Surely nobody has ever met their great love while using duct tape to pull cactus needles out of their girl parts on a mountain trail.
Except I just did.
Let me tell you about Axel Pickle.
He’s a bronzed god.
Worth half a billion after selling his nature app.
And he hikes naked.
He showed up in nothing but his hiking boots when I ran shrieking onto his private property after peeing on a prickly pear and being unable to put my pants back on.
We’ve been staring at each other’s private parts from the moment we first laid eyes on each other.
But I can’t date him.
I shouldn’t even talk to him.
And why he’s showing up at the hotel deli where I work, volunteering to slice the salami is a mystery to me.
I’m running from a terrible situation, and I need to keep my head down and avoid the world.
But something about the way Axel looks at me gets under my skin.
And this time, no duct tape in the world can yank the hooks he’s set in my wary, introverted soul.
Tasty Pickle is a full-length standalone rom com about the most charming, witty, completely useless hunk of man-meat ever to nature walk au naturel, a skeptical, purposefully underachieving deli worker, and the ghost pepper pickle relish that brings them together with a kiss so fiery that it ends up requiring medicated lip gloss.
It is part of the bestselling Pickleverse, but you do not need to read any other books before this one. You can start your outrageous adventure into the world of the Pickles right here.
Excerpt from Tasty Pickle
I’m pretty good at avoiding mosquito bites on my balls.
When your favorite pastime is hiking, and your preferred way of doing it is naked, you have to consider the possibility of bug bites in tender places.
I have Mom to thank for the perfect solution. She never liked chemical sprays, so we avoided the industrial-grade traditional repellent.
Her answer? Avon Skin So Soft. She slathered us in it.
So when I took up naked nature hiking, I never worried about having to hose down with something that might shrivel the family jewels. Just a quick swipe of Mom’s all-purpose lotion, and I was good to go.
I took to streaking at an early age. Mom says she had to put sliding locks on the tops of the doors or else my squeaky clean toddler self would slither out of her grasp after a bath and take off through the neighborhood, the wind in my baby fine hair.
Sometimes, like today, when I’m picking my way over rock, I catch a whiff of that feeling from when I was little. The breeze on my body. The freedom of unconstrained movement. Nothing comes between me and the wide open sky.
It’s a Rocky Mountain high, and not the kind that’s legal here in Colorado.
It’s communion with nature.
The only complication beside bug bites is finding the right level of privacy.
Everybody carries a phone, and I don’t need that kind of publicity.
So I bought my own space.
The trails I hike are part of the acreage I purchased a couple of years back, after my life changed with the sale of a phone app I wrote. My parents also own a good amount of land nearby. Nobody should be anywhere near me, which makes it safe enough for my hobby.
I hit a particularly tough stretch, a tall rock with scrub brush on either side. I have a decent length of trail leading to it, so rather than going for finger holds, I take off in a run, my hiking boots biting into the dust, and leap up the side.
I roll at the top and quickly regain my footing. My gymnastics get me a scrape on my hip, but that’s typical for a tough hike like this. Nothing worth wearing clothes for.
But once I’m back to walking, I’m surprised by the appearance of a hint of human traffic. It’s not much, just a suggestion of disturbed dirt, some bent branches, and a few small rocks kicked aside.
It’s enough to send me into the brush line. I’d really rather not surprise a stranger, even if they are on my land without permission. Out-of-town hikers in particular don’t know when they’re crossing unmarked property lines.
I keep winding my way up, aiming for a spot where I can look down and see if the visitors are still here, or if I’ve found evidence that is old.
I climb another slope and sit between two sections of brush to pull out my my binoculars.
As I follow the walkable part of the mountainside, I see something. A bit of orange caught on a branch. I lean forward and twist the focus. It’s a strip of nylon, the kind you tie on a tent stake so no one will trip on it.
Someone’s camping nearby.
My urge is to get dressed. Somebody’s up here, and I don’t want to encounter them as I am.
But my annoyance rises. I bought this land just for this feeling. The gritty rock against my skin. The sun warming my belly.
Besides, they might have been here weeks ago.
I peer at the sun, considering my position. I’m at the east-most stretch of my property. The next parcel over belongs to people I know. We’re related in a roundabout way. My cousin Anthony married a Boudreaux, and her sister got the land and built a wedding venue on it. A castle, in fact.
You can’t see the castle from here. You’d have to go a lot higher to get the right vantage point. It’s a good fifteen-mile hike with no established trailheads and several challenging cliff faces.
Still, I suppose it’s possible someone might have set off from the castle, somebody really skilled and prepared to camp.
I should probably get dressed.
I close my eyes and listen, really listen. It’s early autumn, near perfect hiking weather. A breeze coming off the mountain counteracts the sun bearing down. The leaves rustle as they dry out, preparing to fall. A few birds caw and whistle.
But no footsteps. No voices.
It’s fine. That tent flag could be months old. Years, even.
I hop to my feet and survey the summit. I don’t plan to reach it today. Getting somewhere isn’t the point. It’s all about the journey.
I’m ready to re-commune with nature, head west, and get away from the border of the two properties.
But then I hear it.
It’s a woman.
Birds burst out of the treeline about a hundred yards below.
Another scream, then an audible, “No, no, no, no!”
Definitely a woman.
And she sounds like she’s in trouble.
I slide down the rock. When I hit flatter ground, I race in the direction of the disturbance, a few mountain critters scampering through the underbrush, away from whatever is crashing through the trees.
At last I spot flailing limbs, a hint of chestnut hair, then there she is.
A woman, petite, red-faced, and screaming.
And she’s not wearing pants.