“Surely we’ll reach civilization sometime soon,” Henry said, far too chipper for a guy trudging through the woods in a filthy tux. “They can’t have taken us far.”
The sun was barely above the horizon, and already Jo’s hair clung to her neck in the thick heat. She wiped her damp brow, wrinkling her nose at the unfamiliar stickiness of foundation and concealer on the back of her hand. Disgusting. Yet it still paled in comparison to the squelching mud oozing between her bare toes, the friction of her wet red dress on her skin, and the growing stink of her own sweat. God, this sucked.
“I’m pretty sure you said that an hour ago,” she grumbled, stepping over an exposed root.
Henry chuckled. “And I’m pretty sure you were asleep an hour ago,” he reminded her, and she shot him a glare. Wisely, he ducked his head, and mumbled, “Sorry,” though he didn’t look that contrite. “But we will get out of here eventually–I promise. Even if I have to–”
“No,” she said. “For the thousandth time, no. We can get out of here without you–” She searched for an appropriate euphemism. “–taking a swim. And, besides–do you even know where we are?”
He paused and looked around, eying trees that all appeared the same to her. Eventually, started walking again, and told her, “No. I haven’t been wandering through the woods without some sort of map or guide in a very long time.”
Of course not. That would’ve been too easy. Instead, they were stuck with what might as well have been useless trivia. Her phone was gone, her gun and badge were gone, her shoes were broken, and the long skirt of her dress was bunched at her thighs and held up by a prayer and Henry’s tie. The fact that the situation could’ve been worse did little to ease the irritation–or the disappointment.
“We almost had them,” Jo said. “We almost had everything we needed last night, and then…” Then they were drugged when they went undercover at that damn party, and got dumped in the middle of nowhere in the freaking rain.
“God.” She groaned. “This didn’t even give me one good reason why I should wear a dress.”
“It was a lovely dress, though,” Henry said.
“‘Was’ being the keyword there.” The stupid thing was beyond salvaging now.
“Indeed,” he said, with a brief laugh. “Though you looked–”
“Ridiculous?” she suggested, giving him a look that dared him to argue.
“Stunning,” he said, coming to a stop, catching her hesitantly by the wrist. She went still beside him, and he gazed fondly at her, smiling. “Jo, you–”
“No, Henry,” she said, softly, and his face fell. Not this. Not now. “We both know it’s not just a compliment. Not with us. And I…”
Part of her wanted to give in, wanted her to pull Henry into her arms and kiss him with everything she had. But the rest of her whispered reminders about a dagger, about ships and photographs and a pocket watch, about subways and antique guns, about the best friend she’d ever known. Time. She still needed time.
“I think we need to focus on fixing us first, okay?” she said, and took his hand. “We’re not there yet, but we will be.”
“I really was just planning to compliment your appearance last night,” he said, with a wry grin and a conspiratorial tone that quickly turned sober. “But I do agree with you. I value you and your presence in my life far too much to rush our relationship. I don’t want this to end poorly.”
“Then let’s get the hell out of here and go fix this properly,” she said, and began walking again.