Unlikely Allies, page 12
Lying in Mason's arms was as different as night and day. Way different than anything I had ever experienced with Mitch.
"Kimberly," he said after several minutes had passed.
"Yes," I said in a high-pitched voice I didn't recognize.
"Will you do me a favor?" he asked.
"Uh, sure," I said, expecting him to tell me to control my raging hormones.
"Will you look at me?" he asked.
I lifted my gaze, expecting to see humor on his face for busting me in my most embarrassing predicament yet. "Uh sorry, I was dreaming," I said lamely, finally looking into his eyes.
"I figured that," he said huskily.
"Swell," I said, going for sarcasm as I started to pull back.
"I don't think so," he said, dragging me close so I was sprawled over his chest with my face inches from his.
My eyes darted to his lips as the sensations from the dream resurfaced.
"You are literally killing me," he said, threading his hand through my hair and pulling me even closer.
"I am?" I squeaked.
Without answering, he propelled me the remaining distance and fastened his lips onto mine. I moaned against his mouth, giving his tongue the access it needed. I leaned in closer, shifting my body against his, trying to quench the fire that had flared back up in me. When he moaned against my lips, I thought his passion matched mine, until I felt his lips release.
"Mason?" I asked, pulling back.
Sweat had beaded up on his forehead and his complexion was ashen.
"Mason?" I asked again, more urgently. "Are you okay?"
"It's my goddamn leg," he mumbled.
"Oh God, I'm so sorry," I said, realizing I had jarred his leg.
"Not your fault, beach bunny. Believe me, I wanted you that close. My leg just decided it needed to be the ultimate wet blanket," he said, obviously in pain.
I pulled out of his arms. "I should have been more careful," I said, switching the flashlight on so I could see his leg better in the dim light.
"Not your fault," he repeated, opening his eyes. "How does it look?"
"Not good. The wound is still oozing and the skin around it looks more red than yesterday," I said, leaning in so I could get a better look at it. "We definitely need to cover it."
I was busy cleaning the vinyl raincoat with one of the alcohol wipes when a sudden thought hit me. "Um, Mason, I don't know why I haven't thought of it until now, but do you have to go to the bathroom?" I asked, turning slightly pink.
He coughed, looking equally embarrassed. "I went last night," he said sheepishly, pulling the newly filled water bottle from its hiding place between him and the wall.
"Ahhh, I see. Here, give it to me so I can dump it so you have it for next time," I said, trying not to laugh as he flushed bright red this time.
"This f…ing leg is seriously screwing up my coolness factor," he said, reluctantly handing the bottle to me.
I laughed at how uncomfortable he looked and headed outside to dump it and relieve my own bladder. "This definitely pushes our relationship to a whole new level," I mumbled to myself, still smirking at how uncomfortable he had looked. It was nice for the shoe to be on the other foot for once.
Mason still looked grumpy when I returned and I worked to hide my smirk. I tore open a second wipe and cleaned the angry looking skin surrounding his wound. His language took on a whole new colorful level, and I couldn't help laughing as he strung them together into phrases.
"Sorry," I said, shooting him a sheepish look. "It's just kind funny how you can make swear words sound like a dialogue."
"It's a gift," he said with his eyes closed, but I saw his mouth pull up slightly into a smile.
While he was still smiling, I lifted his leg and placed it on my lap. I draped the clean side of the raincoat over his leg and used the rest of that gauze tape to wrap around it to hold it lightly into place. I set his leg back down when I was done and let out a wheezing cough I had been holding in.
"Wow, just in the nick of time. I'm sure you would have appreciated my germs on you," I joked, crawling up beside him.
"Yeah, because you're not helping me at all," he said sarcastically, making me smile.
"So, what do you and Rick do when camp's not in session?" I asked, deciding a change in subject was in order.
"We have a house in Golden and I go to Red Rocks Community College while Rick schmoozes rich people for funding for the camp."
"How does he get income to live on?" I asked curiously.
"He has some trust his grandfather set up for him. Over the years, I've gathered through things he's said, that his family wasn't happy he didn't follow in the family footsteps of being a lawyer. They pretty much disowned him when he told him his idea for a summer camp, but they couldn't touch the trust fund his grandfather set up."
"Rick, as a lawyer?" I said snorting. "Have they met Rick?"
"I know, right? The ironic thing is I Googled the family once and they're loaded, but they won't give Rick a dime for the camp."
"I guess that whole 'blood is thicker than water' analogy doesn't apply to them," I said, disgusted with the blood relatives I had never met.
"To each their own, I guess," Mason said, pulling me snugly up against his body.
His sudden move distracted me and I momentarily lost my train of thought as the heat of his body warmed mine.
"So, um, what are you studying?" I asked, pulling my thoughts away from how good he felt.
"An assortment. I haven't picked a major yet, so I'm taking classes that interest me, mostly biology and science classes. I'm happy working at the camp and Rick has been grooming me on fundraising, so it's all good. What about you?"
