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“Ouch. Let me take your pack. That should help.” He grabbed the straps, and she unbuckled it. “I want to stay up here for a bit, make sure they don’t double back on us.”

“Okay. We can probably put our packs on that other piece of plywood.” She pointed to the smaller platform a foot above their heads.

He pulled on it. When it held, he hefted her pack up, then shrugged out of his. He opened it and pulled a worn, dark green sweatshirt from inside, then set the bag next to hers.

“How did you even see this?” he asked as he yanked the sweatshirt over his head.

“It looked like what my dad builds around his bear stations. I just kind of hoped there’d be space to hide once we got inside. Lucky us, it came with a tree stand.” She patted the wood, then cringed when a splinter jabbed into her palm. “Oh!”

“Here, let me.”

Davis cradled the back of her hand in his palm and gently pulled the splinter out. He rubbed his thumb over the bead of blood, her pulse hitching at his gentleness. She held her breath as she waited to see what he’d do next. When he set her hand on her leg, she barely stopped the roll of her eyes at her disappointment in him not kissing it better. She had definitely read too many romance novels over the winter.

She shifted around, stretching her leg out. The board was just too small to get comfortable sitting side by side like they were. She scanned the trees holding the plywood up and picked two that looked like a good back rest.

“If we’re hanging out up here a while, let’s at least try to get comfortable.” She stood, leaning over Davis’s head in the cramped space, and snapped all the branches from the two trees. “Move forward a little.”

When he did, she sat behind him, stretching her legs out on both sides of him. She leaned back against the trees. Not the most comfortable, but not horrible. Davis stretched his back, and she grabbed his sweatshirt and pulled on it.

“Skootch on back.”

The contrary man shook his head. “I’m fine. Need to stay on lookout.”

“Why do you think I’m back here?”

The military sure knew how to cultivate heroism in their Special Forces. He was so much like her brothers she could practically hear them saying the exact same thing.

“Come on, Davis. I’ve got this nice back rest. You can lean against me so your muscles don’t kink up, and still scan for bad guys.”

He peeked back at her, so she patted the spot right in front of her.

“Fine.” He sighed and moved against her. “But only because I can shield you better this way.”

He didn’t lean against her, his body staying rigid. She closed her eyes, pushing the hurt aside that he held himself away. She wasn’t surviving alone anymore. That’s all that mattered.

“I’m so scared,” she whispered, not caring if it made her seem weak.

He sighed and relaxed against her. “Me too, Firefly. Me too”

She leaned her head on his shoulder, turned her face into his neck, and smiled. Putting too much stock in that moment wouldn’t be smart. Yet, as she wrapped her arms around him and let his solid presence warm her, the emptiness she’d held for so long didn’t seem so cavernous.

Tags: Sara Blackard Alaskan Rebels Romance