“Almost to the top,” he said, and I was grateful for the change in subject. “See that tree up there with that big branch on the right that arches down?”
I tried to follow where he was pointing, and saw a massive tree. The bottom right branch arced down, and from here it looked like it almost touched the ground. “Sure.”
“There’s a really good look-out point there. You should be able to see the surrounding valleys. There are a few villages we could check out, or maybe you can find an old ruin or two.”
I took his word for it on the look-out spot. There didn’t even seem to be a break in the forest. I stepped forward to look closer and almost ate it. Lucas caught me just before my face planted into the ground. My breath caught as he held me.
The way he looked at me, with his aura shining down, I sensed that he wanted to say something important. The feeling was slight. If I hadn’t been able to feel his aura, then I might not have noticed the yearning in his eyes. But I did notice it.
And it took my breath away.
He gently set me on my feet in front of him. “You okay?”
I brushed myself off as I tried to pretend that nothing had happened. That I hadn’t seen the desire for something more in his eyes. But my hands were shaking. “Yeah. Fine. Sorry.”
“Do you need a break?”
“No. I’m just clumsy sometimes.” I wiped my hands on my pants one more time to get the last of the dirt off, and then motioned for him to keep going.
“Okay.” He started walking again, and I followed. This time I made sure I didn’t trip over fallen branches.
Get yourself together, Claudia. You need to work with this man. Not drool over him.
Wanting things to be different wouldn’t change them. Even if Lucas wanted to be with me, there were so many obstacles to overcome—the least of which was that he was a wolf and I was a witch. Whatever happened in these mountains, those two things didn’t mix in my world. The only reason I was getting any help from him was because Teresa was my cousin. She was the tie that bound our two groups together. And then there was that little battle we had coming…
Not to mention Matt. I had enough on my plate just trying to get rid of him. I’d thought telling him straight out that we were over would be enough to put him off, but apparently not.
I focused on Lucas, but it was hard to follow him without watching his back muscles moving against his shirt. Or his butt. Because that wasn’t a good idea. Not at all.
He made me forget all those reasons why it wouldn’t work. In either case, I was getting ahead of myself.
Did he like me? Was that what the yearning was all about? Or was I just projecting that on him? I didn’t think so, but it wasn’t like my judgment had been completely reliable in the past.
For a moment, I decided to let go of all those reasons. To throw them out the window.
For just this little while, what was the harm in appreciating the scenery?
A few more minutes, and we reached the spot he’d mentioned. “Here you go.” He moved the branches out of the way, and all of a sudden it was like I could see Peru spread out in front of me. It was just a small piece of the country, but it felt huge.
Then I looked down and all the air left my lungs. I grabbed Lucas’ arm as my stomach flip-flopped. “Oh God. We’re so high up…” And the edge was right there. One misstep, some loose dirt underfoot, and that would be it. I’d fall down the side of the mountain.
Lucas pulled me close, until my back was pressed to his front. His arms wrapped around my waist, and I leaned back into him. “Don’t worry. I got you. You won’t fall.”
I tried to get my breathing under control.
“Close your eyes.”
He didn’t have to ask me twice. The view was breathtaking, but terrifying.
“Now, take a deep breath and feel my arms around you. Trust me to keep you safe.”
I let out the breath slowly.
“You feeling better?”
I was. Lucas made me feel safe. Taken care of. No one had ever made me feel that way before. “Yes.”
“Now, instead of looking down when you open your eyes, look out. Okay?”
“Remember. I’m right here. I’m not going to let you fall.”
“Open your eyes.”
I followed his command. This time, when I looked out, I felt a sense of calm and peace. I could enjoy the beauty of the area. There was so much green. The peaks of the Andes touched the clouds as far as I could see.
“When you’re ready, look down. Maybe you can sense something no one else can.” Lucas’ deep voice rumbled against my back.