No response, not even a twitch of a single muscle.
“You have to let me up,” she said. “I can help you if you let me up.”
At that, he seemed to come around a little bit. Slowly he drew back, pulling off her until he was on his knees, but he didn’t let go of her, still manacling both of her wrists in one hand. His eyes were shadowed, and it was dark enough that she couldn’t see their color. She couldn’t see much of anything but she didn’t need a light to catch the tension coming off of him in waves.
His brow furrowed. “Are you hurt?”
“It’s you who’s hurt.”
“No, I’m not.”
Such a typical guy response. He was bleeding and nearly unconscious, but he wasn’t hurt. Good to know. “You’re bleeding, and we need to get you warmed up, so—”
He interrupted this with an unintelligible denial, followed by another groan just before his eyes rolled up. In almost slow-motion, he began to topple over. She barely managed to grab onto his coat, breaking his fall with her own torso so he didn’t hit his head again. But he was so heavy that they both fell.
“Oh my God,” came Grace’s quavering voice. “That’s a lot of blood.”
Mallory squeezed out from beneath him and looked up to see both Grace and Amy peeking out from between the fallen tree branches and the door frame.
“Holy shit,” Amy said. “Is he okay?”
“He will be.” Mallory scooped Grace’s phone from the snow and tossed it to her. “I need help. I told him I’d get him inside but my car’s better, I think. My phone’s there, and I have reception. We can call for help. And I can turn on the engine and use the heater to warm him up.”
Amy leaned over him, peering into his face. “Wait.” She looked at Mallory. “You know who this is, right? It’s Mysterious Cute Guy. He comes into the diner.”
“You never told me,” Mallory said.
Amy shrugged. “He never says a word. Tips good though.”
“Who’s Mysterious Cute Guy?” Grace wanted to know.
“When you get reception on your phone, pull up Lucky Harbor’s Facebook,” Amy told her. “There’s a list of Mysterious Cute Guy sightings on the wall there, along with the Bingo Night schedule and how many women managed to get pulled over by Sheriff Hotstuff last weekend. Sawyer’s engaged now so it’s not as much fun to get pulled over by him anymore, but at least we have Mysterious Cute Guy so it doesn’t matter as much.”
Grace fell silent, probably trying to soak in the fact that she’d landed in Mayberry, U.S.A.
Or the Twilight Zone.
Mallory wrapped her arms around Mysterious Cute Guy from behind, lifting his head and shoulders out of the snow and into her lap. He didn’t move. Not good. “Grace, get his feet,” she said. “Amy, take his middle. Come on.”
“It’s karma, you know that, right?” Amy said, huffing and puffing as they barely managed to lift the man. Actually dragged was more like it. “Because you promised you’d go for the first Mr. All Wrong who landed at your feet. And here he is. Literally.”
“Yes, well, I meant a conscious one.”
“He’s going on the list,” Amy said.
“Careful!” Mallory admonished Grace, who’d dropped his feet. Too late. With the momentum, they all fell to their butts in the snow, Mysterious Cute Guy sprawled out over the top of them.
“Sorry,” Grace gasped. “He weighs a ton.”
“Solid muscle though,” Amy noted, being in a good position to know since she had two handfuls of his hindquarters.
Somehow, squinting through the snow and pressing into the wind, they made it to Mallory’s car. She hadn’t locked it, had in fact left her keys in the ignition, which Grace shook her head about.
“It’s Lucky Harbor,” Mallory said in her defense.
“I don’t care if it’s Never Never Land,” Grace told her. “You need to lock up your car.”
They got Mysterious Cute Guy in the backseat, which wasn’t big enough for him by any stretch. They bent his legs to accommodate his torso, then Mallory climbed in and again put his head in her lap. “Start the car,” she told Amy. “And crank the heat. Get my phone from the passenger seat,” she said to Grace. “Call 9-1-1. Tell them we’ve got a male, approximately thirty years of age, unconscious with a head injury and possible hypothermia. Give them our location so they can send an ambulance.”
They both did her bidding, with Amy muttering “domineering little thing” beneath her breath. But she started the car and switched the heater to high before turning toward the back again. Her dark hair was dusted with snow, making her look like a pixie. “He still breathing?”
“Are you sure? Because maybe he needs mouth to mouth.”
“Just a suggestion, sheesh.”
Grace ended her call to dispatch. “They said fifteen minutes. They said to try to get him warm and dry. Which means one of us needs to strip down with him to keep him warm, right? That’s how it’s done in the movies.”
