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Fairy Tale Colors: Brown

fairy tale colors brown

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Chapter One

The day looked promising as the group of hikers geared up and headed for the next phase of their journey. So far, Jill Camden had brought them to the base of the spire. Today, they would be climbing, and this particular face of the mountain could be rather brutal.

"Check all their gear, Jill," Jack Austin suggested as he looked uneasily at the smooth surface they were about to face. "I know they're all experienced, but it never hurts to make sure."

"Did you double check your own?" she inquired sweetly as she pulled on the straps that held on his backpack to emphasize the fact they were not as tight as they should be.

"I don't like to feel trapped in my own gear," he excused himself with a slight grin. "What about yours?"

Jack slid his fingers down the front of her body, ostensibly to check her straps, but he didn't quite reach her breasts before she pushed his hands away and glared up at the much taller mountaineer with fiery brown eyes. If he would have had to describe them just then, Jack would have said they reminded him of molten chocolate. Yummy!

"You need to get your mind in the right place, and right quickly," she told him sternly. "This isn't a joy ride, you know."

"You're right," he agreed contritely as he slid his climbing gloves on and pulled his straps tight. He turned to the six other members of their party and said, "Ok, people, this is the big one. This is what you all came for. Everyone, make sure your partner is ready to go. We'll be heading out right after we break camp. You can stow all the gear we're not taking up in the cabin so none of the animals gets into it while we're gone. There won't be any more shelters up there, and only one stop for fresh water, so you'd better make sure all those canteens are filled, too."

"Yes, sir," said one of the men, Jim Reynolds, with a mocking salute.

"Just let me know if you don't want to go, cowboy," Jack told him, his brow raised slightly.

"I'm going, all right," Jim said. "There's nothing that could keep me down here today."

"Then get your head into the game, and stop trying to mess with mine," Jack told him, earning a scowl in reply. But at least he subsided and got back to packing.

Chapter Two

Jack and Jill led the group to the base of the summit, and they started up in pairs of two, with each of the guides paired to one of the climbers. Jack was paired with an older mountaineer from Seattle by the name of Derrick Sands, while Jill got stuck with Jim. Jack could do nothing but glare as Jill and her partner started their climb, and the man solicitously pushed her upwards by placing a hand on her backside.

"We don't need to bring the green-eyed monster with us on this climb, Austin," said the man standing by his side.

"Sorry," Jack answered, still watching the pair. "But with that guy around, ol' green eyes has no choice but to come along. But I will say this, Jimbo better watch his step. Jill will take only so much before she pitches him right off the mountain."

Derrick chuckled at this, and clapped Jack on the shoulder. "Let's climb this bad boy, then, so we can have a better view of that."

The two men brought up the tail end of the group, which meant they could take advantage of ropes that were already in place, leaving them free to keep their pitons for later. Jack was perfectly all right with this idea, since he and Sands intended to reach the summit, while some of the less experienced climbers did not.

Jack could see Jill up on the ridge about fifty feet above, with the ever-attentive Jim right behind her. He caught himself wondering if anyone would tell if he accidentally made the man gone, but he knew better than to try it. For one thing, how well would he be able to convince Jill they belonged together from a jail cell? That wouldn't go over really well.

"Mind that loose patch of rocks," Jack shouted to Derrick after he finished scrabbling over the large patch. He didn't want his own partner to fall, he thought wryly, and tried to get his mind back on what he was doing. That was the problem with climbing the same mountain often. A person could become complacent; forget that danger lurked behind every movement.

The sun had risen high in the sky, indicating that it was midday already. Jack and Derrick stopped for a bite to eat, and watched the other climbers ascending up into the clouds. Jack didn't like the look of the large, dark patch of gray snow clouds off in the distance. He hoped Jill was paying attention to them. They might need to make a quick descent if the things looked like they were coming toward them.

"Jill, I hope you're watching this," he mumbled as he watched the petite, beautiful woman fend off yet another of Jim's attempts to grab her behind. He knew she was distracted, he just hoped she wasn't so distracted that it put the other climbers in the middle of a raging snowstorm.

"Jim should know better," Derrick said. "He's a seasoned climber, and this is his first time on this rock. He doesn't know what he's up against yet, so what's he doing flirting instead of finding out?"

Even as the man said it, the two gasped in horror as the man himself lost his hold and plummeted down past them, into a fissure about twenty feet down. Jack could hear Jill screaming, and several of the other climbers turned to see what had happened as well.

