She had no idea what profound comment he would say next, and certainly didn’t expect the mirth that spread over his face. ‘You smell like a bonfire.’
His fingers still played with her curl. He’d moved closer to her, near enough for her to feel the heat of his body.
The amusement left his face. He dropped her curl and dragged his fingers down the mane of her hair to her shoulders, then brushed up her neck to gently cup her throat.
His breath was hot on her skin. She closed her eyes. Her lips tingled, anticipating his kiss...
‘You could make a man lose himself, Emily Richardson,’ he murmured into her ear, before releasing his hold.
She snapped her eyes back open to find him striding through the water back to shore.
She spent the night in her cabin alone.
EMILY SAT ON the ledge watching the sun make its ascent, the moonlit silver slowly vanishing, shades of blues and greens emerging. The only sound was the steady rush of the waterfall opposite. It glistened in a multitude of colours.
At best she’d managed a few hours of sleep. Every time she’d closed her eyes all she’d been able to see was Pascha’s face. He’d been there when she’d opened them too. He was everywhere.
She’d been so sure he was going to kiss her. When he’d walked away she’d felt such rejection despite the strange words he’d uttered. Those feelings were still there but also in the mix was the euphoria of a whole evening with no worries. The impromptu party had been exactly what she had needed. Pascha had made it happen. It hadn’t been for her, it had been for his staff, but it was all down to him. All the anxiety that had held her in a noose for the best part of a year had slipped away.
But now, here at the waterfall, her head felt crammed.
Her father was going to be all right. She could feel it. Such a small thing, getting out of bed. Given the state he’d been in, though, it was a huge thing. It showed willingness.
The road ahead wouldn’t be easy but for the first time she allowed herself to believe the road ahead would have him travelling on it.
The relief was indescribable.
But mingled with the relief was something else. It shamed her. As childish and selfish as she knew it to be, she couldn’t help feeling despondent that it was for James that he’d made that first step. Not for her. It didn’t matter what she did or how hard she tried, it was never for her.
It shouldn’t matter. It really shouldn’t matter. That he was treading the first steps on the path to recovery was enough. She’d done everything she could to help him, given up so much. Surely now...
Surely now it was time for her to start living again?
And she knew just the way to start.
She got to her feet and peered over the edge. A thrill of anticipation rushed through her. She unwrapped her sarong and placed it on the grass, then slipped her flip-flops off.
Another image of Pascha came into her mind. If he knew what she was about to do, he would probably tie her to a chair for the rest of her stay. It was one of the reasons she’d started the trail before the sun had come up.
She forced his image away.
Adrenaline pumping, she took a few paces backwards and then ran, jumping high into the air right at the very last second.
Those few moments of weightlessness were indescribable, exhilarating: the heady rush of flying combining with the hint of danger at what lay beneath the clear water.
Keeping the presence of mind to point her toes and hold onto her neck, she entered the cool water at incredible speed. Down she went, lower and lower into the pool, waiting to hit the bottom.
* * *
The sun had not long risen when Pascha awoke with a start.
He’d slept well enough but his dreams had been fitful. He’d woken to the vivid image of Emily jumping off the ledge and into the waterfall.
He threw on a pair of shorts and raced to her hut.
It came as no surprise to find it empty.
His subconscious had been telling him something.
He made it to the waterfall in a third of the usual time, his body drenched in sweat.
Her possessions were at the base of the ledge. Blood pounding in his head, he peered cautiously over it.
He caught a flash of ebony hair.
Squinting to get a better focus, he saw her properly, legs stretched out, arms resting back atop a crop of rocks at the edge of the waterfall, the stream of water pouring over her steadier than the torrent flowing in the centre.
She must have sensed him for her head lifted and she raised an arm in a wave. She called out but her voice was muffled by the waterfall.
It was not until she beckoned him that he realised she was asking him to join her.
He cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled, ‘Don’t be ridiculous.’