I promised you a sneak peek this weekend at River Wolf which releases on Tuesday, so here’s a first look at Colby’s arrival in Hudson River and her first encounter with Brett.
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| All Romance
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Just two more days!
Three hours later, she slowed to a
crawl as she divided her attention between the directions Luc wrote hours
before and the rain swept streets in front of her. She could barely make out
the signs, not that she’d seen many since she left the interstate. Fortunately,
most of Luc’s directions were based on landmarks like a water tower, a bridge,
and the one she currently sought—an old-style gas station called Tony’s.
The directions said it was about
ten minutes from the bridge, but she’d been driving for fifteen through the
downpour and hadn’t spotted it yet. Next to her, Luc continued to snore. If she
had to, she’d wake him. The fact his color had improved the more he slept made
her disinclined to disturb his rest.
Sucking on her lower lip, she
leaned closer to the steering wheel as if it would give her a better view. The
gas tank ticked perilously close to empty and her car didn’t play games. When
the dial hit E, the car stopped. No passing go. No collecting two hundred
dollars. She had a gas can in the trunk for those occasions when she found
herself screwed on the side of the road, but—a sign which read Tony’s loomed
out of the rain and she blew out a sigh of relief.
Foot riding on the brake, she
slowed and turned on her indicator. Swinging into the station, she parked next
to the old pump, put the car in park and checked the station. Lights were on,
but she couldn’t see anyone through the downpour. Next to her, Luc continued to
sleep. After checking his pulse again, more to reassure herself he was actually
alive, she twisted to check for her hoodie in the backseat but didn’t see it
fuck it. If I get wet, I get wet. Grabbing her wallet, she slid out of the
car and raced for the door. Despite the little lip keeping the rain off the
pumps, she still managed to get drenched on her way to the front door of the
station. The cold air inside instantly sent goosebumps racing over her skin—of
all the days to wear a white t-shirt with a black sports bra.
Embarrassment settling like a rock
in the pit of her stomach, she glanced around the empty half-shop. It really
was an old fashioned gas station. They had a soda machine and an old, peeling
linoleum counter and it smelled like old car exhaust and oil. God, she hoped
they had a bathroom and it didn’t come with another walk through the rain to
some dirty pit only accessible with a key that had a forty-pound board attached
A man sat in a chair behind the
counter, his feet propped up and a baseball cap tugged over his eyes. Clearing
her throat, she hopped from foot to foot. The man behind the counter didn’t
move. Not even a twitch.
come on. I already have one unconscious man in the car.
Frustration growing, she raised her
voice. “Excuse me? Hello?”
“Bell on the counter,” came the
on the…? Oh for the love of God.
She slammed her palm down on the unvarnished silver dome and it released a
dissonant ding. The man in the chair nudged his hat higher as he stood.
“Afternoon, ma’am. What can I do
“I need twenty dollars in gas,” she
said, sliding the bill across the counter. “And some directions to 115 Old
River Road in…” Pulling the hastily written directions out from under her wallet,
she frowned. “Somewhere around here I think, but I’m not sure the name of the
The man didn’t take her money, but
stared at her with a kind of assessment that left her uneasy. “Old River Road?”
“Yeah, 115…I have a delivery to
make.” Maybe mentioning the unconscious man with the broken bones in her car
A slow nod was his only response.
With idle slowness, he slid the bill to himself, then lifted it. He squinted at
the bill, then at her and finally past her toward the car outside. “I can come
pump the gas for you.”
“I can do it.” She didn’t want him
anywhere near her car. “Do you have a map?” Never mind the directions, she’d
figure it out.
The man paused with his fingers on
the keys of the register. “You’re safe, ma’am. No one’s going to hurt you here.
It’s raining hard—and you look cold. Go get in the car, and I’ll pump your gas
for you, then I’ll get you those directions.”
What was it with the men she kept
running into? “Unless it’s against the law to pump my own gas, I’ll do it.” She locked gazes with
baseball cap. “You can give me the directions now or leave me alone, but if you
follow me out there, I’ll assume you mean me harm and I’ll defend myself. I
promise you, you won’t enjoy the experience.”
Surprise flickered across his face
and he raised his hands, palms forward. “Take it easy. No need to sharpen your
claws on me. I was just trying to be courteous.”
Maybe she was overreacting. Folding
her arms, she settled for a nod. “I appreciate the sentiment, but I prefer to
take care of myself.”
“Understood.” After returning her
nod, he struck a couple of keys on the old style register. It even made a ding
when the cash drawer opened. “Go ahead and run your fuel. I’ll set the pump to
stop at twenty.”
Since she’d bitten his head off,
asking about the directions again…
“As for Old River Road, you’re a
few miles off still, but the easiest way to get to that address is to keep
going west out here, about two more miles. You’re going to cross three roads. At
the fourth one, take a left. Follow it for about five and a half miles, it will
dead end into Old River Road. You’ll want to take a right there and drive on to
the end. You can’t miss one fifteen. Only three houses out that way. The one
you want is the big white one all the way back.”
It wasn’t until she was back at the
car that she remembered she’d forgotten to ask about a bathroom. Her damp hair
clung to her cheeks, and she rubbed her arms as she stood watching the gas
numbers turn. She kept glancing back at the office, but the guy inside stayed
Damn, she had to pee. Once the pump
finished, she locked her tank up again, then slid back into the driver’s seat. Inserting the key into the ignition, she paused
to push her wet hair away from her face.
“You should have woke me.” Luc’s
growl sent a shock through her system.
“Don’t do that,” she snarled in
response and turned the key. Her hands shook when she pulled her seatbelt on.
