Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Release Date: March 31, 2015
Silence hung heavily over the phone lines. “Lucy? Lucy, are you all right?” “Um, I am.” Lucy peered into the gathering gloom nervously.
Her heart sank. Nothing outside the car had changed. The dark thing spread across the snow was definitely human shaped. The object near the human thing, wheels spinning senselessly, was the bicycle it had been riding. Riding, until someone had opened their door on it. And that someone was her. “I’ve gotta go.”
“What was that noise?”
“I doored a cyclist.”
“You what?” There was nothing dulcet or dreamy about Mads and her smoky vocal chords now.
“It seems I doored a cyclist. I’m going to have to go now.”
“Is the cyclist okay?”
“It’s moving.” Lucy stepped from the car, shut her door, and took a ginger step forward.
A soft noise rode the steady sibilance of the wind. “And I think that’s it groaning.” She held the phone out nervously at the bipedal stain in the snow. “Can you hear it?”
“I can’t hear anything but this howling noise. That’s not it, is it?”
“Nope.” Lucy was reasonably sure on this point. “That’s the wind.”
“I know, right?” Lucy took a half shuffle closer. “I think it’s a him.”
“How do you know it’s a him? Can you see its face?”
“Nope.” Lucy blinked away a sloppy snowflake. “But it’s either a man or a very large woman, with a butt that looks like a man.” And she certainly noticed the taut, muscular lines of his thighs and ass.
She tilted her head to the side to get a better look. Those were male and not too bad, current situation aside. The Thinsulate pants could not be doing much good against the cold, because they left very little to the imagination. The figure on the ground moved again and rolled carefully onto his back.
Yup, that was very definitely a he and not a she.
“Uh-huh, it’s a him,” she clarified for Mads without taking her eyes off the cyclist.
“Excuse me? Are you all right?”
The cyclist cursed softly.
Lucy inched a little closer, ready to launch a heroic retreat into her childhood home if the injured party got pissed at her, the front steps of which loomed tantalizingly close. Coward. Lucy tried to master her yellow streak. “Should I call nine-one-one?”
“Does he look like he needs an ambulance?” Mads asked.
“I’ll ask him.” Lucy raised her voice. “Are you hurt? Should I call nine-one-one?”
The man on the ground moaned and struggled into a sitting position.
Her victim didn’t look all that injured or dangerous, yet.
He stretched out his legs with a hiss.
“I think he’s getting up,” Lucy whispered into the phone.
“Then he can’t be too badly hurt, right?” Mads sounded hopeful. “Any blood? Exposed bones? That sort of thing?”
“I don’t see any blood.” Lucy leaned forward and peered. Now that the cyclist was moving she didn’t want to risk getting any closer. “No bones either. I think that means he might be all right.”
“I can hear you,” he spoke.
“He can hear me,” Lucy reported to Mads. “Oh.” She stopped talking and stared.
“That’s good.” Mads kept it positive.
“I think he’s going to be okay,” Lucy whispered.
The cyclist ignored her and started unbuckling his helmet.
“It’s a good thing he wore a helmet,” Lucy reported into her phone.
“Why?” Mads whispered back.
“Because it’s sort of . . . busted up.”
“And his head?”
“Seems fine.” Lucy stood on her toes for a better look. “Are you sure you’re all right?”
Her voice shook slightly as she risked speaking to the cyclist.
“No thanks to you.” The man examined his helmet. He shook his head angrily.
“I didn’t see you.” Lucy kept her tone conciliatory. “You came out of nowhere.”
“Then perhaps you should stop talking on the phone and concentrate on what you’re doing.”
Lucy froze. She knew that voice. “Ah shit.”
The cyclist whipped off his goggles and tucked them into his helmet in short, angry movements.
“This is going to get ugly.” She hadn’t realized she’d spoken out loud until Mads replied.
“Well,” Mads huffed, outraged on her behalf. “Okay, I know you hit the guy with your door. But for the love of God, what kind of dork rides a bike in a snowstorm?”
The wind dropped just then and Mad’s voice squawked out of Lucy’s phone loud and clear. The cyclist jerked his head up and Lucy swore again. All the way west in Seattle, Mads had no idea. Lucy ignored the steady stream of rationalizations coming through the phone as her stomach sped south, into her boots.
