Cassie Moore stared at the bubbles rising in the flute of champagne. The ephemeral globules vanished like yesterday’s dreams. Rain pounded on the roof of the cabin in upstate
She’d borrowed the refuge from the senior partner of the cardiology group. The
secluded area offered an escape from the second most humiliating day of her
life. Memories of the first emerged and resisted her attempts to cram them into
a box labeled “gone but not forgotten.” Dark streaks from that day stained her
Thunder rumbled. Lightning cracked. The gloomy atmosphere matched her mood. Emotions roiled and changed with every sound. She refused to release the tears hovering on the threshold. The snap of wood in the fireplace threatened to spark the anger she held inside.
She raised the glass. “Here’s to how a long engagement made sense. Let’s drink to waiting until the residencies are completed. A toast to being established in the medical practice before marriage. Here’s to tonight’s bridal shower and the absent bride-who-won’t-be. Raise your glass to the fiancé who married the office nurse on his regular Thursday off.”
In a single swallow she drained the glass and tossed the flute engraved with his name into the flames. A flare of color and a loud crack made her chuckle. So much for melodrama.
The buzz from the champagne failed to raise her flagging spirits, or elevate her self-esteem. What was wrong with her? Thoughts tumbled over each other. A father who hadn’t wanted her or her mother, a first love turned into a teenage prank, a fiancé who chose another woman. Had she loved Tim or had he been a habit she hadn’t tried to break? She’d never said the L word to him. She hadn’t heard the sentiment from him either. Had being married ruled her choice?
Cassie turned from the fire. She sliced the negative thoughts and pushed them into that box. Shower, comfy clothes, chocolate and a movie chosen to provide an excuse for tears were next on the agenda.
She hurried to the bathroom, turned on the shower, undressed and stepped beneath the spray. A short steam-filled time later with a towel wrapped around her body she scooted to the bedroom she’d chosen for her stay. She opened the suitcase she’d grabbed on her way out of the apartment.
“No!” A groan rolled from her lips. She’d brought the bag she’d packed for the wedding night, the plane trip to
and for the first day on the island.
With a shrug she slipped on the sheer nightgown and a short silk robe and wished for her fleecy one. At least the slacks and sweater from today could be worn tomorrow while she searched for a store to buy a few things. She lifted a white lace bra and bikini and a red satin set. She had underwear. For tonight the green afghan on the couch would provide warmth.
When Cassie reached the main room she popped the movie disc in place, filled the second flute with champagne and selected a truffle. As she savored the rich chocolate she draped the afghan over her shoulders and reached for the remote.
A rumble of thunder drowned the opening music of the movie. A loud crash made her jump. Had lightning struck nearby? She crossed to the window and turned on the yard lights.
A heap on the ground near the end of the driveway caught her attention. A movement made her realize she saw a body. She grabbed a yellow slicker from a hook near the door, slipped on her sneakers and opened the door.
Moments later she clattered down the steps. Rain pelted her. She raced to the figure. As she drew closer she saw a man wearing a helmet and leather jacket. A motorcycle rested against the lone pine tree beside the drive.
Cassie crouched and felt for a carotid pulse. The steady beat against her fingers reassured her. When she grasped his shoulder he groaned. Her breath escaped on a sigh. She needed to see if any bones had been broken and get him out of the storm. While she was a doctor, hearts not bones were her specialty.
“Where do you hurt?”
He groaned. “Everywhere.”
“Can you move your arms and legs?”
He complied. This time his groan emerged louder and deeper.
“Try to sit up.”
Slowly he eased into a sitting position. “My bike?”
Cassie choked back a laugh. How like a man. “Before you worry about your wheels you need to get out of the rain and be checked for other injuries. Can you stand?”
With her help he stood and swayed. He clutched Cassie’s shoulders. They nearly fell but she steadied him.
“Easy.” She put an arm around his waist. “Did you lose consciousness?”
“Don’t think so. Had the breath knocked out. Stunned a bit.” He drew a breath. “Must have been a deer.”
“What are you talking about?”
“The thing on the road. Big. Dark. Saw the creature in a flash of lightning. Couldn’t stop.”
