Rose would never forget the tight knot of panic squeezing her heart as she looked down, down an almost thousand-foot drop to moss-dusted crags, down through the cold wraiths of mist circling the mountain in the chill September air. Ignoring the fear, she took a tentative step forward, away from the comfort of the cliff face, felt the icy breath of high altitude fan her face, and retreated. But what she’d thought was solid rock behind her yielded slightly, and she froze, engulfed in a surge of terror. I’m going to fall. I’m going to die in agony, crushed on those distant jagged spears. The rock behind her moved again. She began to totter forward, but a furry paw seized her elbow. The paw tightened its grip and Rose let it pull her sideways, back into a gap between the damp stone walls.
Okay, Rose, girl. Steady. Take a deep breath. Now, open your eyes and look at the paw. Five fingers encased in a furry glove. Okay. It’s human. She followed the hand up a forearm, then to a broad furry chest. She risked a peek at the dark face, encircled with more fur. It was scrunched up, not with the cold but with a cold rage. The deep brown eyes flashed in fury. She meekly dropped her own. “I was perfectly safe, Mr. Stewart,” she whispered. Did that sound as stupid to him as it did to me?
The face scowled. Her rescuer moved around Rose and knocked lightly with his heel at the ledge on which she’d been standing. A large chunk broke off and tumbled in crumbly bits into the ether. She heard pops and bangs as it immolated itself on the crags below. Still scowling, he turned back to her. “Get back to the others.” His voice was deep, and primal.