At least with the windows closed, the interior of the car warmed up quickly and
helped chase away her chill. With one last wary look at the office, she pulled
back out onto the street. Fortunately, no traffic seemed to be filling their
little two lane road, so she was able to head west without any issues. “Sorry,” she said after a mile or so. She’d
passed the first of the three roads baseball cap mentioned. “The guy back there
creeped me out a little, and you’ve been sleeping.”
“He bothered you?” The question
came out more animal than man.
“No.” She raised her hand to placate
him. “He just creeped out a little. I don’t like bossy guys. You’re all the
bossy I can handle right now, and you’re helpless.”
“I am not helpless.”
Great, she’d insulted him and her
patience ended. “Look, you’re not exactly dangerous at the moment. You’ve got
two broken legs and a broken arm. You’ve been running a fever and struggling to
be awake. You are not…creeping me out, but you are dancing on my last nerve
with all the growly barking. So hush, rest and I’ll get you to your
destination. Got it?”
“Yes, ma’am.” At least the
agitation vanished from his tone. “Sorry he bothered you.”
“It’s fine, I took care of myself
and I am more than capable of taking care of myself.” The third street came and
went. Good. Even through the downpour, they continued to make good time. Next road, they’d take a left and she was that
much closer to being on her way to Florida.
“So I see.” Admiration hinted at
the edges of his observation.
“How are you doing?”
“I’ll live.” He chuckled. “I won’t
be particularly happy about it, but I’ll live. Germans make their cars too
small. You should have gotten a bigger model.”
“You get what you get, and you
don’t throw a fit.” As rugged and good looking as Luc was, he made her feel old
in some ways. It was like dealing with a teenager—or one of her ex-boyfriends. Ugh. Her exes had one thing in common.
They were all assholes. She didn’t want Luc to be an asshole or a boyfriend.
Win. Win. “Water?”
She gave him the last bottle she’d
tucked between the seats and he managed to open it without assistance. They
followed baseball cap’s directions and when she dead ended into Old River Road,
Luc released a long, almost relieved sigh.
“We’re close, aren’t we?”
“Yes.” Fresh eagerness infused his
response. He sounded better than when they’d begun the drive. Maybe she hadn’t
done irreparable harm after all. The rain continued to descend in sheets, not
cutting them any breaks, and she white knuckled the drive all the way to the
three houses at the end. The big white one sat on a hill beyond a gorgeous line
“We’re here,” she told Luc, more
excited than she cared to admit. The drive was well-kept, and the gravel seemed
to be embedded in the earth so at least it wasn’t slippery with mud. The
mailbox close to the road declared the number correct, so she pulled all the
way up to the house.
She’d kind of hoped for a town, but
a house would do. “We’re here, Luc.” Putting the car in park, she glanced at
her passenger. His eyes were closed and his head slumped. “Luc?”
Putting two fingers to his pulse,
she found his heart still beating. He didn’t respond to the touch or to her
repeating his name twice more. Dammit.
Unbuckling her seat belt, she twisted to check the pulse in his leg. Right leg,
she found it. Left leg proved harder with his cast in the way. She finally
located the groin pulse, and one at the ankle. Finally, she checked his arm. Thready,
but present. His skin was still hot to the touch, but he remained unresponsive.
Great. Now she needed to find help.
“Stay here, Luc. I’ll be right
Sliding out into the rain, she
raced around the car and up the steps. Three knocks earned her no answer, nor
did ringing the doorbell. He sent her all the way out here and no one was home?
Frustration welled in her gut, and she tried the door handle.
It swung inward and she leaned in.
“Hello?” The wide hall faced a long staircase heading up to a landing. A
sitting room was to her left and a hallway heading deeper into the house to her
right. Easing inside, she tried again. “Hello? I’m here with Luc Danes and he
Pressing her forehead to the door,
she took three deep breaths. Okay, no one home. Luc out cold in the car. Those
were the facts. She needed to find a hospital. Digging into her pocket, she pulled
out her phone and scowled. It was dead.
“Son of a bitch.” Starting forward,
she paused. The floors were wood and her shoes were wet. Toeing them off, she
padded barefoot into the sitting room. No phone seemed readily visible. Great,
the owner didn’t have a landline. The furniture was nice, masculine, with a few
feminine touches in the decorative pillows and the throw blanket.
Rubbing her palms against her damp
face, she pushed back tears. Kitchen.
Most landlines were in kitchens. Pivoting, she strode through the house and
down the hall. A faint scent of coffee lingered in the air and she followed
like a dog on the hunt.
“Hallelujah!” The kitchen was a
big, open room and was probably bright when sun filled the wide windows. Making
a beeline for the phone hanging on the wall, she grabbed it and then froze with
her fingers hovering over the keypad. Luc
hadn’t wanted to go to a hospital, he’d wanted to get here. “Well, too bad.
No one is here, so the hospital it is.” Nine-one-one was an easy number to dial
and it worked in pretty much any locale. So why couldn’t she press the damn
“What am I doing here?” she asked
“That’s a very good question,” a
masculine voice stated calmly, scaring the crap out of her. She whirled, then
flung the phone before she could even think the action through. The man in
question caught the phone, and stared at her with deep, dark eyes. The scars on
his face added to his dangerous demeanor.
Colby froze. Power radiated off the
man approaching her slowly. Instead of retreating, which seemed like a damn
good idea, she remained rooted to the spot. It was like she couldn’t look away
from him. In front of her, he studied her with enigmatic eyes. When he replaced
the phone handle onto its cradle, she jumped at the clicking noise.
“I’ll only ask you nicely once. Who
are you and what are you doing here?”
Damn good questions. What was her