“We walked two hours through the fucking forest to get up here so there better be some kind of secret pirate cave behind that waterfall, bitch.” The guy with the gun pointed at Avett took a step towards her and she took one back. One more and she would go over the edge, which I was pretty sure had to be her plan all along.
Slowly, she shook her head from side to side. “I told you, there are no drugs. I told you the night you tried to rape me and I’m telling you now. I had nothing to do with Jared ripping your boss off.”
Rage, unlike anything I’d ever felt, boiled furious and thick in my blood. The man that was threatening her was the one that had hurt her previously, and all I wanted to do was tear him apart and scatter the pieces into the wind.
“You need to hurry the fuck up and get over the hard-on you have for that stupid bitch. I think I heard something move out there.”
The other man swore back at him and waved the gun around. “Stop being paranoid. You need to get your ass out of the city more.”
“You’re the dumb fuck that believed her when she told you that the drugs were in the woods. What kind of junkie would ever hide drugs out here? Stupid fucker. We don’t even get cell service this far out, so how can you check to see if the guys took care of her parents? You blew it and Acosta is going to have both our asses.”
I held my breath as their argument escalated. I waited and watched because I needed the guy with the gun pointed at Avett to turn around. I didn’t want to make a move until I knew she was totally out of the line of fire. I couldn’t bear the idea of her catching a bullet on accident.
“I’m telling you something is out there.”
“Well, go check it out, then.”
“Put a goddamn bullet in her and then you go check that shit out. I don’t fucking work for you.”
The other man turned his head and looked over his shoulder as I eased my way even closer to the rock outcropping.
“I’m not putting a bullet in her until I finish what I started all those months ago. I hate being denied after I got a taste of something that I know is going to be so sweet.”
“We don’t have time for that.”
“We’re making time.”
My teeth clenched together so tightly I was shocked my back teeth didn’t crack. I watched Avett’s arms fall and I saw her face shift from scared and shaken to serene and calm. I knew what she was going to do before she started to move. I took aim at the guy that was facing the woods and knew there was no more waiting for the right time, because the time was now.
Avett took a step backwards and the ground disappeared under her as her body vanished over the edge of the rocks. I screamed her name because I couldn’t stop myself from doing so. The crack of gunfire echoed loud and furiously through the gorge as I fired at the same time as the guy aiming at Avett did. Gunpowder was acrid in the air as the guy who was the lookout crumbled to the ground and the other one turned to fire wildly in my direction. I dashed across the clearing, returning fire as bullets whizzed by me but didn’t land. My mountains echoed with the sounds of war and fury as I ran faster and faster until I hit the man that was shooting at me full force. I grabbed for the hand that had the gun and we struggled as I pushed him back and back, going for the ledge he had forced Avett over.
Another round was fired as he swore at me and tried to kick me, but I had rage and love on my side, so he was no match for me. It took another heave and my shoulder in his gut to send both of us sailing through the air. Even in the darkness that was now all around us I could see him lose his grip on the weapon as we free-fell through the crisp mountain air. He screamed so loud that it hurt my ears and I was almost thankful as the frigid water engulfed me.
The shock of the cold was enough to make my entire body stiffen painfully, and I had to really work to get my lethargic arms to cooperate to push myself to the surface. When I broke through, I sucked in lungfuls of air and frantically searched the inky water for any sign of Avett. I didn’t know if the man I’d taken over the drop with me had managed to hit her before she jumped and I couldn’t immediately see her.
“Avett!” I screamed her name at the top of my lungs and started to thrash around as the cold threatened to suck me back under the surface. “Avett!” Her name and my fear bounced off the stone faces that surrounded me but she didn’t answer and I couldn’t see that unmissable pink hair shining anywhere in the darkness.
“I can’t swim. You have to help me! I’m going to drown!” The gunman was suddenly visible a few hundred yards away, splashing and thrashing against the water like he was doing karate against an invisible appointment.
“Avett! Goddamnit, I can’t lose you when I just found you. Where are you?” An owl hooted from somewhere overhead and I jerked my head around.
There, floating right under the surface, was that spray of Technicolor hair. I screamed her name again and cut through the water as quickly as my numb limbs would allow.
She was floating facedown and there was an obvious gash that decorated the side of her head, right above her ear. She felt like a lifeless doll in my hands as I pulled her frozen body to my own and muttered her name over and over again, and I struggled to keep the both of us afloat.
The other man in the water with us was making so much racket I couldn’t hear if she was breathing or not but her lips were blue and she wasn’t responsive to my touch.
I thought my heart had fractured when I realized my parents were never going to be proud of me and everything I accomplished. I thought I had lost everything when Lottie left me after telling me she was pregnant. I was so sure I had absolutely nothing left to give to anyone after everything I thought I knew to be true was proven to be a lie, but with this woman that was everything in my arms not drawing breath, I knew I had no clue what heartache felt like and that I had more than enough to give her if it meant she would still be here with me.
I tilted her head back as far as it would go without dunking her back in the icy water and started to breathe into her mouth. I breathed in all the love I had for her. I gave her air flavored with my confidence that we were meant to be, and laced with the knowledge that she made me a better kind of man. I breathed out and filled her lungs with the future I wanted to share with her and all the memories I wanted to make with her.
It took far longer than I was comfortable with, but after a few breaths and some desperate kisses on her frozen lips she finally started to cough and sputter in my arms. Those wild eyes slowly opened, and her teeth started to chatter as she looked up at me, unfocused and visibly confused.