“Oh my God, you two,” Mallory said.
Amy turned to Grace. “We’re going to have to give her lessons on how to be a Bad Girl, you know that, right?”
Mallory ignored them and looked down at her patient. His brow was still furrowed tight, his mouth grim. Wherever he was in dreamland, it wasn’t a happy place. Then suddenly the muscles in his shoulders and neck tensed, and he went rigid. She cupped both sides of his face to hold him still. “You’re okay,” she told him.
Shaking his head, he let out a low, rough sound of grief. “They’re gone. They’re all…gone.”
The three women stared at each other for a beat, then Mallory bent lower over him. “Hey,” she said gently, knowing better than to wake him up abruptly. “We’ve got you. You’re in Lucky Harbor, and—”
He shoved her hand off of him and sat straight up so fast that he nearly hit his head on her chin, and then the roof of the car.
“We’ve called an ambulance,” she said.
Twisting around, he stared at her, his eyes dark and filled with shadows.
“You okay?” she asked.
“Really? Because the last time you said that, you passed out.”
He swiped at his temple and stared at the blood that came away on his forearm. “Goddammit.”
“Yeah. See, you’re not quite fine—”
He made a sound that managed to perfectly convey what he thought of her assessment, which turned into a groan of pain as he clutched his head.
Mallory forced him to lie back down. “Be still.”
“Bossy,” he muttered. “But hot.”
Hot? Did he really just say that? Mallory looked down at herself. Wrinkled nurse’s scrubs, fake Uggs, and she had no doubt her hair was a disaster of biblical proportions. She was just about the furthest she could get from hot, which meant that he was full of shit.
“Mr. Wrong,” Amy whispered to her.
Uh huh, more like Mr. All Wrong. But unable to help herself, Mallory took in his very handsome, bloody face, and had to admit it was true. She couldn’t have found a more Mr. All Wrong for herself if she’d tried.
Ty drifted half awake when a female voice penetrated his shaken-but-not-stirred brain.
“I’m keeping a list of Mr. Wrongs going for you. This one might not make it to the weekend’s auction.”
“Stop,” said another woman.
“I’m just kidding.”
“I still vote we strip him down.” This was a third woman.
Wait. Three women? Had he died and gone to orgy heaven? Awake now, Ty took stock. He wasn’t dead. And he had no idea who the fuck Mr. Wrong was, but he was very much “going to make it.” He was stuffed in the back of a car, a small car, his bad leg cramping like a son-of-a-bitch. His head was pillowed on…he shifted to try to figure it out, and pain lanced straight through his eyeballs. He licked his dry lips and tried to focus. “I’m okay.”
“Good,” one of them repeated with humor. “He’s fine, he’s okay. He’s also bleeding like a stuck pig. Men are ridiculous.”
“Just stay still,” someone close said to him, the same someone who’d earlier told him that he’d been hit by a branch. It felt more like a Mack Truck. Given where her voice was coming from, directly above him, it must be her very nice rack that he was pillowed against. Risking tossing his cookies, he tilted his head back to see her. This was tricky because one, it was dark, and two, he was seeing in duplicate. Her hair was piled into a ponytail on top of her head. Half of it had tumbled free, giving her—both of her—a mussed-up, just out-of-bed look. Looking a little bit rumpled, she wore what appeared to be standard issue hospital scrubs, hiding what he could feel was a very nice, soft, female form. She was pretty in an understated way, her features delicate but set with purpose.
A doctor, maybe. Except she didn’t have the cockiness that most doctors held. A nurse, maybe.
“I know it looks like you’ve lost a bit of blood,” she said, “but head injuries always bleed more, often making them appear more serious than they are.”
Yeah. A nurse. He could have told her he’d seen more head injuries than she could possibly imagine. One time he’d even seen a head blown clear off a body, but she wouldn’t want to hear that.
Her blessedly warm hand touched the side of his face. He turned into it and tried to think. Earlier when he’d woken up to the nightmare, he’d gone to work on the Shelby before taking it for a drive. He’d needed speed and the open road. Of course that had been before the snow hit, because even he wasn’t that reckless. He remembered winding his way along the highway, the cliffs on his right, and far below on his left, the Pacific Ocean. The sea had been pitching and rolling as the storm moved in long, silvery fingers over the water. He remembered making it into town, remembered wanting pie and seeing the lights in the diner, so he’d parked.