Cassie peered toward the road. If he’d broadsided a deer, the animal would be on the road either dead or badly injured. She saw no sign of one. The motorcycle had crashed into the tree where the road curved. Had he been more than stunned? Was he drunk? Was she a fool for taking a stranger into the cabin?
She could leave him at her car and run inside for her keys. They could drive to town. Except she wasn’t dressed for going to town or for entertaining a guest.
“Where are we going?”
“To the cabin so I can check you for injuries.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
His deep voice held a quality that sent heat rushing through her veins. She faltered. Why the reaction? With all the recent developments she should avoid thinking of any man as attractive until she recovered from the pain of Tim’s rejection.
She helped the stranger through the wind driven rain to the roofed porch. The protection from the steady downpour was welcome. She opened the door and they stepped inside. Water beaded on her yellow slicker and his leather jacket. Pools collected on the slate foyer floor.
She shivered. “Cold.”
“Makes two of us.”
Cassie released her hold on him and dragged a metal kitchen chair with a padded seat and back into the entrance. She wished for her medical bag so she could do a complete assessment but the bag was at her apartment. While she couldn’t check his blood pressure or listen to his heart his pulse beat strong and steady. For the rest of the exam she could improvise.
“What year is it?” She asked the first question to check his mental status.
He answered with month, day and year.
“Where are you?”
“Who knows. In a cabin in the woods with a nosy woman. Why the grilling?”
“To make sure you don’t have a concussion.”
“Are you a doctor?” She strode to the kitchen and returned with a flashlight. “Take the helmet off. I need to check your eyes.”
“Are you a nurse?”
While she clicked the flashlight to make sure it worked he removed his helmet and jacket. Her mouth gaped. A moment of recognition stunned her.
Couldn’t be him. But he was. Blond hair, blue eyes, handsome. The class jock. Her first crush.
Cassis gulped a breath. So much for a complete physical. There was no way she could touch his skin and not fall into those memories of yearning and humiliation. She shone the light into one eye and then the other. “Pupils equal and reactive. That’s good. You’ve escaped a concussion. You’ll be sore and develop a collection of bruises. You were lucky to escape serious injury.”
He bent to pull off a boot. “A hot shower will help.”
She studied his soaked slacks. Granted there was a washer and dryer but she couldn’t imagine the man from her past wearing just a towel while his clothes dried. “I doubt there’s anything for you to wear here.”
He reached for the boot he’d removed. “I’ve clothes.”
“Where are you going?”
“To my bike. The saddlebags have several changes there. And I need to see the damage.”
She shook her head. “Not a good idea for you to go out. Your balance wasn’t great when you came in.” She dashed to the door. “I’ll go.”
Cassie crossed the porch and sloshed to where the bike nosed into the pine. After removing the leather saddlebags and before heading to the house she assessed the damage. The front tire had blown and she feared the crash had twisted the frame. She carried the saddlebags to the cabin.
She had a house guest, a stranger who belonged in her past. She paused beside her car. If she’d had the keys she would leave. Knowing who he was stirred memories of that day and also of the nights she had dreamed of him.
If she took the only transportation what would he do? The motorcycle wouldn’t run. He would be stranded here. Town was five miles away, a long walk in the rain.
As she dashed to the cabin she recalled what she knew about him. She’d had a major crush on the sports’ star. Football, basketball, baseball and track. He’d excelled in them all. She hadn’t been the only girl who had followed him. He’d always seemed nice. Until the day she’d believed the pair of cheerleaders and followed their advice. His rejection and laughter had hurt. Unfortunately what he’d said to her had been true.
Cassie stood on the porch. With those memories so clear how could she face him? Did he know who she was? Would he remember that dreadful day? Though remnants remained she wasn’t that girl now. She opened the door. He rose.
Cassie swallowed. His shoulders seemed broader without the jacket and his chest more muscular than she remembered. She shoved the saddlebag into his hands.
“Aren’t you going to take off your coat?”
Her face flamed. “No.” She scooted past him. “Bathroom is this way.”
As soon as the door closed behind him she bolted to the bedroom. She removed the raincoat and searched for her clothes. Would have to be something she’d packed for the flight to
Silk dress or shorts and a knit top. The clothes she’d worn today were for
tomorrow’s shopping trip. She chose the short set. Thank heavens the cabin had