I nodded. “Okay.”
“Better buckle up. The road there is pretty rough.”
“Got it.” I clicked my seat belt and then rested my hands on my thighs as he started driving. About a minute onto the road, his hand settled over mine.
I peeked over at him, and he grinned. I couldn’t keep looking at him without breaking into a fit of embarrassing giggles, so I kept staring out the window while I laced our fingers together.
It was nearly unbelievable. I’d somehow found my match in the middle of all this craziness.
When Lucas finally stopped the car, all I could see was dense foliage. The ride up the mountain had been so bad that I’d squeezed my eyes shut. My heart had been pounding so hard for so long, I felt like I’d already had a workout.
I took a look around. What little bit of road was in front of us abruptly ended and a large tree with gnarled roots stood in the way of the car. We weren’t at the top of the mountain, but we were close. To the right, I could see the valley below us. Off in the distance, a small town. But ahead of us and to the left there was nothing but forest.
“Come on. We walk from here.” Lucas grinned at me, and butterflies fluttered in my stomach. Lucas shoved his door into the dirt wall next to the van.
One smile, and I was mush. This was pathetic.
Laughing at my own ridiculousness, I unbuckled my seatbelt and opened my door. My foot was outside before I realized there was nothing below but air.
Lucas jerked me back into the car. “Whoa. Not that way. You have to climb over to this side.”
My heartbeat throbbed in my ears. “Right.” I panted. I’d almost died. Holy shit. I’d nearly just fallen down the side of the mountain. “Not that way. Of course. Not that way.”
He cupped my cheeks in his hands. I stared into his dark eyes as his aura flowed over me. It was beautiful—bright and pure, like a sunny day. He was so strong. So kind. Being with him was like being surrounded by sunlight. I never wanted the touch to end. “Deep breath.”
I followed his order and took a shuddering inhale.
“Good.” He let out a long breath, too. “You’re doing fine. Just watch where you’re going. I’m not as young as I look, remember? You almost gave me a heart attack.”
I nodded. “Right. I’ll be more careful.” He really was making me lose my concentration. One smile and I almost fell off a mountain.
We spent the next few hours huffing it up the mountain. Or at least I was huffing. Lucas made carrying two packs look easy. If he didn’t have a leg up from being a wolf, I would’ve felt bad. But as it was, I didn’t. Even with the two packs, he was slowing down for me.
“Let’s take a break.”
“Yes.” He kicked a log, and stared at it for a second.
What on earth…
I followed his command before I knew what I was doing, and boy did sitting feel good. I hadn’t realized how tired I was already.
Lucas set down the packs and dug around in his. “Here you go.”
He handed me a plastic bag filled with some sort of jerky. “What is it?” After yesterday with the guinea pigs, I needed to know exactly what I was eating.
Thank goodness. I took a piece and chewed. “How much farther do you think?”
“We’ll get to the mine right before the sun sets.”
I nearly choked. My feet were already killing me, and it was just past midday.
“That’s why it’s important to take breaks. I don’t want to have to carry you back to the car.”
I thought he was joking until I saw his face. “Could you?”
“What? Carry you back? Yes.” He handed me a water bottle. “With the packs, it’d be cumbersome. But yes.”
That was pretty damned impressive. I knew my pack weighed at least fifty pounds. His was just as big, if not bigger. And then add me? “How much can you carry?”
“Let’s just say a lot.”
I laughed. “Well, all the same, I think I’m going to be fine.”
“Of course you are. You just need a little bit of time to heal up.” He paused. “I’ve been meaning to ask you something.”
I looked up at him, shielding the sun with my hand. “What?”
“After all this is over, what do you want to do? What are your plans?”
I knew what he was getting at. He wanted more from me. He wanted there to be an us. So, it made sense that he’d ask. But I didn’t have a great answer for him. “I don’t really know. I’ve been stuck on the compound for so long…” I stood up, bushing off the back of my pants. “I always dreamed that if I left, that I’d go to college. Travel as much as I could.” I shrugged. “And maybe go to some concerts.”