Blood Red Wood set in the surroundings of Yosemite National Park, USA, is a real page turner from writer Faye Starling where a young couple, deeply in love, and Dwayne an amiable young photographer realise they are up against a pair of ruthless serial killers.
Natasha at the age of 5, with her Romanian parents had come to live in Edinburgh, Scotland. In 1964 Romania after Stalin’s death, declared autonomy within the Communist Bloc. Free movement for Romanian people was granted for those who wished to move from their homeland. Natasha’s father, an academic, applied and was offered a job at the University in Edinburgh to lecture on European History. Her Mother, Alina had been happy to move from Rumania, she adored and admired her husband, and she knew that whatever decision he might make would be for the wellbeing of her and their daughter, Natasha.
Natasha as a chubby child grew to be slim. At eighteen she was five foot seven inches with beautiful auburn hair and dark blue eyes, which mirrored those of her father. After finishing university, she trained to be a Physiotherapist. There was a hint of her Slavic origin in her speech, mixed with a Scottish accent. The mix was charming.
David, born in Edinburgh, now at the age of thirty, had had several short-term relationships with women, during the eleven years it had taken him to become a doctor. Those he had found, he had not felt he could spend the rest of his life with, as none had ticked his imaginary boxes. None of them was the woman of his dreams. David was six foot two inches tall and well built. He liked to work out when he had the chance. His blonde hair was cut short. He had odd eyes, one was blue, the other green.
His father, Andrew had worked all his life as a self-employed painter and decorator, his own father had taught and shown him the skill. Due to his obvious ability, he was always recommended to other people, so he had rarely been out of work. His mother Margaret, until David had gone to university had been happy to be a housewife. Through a friend she was later offered a job in the local Fish and Chip shop. She was an excellent cook and had the type of character that people warmed to. Andrew had encouraged her to take the job if she wanted to.
Natasha was a shy person. She had had a few boyfriends who she dated as she grew up. The normal scenario as a young person changed from a child into maturity. She held her mother’s advice close, which had been to find the man you love and do not let him go, when you find him. She wanted the kind of relationship, her parents had, so she was prepared to wait to find it.
Having only joined the Finnely Practice eight months previously David was concentrating on doing the work he enjoyed, focused on his chosen profession. He went to have lunch with his parents at the weekend, in their terraced home. Enjoying his parents company gave him time to relax. It also stopped him from thinking about the care of the patients who had visited throughout the week. His father told him about his current work. His Mother always asked jokingly, ‘Have you found her yet?’ because she knew how hard he worked. She tried to tell him that there was more to life than just work. His thoughts were mostly far from finding ‘the one’.
When she was twenty-six years old Natasha met David. He was one of the General Practitioners within the surgery where she had recently found new work, attending twice a week. She liked and admired David’s demeanour with patients who were referred to her. He had a way of making them feel as if their health problems had been listened to carefully, and that their care was uppermost in his mind.
If love at first sight was a possibility, it happened. One look at Natasha was enough. When she was on duty, David found it difficult to keep his eyes off her, although they were both in their work environment. At night in bed alone, David developed his plan of courtship, an old-fashioned term, as to what to do regarding Natasha. His mind was set on starting a relationship with her somehow. The next time they met he plucked up the courage to ask her out for a drink that evening. Natasha without even considering the implications, agreed. They met in the nearest local pub. Hours passed as they told each other their respective histories. They laughed and without holding back they discussed their individual aims for the future.
Returning to his flat David could not get Natasha out of his mind, her gorgeous auburn hair cut into a stylish bob, her smile and her sparkling blue eyes. Natasha sat with a warm cup of coffee on her settee and thought about David’s odd, coloured eyes, the way he made her laugh, how special he had made her feel, listening intently to her every word, unlike with the other boyfriends she had had previously, Cupid had struck hard.
Within two months they decided to move in together. David’s flat was small, with a kitchen, one bedroom a bathroom and a lounge; the windows of which looked over a lovely starlight view at night. Natasha arrived carrying two suitcases. David had emptied drawers and made space for her to put her belongings into. Their relationship developed without a hitch, with both sets of parents having been introduced and as they witnessed the undeniable love between them, they were happy that they had found each other.
After their first year together, very settled into the relationship they had formed, they decided to look for a holiday that they would both enjoy. David suggested going to visit Yosemite National Park in California, USA. Neither had visited the ‘States’ before. Natasha agreed, looking forward to their first adventure as a couple. Arriving at Los Angeles Airport they picked up their rental car and drove towards San Francisco, along the Pacific Coast Highway, an incredibly beautiful road trip, the Pacific Ocean crashing against the cliffs as they drove above them. They stopped overnight at a Motel 6 and spent a day enjoying the sights, in San Francisco, visiting Fisherman’s Wharf, and eating wonderful fresh seafood. They headed inland and arrived at Yosemite as dusk was falling, having stopped to buy drink, food and charcoal for the BBQ.
