All twelve stood at the bank trying to gauge the drop over the ledge to the river in quarter moonlight. Lashed together wrist-by-wrist, they'd only drag each other down and no one would make it out alive. But the dogs were getting closer, and so was the time to either jump or wait and be taken back to the compound.
Jagger, the one who'd convinced the others to run when the rare opportunity presented itself, knew they were looking at him but he didn't look back. He kept his eye on the riverbed, his ear on the dogs. Just because he was the one who said run didn't mean he knew how to rescue anyone but himself. And at the moment, even that was very much in question.
"Hey, ain't you some kinda doctor or sumthin'?" someone said from the other end of the line.
Jagger ignored the question and looked at the young woman chained to his wrist. She was one he hadn't seen before until they brought him out of the barracks and trussed him to the rest of the line. He'd never seen her working the fields. She was too beautiful and soft looking for that kind of work. They must have been grooming her for work of a more personal kind.
Her hair was long and darker than the night surrounding them. Under the moonlight, her skin had the quality of wet almonds. Jagger was sure if he didn't get free of her now he would never get free at all.
Every second they stood in confusion on that ledge was two steps closer for the dogs. And the closer they drew, they not only sounded louder but in greater numbers.
Jagger moved without thinking, as if his hard, lean body were moving purely by reflex. He dropped to his haunches and scrabbled one handed on the ground for a rock.
"Everyone look for a rock," he told the others. "Something you can swing like a hammer."
Only Jagger and the small, wiry Ecuadorean man at the other end of the line had a hand completely free. The others were lashed hand to hand, but they seemed to get over the awkwardness of their confinement to drop down and search the ground.
There was a jut of stone shooting up through the moss and jungle scrub, and when the Ecuadorean was the first to come up with a fist sized rock, he and the German tourist he was lashed to laid the length of rope between their wrists over the big stone, and the Ecuadorean hammered the rope until it frayed apart and he was free. He passed the rock to the German and went over the ledge into the river without so much as a buena suerte.
Everyone paused to listen to the splash below. It was the same question for all of them. Did he make it? Was he floating downstream face up or face down? There was a feeling in the air that his fate would be the same for anyone who followed.
Most of the group were tethered by rope, and it was relatively quick work separating one from another. One by one, they went over the ledge into the river as the howling of the dogs came closer.
Finally, there were two clusters of three still lashed together. Jagger spotted another jut of stone and led the two he was still tethered to over to it – the almond girl and an aging native woman who never worked the fields. He locked eyes with the older woman in the moonlight. She'd never survive the drop, and he knew she could see it in his eyes.
A veil of resignation without sadness came over her face as she reached for the rock Jagger was holding in his free hand. She raised the rock and brought it down with a grimace on the rope between her wrist and the almond girl's.
The toothless old woman was stronger than she looked, and after a few well placed strikes, the rope binding her to the almond girl split apart. Jagger grabbed the rock back and laid the chain over the stone on the ground.
He raised his hand to strike at the chain, but the woman reached up and grabbed his wrist. She shook her head and then reached for his other hand. She grabbed the almond girl's wrist and then put her and Jagger's tethered hands together into a clasp. The old woman looked at both their faces and then made signing motions to tell them to jump together.
The dogs were getting closer. Jagger knew there was precious little time. Certainly not enough to hammer through the chain. There were more splashes. The other three had separated themselves and jumped.
The old woman said something urgent in her language and rose to her feet. She started to walk along the embankment. Upriver. She paused to look back at Jagger and the almond girl once more, repeating the same phrase. Angry this time.
The dogs would follow their scent here, but then follow the old woman's. It wouldn't take them long to catch up with her, and Jagger didn't want to think of what would happen when they did. He looked at the almond girl and she nodded, understanding. Together, they rose and went after her, Jagger pulling her up short by her shoulder.
At least this way she would have a chance.
Against the old woman's protests, Jagger and the almond girl enclosed her between them. He faced her from the front, with the younger woman behind. They clasped their free hands together and pulled themselves in tight, snugging the old woman in tightly.
