Publish Date: 2 March 2012
Tasmanian historian, Aimee Leigh, just wanted some space from her interfering family. But she got more than she bargained for in the highlands of western Tasmania when a nasty car accident brings her face-to-face with the perfect man for her–the man with the responsibility of saving her life.
‘Search-and-rescue-Sam’ keeps her spirits up, keeps her company and keeps her alive while they wait for rescue. But he wasn’t supposed to keep her heart. He knows that as soon as she’s hauled back up to safety they’ll be going their separate ways.
But fate throws them together again a year later and Aimee has the chance she’s been waiting for to give back to Sam a little of what she owes him. She makes him her personal project, determined to help him solve the biggest challenge of his life. Even if that pushes him into the arms of someone else.
Copyright © 2012 by Nikki Logan. Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.
Mr Right at the Wrong Time
The darkness was the same whether her eyes were open or closed so she didn’t bother trying.
The disembodied voice that floated down to her made Aimee wonder if maybe she was dead and she and her car wreck and the tree she’d hit when she flew off the A10 had all been transported together in a tangled, inseparable mess into a void.
Some kind of spiritual waiting room.
Her heart battered against the seatbelt that still pinned her to her seat like an astronaut strapped into a shuttle.
Starved of light, her imagination lurched into overdrive. She replayed the slide and crash in her mind, each time making it worse and more violent. One minute she’d been travelling happily along through the towering eucalypts that defied gravity, growing 45 degrees up out of the Tasmanian mountain all the way to the horizon…
…the next she’d been sliding and briefly airborne before slamming into the trunk of this tree.
Her head twitched slightly. Maybe her heavenly number was being called? She prized open her crusted, swollen lids and stared into the darkness that still reigned.
It didn’t seem necessary to reply. Surely in the spirit-world it would be enough to just think your response.
Yes? I’m here…
She reluctantly released her death-grip on her seatbelt and risked trembling fingers out into the dense nothing around her. They grazed against something solid almost immediately and she traced them across the crusty, papery surface of bark, rolling tiny, unbreakable cubes beneath her fingertips like braille.
A tree branch. Riddled with pieces of her shattered windscreen.
She fumbled her touch to the roof of the cabin, found the interior light and—with only a momentary thought for what might be revealed—depressed the plastic panel and squinted at the sudden dim light.
Her dash had slipped forward about a foot and buckled where parts of the engine had pushed into it. The ceiling above her had crushed downwards. But most terrifying of all, an enormous tree limb had pierced the armour of her little car, through the windscreen and the passenger seat beyond it and was taking much of the vehicle’s weight. Aimee stared at the carnage and tasted the slide of salt down the back of her throat.
If that branch had come through just two feet closer…
The panic she’d been holding at bay so well these past hours surged forth. She plunged the car back into darkness, thicker and more cloying than before, and let the tears come. Crying felt good, it helped, and she let herself indulge because no-one was around to see it. She’d never in her life cried in front of someone else, no matter the incentive; but what she did in the privacy of her own car wreck was her business.
‘Can you hear me?’
The words just wouldn’t quite soak into her overwhelmed, muddled mind but the voice sounded angelic enough, deep and rich and…concerned. Shouldn’t it be serene? Wasn’t its job to reassure her? To set her mind and fears to rest and guide her to…wherever she was going? Glowing and transcendent and full of love.
‘Make any kind of noise if you can hear me.’
A solitary beam of light criss-crossed back and forth from high above her, mother-ship-style, across the places her vehicle wasn’t. It moved too fast for her fractured mind to make sense of what it revealed around her.
‘Search and Rescue,’ the voice said, by rote, sounding strained and uncomfortable and somehow closer. ‘If you can hear me, make any kind of noise.’
For an angel he was awfully demanding.
Aimee tried to speak but her words came out as a creepy kind of gurgle. He didn’t respond to her partial frog croak. She fumbled the hand that wasn’t pinned behind her and found her car’s horn, hoping to heaven she’d preserved enough battery.
The noise exploding through what had been so many hours of silence made her jump even though she knew it was coming, and her leg responded with sharp blades of protest. The long peal echoed through the darkness sounding high and empty.
‘I hear you,’ the voice called back sounding relieved and professional. ‘I’ll be with you soon. I’m just securing your car.’
A small lurch and a large clang were only separated by the barest of heartbeats, but then she felt and heard some of the weight of the car shift as whatever he’d just used to secure it tightened into position. The move changed the dynamic of all the twisted fixtures in her front seat and shifted some of the pressure of whatever had been pressing against her injured leg. It protested with violent sensation and she slammed her hand down on the horn again. Hard.
‘Ho!’ The voice yelled, then again urgently. Somewhere high above she thought she heard it echo, but not in the same voice.
The tensioning stopped and the vehicle creaked and settled, more glass splintering away from her windscreen and tinkling away into the night.
‘Are you okay?’ the voice yelled.
She swallowed back the pain but also to wet her throat. ‘Yes,’ she cried feebly and then stronger. ‘Yes. But my leg is trapped under the dash.’ She hoped he’d do the math and make the connection to their securing of the car making her pain worse. She didn’t have the energy or breath to explain.
‘Got it.’ She heard a thud on her roof but then nothing, and no movement. Then some rustling outside the rear passenger side window. ‘Any other injuries?’ he called, closer. She heard the sounds of a mallet knocking something into place.
Uh… ‘I can’t tell,’ she whimpered.
‘What’s your name?’ This time from somewhere over the top of her windscreen.
So they could advise her next of kin? Give her parents one more thing to fight over, she thought, dismally. God, wouldn’t they both make a meal of this. ‘Aimee Leigh.’
He repeated that detail in short, efficient radio-speak for whoever he’d just called up to moments before. ‘Are you allergic to morphine, Aimee?’ he asked, definitely sounding close this time.
‘I don’t know.’ And she didn’t much care. The screaming of her leg had started to make every other part of her ache in sympathy.
She heard more rustling from beyond the tree limb her Honda was skewered on and she craned her head toward the empty front passenger seat. Suddenly the darkness glowed into an ethereal white-blue light as a glow-stick seemed to levitate through the window, around the enormous branch and then came to rest on the crippled dash of her car. She blinked back her eyes protest at the assault of blazing light.
But as they adjusted, the full horror of her situation came back to her. She looked down at where her leg disappeared into the crumpled mess that had been her steering console, down at her right arm which was wedged behind her between the seat and her driver-side door, then back again at the half-a-tree which stretched its grabbing fist past her into the back of her little hatchback.
But, just as she tasted the rising tang of panic, the man spoke again, from beyond the tree. ‘How are you doing, Aimee? Talk to me.’
‘I’m—’ A mess. Terrified. Not ready to die ‘—okay. Where are you?’
And suddenly a gloved hand reached through the leaves of the tree branch that had made a kebab out of her car and stretched toward her. It was heavy duty, fluoro-orange, caked in old dirt and had seen some serious action. But it was beautiful and welcome and, as the fingers stretched toward her from the darkness, Aimee reached out and wrapped all her hers around two of his. He curled them back into his palm and held on.
‘Hi Aimee,’ the disembodied voice puffed lightly. ‘I’m Sam and I’ll be your rescuer today.’