Their budget was limited. They could not afford to stay in one of the plush lodges. Instead, they had opted to take a tent in the tented village, which was on the edge of a tributary of the Merced River which ran through Yosemite. Hiking trails were also close, giving access to various incredible beauty spots which they hoped to discover. They were happy with their choice.
Excitement welled as David parked their car in the car park above the tented village. Having checked in, they carried food, drink, extras, small bags containing clothing and other essentials to tent, number 39. As they expected it was basic with bedding, towels, a bed, small cupboards plus a fridge which made up their holiday home. Outside was a wooden table with benches on both sides, plus standard BBQ facilities next to it. A thirty second walk to the amenities provided toilets and showers. They had decided that this would suit them and on arrival it was satisfactory.
They quickly unpacked everything. David began to fire up the BBQ. Natasha could not help kissing him as he prepared food for them. After eating American style hot dogs, in large, long buns, followed by fresh fruit, they sat at the table with a glass of wine, relaxing. They were both tired, it had been a long day, but they wanted to watch others around them doing similar things, kids enjoying the freedom in the almost wild place. It delighted them, talking quietly, as they observed those around them, preparing food for their families. Listening to the lulls in the conversation swirling around them, interrupted by people laughing, sometimes chatting loudly, and the odd tired child throwing a little tantrum, not wishing to be put to bed by an insistent father or mother. Most people greeted them as they walked by, or waved.
As night descended, the sun had disappeared, leaving amber and violet behind, people disappeared slowly into their tents. Natasha brushed her hand through David’s thick blonde hair, kissed him and said, ‘Come on, we don’t have all that long here, we should go and see what is right on our doorstep.’ Tiredness had left her, and she wanted to be with her man in a different setting. ‘It’s a fabulous night, warm with a halfmoon sitting in an inky coloured sky containing misty far-off planets’ she said, ‘Let’s go and explore’.
Grabbing David by the arm, she pulled him up and they walked past those around them. Mothers having settled their children down to sleep, sat with a beer or a glass of wine on the benches, having hushed conversations with their husbands or partners. The odd man stood outside alone, drinking his last can of beer. Natasha was pleased to find happiness and contentment all around her. They found a path and followed it.
As they walked out of the tented area, leaving the people behind them, there was a small fir forest ahead. Following the path, David stopped. He was being cautious.
Natasha said tugging at his hand, ‘Come on, I can hear a river’. They walked amongst the trees and arrived at a small grassy meadow. The river lay ahead, strong water rushing by; its sound quite forceful and musical.
Natasha could not keep the smile off her face as she stood beside the man she loved. The beauty of where they stood and the ambiance around her was almost a dream. She giggled and felt a little tipsy. Aware of the happiness on Natasha’s face, David asked her whether she would like to have a child in the future, a subject they had not approached before?
Looking up at what seemed endless darkness pitted with bright stars, she thought about holding a baby in her arms, how that would feel? She whispered, ‘Yes’.
They were totally alone, it was late. ‘Lie down Tash and look at the stars,’ David said in a hushed voice.
‘I have never seen so many stars,’ whispered Natasha, snuggling up to David on the grass.
‘You are my star,’ David replied.
He gently removed her jeans, he wanted her at that moment. He made love to her. It was raunchy, he had to control his need to own her completely. He felt it was necessary to make sure that she understood the depth of his love as he could not put it into words. He could not imagine life without her.
Natasha’s body responded immediately to both their needs as she listened to the river running just in front of them. She glimpsed the stars above reaching infinity above her, felt the hot breath of her man on her cheek. She gripped him tightly as he brought her to her climax, that sweet moment when one becomes two. He heard Natasha when she moaned mutedly. That was his signal, he allowed himself to follow her. Watching her ride her own wave gave him so much excitement, looking deep into her blue eyes with starlight dancing in them. In that meadow they had found hidden depths in each other that they had never experienced before.
Walking with David’s arm around her; totally in step, they arrived back at tent 39. They sat with a last glass of wine, quietly laughing, kissing and discussing their future. Both had confirmed further commitment to each other at an unexpected time, in a special place. Courage had come to them. This was the place they would never forget, as both felt inwardly that there was nothing that could part them, that they would stand side by side and deal with whatever life threw at them.
David woke early. He was extremely happy. He threw on the nearest clothes he could lay his hands on, he wanted to revisit the place they had been the night before. He wanted to go back and place it firmly in his memory. Natasha was still asleep. Leaving their tent nobody moved outside, so he quietly walked to the forest area. Dew dropped off the tall fir trees. The sky was a colour he could not describe; putty coloured. The stars had disappeared, and the sun had not yet appeared. Arriving at the meadow in the chill of the morning made him shiver a little. The meadow looked different in the half daylight. At the end of the path, he stopped. In front of him was a child with shaggy blond hair, wearing blue shorts, a red T shirt and barefoot. David judged roughly that he was about seven years old.
