“Get it together, soldier,” he mumbled to himself.
This blubbering wasn’t helping them any. Drawing on his years of training, he sucked in air through his teeth to calm himself down. He stopped the sobs, but he couldn’t control the way his body trembled. An assessment needed to be made so they could figure out what to do next.
He straightened and stared at Sunny cradled against him, though the light barely illuminated her. He peered up, and his throat dried at the chasm above them. The gap had to be at least fifty feet deep. There was no way they should’ve survived that fall.
Swallowing, he glanced down at Sunny’s still form. She might be breathing, but if she didn’t wake up, if she’d hit her head hard enough, they wouldn’t survive. His fingers trembled as he skimmed them across her cheek and into her hair. A large, sticky bump already formed by her temple.
“Wake up, Sunny.” His voice broke, but he didn’t care that his weakness showed. “I need that beautiful brain of yours to help me figure out how to get out of this mess.”
His tears dropped onto her skin, reflecting in the small amount of light filtering to their spot. He sniffed and wiped them off her cheek, bile rising as blood smeared where he touched. He cleaned his fingers on his shirt, but try as he might, he couldn’t get the blood off her face. Cringing as his shoulder protested his movement, he unbuckled her pack and pulled it off her. The pain in his shoulder was nothing compared to the anguish in his heart.
“Come on, Firefly. Open those dark brown eyes of yours.” He shook her, then pulled her up to his chest and rocked her. “I need to see them. Need you.”
“Davis?” While her whisper was barely audible, it echoed through his body.
He let her down so he cradled her in his good arm and could make her out in the waning light. He’d never felt such immense relief, not even in all his years in the military. Nor had he ever seen anything more beautiful than her looking up at him. She lifted her hand and cupped his cheek in her palm. He squeezed his eyes closed and pressed her hand between his face and palm.
“Why do you call me that?” Her question snapped his eyes open, and he stared at her in confusion.
“Why do you call me Firefly?” She threaded her fingers through his and brought their joined hands to rest against her chest with a sigh. “I’ve always wondered.”
Could he tell her? Could he let down the last of his guards? He was blubbering like a baby. Couldn’t get any more vulnerable than that. Apparently, he already speared her with his feelings when he looked at her. He scrunched his forehead and shook his head. Feelings weren’t right. More like soul-stretching, heart-pounding love.
“No?” Her voice cracked, and she covered it with a laugh. “You don’t want to tell me?”
Might as well follow up all that gaze-oozing he was doing with words.
“Do you remember when we first met?” He rubbed his thumb across her fingers, watching the motion instead of her reaction.
“Are you kidding? That was one of the most memorable moments of my life.” She laughed, then winced. “Not only did I get the handsomest fake boyfriend ever, but I got to embarrass my sister and have an iconic airport kissing scene of my own.”
Davis shook his head, a smile playing at his lips. “I wasn’t too thrilled about going to Lena’s wedding and having to pretend to be your boyfriend.” Sunny gasped, and he quickly added. “It had nothing to do with you. I just was already so tired. Tired of being on guard all the time. Tired of pretending, of constantly looking over my shoulder, waiting for an attack. More than anything, I was exhausted with myself, with my edginess and anger. The last thing I wanted was to be stuck babysitting while playing a role. Babysitting was hard enough.
“So, my mood coming off that plane wasn’t the best, even though I’d talked myself in circles, determined not to ruin Lena’s wedding. She deserves happiness after everything she’s been through. I was nervous about the whole fake boyfriend thing.” He chuckled, trying to make light of everything, but it fell flat. “I mean, I couldn’t even pretend to be happy around my family. How was I going to pull off being an enamored boyfriend? The last thing I expected when I walked off that escalator was for you to run up to me and jump into my arms like I was someone worth getting excited over.”
“I couldn’t believe you caught me.” She sighed.
“I couldn’t believe you trusted me to.” He hitched one side of his mouth up. “When you started kissing me, I was so shocked, I almost dropped you.”
“You recovered quickly, if I remember right.”
“Yeah. That’s because you burned the shock and unease away, leaving only this brightness I wanted to cling to.”
He could barely make out her smile. She pulled his hand to her lips and kissed his knuckles. He couldn’t hide his body’s flinch of pain the motion caused.
“You’re hurt.” Sunny sat up, placing her hand to her head. “Whoa.”
“Hey, take it easy.” He lifted his uninjured arm and pushed her sticky hair away from her face. “You’ve got a good wound to your head. I need to check it more closely.”
She waved him off. “I’ve got a hard skull. It’ll hold.” She skimmed her hands over his torso and arms. “Where are you hurt?”
“My shoulder.” He tipped his head to the right. “It acts up occasionally. It’s not all the way out of socket, but it’s close.”
She dug through her pack, pulled out a glow stick, and snapped it to mix the chemicals. The bright green light made the blood smeared across her cheek and wetting her hair more ghastly. Dread coiled in his gut.