematographer. "It's two bottles. We wrapped it in bubble wrap so they won't break."

"Ohmigod, that shit is two hundred dollars a bottle," Marnie moaned as the swarthy guy walked to the edge of the ravine.

"Shall I throw the bag to you?" he called out in heavily accented English.

"No!" Eli said sternly, but the man was winding up. "Ah, for the love of Christ, he'll never make it."

Eli was right. Four hundred dollars' worth of champagne went flying across the ravine, hit the bank, and tumbled down. They all waited, expecting to hear the sound of breaking glass as it hit bottom. But there was no sound of breaking glass. A cheer suddenly went up among the sots on the other side of the ravine, and they all clamored around to give the swarthy guy lots of claps on the back.

The five stranded members of the wedding party moved forward as one to the edge of the ravine and carefully peered over. As it happened, the bag had caught on a root and was hanging precariously about ten feet down from the edge of the ravine.

"Hey," Delia shouted. "We've got chocolates, too!"

"Not my Godivas, please say it's not my Godivas," Marnie begged to no one as Olivia's mother produced another bag and gave it to the Italian, who tossed the thing in the air. This time, he was not so lucky—the bag went sailing down to the river below and was quickly carried off. On the other side of the ravine, they laughed again.

"Okay, Livi!" Olivia's mother yelled. "We'll check on you a little later! We're going to ride around the old mining trails. Isn't that great?"

"They're just going to leave us here?' Olivia sniffed as the party climbed back on their four-wheelers and sped off, their laughter drifting back to them over the sound of the motors.

"Your mother is a head case," Vince said.

Olivia gave him a scathing look. "Do not start on my mother! At least I have one who doesn't drink herself to death every night!"

"Oh really? I guess she drinks herself to death during the day! God, Livi, you're really a piece of work, you know that?" Vince spat as Olivia turned and began marching back up the trail. Vince was quickly on her heels, ticking off all the things he thought were wrong with her. In the meantime, Rhys had braced his hands against his knees and was leaning over, staring at the champagne.

Marnie looked at Eli, who looked about as miserable as she felt.

When Rhys finally came away from the edge of the ravine, they reluctantly hiked back to the meadow—taking several breaks for Rhys to catch his breath—and got back just in time to hear the cabin door bang shut and see Olivia go flying out, her arms swinging and her stride determined as she strode toward the fallen arch and around it.

"I think," Eli said, "that we should brace ourselves for a very long couple of days."

"That's the understatement of the year," Marnie said and walked up to the cabin porch and plopped down in one of the wicker chairs.

Vince joined her a half hour later, coming from behind the cabin wearing a very smug smile.

"What's funny?" Marnie asked.

"Nothing," he said, his smug smile growing even larger. "Nothing at all."

And there they remained—Vince chuckling to himself occasionally—until Olivia came back. It was obvious she had been bawling—her face was red and puffy and her nose was leaking. She walked past Vince and Marnie and into the cabin and slammed the door.

Olivia might have had a bigger audience for her dramatic entrance, but Rhys was napping in his tent as if it were a lazy Sunday afternoon, and Eli… well, Eli was working on die water pump in the bathroom, which Marnie had discovered was not working properly.

He crawled out from underneath the cabin a few minutes after Olivia slammed the door, wiping his muddied hands with a bandana, looking grim. "Got some bad news," he said to Vince and Marnie. "We've got a busted pipe."

"Then we'll just use water from the kitchen," Vince said. "That's what we did last night."

"Won't work," Eli said, shaking his head. "There is only one pipe into the underground well. The water is hand-pumped up to a tank via a single pipe, then fed from the tank into the kitchen and the bath and the outhouse on different tracks with the manual pumps in those rooms."

"I don't understand," Marnie said.

"The single pipe to the tank is busted. The only water we've got is what's in that tank and it looks to be about two gallons."

No water? No water? It was enough to bring tears to her eyes. "We have no food and now we have no water?'

