Another week, another excerpt from the almost-done work-in-progress! It’s got a title now – or, should I say, it’s 99% of the way to having a title. I need to finalize the cover before I announce the title, since I’m always afraid that I’ll think of a great title, only for it to look stupid on a cover.
Watch this space for more on that.
As usual, the following is rough, pretty much unedited, and definitely not proofread. And as anyone here who’s ever read a review copy before it got to my proofreader knows, I’m completely incapable of catching my own typos.
Now: more from Hunter and Clementine. <3
Hunter holds up the key to the lookout cabin. Then he gives me a long, appraising look as I wobble a little on my left foot.
“If I can kinda lean on you, I’m fine to—”
I’m still talking as Hunter crouches down, puts one shoulder at my hip, and slings me over his back before standing. I yelp.
“I’m fine,” I protest. He grabs my arm to keep me steady.
“Is that what you call not being able to put weight on that ankle?” he says cooly, walking toward the stairs to the lookout cabin.
“I could have gotten myself up there,” I grumble.
I actually don’t really mind. I feel kind of silly, because I’m upside down and my ass is in the air, but if I’m being really, really honest? It’s kind of hot to just be picked up like it’s nothing.
Awkward position aside, I can feel the muscles in Hunter’s shoulders move and flex under my stomach, even though I’m trying to ignore it. I don’t hate it.
“No, you were gonna insist that you could get up a flight of stairs on one leg, and then get pissed when I carried you anyway,” he says.
He reaches the bottom of the stairs and adjusts me a little before heading up.
“I feel like one of those sickly noblewomen who got carried around by servants or something,” I say as we climb.
Hunter looks over at me, from the corner of his eye, as he unlocks the door.
“You hiked nine miles with a forty-pound pack on, now you’re being lugged around like a sack of potatoes, and you feel like a noblewoman?” he teases.
He opens the door and turns sideways so I don’t hit my head.
“I feel helpless like that, I mean,” I say.
Hunter puts me down on one of the bare cots, and it creaks under my weight.
“I think you meant thanks for the ride, I like your muscles,” he says, darting a look at me.
I laugh and feel myself blush.
“Thanks for the ride,” I say.
“And… you’re very good at carrying things?” I say, still laughing.
“C’mon, Clem,” he says, his blue eyes dancing as he stands in front of me. “I carried you up all those stairs. On my back. It’s one simple phrase.”
I sigh dramatically, for show.
“If I say it will you stop harassing me like this?” I tease.
“One way to find out,” he says. “Say it.”
Hunter pulls his t-shirt sleeve up, revealing his right bicep. Then he flexes, and the muscle practically jumps up.
I feel my face go bright red, because holy shit, yes, I do like his muscles. It feels silly, but just watching that makes my body react without my brain’s permission.
I clear my throat.
“Fine,” I say, trying to sound casual. “Hunter, I like your muscles.”
“Was that so hard?” he says, grinning as he grabs a chair and brings it over. I lift my foot onto it.
“There are worse payments for getting carried around,” I say.
I lean forward, untie my hiking boot, and pull it off slowly, followed by my sock.
My ankle is swollen, but not purple or anything. I can wiggle my toes just fine. Right now, when I’m not putting weight on it, it barely hurts at all.
Hunter touches my ankle, his fingertips skipping along the pebbled indentations from my hiking socks. It sends a quick shiver up my spine.
“I’m pretty sure it’s not broken,” I offer.
“Where’s the first aid kit in here?” he asks, looking around.
I pause, boot in hand, and look around as well. The cabin is plate glass windows, all the way around, and for a second I forget the question as I take in the spectacular three-sixty view. There are two narrow cots, perpendicular to each other in one corner, a propane-powered stove in the other corner, a kitchen table in the middle with the map table next to it. Along with a couple of storage trunks and some cabinets, that’s it.
“I don’t think I need first aid,” I finally say.
“It’ll have those instant ice packs in it,” Hunter says. “Since it’s not like there’s a freezer up here.”
He finds the first aid supplies, breaks the capsule inside the packs, and stacks a couple around my ankle.
“Try not to hurt yourself again for a couple minutes,” he teases. “I’m gonna go grab our bags.”
He disappears down the stairs, and I lean my head back against the plate glass window, feeling like an idiot. I’ve only led about a thousand group hikes for kids, and even though they’re on easy terrain, I always drive home that you should look where you’re walking, or you could seriously hurt yourself.
Nine miles from help. In a fire lookout tower. With your ex-boyfriend. Whose muscles you like.