“Don’t fall asleep.” Jethro’s voice was husky.
Her eyes pinged open, but it didn’t take long for them to drift shut again. She felt comfortable. The shakes were slowly easing and exhaustion was setting in fast.
“I can’t keep my eyes open anymore.”
Jethro squeezed her to him. It felt good. She wanted him to wrap his other arm around her, to pull her against him and kiss her again. Instead his hand rubbed up and down her arm, vigorously trying to warm her glacial muscles.
“We can’t give in.”
“Face reality, Jethro. This could be the end.”
His hand slowed then ran up her arm, resting gently on her neck. His thumb touched the end of her pointy chin as his rough lips brushed her forehead.
Kyla closed her eyes and smiled. “It’s not such a bad end,” she murmured without thought.
Jethro went still.
What had she just said? Her stomach clenched as she replayed it. No, it was okay. Nothing too much to read into. She was in a cave with her best friend. They had grown up together so dying together seemed only appropriate. She hadn’t said anything that would give away how she really felt.
All was well.
Kyla struggled to breathe as she opened her eyes and gazed up at Jethro. He was looking at her with an expression she’d seen before. Usually it only lasted a moment, because he’d catch himself and shut down, but he’d promised her he’d stop pulling away. He’d promised.
Kyla waited in nervous silence, but his look remained soft and tender.
“Why did you kiss me?” she whispered.
His eyes lit with a grin. “So you’d stop trying to kill me with your fists.”
“Is that the only reason?”
She had been too afraid to ask before, but her mouth was functioning with a mind of its own. She needed to know.
Jethro broke eye contact. Was his face about to go hard? Was he cutting her off again?
“Jethro?” She brought her hand up to his chest. Sliding it over his firm body, she rested her finger on his Adam’s apple. “Please tell me the truth.”
He placed his hand on top of hers, pulling it away from his neck. She expected him to tuck it around behind his back again, but instead he ran his thumb gently over her skin and began spinning the ring on her thumb.
It was agony waiting for an answer. He kept on breathing in as though to speak, but then the air would wisp through his lips and she’d be left with nothing. Eventually she turned away and nestled her head back on his shoulder. She didn’t want him to see her disappointment. She shouldn’t even be asking. The truth wouldn’t change the fact that she was betrothed to Athra, and if by some miracle they made it back to Taramon one day…
She closed her eyes. She didn’t want to think about it.
Sleep began to chase her again. She would have to die never knowing Jethro’s answer. Tears collected behind her eyelids. She swallowed hard, refusing to let any of them spill.
Jethro stopped playing with her ring and slid his hand back up to her shoulder.
“Why did you really kiss me?” Sleep was upon her; the words were merely murmured in a precursor to slumber.
“Because I love you, Kyla. I always have.”
She wasn’t even sure the words were real. Her mind was already floating on a dream. A soft smile touched her lips before the blackness took her.
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