Jason’s firefighting instincts kicked in as he rushed over to the vehicle crashed into a large tree. The front end resembled a crushed soda can. Heart pumping, his eyes surveyed his surroundings to make sure there wasn’t any leakage of flammable liquids.
Trooper aggressively barked at the driver side of the car. Standing on his hind legs with his front paws on the door he continued to bark at the person inside.
“Watch out boy.”
Obediently, he backed away all the while alternating between barking and whimpering.
Jason opened the driver side door to find an unconscious woman inside. He placed his fingertips on her neck checking for a carotid pulse. Good. She was still alive. The pulse was strong and steady, and her breathing was even and deep. He worked efficiently around the deployed airbag to remove the seat belt.
The snow was coming down heavier now with the winds picking up, and the temperature dropping. With the worsening weather conditions, it was safest to get her inside. Once back at the cabin he’d call for help.
Gingerly removing her from the wreck, he took large steps making the trek through the deepening snow to the cabin with Trooper trotting alongside him.
Gently laying the mystery woman on the bed, Jason pulled his phone from his parka and dialed nine-one-one.
The small rural area only had six emergency dispatchers. Born and raised in the area, he pretty much knew everyone. He immediately recognized the dispatcher’s voice.
“Gloria, it’s Jason. There’s been an accident up here. I need you to send an ambulance up to the cabin.”
“Trooper and I came across a car wreck.”
“How severe is it? Any casualties?”
“No, thank God. She’s pretty banged up though. Her pulse is strong, but she keeps coming in and out.”
Gloria’s sigh of relief was audible over the phone line.
“Jason, you’re gonna have to keep an eye on her for now. There’s been a pile up over on Route 29. Everyone’s been dispatched over there. And the roads are pretty bad where you guys are. With this blizzard blowing through, you might be snowed in for days. Maybe even a week.”
This is not what he wanted to hear. Of course he had to save her, otherwise she would have frozen to death out there. Yet he wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of having a house guest for possibly the next week.
When Jason didn’t say anything Gloria apologized. “Sorry Jason, there isn’t anything I can do.”
“Don’t worry about it. Thanks,” he mumbled disconnecting the call.
Jason left the woman in his best friend’s care as he went off to wash his hands and get the first aid kit. The laceration above her eyebrow was nasty. Hopefully, it wasn’t too deep requiring sutures. Upon re-entering the room, he found Trooper sniffing her. He may not be interested in his unexpected house guest, but Trooper sure was.
The mystery woman moaned turning her head away from the pooch’s prying snout.
“Troop, get over there,” he hissed pointing across the room.
Dejected, he moseyed over to his bed in the corner dramatically flopping down, and sulking.
Carefully sitting on the bed with the medical supplies in his hands, he put everything to his side within easy reach. Before saturating the cotton ball with hydrogen peroxide, he inspected the gash above her left eyebrow. It wasn’t deep enough to require sutures as he had hoped.
With light strokes, he gently began to clean the wound. Saturating another cotton ball he kept cleaning the cut making sure it was free of any debris. Almost done, he was startled when suddenly she reached up grabbing his wrist.
His large hand stilled from the warmth of her touch.
“Stop,” she softly mumbled, her eyes remaining closed.
Jason hissed an expletive as he stared down into the mystery woman’s face. She was the prettiest shade of golden honey he’d ever set eyes on. The cut and bruise on her left cheek didn’t distract from her beauty. It had been years, three to be exact, since he touched a woman and a woman touched him. He desperately wanted to rub the pad of his thumb over her other perfectly arched brow, down the contour of her satiny cheek, and over the swell of her bottom lip.
“I have to clean you up,” he explained slowly removing her hand, placing it near her side.
He waited a few seconds, which seemed like forever, before he proceeded to place a dab of antibiotic ointment on the cut and apply steri-strips. As he was placing the last strip she grabbed his wrist again. This time with a firmer grip.
“Leave me alone, Earl. You’re hurting me,” she murmured releasing her hold and rolling on her side.
The curve of her backside rested against his thigh. His body automatically responded to her softness. Part of him wanted to lay himself behind her, to take pleasure in the sensation of having a woman so close. The other part of him told him to get up because no woman would want his touch. Not even an unconscious one.
