A dark country road leads newly-graduated Ashlyn Davis to the site of a terrible accident and the side of a dying man. Braving a storm and her total lack of internet or emergency training, she stays with him until help arrives. Under the blood and broken bones, her rescue is hot as hell—and twice as forbidden. As the Vice President of the Storm Crows MC, Joker is danger personified, but Ash forges a friendship with him and finds the steadiness she desperately needs in the unlikeliest of places.
But the danger that nearly killed Joker is far from over, and Ash brings her own brand of trouble. Can their friendship ever become something more? Or will danger—or death—keep them apart?
The call connected as she got up the nerve to touch his throat again, this time daring to press against his damp, unconscious flesh. He had a pulse. Not strong, but present. The call dropped. "Fucking merde, sheit, hell, dammit…"
Two more tries. First, the call dropped before it even rang. The next connected, buffered by the steady stream of frantic curses. “Please, you’ve got to hurry. It’s a bike wreck, and he’s… I don’t know how long he’s been here. His leg’s busted, and his arm’s pretty bad, too, and his helmet’s still on…"
The 911 lady sounded less than patient. “Well, can you tell me where you are?”
“No, I can’t!” she hissed. “My phone’s got GPS. Can’t you just find me?”
“The county hasn’t upgraded yet.”
Of course. Of fucking course. Why would Pharaoh County ever leave 1957? Panicked tears stung Ashlyn’s eyes, straining her voice. “I’m on the … County Maintenance 20 … North of Oak Grove.”
“I—I don’t know. A little bit after Route A…”
“Is that where Ryman Dumbrowski’s farmhouse burned down?”
“How would I know? I don’t know a-anything about this place! Google won’t load, and I just … just drive out along Route A, take County Maintenance 20. White Miata in the stupid road! I put the flashers on. Please!”
Powerless to move the ambulance, she fumbled his visor up, half recalling some Girl Scout leader talking about airways, and checking them. The guy made a pained, grunting noise. Ashlyn choked back a sob. I moved him, and now he’s dying. He’s dying now. God, why is this even real life?
Inside the helmet, his face was a bloody mess, but most of it seemed to be coming from his nose. And he kept breathing. Worst—or best?—his swollen eyes moved. Hard to tell if the slits were blinking or not, but she opted for yes.
“Shh, it’s okay.” She softened her voice, barely touching her fingertips to his neck again—the only bit of skin both visible and not shredded, sliced, or over obviously broken bones. “Y-you… Can you talk? Your name? What’s your name?”
His eyes, both of which were almost hidden in bruises but might have been brown or black, darted around for a few seconds before they locked on hers. “Nathan,” he said in a raw, rough whisper. The headlights kept his ruined face mostly shadowed, but she smiled, hoping to encourage him.
“Nathan. Okay. Don’t move any more. You had a pretty bad spill, but help’s coming. Um. Eventually.”
Nathan winced and his eyes shut. “Might … be faster … to go to them…” He sounded like he thought this idea did not belong to the same order of likelihood as Mr. Tumnus running out of the nearest oil well.
“Right. Yeah. First, um…” What do they do in TV shows? Shit, come on, what would Grey’s Anatomy say? “Tell me if you can wiggle your toes. Um. Your right ones. The left leg’s … kind of broken. Let’s not move it.” She figured that would take him a minute or two. He had long legs and probably a concussion, so it seemed like a big job.
Thunder rumbled again, and Ashlyn cringed, looking at her tiny, two-seater convertible. She focused on his legs. Big, much longer than hers, plus all the blood and swelling. Crap. Should I take his boots off, or does that make it worse? Oh God, I should probably tourniquet something… But what if I tie the wrong bit? Didn't someone say those were bad now?
“Moving.” He didn’t sound convincing, but if he thought his toes were moving, why argue?
“Okay.” She relayed the information into the phone. More syllables cut up into unintelligible nonsense answered. She took a deep breath, tried not to look completely terrified, and got off her knees to settle down onto the road beside him, ignoring the gravel biting into her hip and the unpleasant chill of wet dirt on her bare, shorts-clad leg. Do I keep him talking? If he has a head injury, he’ll die if he passes out. But he was already passed out once… Why the fuck didn't I get a nursing degree? Where is Google when I need it?
Nathan’s head tilted back in the helmet, or maybe it settled into the mud. “Th-think … they’re gonna make it?”
She glanced at him but a second later, her gaze rolled to the sky as fat raindrops landed on her arms and then the top of her head. Of course.
“They’ll be here, Nathan. Hold on.” She ran to her car, frantically tossing through the stuff piled in the passenger seat and floorboard. Her fingers closed around the Hello Kitty umbrella just as the sky opened up. She raced back and dropped next to him with a muffled shriek at the cold water rolling down her spine. Cold-as-hell rain would be Mother Nature’s choice today. Why not?
“I … I can’t believe … I’m gonna die here…” His mirthless laugh turned into a moan.
“Shut up. You’re not dying." The words came out harsh to forestall any further argument. After two fumbled attempts, the umbrella blossomed above them, shielding Nathan from another mouthful of rain.
“Well…” His gaze swept over her as he exhaled. “There … there are worse ways to go…" She glanced down to find her light pink shirt clinging to her bra and managed not to roll her eyes. Barely.
“At least your vision’s survived.” She switched the flashlight app off—the headlights were bright enough. Better not to see Nathan’s injuries while she attempted to keep him conscious. The bone in his arm (or out of it, more importantly) was making her queasy. Eternities dragged by. At the end of the universe, sirens wailed like a blessed choir of distant angels. Ashlyn sagged in relief until she realized they were still alone.
“Hey, they’re here!” She squeezed Nathan’s right wrist and touched his neck again to find his pulse. Weaker, but still there. He didn't answer.