Jesus, what if she’s hurt?
I punch the accelerator on the way down the long driveway, swerving around fallen tree limbs and other debris thrown around by the windstorm. Once on the highway I punch it hard, driving much faster than is safe, especially in this weather, but I don’t care. I have only one thought in my head: get to Carolina.
Ten minutes later my phone rings again.
“Ty!” I bark.
“She’s out and she’s okay. Shaken up, but not hurt.”
I close my eyes with relief. The knot I didn’t even know was there loosens in my chest, allowing me to take a deep breath.
“Have the paramedics looked at her?”
“She’s getting checked out now. How far out are you?”
“I’m almost there. Louie and the other guys are bringing the equipment.”
I hang up and toss the phone on the seat beside me, relieved to see the edges of town in my headlights. People and official vehicles and barricades at both ends of the block stop me as I approach Cara’s street, so I jump out of the truck and run. The crowd in the street is surprisingly thick and full of movement and flashing lights and confusion, and the more I have to search for her, the more panicked I become.
“Where is she?” I yell, and push neighbors aside, frantically searching the crowd. “Where the fuck is she?”
I see her now, not far from the ambulance with Ty; his arms are around her as though he’s holding her up. Her beautiful hair is covered in white, and she’s wearing nothing more than a black tank top and yoga pants. She flings a thin hospital blanket off her shoulders and pulls out of Ty’s arms to run to me. I wrap my arms around her shoulders, pulling her close.
“She’s covered in insulation, man. Be careful.”
I watch Ty’s serious face over Cara’s head and nod gravely. I want to bury my face in her hair and breathe her in, but I won’t do her any good if I’m in the hospital from inhaling fiberglass, so I just run my hands up and down her back, soothing her.
“A tree fell on my house,” she mutters, her voice thin and flat.
“I see, honey.” My calm voice masks the fear coursing through me. Holy fuck, the tree practically sliced her house in two.
I could have lost her, and I just found her.
“It fell on my house,” she repeats, and I look down to find her cheek pressed to my chest and her eyes glued to her house. I turn her away and tilt her head back with my fingers, needing to look her in the eye. Her eyes are wide and glassy with shock.
“You’re fine, baby.” Her eyes fill with tears, but she swallows and blinks them away. “It’s okay. The house can be fixed.”
“Where am I gonna go?”
“You can stay with me, Cara,” Ty begins, but I scowl at him and wrap my arms around her again, pulling her into me. I’ll be damned if I’ll let her out of my sight.
“She’ll stay with me.”
She frowns up at me and I can see the wheels turning in her gorgeous head. “I have a spare bedroom, Cara.”
She looks back at Ty, who just smiles and shrugs, and then she turns those amazing amber eyes back at me. “Are you sure?”
“Yes.” I cup her face in my hands and brush the white flecks on her cheeks with my thumbs, feeling tiny pricks on my skin. “In fact, we need to get you out of here and cleaned up. You’re going to get cut up from this insulation.”
She frowns as if she’s just now realizing that she’s covered in it. “It stings.”
I growl and bend her over, shaking it out of her hair the best I can, ignoring the pokes on my own skin. She sways on her feet when she rights herself, and I lift her easily in my arms.
“I’m taking her home.”
Ty nods and waves at my men as they pull up with the equipment. “Thanks for this, Josh.”
“This is what we do. Call if you need anything.” With that, I carry Cara, her head resting on my shoulder, to my truck and set her carefully in the passenger seat. I buckle her in and frown when she doesn’t relax against the seat. She’s begun to shake, her eyes still pinned to her house.
I need to get her the hell out of here.
I wrap my jacket around her, jog around the truck to climb in the driver’s side, and head off toward home.
By the time we reach the ranch Cara is trembling violently, tears streaming unchecked down her cheeks. I need to get her into a hot shower quick. Jesus, I have to do something.
“Come on, baby.” I smile down at her as I lift her out of the truck, carrying her through the house to the master suite.
“I thought I would have my own room,” she murmurs, her voice thin and trembling.
“You will, but we need to get you cleaned up.”
“You’re not showering with me.” She clenches her eyes closed and shakes her head.
“Hey, Cara, stop this.” I set her carefully on the closed toilet and kneel before her, gripping her shoulders in my hands. “You’re in shock, baby. I can’t let you take a shower by yourself. It’s okay.”
“I’m so embarrassed,” she whispers.
I sigh. “No need. You’re gorgeous, but I’ll be good. Let’s get this fiberglass off you.” I turn and quickly turn the hot water on in the shower, giving it time to heat up. I turn back to her and my heart clenches. She looks so small and defeated. I grip the hem of her tank in my hands and pull it over her head. Her breasts are as beautiful as I knew they would be, but I keep my face calm and focus on the task at hand.
She stands and strips out of her yoga pants, and I gather the ruined clothes and shove them in the garbage.
I’m thankful that when I built this bathroom, I installed a separate walk-in shower and bathtub. The shower is large enough for two. When the bathroom is steamy, I shuck out of my own clothes, leaving my boxers on, and guide her into the shower and under the hot water.
“You have shorts on,” she states matter-of-factly.
“Yep.” I grin down at her.
“To make sure you behave yourself.” I raise an eyebrow as I guide her under the hot water and wince when she flinches.
“No, my skin is just really sensitive.” She won’t look me in the eye, and I know she’s embarrassed.
This is not how either of us envisioned seeing each other naked for the first time.
She leans her head back into the stream of hot water, and when I’m satisfied that she’s no longer in danger of being cut, I wash and rinse her hair and soap up a washcloth, running it over her curves and soft skin. Despite the hot water, she’s begun shaking violently again and her skin is covered in goose bumps.