At the sound of her mentioning the name Earl, Trooper’s head popped up and he let out a fierce bark.
Jason swung around in the dog’s direction, giving him a stern look to which he settled his head back down on his front paws.
“Crazy dog,” Jason muttered gathering up the supplies and standing.
Trooper lifted his head and growled showing teeth at the insult.
“Oh shut up. Come on and eat your dinner.”
At the mention of food, the pooch stood on all fours and stretched before trotting off after his human.
After his dog was fed and he had a bite to eat, Jason returned to the guest room. With the back of his hand he felt her forehead to check her for a fever. Her skin wasn’t clammy or hot. Next, he added a little pressure with his fingertips to her right carotid artery. Her pulse was still strong, steady and even.
He moved over the only chair in the room and sat down. It wasn’t long before Trooper was at his side on the floor. The two sat in silence as they watched the mystery woman sleep.
The effort she was exerting to open her eyes was useless. Each attempt was met with resistance as her lids refused to cooperate. The man’s voice was unfamiliar and the barking dog in the distance was getting on her nerves. Where did they come from? And why was he touching her? At least it felt like he was touching her. Giving in to his gentle touch she drifted further into a peaceful place.
Images of Earl taunting her disturbed her safe haven. Each time he appeared tormenting her the dog’s growls and barks sent him fleeing off into nothingness. Once he was gone she drifted farther into a cocoon of warmth and wet kisses being peppered all over her face.
“Troop, get over here,” he hissed.
He had never seen him like this before. Each time she moaned the name Earl, it drove Trooper bonkers. He was even more confused by her response. The growling and barking seemed to calm her. Or was it the sloppy kisses? Whichever it was, he was certain she wouldn’t appreciate dog breath on her face.
Jason sat with her for about an hour before deciding to head off to bed. The chair he reclined in keeping vigil became terribly uncomfortable. His throbbing leg could no longer tolerate the position.
“Watch over her boy while I get some rest.”
At the command Trooper trotted off to his bed in the corner
Agitated, Lezlie moaned turning from side to side. Boy did that make her head hurt. She would be able to keep still if Earl and Wendy would let her be. The piercing in her heart nearly took her breath away as the man she dedicated her life to glowered at her in disgust, spewing hateful insults with his witch by his side.
Just when she didn’t think her wounded heart could take any more anguish, the wet kisses were back spreading healing warmth.
Blindly she touched her face to wipe at the kisses. Whoever was lavishing them out so freely had one juicy mouth. She wiped again, but this time the kiss felt almost like a lick. Wait a minute. That was a lick!
Lezlie’s eyes popped open wide as saucers. The blood curdling scream became lodged in her throat. Was she dreaming? She attempted to rub her eyes and was immediately sorry. The pain sent flashes of white light through her brain. Her eyes began to adjust to the dimly lit room by way of the bright moon shining through the window. Yep, right there was the biggest, blackest Doberman standing over her with its tongue hanging out of its mouth.
Her eyes nervously scanned her surroundings. The only escape routes were the door, which she had to get past it, and the window on the other side of the spacious room. She swallowed hard. Lord, how am I going to get out of here!
She hadn’t a clue where she was or how she’d gotten there. And to make matters worse, not a living soul was in sight except the huge beast gawking at her.
Once that realization dawned on her the paralyzed vocal cords made a miraculous recovery. Finally, she released the loudest blood curdling scream known to man. Scrambling to the center of the bed she continued to scream at the top of her lungs.
Stunned by her reaction, Trooper jumped back and his ears rose at attention. His barking matched her screams.
In a deep slumber, Jason bolted up in bed, his heart thundering in his chest from the commotion down the hall. He stepped into a pair of flannel pajama bottoms laying at the foot of his bed before going to investigate.
“What the hell is going on in here?” His deep voice boomed, effectively silencing the screaming and barking.
Lezlie shielded her eyes as the room was bathed in bright light. The discomfort in her head was amplified by ten thousand. With her free hand she pointed an accusing finger at the dog.
