Charlotte woke stiff and sore, her shoulders aching badly because of the position of her arms. She got up carefully from her rocky bed and bashed her skull against the overhang.
"Oh...fuck!" she said, wanting to reach up but unable to reach anywhere. The cuffs on her wrists effectively held her arms helpless behind her. So she stood hunched over until the worst of the pain went away, before looking around to see where she was.
There was little light to see by. The sun was up but the crevice was so enclosed that only minimal light filtered down from the crack in the roof. Any attempt to move would be dangerous, she realized, because she wouldn't be able to see where to place her feet.
So Charlotte sat down again, wondering how she was going to get out of this one. She was thirsty, hungry, sore, and alone in the desert completely naked with her hands cuffed behind her; not exactly what she had in mind when she took off on this trip.
Then she wondered if she WAS alone. Were Moose and his goons still
looking for her?
Charlotte bit her lip and listened carefully, but she couldn't hear anyone. Not that it meant anything. She debated whether to stay put or move but her thirst decided things for her. She had to have water or she would die, period, and there was only one place where she knew she could get it. The pool.
Charlotte didn't want to move but she decided to anyway, so she carefully picked her way along the tight passageway until she reached the end where once again the water flowed.
The pool looked like heaven to her, but it was also a little bit of hell. She looked around in vain for her clothing, unaware of how the night before they had been spotted by one of the men hunting her. He had retrieved them at some personal risk as a further means of possibly controlling her, but they had never found her.
It meant though that Charlotte now had nothing at all with which to cover herself, and she was pissed. But again her thirst overruled her other concerns and she jumped cleanly into the middle of the pool.
It was a lot more awkward now, drinking with her hands trapped behind her, but Charlotte was able to use the boyancy of the water to help her get her arms around her butt and legs to bring her wrists in front of her. She was still trapped in the cuffs, but at least now she had the use of her hands again.
She stayed in the pool and waited until the sun rose a little higher, before making any attempt to leave. She knew she would have to trace the same route over again to get to her car, which hopefully would still be there. What she was going to do then she didn't know, but it was all she could think of as she pulled herself out into the passage she had used the evening before. It felt odd retracing her steps in the nude, walking a path she never expected to walk again, but she knew she had no other choice. As she walked she again wondered if Moose was still looking for her, and reconsidered going back to her car. Yet she could think of no other option.
It wasn't until she stepped out of the end of the crevice and looked around that another idea came to mind. Because of her cuffed hands she had been forced to go further along the passage than she had before, and when she came out she discovered the dirt road she had found the first time. Only it didn't look so dead. There were fresh tire tracks that Charlotte suspected came from a truck; they certainly weren't from Frank's, AKA Moose's, car.
Charlotte figured that this meant that the road was used from time to time, and that maybe at the other end there was someone who could help her. She remembered that the sign at the highway mentioned a town...maybe it WAS still there.
She decided to get moving. The sun was already hot even though it was still relatively low in the sky. It would be suicide to go walking in the desert later when the heat really kicked in, and Charlotte knew her naked body would have no protection from the sun whatsoever. But she had no choice.
So, turning her back on her only known water supply, she started walking.
The walk felt longer than it was. Charlotte had to stumble along the side of the dirt track that thought it was a road. Small rocks and gravel made walking tough as the soft soles of her feet were unused to such rough terrain. Each step became an exercise in balance and pain control and through it all the sun bore down on her.
Several times she had to stop and rest, taking shelter behind a handy boulder or pile of stones. Her lips were cracked and she began to cough from the dust, but the worst was the headache that had come to grow in her. It made her forget about her empty stomach and was even worse than the pain in her feet.
At one point Charlotte managed to climb up onto a boulder so she could get a look around. From that vantage point she could see nothing that wasn't desert and it was a very lonely feeling. She felt incredibly vulnerable standing naked out there, as if reduced to the level of a common animal.
But she had to go on, even though she had serious doubts about the existence of the town she was seeking. It seemed like she had walked a good deal further than three miles and if the state of her sunburn was anything to go by she couldn't walk much further. But she knew that going back might be just as deadly if Moose and his men were still looking for her, and she didn't doubt that he was. So she kept walking, and for Charlotte, life simplified into one painful step after another.
