"Hang on!" Jix cried, her voice sounding a little improved, but much too excited. Jamie knew that tone. She was about to do something crazy. "We're figuring something out!"
After another minute, something came flying over the edge of the gorge. Rocks crumbled past him. Jamie had a hard time making out what the object was at first but as it slowly descended he realized it was a hodge-podge of clothing tied together, ending with a plaid, a shirt, and a pair of trews.
"What the hell are the two of ye doin'?" he shouted, then his breath caught in his throat as he saw Jix swing over the edge of the cliff, hanging on to the makeshift rope for dear life.
"No," he whispered. "No. NO!"
Jix' hand slipped and she grabbed for another hold, finding it in the knot between the shirt and the trews.
"You almost made me fall!" she yelled. "Now shut up MacGregor and let me rescue you!"
"Campbell!" Jamie roared.
"He's busy!" Jix retorted, sliding down another foot. "Don't distract him."
"When I get out of here I'm goin' to kill him for lettin' ye do something so dangerous! An' then I'm goin' to raise welts on yer bottom for talkin' him into it!" Jamie trembled with the force of his fear. He would rather dive headfirst into the black abyss than sit helplessly and watch Jix tumble to the bottom of the horrible pit below him.
"There's no other way, you stubborn Scot! Griffin's too heavy for this stupid rope we made!"
"An' how do ye plan to bring me up? On yer back?"
"Stop talking to me! This isn't as easy as it looks!" Her foot slipped against the crumbling shale and a large chunk went flying to the bottom of the ravine.
He stopped talking. Jix inched her way down and Jamie held his breath as she slowly descended into the chasm. By the time she reached him, his entire body was drenched with sweat.
"Now what?" he asked, fighting to keep the tremor from his voice. "I dinna think this ledge will hold the two of us."
Jix braced her feet against the side of the cliff. She had reached a position next to Jamie and their faces were so close that if he leaned out, he could have touched his lips to hers. He didn't dare. Jix cast an anxious glance at the narrow perch on which he sat.
"Okay, this is the tricky part."
Jamie took a deep, calming breath. "Jix, listen to me, love." She blinked at the endearment and he hurried on.
"This willna work. Go back up and just throw the rope back to me, ye ken?"
But she didn't. And as she hung between earth and sky, biting her lower lip, indecision in her gaze, Jamie felt his heart might burst with love for this selfless, beautiful, totally insane woman.
"Your ankle--I was afraid you couldn't make it," she said, her voice raspy.
"I was afraid you might not be able to climb up by yourself."
"I was going to tie the rope around your waist and let Griffin pull you up."
"Jix Ferguson, climb back up this rope this instant or so help me--"
Her face suddenly contorted in horror. "Jamie--I'm slipping!"
It all happened in a matter of seconds. Jamie grabbed Jix around the waist with his left hand, diving for the makeshift rope with his right even as the ledge beneath his feet crumbled into oblivion and the two of them swung out over the bottomless ravine.
"Oh poop," Jix said, clinging to his neck. "I guess this wasn't such a great idea after all."
Above them, the shirt between the plaid and the trews, began to tear.
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