Jagger looked at the almond girl over the old woman's shoulder and started counting, not knowing if she understood the language, but trusting she knew the cadence.
When Jagger called three, a hound leapt out from the tree line while all three pairs of legs sprung and pushed them out into the darkness off the embankment. Dropping blind, he was stunned by the strength of the almond girl as she pulled back at his grip, holding the old woman between them as more dogs reached the high bank, howling as all three hit the water together.
They went down clean. Just deep enough for Jagger's long legs to hit bottom and spring back upward. He and the almond girl lost their grip on the unchained side, but they scrambled for a grip on each other's forearm as they began to rise back up, and kept the old woman securely between them. When they broke the surface, dogs and guards were gathering along the bank. Gunshots ripped through the dark and pocked the wide, flowing river.
The old woman was sputtering for breath, but she was alive. Together, Jagger and the almond girl held her between them and rode the current downstream.
Jagger lost track of how long they spent floating in the current. It felt like hours, but the river was mercifully deep and wide. All they really needed to focus on was holding together and treading water. Still, his muscles were sore from working to keep the old woman securely between the almond girl and himself. If it weren't for the chain connecting his left hand to the younger woman's right, he was sure they would have lost her.
The echoes of the barking chase dogs had faded out to nothing long ago, but the river was still a better mode of transportation than taking the jungle on foot in the darkness, so they kept floating as long as they could. Despite their lack of a common language, there was no question about the universal concern: get as far away as possible as fast as possible.
By the time the first flashes of sunrise appeared through the leaves, the river started to grow narrower and shallower. Jagger gave the almond girl a nod, and they started kicking their way toward the bank. The old woman had kept her arms around the man's neck the whole time, but she moved her hands onto his shoulders and started kicking with them. Until then, it had been like having a large infant between them.
The bank consisted of alternating patches of sand, juts of moss covered stones and clots of jungle scrub and trees growing up to the edge of the water. They aimed for a patch of sand, and as they got their footing, the old woman finally separated from them. Once they were all out of the water, Jagger and the young woman sat down in the sand while the old woman hobbled wearily to a fallen log and rested there.
He wasn't sure if he was feeling relief or pure exhaustion. Maybe it was a combination of both. The old woman seemed perfectly calm. She was even smiling as she closed her eyes and lifted her face toward the sun.
The almond girl's long, raven hair was pasted wet to her shoulders and neck. A few strands were plastered to her face. Her white tank top was soaked and clinging to her body. Her round, wet breasts heaved against the translucent fabric as she caught her breath. She wore pale grey leggings that were also translucent wet.
The round shapeliness of her thighs and pussy struck Jagger's vision hard. She wore nothing under the leggings to obscure the impudent pout of her sex lips. Even in the sunlight, her complexion was still the color of almonds, and her eyes were shaped like them.
He raised his eyes to meet hers. She'd seen him looking at her, but there was no judgment in her gaze. There was a collective air of relief and astonishment among them. They'd made it out, even if only into the middle of this foreign wilderness.
Jagger could feel the crash begin to descend after a marathon adrenaline rush. He was aware of the chain still tethering him to the younger woman. It would have to be dealt with soon, but at the moment it gave him an odd comfort to be bound to her. She was not a reminder of captivity, but of freedom.
She was probably crashing too. In the past few hours, they had to have been feeling the same jolts of panic, the same heart racing and shallow breath of fear. The same exhilaration of flight. And even as the crash fell harder and heavier, Jagger's cock swarmed with voracious heat, growing hard in the wet, ill-fitting khakis he'd been given soon after his kidnappers had delivered him to the camp.
The old woman started speaking in her language again, as if he and the almond girl understood. She was sitting with her back to them diagonally, gazing off across the river, but something in her tone made it seem she was talking as much to herself as them.
Jagger gave the girl a questioning look, but shook her head, letting him know she understood no more than he did. Whatever the old one was talking about, she sounded perfectly calm and even laughed several times.
