"He's not looking for us. Look," he points down river, "that's where he's headed."
There's a pod of crocodile further down and I smile. "They're having their breakfast too."
"Something like that," he says.
Up ahead, his bird Polly circles before gliding down to land on a branch in a nearby tree. She cocks her head at Stone, cawing, singing a song.
He chuckles. "I don't know what you saw, but it sounds like it was fun," he tells her. He looks over at me. "What?"
I laugh. "Sorry, I just think it's kind of funny you talk to birds."
"I told you, I haven't had much company. Any company."
I can only imagine how lonely it must've been for him. And although I am not at all happy to be here, I'm happy in the sense that I get to give him a little bit of a reprieve. Five years, toughing it out here all alone? I shake my head in amazement as he shows me his bow and arrow, the spears he's carved, the supplies he's gathered that he keeps stored in his hut.
"It's not much," he says, "and I'll have to make you a bed. You can choose where you want me to build it."
"I want to sleep close to you," I say.
Stone lifts his eyebrows, running a hand over his beard. I see a glint of desire in his eyes, but he doesn’t act on it. My core, though, tightens, longing for more than a look.
"I stay by the fire,” he says, eyes on mine. “So, right next to my bed is probably best."
I nod. "All right, well, I can collect some branches and brush to try and make a bed."
"Sounds good," he tells me. "I'm gonna hunt down that warthog that’s been grunting.”
“How will you kill it?” I ask.
Stone reaches in his satchel for a hunting knife and I am reminded how thankful I am to have him here. Not just because he has weapons to protect us, but because he knows how to use them.
“What?” he asks.
I lick my lips. “It’s just really impressive. How you know how to protect yourself.”
He shakes his head ever so slowly. “Not myself. Protect us. Protect you.”
He turns before I can say anymore, and I’m glad to be left alone for a moment because my cheeks feel flushed and my heart races. Why does the idea of a man hunting down dinner turn me on so damn much?
I hear the squeal of the hog in the distance as I am braiding a cot together with palm leaves, trying to remember how to cross them correctly. I stand, leaving the cave, to see Stone walking toward the cave with the hog across his shoulders.
He is nearly naked, in nothing but that loincloth, his chest glistening with sweat, the bloody knife in his hand. My mouth waters.
He is ripped, wild, and feral – giving me a grin that makes my belly flip-flop.
“Hungry?” he asks.
“Starving,” I say, the double entendre lost on him. But oh my god, none of it is lost on me. I pretend to work on the cot for the next hour, but in reality I am just staring at Stone as he guts the warthog so we can have supper. His biceps flex, the muscles in his back too, and I have a primal desire to climb up that mountain of a man and let him know he can feast on me.
I don’t do that, though. Of course not. And it’s not because I’m a virgin. It’s because I cannot ruin what I have here. Someone willing to look out for me, keep me safe. If I make a move that he doesn’t want, he might look at me differently. And then where will that leave me?
I don’t want to be alone out here in the wild.
We work like that for the rest of the day. I eventually get more focused and use the zip ties that are in my backpack to secure a cot for myself as he finishes cleaning the hog. Blood pours like a river down the dirt and the smell is a little wretched but still, every once in a while, I take a quick look over my shoulder, seeing his muscles tense as he works to keep us alive.
Later, when we go to bed at night, my stomach is full from the meat he cooked over the open pit. And while I'm still stunned to be here, I'm less tense than I was the night before.
And though I’m not hungry, my body is out of sorts as I look over at him lying on his bed, wishing he were closer.
When I wake in the morning, it's like life is on repeat. Collect water, hunt for food, watch out for wild animals, work, sleep, work, sleep. Suddenly, I've been here a week. Then two. Then three.