Going back to a cave where her sister disappeared ten years earlier, Sarah walks through a portal. A treacherous, king, who happens to be immortal, mistakes her for a runaway princess. She comes up with a plan: pretend to be the princess and marry this king fellow so that she can put on the wedding band that can unlock the portal. Next, search for and find her sister and get the heck out of there as fast as they can. However, assuming the identity of a princess can have some risky consequences; and getting that ruby ring onto her finger will come at a hefty price.
A soft growl echoed in the darkness. Sarah snatched the thermal imaging camera from the row of equipment by the fire. Turning in a slow circle, she scanned the dark trees beyond. Nothing moved. Just as she was taking a few tentative steps through the ferns and thick brush, a branch snapped, making her jump. Another growl pierced the silence. She clutched her chest, as if that might calm her racing heart. Five years as a Bigfoot researcher, and she was still not used to the occasional howl. Then again, no animal she had ever encountered before had made such an ominous and menacing sound.
She stopped for a moment and listened, her heart thumping hard in her eardrums. "Show yourself!" Her voice echoed from the trees with a courage she couldn't feel. A shiver slid down her spine as she pulled her radio off her belt. "Base camp to Adam. Computer screen's flashing like crazy. Something broke the perimeter line."
The radio crackled and a voice answered. "Adam to base camp. What zone?"
"Zone 3. All cameras up and running, but I don't see anything out of the ordinary. I'm getting sounds over here--some movement too. I'm gonna check it out. Over."
"Wait...all by yourself?" Adam's snort carried through the static. "No way. Just because you're running this operation, that doesn't give you permission to break protocol. Stay by the fire. We're coming."
"Sure, bring in the cavalry." Sarah rolled her eyes as she picked up her infrared camera. "Listen, in the meantime, I'll just walk around the perimeter, that's all. Maybe I'll see something."
"Roger that. Just be careful." The radio transmission ended.
She straightened and peered around in the darkness. A branch snapped behind her, followed by another. How many creatures are there? She switched on the walkie-talkie and moved her fingers over the buttons; she could barely see what she was doing. "Base camp to Adam. Something's coming down the hill."
Sarah pointed the FLIR camera straight ahead, then took a few more steps into the foliage. A red amoebic-looking blob on the scanner screen began to morph, growing larger as it took on a humanoid shape. She gasped. Oh, this time they'll see. This time, I'm gonna have more tangible evidence than mosquito bites and a bad case of poison ivy in places where I didn't even know I had places. She spoke into the radio, "Get over here NOW! I'm getting a heat signature on the thermal. Something's moving closer...something really freaking huge!"
"We're on our way!" said a voice over the radio. "Stay put and be careful!"
She shouted into the walkie-talkie. "Is every team still in place? Nobody was supposed to return to base camp without my permission. Do you hear me, Adam?"
Her radio crackled as Adam answered. "All teams accounted for. Nobody near base camp. Wait for a team. I repeat, wait for a team."
Her heart rate spiked. Could this really be that elusive creature I've been stalking? "Are you kidding? This is what I came here for. It's what we came for. I'll stay within the perimeter and proceed with caution. Trust me, I'm not leaving in a Medivac."
The red blurb disappeared from Sarah's monitor. She held her breath, her head whipping from left to the right, ears and eyes straining to take in any tiny noise she could make out. Moonlight flooded through the trees, and a cool breeze blew across her face. Crickets sang, and mosquitoes buzzed. She held down the lever on her radio. "I'm not seeing anything. Whatever it is, it's gone now." Is my mind playing tricks on me? No way. The thermal definitely picked up something. A bear? Possibly, and if it was, I probably spooked it off. She spun in a slow circle, extending the thermal image camera; suddenly, there was a snap of another twig.
Strong arms gripped her from behind. She screamed, flailing wildly, sending her camera flying into the woodlands.
"Calm down," a voice said, laughing. "It's only me. Might want to warn your team that I set off some tripwires on the way here."
"YOU!? Those growling sounds weren't funny, you idiot! And look...you made me drop an expensive piece of equipment. Hard to believe you're a professional, Frank." Sarah took a slow, deep breath to calm her nerves.
He slipped off his leather jacket. "Oh, come on. I even bought a proper Indiana Jones fedora for the occasion."
Her cheeks grew hot as she stared at the safari shirt stretching across his broad shoulders and strong chest, his sleeves rolled up at the elbow. Khaki-colored pants finished his adventurer ensemble. His brown hair hung in shaggy waves from underneath his hat. He looked really hot, but there was no way she was going to admit it. If he'd had a bullwhip, she would have wanted to strangle him with it. "You hate hats."
"What? No I don't. Now we match--his and hers Indy hats." The flames leapt greedily at the logs, reflecting in his hazel eyes as he scanned her up and down with a crooked smile. "Did anybody ever tell you how sexy you look in camouflage? And boy, you have the part of big-game hunter nailed."
"I'm not here to hunt any game and certainly not to kill anything. I just want to prove its existence." Sarah let out a long sigh. "This is my expedition anyway, so what're you doing here?" She reached down and picked up her equipment.
"I'm on assignment. Nobody wanted to write this article, but I jumped on it." He wrapped an arm around her shoulder, pulling her close. "One of the perks of the job is seeing you."
"Even if you got lost trying to find me in this forest?"
"I could more easily get lost in those big brown eyes of yours."
She flung his arm off. "You scared the crap out of me!"
"Hey, you're lucky I didn't show up in an ape suit."
"You know I have a tranquilizer gun, right?"
He glanced down at her waist. "Yeah, and I love the holster. It's so Old West."
Sarah met his gaze. "I'd aim straight for your--"
"Cute butt?" he finished, grinning.
She shook her head. "Not quite what I had in mind."
"Don't you dare say heart, 'cause you've already shattered mine."
"I'm sorry, Frank."
"Why don't you answer my phone calls or e-mails?"
She huffed. "Don't you have some ridiculous ghost story or urban legend you could be out debunking? Shouldn't you be killing off the Tooth Fairy for little kids or something?"
"Why do you waste your time playing head researcher in Planet of the Apes?"
Glaring, she picked up the radio. "Guys, false alarm! It's only Frank Hedford."
Adam's voice crackled in the speaker. "Huh? That guy from the Daily News?"
She glared at Frank as she spoke into the walkie-talkie. "Yeah, that's our animal. I'll get rid of him. Everyone back to your positions."
"So you caught the smaller, smellier version of Bigfoot, huh?" he asked over the radio.
"Yeah, I suppose I did. We'll be in tomorrow's headlines--'Bigfoot: A No Show'."
She recognized Steven's voice when he said, "Throw that guy out on his big furry--"
Sarah turned off the radio.
Frank smiled. "Man, it feels good to be loved. Must be that article I wrote about those guys mistaking a freaking elk for a Sasquatch. You know, I bet they could still get their story published. The supermarket tabloids would jump on a juicy tidbit like that."
Sarah's cheeks burned with anger. "Listen, we had two reliable eyewitnesses on that case, and--"
"And a blurry picture that didn't add up to squat."