The ground, strewn with boulders embedded in the hard clay, did not provide a cushioned fall. Stunned, Melissa lay where she had landed, doing a survey of limbs and body. Her camera was still clutched to her chest. The lens was new and had cost a small fortune. If that was damaged, she would be royally pissed.
She could move her arms and legs. There was a stone pressing into her back, making it imperative she change position and do something about getting herself up. A shaft of pain hit as she straightened her legs.
“Bastard.” The word was hissed through barely controlled pain. Slowly, she rolled onto her side and pushed herself into a sitting position. A tentative exploration revealed she was just winded. She could still move her leg, so it wasn’t broken. Bruised perhaps. She rolled onto her knees and grunted softly as small stones embedded themselves into her flesh, then raised herself into a wobbly standing position. The sound of the chopper diminished and then ceased. She retrieved her broad-brimmed hat and jammed it back on her head.
Grit studded the palm of her hands and she wiped them on the side of her jeans to dislodge it. She took a tentative step and gasped. She bit her lip before looking around to see if the horse had stopped. It was nowhere to be seen. Rather, her father’s horse was nowhere to be seen. She had saddled up his stallion when she left the homestead. Hopefully Caesar had headed for home and hadn’t come to any harm. There would be hell to pay if he had.
The loose surface broadcast the tread of approaching footsteps She refused to look around. She knew who it would be.
“Are you okay?”
“As if you care. Piss off.” She started walking in the direction of the homestead, trying not to limp. It was going to be a long walk.
“Melissa, stop. I didn’t mean to frighten you, okay? I wasn’t expecting anyone to be here.”
She kept walking.
“Melissa, for chrissake—it’s too far to walk. Hop in and I’ll drop you back at the homestead.”
She swung around. The glare would have killed at twenty paces. He was fortunate they were at a distance of about twenty-one.
“Chris Harris, if you think I’m going anywhere near that aerial jellybean you’ve another think coming. I’ve seen enough of your flying for one day. I’m safer on the ground. Piss off.” She resumed walking, resolutely walking.
“Look, I’ve said I’m sorry. I won’t—”
“No, you didn’t.”
“Didn’t say you were sorry.”
“Alright, I’m sorry.” He yelled at her back, following several paces behind her. “Look, if you want to dehydrate out here and let the dingos eat you and the crows pick at what’s left, that’s fine by me but your dad will probably have my guts for garters. Get in and I’ll fly you home.”