"We have water," Eli said soothingly. "We've got two cases of bottled water for drinking and any cooking we do. We just don't have water for bathing."

At last, a real tear slipped from her eye. This was the most miserable experience she'd ever endured, bar none. Well, okay, maybe that time in high school when she'd been depantsed in gym—but she'd never felt so filthy or hopeless as she did at that moment, and she wanted nothing more than to lie down somewhere and cry herself to sleep. Unfortunately, she didn't even have a bed. She had nothing but one last change of underwear. Another suitcase with more undies and clothing for the wedding were in the jeep.

Marnie folded her arms across her knees and with a groan, laid her head on them. Her first solo wedding was an unmitigated disaster, an absolute nightmare!

"Come on, Vince, let's see if we can find some buckets or pans," Eli suggested.

"Why?" Vince asked testily.

"Because," Eli said calmly, "it looks like rain."

IT did indeed rain that afternoon, a slow steady rain that Eli said was unusual for that time of year. But the clouds broke at dusk, and Eli made a fire in the middle of the little meadow with nothing more than a few sticks and a match. Thank God for Boy Scouts, he thought as he blew on the kindling, because the Lord knew no one else in this group would have known how to do it.

As the late-afternoon sun peeked out behind the clouds, Eli convinced Vince and Olivia to join him and Marnie and Rhys at the fire. It was a gorgeous dusk, bright and crisp. The wind had died with the passing of the rainstorm, and everything was so dewy and beautiful around them that the collective mood, it seemed to Eli, had improved a little over the morning.

There were even a couple of smiles at the quips he made about being stuck. Eli began to think they'd be all right, would survive this glitch, when the subject of food came up. Marnie was starving, and asked Rhys for something to eat.

"No. I have nothing to spare," he said quickly and adamantly.

"Oh, come on… isn't there something you can give us?" she pressed. "Cheese, maybe? Some crackers?"

"Cheese and crackers?" He pressed his lips tightly together, obviously offended. "Do you know who I am? I am Rhys St. Paul! I do not dabble in cheese and crackers like some short-order cook!"

"Well, then surely you have something we could eat?" Marnie pressed, unintimidated.

Rhys sighed. "I don't think you understand," he said irritably. "I have prepared a set number of meals. At present, I have one dinner meal left, and one breakfast. The portions are sufficient for two people… not five."

"What is the dinner?" Marnie asked, her brown eyes lighting up.

"Veal with raspberry remoulade and assorted vegetables."

Eli joined Marnie, Vince, and Olivia in a huge sigh of longing.

"There is only enough for two," Rhys insisted, and Olivia gave them a superior little smile.

But Rhys was being battered down by Marnie's imploring look. "Oh, very well," he snapped. "I shall make a deal with you of sorts. To the person that can retrieve the two bottles of champagne, I shall reward with a hearty helping of veal and asparagus. The other three may share the second meal."

"But… what about you?" Marnie asked.

"I have provided for my needs."

"That's not fair!" Marnie cried. "What else do you have?"

"It is my food!" Rhys cried.

"Forget that," Olivia said with a flick of her wrist. "Just how are we supposed to get the champagne?"

Rhys shrugged, put his hands in the vicinity of his waist. "That, as they say, is your problem."

Marnie looked at Olivia. Olivia looked at Vince. Eli could almost hear the wheels cranking in their three heads, and quickly rose up from his haunches. "Wait, wait, wait," he said, shaking his head. "I'm not going to let you guys do something foolish and risk your necks."

"You think you can stop me, Cowboy?" Vince asked. "You think you have the nads to stop me?"

What the hell? The little man thought he could take him? "Vince, come on," Eli said, trying to sound reasonable and not laugh, "You don't want to risk your neck for champagne."

"Like hell I don't. What, you think you're the only stud out here? The only one who can get it?"

"I didn't say that—"

"I'm going for that champagne!"