The child stood in the middle of the small meadow, staring at a young deer at the edge of the riverbank. The deer was looking at the boy. Neither of them moved. Minutes slipped by, then the early morning sun broke through and bathed the expanse in gold between them. It broke the spell which had kept them both immovable. The deer bolted, and the child watched it go. He turned around to see David standing there.
‘She is always here at this time of day,’ the child spoke with wisdom far beyond his age, as he walked past David and went up the path back to the tented village.
The smell of bacon woke Natasha.
‘Come on sleepyhead, breakfast is nearly ready, I have a story to tell you.’
Natasha stretched, smiled and ran her figures through her tangled hair, finding several pieces of grass from the night before, which made her smile even more. She took a few seconds to feel the evidence of the night’s passionate lovemaking in the meadow, then she grabbed her wash bag and went to have a quick shower.
When she arrived back, a feast was set before her, coffee made in a pan, fried bread, crispy bacon, and a fried egg that was plonked on her plate as she sat down. Suddenly she was ravenous and tucked in immediately.
David sat down beside her, smacked a kiss on her cheek and said with a big grin on his face, ‘Good morning star of my life.’
‘Morning lover,’ she replied giggling. ‘What story?’
‘I slept very well,’ David replied. ‘But I woke early, just as dawn was breaking, you were sleeping peacefully, nothing was moving, so I decided to walk to where we were last night. As I came to the edge of the forest, in the meadow there was a small boy and a deer by the riverbank, looking at each other, neither moving. It was like a picture had been painted. Intrigued I stood back, and I waited to see what would happen next.
Minutes passed, as if the boy and the deer were the only things on earth. Me being the onlooker, I held my breath. The sun came out and broke their link, and the deer ran off into the forest. The young boy turned around, and walked past me muttering, ‘She is always there’. I have looked the deer species up. The deer here are Mule Deer, we may see some today.’
‘What an experience!’ Natasha replied. ‘I wish I had been there.’
David watched the early morning sun splashing over Natasha’s lovely auburn hair, flecked by bronze, and he thought how lucky he was, again.
After clearing their breakfast dishes, they sat together to plan the day. Looking at the National Park map for the best features to view during their short time, they tried to choose carefully. They did not want to use the car; they were prepared to hike to each beauty spot. Both were fit enough. Map in front of them on the table they did not notice the two young women in the tent opposite them, as they were immersed in their plans.
Two mugs of strong coffee were placed in front of them by Sophie who introduced herself. She was tall and lithe. Her long hair was blonde, worn in a ponytail, she had a lovely smile on her face. Her eyes were light grey. She was dressed in small cut off denim shorts, which accentuated the length of her legs, a khaki-coloured T-shirt with a small smiley face on it, and tan coloured trainers.
‘For the next few days, we live in the tent opposite you. My friend here is called Ava,’ she said gesturing towards Ava.
Thanking Sophie, they looked at Ava and greeted her. Ava was shortish, with a strong looking build. She had short brown hair and deep dull brown eyes, shadowed by thick bushy eyebrows. She lifted a limp hand up and waved it. Ava was dressed in black from head to foot. The women were obviously American.
Sophie glanced down at the map that David and Natasha were studying. She said, ‘Ava is a fitness freak, we were thinking of going to Angel Falls. I have been told it is spectacular, would you like to join us?’
From the opposite side of the table Ava said offhandedly, ‘We always walk to see sights, get exercise, do you like to do that?’
Natasha replied, ‘We have not decided yet, but thank you for the offer of your company.’
Sophie and Ava made their breakfast and drank their coffee leisurely. They watched David and Natasha as they thought about going to Angel Falls, listening to their quiet talk, believing that they could not be overheard. The seed had been planted.
Sophie went to collect the coffee mugs she had given to them and asked nonchalantly, ‘Have you decided to go to the falls? If so, do join us, the more the merrier.’ Standing over them, Sophie smiled sweetly.
Natasha looked uncertainly towards David. Her eyebrow went up as a question mark. She had not planned to spend the day with outsiders. David thought the women seemed pleasant enough, willing to walk to an attraction that both parties wished to view.
‘Why not?’ Ava asked, appearing relaxed on the opposite bench. ‘We can make food to take for all of us. Sophie is an expert sandwich maker. All you will need to do is to bring water.’
‘No, we must help,’ Natasha replied instinctively.
‘Forget it,’ Sophie said. Her smile had not diminished, cutting short any negative reply. ‘Done deal,’ she said turning her back on them to go and clear their own breakfast table. ‘See you in half an hour,’ she said over her shoulder.