Tuesday, October 7, 2014

CRASH PAD by Whitley Gray

Physician Remy Marshall has two loves: Emergency Medicine and running. Work doesn’t leave much time to meet guys, and most seem more interested in his bank account than him. With a week off to train for a marathon, Remy plans to make the most of his precious vacation. The last thing he needs is a distraction.
Jamie Sutton is new to the area. He hopes to make a fresh start after leaving an abusive relationship with an orthopedic surgeon. He’s got a new job as a massage therapist and wants to meet some nice guys. Against his better judgment, Jamie decides the best way to meet a cute rollerblader he’s seen in the park is on wheels.
With attention on his watch and not where he’s going, Remy crashes into Jamie and fractures the first-time rollerblader’s ankle. Jamie has no one to help him after the injury; Remy proposes Jamie stay with him. Jamie is reluctant, but it’s a better option than staying with the odd guy in the neighboring motel room. As the two get acquainted, Jamie’s past comes calling. Remy discovers the prize he really wants isn’t a medal in a marathon, but the man right in front of him.
BUY: Loose Id
What the hell had he been thinking?

Jamie tottered along on the rollerblades, arms windmilling, wobbling like a man on a three-day drinking spree. A beautiful morning: sky a serene blue, sunlight dappling the lawns with green and gold, the fresh scent of newly mowed grass. All the things he loved about the park on his daily forays. Now all his attention was focused on surviving this excursion into bad judgment.

The hot-as-Hades helmet and safety gear looked ridiculous.

Cute Rollerblade Guy didn’t wear all this crap. On the other hand, Cute Rollerblade Guy could skate. That coppery ponytail and beard… Mmm, mmm. Too bad the guy wasn’t a runner like Jamie. It would have been easier to meet him—safer, for sure. A shirtless runner, in shorts. Yeah…

A girl yelled, “Look out, Mister,” and whizzed by on his right.

Jamie stuttered on his skates and then got his equilibrium.

The broad path stretched before him like a concrete snake, a thousand times as long and just as dangerous. Kids half his size zoomed past on their wheels, perfect balance, full of confidence and laughter. He wiped a hand across his sweaty forehead. God, he felt like an inept giant. Might as well be ten and at the roller rink with his sister. Why did adults think this was fun? And why did he feel the need to risk his neck at age twenty-eight?

Because you want to meet Cute Rollerblade Guy.

He coasted forward a few feet—too fast, too fast—and grabbed on to a light pole. Yeah, this would impress the man. Two miles an hour, gyrating like a weathervane in a wind storm. Can anyone say idiot? There had to be a better way.

His truck was at least half a mile away in the east lot. Okay, he had a choice: take off the blades and walk in his stocking feet to the parking area or suck it up and blade there. Wouldn’t take that long, just a few minutes. Or hours. Or days. He blew out a breath. Cute Rollerblade Guy hadn’t showed yet. Maybe he’d skate past before Jamie either reached the parking lot or sustained a grievous injury. A glance to the right, and he cautiously re-entered the foot, bike, and blade traffic.

* * * *

Two miles to go.

Remy’s running shoes slapped on the asphalt path through the park. As he passed the mile marker, he glanced at his watch. Seven minutes for the last mile. To be competitive in next month’s marathon, he’d need to get it down to six and a half. He hit the Reset button and picked up the pace. A little crowded on the path, but otherwise a perfect day to add a couple of miles onto his usual six. They’d had snow last year at this time. Old Man Winter had blessed them with one last blizzard on Memorial Day before going into hibernation.

This afternoon, people packed the recreation areas around the lake. Screeches and laughter came from the playground. The fragrance of grilled steak wafted over from the picnic area, and his stomach growled. Remy shook out his hands. On pace for six and a half minutes. Good.

By the time he got home, he’d need to rush through his shower to get ready for tonight. The guy Brett planned to introduce him to better be worth the trouble. A double date/blind date for dinner wasn’t Remy’s idea of a good time. Of course, alone at home wasn’t any better. If the guy turned out to be a dud, Remy could claim a headache and leave early. As he turned the corner, the sun flashed in his eyes. He ducked his head, squinted at his watch, and kept running.


Remy landed on his back in the grass; the impact knocked the wind out of him. For a moment, he stared up at the sky. What’d he hit? His side of the path had been clear a second ago, so where had the roadblock come from? A hand rested on his groin. A strange hand. A man’s hand.

What the hell? Remy scrambled backward.

Lying prone on the turf next to him, in a tangle of arms, legs, and rollerblades, was a helmeted man. Remy scowled. One of those damn skater boys, always clogging the path and expecting everyone to get out of their way. God, they were a hazard.

Remy’s face heated. Except his time, he’d been the hazard. The rollerblader groaned. The sound of hurt. Remy’s medical training kicked in, and he scrambled to his knees and bent over the man.

