You inch along the narrow ledge, brick scraping against your palms. Your breath catches as you glance down – you hadn’t realized how far up 30 stories is until now, staring down at the ant-sized cars and people below. The busy city street seems miles away from your precarious perch on this window washing platform.
Focus, you tell yourself, glancing back up to see the tabby still pacing along the ledge above you, its cries faint but desperate against the blustering wind. The poor cat had climbed out a cracked window, lured by pigeons, before getting stuck with no way back inside. You couldn’t just leave it, though this impromptu rescue on your high rise apartment building’s exterior is more intense than you had bargained for.
Carefully you lift one foot, balancing on the other as you feel for the next groove in the brick façade. The old bricks offer uneven footing but enough crevices for your fingers and toes to cling to. Just like climbing the big oak tree back home, you tell yourself, trying to ignore your pounding heartbeat.
Only 20 more feet and you’ll be able to reach out and grab the cat from the window above. But you have to focus on finding secure holds first – no distractions. You glance down despite yourself then instantly regret it, vision swimming at the tiny specks of traffic now directly under your feet.
Just then the rooftop door behind you slams open, and you nearly lose your grip at the noise. There shouldn’t be anyone else up here. You glance back to see a tall, handsome man in a suit stride toward the ledge where you cling. Wait is he…? Yes, now he’s climbing out the window and onto the tiny ledge, heading straight for you!
“Hey!” He calls over the wind, face etched with concern. “Just hold on, ok? I’m coming to get you!”
Get you? Does he think you’re trying to jump? Realization hits you even as another blast of wind nearly knocks you sideways. From his angle it must look like –
“No, stop!” You yell back through chattering teeth. Not from cold but reaction setting in from the long minutes spent teetering over deadly space.
He continues toward you, one arm stretched out. “It’s ok, just talk to me. We’ll figure this out, I promise. Nothing is bad enough to end it all.” His eyes radiate warmth and compassion despite the panic in his voice.
“I’m not – ” you start, cut off by the screech of the cat above. His gaze follows yours up to the tabby, still restlessly pacing with no idea of the danger its in.
“Oh god,” his eyes widen in understanding. Then narrow in determination. Before you can react, he’s climbing past you, muscles flexing beneath his dress shirt as he rapidly scales the side of the building.
“Wait, stop!” You yell again, terrified he’s going to send you both over the edge with his added weight.
He pauses, dangling from one hand just above you as he glances down. “It’s ok,” he says gently, holding your gaze. “I’ve got you.”
You shiver, unsure whether it’s from fear or the intensity of his stare. His face is just inches from yours now, features chiseled to perfection beneath slightly windswept hair. Focus, you remind yourself.
“The cat – ” you explain weakly. “I almost have her. Let me grab her first.”
He studies you a moment as if trying to decide whether to believe you. Finally he gives a terse nod before scaling swiftly up to the next ledge.
Carefully, cautiously you follow, scrambling back into movement. As you climb hand over hand up the building side, you keep your eyes glued to that ledge above. Almost there.
The man reaches it first, muscled torso allowing him to pull himself up in one smooth motion. Then he’s lying flat, one hand outstretched toward the still whimpering tabby.
“Here kitty,” you hear him call gently as you finally hoist yourself onto the ledge beside him. It’s wider up here – you let out a breath you didn’t realize you were holding now that there is solid stone under you instead of thin air.
You meet the eyes of the handsome stranger now stretched on his belly mere inches away from you reaching for the cat like a life line. Something electric passes between you – relief maybe, or delayed reaction from the intensity of the last few minutes.
“Good kitty,” he murmurs encouragingly as the tabby creeps closer, still crying but tempted toward help by his outstretched fingers. His eyes don’t leave yours. This close you can see flecks of amber ringed by dark lashes. His face is striking, angled planes and hollows making him seem almost unreal.
The cat lets out a pitiful mewl, inching forward until finally its head bumps the man’s hand. In a flash he has the tabby wrapped in his arms, cradling it to his chest as he maneuvers swiftly away from the ledge.
You sit up too, knees weak as the adrenaline rush begins to fade. But the stranger stays crouched protectively around the now-purring cat, studying you with searching eyes.