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After the conversation with Nick, Brian couldn't concentrate on what he was reading. He'd read the same paragraph four times before he realized he was just re-reading the exact same thing over and over again. He rolled onto his back and tried to sleep, but his mind wouldn't stop working, running over everything that had conspired in the last two days.

Finally, he pulled his cell phone out of his pocket. He sent a text message: R U UP?

Within a moment his phone vibed and the picture he had stored of Leighanne and Baylee popped up on the screen of his phone. He answered it, "Hey sweetie."

"Hey Brian," Leighanne replied. She sounded sleepy.

"Did I wake you up?" he asked.

"Yeah but my alarm as going to go off in like a minute anyway. Baylee's got clay studio this morning," she answered, yawning. "How's the trip going? Kiss anymore of Nick's girlfriends?" she was only kidding. She trusted her husband to a fault, and though she'd been upset when she heard, it was more because he hadn't told her before the tabloids had that had bothered her. They'd talked it out over the past few days and she'd completely forgiven him. But damn if she wasn't going to milk it.

Brian made a mental note to buy her something pretty before they got to Marietta. Preferably with diamonds on it.

"It's going okay," Brian replied, "We're in Boulder still. Nick tried to make me bungee jump."

Leighanne snorted. "Um, has Nick met you?" she asked, laughing.

"I know, right?" Brian laughed, too. "He and Amanda went, though."

"That must've been scary," she said. Leighanne paused. She knew him too well, he didn't call to tell her about Nick's bungee jumping excursion. "So... what's going on, bear?" she asked.

Brian sighed. "Something's bugging me that Nick said tonight, and I wanted to talk to you about it."

"And what's that?" she asked.

"Well, Kevin called Nick," Brian explained, "And he accused him of making me go on this trip, and Nick was pretty shaken about it. I'm guessing something was implied about if I get sick from this trip that it's his fault because Nick was really tripping about it. He was almost in tears."

"Nick can cry?" Leighanne joked, "That's serious stuff."

"Yeah." Brian paused, "And.. well, let's face it, we know I'm gonna get sick. I mean, you know? And... I don't want Nick to have to live with that."

Leighanne sighed, "I'll talk to Kevin this afternoon about it," she promised, "He needs to lay off Nick. I don't think he understands the pressure this whole thing's putting on him."

"I don't, either," Brian admitted. "I'm just really glad he's got Amanda to talk to about it now."

"He told Amanda finally?" Leighanne asked.

"I told Amanda, actually," Brian answered. "I felt like it was time she know, you know?"

"And how did that go?" asked Leighanne.

Brian hesitated, "Well..." he thought about it. "That's another thing that's been bugging me. See, when I told her she was appropriately upset, right? Then she went for a walk, and she came back hysterical. Nick said he was up half the night with her."

"Weird," Leighanne said.

"Yeah. I mean, her brother died from cancer, too, but--"

"It's still weird," Leighanne said.

"So I'm not being paranoid?" Brian asked, relieved.

"She barely knows you," Leighanne said slowly.

"That's what I was thinking, too. Something more must've happened." Brian told Leighanne about Nick's fit of anger when Amanda had returned from the woods when Ben had been following her, then how Ben had left so quickly that night, and now the latest development that Ben was really Tobias Winterson and Nick's suspicion that he'd followed her to get dirt on them. "You don't think he harassed her or something do you?" Brian asked, nervous.

"He might have," Leighanne admitted, "There's too many loose strings in that combination, though, for there to not be anything weird there."

"I thought so too, but there's only two solutions really to it," Brian said, "One is that Ben is Tobias Winterson and he harassed her, or two that he wasn't and he like attacked her or something."

"Or she's a reporter, too," Leighanne said.

"I thought of that," Brian said slowly, "But nothing really personal is getting printed. If Amanda was a reporter she'd have access to stuff a lot more interesting than what they're printing."

"Maybe she's biding her time," Leighanne suggested.

"For what?" Brian asked.

Leighanne sighed, "For the big story, Brian. You guys never told the fans about your illness, every reporter in the world wants that story."

"Well, if that's it, then she's got it now," Brian said.

He heard Baylee on the other end calling her through the bedroom door. "Bay's up," Leighanne said, "I've got to get him ready. I'll have him call you later, okay?"

"Okay hun," Brian replied. "Tell him I love him. And I love you, too."

"I love you, Brian," Leighanne answered. "And don't worry about Amanda, okay? I'm sure it's nothing and the news just struck her badly."

