Authors: Rachel Curtis
This book is a
work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of
the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual
events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2013
by Rachel Curtis. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce,
distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means.
After changing paths
unexpectedly, Tropical Storm Lydia was about to slam into the Virginia
coastline. While the storm was technically no longer a hurricane, the
predictions of danger and damage were serious, and the whole area was being
Dent was still trying to get out.
steered her small SUV through the curves of a two-lane road, fighting to see
through the blinding sheets of rain the wind whipped nearly sideways. She could
have taken the interstate, but she’d wanted to avoid the traffic, backed up for
hours with the region’s last-minute evacuees.
one had expected the storm to come this way, so no one was prepared.
had been taking a much-needed vacation in the cottage on Sunset Cape Island
that her family had owned for twenty years. Her parents had bought the cottage
cheap, but expanding tourism had turned it into a very valuable piece of
property. Allison still held onto the cottage for sentimental reasons and
because she needed a retreat from her hectic life in Washington D.C.
should have left the coast hours ago, but she kept running across ideal human
interest stories. Like the gruff man who ran a rescue shelter for beagles and
who refused to leave until he’d loaded up every one of his thirty-seven dogs.
Or the preacher who personally ensured the safety of each elderly member of his
congregation, driving them out of town in his ancient Volkswagen van.
hours, Allison had been taking notes and snapping pictures like a madwoman.
She’d recently gotten a promotion at the D.C.-based web magazine she’d worked
for. Just four years out of college, she was still fairly low on the
totem-pole, but these kinds of stories about such a newsworthy event could
transform her entire career.
her sense of self-preservation had caught up to her ambition, however, and now
she was on her way out of the danger area.
made it off Sunset Cape and was trying to get farther inland as quickly as she
could. She knew these back roads by heart, since she’d grown up in a small town
about an hour away, but the wetland forests looked foreign, almost alien, in
the torrents of rain and fierce wind.
was just the edge of the storm. It would only get worse as the day progressed.
leaned forward in a futile attempt to see the road clearly and clung to the
steering wheel as the wind threatened to pull her SUV to the right, into the
thin, bending trees. She kept toward the middle of the road, assuming no driver
would be foolish enough to head in the opposite direction—
ferocity of the storm.
heart pounded in her chest, mirroring the frantic slapping of her wipers. She
swiped one hand and then the other on her pants, having broken out in a cold
kept telling herself she’d be all right. In another hour, she’d be out of the
path of the storm.
day, she would have to truly consider how far she was willing to go in order to
advance her career.
right now she just needed to see the road through the rain.
wipers, even at top speed, couldn’t begin to handle the amount of water
hammering the windshield, so she didn’t see the approaching vehicle until it
was almost too late.
whole body tightened like a fist as she suddenly saw the headlights of a luxury
SUV directly in front of her. Her crisis instincts kicked in, and she reacted
without thinking, stomping on the brakes and veering to the right.
tires hydroplaned for a moment before they found traction again. She managed to
slow her car enough to stop with just a jarring jerk when her front right tire
slipped into the ditch.
other vehicle wasn’t so lucky.
too had veered away, but he’d been going faster than Allison and had
hydroplaned even worse. The dark SUV skidded sideways and crashed headlong into
a clump of trees.
and nauseous, Allison scrambled out of her car and fought her way through the
wind and rain to the other vehicle. The SUV was much bigger and more expensive
than hers, but the front end was damaged and the airbag had inflated.
and squinting against raindrops, Allison fumbled at the door handle with wet
hands, afraid the driver was seriously injured.
was locked. So she pounded on the driver’s window with both fists.
airbag was deflating, and she almost groaned with relief when she saw the man
in the driver’s seat turn his head. A pair of blue-gray eyes blinked out at her
through the wet glass.
registering anything but the need for them both to get out of this weather, Allison
pounded again on the door.
slowly moved a hand to open it.
you all right?” she asked, pulling the door open all the way. The wind was so
loud she almost had to scream.
I think so.” His voice sounded rather fuzzy, however, and he didn’t try to
noticed blood on the side of his head. “You must have hit your head. Can you
drive? Do you need help?”
blinked again, obviously disoriented by the blow to the head.
his appearance registered in the blur of Allison’s adrenaline-fueled mind. The
man was young and dark-haired with handsome, familiar features. Even dazed and
injured, he radiated a cool, confident charisma that she recognized from a long
gasped as she realized who it was. “Michael?”
