The windscreen wipers were fighting a losing battle against the force of the rain. Visibility was almost zero, and it was still only late afternoon, Darren knew he would have to find a motel, or B&B, to stop over at, for the night. Damn, he slammed the dashboard with his free hand, it was turning out to be 'one of those days'. It had begun with his mobile vibrating, between rings, on his bedside table. He had opened one eye, grudgingly, to take in the clock, five-fifteen, damn, damn, he felt the buzz of last nights wine on his temple, DAMN.
He whispered into the receiver, hoping he had picked up to late, but no, a cool, wide awake, voice answered,
"You, got the job Darren, get into your car, and get on down here, right now, and, by the way, congrat's old boy you really deserve it."
Darren had tried very hard, to focus on the good news, but before he could even thank the caller the phone had gone dead in his hands.
He had pulled the covers over himself, trying to make the world disappear, but the only thing he could see, under the duvet, was the face of his ex-wife, and that, naturally got him up quicker than a bucket of cold water over the head.
He shook his head at the total irony of the situation. Throughout his marriage, Gina, had, had the luxury of being able to bitch on his failure as a journalist, human being and man, and now, now, when he'd finally made it, she was so gone, that he could hardly remember the color of her eyes, damn. DAMN.
He had searched, unsuccessfully, through his entire house for a pair of matching socks, only to realize that somewhere, way out THERE, was a sock graveyard, chock-a-block full of the other half of the fabled sock pair. He had settled for a miss-match.
By the time he pulled his car out of the garage, he knew that it would have almost no gas in it. He understood, the kind of day he had woken into, and he hoped he would be able to get into tomorrow in one piece.
Coffee at the service station, with a toasted cheese on the side, improved his mood marginally. He grabbed the days headlines, from the news stand, found a bench next to an instant car wash bay, and munched, while, they washed and he read. Now, that was better, perhaps the day was not going to be an absolute loss, after all, but then he saw the gray clouds, blow in, directly over the highway he was bound to take, damn. DAMN.
It had started raining, only lightly at first, almost immediately, and now, when the road seemed to be stretching endlessly ahead, it was pelting. It wasn't even supposed to rain at this time of year. Thunder threatened to drown out the sounds of Pearl Jam belting out from his speakers, and that in itself, was a calamity. Just before he could swear again the real disaster of the day, swerved out, off a scrap of country road, in front of him. The silver grey car was moving at a cracking pace, the taillights diminishing in size as he watched.
When next he saw the BMW it was wrapped around a tree, doors hanging open on one side, smoke billowing against the rain from the steaming mangled engine. For a beat of a second, he very nearly drove on by, but then, morality caught him by his shirt tails. He slowed to a stop, a few paces ahead of the wrecked car, damn. DAMN.
Close up, the car looked as if it might blow at any second. He grabbed hold of the half open front door and yanked hard, allowing smoke from the interior to escape gratefully into the downpour. Darren could see a young woman, sprawled over the steering wheel, with a whip of blood, lashing down the side of her face from a wicked gash on her brow. She did not seem to be conscious.
What he knew about first-aid was dangerous, but he had either, heard or, read that you were not supposed to move an accident victim yourself in case of neck injury, or some such thing. He stopped dead for a second, undecided, then nature sort of kicked him in the butt. He fumbled for the girls wrist, which was dangling at an odd angle near the gears. He could feel a pulse. Looked like she was actually going to give him trouble. If she had, had the grace to conveniently die he wouldn't have been in this quandary, he could just leave the whole mess behind him and report it to the nearest police station, but no, no, this girl wanted to live and now it was his problem, damn. DAMN.
Despite all the warnings he had heard about neck injury, instinct was yelling at him to pull her out, and get the hell away from the car before it blew. Instinct won, he twisted the woman's shoulders towards himself, then he dragged her, both hands under her arms, out of the car, and as far as possible away from the hissing kettle noise it was spewing into the dark rain.
His legs buckled under him a couple of yards away from the boiling wreck, he collapsed in a heap. The girl lying comatose, and limp on top of him. Weirdly the only thing he could think, was that her perfume, whatever it was, smelled absolutely wonderful after the awful smell inside the car.
He was breathing like a steamer, his heart was playing squash all by itself in his chest, but if she was still alive, he reckoned he had actually saved her. Carefully, he rolled himself out from under her, to get hold of his mobile and call in an ambulance. He had left the phone on charge in his car. He ran over to his Opel, just as the BMW decided to blast itself to shreds a good few of which hit him, solidly, in the small of his back, knocking him flat, but fortunately doing more harm only to the tree it had ploughed into. Darren brushed dust out of his hair, coughed up a ton of murky air, and dialed emergency services, in that order.
By the time he refocused on the woman, she had started groaning and moving her head about in a dazed fashion. Darren knelt down next to her, he brushed hair out of the blood on her face,
"You've had an accident. Lay still if you can, I've called in for an ambulance, I don't think it will be long," he crouched closer, she was moaning, trying to roll onto her side, he pushed her back gently,
"Really, I think you've had enough moving around, you hit a tree. Where does it hurt." Even he could hear how lame he sounded, but he really wanted to help her now. Not only did she smell like misty, wind swept hillsides, but, even in her disheveled state she was rather remarkable looking, pert nose, full lips, tiny waist, good shapes, you know, very good shapes. Something squeezed his insides, when he looked at her. He remembered that he had a rather inadequate, but now probably, a little useful, medical kit in the boot of his car.
He found painkillers plasters, Dettol, bandages. He thanked his ex, her thoroughness, banged the boot closed(before it filled with water), and went over to play doctor, he hoped fervently that she was going to be OK, she really was most gorgeous.
