Tempt (Take It Off)(8)

By: Cambria Hebert



The sound was soothing and I snuggled down in my bed, trying to get comfortable.

But there was no comfort.

One of my eyes opened and all I could see was chaos. Debris littered the area around me. Something poked into my side and my body began to tingle. As my mind cleared of its self-imposed fog, I became aware of the stiffness in my muscles, the pain lingering in my limbs, and of a searing, slicing pain radiating throughout in my skull.

Plane crash.

Dead.

No… Alive.

Nash.

The final thought caused me to push up off the floor quickly. Too quickly, because I fell right back down into a pathetic heap. Refusing to accept the way I felt, I pushed up again, this time a little bit slower. I blinked, squinting through the dimness of the interior of the plane.

Or what was left of it.

The entire tail section was gone.

And beyond it…

Beyond were dense leafy greenery and the chatter of foreign-sounding birds. But I wasn’t ready to think about where we might be or what might lie in wait tucked deep inside the foliage. My first concern was for the man who tried to protect me even when we were falling from the sky.

He was no longer on top of me.

He was no longer beside me.

I didn’t see him at all. Suddenly an all-encompassing panic gripped me like a vise. What if he was sucked out the back half of the plane? What if he was out there injured or… worse?

Calm down, Ava! I demanded of myself. He didn’t fall out of the plane. He was right here, with you. If he had fallen out, you would have too.

Thank goodness there was some voice of reason left inside me.

I sat up, pushing away some of the debris—pieces of the plane, papers, glass—and peering into what was left of the back section of the plane. Some of the seats were missing. Some had come loose and were lying on their sides. Oxygen masks still dangled from what was left of the ceiling, some knotted together, some missing parts. A couple of the windows were busted out, allowing in a little bit of light.

I walked carefully through the area, balancing my hand on the walls as I walked. Over toward the left, underneath a few windows, was a pile of three chairs. Sticking out from beneath them was a foot.

I lunged forward, tripping a little and falling into the chair on the top. I grabbed it and hauled it backward. My muscles strained under the weight, but I kept at it. When it was gone, I was able to see more of Nash’s still body.

“Nash,” I said, my voice sounding like a rusty saw scraping across metal. “Wake up. Please don’t be dead.”

My vision was blurry from the tears soaking my eyes, but I kept working, shoving back another chair and uncovering his face. I dropped to my knees beside him and took his jaw in my hands. I tilted his head toward me and put my ear right up to his lips.

He was breathing.

He looked so vulnerable lying there with blood smeared across his cheek and dark curls falling over his forehead. I reached out and brushed them away, revealing a bruise on his forehead. “Nash,” I said again, his name more of a whispered prayer.

His eyelashes fluttered. He groaned. And then he was staring up at me, disoriented and confused.

“The plane crashed. We’re still alive. We’re okay.”

I watched realization dawn over his features. I watched him go through the mental body check I’d just performed on myself. And then he was springing up at impossible speed, startling me, and I fell back.

But he caught me.

He pulled me into his chest, crushing me against him. Rocking us back and forth while he palmed the back of my head. I held on to him as tightly as I could, ignoring the protest in my joints, the tremor of my hands.

We were both alive. Thank you, God.

His body stiffened and he pulled me back, his eyes searching my face. “Are you hurt? How badly are you injured?”

“I’m not sure. What about you?”

“I think I’m okay. Nothing too serious.”

“You’re bleeding,” I said softly, reaching up to touch the red smeared on his cheek.

“So are you,” he murmured, grasping my head and tilting it down. “You have a gash in your head. It looks pretty deep, but I can’t be sure because it’s caked with dried blood and your hair.”

“That explains the headache,” I joked, though it wasn’t funny.

“We need to get up, move around, and really find out how badly we’re injured.”

I nodded.

Gently, he sat me away from him and stood. He reached down and helped me to my feet and then linked our fingers. “We stay together.”

I nodded again.

He moved back toward the cockpit and started digging through the rubble. When the plane’s radio came into sight, a shaky sigh escaped my lips. That radio was our lifeline. That radio was our ticket to getting help. I watched Nash as he flipped the switches, as he used the controls and held the little microphone at his lips.

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