Michael Martin was
was mostly furious with himself—for insisting on absolute privacy at his beach
house and thus cutting himself off from vital sources of information like the
phones, television, and internet. He’d needed a real rest, an escape from his
tumultuous personal life and the bloodthirsty reporters who kept hounding him
for comments on his broken engagement with Gina Lane.
it had been inexcusably foolish of him to break all ties of communication and
therefore miss the warnings about the approaching storm until it was almost too
the time he’d felt refreshed enough to turn on his phone and the news, it had
been too late to call in a helicopter or private plane. He had no choice but to
drive, and now the interstates were hopelessly clogged.
most of his anger was directed inward, he now was also furious with the insane
woman who’d been driving in the middle of a narrow two-lane road. He was also
furious with his SUV.
the amount of money he’d paid for it, he expected it to function better than
its skid across the wet road.
he crashed into the trees and was hit with the airbag, he sat dazed and
disoriented from the impact, conscious of a pounding pain on the side of his
when a woman, obviously the infuriating, middle-of-the-road driver, yelled at
him was he was able to pull his thoughts together. She spoke his name, so she
must know who he was, but he couldn’t process anything about her appearance
except a loud, shrill blur outside his door.
hit your head,” she shouted through the wind. “Can you get out? You better not
drive. You can come with me.”
plan sounded reasonable, since he was pretty sure his car was now un-drivable,
but he winced at her grating voice and wished she’d just shut up.
some effort, he unbuckled and heaved himself out of the driver’s seat. To his
mortification, he swayed on his feet, a wave of dizziness overtaking him.
woman put an arm around his waist in support. Even through his blur, he
recognized that her wet, bedraggled body was still warm, soft, and curvy. If
she wasn’t so damned shrill, she might be an attractive little thing.
was hard to tell in these conditions, however.
leaned on her by necessity as they limped across the road to her small, mid-priced
vehicle. The raindrops stabbed painfully against his skin, and the wind
threatened to knock them both down.
the time they reached the other SUV, Michael’s head pounded so fiercely that
his vision darkened. He was afraid he was concussed, but there was nothing to
do about it now. He fought to remain alert, although his mind kept wandering
woman’s shoulder-length, brown hair was plastered to her head, but her fair
skin seemed to glow in the grayness of the afternoon, glistening with the
moisture from the rain. And her fitted white t-shirt was sopping wet, clearly
revealing the lacy texture of the bra she wore beneath it—not to mention the
full swell of her breasts and the peaked outline of her nipples.
he felt his body react. He wondered what she would feel like in bed with him,
crying out breathlessly, moving eagerly against him.
dried her hands off on the seat so she could pull the SUV back on the road. “If
we keep going in this direction, we should be out of the worst of this in an
hour or so.”
shook his head, his fuzzy thoughts finally landing on something relevant. “We
can’t,” he said, wishing his head didn’t hurt so much. “A flash flood took out
the old bridge past Raveloe. That’s why I was heading back.”
woman gaped at him for a minute, her cheeks whitening visibly. “But it’s an
hour back to the interstate.”
leaned against the headrest and closed his eyes, trying to think. “I was
listening to the weather on satellite radio, and we’ll be in the middle of the
worst of it in a couple more hours. These roads are barely passable now. I’m
not sure we should risk going back to the interstate.”
woman made a whimpering sound but didn’t fall apart like he’d feared. “Cell
phones don’t work out here even in good weather. Should we just find some place
to hunker down?”
think we better. No other options I can think of.”
was silent for a minute. Then she said, a note of hope in her voice, “The old
Graves place is just a couple of miles away. They rent it out sometimes, but
it’s sure to be vacant now. The road turns off before the bridge. It’s made of
stone and has three floors and a finished basement. That might be the safest
us there.” Michael didn’t care if he sounded curt or domineering. He wasn’t
even thirty, but he’d inherited a fortune and control of a lucrative web retail
company when his father died last year. He was used to being in charge, and
this was an emergency situation.
could wait for some other time.
objection, she carefully backed her SUV onto the road again and started off
through vicious gusts of rain.
roar of the weather produced an almost hypnotizing effect on Michael, and he
zoned out, attempting to plan out what he’d do when they got to the house but
mostly just willing his head to stop aching.