Page 19 of Starlit Skies

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The hole Nash had ripped, when he first exposed the wound, gaped open, the two edges flapping down to drape over the sides of his thigh. Now she had complete access to his injury. She decided she could also use the sections she cut off his slacks as extra bandages, if need be.

“You may as well make them even, while you’re at it,” Nash commented. “It’s as hot as Hades in here, and I’d rather be cool than make a fashion statement.”

Skylar hacked at his other pants leg, and soon, Nash was wearing a pair of raggedy shorts. She tried not to stare this time as she exposed his other leg. But it was hard not to see the raised edges of the scars, the texture of the skin slightly lighter in color, and then completely smooth in some places. Skylar had never been up close and personal to a burn injury before.

“They don’t hurt,” he said, as if reading her mind. “I got them years ago, in a car crash, before I became a policeman.” Something dark flittered through his eyes, an emotion Skylar couldn’t decipher. There was a story there, and maybe one day he would tell her. But not today.

Skylar busied herself tying strips of cloth around Nash’s thigh. He watched her without comment, blue eyes cool and unreadable.

Just as she finished tying off the last strip, a low rumble sounded in the air above. They both stopped and listened.

“Is that…?” She could hardly bring herself to say the words. “Could that be a rescue helicopter, come to look for us?” She stood up so quickly she nearly banged her head on the broken fuselage above. “Quick, we need to get up to the clearing, to make sure they see us.”

“It might be.” Nash’s wary tone stalled her enthusiasm. “I’m sure they’re looking for us by now. But we need to be careful, just in case.” Nash began shoving all the goodies he’d gatheredinto the pile, into the blue backpack Skylar had found outside, including the boning knife, which he wrapped in a strip of fabric.

“What are you doing?”

“Preparing for any occurrence,” he replied.

What did that even mean? She had no time to argue. “Come on,” she urged impatiently. “We don't want them to fly right past us.”

Nash got to his feet, slung the backpack over his shoulders, and hobbled to the gap that Skylar had used earlier. She wanted to rush ahead of him, run up to the clearing and wave her arms in the air. The sound of the helicopter was getting closer. Rescue. She wanted to be rescued. She didn’t want to have to spend even one night out here. Not with the image of Paul’s body haunting her. But Nash was injured, and she couldn’t leave him. He lowered himself through the hole.

“How is it?” she asked, once they were both out of the ruined chopper.

Nash tested his leg, taking a few steps. “I can walk,” he said. “It hurts like hell, but I can walk.”

“Good. That’s good,” she said impatiently. They both looked up at the sound of the helicopter buzzing overhead. She caught flashes of it high above, through the waving branches. It was late afternoon; the sun would set in less than half an hour. If she didn’t signal them now, they might lose the opportunity to be rescued.

She glanced behind, watching Nash’s slow progress up the incline. He would make it, but they might miss the chopper. What if she offered to help him? Even if she did, it’d be slow going. It was too much to bear. “I’ll see you up there,” she said and took off, running where the terrain allowed, pushing aside large branches, with long grasses and small shrubs scratching at her bare legs.

“Skylar, wait. We need to be careful…” The rest of his words became indistinct as she drew away from him, replaced by the sound of her crashing through the undergrowth,

She broke through the edge of the tree line in time to see the tail of helicopter disappear over the ridge. Too late. She was too late.

Despair settled over her and she sat down heavily on the rough, limestone rocks, head in her hands. This day had started off with such promise. Her trip had been a success; it looked like Dan Sanders would be sent to jail for a long time. She’d overcome her anxiety about being in town long enough to get a whole heap of shopping done. And she was so looking forward to gifting everyone with their presents when she got back to the lodge. But then some asshole had shot them out of the sky. What was going on with that? Now Paul was dead, and the day was going from bad to worse. If they had to spend the night out here…

“Skylar, are you okay?” She looked up to see Nash’s concerned face peering from out from the scar of broken vegetation where the chopper had veered down the slope. He was panting hard, as if he’d run up the last section, to try and keep up with her.

Now she felt bad for making him run.

There was a sound, and Skylar looked up just as a sleek, black helicopter popped up over the top of the ridge.

They’d come back. They were going to be rescued, after all.

Skylar stood and waved her arms frantically in the air.

Nash called to her, “Skylar, wait, it’s not a rescue—”

Gunfire erupted all around her, the sound deafening. Sharp pieces of rock flew in all directions as the bullets struck the limestone nearby, and Skylar ran for her life.


NASH WATCHED IN horror as bullets from the semiautomatic rained down from the helicopter. He could do nothing to help Skylar, he was too far away, all he could do was pray that she made it to the safety beneath the tree canopy.

If only he had his gun, he might be able to return fire, draw the attention of the attackers away.

She was almost to him now, ducking and weaving, blonde hair flying out behind her, beautiful mouth drawn back in a rictus of fear.