"Yeah." They hung up and Brian rolled over again, staring at the wall of the tent, thinking about Amanda.



Nick felt worse the next morning than he had the morning after all the tequila. His head was pounding and his throat was raw and his face was stiff from the dried tears. Amanda was sitting next to him, looking at him. She reached out a hand and touched his cheek when his eyes opened. “Are you okay?” she whispered.

He’d had some weird dreams, though they were so convoluted and strange that he couldn’t really remember them, other than to know they were strange. He nodded, “Yeah I’m okay,” he answered.

Amanda bent and kissed him gently.

They had sausages for breakfast, cooked in tin pans over the campfire. Then Pat had the entire team sprung into action, repacking the tents and blowing up the rafts to prepare for the final stretch of rafting. Nick, Brian and Amanda barely had a second to talk until they were buckling on the preservers and helmets on the banking, preparing to set sail.

Nick hadn’t even gotten to tell Amanda about the bungee jumping pictures yet. He figured he’d tell her later, at the lodge.

They all climbed into the rafts and Pat began her tyrant calling for them all to row as the current picked them up. Amanda was glad to see that the white caps were somewhat smaller so far on this side of the waterfall than they had been at the top rushing into it.
It was a relaxing ride for the first twenty minutes or so, and they spotted another couple of deer and a beaver in the water, who swam alongside the raft for a couple feet before ducking under. All the wild animals made Amanda think of Sleeping Beauty or Snow White or some other animal bedecked Disney princess.

But then the current picked up again. The caps started growing into swells and the raft was tumbling over dips and climbs in the water, like a plane encountering turbulence. The raft shuddered and tossed them from the bottom of it, making them all hover in the air for nano seconds at a time. It was scaring the bejesus out of Amanda. Her oar got harder and harder to keep moving, and the thick white splashes became larger and stronger. Her teeth were chattering as the cold water sprayed her, and the cold air surrounded her. She let out screeches as the raft bumped along. Nick laid his hand on her back, trying to comfort her.

When the raft hit a particularly large rock, she felt Nick’s hand drop from her back and heard Pat’s bellow. The raft was airborne. Amanda felt her oar slip from her grip and she leaned, desperate to catch it, her feet leaving the floor of the boat.

“Amanda!”

Nick had grabbed her harness and yanked her back into the boat. But there was a splash and Pat let out a bellowing yell, “Man overboard!” And as quickly as Nick’s hand had yanked Amanda back into the boat, the grip disappeared and Nick was up on his feet, diving into the water. It happened so fast, she felt dizzy, trying to comprehend what had happened. But there wasn’t just one empty seat behind her, but two.

“Brian?” she cried, realizing what had happened. “Brian!”

Pat was throwing a rope into the water, her face scarlet from yelling, but Amanda couldn’t hear the words. They’re both in the water, her heart was screaming out, They’re both going to drown on me.

Nick’s head surfaced before Brian’s did. He popped up in the river, shaking his hair out, and taking a deep gasp of breath. He disappeared back under. Underneath the current was even louder than above. Nick felt like he was forty or fifty feet under water because of the sound and pressure, despite being less than five or six feet under. He opened his eyes and dirt sailed into them, carried in the swiftly moving water, stinging.

He spotted Brian, who was never a very good swimmer, bobbling like a cork. His mouth was ducking in and out of the water, and he was panicking, flapping his arms like a bird in distress and grabbing wildly at nothing. Nick swam toward him, squinting, trying to keep the dirt out of his eyes. He stretched and caught hold of Brian’s harness.

“Brian!” Nick yelled into his ear, “I got you.”

Brian’s face was panic. Nick hoisted him up as high as he could, leveraging him by wrapping his wrist into the back of the preserver. The effort made Nick lower in the water, but he could hold his breath longer than Brian could, thanks to scuba training.

Nick tried catching onto the next cluster of rocks they passed, but they were slimy, and his hands slid right over them.

Amanda was watching this all from the raft, her heart pounding so hard, screaming both their names. The family in the boat with them was gaping, fearfully, at the two guys in the water. Pat was yelling instructions, but neither Brian or Nick seemed able to hear her.

Nick and Brian bobbled along in the water until Pat had managed to get the family to help row closer to them. It had taken a lot of effort – the Boys had swayed quite a ways to the right side of the river. She threw them a rope when they got close enough, and an extremely grateful Brian caught it with shaking hands, and Pat reeled them in onto the raft.
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