"Well, I haven't really decided either. I know I want to do something in art. For years, I figured I'd open up a small studio in one of the beach communities near me, but I've been rethinking that plan lately."
"Yeah, as much as I rejected the idea of teaching this summer, I actually like it better than I ever thought I would. Sure, some of the kids are complete smartasses, but the ones that get art are complete sponges. I can't think of anything better than helping them discover their passion."
"That's great, Kimberly. Your dad would be happy to hear that."
"You think so? I feel like I've been nothing but a big disappointment to him this summer," I said, letting some of my insecurities creep in.
"Disappointment?" he asked incredulously. "You couldn't be further from the truth, beach bunny," he said, calling me the name that had now oddly become like a term of endearment.
"Did you really hate me when I first got here?" I asked bravely.
He didn't reply right away and I started to squirm uncomfortably, wishing I hadn't brought it up. After several seconds had passed, he finally answered. "No, I never hated you. You scared the shit out of me though."
"I did? Why?"
"Because you came crashing into the nice safe bachelor lifestyle I had planned for myself. After my mom died, I watched how broken up my dad was and I began to question if love was worth all the heartache. Once I moved in with Rick, I began to see the benefits of living the single life, but then you showed up with your long brown hair, drop-dead eyes and smile that could light up a room. I felt like I had been sucker-punched. I started thinking about you all the time—the way you would flush angrily when I teased you, or when you'd throw your head back when you find something funny. The harder I tried to not think about you, the more you crept in. It wasn't until the earth decided to open up underneath us that I realized how dumb I've been all these years. When the right person comes along, love is totally worth all the baggage."
"Are you saying you love me?" I asked incredulously.
"No, I'm saying I'm in serious like with you," he teased.
I pinched his arm, showing my annoyance over his glibness.
"Kidding, I'm sure some people would say it's too early
His words made me warm from head to toe and I couldn't help raising up so I could nip lightly on his chin.
"I think I'm in like with you too," I teased.
He mock-growled at me and then kissed me on the forehead.
I tilted my head up and captured his lips with mine. After a moment, I pulled back.
"If this isn't what love feels like, than I'll keep this instead," I said, running my hand up over his face.
"Agreed," he said, dropping a more passionate kiss on my lips.
We continued kissing for several more minutes, but stopped when things got too heavy and his leg became a hindrance.
Instead, we continued to shoot questions back and forth. Many subjects we felt the same about, but his views on the CW shows made my blood boil and I had to lay into him about the fact that towns with all pretty people did exist. He mocked me openly when he found out I was a diehard vampire fan. We moved on from TV shows to all-time favorite movies and I was surprised that his taste ran with the Marvel variety while mine was all about the horror flicks.
"If you could live anywhere, where would it be?" I asked once we exhausted TV and film.
"I wouldn't mind seeing the ocean, but I want to live here. I've been trying to talk Rick into building us a couple of cabins up here for years."
"I'm surprised he won't. It's obvious he loves this land."
"He feels it's not convenient. I keep telling him I could stay up here and he could take care of things in town."
"What would you do all by yourself up here?" I asked intrigued.
"I think we should open up the camp for skiing. There's plenty of land. All we would have to do is bring in the gear."
"What about the chairlift thingies?" I asked.
"It would be a cross-country skiing camp, so a chairlift wouldn't be necessary. It'd be cool for the kids since most of them have never had an opportunity like that."
"I think it sounds like a great idea," I said, meaning it.
"You do?" he asked surprised.
"Hell yeah, 'follow your dreams' has always been my motto, obviously," I said, grinning in the dark.
"Is that what you do, follow your dreams?"
"I always have. My venture here wasn't exactly my dream since I didn't know about Rick until two days before I got here. Now my dreams are little hazier."
"What do you mean?"
"I'm not sure I'm ready to say goodbye to Rick just yet, among other things…"I said, letting my voice trail off.
"Am I among the other things?" he asked as I tilted my head up.
"Is that presumptuous of me?" I asked before mentally kicking myself. I really did need a latch for my mouth sometimes.
His lips found mine. I turned to face him, looping my arm around his neck. "Not at all," he finally whispered against my lips. I shivered as his hands pulled at my layers of clothing, seeking the bare skin underneath. I tilted my head back as his lips trailed a path down my jaw line, stopping at my neck before dipping lower to my collarbone.
A wracking cough from me ruined the moment and he pulled back and tucked me back in the crook of his arm.
"This rain needs to stop so they can hurry up and fucking save us," he said frustrated.
I was surprised by his mood change and harsh tone. "Hey, it's all going to be okay," I said, using the practical voice I'd used for years.
"You could die in conditions like this by getting sick," he said.
"I'm fine. Besides, I'm more worried about you," I said, trying to tamper back the urge to cough again.
"This whole thing is messed up," he said, pounding his fist against the dirt floor. "You're not supposed to be catering to me. I'm the man. I should be running out in the rain, finding shelter. I should be taking care of you."
"Wow, equal rights much?" I asked, aggravated by his tone. "Last time I checked, I'm doing a damn good job with those things," I said, choking out another cough.
