The honking calls of geese sounded from overhead, a prelude to their splashdown on the lake some distance away. In the circular pool, large, dark shapes cruised just below the shimmering surface of the water. Here and there, a fin or tail appeared, giving further hints of the exceptional size of the fish that dwelled in the secluded pool.
The sun shown down bright and warm, slowly evaporating the dew that clung to the leaves and grass. Dara leaned back, lifting her bare breasts toward the warmth, and let out a sigh as she enjoyed the morning. The breeze, carrying the scent of damp earth, billowed through her sandy blonde hair.
After long years away at medical school, she was finally home. This spot deep in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area fit that description even more than her father's small house outside Ely Minnesota. Her father had brought her and her brother here whenever possible, and they all loved the peaceful wilderness.
It was here that she'd first set foot on the path toward her career. Always empathic, she sought out shy children camping on the lake and invited them to join her and her brother in whatever activity they were engaged in. Her father was the same way, welcoming newcomers to the lake as though they were new neighbors. It had reached the point where all the local outfitters mentioned them and their regular campsite whenever sending customers to the area.
When she was twelve years old, heeding that advice had proven critical to one family. They had arrived at the camp in a panic. Their daughter - whom Dara had befriended - had a bad gash in her leg, wrapped in a blood-soaked towel. While her father treated the wound with first-aid, she'd sat holding the girl's hand, trying to keep her calm. It was a near thing, and only her father's skill had given the girl the time for a sat-phone call to summon a ranger in a float plane to evacuate her for treatment that saved her life. That incident had shocked Dara to the core, and put her on the path to medical school.
Now, she was prepared with the knowledge and supplies necessary to deal with emergencies in the wilderness. She would never have to feel that helpless again.
The sound of footfalls and crunching leaves caused her to open her eyes and turn toward the trail she'd followed to this spot a half hour before. The average woman sunbathing nude would have made a dash for her clothing at the first hint of someone approaching. Dara knew that only one person could possibly be walking down that trail, and she was unconcerned.
"Morning, Dad," she said when she caught the first glimpse of him through the undergrowth.
He stepped into the clearing - a man as big as a bear and almost as hairy. "Morning, La'Dara," he said, using her given name, known only to the family.
He too was naked, having wisely left his clothing hanging from a convenient tree farther back along the trail, just as his daughter had. His mate had a penchant for splashing that called for keeping clothing one wanted to remain dry a good distance away from her pool.
Neither father nor daughter was concerned with each other's nudity, as they had seen each other so for Dara's whole life. His mate's disdain for clothing was but one of the excuses she used for her splashing.
"I haven't seen Mom this morning," Dara remarked as he sat down next to her. Then, she sat up and kissed his dark-bearded cheek.
"Well, you know your mother. She'll be along soon enough, I should imagine."
Dara sighed again. "It's just good to be home."
"It's good to have you home." He smiled. "My daughter, the doctor."
"Finally. Perfect timing, though. Either that, or Doctor Brown was just waiting for the first possible chance to cut back and retire."
Her father laughed. "Thinking the second." He then nodded toward the far end of the pool, where a finger of the lake connected it to that larger body of water beyond.
Dara saw the shadow beneath the surface of the water darting toward them and smiled. As soon as the rapidly moving shape reached the center of the pool, Dara's mother La'isa burst from the water.
The long silvery hair atop her head whipped, slinging droplets in a fan that caught the light and flashed in a rainbow. Her mermaid tail hovered at the surface for a moment before gravity and the blue-skinned naiad's bending back pulled it along to vanish beneath the water with her once again.
In mere seconds, the nymph's powerful tail propelled her to the bank in front of her mate and her daughter. The momentum continued to carry her up and onto the bank, tail transforming into legs faster than the eye could see. After giving a quick, but ardent kiss to her mate, she turned to her daughter and gathered her up in a tight hug.
"Mom, it's only been a few hours while I was asleep," Dara said as she returned the hug, surprised by the strength.
"But you were gone for too long before," La'isa countered.
"So what were you doing this morning? I've been here for a half hour," Dara teased.
The nymph released her daughter from the hug and let out a silvery laugh. "It is a secret. Come swim with me."
"I'll be right in. I need to check on my wine," her father said as they stood to follow her mother into the pool.
Dara watched him walk to the spot where the plastic jugs sat, a wide smile on his face. He had always made homemade wine and brought it out into the wilderness, but a little experimentation while she was off to medical school had allowed his knowledge and the nymph's magic to combine so he could make it here. Fruit, sugar, and yeast were a lot less cumbersome than finished jugs of wine when paddling in, and in the right seasons, fruit growing wild along the shores made for unique vintages.
No longer limited by how much he could carry in, wine flowed freely - but not too freely - every night in camp. Her mother had even developed a taste for the beverage, which is what had encouraged her to use her magic to keep a spot the perfect temperature for it to ferment.
After an hour of splashing, swimming, and seeing what treasures her mother had acquired recently - quite often fishing lures stolen directly from cast lines, with the barbs ground off - two things combined to encourage Dara to head back to camp. First, her stomach was growling like an angry black bear. Second, she knew the look in her parents' eyes. Even a doctor who had seen her parents nude for all her life had her limits.
Swimming over to the couple, she gave them both a kiss on the cheek. "I'm starving. I'm going to head back to camp and make breakfast."
"I'll be along in a bit," her father absently responded. Food was the last thing on his mind with his beautiful naiad mate tempting him.
Dara swam back to the bank and climbed out. An aroused giggle from her mother prompted her to hurry back up the leaf-strewn trail to her clothing. She slicked the water from her skin as best she could, having not brought a towel, then pulled down the shorts and t-shirt she'd left hanging from a young tree.
Trying not to think of the sad state of her own love life - or rather lack thereof - she dressed and returned to camp. The t-shirt clung to her damp skin to the point of indecency, but the rising heat would remedy that soon enough, and the camp wasn't visible from the water if anyone happened by.
It felt good to cook over the camp stove, after so many meals prepared by a quick toss in the microwave. Her chosen course of study hadn't left much time for luxuries such as a decent meal. It was all too ironic that she'd spent so long eating things she'd spend the rest of her life telling people to avoid. Fortunately, she'd brought along a bag of apples, which staved off the growling of her stomach while she prepared something more substantial.
She tried to ignore the silly grin on her father's face when he walked back into camp as she was filling plates. It helped that her mother had chosen to come with him, which was a rarity. La'isa stayed upwind of the bacon and eggs, curiously going through the tents and packs to see what new things were inside since the last time she'd braved the human world.
Breakfast was relatively silent, other than the occasional explanation of some item or another that had sparked La'isa's curiosity. Her father simply liked to listen to the sounds of the wilderness, and Dara was trying to soak in as much of it as she could before she had to return to start her practice. Though she was home, her profession would likely take up nearly as much time as the study to attain it.
Once they finished eating, Dara headed to the packs to retrieve a large pot for dishwater. Her father had cleaned up after supper, so it was her turn. A quick hike down the hill brought her to the lapping edge of the water, but before she could dip her pot, she saw a canoe moving toward her.
The young man laid his paddle across the gunwales, letting the canoe drift, and broke out into a wide smile. He was rather handsome with his light brown hair blowing in the wind, and the smile made him even more so. It was a little difficult not to notice his muscular body as well.
"Dara?" he called out.
The sound of his voice - though deeper than the last time she'd heard it - snapped the hints of familiarity she felt into focus. A smile tugged at the corners of her mouth as she answered, "Chase?"
He nodded. "I knew that was your Dad's canoe, but I wasn't expecting to see you. How long has it been?"
.... There is more of this story ...