Page 18 of Starlit Skies

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“I’ve searched through the debris, but it could be anywhere. I’m sorry.”

“So, neither of us has a working phone?” Skylar felt the weight of disappointment settle over her. “Great. Just great.”

“Did you find a first aid kit?” Nash asked hopefully.

“No sorry, but I found some stuff we can probably use as bandages.” She held up her meagre finds to show him.

“My shirt,” Nash said, looking up, an eager gleam in his eyes. “Did you find my bag, then?”

“No, sorry, everything is scattered around everywhere. It’s like a bomb went off in the luggage compartment.”

“Oh. Shit.” His face fell. “My gun was in a lockbox in my bag. I need to find it.”

“We can have another look once we get your leg sorted,” she replied.

“I gathered a few things together, while you were away,” Nash said quickly. Skylar looked down to see a pile of stuff at his feet. It must’ve come from the scattered shopping bags full of her haul from Cairns this morning. Three large, plastic bottles of water, two packets of chicken chips—they’d been for Bindi, she loved the savory snacks—a bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey,that’d been for Alek, a new boning knife she’d bought for herself because her other was too small, along with a set of bamboo serving spoons she’d liked the look of, and roughly ten of Dale’s Bounty Bars. That made her smile, thinking of her brother. But the smile quickly faded when the thought of never seeing him again flashed thorough her mind.

“The whiskey is to clean the wound,” Nash said.

“What?” She hadn’t been concentrating.

“I’m going to pull the metal out, and we’ll need to disinfect it,” he reiterated calmly.

How could he be so calm about something like that? “Are you sure?” She still thought that perhaps they should wait. She’d heard of people who’d died from massive blood loss once a penetrating object was removed, because the object had been blocking a severed artery.

“Yes, I am.” Without any further warning, Nash grasped the twisted metal and pulled, letting out a shout of pain at the same time.

“Oh, Jesus,” she cried. “You really did it.”

They both gaped at his thigh, where a slow trickle of blood seeped from the wound through the hole in his pants. But there was no gushing geyser, as she’d feared. Skylar covered her mouth at the sight. Oh, lord, she might be about to faint.

“Fuck, that hurt,” he ground out between gritted teeth. “Better to do it quick.”

Averting her gaze from the wound, Skylar scrabbled around to find the white T-shirt she’d dragged off the branch and folded it into the semblance of a pad. “Here, put this over the wound, and put pressure on it.” She waved it at him from a distance, not wanting to touch his leg.

He shook his head, teeth locked tightly together in a grimace. “Disinfect it first.”

That was probably a good idea. She unscrewed the whiskey and, without thinking, tipped half the bottle over his leg. He sucked in a breath and clamped his lips tightly shut.

“Sorry. Better to do it quick,” she parroted his words.

“Mmm,” he grunted, as if not trusting himself to speak. He took the T-shirt and placed the makeshift pad over the wound, putting pressure on it. At least the blood was mostly covered up now.

Skylar began ripping Nash’s uniform into ribbons. She could use the strips to tie around his leg. But when she went to tie the first one, she found his trousers got in the way.

“Do you mind if I tear the bottom off these?” she asked. “It’ll make it easier to access your wound.”

“Sure, do whatever you need to do,” he replied through gritted teeth.

Skylar looked around. She needed a pair of scissors, or a…knife. Like the one in Nash’s pile of goodies.

“Stay still,” she warned. Boning knives were long and thin and very, very sharp. The last thing they needed was for her to slip and slash his calf open, as well. With a couple of expert flicks of her wrist, she turned his long pants into a pair of shorts, exposing Nash’s lower leg up to the knee.

Skylar stilled as she caught sight of his calf. The lower part of his leg was covered with scars. Burn scars, if she wasn’t mistaken. The same types of scars that rippled over his upper arms.

“I’ve got them on both legs,” he said quietly.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to stare.” But some things were starting to make sense. She’d often wondered vaguely why he insisted on wearing long pants, when he would’ve been much more comfortable wearing shorts in North Queensland’s famous humidity. Now, she had her answer.

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