Mia Justice counts every day as a blessing, not taking life for granted. Although she has strong faith, she finds it hard to move on in her personal life, until an accident changes her perception of really living.
Dire Sylis takes his job and the responsibility that comes with his job seriously. Saving as many lives or helping in any situation is how he pays homage to the father he lost as a young adult. However nothing prepares him the chance encounter that will change his life.
“You’re too young for a New Year’s Eve party. You knew the answer before asking.” Mia flipped on her turn signal to move over a lane. “What Ash?” Her sullen teenage daughter muttered under her breath and turned away, closing off. Teenage angst—her least favorite part of parenting. What kind of parent lets their kid plan an unchaperoned party on one of the worst nights of the year to be away from home? Remember not to judge others by what you wouldn’t do.Paying her daughter no heed, she cast quick glance in her rearview mirror to find a spot she could edge her way into in the next lane. Mia moved her SUV in the tight space, continuing the slow crawl down highway 71. She refused to feel guilty for not giving into Ashland’s wants, reminding herself to be a parent not a friend. There wasn’t room for both, since she took on the roll as both mother and father.
As the light at the end of the exit ramp turned from yellow to red, a car clipped her back bumper, causing her to lurch into oncoming traffic. Ashland let out a scream as a vehicle with the right of way narrowly escaped slamming into her door. Mia heard the crunch of cars hitting each other. She fought to maintain traction, her grip clenching the steering wheel as they spun out of control while fending off the surge of terror whiplashing through her a second time.
“Mrs. Justice, help is on the way.” Her automated security system transmitted to the local enforcement and 911 dispatch. Mia turned to Ashland and lifted a shaky hand to her face. “Baby, are you okay?”
“I-I think so.”
Mia’s heartbeat thundered in her chest. Dazed, she spoke on autopilot.
“Can you move?” Mia unclasped her seatbelt and reached to unlatch her daughter’s. Ashland flinched when she touched her.
“Mama, your head is bleeding and my leg hurts really bad.”
Mia touched her head. Blood slid between her fingers as she explored a small gash on her forehead. “I’m okay love, it’s just a little cut. We need to get out of the vehicle. See if you can move.”
“I can’t, Mama. There’s a car blocking me from moving. I’m stuck.” The panic in her daughter’s voice sent shivers of dread down her spine. They were surrounded by vehicles, crunched in from all sides.
Mia froze, paralyzed by fear. Blood trickled down her face. Her vision was hazed in one eye. Think. You have to stay awake to get Ash out safely. Unbuckling her safety belt, she looked around for something to break the windows with.
“My softball bat is in the trunk, isn’t it?” Her daughter calmed enough to help.
“No baby, we took it out to make room other things a few days ago.” She sucked back a moan of pain while maneuvering into the second row behind her daughter and worked on reclining the seat back. Red lights and the welcoming sound of help arriving eased her fears a little as she continued to work to get her daughter free. Mia leveled the seat out and hefted Ashland by her hips into the second row. When she looked up, flames licked along the windshield. All of the sudden they were stuck in a ticking bomb, each second counting against them.
Voices yelled over the sounds of sirens. Acrid fumes seeped into her vehicle. Instinctively, she knew if they didn’t get free, they’d die from toxic inhalation. She became aware of a shadow as it fell over them. “Get this car moved.” The orders were barked from the man’s lips.
“Ma’am, if there is something to cover your heads with, grab it. There are men working on putting out the fire while we get you out. Stay calm.” Mia watched a flood of foam hit her engine. Beside her, firemen worked to pull the vehicle out of the way. There wasn’t time.
Mia snapped to at the commanding tone in his voice. She found her wool pea coat and placed it over their heads.
“Mama, what’s happening?” The SUV jostled as the car stuck to their door was yanked free. The uniformed man signaled for her attention.
“The firemen are putting out a fire in our engine and they’re going to break the window. I know you’re scared and hurt. Just breathe baby, they’re here to help us and will do everything in their power to get us out.” Deep down, she believed the words with her whole heart. She fought to keep positive, though tears coursed down her cheeks and pain threatened to drag her into the abyss of unconsciousness.
“Mom. Mom. Wake up. Mom, can you hear me. Hurry. Please, my mom isn’t answering me.” The distant sound of glass exploding met her ears. Sound slowed as her eyes drooped, too heavy to keep open. “Take her first.” In her mind her words resounded crystal clear.
“My daughter. Get her out.”
“Ma’am, breathe, that’s a girl, now save your strength. We have you both. They’re sliding your daughter out on a board now. She’s free. Backboard two in. I got you now. Lift her easy.” Strong hands hoisted her out of the back section of her smoldering vehicle.
