I’m so, so tempted to say yes, just so I can see him, but it’s only a silly storm.
“I’m fine, Josh, but thanks for the offer. I’ll probably head to bed soon too.”
“I’m here.” His voice is soft and the line is still.
“What’s wrong?” I whisper.
“The thought of you in a bed conjures all kinds of images, and you’re a good fifteen minutes away from me right now.”
I laugh and shake my head, but my nipples have puckered at his words and my toes curl. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“I want to see you this weekend, just you and me.”
“Like on a date?” I lean my head back against the couch, biting my lower lip.
“Yes, on a date. I want to take you to dinner, in public. Take a walk. Go to the movies. You know, a date. What do you say?”
“Is this a good idea?” I ask softly, and close my eyes, wishing with all my might that it were a good idea.
“It’s just dinner, Carolina. Stop overthinking it.”
“We both know it’s not going to end at dinner.”
“Fuck, I hope not,” he agrees with a smile in his voice.
“It’s a date.”
* * *
I’m jolted awake by what sounds like warfare. The house is trembling as though I’m under fire, pounding and groaning, splintering wood. It’s pitch-dark, and snow is falling inside my room, but it hurts when it hits my skin. My heart is beating so hard I swear it’s going to come out of my chest, and I can hardly breathe.
I sit straight up and, to my horror, see my ceiling falling apart above me. Water is spilling inside, along with what looks like snow, but I quickly realize it is insulation from the roof.
My lungs are screaming in pain from inhaling the sharp shards of fiberglass, and then I don’t feel anything at all as adrenaline kicks in.
I have to get out of here!
I leap from the bed and yank the yoga pants I tossed at the end of my bed up over my hips, step into flip-flops, and run outside to the sound of sirens and wind. My neighbors have come out of their homes, and someone wraps me in his arms and holds on tight.
“Thank God you’re okay.”
Ty! Ty lives just four houses down from me.
“My God, Ty!”
I pull from his arms and turn toward the house. The tree from the backyard has toppled over, its old, rotten trunk splintered in half. It’s lying across the entire left side of my house. The roof is completely collapsed, and the wall to the master bathroom has crumbled.
I could have been killed.
A fire truck pulls up, and then another, their sirens blaring. An ambulance approaches behind them, and my street is suddenly in a flurry of activity. More neighbors are filtering out of their homes, gasping and crying, and all I can do is stand in shock, not caring that I’m getting wet and dirty, and not even feeling Ty’s strong arms looped around me, holding me up.
I’m thankful for Ty, but suddenly all I can think about is being in Josh’s arms. I need him.
And I don’t even have a phone.
“My phone is under the tree,” I mutter.
“Who do you need to call?” Ty asks.
“Jill. My parents.” I swallow hard. “Josh,” I whisper.
“I called Josh,” Ty responds with a warm smile. “He’s on his way.”
I nod and turn back to the house, unable to tear my eyes away from the destruction.
“Cara, we have to check you over and make sure you’re not hurt.”
One of the paramedics, Sam Waters, takes me by the arm, pulls me over to the ambulance, and sits me down inside. Ty stands vigil at the ambulance door and speaks into his phone.
“She’s getting checked out now.”
Who’s he talking to?
I can’t bring myself to care. I don’t feel anything.
Sam and his partner are running their hands over my arms and legs, checking for breaks and scrapes.
“Wow, there’s hardly a mark on you. You’ll have some little cuts and scratches from the insulation, though.” Sam’s face is worried as he looks into my eyes. “Her eyes are dilated.”
“She’s in shock.”
Someone wraps a thin hospital blanket around my shoulders, making me frown. Should I be cold?
I don’t respond.
“Cara.” Sam shakes me, forcing me to look up into his face. “Maybe we should take you to the hospital anyway.”
“No.” I shake my head and grip the blanket around me. “I’m fine. I’m not hurt.”
“Cara,” he begins again, but I clamber out of the ambulance and down to Ty, who wraps his arms around me again and kisses my temple. The rain has stopped, but the wind is still vicious.
“Where is she?” someone is shouting in a panic, and my heart fills with joy at the sound of Josh’s voice. I turn to see him pushing his way through the crowd, his eyes wild with fear. “Where the fuck is she?”
“Josh!” He wraps his arms around me and I burrow into his chest. For the first time since waking up, I feel safe at last.
“ ’Lo?” My voice is groggy as I answer my phone and check the time: 2:09 in the middle of the damn night. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s Ty. I need you in town now, man.” I can hear rain and voices around him. I immediately jump from bed, pull on my jeans and a shirt, and pull my shit together. “We’re gonna need your generator and lights too.”
“What’s wrong?” I ask again, my voice hard and awake.
“I heard a loud boom about two minutes ago and came running outside to find a tree lying across Cara’s roof.” My heart stops as I pause in tying my boots. “The power’s out and it’s black out here, man.”
“Have you called 911?”
“Of course, and they’re on their way, but—”
“Is Cara still in there?” I close my eyes and pray that he says no, that she’s right there next to him. Please, God, let her be okay.
“Yeah, she’s not out here yet. Jesus, man.” I hear the fear and the shock in his voice and it spurs me into action. I grab my jacket and keys and run out to my truck.
“I’ll be there in fifteen.” I end the call and immediately dial Louie, our head ranch hand, and instruct him to call the other guys, grab the lights and generator, and come to town.
There’s no way in fucking hell I’m wasting time gathering that shit when I need to get to Cara. Now.