Someone shouted her name.
“Jade! Can you hear me?”
Aiden’s voice muffled through the murky recesses of her mind. The pain. Intense. Throbbing in her forehead jolted her awake and helped clear the fogginess. Beckoned her to move. So, why couldn’t she? What happened? Sweat poured down her face. Wait. That’s not—
She touched her head. Gooey, sticky. She glanced at her fingers. Red. She bolted upright, stars flickering in her vision.
“Whoa! Not so fast.” Aiden placed his hands on her shoulders and eased her back down. “You need to stay still.”
“What happened?” Her memory slowly cleared as the last visual before blacking out flashed before her—Aiden and the masked man struggling for the gun. The shot! “The Cruise Caper? Did you get him? Did he hurt you?” Her words jumbled together.
“I’m fine.” He pushed a curl out of her eyes. “I’m worried about you. The shot grazed your forehead.” He pressed a wet cloth against the wound. “God was looking out after you.”
Was He? He had a funny way of showing it. “What happened to the man?”
“After the gun went off and I saw you were hurt; he took advantage of my hesitation. He punched and shoved me, then ran out of the room.” Aiden rubbed his jaw. “He’s got a good right hook. He won’t—”
A hard knock on the door interrupted their conversation.
Jade scrambled closer to Aiden, fear rising in her veins. Who could that be at this hour?
Aiden rubbed her arm. “It’s okay. I called the Captain to send the medical doctor.”
Aiden opened the door and the Captain, Staff Captain, and doctor all entered. They spoke in hushed and rough tones, glancing her way. She strained her ear to catch their conversation, but only could hear snippets. Could Aiden maintain his cover?
Sheldon burst in and rushed to her bed. “Love, I heard the news. Are you okay?”
Jade’s pulse went into overdrive, catching at the timing of the purser’s appearance. It gave him amble time to have gotten away, regrouped only to come back when he heard the doctor was summoned. Coincidence or guilt?
“How dare you?” Aiden’s gruff voice boomed in the room. He took two long strides, hauled Sheldon away from the bed, shoving him against the wall. He pushed his forearm across his neck. “Coming back to finish the job?”
“What are you talking about, Mitchell? Perhaps it was you.”
“I stopped the intruder.”
He harrumphed. “Oh, I get it. The hero saves the day. Gets the girl? Is that your angle?” He glanced at Jade, his eyes flashing. “Don’t fall for his act.”
Jade gasped. Something about his look seemed familiar. But, what?
Aiden balled his hand into a fist and pulled it back, ready to strike. “You little weasel.”
“Do it. Hit me.”
The Staff Captain and Captain grabbed Aiden, each by an arm and hauled off from Sheldon.
“That’s enough.” The Captain’s voice demanded authority. “This isn’t helping.”
The Staff Captain took Sheldon by the arm and pushed him into the hallway. “You need to stand down and let us handle this.” He closed the door. “Doctor, we’ll let you examine Jade now while we take Aiden’s statement.”
~ ~ ~
The sun kissed the horizon, displaying brilliant shades of oranges and yellows with a hint of pink as Jade lounged on the deck to watch it rise. Breathtaking. Yes, when she saw sights like this, she believed in God—knew He was there—but still doubted how He could allow certain things to happen.
She touched the bandage on her forehead. Then again. The doctor said she was one lucky lady. Lucky? Maybe not. God was looking out after her.
Maybe it was time she took a good look at His protective hands.
She pulled the blanket closer and shut her eyes. The peacefulness of the early morning calmed her nerves and she sunk deeper into the cushioned lounge chair. She hadn’t been able to get back to sleep after the doctor gave her the all clear, so she decided to take in the sunrise and the first glimpses of the port of Juneau.
The ship’s horn blew, shaking her out of her tranquil mood. She bolted upright. The mountain range of the port came into view. She gasped. Majestic. Stunning. Breathtaking.
God, your handiwork moves my heart. Is this why you brought me here? To bring me new life?
Her cell chimed. Aiden. would love to show you the juneau glaciers. will you meet me on deck?
She sighed. Should she give in to persistent Mountie Aiden? So far he’s proved to be nothing but trustworthy and a gentleman. She tapped her thumb on the phone. Her head told her to stay away, but her heart had other plans. She couldn’t deny the growing spark between them. Or, at least she felt it. Did he?
already on the deck. ready when you are. She hovered over the send icon for a split second before pushing it. Why not spend what little time she had left with someone like Aiden Mitchell? Especially when he can protect her from whatever evil forces are lurking at every corner.
~ ~ ~
“It’s freezing here.” Jade pulled her jacket tighter. Even though the August sun beat down on them, the cold from the frozen ice field chilled her to the bone.
“It’s a glacier. It’s supposed to be cold.” He drew her next to him, silencing the distance between them. “How are you feeling? Are you sure you’re okay to be here?”
His woodsy scent tickled her nose, luring her closer. “I’m a bit tired, but okay.” She peered up at the massive white mounds of snow, mixed with aqua deposits of ice. It glistened in the sun, creating a prism-like effect.
“This is spectacular. Breathtaking.”
“I knew you’d like it. Just wait till you see where we’re going.” He grabbed her hand. “Let’s go.” He led her to an opening of a small cave.
A man stood waiting with boots gripped with spikes, rope, toques, scarves, and ice picks.
She stopped. “Are we? No. I can’t. No.”
He took both of her mitted hands. “Jade, it’s only a small cave and I’m trained. I know how to teach you.”
“I’m scared.” Don’t make me do it.
“I’ll be right beside you. Jacob will be outside the cave too.” His blue eyes burrowed into hers.
Then again, the thoughts of exploring a cave with the handsome Mountie sent darts of excitement shooting throughout her body. She nodded.
Ten minutes later after suiting up, Aiden expertly guided her down the rope showing her how to apply her spiked boots into the side of the iced wall, using the ice pick for leverage.
“See, I told you it would be fine.” Aiden reached the bottom and pulled her down.
She stepped into the middle of the cave and did a happy dance. “I did it!”
She stared at the iced walls. Turquoise crystals glistened in the dimmed sunlight from the small opening. “Wow. Wow. This was worth the climb.” Her jaw dropped. Aqua everywhere. “I’m so glad—”
He pulled her close, kissing her—fingers feathering to the back of her neck and drawing her closer. He lingered, intensifying the sweetness of their kiss. He brought his lips to her ear. “I couldn’t resist any longer, beautiful.”
A small gasp escaped from her mouth.
. . . to be continued
Click here to go to Part 9 – Avalanche.
This first appeared in Christian Life in London.