“Hey. You okay?”

“My…ankle.” Lips pulled back in a grimace, revealing enough teeth to suggest agony. The man’s helmet angled over both eyes as he tugged at the buckle. “Stupid thing.”

“Here.” Remy got the chinstrap unfastened. “Does your neck hurt?”

“No.” The skater took a deep breath and rolled to his back. “Sheezus.”

Remy pushed the headgear up far enough to reveal the skater’s eyes, but they remained shut. The brain bucket gave good protection, but a concussion wasn’t out of the question. “Can you open your eyes?”

Golden lashes lifted to reveal eyes the blue of a first-place ribbon. The guy reached up and yanked the helmet off, and for a moment Remy couldn’t move. The injured man had blond curls, plastered down into hat hair. A straight nose and full lips. Gorgeous. Wow. Just…wow.

“Argh,” moaned Gorgeous.

Nice doctor you are, ogling the injured patient. Shoving the improper thoughts away, Remy got back to work with his assessment. “Anything else hurt?”

“Knee,” the man muttered, lids closing over the world’s most gorgeous eyes. “Frickin’ ankle inside the skate.”

Fracture? With the skates, Remy couldn’t see a thing. Removing them would help, but the boot would keep a fracture splinted until they could get X-rays. The guy could move all four extremities. Other than a scrape on the left shin, everything seemed to be in working order. Remy pushed on the man’s hipbones, checking for pelvic fracture.

The man grabbed Remy’s wrists. “You should buy me dinner first, don’t you think?”

Remy winced. Nice move, dummy. This isn’t the ER. The sun had apparently addled his wits. “Sorry. What’s your name?”

“Jamie.” He bent his knee and another grimace twisted his features. “Hurts.”

“I’m Remy Marshall.” He gripped Jamie’s long-fingered hand. “Well, Jamie, I think an ER visit is in your future.”

A woman crouched beside Remy. “Does he need an ambulance?”

“No ambulance.” Jamie’s tone was a mix of pain and irritation.

Remy glanced at the woman. “It could be a fracture. My car’s in the west lot. If we can get him there, I’ll take him.”

Jamie pushed him away. “I don’t know you.”

Remy sighed, pulled his hospital ID card out of his wallet, and held it over Jamie’s face, giving him a few seconds to check it out. “I’m a doctor.”

THIS COULDN’T BE happening.

It just didn’t get more humiliating than this. In the park, on a cloudless day, being carried to a stranger’s car—no, to Dr. Marshall’s car—by the doctor and a female Good Samaritan. And he still had on the damn rollerblades because the MD suspected a fracture. Jamie had to admit, the intense throbbing in his left ankle tended to make him agree. At least going by private car was cheaper than an ambulance. Another group of kids, all giving him unabashed stares. Jamie closed his eyes. Nightmare.

“Almost there, Jamie.” Dr. Marshall spoke next to Jamie’s ear. At least he was cute. Jamie opened his eyes.

Oh no. Cupid, thy name is cruelty. Wending toward them, body moving sinuously in time with the music on his MP3 player, was the object of Jamie’s worship from afar: Cute Rollerblade Guy, fiery ponytail gleaming in the sun.

Please don’t stop. Please don’t stop. Skate right on by—

Cutie halted next to Dr. Marshall. “Hey. Need some help?”

Jamie’s rescue team paused, and he tried to sit up straighter. Hanging between two people, parked on the seat formed by their forearms—dignity really wasn’t possible. He smiled through clenched teeth.

“We got it,” said the woman. Her tone dared the guy to challenge her capability to haul injured men through the park.

“Big oops, huh?” Cutie pointed at Jamie’s scraped leg and throbbing ankle. “Looks bad.”

“Rollerblading injury,” Dr. Marshall snapped. No mistaking the disapproval in those words.

“Did you fall?” Cutie leaned forward, hands on knees. Tawny eyes met Jamie’s.

The man had dreamy peepers. “N-no, more of a collision.”

“You ran into someone?”

“Sh—sheesh, no. Someone ran into me.”

Dr. Marshall cleared his throat and looked away. “We’ve got to get going, get him to the ER for X-rays.”

The rescuers bounced Jamie up, resettling him in the two-person carry, and resumed their shuffling progress toward the parking lot.

Cutie tagged along, rolling next to the rescue team. “Hope you’ll be okay.”

Jamie tried, but an authentic grin wasn’t possible. “Sure.”

Flashing another stunning smile, Cutie executed a one-eighty and bladed off. Jamie attempted to enjoy the view of Cutie’s spandex-clad ass, but pain got in the way. He closed his eyes. Well, now he’d met Cute Rollerblade Guy. Only had to sacrifice an ankle to do it.

Mission accomplished.  


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