Home > Midnight Rainbow (Rescues #1)(9)

Midnight Rainbow (Rescues #1)(9)
Author: Linda Howard

"You can see because of those glasses you're wearing, can't you?" she asked.

"Yeah. There's not a lot of light, but enough that I can make out where I'm going. Infrared lenses."

A howler monkey suddenly screamed somewhere above their heads, and Jane jumped, bumping into him. "Got another pair?" she asked shakily.

She could feel him hesitate, then his arm went around her shoulders. "Nope, just these. Don't worry, Pris, I'm not going to lose you. In another five minutes or so, it'll start getting light."

"I'm all right now," she said, and she was, as long as she could touch him and know that she wasn't alone. That was the real terror: being alone in the darkness. For years she had fought a battle against the nightmare that had begun when she was nine years old, but at last she had come to accept it, and in the acceptance she'd won peace. She knew it was there, knew when to expect it and what to do to ward it off, and that knowledge gave her the ability to enjoy life again. She hadn't let the nightmare cripple her. Maybe her methods of combating it were a little unorthodox, but she had found the balance within herself and she was happy with it.

Feeling remarkably safe with that steely arm looped over her shoulders, Jane waited beside him, and in a very short time she found that she could indeed see a little better. Deep in the rain forest there was no brilliant sunrise to announce the day--the sunrise could not be seen from beneath the canopy of vegetation. Even during the hottest noon, the light that reached the jungle floor was dim, filtered through layers of greenery. She waited as the faint gray light slowly became stronger, until she could pick out more of the details of the lush foliage that surrounded her. She felt almost swamped by the plant life. She'd never been in the jungle before; her only knowledge of it came from movies and what little she'd been able to see during the trip upriver to the plantation. During her days at the plantation she'd begun to think of the jungle as a living entity, huge and green, surrounding her, waiting. She had known from the first that to escape she would have to plunge into that seemingly impenetrable green barrier, and she had spent hours staring at it.

Now she was deep within it, and it wasn't quite what she'd expected. It wasn't a thick tangle, where paths had to be cut with a machete. The jungle floor was littered with rotting vegetation, and laced with networks of vines and roots, but for all that it was surprisingly clear. Plant life that lingered near the jungle floor was doomed. To compete for the precious light it had to rise and spread out its broad leaves, to gather as much light as it could. She stared at a fern that wasn't quite a fern; it was a tree with a buttressed root system, rising to a height of at least eight feet, only at the top it feathered into a fern.

"You can see now," he muttered suddenly, lifting his arm from her shoulders and stripping off the night vision goggles. He placed them carefully in a zippered section of his field pack.

Jane stared at him in open curiosity, wishing that the light were better so she could really see him. What shecould see gave wing to hundreds of tiny butterflies in her stomach. It would take one bravehombre to meet this man in a dark alley, she thought with a frightened shiver. She couldn't tell the color of his eyes, but they glittered at her from beneath fierce, level dark brows. His face was blackened, which made those eyes all the brighter. His light colored hair was far too long, and he'd tied a strip of cloth around his head to keep the hair out of his eyes. He was clad in tiger-striped camouflage fatigues, and he wore the trappings of war. A wicked knife was stuck casually in his belt, and a pistol rode his left hip while he carried a carbine slung over his right shoulder. Her startled eyes darted back up to his face, a strong-boned face that revealed no emotion, though he had been aware of her survey.

"Loaded for bear, aren't you?" she quipped, eyeing the knife again. For some reason it looked more deadly than either of the guns.

"I don't walk into anything unprepared," he said flatly.

Well, he certainly looked prepared for anything. She eyed him again, more warily this time; he was about six feet tall, and looked like... looked like... Her mind groped for and found the phrase. It had been bandied about and almost turned into a joke, but with this man, it was deadly serious. He looked like a lean, mean, fighting machine, every hard, muscled inch of him. His shoulders looked to be a yard wide, and he'd carried her dead weight through the jungle without even a hint of strain. He'd knocked her down twice, and she realized the only reason she wasn't badly hurt was that, both times, he'd tempered his strength.

Abruptly his attention left her, and his head lifted with a quick, alert motion, like that of an eagle. His eyes narrowed as he listened. "The helicopter is coming," he told her. "Let's go."

Jane listened, but she couldn't hear anything. "Are you sure?" she asked doubtfully.

"I said let's go," he repeated impatiently, and walked away from her. It took Jane only a few seconds to realize that he was heading out, and in the jungle he would be completely hidden from view before he'd gone ten yards. She hurried to catch up to him.

"Hey, slow down!" she whispered frantically, catching at his belt.

"Move it," he said with a total lack of sympathy. "The helicopter won't wait forever; Pablo's on the quick side anyway."

"Who's Pablo?"

"The pilot."

Just then a faint vibration reached her ears. In only a moment it had intensified to the recognizable beat of a helicopter. How could he have heard it before? She knew that she had good hearing, but his senses must be almost painfully acute.

He moved swiftly, surely, as if he knew exactly where he was going. Jane concentrated on keeping up with him and avoiding the roots that tried to catch her toes, she paid little attention to their surroundings. When he climbed, she climbed; it was simple. She was mildly surprised when he stopped abruptly and she lifted her head to look around. The jungle of Costa Rica was mountainous, and they had climbed to the edge of a small cliff, looking down on a narrow, hidden valley with a natural clearing. The helicopter sat in that clearing, the blades lazily whirling.

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