“Whitier here, has some oxygen for you. Armstrong has your baby. She’s a little beat up but okay. Breathe as Whiter places on the mask.”
“Thank you.” Blurred vision kept Mia from making anything but his helmet out. She grasped the hand he held offered. Darkness descended, sucking her into its undertow.
Darkness fell early in the evening. Mia sipped a cup of hot cocoa while waiting. Time had never moved slower than waiting for Dire to show. Maybe she needed a psychologist or some heavier meds of a different type. Who worried about a man they recently met, and without an exact definition of the relationship they were heading in. She grasped his shirt in one hand, wanting to bury her face in his scent. Madness. She’d fallen head over heels into insanity. Tired of pacing and watching out the blinds for a glimpse of his truck, she sat down and flipped the television on. True to her word, she kept away from the news channels. Comedic family shows played on every channel. Not in the mood for comedy, she turned the television off and picked up a historical romance she’d found at a swap and shop months ago, but hadn’t had the time to read. She slipped the robe off and donned his shirt, wanting to feel closer to him in his absence. Using the discarded robe as blanket, she curled up on the couch and disappeared into the pages of her new book.
Lost in the world of thievery, abduction and handsome as sin highlanders, she’d toned out the world until a loud banging on the door scared her out of her wits. She dog-eared the page and tossed off the robe. The incessant pounding grew louder. “What.” She swung the door open ready to rip the balls out of the person who’d made her put down the fantastic book and probably dented her door. “Dire.”
“I rang the bell seven times.” Did he growl at her? And why did she find the sound arousing. Wait…I’m mad at him. She crossed her arms over her breasts and glared at him.
“I’m sorry for scaring you.”
Mia saw red. She clocked him with her open palm across his face, spun on her heel and stormed back into her house.
“Go to hell.” She launched her body forward into a sprint up the stairs away from him. Pounding footsteps fell behind her as she heard him chase. Halfway up the stairs, a band of steel wound across her middle, halting her momentum. She kicked back and found her legs trapped by muscles as hard as tree trunks.
“Why are you mad?”
God he smelled good. Even angry with him, his energy singed her. Struggling to break his hold got her nowhere. His breath tickled her neck. His rock hard chest cradled her back.
“You didn’t text or call.”
Dire cussed under his breath. “Because I thought you’d be asleep like we discussed,” he snapped at her and spun her to face him.
She saw the angry welt on his face and dropped her gaze. Dire didn’t deserve her abuse. Ashamed of her actions, she couldn’t look him in the face.
“You should’ve anyhow.”
“I’m okay.” She frowned refusing to give into the two words she’d wanted to hear for hours.
“The team is okay too. Mia. I like to look who I’m talking to in the face.”
“Why are you doing this to me?” She pushed against him to get away and stumbled on the stairs when he let go of her. “Take this back and get out. I can’t do this.” Tears threatened to spill as she tore off his shirt and threw it at him. The T-shirt hit him in the face and fell to the floor. “I wanted to tell you that we should be friends but I can’t now because I’m in too deep.” His stunned expression, the way he held his body rigid while raking a gaze over her body caused her to shiver in reaction and start for her bedroom. “I said to leave,” she repeated when he made no move to.
“Calm down.” Instead of leaving, he followed her.
“That’s mature.” He caught up to her, spun her around, and fisted a hand in her hair keeping her from running further. “Look at me Mia.” Her choice was to squeeze her eyes shut or to do as he bid.
“You had better be glad I’m not tender headed.” She glared at him, uncomfortable with the close proximity of his body so close to hers and her runaway emotions.
“I’m not hurt and you’re okay. Nothing bad happened.” He pressed her against the edge of her bed and dropped an arm to her lower back. Mia almost died when his lips feathered over her skin of her throat. Soft at first, until he worked a path up her neck, swept a finger along her jaw line and nipped to her lips.
Dormant need blazed to life. Mia turned aggressor, wrapping her legs around his waist and planting her lips over his mouth. Tongues tangled. Moaning into his mouth, she found the hem of his shirt and thrust her hands up his chest. Dire helped her take the T-shirt off. God, he is so sexy. To think she’d been totally naked in front of him this whole time left her feeling inhibited.
“Don’t get shy on me now. You looked damn sexy wearing my name.” He bit into the curve of her neck while palming the globes of her ass. His sparse chest hair abraded her sensitive nipples. Wetness drenched her thighs as he laid her down. Dire paused assaulting her mouth to grab a condom out of his pocket. She watched enthralled as he unbuttoned his jeans and shrugged out of them to cover his heavy cock.