Home > Honour Bound (Highland Magic #2)(5)

Honour Bound (Highland Magic #2)(5)
Helen Harper

‘No problem,’ Travis grunted.

‘I’m sorry,’ I said again.

He waved his hand as if it didn’t matter. It’d be nice if he stopped tiptoeing round me; I wasn’t anything special and I wished he understood that.

Words wouldn’t help me though so I offered him a shiny smile before turning my back and hopping into the helicopter. The others – a brother and sister team of humans called Tim and Tam, and Isla, a Nicnevan witch attached to the Polwarth Clan, gave me a more enthusiastic greeting.

‘Hey, Tegs. Travis giving you a hard time?’

‘If only,’ I said cheerfully, shrugging into my gear as the helicopter took off. Of course, it was all hot pink; I was rather passionate about that colour. As long as I could be identified against the winter snow and ice, the colours I chose to wear were up to me. Unfortunately I’d not had much success in persuading everyone else to don hot pink as well. That was a shame, it would rather suit Travis.

‘So what’s the deal?’ I asked, shouting over the noise of the rotors.

‘Husband and wife team,’ Tam yelled back. ‘Went out this morning to Aladdin’s Mirror and were supposed to check back in after midday.’

I tied back my hair, tucking it safely out of the way, and frowned. It was already four o’clock and at this time of year, it’d be dark within the hour. Four hours might not sound like a long time to go missing but in the Scottish Highlands in the depths of winter, it could be a lifetime. Or two.

‘Everyone goes to the Mirror,’ Isla said, rolling her eyes.

She had a point; this would be my fourth rescue there this year. Considering the Mirror was little more than a wall of ice, I didn’t understand the attraction. I reckoned it was the allure of the name as much as anything else. Names, as every Sidhe knew, had power. Aladdin’s Mirror did indeed sound rather mystical. It wasn’t; it was just a wall of frozen water that claimed far more broken bones and call-outs than should be allowed.

I was the newbie on the team but after four months I had a pretty good handle on how things worked. While I couldn’t ever imagine this job becoming mundane, the longer I spent at it, the more confident I grew. I knew what to expect.

The helicopter couldn’t fly directly to the Mirror so it put us lower down Coire an t’Sneachda. Try saying that ten times in a row; I might be getting better at these rescues but my tongue still fumbled with the different pronunciations of the locations.

Isla threw me an arch look. ‘Where are we going, Integrity?’

I stuck my tongue out at her and she laughed. I tried to concentrate. I could always get the first part right but stumbled at the end when the spelling had virtually no bearing on the way the name was pronounced. ‘Um, Kor In Tray…’

‘Korin Tray Achk.’

I repeated it under my breath. It wouldn’t matter; next time we made it up here, I’d have forgotten again. Gaelic just wasn’t my thing. Whatever ‒ I couldn’t be brilliant at everything.

The sky was already darkening when we jumped out. It was the time of year when you’d miss sunset if you blinked: one minute it was day and the next it was as if someone had flipped a switch and night had descended, even though it still wasn’t teatime. Travis frowned upwards, clearly unhappy at Mother Nature. The wind was picking up, sending tiny particles of ice and snow flying against our bare faces. It wasn’t just in heists that balaclavas were useful. I pulled mine over my head while the others did the same. Before my eyelashes could freeze, I yanked down my goggles. Thank goodness for hardy climbing equipment.

Once we were ready, Travis held up his index finger and circled it in the air. We all nodded. We knew what to do.

Travis led the way. As the greenie, I was directly behind him carrying the first-aid equipment. Tim and Tam followed behind with the stretchers, while Isla took up the rear. It was slow going. Even with our state-of-the-art gear, there was only so fast we could move when we were laden with stuff and walking on an uphill ice-skating rink. For a long time all that could be heard were our combined breaths and the crunch of snow beneath our feet. I was as fit as anyone and I was already sweating under my layers of clothing. I kept my head down. With visibility almost at zero, there was no point in looking at anything other than my feet. That was why I spotted the tracks.

I reached out and tapped Travis on the shoulder, causing him to halt. He turned, followed my finger and glanced down. The falling snow would cover them within minutes but there was no mistaking what was there. I had never seen signs of animal life this far up the mountain; at this time of year any beast smart enough to survive was much further down the slopes. From what I could tell, this brave creature had three legs ‒ something else which didn’t make sense.

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