Chapter Three

"Great!" said Jack as he set a piton into the ground and pulled a rope through its eye. He was half way down when he realized he was in such a hurry he'd forgotten about the loose rocks. His feet broke off a large chunk, and he, too went flying off the mountain and down into the fissure.

"Jim?" he called out, turning the man over. He closed Jim's eyes with a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach when he realized he was dead. "Jill, don't come down here," he said as loudly as he could. "Just throw me a rope. We can't help him, we've got to get everyone off the mountain. Storm coming."

Jill looked up at the sky, then back down at Jack. "Are you able to climb?"

"I think I broke my wrist," he told her, not wanting to mention that his leg was injured as well, and who knew what else. "I'll make a harness and you guys can pull me out. And by the looks of that sky, we don't have much time."

Jack knew from experience that he could not get Jim out of there right that moment. They would have to come back for the body after the blizzard had run its course. When the rope landed a couple feet away from him, he did his best not to limp as he ran to get it, but he didn't fool Jill for one moment.

"What's wrong with your leg, Jack?" she asked.

"Just get me out, and then we can find out," he grumbled. It didn't take him very long to tie the rope into a makeshift harness, and soon he was at the top of the rise with the rest of the group.

"Jill, I'll get these people back down the mountain while you tend to Jack," Derrick offered. "It doesn't look like he's going to be able to climb down on his own. You may want to construct a shelter in case the chopper can't come up after you until the bad weather passes."

"You're right, damn your eyes," said Jack as Jill made him lie down. "I think I hit my head, too, Jill."

"It's bad," she told him, reaching for the first-aid kit. "You've got a nasty gash here."

Jack winced as she poured iodine onto the back of his head."This needs stitches," she told him as she held the wound tightly closed. "I'll have to do a makeshift job of it, and there's no numbing agent, either."

"Do what you have to do, sweety," Jack said dizzily.

"Hey, Jack, you need to stay awake," she said, shaking his arm. "I have to gather some branches to make a lean-to. Just lie quietly for a couple of minutes until I'm done, all right?"

"Yeah," he answered. "Will do."

"And stay awake," she reminded him again. "We don't need two dead men on this mountain today."

Chapter Four

Jill had cut several large branches off the bottoms of some pine trees and dragged them over to a tall tree that looked like it would offer better shelter than the others because of its huge trunk, and roped them together to make-shift a lean-to. She looked uncertainly over at Jack where he lay several feet away, wondering if she could get him to it on her own.

She came over and brushed his hair out of his eyes, checking to see if he was still awake. He was, but just barely. He seemed very disoriented as well, and this had her worried.

"Jack, I don't know if I can walk you over to the shelter," she told him worriedly. "Are you going to be able to help me at all, or should I resort to more drastic measures?"

"I doubt I can stand, Jill," he told her. "I'm barely holding on as it is. You'll probably have to drag me—and it's probably going to hurt like hell. I'm starting to wonder about my ribs on the right side, too."

"I've got a blanket in my pack," she said with a sigh. "Can you hold out long enough for me to make some sort of sled and figure out how to splint you up? I don\'t want to make anything worse."

"Better treat it like a spine or neck injury, just in case," he agreed, barely able to get out the words.

"Jack, lie still and rest, you don't need to tell me what to do," she reminded him. "We took survival class together, you know."

Jack laughed once, but the pain shot through his body so badly he thought he lost consciousness for a moment, so he subsided, and said, "Don't make me laugh, hon. It's not helpful just now."

"Hush, Jack, talking isn't helping either," she told him, and disappeared back into the trees. She came back with plenty of sturdy branches and proceeded to strip them right next to him. Then she looked in his pack to see if he'd brought any kind of gauze because she didn't have enough to wrap all the parts she needed to. He had three brand new, unopened bandages, so she opened them all before approaching him again.

"Hey," he said when she came into view. "Thought you got lost in the woods for a minute there."

"I'm going to have a look at your leg first," she told him. "I'll have to cut away the pant leg though."

"Go for it, babe," he told her, and she cast him a surprised glance. She wondered if he realized what he'd just called her, and also wondered just how long he'd been thinking of her that way. Sure, he flirted with her, but she'd thought it was just in fun. Now she started to wonder.

Jill took her hunting knife out of the sheath on her side and used it as gently as possible, cutting away one leg of his jeans just below the hip. Jack groaned, long and loud, as she removed it from around the leg. The bone was protruding half way between the knee and ankle, and the movement caused it to start bleeding profusely.

