I went instantly numb the second my skin made contact with the glasslike surface of the water. It was so cold that my muscles locked up and my blood froze still in my veins. The impact was jarring and enough to rattle every single one of my bones; for a second I panicked, and because I was so cold, I wasn’t sure I was going to get my paralyzed limbs to work in order to push myself back up to the surface. I flailed wildly until I realized that even though it was frigid and my body was pissed off about it, I still had control of my arms and legs. I calmed down and pushed hard at the glacial liquid that surrounded me. It only took a couple of strokes to break the surface and, once I did, I couldn’t pull air into my lungs fast enough.
“You’re certifiable, do you know that?” Quaid’s booming voice bounced through the ravine. I had to crane my neck back so I could see where he was scrambling down from the high point where I had jumped to a lower outcropping that I was going to have to swim to in order to get out of the water.
I raked my shivering hands over my wet hair so it was out of my eyes as I started to make my way towards him with the icy water coating my skin and impeding my progress.
“Weren’t you the one that told me that crazy has it’s time and place?” I was trembling so hard that I really had to concentrate on what I was doing so that the water and its arctic grip didn’t suck me back under.
“I don’t think that miles from civilization and hours away from any kind of medical help is the place to pull the crazy out of retirement.” He reached the rocks and put down a bundle that I assumed was my discarded clothes. I watched as he lowered himself to his stomach and reached one of his arms down over the side so that I could grab it and he could pull me up.
I was freezing. Colder than I had ever been in my life, and I wasn’t sure I was going to have the dexterity to reach for his offered hand when I got to him. I looked up at his too-pretty face set in concerned and annoyed lines and it hit me like a bolt of lightning what Asa meant when he said he always saw Royal at the top so he never stopped trying to climb up from the bottom.
With Quaid looking down at me, worried about me after I made yet another questionable decision, I knew that I wanted to not only keep swimming no matter how cold I was or how hard it got, but that I also wanted to reach for him. I wanted to make my way from the bottom to the top, or as close to it as I could come after years and years of purposely failing and falling.
I finally reached the lower outcropping; all I had to do was lift a hand out of the water, and Quaid had me. He pulled me up and out of the water like I weighed nothing and like I wasn’t a quivering mass of uncooperative limbs that couldn’t and wouldn’t move. My teeth were chattering together so loudly that I didn’t try to protest when he took his own leather jacket off and wrapped it around my quaking shoulders. The leather was warm from his body heat and I huddled into it as he ran a hand over my dripping hair and shook off the excess water that was still coursing over my skin.
“I can’t believe you used to do that for fun.” The words tripped over themselves as he pushed his hands under the opening of the jacket and began to rub them vigorously over my chilly sides. I was covered in goose bumps and I was pretty sure my lips were an attractive shade of blue.
“I outgrew the need to pursue danger for a thrill, and now only chase after it when it serves a purpose or a greater good. The rush lost its appeal when Harrison snapped his arm in half. We need to get you back to the cabin and in front of the fire before you start forming icicles on your eyelashes.”
I jerked my head from side to side and leaned into him. “Too cold to walk.”
He swore under his breath and pulled me closer to him. I snuggled into his much warmer body and sighed in contentment as his heat started to soak into my frozen skin.
“Was it worth it, Avett? You’re ice cold and you’re lucky you didn’t get hurt. Was the risk worth it?”
He sounded pissed off, so I tilted my head back so I could meet that wintry gaze. I pressed into him further and let out a tiny gasp as one of his big hands worked its way under the clingy lace of the bra I still had on and smoothed over my breast. My skin instantly warmed where he touched, and my already tight nipple pulled even tighter as pleasure pushed past the chill that engulfed me.
“Ask me after.”
His eyebrows danced upwards on his forehead as his fingers started to play with the velvety peak that was begging for attention.
I lifted an arm up around his shoulders so that I could get my hand on the back of his neck and couldn’t hold back a grin as my icy touch made him squirm. “Just after.”
I pulled him towards me so that I could get my mouth on his. The sensation of my icy lips melting against the warmth of his had me shivering for a reason other than the cold. His tongue tangled artfully around mine and his long finger moved to trap the peak of my breast between them. He rolled the sensitive nub back and forth, creating heat and friction that I felt between my legs. One of his hands smoothed down my still-shivering spine and cupped me under the curve of my ass so that he could pull me more fully into the length of his big body. I groaned into his mouth when I felt the press of his stiff erection against my stomach. My underwear was still soaking wet but the skin under it was getting tingly and hot as Quaid worked his big, rough hand under the delicate lace.
“They do say the quickest way to get warm is to share body heat.” The dry humor in his deep voice did wonders on its own to warm up my sluggish blood.
I moved a hand to his waistband so that I could start pulling his dark gray Henley out of the waistband of his pants. “Well, sharing is caring, so let’s get to it.”
He helped me get both layers of his shirts off over his tawny head and when his taut, burnished skin pebbled up in reaction to the chilly outside air I pulled my mouth away from the invasion of his and started chasing over those bumps with my tongue. That majestic eagle once it was revealed looked like it belonged here, like it was a part of his very essence that had been waiting for years and years to be returned to its rightful place. I rubbed my fingers over the impressive design and lost my breath as the hand that he had wrapped around my backside began to move.
It was a very short trip for his questing fingers to reach their destination, the soft and slowly melting point between my legs that lately felt like it was created only for him, but I was surprised and jolted a little when one of those wandering digits disappeared into the crevasse that I had never had anyone venture into before. It was barely the brush of a fingertip, the barest hint of a caress, but his blue eyes radiated with passion and curiosity and his unexpected touch on that hidden place made me vault up on my toes and cling even tighter to him. He always seemed to find a new way to test me, to spark my curiosity about things I didn’t ever think about before he came into my life, be they things related to sex or things related to something deeper and more meaningful, like whether or not I was the only one solely to blame for everything that happened the night everything changed. I didn’t know I had those kinds of boundaries and I reveled in the fact that he pushed me to cross them and to redefine them.