A/N: This isn't my first NT story, but I think it's probably better. I might post my first story on here when my wonderful beta gets done with it, even though it is riddled with problems in my opinion...
Thanks so much to my beta, Raina! She puts up with my bad editing habits and catches all the stuff I miss in the frenzy of writing. You're awesome, mellon nin!
When you find an amazing treasure that 'redefines history for all mankind' and end up with $50,000,000 overnight, a trip across country to the Salmon River in Idaho isn't really a big deal. There are advantages to being 'comfortably well off.'
Ben called and asked me if I wanted to go. I almost said no. Abigail and Ben are my two favourite people in the world, but to be honest, at times I feel like a third arm. If they wanted a fun, romantic vacation, I certainly didn't want to be in the way.
"Uh, Ben, you do realize you're calling me only two days before the fact, right?"
"Yeah. Sorry about that. It was kind of a spontaneous decision on our part, but we were still hoping you could go. My parents are coming too."
Hmm... that changed things a little...
"Is there going to be a lot of kissing involved? Because I've hung out with two sets of married people before, and I've noticed it can get a little disgusting - especially for a single guy... and if there's near-death experiences involved, it's worse."
I heard a stifled laugh on the other line. "I promise, Riley. Kissing will be kept to a minimum."
"How about the near-death experiences?"
"Riley, it's a rafting trip."
I mimicked his voice, "'I'm gonna steal the Declaration of Independence.' You always make these things sound like no big deal, and then we end up almost getting killed."
"Can you come or not?" The guy is not easily detoured.
"Fine. Since your parents will be there to supervise, I think I can squeeze it in."
"Great. I'll see you Friday then."
"Cool. And Ben?"
"Thanks for inviting me."
The plane ride was so freaking long I thought I was going to go insane. Some people would argue that I already am, but what do they know?
We put down in Lewiston late on Friday night and staggered into a motel, barely awake. I collapsed into bed and swore I was not waking up until the jet lag wore off.
Ben crashed that plan by banging into my room at some unearthly hour of morning... I glanced with bleary eyes at the bedside clock. Make that afternoon.
"Riley, if you sleep any more, we're going to miss the bus."
"I'll catch the next one," I mumbled into the pillow. Why does Ben always have so much energy?
"I don't think so. If you don't get up, I'm going to sic my mother on you."
I raised my head and looked at him. He was dead serious. "Now that's just downright cruel, Ben."
"Hey, I had to suffer through it as a child, no reason you shouldn't have to as well." He shrugged. "Bus leaves in half an hour."
I threw a pillow at him and escaped into the bathroom before he could retaliate. The water helped me wake up and to everyone's astonishment, I was actually ready by the time the bus left Lewiston, albeit, a little dishevelled.
The bus ride was not quite as boring as the plane ride; mostly because it wasn't as long, and when I wasn't sleeping, there was some really great scenery.
In the last half hour of the trip though, Ben started rattling on about some obscure facts involving Lewis and Clark's expedition and that put me right back to sleep. Not that I wasn't interested, but I was still tired and Ben has a very mesmerizing, monotone voice when he tells stories. It's going to be great if he ever has kids that don't like to sleep. They won't stand a chance.
Abigail woke me up by dropping my bag in my lap. "How can you sleep so much? We're in Riggins. Come on!"
"Jet lag, Abigail. I don't suppose you've ever suffered from it?" I snarled good-naturedly.
"Not as badly as you, apparently." She grinned and led the way off the bus. She was really happy to be getting away from the rat-race of D.C. living, and despite my complaining, I was really glad to be along for the fun as well. I had been rafting once when I was little and that had pretty much cured me of ever wanting to do it again. But I had only been eight, and I figured it couldn't possibly be as scary now at twenty-six.
"You awake yet, kiddo?" Patrick asked me as I staggered off the bus step. Patrick is the only one I allow to call me 'kiddo' without complaint. I guess it's because he's soooo much older than me, and because he's so much of a father figure that I don't mind. When Ben tries to pull the 'kid' stunt, there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth.
"Getting there," I replied, shouldering my bag and looking around me. It was quite the culture shock. Riggins was tiny. I mean, we're talking one little two-lane street running through the middle of town, and only two gas stations. You could seriously walk lazily across main street without using a cross walk and not have to worry about getting hit.
The whole place was squashed in between bare, brown hills that made up a seemingly never-ending canyon in north and south directions.
"Talk about getting away from it all," I muttered. "Ben, did you like choose the red-neck capital of the world for our vacation?"
"Be nice, Riley. Their white water rafting is suppose to be the best."
I was astonished. I hadn't seen the population sign on the way into town, but I was pretty sure it was like, ten. Maybe a few more during tourist season. We'll make it fifteen all together.
"OK. But do they have food?"