"Fabulous!" Rhys cried with glee. "I would absolutely kill for a bit of alcohol just now." He pivoted around on his surprisingly tiny foot. "I shall commence the preparation of the meal. To the victor goes the spoils!"

The moment the words were out of Rhys's mouth, Marnie, Olivia, and Vince were running before Eli could stop them.

Why did he suddenly feel he had stepped into some episode of Survivor? Never mind that—someone was going to get killed, and with a sigh, he kicked dirt on his hard-fought fire and went after them.

At the edge of the ravine, there was a lot of bickering. Vince was down on his belly, yelling at Olivia to hold his feet while he tried to reach ten feet down the ravine for the plastic sack. When Olivia got tired of holding his feet, she let go and stood up, leaving Vince to shout angrily as he pushed himself back up while she demanded that Eli bring her a rope.

He wanted to get a rope, all right. He wanted to put her dyed-blond head through it. "What do you need with a rope?" he asked calmly.

"What do you think, Mr. Stuntman? I'm going to rappel down," she said, lifting her chin.

"Okay," he said, nodding. "So let me make sure I have this straight… you wouldn't rappel down the side of a ravine last week when we had the appropriate gear, but you'll do it now with nothing but a rope?"

Olivia glared at him. "Wait a minute, Bucko—who works for who here?"

"I'm not letting you rappel down that ravine on the tail end of a rope."

"Then I'll do it!" Marnie chimed in.

Eli snorted at that. "You are definitely not going down—"

"What do you mean, I'm definitely not going down? Why not? I've rappelled before."

"Oh yeah?" he asked suspiciously. "Where?"

She frowned and looked away. "What does it matter? I've done it. All you have to do is hold the rope and lower me, then help me climb back up. It can't be that hard!"

"And if you slip and fall, you fall to your death. Nope, sorry, not going to let you do it."

Now Marnie's brows dipped into a seriously disgruntled V. "Let me? And just who made you the boss of me?"

'Tom did," he reminded her, "the day you signed the contract to do this wedding."

"Oh hell, that is obviously null and void."

"Yeah!" Olivia piped in.

"They've got a point, Eli," Vince said, dusting his pants off.

The three of them stood there, glaring at him, and Eli could see that he had a mutiny on his hands. "Fine," he snapped. "I'll get a rope. Just stay put," he said sternly, and in the interest of surviving, he hiked back to his tent.

When he returned, he ignored them all, tied the rope securely to a tree and easily lowered himself down, retrieved the plastic bag and two intact bottles of champagne, then climbed back up.

Did he get as much as a thank you from the group? Hell, no. Well, okay, a small little chirp of thanks from Marnie, but she was running to keep up with Olivia and Vince, who were running with the champagne as if they'd retrieved it. They struggled up the trail, dashed across the meadow, and were met by Rhys, who was standing regally on the porch, his arms akimbo, peering down at the group. "Who is the winner?"

"I am!" Vince instantly cried, earning a gasp of shock and indignation from Marnie and Olivia.

"That's a lie!" Olivia cried. "I got it!"

Marnie gasped again. "I can't believe you two! You're both awful! You know it was Eli who got the champagne!"

Olivia whipped around to Marnie so fast it was a wonder her head didn't snap off. "Why are you on his side?" she demanded angrily. "He wouldn't even get us a rope!"

"Don't be stupid, Olivia!" Vince said angrily. "She figures if he wins, she can get half of it by letting him in her pants."

A tiny sound of shock escaped Marnie, and she turned several shades of red. "No!" she cried. "No, no, I just—"

"It hardly matters," Rhys said imperiously. "I've divvied the dinner into four small portions. Now, if someone would kindly hand me the champagne, I should like a very big glass of it."

So would Eli, and he stepped up through the group and snatched the bag from Olivia's hands before she could react. He'd had enough bickering and drama for one day, and by God, he was not missing out on his fair share of alcohol. "Let's make sure we all get a taste, all right?" he said coolly to Olivia, and walked into the cabin with Rhys nipping at his heels.

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Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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