I was falling.

My body spasmed in response to the collision it knew would happen. A collision that didn occur.

Instead I became aware of the arms wrapped around me and a gentle noise that almost sounded like purring. I opened my eyes to find myself facing the wide expanse of nothing. There was a lovely view of a distant mountain and nothing else, because we lay near the edge of a cliff.

I hadn fallen.

I reminded myself, but my body started to Trimble again. My fingers had become stiff. It was hard to uncurl them, each movement crackled and popped. The ground underneath me shifted slightly and my stiff little fingers instantly latched on again.

”Better? ” Asked in a ridiculously hoarse voice.

My head shook instinctively, but after a moment I regained control and managed a slight nod.

”Good, we need to keep moving. ” The rough voice informed me. The solid arms holding me securely slackened. They tentatively pulled away as though he feared doing so may cause another fit to occur.

I swallowed down my fear, and slowly moved to a sitting position.

”We need to move quickly. ” He repeated, sitting up with me. ”We are still several hours away from the cave. ”

The reality of the words made my heart drop. I had forgotten for a moment the situation I was in. One which didn allow for recuperating after falls. One where there weren snacks for a long day of hiking.

”Thank. ” I croaked out looking up to meet those yellow eyes. It was because of him that I could feel safe enough to forget.

His eyes almost looked golden like honey. His skin was golden brown like the top of a muffin. His hair was so brown that it mostly looked black, with subtle streaks of deep chocolate. His hair was almost like coffee spilling down to his shoulders. He looked delicious.

My stomach grumbled its agreement.

Not the blond hottie I had just fantasized about, but somehow the real thing was better.

Or perhaps I was simply starving.

His gaze dropped to my stomach as it gurgled again, weakly. For the first time in two days I felt heat consuming my body.

”We will eat well at camp. ” He promised me. He pushed gently against my shoulder, and I realized that I was sitting in his lap. That I had been sitting in his lap. That I had been clinging to his chests. All that while, at least from where I was sitting, he seemed to have been unclothed the entire time.

My face burned scarlet as I scrambled off him and turned to face away from him. giving him privacy to cover up, or change back into a dog. I wasn sure what the wolf protocol for this situation was.

”Sorry. ” I mumbled, and realized that my throat didn crack or scratch as I spoke this time. That had to be a good sign.

There was a little woof as a reply and I turned to find that the wolf had taken the place of the man. His yellow gaze stared me down, almost as if he was warning me not to fall down anymore cliff sides. I looked away sheepishly and quickly nodded.

Id be safer this time.

Unfortunately when one is on an ice covered mountain, Safety is something thats easier to say than to do. Still I did my best, and when I failed I made sure not to let the wolf know.

My hand had little streaks of blood coloring my icy skin, and my ankle throbbed in protest every step I took. But it wasn anything I couldn handle, and I had already caused him enough concern for the day.

For a lifetime really.

We were strangers after all, and he was under no obligation to help me. Yet he had risked his own life to save mine. It was pathetic of me to beg for more than this. So I would follow him quietly.

My foot slipped out from beneath me a moment after my declaration. The clatter of rocks was louder this time, and the wolf glanced behind. While I wasn an expert at reading canine facial expressions, it was pretty safe to interpret his look as ”really? ”

”Sorry. ” I muttered again.

With a huff he turned back around. I took my next step and collapsed to the ground.

The wolf let out a groan of tired patience, and turned around again. I met his agitated gaze and felt my spine curving from its weight.

”Rest? ” I suggested more for the wolfs sake than mine. His eyes scanned the area jumping from shadow to shadow. Finally he snorted and started back the way we came.

The weight of my body had become too much, and the brilliance of the snow became painful to my eyes. I squeezed them closed hoping it would dull the burn. The snow was oddly soft under my body. And if you told me I was laying on a cloud, I would most likely believe you.

An urgent bark had my sluggish mind rolling back into position. We had to keep going. We were too far away.

There was a sharp yank on my hair and my eyes flew open. The bright white blinded me for a moment. My eyes came to focus on a small pile of little brown caps. On the other side stood the wolf with an expectant look in his eye.

Eat. They seemed to demand.

So I did. The flavor was dull and diluted, and really that was the only reason I could choke them down. It squeaked between my teeth, and clumped in the back of my throat when I tried to swallow.

Despite all that I ate it obediently, because I knew as well as the wolf that it was the only way I had a shot of making it to his den.

Back at home I hadn cared for walks or hikes. The thought of winter sports had never even crossed my mind. And that was painfully obvious now.

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