... actually said to each other on that very first visit to Kondalilla Falls?
We spend the morning hiking Kondalilla National Park, savoring the lush eucalypt and rainforest species that lead to the spectacular Kondalilla Falls. It’s a hike I’ve taken many times, and one I always love to share; but watching Sebastian drink in its beauty is a whole new rush.
As we pause near the base of the falls, he closes his eyes, a contented smile playing about his lips. Tilting back his head, his glorious face gleams, bathed in the swirling mist and morning rays. Inhaling deeply, he stretches to his full height, the muscular planes of his torso straining the fabric of his shirt. And I have to turn away.
“Bree?” The sound of gravel crunching beneath my feet gives me away. “Where are you going?”
“To cool off,” I answer, not trusting myself to face him as I bend to splash water over my bare arms.
He doesn’t say anything, but I feel the heat of his stare. I splash my neck for good measure.
I jump. Somehow he’s beside me, offering his hand.
I nod, taking it – then drop it with a gasp. After the feel of the icy water, his touch is almost scorching. “Your skin!” I blurt, lifting a hand to touch his face, but he steps back.
“I’m fine.” This time he’s the one to look away. “Your hands are just cold.” But before I have a chance to contest this, he turns the conversation back to me. “You’ve spent a lot of time here.”
It’s not a question, but I find myself explaining anyway.
“Yes,” I haltingly agree. “There’s something almost spiritual about it.” I shrug, toeing the ground awkwardly. “It brings me ... relief.”
He studies me for a moment. “Because you don’t feel so alone.” He says it gently, but each word is like a dagger to my soul.
I wrap my hands around my torso as tears I don’t want to shed sting my eyes.
His face is pained, but his hands are balled tightly at his sides. “You’re not alone, Bree.” His voice is unusually rough. “You’re never alone.”
“Stop,” I whisper. “You don’t understand.”
“Then help me.” In one movement he’s closed the gap between us, and we’re so close I can feel the heat of his skin. “Please.”
My mind begins to swirl, and I close my eyes. A lone tear slips down my cheek.
“Please,” he repeats, fiercer this time – and once I look at him I’m lost.