The track, which at times almost vanished from the desert floor, turned and descended after passing around a series of tall rock stacks. It wormed its way between two sheer rock walls and out the other side. What Charlotte saw startled her. Trees.
It wasn't a forest, just a few dozen scraggly trees, but there was also grass of a sort and things looked generally greener, if still dry.
Charlotte continued walking, stepping now on the grass which was a little easier on her feet, and wondered where the water was. For things to grow here, they needed water, and she hoped there was a pond. She was in luck. Through the trees Charlotte saw a glint of water, and her moisture-starved body practically took off by itself.
It was a small pond, surrounded by trees and mud. But Charlotte didn't care. She practically ran into it, collapsing as the muddy bank took hold of her legs. She managed to keep moving though and soon she was almost swimming, drinking the water far too quickly and not giving a damn. After several hours naked under a blazing sun, she needed the water.
She began to feel better, safer, and it was a very good feeling. Charlotte felt she had been through so much lately that she needed the break. She wasn't totally oblivious to her problems though. She knew she was still stuck without anything to her name except the cuffs holding her wrists together, and with little in the way of survival skills. She was also aware that even though she had found water, she could still starve to death or get eaten by something.
The magnitude of her position almost made her question her decision to run. Maybe it would have been better to have had Moose capture her. At least she would eat!
But there was this road and the mysterious town called Temperance where there might still be a possibility of help. And now that she'd found water again, Charlotte felt she could go on looking.
She stood up in the shallow water, the surface only coming up to her stomach, and with both hands brushed her long hair back from her face. It was only then that she saw she wasn't alone.
Sitting on a nearby boulder was a man. He was dressed in jeans, boots and a thin reddish flannel shirt. He looked about thirty, and his dirty blonde hair was cut short. Yet he wasn't that bad looking, just very rough around the edges. Charlotte caught him watching her closely and she let out a yelp and dropped into the water. She clutched her bound hands to her chest and hoped the muddy water hid the rest of her.
The man did nothing, he just sat looking at her. So Charlotte decided to make the first move.
"Hi," she said, her voice sounding a little raspy.
The man said and did nothing.
Charlotte began to blush under his gaze. She felt very vulnerable knowing that he was there and that she was naked. At the same time however, she hoped the man would help her.
"I...er...don't have anything on. Do you have anything I can wear?" she asked.
The man still didn't move, but she saw him smile a little.
'Men', she thought. "Look, I lost my clothes and just walked all the way here from the highway. I'd appreciate some help if you could help me."
The man's smile left and he brought his hands together. He mimed their being bound and then pointed at her.
Charlotte inwardly groaned. She knew that if she met someone she would have to explain the cuffs. But she was too afraid to tell the truth. "Can you help me?" she asked instead. "I'm really hungry, and I need something to wear."
The man went through his mime again.
"Can't you talk?" Charlotte asked.
The man looked at her, his face solemn, then he slid off the boulder and began to walk away.
"Hey!" Charlotte yelled, "I'm sorry! I didn't mean to offend you! PLEASE come back!"
She began to stand up in order to go after him, but realized that this would expose her to him, so she stopped.
The man stopped too, and turned to face her. He repeated his actions once more, pointing at her.
"Some men...are after me," Charlotte sighed, "they put these on me but I got away. They want to hurt me."
The man raised an eyebrow and Charlotte could see that he might not have believed her. She was about to say something else but he waved at her as if to beckon her out of the pond.
"I can't, I'm naked!" Charlotte said.
He shrugged and shook his head, as if dismissing her protest. He beckoned once more and then turned to continue on his way.
"Hey! Come back!" Charlotte yelled. "Don't leave me here! At least get me something to put on!"
She watched helplessly as he disappeared into the trees and wondered if she should have gotten out to follow him. He was the first person she had come across out here and he might very well be the ONLY person. Yet Charlotte knew that she was as vulnerable as a woman could get, naked and lost in a strange place, totally dependent on someone else for her survival. What price would he extract from her for his help? Would he expect sex?
The empty rumble in her stomach and the ache in her head urged her to go with him. Was she willing to die in order to preserve her dignity?