He bent down to her, no longer reluctant. His senses seemed to have an edge to them, a brittleness, of heightened perception, even the woman's skin seemed more THERE to him. He had not noticed quite how translucent it was, clear, succulent, he caught himself just in time. He laughed at himself, silently, since when was skin succulent, damn.
The ambulance flashed out of the rain at them, red lit and loud. Two well muscled, paramedics, made his medical aid efforts look completely silly, with their simple efficiency.
They kind of swept her off the tarmac, and closeted her in their van, with magical wizardry. As an after thought they invited him along. He declined, looking at his car, he added that he would follow them to the hospital.
After he had negotiated reception, and navigated his way to emergency, through the massive maze like clinic. The girl was back on her feet, and very much awake. He felt ridiculously jealous that he had been left out of her regeneration to life, but then he realized that she hadn't even, formally, met him yet. Damn.
He shuffled, really, shuffled, up to her bed, and then the oddest thing happened, she just kind of grinned at him,
"It was you, who pulled me out of the burning car, wasn't it", she asked, all bright eyed and grateful.
"Guilty as charged," he answered blushing from his collar to his hairline. She held his eyes and the room disappeared, leaving the two of them alone in the universe, or so it seemed.
He helped her into the corridor and down the anonymous grey passage, to check-out. At the desk she turned to him,
"My car, I hear, is literally no more, do you think you could give me a lift, back to my place. By the way I'm Cassie" She was looking at him from under a heavily bandaged brow, that appeared lopsided, and uncentered. She held out her hand, he shook it, and tried not to let his relief show,
"Of course, I will, I thought that was already a given. That is why I followed the ambulance. That's why I bothered to come and find you....." He was gushing, sounding inane and he knew it, she was simply grinning all over her lovely face, "Let's go then shall we." She took his hand.
The dark had chased the rain away, but the night was wind blown and cold. She buckled up next to him,
"Guess I'm going to be more carefully, now that I've had a wake-up call," a serious expression crossed her features,
"Do you smoke?"
"No, I don't, and if, as you say, you're going to be more careful, neither should you," she liked that, and laughed,
"Wise, and brave, then, aren't we". She directed him back to the side road by which she had first fallen across his path.
The house was more of a small holding. A typical country home. Spot lights along the fence showed it to be bordering on affluent, rather than average, (he should have guessed by the car).
"Wow, nice place, who do you live with?" he asked the all important question.
"It's not mine, I'm just looking after it for a friend, while his away on business. I write screenplays, so I can work almost anywhere." He hadn't got his answer. He pulled up in the drive hoping she would invite him in.
She looked over at him levelly.
"Look it's been quite a day, I can't believe how fast it all happened, or that I've come off so lightly. By all rights I should be dead, thanks for all you've done."
"My pleasure, next time just give me a call before you plan so much excitement in one day, OK."
"I think I've really put you off your stride, and out of your way, where were you headed?" they were still sitting in his car, black clouds clung stubbornly to the horizon threatening more rain. The night, pitch and unwelcoming, made him shudder at the thought of having to go off and find a place to stay.
"I was on my way to Kelso, new job, new life...." He trailed off. It all seemed to have happened in another live, so long, long ago, he couldn't believe it had only been a couple of hours. Damn.
"Look, it's a big place, why don't you stay over. You can get your bearings back, and be on your way tomorrow. It is the weekend, after all." Her skin looked even more radiant in the half light falling on her from the spotlights through the windscreen.
"That would be very good of you, I was just thinking that I didn't know how I was going to manage driving back into town."
The house was ice cold, Darren shivered,
"Light a fire, there's wood at the side of the grate, I've got Lasagna in the freezer, and a bottle of Cabernet that is literally begging to be opened. All we need to do is add a green salad,"
"Don't go to any trouble on my behalf, you should rest...."
"Get some warmth into this ice chest. I would eat, even if you weren't here, so it's no extra trouble."
She called him into the kitchen to help take the food to a coffee table in front of the fire. The kitchen was as sprawling, as the living room was compact, with wide picture windows looking out over a treed courtyard. A granite work-bay stood in the centre and an old fashioned, Copper decorated, extractor capped the hob.
"Beautiful place, what does your friend do?"
"Movie, he directs, this is his country house, but he spends most of his time, here...."
"Hey, don't look at me like that, I can see what you're thinking. He's gay, OK..." She added, defending herself against his undeserved knowing look,
"Sorry. You're right, but I wanted to know." There, it was out, he had said it. Damn.
"No I'm not, and yes I'm, I'm not in a relationship, and yes I'm pissed off by what you were thinking," she picked up her glass, shook her head at him and left him standing there, staring at their dinner. He liked her style.
He set the tray down, laid out place mats he had found, carefully placed utensils in their positions for the two of them, he had made an effort,
"I'm truly sorry Cassie, please accept my peace offering...." He bowed dramatically, she laughed, he had broken the ice. He sat down next to her, she moved over, giving him room.
That there was a charge between them, made it more, rather than less, difficult for him to sit too close to her, he wanted to touch her skin. He made polite conversation, but knew that he would not remember much of what he was saying. Rather, he would remember how he had been feeling. The wine went straight to his head, and when he looked over at Cassie, he could see that it had, had the same effect on her. She was sitting, back against the deep leather chair, staring into the fire with heavy lidded eyes, it had been a very long day,
"Why don't we call it a night," he said.
"Oh, yes, I'm dead beat." He hadn't realized that she was being polite,
"Sorry, I'm such a boar, give me the basics on getting to my room, I'll see you in the morning."
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