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4/Who Are You

The shock of his alertness made the words I desperately wanted to spew catch deep in my throat, although it didn’t stop the fish-out-of-water gaping. Embarrassingly, as the seconds ticked by with no improvement on my part, his face morphed into one of cocky amusement all on the uptick of the corner of his mouth. It was breathtaking how the hint of a dimple could transform his once boyish appearance into nothing less than perfection.

“Wow.” Was that all that could escape my traitorous mouth? Wow? Dios Mío, do NOT let the next words that come out of my mouth be just as embarrassing. “I mean you’re up! Congrats!” As if my word choice wasn’t the worst thing that could happen, the falsetto two octaves my voice skyrocketed gave away my definite loser status.

Appropriately, to my embarrassment he began to wheeze from laughter. His obvious amusement was what I needed to break away from the shocked unease. My fingers grasped the strip of cloth I previously dropped and replaced it into the cooling water. As my blue gaze fastened on the cloth in the bowl I was reminded that I hadn’t checked the clothes in a while. Being naked in front of a passed out and defenseless boy was less humiliating than the current situation. My nightwear was dry along with his far less intact top, however his jeans could use more time next to the fire. I carelessly tossed his shirt to him in the general direction, still too mortified to make eye contact. The quiet of the cave had my head jerking in his direction before I could think my action through. Did he pass out? When did he stop laughing at me?

The boy was curiously looking around the cave as if he could see every inch, even the crevices the firelight couldn’t reach. A look of awestruck wonder etched deep around his eyes and crinkled his forehead. Pride surged within me but stuttered at the sight of the dead feline at the mouth of the cave. I had used enough energy to be hungry, but at the sight of the cat my appetite turned sour. Maybe I would try to go full vegan this time. The next glance towards the boy showed his hungry gaze raking my now clothed form. Our hues met and that familiar surge of electricity surged in the air.

The muscles in his arm flexed in sinful ways as he adjusted his body to a sitting position. Eyes still locked on mine, a ripple of lean muscle down his front bunched as he put his shirt on. The tattered shirt hugged his every muscle, with a glimpse of tanned skin in every tear.

His shy dimple captured my attention, his amusement crinkled in the sides of his slightly upturned eyes. Under the firelight, his skin seemed to glow a darker shade of cinnamon. High cheek bones sculpted his features. His inky hair braided together past his shoulders. How could one person be so alluring?

“Pants?” His voice seemed to be naturally guttural. Be still my heart.

“Hu?” My brain took backseat to my eyes, ears, stuttering heartbeat, and oh yeah attraction. “Oh! pants. Yeah, um-” Usually nimble fingers fumbled over his drying pants. “Nearly dry-”

His fingers hovered over mine, as did the rest of his body. Oh so deliciously close but not quite touching. The hairs on the back of my neck stood to attention whether in warning or in response to that damn near physical electricity between us. My senses returned just in time to hit the alarm button in my brain. I ducked under his arm and backed away hastily until my back hit the cave wall. My thoughts were sluggish but something about him screamed danger. His chuckle nearly distracted me from the alarm bells tensing my every muscle. Through the slits of his shirt, hours ago, there were three deep cuts. Now they were more like irritated lines running the distance down his shoulder to his mid back. My brain immediately began to run through possible explanations. “How-” The panic in my voice was evident.

His reply was unwavering and cool. “Does it matter?”

I inwardly struggled with wanting to know and not. I shook my head no, after all ignorance was bliss. “No I guess it doesn’t.”

He struggled to pull the still damp fabric up his legs. With how form fitting the material was I wondered if it was more of a struggle than usual or just the normal amount. His deft fingers worked on the button. The same hand I seemed to be tracking suddenly jutted out towards me.

“Nash.” Does this guy only know how to talk in one worded sentences?

“Jessica, but everyone calls me Jess.” Do I know how to talk less? Oh sweet baby Jesus am I still rambling? Wait why did I just tell him about my goldfish that lived for no more than 24 hours. Shut up, shut up, shut up! An audible click of my teeth forced my word vomit to cut off mid-sentence. This is why I’m never invited to any parties.

A knowing look and confident smile only confirmed how far down the rabbit hole I had gone. “Jessica.” Oh how terrifying and tempting my name sounded from his lips. I only nodded in confirmation.

“So Nash I really think I should check your wounds. Make sure it’s clean.” In one smooth motion he removed his shirt from over his head. My jaw dropped. Was I drooling? I snapped my jaw shut, again, and cautiously moved to his back. With a gentle touch, my fingers prodded over the marks that shouldn’t have been so repaired. One gash I was sure I could see bone before. Shallow valleys were in its place. I began chanting to myself that ignorance was bliss. I didn’t want to know, my brain couldn’t take in the impossible right now. Maybe stress and lack of sleep finally broke me. I must’ve made a sound of approval without my knowledge since he was tugging his shirt back on. He turned on his heels and suddenly we were face to face.

We were so close I could see dusky gold flecks in his eyes swirling in the firelight. I retreated and his form turned away from the fire, shadowed. A flash of my reoccurring dream became reality. The clamor of the forest song hushed at once as if holding their breath with me. Unlike my faceless dream man, I could clearly see his puzzlement in response to my shock.

“You.” It sounded accusing, but what exactly was I condemning him for?

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