Page 56 of Tripping on a Halo

She slid her fingers lower, his abs tightening from the touch. Her bare knees were against his jeans, her hair brushing his shoulder as she bent over him. She turned away, flipping open the book and consulting an image of a dissected torso, different areas highlighted in various colors. She ran her fingers farther, hitting the top of his jeans. “Down here?”

“Yeah.” The shirt fell from his mouth as he spoke.

She lifted her head. “Do you feel comfortable undoing your belt?” She was close enough to kiss. Her eyes were big and luminous, and her pale pink lips just begging for contact.

“Sure.” He reached for his belt, undoing it and unbuttoning the top button on his jeans.

“And hold your shirt up so I can use both hands.” She sat back on her heels, flipping through the book. “Are you having gas pains also?”

“Maybe?” He needed her hands back on him. He stretched his legs out and held his shirt up. “Should I take my shirt off?”

“Nah…” she said thoughtfully, running her finger over a column of text as she read, completely missing the view of his clenched abs that he was struggling to maintain. “You know,” she said, looking up from the open book. “It might just be a stomachache.”

“I’m having a little bit of a stabbing pain also,” he said, desperate.

“Really?” She set the book to the side. “Where?”

He nodded toward his right side, and her hands followed the indication, her warm palms settling back on his skin, gently probing the area. “A little lower.” She slid her fingers under the loose gap of his jeans, following the plane all the way to his hip.

“Here?” She looked up at him, and if he was ever going to kiss her again, now was the best time. She was so close, so concerned, her hands down his pants, and God, she smelled good. Like flowers. He dropped his shirt and reached for her, his eyes closing as he moved forward and completely missed her lips altogether.

He opened his eyes, surprised to see her settling back in the passenger seat, her phone out, staring down at the screen as she stretched the seatbelt across her chest and locked it into place. “I think we should get you to a hospital.”

“No,” he protested, his dick wilting and taking his self-confidence along with it. “It’s probably nothing.”

“Probably nothing?” She snorted. “Do you know how many cemetery plots are filled each year over probably nothing?” She tapped out a string of words on her phone. “Look, there’s a hospital in Lake City. It says it’s eight miles away.”

“I’m not going to the hospital,” he said loudly. “I’ll stop at a gas station and get a Tums. If it doesn’t go away in fifteen minutes, then I’ll go to a hospital. Okay?”

“According to the book, your pain is near the beginning of your large intestine.” She glared at him. “What if it’s ruptured?”

“I don’t have any abdominal distension or vomiting,” he countered. “Put your phone away and relax.”

“You’re the one who mentioned stabbing pains.” She slumped against the seat. “I’m just trying to take care of you.”

“Which I appreciate.” He thought of the last time he had thanked her, and the way she had launched herself at his mouth in response. “Thank you,” he said, hopeful for a similar response.

“Uh-huh.” She looked down at the floorboard, stuffing her feet back into her flip-flops. “I’ll be sure to remember that when I’m giving your eulogy.”

Apparently, that was a one-trick pony. He zipped his jeans back up and buckled his belt, letting out a groan at the missed opportunity. Reaching for the gear shift, he moved the truck into drive.

“Seatbelt,” Autumn chimed in.

Despite himself, he started to smile. She was… just… everything.


The camp really was in the middle of nowhere. We pulled off I-10, took a smaller county road for fourteen miles, then stopped at a big metal gate with a padlock. Declan entered the combination, left it unlocked, and we pulled through. We took that path for another ten minutes. Twice, we had to drive over fallen trees, the truck barely making the climb over the trunks. Both times I looked to Declan in panic, and both times he reassured me with the words “four-wheel drive,” like that meant diddly squat to anyone. One thing was for sure—there was no way an ambulance could get back here. Any emergencies would require a helicopter pickup, assuming there was a convenient landing pad in this forest of trees.

When we finally pulled up to the first cabin, I was relieved to see no other vehicles, my fears of armed strangers disappearing. He parked in front and nodded at me to get out.

He’d described the cabins as small, and it was an apt adjective. I stood in front of the tiny square structure, which didn’t look much bigger than my garden shed. Declan climbed the steps to the skinny porch and twisted the knob, the door opening.