He clamped his hands around her wrists. “I don’t know what you think you’re doing or who you’re running from, but we can’t keep playing this game of freeze tag.”
The hell they couldn’t. She forced herself to go slack beneath him, making the most of the second to catch her breath, to rest up for her next move. “You’re right. It was silly of me to try to get away.”
Holding her breath, she listened to him breathing against her ear. The heat of him seeped into her like a furnace against her back, made all the hotter in contrast to the ice under her stomach. They were out here alone at the ends of the earth. No people. Rocky landscape with sparse, low trees. Nothing but miles of barren horizon stretched over water, with hovering clouds threatening and this exasperating man—a tenacious, exasperating man who had the uncanny knack of pushing her buttons, which pissed her off all the more.
“Listen, Wade,” she gasped, pushing aside the Gore-Tex hood that covered her mouth, “please just let me leave. I do not want to be rescued.”
“Are you on a suicide mission?” he growled.
“I only want to be left alone.” She wriggled beneath him until she faced him, their bodies sealed chest to chest.
His hand gravitated to his hip—to his sidearm. “Are you running from the law?”
Could she bring herself to take the gun she felt strapped to his leg? She shivered. No. There had to be another way for her. She couldn’t risk the weapon accidentally going off. She couldn’t risk shooting him. He hadn’t done anything wrong, only tried to save her.
She thumped his shoulders, once, twice, and again even harder until finally he let her slide out from under him. Not that he took his hard, wary eyes off her for even a second.
Sitting, Sunny dusted off her snow pants. “I am not a criminal.”
“Does someone think you are?” he snapped back.
She weighed her words carefully. “No one in any law enforcement agency is on the lookout for me.” Her brother, however… “Please stop wasting your time on me. Aren’t there people out there who need the skills you have to offer more than I do?”
“As a matter of fact, there are. But I don’t have the luxury of choosing where I go.” He planted his hand on the snow, leaning toward her. “Right now, you are my mission.”
He studied her intently as a caribou strayed from the herd in the distance. The sun slashed across the sky, reflecting off the snow, and she realized she was seeing him fully for the first time. Yesterday had been overcast with the storm, and the cave had been shadowy at best. The impact of his undiluted stare sent a quiver of awareness down her spine, a gush of longing through her veins.
What if they’d met in a normal setting, on equal footing? What if he’d walked into her business, a newcomer to town looking for a guide to familiarize him with their mountain?
A rustle behind her gave only a second of warning to brace herself before Chewie barreled into her shoulder. His bulk showered a sheet of snow into her face. The frigid splash brought her back to reality. Daydreaming was dangerous. She was a practical woman, damn it. She refused to be swayed by a hot body and intense eyes. And she might not have another chance to escape.
Before she could weaken or second-guess, she shoved to her feet and ran her heart out. A rational part of her brain insisted that she stop, conserve her resources, come up with another story that he wouldn’t believe but that would buy her more time. And yet, she couldn’t stop running. Something inside her had snapped, until she felt like a frantic ground squirrel on the run from a red fox.
Chewie loped beside her. Her pulse drummed in her ears. A long shadow stretched over her, a man’s shadow, closer, closer still. Chewie stopped, howling. But still she ran.
The ground fell out from under her.
Screaming, she clawed at the icy wall. Her feet backpedaled, seeking purchase on ground giving way. Distantly, she heard Wade shout from above. Oh God, she was going to die. Frozen chunks of earth battered her body as she plummeted downward while her stomach rose to meet her throat. There was no way to see the bottom, to know when she would die, to prepare for—
Pain splintered through her body. Sparks danced in front of her eyes like a northern lights show on speed swirl. Blood filled her mouth as she bit her tongue. The metallic tang saturated her taste buds with the reminder that thank you, God, thank you, God, she was still alive.
She stared up at the circle of light overhead, not all that far, but whew, how it was spinning. Blurring. Then finally it slowed and she saw Wade.
He scaled down the side without any formal climbing gear.
Holy crap. She’d lived in this area for fifteen years and still she was stunned. Like Spider-Man in camo, Wade worked his way down with just a rope around his waist anchored into the ice above. Closer, closer still, he moved until he dropped the rest of the way, landing beside her with surefooted grace.
His face cast in shadows, he leaned over her. “Are you okay?”
Why hadn’t she checked herself over instead of lying here mesmerized by him? She must be more dazed than she’d thought.
She wriggled her toes, her fingers, then sat up cautiously. Chewie whined from above at the edge of the drop-off. The world bobbled, then settled. “I think so. Just stunned.”
His head tipped, his face bathed in sunlight again. Fury burned from his eyes as he leaned over her. She scrambled backward without much success, her braid coming loose from her jacket as her head swam.
“Don’t try to get up yet, not until I can check you over more fully,” he commanded.
She’d forgotten about his medic training. Wow, they could use a guy like him where she lived. The silly, unattainable thought made her realize just how scrambled her brain really was by the fall.
Silent, brooding, he knelt beside her, his face taut with anger. He stripped off his outer gloves until he wore what appeared to be thin pilot’s gloves. One limb at a time, he moved her legs and arms, working them back and forth, side to side. The feel of his hands on her body, even through layers, unsettled her, stirred her. Sure, he was doing the whole medical thing and no doubt he was mad as hell. He wasn’t doing anything different from how she checked people over during a trek if they pulled a muscle.