He let his eyes drift down the almond girl's body again. She held still, holding her expression, neither encouraging nor discouraging his look. He had the distinct feeling she was used to be looked at in such a way. Then she drew a deep, slow breath, forcing her prominent breasts to billow against the thin, wet fabric of her top. Her nipples appeared to be as hard as his cock, and her areolas were a scant shade or so darker than her skin.
"Is this how you were taken?" he asked her quietly, wondering if that's what she'd been wearing when she'd been kidnapped or if their captors had given her the kind of clothes they liked seeing her in. But she didn't understand, and barely registered the weight of his question. Meanwhile, the old woman's voice kept droning on like a lullaby.
The man finally lay back, resting his head in the sand. His hair was straight and almost long, not much darker than the grains he was using for a pillow. He closed his eyes, knowing his cock had to be forming an obvious bulge in his pants. He was fading too fast to care.
He couldn't remember when it felt so good to have an unattended hard on. He wanted the almond girl to feel it grinding against her body while he tasted her lips and held her breasts in his hands. It only seemed right they should share the release at the end of a shared escape.
The crash brought a comfortable darkness over him. The young woman's hand slipped inside his while the old woman's voice started to sound like echoes coming through fog.
And then he slept. Hard and deep.
Sometime later, as he began to stir back to life, he guessed he must have been out for a couple of hours. The damp, gritty feeling of the sand against the back of his head reminded him of where he was. He opened his eyes and found the almond girl spooned up against the side of his body with her head against his shoulder. His left hand was still chained to her right, both trapped between their bodies.
The old woman was still sitting on the log, calmly watching them. The girl's leg was cast across him. Her eyes were wide open and trained on his face. He wondered if she'd slept at all or if she'd been lying awake all that time. Only when her dense, shapely thigh made a slight move against his cock did he fully awaken to the realization he was still hard.
Without a thought for the chain binding them ... or for chase dogs, the old woman or the possible proximity of her tribe ... he turned his head the couple of inches he needed to press his lips against hers. He did it because he had to, without knowing why. Because it was the most natural and only thing to happen at that very moment in time. The second the warm, humid rush of her breath washed over his mouth and she responded, he became suffused with a feeling of warmth.
The almond girl's lips opened around a soft whimper and their tongues slid into each other's mouth. Her thigh moved against his cock and Jagger's entire body lit up with the feeling.
He needed her thigh rubbing over the rigid spine of cock trapped in his pants. He needed the breath she was feeding him and the weight of her breast in his hand.
This had to be the reason chance had bound them together by that chain. Yet they weren't bound, but inexorably connected through flight, fear and the hunger to survive.
The old woman cackled while Jagger pushed the almond girl's tank top above her breasts and caressed the softness of them with his free hand. She fumbled at opening his pants at the same time, plunging her hand inside to grasp his painfully swollen cock.
Nothing and no one else mattered now. They were caught in the flesh and blood machine of their freedom.
With one hand, the almond girl worked Jagger's pants down as he rocked and shifted his weigh to help. The old woman fell silent as the girl cupped and caressed his full balls with her free hand. He pulled her face back in and kissed her again while she worked her way onto her knees.
He pushed down on her leggings to reveal the smoothness of her ass and legs. She pulled out of the kiss and let go of his balls to work the garment off completely. Then she rose upright on her knees in the sand and gazed at him as if everything they'd been through could only have come down to this.
Her eyes were epicanthic, like many of the indigenous natives – like the old woman – but she was clearly not one of them. She was a world away from wherever she called home.
The tank top bunched above the pouting swells of her russet-tipped breasts. Her thighs were full and supple, and her pussy waxed to a pristine smoothness that made Jagger's tongue quiver to taste her.
With her free hand, she dragged her fingers back and forth along her slit until they were as wet as the lips she was stroking. Then she touched the rippling hardness of his cock, smearing her juices over his vein-crossed shaft.