“That mutt was trying to attack me!”
Oh man…Trooper did not like being called out of his name. Growling deep, he showed her a mouth full of sharp teeth. Teeth that could tear her to shreds if he had a mind to.
Oh my God! Scared witless, she backed up to the very edge of the mattress, trying to put as much distance between her and Cujo. How in the world had she gotten herself into this mess!
Jason didn’t take too kindly to the little ingrate calling his dog a mutt. He didn’t care how beautiful she was in spite of the temporary battered features. She wasn’t getting away with offending Trooper.
“You owe my dog an apology,” he gritted out between clenched teeth.
What? Was he and his dog both nuts? Dropping her hand, she had to get a look at this creep and his deranged dog. He must be seriously touched in the head if he thought she was going to apologize to a dog.
Whatever smart aleck retort she had ready to sass at him died on her lips. The dog’s owner was a mountain of a man. Her eyes traveled his entire length. He had to stand at least six-five with shoulders nearly spanning the width of the doorway he occupied.
She let out a long, slow breath. Lord have mercy he didn’t have a shirt on. And those pajama bottoms were riding low on his hips. She tried forcing her eyes not to stare at the dark hair on his chest tapering down toward his pelvis. But failed miserably. Her bosom rose and fell with each breath she inhaled and exhaled. Her fingertips were itching to caress his golden brown, chiseled, tight abdomen.
She bit her bottom lip to keep from moaning as her eyes traveled up to his stony face. The faded jagged scar slashed across his right cheek gave him a dangerous, but oh so sexy look. She could tell at one time he was what her grandma referred to as “pretty” boy handsome.
She continued to gape at him, her eyes blinking, wondering where in the world he had been all her life. The pain in her head was warring with the butterflies in her stomach. The butterflies were winning.
“Did you hear me?” The hard edge of his tone snapped her out of her lusting haze.
Lezlie lifted a defiant brow, which intensified the pain, but she didn’t care. She shifted her gaze to the canine and crossed her arms under her full, lush bosom. No way was she apologizing to a dog!
Annoyed with him and his dog she hadn’t noticed the flash of heat in his hazel eyes as they took in her tempting breasts
“Yes…I…heard…you…I’m not apologizing,” she turned her nose up at the beast, “to him.”
Trooper growled, taking a step closer toward the bed.
“Don’t you see him coming closer? Tell him to stop!”
When mountain man continued to glare at her with his stony expression her eyes bulged in disbelief. Oh this dog is rabid. And so is he!
Neither man nor beast wavered in their stance of demanding an apology.
Rolling her eyes, she mumbled, “I don’t believe this.” She gave the mutt the side eye throwing her hands up in defeat. “Alright already! I’m sorry!”
Before Jason could stop him, Trooper charged on the bed knocking Lezlie over on her side. Too terrified to scream she had no choice but to fall over from the weight of the eighty-five-pound dog. She didn’t have time to shield her face from the attack.
What in the world! He wasn’t attacking her. He was giving her those wet, sloppy doggy kisses, and that warm, peaceful place from earlier when Earl was tormenting her dreams immediately engulfed her. She began to laugh and cry at the same time welcoming the overgrown, lovable pooch’s affection. The barking and growling now made sense. Patting the dog on the head she cooed, “It was you chasing that mean man away and kissing me!”
Trooper barked and she winced from the pain in her head. “If we’re going to be buddies you gotta cut all that loud barking out.”
Jason watched in amazement as mystery woman went from being terrified and name calling to kissing the top of Trooper’s head.
Lucky dog. “Trooper, get down,” he commanded softly.
Obediently, he hopped down off the bed with a thud going back to his spot in the corner.
Her eyes followed her new friend. She smiled at him as he settled into a comfortable position no longer paying the two humans in the room any attention.
Lezlie smiled, getting a kick out of her new friend’s charming personality. Too bad his human wasn’t as charming. With that thought she glanced back at mountain man. Their eyes connected and held. They didn’t trust themselves to say a word as they openly appraised one another. Nor could they deny the unmistakable electrical charge in the air.
She cleared her throat breaking the silence. “Where’s the bathroom?”