Still, somehow she knew. This was different.
He ended by placing his hands on either side of her face and staring into her eyes. Checking to see if her pupils were even and not blown, undoubtedly, but still the fierce focus on her made her ache in a way that had nothing to do with the fall.
Wade leaned closer. “No more running. This insanity stops here, now.”
“What are you going to do?” she gasped out in tiny bursts of white, most of the air still punched from her lungs after the fall. “Toss me across your shoulder and carry me down the mountain caveman-style?”
A tic flicked the corner of his eye. His hands fell away. “I can’t leave you out here to die.” He stood, extending a hand. “And believe me, if I go back empty-handed, there will be search teams.”
She clasped his fingers and rose slowly until she stood in front of him. “Tell them you found a bear, not a person.”
“There aren’t any bears up this high. I do not lie.” He squeezed her hand lightly, purposefully. “And I really hate it when anyone lies to me.”
He was a second away from insisting on answers. She knew it. Could see it in his dark, demanding eyes. Answers she wouldn’t—couldn’t—give him. But how could she keep those words from falling from his mouth when it was just the two of them out here alone together?
A tempting possibility tickled at the back of her brain, a way of shutting him up right here and now. There was no chance their worlds would cross again. No chance she would ever know how things might have been had he simply walked into her life one day, asking to take a tour around the terrain, maybe even flirting a little. Things weren’t that simple for her.
And suddenly she was certain of exactly how to distract him. At least for a few minutes. One kiss, to silence his questions and answer one of her own. This was her one chance to know if the attraction was real.
And hopefully for her peace of mind, the kiss would suck.
What the hell?
Wade stood stunned with Sunny’s mouth pressed to his. But surprise shifted fast to hardcore need. He pulled away, only an inch, but enough to see her, to figure out what kind of crazy getaway plan she had in mind now, even when there wasn’t a chance in hell she could scale her way out of here without him right there with her.
She looked up at him with wide hazel eyes that should have been vulnerable, scared, or even angry. But instead stared back at him with an answering heat that felt so damned good as it radiated from her and into him.
It could be a ploy. But she was damn willing. He was at his wits’ end and she wasn’t going anywhere. He had nothing to lose by caving in to a need that had ridden him hard all night.
Wade sealed his mouth to hers again.
His arms locked around her and he clamped her close, near enough to feel the generous swell of her br**sts under the parka. Her leg was wedged between his and he shouldn’t be able to feel jack with so many layers between them. Shouldn’t. But could.
Her thigh pressed right against his swelling erection. Damned inconvenient time to get turned on. Really turned on. Arousal fed off the adrenaline pumping through him, devouring like a parched beast falling into an oasis.
He angled his mouth over hers, his tongue plunging deeper, tasting, stroking, stoking need higher and hotter. Her braid brushed against the back of his hand. He clasped the thick mass and wrapped it round and round his hand, binding them closer together as they stumbled back against the ice wall.
She tasted like peanut butter, crisp snow, and pure sex. Her tongue touched his without hesitation, met and thrust. He searched her mouth as she battled to explore his first. She kissed the same way she did everything else, with energy and confidence.
Her gloved hands pressed his head for a fuller meeting, then grasped at his shoulders, and God, he wanted to feel her bare fingers on his skin. Yeah, this was crazy and he was going on fumes after yesterday’s training mission then parachute rescue, followed by a long night sharing a blanket with Sunny, nearly naked. This was a more twisted and demanding exercise than even crazy-ass Major McCabe could come up with.
Images of Sunny’s mile-long legs walked through his memory, reminding him of just how wild she’d driven him, stripping last night. The back of his eyelids were hazy pale pink with the image of her thermals, which molded to her body and hinted at flesh tones. Legs and curves and breasts, every inch of her was right there for him to taste.
He wanted to blame the mountain air for this insanity, but he knew full well what he was doing and he wanted more. Which was impossible for about ten reasons right off the top of his head, starting with the layers of clothes and their location. He wasn’t a monk by any means, but he’d been a while without sex and the grinding need to be inside her broadsided him.
Then reason whispered through the sex-crazed fog. She had to be setting him up. The passion wasn’t real—not for her anyway. She must be using her body to get something from him one way or another. If not at this moment, then to lure him into a false sense of security for when they climbed out.
His mouth stilled against hers and he eased away, just an inch, enough to see her without levering off her body in the narrow mountain gully. She stared back at him with what looked like confusion, but he knew better than to trust her. Everything she said and did was part of some game to hide a deeper agenda.
The uncertainty on her face, real or faked, faded. As determined as she was, she might even try to knock him out. Or worse.
The possibility that she might actually try to kill him splashed cold water all over his libido.
He locked her wrists with his hands to keep her still until he could clear his mind enough to think logically. Except he slowly realized she wasn’t moving after all. Her whole body was stock-still, her eyes wide as she gawked past his shoulder. Her confusion had turned to something that looked a helluva lot like horror as she kept her eyes averted, staring down. Yeah, he was pretty upset at himself too.