A remote scrape slipped across the air. Attuned to every sound of the forest below the pinnacle, the slight noise froze Santil in her steps. She moved agilely to plant herself in front of the chief of shadowed light, unarmed, just as he had stood to protect her.
The familiar voice brought a sense of relief so sharp it left Santil weak and disoriented. Her heart tightened into a thick knot of pain until he stepped out from around a tree. The relief was almost too great. He was filthy and sweaty and exhausted; and too handsome to look at.
Without knowing how she covered the distance, she had her arms wrapped around his waist and the side of her face pressed against his chest where the beat of his heart tripped with the thundering pulse of her own.
His arms swept around her, pulling her close. They stood like that for a long moment. Safe, he was safe! With his strong arms locked around her, she could feel the hard contours of the muscles in his chest and stomach; and she too, felt safe. She'd never felt anything like this.
"What is it?" His palms swept onto her arms and he pulled her back from him to look into her face. "What is it? What has you frightened?"
Santil looked straight into his worried green eyes. "You will not be so reckless again."
Astonishment flitted over his features, followed by a slow satisfied smile. "You were frightened for me?" He did not need to look so pleased about it. She sighed, not caring. He could be as pleased as he liked. He had scared the rot out of her. "Yes," she told him with simple honesty.