Page 15 of Starlit Skies

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SKYLAR GROANED. WHAT was that heavy weight on top of her? She pushed, but the weight was unyielding. She was cramped in a fetal position, lying at an obscure angle, head downward. Something was wrapped painfully across her abdomen, biting into her shoulders and chest.

It felt like an impossible task, but she finally opened her eyes. Where was she?

Then, in an instant, it all came flooding back. Their helicopter had crashed.

No, wait. Their helicopter had been shot down. Who would do such a thing? And why? She took in what was left of the chopper. What she could see of it, anyway, from beneath this heavy thing lying on top of her, blocking her view. It wasn’t good. It was like she was in some massive beer can that’d been stomped on by a giant foot.

But she hadn’t been in the chopper alone.

Nash. Was Nash okay?

Finally, her brain began firing on all cylinders, and she worked out that he was the weight confining her to the seat. A dead weight. Oh, shit. Was he dead? She couldn’t see his face because she was trapped beneath his chest.

“Nash,” she called, reaching a hand up until she found his head, slumped against the seat above her. She patted his face. “Nash,” she called again. “Wake up.”

There was no answer.

“Please, wake up.” This time, her plea was more of a sob.

There was a soft groan from above, and she patted his cheek harder, almost a slap.

“Hey,” he accused groggily. “Stop that.”

Then abruptly, his weight lifted as he sat up, and she gasped in relief.

“Fuck. Are you okay?” Big hands cradled her face, turning it so he could look at her.

“I don’t know,” she answered truthfully. “What about you?”

“I’m not sure, either,” he admitted.

“Your face,” she said, her gaze roaming over his features, cataloging the many small cuts and abrasions covering his face and the large gash running down his cheek, dripping blood onto the floor. “Oh, shit.”

He reached up a hand and tentatively dabbed at the blood. “Is it bad?”

“That’s the worst one,” she said, “But I think it looks worse than it really is. The rest are small, like you’ve been hit by tiny bits of flying glass.” Which he probably had been.

“What about me?” She could feel a burning sensation on her forehead.

“There’s a large bruise on the top of your head, but that’s about it.”

“At least we’re both alive.”

“Yes, Paul did an amazing job, getting us down in one piece,” he replied.

Even though that wasn’t really the truth. Now that she was sitting, she could see the helicopter was practically destroyed. The only part that remained fully intact was the compartment they were sitting in. The chopper had been ripped in two, and Skylar could see that the front of the aircraft was settled five meters away, a gaping hole separating them, the wreckage was filled with broken branches and dirt gouged out of the forest. If she leaned forward, Skylar could make out the edge of the treeline about fifty meters back, up a slight incline. The chopper had plowed a path through the underbrush, breaking into smaller pieces as it went.

They’d finally come to rest against the trunk of a large fig tree. Paul’s section was farther down the hill, his headlong rush stopped by a jumble of limestone boulders.

“Paul. We need to check on Paul.” She struggled with her harness, but couldn’t get it undone.

“I’m on it,” Nash said. “You stay here.” He grappled with his own harness and shrugged his way out of it.

Not likely. She wasn’t about to stay in this wreck for a second longer than she had to. Nash didn’t get to tell her what to do. At last, she shrugged out of her harness, wincing as pain sliced through her chest and shoulders where the webbing had cut into her. But she’d rather have bruising from the harness than the alternative, because it’d probably helped save her life.

Nash got to his feet, careful to stay low to avoid the smashed-in roof. “Ow.” His loud exclamation made her turn her head sharply.