Ben shook his head with a long-suffering smile. I've noticed I tend to have that effect on people. "Tell you what, why don't you guys go get dinner across the street while I figure out our itinerary and do paperwork for the raft?"
"You're offering to do the dirty work while we go eat? Sweet! I'll save you some fries."
"Generous of you." He rolled his eyes. "Abigail, make sure the walking mouth gets enough food."
"Hey!" I protested, but Abigail had already grabbed my arm and was dragging me across the street while Ben went to procure our raft.
"The only time he's ever quiet…" She teased.
"It's a conspiracy!" I wailed.
"You only just discovered that, Riley?" Emily joined in. It's scary how much she's like Abigail. Stands to reason I guess...
"Well, I'm a little slow on the uptake this morning." I admitted with a shrug.
"It's after five in the afternoon, Riley." Abigail reminded me with a snort.
"I just woke up. It feels like morning." I defended myself indignantly.
"That place looks good." Patrick thankfully rescued me from more female abuse by pointing to a small restaurant to our left. "What do you think?"
"As long as they don't serve 'grilled groundhog leg,' then it's all good with me," I said.
Emily shook her head with a smile. "Riley dear, I think you keep me young."
Ben joined us half an hour later and Abigail pulled the pizza box from beneath my protection and shoved it across the table to him. Give me credit, I had saved him a couple pieces.
"We're all set," Ben said, selecting a piece from the box. "This is going to be great. One more night in a motel, and tomorrow under the stars."
"How poetic. Do I get to sleep in tomorrow before you subject me to the glories of sleeping on the hard ground?" I asked snidely.
"Is 7:30 a.m. late enough for you?" He returned.
I groaned and dropped my head onto the table. "Not nice."
The next day was sunny and perfect for the beginning of our trip. Ben had rented a huge blue raft and we were soon lazily floating down the river. One of Ben's hidden talents turned out to be experience in rafting, so we hadn't needed a guide. Just a bunch of maps and camping gear.
My laptop was stowed in the waterproof box under the seat, and I was happily lazing cat-style on the edge of the raft, soaking in the bright rays of sun with one foot dangling in the cool water. This. Was. Great. I was so glad they had invited me to come.
"It's so calm!" Emily commented, gazing at the expanse of brown canyon before us.
Ben smiled. "Actually, it's going to get a little rough around this next bend, according to the map. Riley, you may want to put your life-jacket back on, because you are going to fall off if you stay there."
I sat up and glared at him. "Dang, Ben. I was comfy." I slid the life-preserver on and sat down inside the raft in what I hoped was a wave-free area.
Ben shrugged. "Blame the river."
"It's more fun to blame you."
We heard rapids up ahead and Emily started to look a little nervous. "Benjamin, are you sure you know how to do this?"
"It's fine, Mom. I spent half an hour with one of the best guides on the river and we marked all the places on the map -which I studied carefully last night, by the way- that I need to watch for. Don't worry. Just remember the safety tips we went over."
Before we started, Ben had gone over all the "what to do's" if the raft capsized and stuff like that. The thing that struck me as funny is that you are supposed to remember all this stuff while you're being swirled around under water with a huge raft on top of you.
"Ok, guys. Hang on," Ben said, skillfully maneuvering the oars.
I could see the white water in front of our raft, rising and dipping like miniature mountains and valleys with roiling green waves and I suddenly had a very important question.
"Ben, is there any place in the raft where I won't get wet?" I yelled over the roar.
In response, Ben grinned. "Not really."
We plunged in between the two biggest waves, and water washed all over us as the raft bucked back and forth. Both Abigail and Emily shrieked while Ben and Patrick laughed. I think I was doing both until my mouth filled with water. It was so cold! But so much fun.
As we got back into calmer water we all took a collective breath and blinked the moisture out of our eyes. I'm not sure how they did it, but Patrick and Emily had managed to stay fairly dry in the back of the raft. Abigail and I had been on the front and we were soaked.
"Nice cow lick, Riley." Abigail laughed, ruffling my slightly over-long hair that was now plastered all over my forehead and obviously sticking out in odd directions. "And you didn't even fall out. I'm impressed."
"There's still a lot of rapids ahead of us," Ben said. "He's still got time to fall out."
I rung out my soaking t-shirt after slipping out of my life vest again. "What? I'm not wet enough for you?" I sat back on the edge of the raft which turned out to be a mistake because while I was preoccupied trying to get dry, Patrick pushed me in!
I came up spluttering to see everyone laughing - in Patrick's case, evilly. The man has a wicked sense of humour when he decides to exercise it.
I looked around for a fish to throw at them, but didn't have any luck. "This means war," I promised, splashing them as much as possible while I climbed back into the raft (far more difficult than it looks). "I know where you all sleep."