Lured by Jade Kerrion
She screamed as light flared across the road and the roar of a car engine punched through the steady patter of falling rain. Her bicycle wobbled; the handlebars wrenched to the side and she tumbled into the mud.
For a moment, the only thing she could hear was the loud thumping of her heart. A car door slammed and footsteps raced toward her.
Damn it. She grunted, her breath heaving in short bursts as the pain kicked in. She tried to twist her shoulders free of her heavy backpack, but the muscles in her back tightened into a spasm that wrenched a gasp out of her.
A man in a dark overcoat hurried around the front of the car and knelt beside her. He tugged the backpack off her shoulders—the sharp jerk made her stomach clench with pain—and dumped it into the mud. His arm supported her back as she slowly pushed into a sitting position.
A torrent of Italian flowed from his lips. The flash of lightning across the sky gave her a brief glimpse of his face. His eyes were dark and stamped with worry.
“Uh…” Her brain stumbled over a tangle of words. She grabbed the first two non-English words that came to mind. “Estoy…bien.”
No, wait, that was Spanish. Darn. What were the Italian words for “I’m fine”?
He looked confused, but he spoke again, and that time, his Italian sounded like Spanish, but much more irritated.
Unfortunately, her Spanish was only slightly less rusty than her Italian, and she had exhausted the bulk of her vocabulary in those two words. “I…uh…I’m okay.”
His eyes narrowed. “You’re American?” His familiar accent had New York City stamped all over it. In fact, she could almost narrow it down to the Upper East Side.
“Yes, I…You are too.” She huffed her breath out. “I suppose it explains why you were driving on the wrong side of the road.”
His jaw dropped. “I was…? No, you’ve got it wrong. You swerved into my lane—”
“How could I possibly swerve into your lane when there isn’t enough road for two lanes?” She flung her arm out at the muddy path, but the imperious motion was ruined by her yelp of pain.
He leaned closer to her. “You’re hurt. Where?”
“My back.” Leaning against him, she tried to stand, but her left knee crumpled beneath her weight.
He caught her before she hit the ground. “What now?” The snap of his voice was frustrated, as if it were her fault. “Did you hurt your leg, too?” He shook his head and his words emerged through ground teeth. “I’ll take you to a hospital.”
“I don’t need a hospital.”
“Why don’t we let a doctor be a judge of that?”
“I am a doctor.”
He paused for a beat. “Really?”
“A medical doctor, not a doctor of some hokey arts and crafts degree?”
She glared at him. “I have a Ph.D. in reading tea leaves and dancing naked under the moon, but yeah, I have an M.D. as well.”
He chuckled. “I bet the Ph.D. was more fun. Come on, let’s get you out of the rain. Just yell if I’m too rough.”
Shannon braced herself, but he was gentler than she expected. Even so, pain jolted along the length of her back and jostled her leg as he helped her to the passenger seat. He laid his hand on her head to duck her into the seat. She glanced up at him and in the dim light of the car, caught a glimpse of his dark hair and sculptured features before he slammed the door shut, plunging her into darkness once again. He moved around the front of the vehicle, and retrieved her bicycle and backpack, both of which he tossed into the backseat.
Careful not to turn too quickly, she cast a glance over her shoulder.
The twisted skeleton of her bicycle made her groan. Everything considered, she had survived that encounter far better than her bike.
Her backpack was muddy; she could only hope that it was as waterproof as the manufacturer touted. Shannon glanced down at her clothes and the mud and water dripping over the butter-colored leather seat, and she winced. Darn.
The light in the car flashed on as the man opened the door and stepped into the driver’s seat. Water dripped from his hair and traced the slash of his cheekbones. If she had been feeling more charitable, she might have thought that her “rescuer” looked like a knight—a rather pissed-off knight.
The light vanished as he tugged the car door shut with a bang that rattled the vehicle. Conveying emotion through sound had to be a gift of his; even that inanimate sound had resounded with supreme irritation. “The closest clinic is in Montepulciano—”
“No, no. I’m headed to Montalcino.”
“Montalcino is in the complete opposite direction from where you were headed.”
Shannon’s jaw dropped as her mind tried to wrap around that fact. How did she get so completely turned around?
He pulled the car back onto the road. “Did they teach you how to read when you got your M.D.?”
“And you obviously slept through all your classes on manners.”
“Some idiot professor scheduled them too early. Who wakes up before noon anyway?” He sighed as he adjusted the air-conditioning to blast hot air instead. “Where in Montalcino were you going to?”
“Is it out of your way?”
“Yes, very.” He glanced sideways at her. “What? Were you expecting me to lie? Mouth some platitudes to make you feel better about your lousy sense of direction and even worse sense of balance?”
“Wow? Grumpy much?”
“Look, I got off a nine-hour flight and I’ve driven two hours to get here. Tack on waiting in airports and waiting for rental cars, and I’m fifteen hours into a really long day that just got longer.”
“Did you lose your sense of humor along the way or just your sense of perspective?”
“My sense of humor is still hanging out with a sweet hooker at that little airport bar in Florence, and my sense of perspective stayed home in New York to mind the condo.”
Shannon choked back a giggle. It would not do to encourage his bad manners. “Well, my sense of direction is obviously still wandering around the city square at Pienza, trying to sort out east from west, and my sense of balance—we left it buried back there, together with my pride.”
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Jade Kerrion defied (or leveraged, depending on your point of view) her undergraduate degrees in Biology and Philosophy, as well as her MBA, to embark on her second (and concurrent) career as an award-winning science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary romance author.
Her debut novel, Perfection Unleashed, published in 2012, won six literary awards and launched her best-selling futuristic thriller series, Double Helix, which blends cutting-edge genetic engineering and high-octane action with an unforgettable romance between an alpha empath and an assassin.
Earth-Sim and Eternal Night won first place Royal Palm Literary Awards in the Young Adult and Fantasy categories respectively. Readers have clamored for sequels, and Jade will get around to them when her To Do list opens up (sometime after 2020.)
Life Shocks Romances, Jade’s sweet and sexy contemporary romance series, features unlikely romances you will root for and happy endings you can believe in. They prove that, at the very least, she knows how to alphabetize books.
If she sounds busy, it’s because she is. Jade writes at 3:00 am when her husband and three sons are asleep, and aspires to make her readers as sleep-deprived as she is. Visit her at http://www.jadekerrion.com