“Bye,” she whispered and hung up.
The man in the snow had gone dead still. His gaze locked on her like a heat-seeking missile. And Lucy knew he knew that she knew and he knew that she knew he knew.
Or something. Her mind went blank. There must be something to say in situations like this, but she had nothing. She stared at him and he stared right back.
“What the hell are you doing here?” All things considered it was a very reasonable question. His tone and the glare he bent her way shot to hell any vague hope she might have held that Richard had learned to forgive and forget.
“Hello, Richard.” Her voice hit the loaded air in a strangled squeak.
His voice was deeper than she remembered, but she would have known it anywhere.
Nine years was not long enough to forget any of the small details she could now make out.
Snow powdered one side of his face and stuck to his eyelashes. His face was leaner and the bones stronger and more decisive, but he was still Richard. Handsome in that Cary Grant, clean-cut, one-of-the-good-guys way. It had played havoc with her teenage heart and hormones. Her grown-up hormones were not dead to the appeal either. His eyes were the same pure, unadulterated cobalt. He blinked to clear snow from the dark veil of his lashes.
Lucy watched him with the helpless certainty that the light at the end of the tunnel was an oncoming train.
His head dropped forward almost onto his chest. He’d propped his elbows onto his knees.
She should say something to ease the tension, but she was clueless. She tucked her chin deeper into her scarf and waited.
“Tell me it’s not you,” he said, eventually.
She huddled deeper into her coat and tried a friendly smile. “I didn’t see you when I opened my door.”
“Ah, Christ.” A big man, he was surprisingly graceful as he rose to his feet, brushing snow off his butt and legs.
She should have recognized those. An hysterical bubble of laughter caught in her throat.
“This cannot be happening to me,” he rumbled without looking at her.
She really wanted to ask which part, but was equally sure she didn’t want to hear his answer. “Sorry,” she said, shrugging again. “I didn’t—”
“See me, yeah, I get it.” His beautiful blue eyes were colder than the snow seeping through her cheap boots. “What are you doing here, Lucy?”
It was like something out of Wuthering Heights. The wind howled, the snow drove against her face, and the large, lurking former love of her life glowered at her in a very Brontë-esque manner. Kate Bush started wailing her lament to Heathcliff in a dark corner of Lucy’s mind.
“I came for my mom.” She dropped her eyes first. “My dad is sick.”
Richard made a strangled sound in the back of his throat. “So, you rushed home to take care of Mom and Dad?” He didn’t wait for her reply, but bent to grab his bike and hauled it upright. He leaned over to examine it. Then gave up with a snarl of exasperation. “Perfect, fucking perfect.”
“My mom needs me.” It sounded lame. Richard shot her a look of clear skepticism.
Okay, he thought so too. She was tempted to set him right and opened her mouth to do that. She shut it again. There was no easy explanation to this one.
He gave her one last scowl before he turned and stomped away. His feet drove small divots into the snow as he went, dragging his bike behind him. He didn’t look back, but strode toward the house next door. He tossed the helmet to one side. It hit the boards of the front porch with a broken splat. Lucy winced. The door slammed behind him with a resounding bang that made her jump. This was so not good.
Born British and raised in South Africa, Sarah Hegger suffers from an incurable case of wanderlust. Her match? A hot Canadian engineer, whose marriage proposal she accepted six short weeks after they first met. Together they’ve made homes in seven different cities across three different continents (and back again once or twice). If only it made her multilingual, but the best she can manage is idiosyncratic English, fluent Afrikaans, conversant Russian, pigeon Portuguese, even worse Zulu and enough French to get herself into trouble.
Mimicking her globe trotting adventures, Sarah’s career path began as a gainfully employed actress, drifted into public relations, settled a moment in advertising, and eventually took root in the fertile soil of her first love, writing. She also moonlights as a wife and mother.
She currently lives in Salt Lake City with her teenage daughters, two Golden Retrievers and aforementioned husband. Part footloose buccaneer, part quixotic observer of life, Sarah’s restless heart is most content when reading or writing books. Sarah is the recipient of the 2015 EPIC Award for Historical Romance.
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