"That's not what I meant, beach bunny. I'm just mad that you're shouldering all of this by yourself," he said, sounding more like himself. "But you sure are cute when you get all riled up," he added, finally chuckling.
"Whatever, I'm taking care of us fine," I grumbled, still coughing.
"You are," he said, running his hand over my back. His touch relaxed the rest of my temper away and I soon became drowsy.
My dreams twisted and turned as I went from lying in the freezing snow, yearning for the sun, to lying on the beach with the sun beating down on my skin. I welcomed the warm kiss of the sun until the pleasure slowly began to fade and the heat became unbearable. Sweat began to pour off my body, leaving me yearning again for the ice-cold snow.
I sat up, startled to find that the heat from the dream had followed me into reality. My sudden movement made Mason's arm fall away, and with it, the blanket of heat that surrounded me was lifted. I switched on the flashlight and shined it on the roof of our shelter so I could see.
Mason was fast asleep. Reaching a hand up, I swiped it across his forehead and was shocked to feel it burning up. All that heat I had felt in my dreams had manifested from him. I propped the flashlight up against a rock and leaned in so I could look at his leg, carefully unwrapping the gauze and piece of vinyl I had applied the night before. It stuck slightly to the wound and I had to peel it slowly away. When it was finally free, I picked the light back up and shined it on his leg. It was a putrid angry mess. The wound oozed thick yellow tinted liquid and the skin had changed from red to purple in color. How had it gotten so out of control? Had I made a mistake covering it?
I was still sitting by Mason's leg when morning rolled around several hours later. His fever continued to blaze out of control, and his sleep was fitful as he woke several times only to fall back to sleep almost instantly.
The rain continued to fall and I wanted to scream in frustration. I had no doubts that we'd eventually be rescued, but I was beginning to doubt that it would come in time. Mason's health was on a rapid downward spiral.
"Beach bunny," Mason said weakly, lifting his head slightly.
I moved from my perch by his leg and moved up by his head. Smoothing a hand across his forehead, I was dismayed his temperature seemed even higher.
"My leg," he said, more of a statement than a question.
I nodded. "It's infected and you're burning up with fever."
"I know," he said, sighing heavily.
"Did you know last night?" I asked.
"I've known for a while," he admitted.
"Why didn't you say anything?" I demanded.
"Because, it wouldn't have done any good to worry you unnecessarily. I was hoping this goddamn rain would stop before it escalated this bad."
"I need to get help," I said after a moment of silence.
"You'd get lost. You don't know these mountains," he said, dismissing my idea.
"Well, you do, and surely someone of your expertise can help out a novice like me," I said sarcastically before I could stop myself. I felt like a complete ass for giving him a hard time when he was so sick, but we had to do something.
He sighed, closing his eyes. "Your best bet would be to follow the mountain down. If rescue missions have been detached, they'll work a grid up the mountain, so you're more likely to run into search crews that way. The issue will be remembering how to get back up here to show them where I am."
His words took some of the steam out of my sails and I sank back on my heels. He was right. I was notorious for getting lost back home. So much so that my mom often told me I would give "absent-minded professors" a run for their money. I would defend myself, but she had a point. My mind often wandered when I was taking in the colors around me, fantasying about how I could re-create them on paper. This trait usually left me driving past destinations, making wrong turns and more often than not, winding up somewhere entirely different than I originally planned. This character flaw had ne
"Here, you need to take these," I said, holding out the four precious Advil pills I had unwrapped earlier for when he was awake.
"We should save those," he protested.
"For what?" I scoffed. "Seriously, you're not thinking we should save them for me, I hope. For someone so smart, you sure can be a dumbass," I said, handing him the water bottle.
He looked at me through hooded eyes, obviously contemplating arguing, but either lacked the will or energy to do so.
I watched as he swallowed the pills and then drifted back into a fever-induced sleep. While he slept, I began to concoct a plan to save us both. I left our shelter briefly to retrieve the raincoat I had anchored to the roof. Dragging the soaking wet raincoat into the cave behind me, I set to work, tearing it up.
Several hours later, both raincoats were sitting in front of me in shreds. My hands were raw and chapped from tearing the material with my bare hands. I had used a sharp rock to help start my tears, but the rest came from my hands that now screamed in agony. My broken finger was throbbing so badly I was convinced a mini band was rocking inside it.
"Kimberly, what are you doing?" Mason asked me, turning his head to look at me.
Startled, I looked over at him. "How are you feeling?" I asked, reaching up a hand to smooth back his hair so I could feel his forehead.
The skin beneath my hand still radiated and I cringed that the Advil I had shoved down him hadn't done a whole lot of good.
"Don't worry, beach bunny, I'm fine," he lied with glazed-over eyes.
He let out a shuddering shiver and I realized the fever had given him the chills. I shrugged out of my jacket, ignoring his protests and draped it over him.
"Look, if I get cold, all I have to do is lie next to you. Your body heat is enough to warm up the whole cave."
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