Stifling a sob, Charlotte knew she had little choice. She stood up in the water and waded toward the shore. The mud stuck to her legs and feet, coating them almost up to her knees, but she made it to firmer ground and hurried, her hands still covering her chest, after the strange blonde man.
She didn't see him as she entered the trees, and she wondered if she had lost him. But then she spotted him standing next to a horse and wagon. The horse was a big brown mare, with a white blaze down her nose, and the wagon it was hitched to was mostly made out of wood, like a wagon from a western. But it had regular truck tires for wheels instead of traditional wagon wheels and in the back of her mind Charlotte wondered if this was the vehicle that had made the tracks she had followed.
In the front of her mind was the realization that now this man could see her whole body, and he looked interested.
Charlotte stopped, about ten yards away from him, and stood silently in fear.
The man had turned and was now looking at her calmly, as if assessing her. He smiled, and all the menace Charlotte had imagined in his expression vanished. He waved her over and pointed at the back of the wagon which appeared to be loaded with bags covered with a tarp.
"You want me to ride?" Charlotte asked.
He nodded and pointed once more.
"Do you have anything I can wear?" she asked again.
The man smiled and shook his head. Then he climbed up into the driver's seat.
Just as before, Charlotte was sure that he would leave without her. He would only offer something a couple of times, she realized, and it didn't seem to matter if she accepted or not. Well Charlotte had to accept. She was still tired and despite the water she didn't know if she had the strength to go much further. A ride in a wagon was heaven to her right then.
"Wait, I'm coming!" she said, and she hurried over the back of the wagon, aware of his eyes on her nude body.
She managed to scramble awkwardly onto the back, and with a start the wagon
began to move.
Charlotte had to hold on to the side of the wagon bed and this meant exposing her breasts.
But at least she was hidden from view by all the bags, and in this undignified position she got to ride for a while.
It wasn't long though, before the wagon turned off the track she had been following for so long, and onto a grassy path. A mix of boulders, rock formations and trees, surrounded the route they now took and maybe after a few hundred yards the wagon finally stopped in a clearing where a cabin stood.
Relieved, Charlotte rolled off the back and stood once more hiding her breasts. She wanted to bring a hand down to hide her crotch too, but couldn't because of the cuffs. So she nervously waited while the man got of the wagon and came around to her.
He stared at her as he approached, making her blush with shame. His eyes flashed all over her body, taking her in. But his expression still held no menace, for which she was glad.
"This your home?" she asked him, breaking the silence.
He nodded and pointed at the cabin, turning to walk toward it.
Charlotte knew the drill now. Follow or not, it was up to her. But doing what he asked was a damn sight better than not. So she went after him.
She climbed nervously onto the porch and stepped through the open door the man had just gone through. What happened next didn't altogether surprise her.
He was waiting just inside the door and he grabbed her cuffed hands as she came in.
Charlotte screamed, but he hauled her inside and picked her up. Charlotte immediately began struggling but he was way too strong for her, carrying her back outside and around the house.
All this time Charlotte yelled to be let go, swearing and kicking as best she could. But she was in no condition to protest much, her strength sapped by a full day and night naked in the desert. She was no match for him.
He took her over to a wooden fence where he normally corralled his horse, and followed it into a small barn. Inside he dumped her down on some straw in one of the two stalls.
Charlotte immediately started to crawl away, yelling at him to let her go. But he simply caught her by the ankle and hauled her back. He also spanked her ass a couple of times, shocking her completely. The spanking was completely unexpected, and hurt all the more because her ass had a fairly good sunburn on it. Charlotte was so shocked that she stopped talking and didn't move, long enough for her new captor to get a long chain padlocked to her handcuffs.
Only when she saw this new restraint did Charlotte respond. She got to her feet and pulled away.
She was too late though. The chain was attached to the back of the stall and she was stuck. She pulled and tugged at the chain but it wasn't coming loose, so she turned to the man who now stood out of her reach.
"YOU BASTARD!" she yelled, "LET ME OUT OF HERE!"
He seemed unmoved, and after listening to her yell some more he simply left her alone.
Charlotte yelled herself horse, which didn't take long, before collapsing
in tears on her bed of straw. She was at the end of her rope, so to
speak, and it was just too much for her. Tired and hurt, she cried herself