(This snippet takes place shortly after slightly uncoordinated Maddie arrives at Busara, an orphaned elephant rescue camp deep in Kenya’s wilderness, and gets herself stuck on a lookout ladder that Pippa has skillfully jumped down from.)
“Should I hold a flashlight for you?” Pippa asked.
“Nah, I’ve got this.” At Pippa’s height, she’d be flashing the light up in his face and his hands would block most of it anyway.
“Do whatever you need to do. If it’s too much work, just cut my pant loop,” Maddie said.
He slipped his fingertips barely below the waistline of her pants and pressed his palm against her, so that the belt loop and jagged end of the piece of wood were against the back of his left hand. With his right, he broke off the shard in one quick move.
“All done. I’ve got you. Let go of the ladder.” He held her by the waist, set her feet on the ground, then immediately let go and took several steps back.
“Thank you,” she breathed. Her long hair shielded her face as she looked down, unhooked the piece of wood from her loop and tossed it into the grass. Pippa hurried to her side and put her arm around her.
“I told you he’s a hero around here. You okay?”
Maddie pushed her hair behind her ears and smiled, but it didn’t quite reach her eyes.
“Of course. I’m totally fine. Thank you again, Haki.” She nodded one too many times.
“No big deal. Stuff like that happens pretty much every day around here,” he said. And by “around here” he meant somewhere in the vast wilds of Kenya. Not that he’d witnessed it, but surely she wasn’t the only woman in the region to hang from an observation platform by her belt loop. Maddie’s color seemed to fade back to normal in the moonlight and her shoulders relaxed. Good. “We should go eat before Huru and Noah clear the table. And I don’t mean the dishes. The appetite of teen boys—surpassed only by the appetite of teen elephant bulls.” He motioned for them to walk ahead of him; then he curled his fingers into his palm and pressed against the stinging abrasion on the back of his hand.
He could handle the sting. In fact, he needed it right now. He deserved it. Justice. Pain for punishment. You have a future, here, with Pippa. Where’s your sense of honor? He closed his eyes and took a grounding, cleansing breath of night air, and then another… but it failed to clear Maddie from his senses.
Other Books in the Series
About the Author
National and USA Today Bestselling author Rula Sinara
lives in rural Virginia with her family and crazy but endearing pets. She loves organic gardening, attracting wildlife to her yard, planting trees, raising backyard chickens and drinking more coffee than she'll ever admit to. Rula's writing has earned her a National Readers Choice Award and HOLT Medallion Award of Merit, among other honors. You can discover more about Rula at her blog A Writer’s Rush
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