Everything happened at once and in slow motion.
A crushing jolt shuddered through the truck. Her wheels skidded sideways. She smacked against the window when her pickup rolled down an embankment, as if punched by something large and lethal. Glass rained deadly sharp. The earth tumbled around her, her truck in spin cycle. When a massive tree loomed, the Chevy slammed into it then stilled.
Winded and stunned, she hung upside-down in her lap belt, blood, metallic and warm, on her tongue, a rushing sound whistling in her ears. Her heartbeat changed and grew slow and rolling in darkness. Something hurt, a long way away. Then nothing.
“Ma’am. Ma’am. Are you all right?” A man’s voice shouted, rousing her. She tried turning her head but pain held it in place. When she opened her mouth, silent panic flew out.
“Hold on. I’m getting you out of there.”
Acrid smoke pierced her consciousness. She closed her eyes against the billowing grit.
This wasn’t happening. It was a dream. No. A nightmare.
A tugging motion jerked her right and left, followed by a ripping sound. Large hands halted her sudden fall.
Her rescuer cradled her against his chest, his breaths heaving beneath her ear. After carrying her some distance, he lowered her slowly to the ground. Grass scraped against her stinging cheeks and she opened her eyes.
“What?” she croaked, then swiped at the trickle leaking from her mouth. A man wearing a cowboy hat hunched over her, his features blurred.
“You’ve been in an accident. We have. Our trucks collided in the intersection.”
“My truck!” She bolted upright and clutched the swirling ground.
An arm snaked around her back and eased her down. “I called the dispatcher. The fire department’s on the way.”
A wail sounded in the distance and Claire wanted to shriek with it.
Her special day. Her anniversary. Ruined. No. Demolished by this…this…
She squinted upward and focused. A dark swirl of hair brushed across the tall man’s forehead; a light scar zigzagged down his square jaw. Recognition zapped through her.
It couldn’t be…
“Hello, Claire.” His mouth went up, just a fraction—the same ready-for-anything smile that had once undone her.
She closed her eyes, heart thudding. Ten years since she’d vowed never to see him again…and now here he stood, two for two in wrecking her life.