Aware of Drew crawling up beside her, she turned her head. “What do you think?” She’d done more than one climb with him, knew he was highly skilled.
“One of us will have to rappel down,” he said and glanced over his shoulder, pointing to a sturdy pine. “We can use that tree to rig up the main anchor, set up a belay line for backup.”
Indigo agreed. Waiting until they’d both drawn back from the edge, she nodded at Sing-Liu to bring her the harness. “I’ll—”
Drew put a hand on her arm. “That’s one hell of a dangerous cliff face. I’ll go—I’ve got more experience.”
That first sentence irritated her, but she shrugged it off to focus on the practical reason why she was the better choice for the descent. “If something goes wrong, it’ll be easier for the people up here to handle someone of my weight than yours.”
“Not with Tai’s strength added to yours and Sing-Liu’s—and if Silvia needs to be stabilized, I’ve had more medical training than you.”
Indigo had forgotten about the modules he’d done with Lara. Added to the fact that he was the more experienced climber, it tipped the scales in favor of his descent. She was about to say so when he shook his head and said, “We can’t waste time arguing, Indy. Sing-Liu, give me the harness.”
It was a slap that made her head ring. “I’m the lieutenant,” she reminded him with ice in her tone. “I give the commands.” Hell, she thought even as the words spilled out, she’d deal with his actions later. Right now, Silvia needed them. “Here’s what—”
Drew got in her face before she could finish. “You might be the lieutenant,” he bit out, “but I’m a senior member of the pack, and you’ve got no cause to f**king ignore my opinion just because you insist on seeing me as a less dominant young male to the exclusion of all else.”
Indigo was damned if she was going to have this fight in public. Grabbing the harness, she slammed it onto his chest. “Gear up.”
He began to do so, moving at high speed, but his temper continued to flash. “If we weren’t sleeping together,” he muttered, “you would’ve listened to me from the word go, instead of trying to go in half-assed because you think you have something to prove.”
Indigo’s hold on her own temper snapped, a snarl burning its way out of her throat even as her claws sliced out. That was when Hawke appeared out of the trees. “Enough.” It was a snapped order. “Drew, check your harness. Indigo, do you need to take a walk?”
Only a lifetime of control allowed her to rein back the wolf, to say, “I’m fine. I’ll organize things on this end.” As she spoke, she realized Lara and Brace had also arrived. The fact that they’d witnessed Hawke slapping her down further increased her icy rage, but she kept it in ruthless check.
Drew didn’t say a word as he double-checked everything and slipped a listening device in his ear while Sing-Liu clipped a mike to the collar of his tee. “I’m ready.”
“So are we.” Indigo had set up the anchor using the tree as a base, but she and the others would manually control the backup; they couldn’t be too careful with two lives at stake. “Go.”
Hooking himself up, Drew disappeared over the edge of the cliff, and Indigo’s heart slammed bruisingly hard against her ribs for a long, still instant. Then the rope went taut and she knew he’d started to rappel down.
Having made the descent faster than would’ve been safe for most, Andrew crouched down beside his fallen packmate, doing a visual check for injuries after he’d ensured her airway was clear and felt for a pulse. “Broken leg, broken ribs, it looks like,” he said into the mike, “severe bruising, a bad gash on the back of her head.” He could feel her blood, wet and sticky. “She’s unconscious, but breathing.”
Lara asked him to assess the breaks more closely. “Do you think you can move her onto a stretcher for us to haul up?”
Andrew shifted his body carefully on the narrow ledge so he could get a better angle at Silvia’s back. “I’m worried about her spine, Lara. The way she’s twisted . . . there could be damage if I move her.” In spite of the huge technological advances of the late twenty-first century, spinal injuries continued to be problematic. Most could be healed, but the recovery process was brutal.
Lara’s voice faded a fraction, as if she was speaking to someone else. “I need to go down.”
“I’ll come back up, guide you down,” Andrew said, because even a controlled rappel down this cliff face could prove dangerous for the inexperienced. “I see some footholds. I should be able to climb up unassisted.”
“We’ve got you if you slip.” Indigo’s voice in his ear, calm and steady.
“Thanks.” It took him considerably longer to clear the cliff face than it had to come down. His muscles were screaming by the time he reached the top, but it was a burn he could live with.
Lara was ready to go when he arrived. As the healer took a deep breath and prepared to descend with him all but glued to her, Andrew fought the urge to search for Indigo’s gaze—that particular fight could come later—and stepped back over the edge of the cliff.
It took an hour for Lara to heal Silvia enough for the girl to be safely winched up, another quarter of an hour for Lara to ascend, with Andrew climbing behind her. In the chaos of stripping Lara of her harness and coiling the ropes, he didn’t see Indigo leave, though he assumed she was helping carry the injured girl to the infirmary.