"Damn!" she gasped, and quickly made the cut off fabric into a strip and wrapped it above the knee, twisting fast and hard until the red liquid slowed. Jack had passed out for sure now, she noticed, but it was probably just as well at this point. She could only imagine how much pain that had caused, and she still had to try to set the bone and splint it.

It took her a fair bit of time to prepare him, and to make a sled to drag him, but finally she had him inside the lean-to and had managed to build a fire and grab as much wood as possible before the storm hit. She had no delusions that the fire would outlast the snow, but it was worth a try.

Chapter Five

Now that they were under the shelter, Jill got out the first aid kit again and pulled out a needle and thread. She knew that it was best to stich up the back of his head before she tried to revive Jack, otherwise it would be a lot harder to do if he squirmed the whole time.

She loosened the tourniquet on his leg for a bit, then put it back before she reached into the first aid kit again and pulled out the smelling salts. She knew he wasn't going to like it, but she wanted him to stay awake because of his head, especially once the storm hit.

Jill broke open the tiny but potent stick, and made a face as the pungent aroma assailed her nose. She put it under Jack's nose, and after a few seconds his head jerked violently and his eyes shot open. She placed a hand on his shoulder to hold him down when he tried to get up.

"Lie still, Jack," she told him. Jack didn't say anything, and he looked as if he had no idea where he was. Jill stroked his head and sighed as the wind began to howl and the first snowflakes began to fall. She hoped the chopper would still be able to come get them, but she had a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach as the flakes became much more plentiful and the wind blew much louder in just a matter of minutes.

"Cold," Jack muttered.

Jill retrieved the blanket she'd used to drag him to the lean-to and laid it over top of him. Then she put another log on the fire and got under the covers as well, curling up to Jack so they could both stay warm. She knew she shouldn't have, but Jill soon drifted off to sleep.

When she woke, it was dark outside, and she was amazed to see that the fire had not gone out completely. It had burned down to red-hot coals, however, so she scooted out of her warm cocoon to throw on more wood.

Jack was asleep beside her, and she cast him a worried frown. His breathing was shallow and irregular, and his color did not look good. Jill went over to the nearby river and filled her canteen with water, which she brought back and heated in the tin cup she had in her pack. Using leftover pieces of fabric from his jeans, Jill cleansed the wound on Jack's head and released the tourniquet again, hoping she hadn't left it too long and done some damage.

Jack groaned as she cleansed some of the blood off of his leg and made sure the bone was still properly set. The leg was swollen so much she needed to readjust the splint to relieve it a bit. Jack grabbed her hand and looked up at her with earnest eyes.

"Jill, in case I don't make it, I want you to know—" he started to say.

"You're not going to die on my watch," she interrupted him.

"Jill, please," he said, his voice full of emotion. "I want you to know how I feel. I've been such a fool, thinking we had all the time in the world, that I didn't need to rush, but that's not true. A guy never knows when his number is up. I love you, Jill. I always have, and I always will."

Chapter Six

Jill's eyes never left Jack's face as she wrapped the rope around his waist so the chopper could pull him up. The swirling snow was getting worse, but at least she knew that he would be safe, even if the chopper had to leave her to get out of the weather.

She thought about what Jack had told her just before the chopper showed up, and her heart came up into her throat. He loved her, and she had just sat there dumbly for a minute and then the chopper had flown into view, making so much noise he wouldn't have heard anything she said to him even if she'd responded.

As she finished tying the last of the knots, and before signaling for them to pull up her co-worker, she took a moment to lean in and kiss him right on the lips. He kissed her back with more energy than she'd thought he was capable of at the moment, and this made her laugh. "Stubborn man," she said. "That's probably why I love you too."

The chopper pulled away before he could answer, and she knew it wouldn't be able to circle back and get her with so much wind. She waved them off so the pilot wouldn't get any stupid ideas. The pilot waved to her as well, and she watched as the chopper headed quickly away.

Jill sighed deeply and returned to her shelter to wait out the storm. But even though she was cold and uncomfortable, she didn't mind. She'd worked side by side on this mountain with Jack for three years, and she had many beautiful memories in all that time, but this was the one she would always cherish the most.

Three days later Jill walked into Jack's hospital room and stared in shock at the full body cast and elevated leg she found there. She shook her head at Jack as he smiled up at her.

"Boy, you sure do like to take things to extremes, Jack," she told him with a smile. "If you wanted to get my attention, you didn't have to dive off a mountain to do it."

Jack let out one quick chuckle, and then winced in pain. "Come on, Jill, don't make me laugh."

"How about if I make you smile instead?" she suggested, and leaned down to do just that.

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