Flash Point - Savannah Kade
Leo Evans dangled over the side of a cliff. The wind kicked up and the light rain made the rock slippery, forcing him to grip tightly and pray.
He’d wedged his fingers into the small gap in the rock. It had to be enough, as his feet slid from their tenuous perch and he fell until his grip caught him and yanked at his arm. He took a deep breath and reminded himself not to look down.
He did, however, look up.
“You got me?” he asked the two firefighters hanging out over the cliff top peering at him.
“We’ve got you!” Sebastian Kane called out, but the new guy—new woman, actually—just stared down at him. She nodded once. She was the one Leo was most concerned about.
He told himself it was because he’d worked with Kane before, he trusted the man. He simply didn’t know her. There might be more to it, but he wasn’t willing to admit it to himself. Not yet.
The harness around him felt secure, thank goodness. The firefighters had tightened the line and he was able to breathe easier. Still, too much of his weight was hanging on it. Leo knew he should be supporting himself—the harness should only be a backup—but, with his feet dangling below him, the team above was doing most of the work.
Taking another deep breath, he opened his mouth to call up to them when the two people below him began yelling again. As the light patter of rain cranked up to a good cold smack, the man cried out, “Help us! I’m going to fall!”
It sounded more like a threat to Leo’s ears, but he couldn’t say so. The woman was pleading with them all to get the rescue going faster. Maybe to get away from him? He was nonstop making noise.
“Mark? Lindy? I need you both to be quiet so you can hear the instructions we are about to give you.” He tipped his head back over his shoulder, hoping that using their names and speaking clearly would work.
It did—for about thirty seconds. And he wondered if the two below could see him heave a big sigh.
They were going to be the worst part of this rescue. Not the fact that he couldn't find a hold for his feet, not the way the webbing harness was cutting into his thighs, not even Jo Huston, standing above him holding on to his lines. Right now, the harness felt secure. He had to trust the people above him, or he wasn't going to be able to save the people below him.
“Help!” the man yelled up again, clearly not too happy with the speed at which the entire team had come to rescue him. Leo fought the uncharitable thought that he'd marched right by clearly marked signs that he wasn't supposed to be hiking in this area in the first place. He wanted to tell the man he could wait another ten minutes for Leo to get down there and that he should do so quietly. But none of that was allowed.
Looking over his shoulder, he called down, “I'm coming as quickly as I can, but I need to do it safely or no one gets rescued. What I need you to do is to stay still and stay quiet, hold on to each other and hold on to that tree that's sticking out near you. It should be very well anchored.”
With his foot out in front of him, now firmly braced against the rocks, he lifted a hand for a thumbs-up to Jo and Sebastian above him. Putting his hand back onto the rock, he felt the tension return to his limbs, the harness no longer holding him up. Now, he was supported by only his toeholds and his grip.
Leo lifted his right hand first, slowly moving it to a lower position, banking on the harness if it didn’t work. Though he got his fingers wedged into the perfect spot, the toe of his left hiking shoe slipped out from under him again. The rock was slippery and wet.
“Fuck,” he muttered under his breath as he slid several feet farther than he should have. A scream split the air and his heart stalled as he scrambled for a hold. The harness should have stopped him. His brain flashed images in slow motion and he was certain he was going to die.
As his hands fumbled for purchase in a mad effort to save himself, he reached for anything, but at last, the harness gave a