Page 35 of Starlit Skies

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“Shh, baby,” she entreated. “We need to be really quiet.” Holding her finger against his lips, she retrieved the weapon and crouched above him, knife in one hand. She had no idea how she was going to protect Nash; all she knew was that she wasn’t going down without a fight.

This time, she definitely heard a voice.

A man’s voice.

Then it was answered by a second voice. This one female.

That made no sense, because if it was the gunman, he said he was calling in his brother.

It sounded like they were down on the path to the parking lot. Skylar craned her neck to try and see through the tangled jungle.

“Hello,” the female voice drifted through the jungle. “Anybody here?”

A bright flash of yellow shimmered in a gap between the leaves. Yellow. The SES wore that color, so they could be seen easily. A flood of relief swept through Skylar’s veins so strong it nearly knocked her off her feet.

She stepped out onto the flat rock beside the stream at the same time as a petite woman, dressed head-to-toe in fluro yellow-and-orange, appeared at the bottom of the small waterfall.

“We’re here,” Skylar shouted, waving her arms.

“Holey moley.” The small woman took an involuntary step back. “Hey, George,” she yelled. “I think we found them.”

Skylar sank down onto the cool, rough limestone.

Rescue. They were being rescued.

* * *

Skylar paced back and forth across the small hospital room.

“Why don’t you sit down, honey? You need to rest,” Daniella said. Her mother patted the hospital bed, as if hoping Skylar might take her advice.

Daniella had chartered a helicopter to be at her daughter’s side the second she heard they’d been rescued. Skylar was grateful for her mother’s concern. It was one of the very few times she’d ever seen her mother show such depth of emotion. When she’d burst through her hospital room door and taken Skylar into her arms, sobbing into her neck that she thought she was dead, Skylar got a glimpse of the true Daniella she kept hidden beneath her veneer of professional aloofness.

But right now, her mother’s concern was suffocating.

“I’ll sit down when I know Nash is okay,” she snapped. And then immediately regretted her words. It wasn’t her mother’s fault that Nash was still in surgery. All Skylar wanted to do was to run through the hospital hallways until she found the operating theater and burst in there, so she could be by his side.

“Nash will be fine,” her mother said in a surprisingly soothing tone. “The doctor said the wound wasn’t life-threatening. They’ll clean it up, stitch him up, and put him on some strong antibiotics and he’ll be right as rain.”

“I know.” Skylar stopped her pacing long enough to glare out the window for a second. Cairns Hospital was right on the beachfront, and Skylar stared out at the Coral Sea. But she wouldn’t feel completely rational again until she saw Nash for herself. Was able to touch him, and look into those brave, blue eyes.

It was late afternoon, and Skylar had spent the last hour pacing back and forth across her room.

Daniella’s arrival had distracted her for a while, and she had to fill her in on the short version of their frightening ordeal. Dale, Daisy, Steve, and Julie were all terribly worried about her, and she had to speak to Dale over the phone before he believed that she truly was safe. Dale’s fear made her more aware of how distressed her family had been over the crash and her subsequent disappearance. When she’d been lost in the jungle, her thoughts had been on survival and staying one step ahead of that crazed gunman. But now she was safe in the hospital, it was beginning to dawn on her how much this episode had affected her family, as well.

Much like when Dale and Daisy had been taken hostage by their employee, Sally, and her boyfriend. Skylar had been terrified that her only brother was going to be taken from her. So, she could sympathize with how overwrought they must all be feeling right now.

But all that paled into comparison when she thought about Nash. Maybe she was being selfish, but she didn’t seem capable of calming her family’s fears until she calmed her own fears about Nash’s wellbeing.

Around the same time her mother arrived, a serious, middle-aged female cop had come in and taken a statement from her, but she wouldn’t answer any of Skylar’s questions as to whether they’d found the gunman who’d been chasing them; or even if she believed her story.

Senior Sergeant Robinson had poked his head into her room briefly to check on her safety and tell her he’d be back at some stage to debrief her fully. He also said he was stationing a police guard outside her room, which shocked her at first. But much like the first police officer, Robinson wouldn’t be drawn into a conversation about what was going on regarding the gunman,and so she assumed he was still out there. And she was still at risk.

Skylar’s vision glazed over, and her mind drifted back to this morning. By the time the SES volunteers had called in an ambulance, Nash had been completely delirious. It was scary to watch him hallucinating. He would giggle and talk loudly to someone who clearly wasn’t there. Then, in the next second, he would curl into a ball and moan incessantly, like an animal in severe pain. She felt like he was going to combust every time she touched his feverish skin.

The petite SES lady who’d first spotted her was calm and efficient, telling Skylar that they were safe now, checking on Nash even as her partner called it in to HQ. It seemed like an eternity as they waited for the ambulance, and then once the paramedics arrived it was another eternity until they loaded Nash into the back of the ambulance. She tried to warn the SES people about the gunman who was after them, but they both looked at her as if she was hallucinating as well, so, after a while, she stopped. All she truly cared about was getting Nash to hospital.

They’d allowed her to ride in the ambulance with him. There was no way she was letting him out of her sight, and the older male paramedic seemed to understand how important it was to her. They wanted to check her out as well, but she brushed them aside, telling them it was Nash they needed to concentrate on. Nash hadn’t wanted to lie peacefully on the stretcher, he’d thrashed and cursed at the paramedics, not realizing they were trying to help him. At one stage he’d told Skylar to run away, while he distracted the gunman, and they said they’d have to sedate him. It wasn’t until she’d been allowed to sit next to him and lay her hand on his cheek, and whisper to him that they were safe now, that he’d let go. In a moment of brief lucidity, his blueeyes cleared, and he stared at her with such a look of tenderness that her heart lurched in her chest.