Caught between a rock and a hard place two men stare death in the eyes and all bets are off.
Aidan Walker never envisioned death would come for him so soon, but holding on for dear life he knew his time is up. Matt Raine lives for the adrenaline rush his professional rock climbing career brings him, but saving another climbers life was not on his daily to-do list. During agonizing minutes of terror, Matt rouses something in Aiden he would've never thought possible. After their ordeal Aidan finds he can't get Matt out of his mind and Matt seems to have the same problem as he surprises Aidan with a naughty visit. Can Aidan accept Matt in his life or is the price too high?
He was gonna die today. Except he couldn't die because people needed him. Taryn needed him.
This mountain face could not mean the end of him. As an experienced climber he was familiar with this spot-so why the hell was he hanging onto life with only the tips of his fingers and toes?
Aidan Walker figured for a ridiculous second that at least his life wasn't flashing before his eyes yet, so he still had some time. Maybe just a few precious minutes at most to figure out how things had gone so horribly wrong so quickly.
His ribs hurt like nothing else and judging by the sticky wetness of his shirt, he knew he was badly injured. He had felt the rock gash through his flesh and every breath hurt like hell, so he probably had a couple of broken ribs too. Blood ran down his leg and Aidan knew it was just a matter of time until it was all over.
He had left his apartment that morning just after sunrise and driven the fifty kilometres from Queenstown to the Dart River Valley to climb Chinaman's Bluff, one of his favourite but more challenging rock climbing routes. The day had been perfect and the scenery never ceased to amaze him even after seeing it countless times.
Aidan had grown up in the Queenstown and Central Lakes region of New Zealand and knew that his whole country was breathtakingly beautiful, but he couldn't imagine living anywhere else. Queenstown was the place for him.
Fitting then that he would die here and this was the last view he would see as he fell to his death. That had not been his plan when he set out to hike to the edge of the cliff face where he had set up his equipment to rappel down to the valley below.
The down trip had gone without a hitch and he'd spent a good two hours resting and exploring the banks of the Dart River before making his way back to ascend the rock face. This was the part of the sport he loved: the physical challenge of finding finger- and footholds to climb up, the heat of the sun beating down on his back, the trembling burn of his muscles under the strain of his body weight, and the adrenaline rushing through his veins.
He realized now that today hadn't been the best day to take on this mountain. His mind had been elsewhere and a lapse in concentration could cost your life when it came to this sport.
Halfway up the cliff he'd perched precariously on a very small ledge on the tips of his toes when he'd reached up to align his rope. Feeling it hitch, he'd given it a harder yank and watched in horror as the whole length came tumbling down past him to the rocks below. It was like watching a scene in a nail-biting Hollywood action movie-only he was the male lead and it was very, very real.
He'd instantly slid down the rock face and the same protruding rock that had stopped his fall had also seriously wounded him. His anchoring knot had come undone when he'd yanked the rope and at the same time his non-locking karabiner had opened up to cause the rope to come tumbling down.
His life was now dependent on the strength and stamina of his limbs and the grip of his fingers and toes. He couldn't even attempt to reach for the GPS emergency beacon locator in his pocket, because he needed both hands to hang on.
Many accidents in this sport were due to human error and over-confidence and it sucked that he was going to pay with his life for his mistake.
His muscles quivered with the strain of holding his weight, his cheek flush with the warm rock. He didn't want to die. No way in hell was he giving up without a fight. He couldn't leave his baby sister behind-Taryn was all he had left.
She needed him and the staff at the gym would lose their jobs without him. How long he could hold on he wasn't sure, but even if he did, his chances of being rescued were very slim. He hadn't told anyone where he was going or what he'd be doing. Damian would've come with him or any of his other climbing partners. Fuck! He knew better than this.
Sadness settled in his heart. There was so much he had still wanted to do with his life. Find a special woman to share his life with, have kids, expand his business, and tell Taryn how much he loved her. By the look of it, he wasn't gonna get the chance to fulfil those simple dreams and desires.
Always a realist, he tried to prepare himself for what was coming, but his spirit rebelled furiously despite feeling his fingers starting to slip. He dug deep and gathered his last reserves of strength to clamp onto the rock with renewed determination.
His calves were jittery with nervous tension from standing on his toes for so long, his teeth were rattling. God, he was cold.
Death was coming for him, but fuck that. He would not make it easy. Even though a small voice told him it was futile to fight, that he was only postponing the inevitable, there was a surge of urgency in him to cling on until his body gave up.
It felt like an eternity, but when he felt his head starting to spin and saw white spots in front of his closed eyelids, he slowly looked up at the cloudless blue sky and prepared to die.
"Don't you fucking dare!" The voice was breathless, strained, and definitely pissed off.
Aidan didn't know where he found the power to hold on. Everything in his body fucking hurt and he was so damn tired. He tried to see who the asshole was who dared interrupt his peaceful descent and splat on terra firma.
He couldn't see anyone but heard furious muttering and swearing amidst the sounds of physical exertion. What followed was some scraping and he carefully raised his eyes to see another man rappelling down the rock face at a fast pace almost right above him. Dirt rained down on his head and he shut his eyes against the grit and dust. At that moment, his sweaty fingers decided they'd had enough and slipped off. He tried scrabbling for a new hold and the next few seconds were a crazy blur.
Just when he thought he was history he heard a loud grunt, felt more bits of dirt and rock fall on him before a heavy, solid weight hit him from behind to slam him hard into the wall of rock.