Authors: Elena Dillon
by Elena Dillon
To Alexa and Luke
The two most beautiful gifts the Lord has given me,
I love you both more than simple words can express.
Copyright © 2013 by Elena Dillon
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher at the address below.
Elena Dillon, 18656 Soledad Canyon Rd. Suite 125, Canyon Country, California 91351
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Printed in the United States of America
Publisher’s Cataloging-in-Publication data
Crushing / Elena Dillon
ISBN 978-0-9886353-4-0 Print
ISBN 978-0-9886353-5-7 Mobi
ISBN 978-0-9886353-6-4 epub
ISBN 978-0-9886353-7-1 smashwords
My skin feels like it’s covered in spiderwebs. My head is pounding. I can feel the knot on my forehead like a goose egg. The last thing I remember is driving down the highway and pulling over because flashing lights were in my rearview. When I try to roll over, I can feel dirt under my fingers. I can’t get a deep breath. My head hurts so bad I can’t think straight. My eyes drift shut again. Where am I?
I’m not totally sure how I get myself into these situations. Normal people don’t end up stuck in a storm drain…in the pouring rain…with a puppy…and no way out.
“All right, you—we are going to have to figure out how to get ourselves out of this mess.” I looked down at the puppy. She snuggled into my arms and closed her eyes. So no help there.
At first it hadn’t seemed like a big deal. The rain came down in sheets as I got out of my car. Right away I could hear barking coming from a storm drain across the street from my house. I looked into the drain and there she was. An adorable chocolate lab puppy—wet, shivering, and miserable.
As soon as she saw me she became frantic. I worried she would hurt herself, so I thought,
No problem—climb in, save the puppy, climb out, good to go.
Yeah, not so much. I didn’t really account for the fact that I am height challenged. I’m only five foot two. The storm drain was a lot deeper than it looked. Deeper than I am tall, and concrete with no footholds to speak of. On top of that, I left my purse with my cell phone on the front seat of my car. Sigh.
The water in here rose higher as it rained harder. It was up to my knees now, and it had only been to my ankles when I first got in. I needed to get us out soon before it got serious. I jumped a few times but quickly realized that I couldn’t pull myself
the puppy out. The wall was slick with rain and muck.
Like I said, these things don’t happen to regular people. I mean, I try to do the right thing, but somehow it just never ends up the way I plan. Definitely one of those moments. The rain was really coming down now, and the water rushed into one side of the drain faster and faster. I couldn’t hear anything outside with the loud roar of water crashing my ears. At this point, the puppy and I were stuck but good.
To make matters worse, there were “things” in here with us. I did not want to investigate this particular part of the problem any further. We were soaking wet and getting more miserable by the minute. Not to mention Wynter Island is considered low country. It’s an island near Charleston, South Carolina—a community that sits at sea level or lower. Flooding here is a common occurrence and no laughing matter. People were injured and drowned here every year because of rushing floodwaters.
Unfortunately, due to the rain no one was out on the street. I lived in a community on a golf course next to the beach. There were only a few houses on each street, and the few people that had driven by had probably not even looked in the direction of my little waving hand coming out of the drain. Not that I could see if they did.
“Do you think if I start screaming my head off, someone will come?” The puppy licked my chin and looked at me with those soulful brown eyes like I was her only friend in the world. I definitely needed to figure out how to get us out of here. That’s when I heard the rumbling.
Thunder? Nope. A car. A loud car if I could hear it over the water. Wheels pulled directly in front of the drain. The car rolled forward and the engine shut off. My luck was changing.
“Help! Hey! Over here!” I shouted.
The puppy did her part by barking her head off. She was no dummy—except for the whole getting-stuck-in-a-storm-drain thing. But honestly, I’d done some pretty dumb stuff in my time. I shouldn’t judge.
A guy popped his head in at the mouth of the drain.
“Ah. Of course.” He grinned.
And then the face disappeared.
All I had seen before he disappeared was a head of light-brown hair and ice-blue eyes. His features were shadowed in the darkness of the drain. Did I know this person? I knew just about everybody around here. Especially the ones close to my age, which he definitely was. I didn’t think I’d seen him before and yet…
And what did he mean by “of course”?
“A hand would be nice! Hello?” I hollered.
I heard a car door opening and closing. He wouldn’t just leave us here, would he? Then he was back. He must have been lying flat on the ground above the drain. He moved so the upper part of his body hung partway into the drain. He handed me a towel.
“Ummm, thanks, but I would rather just get out,” I said.
He rolled his eyes and looked at me like I only had half a brain.
“Put the puppy in it and hand her to me.”
Oh. Duh. Well I guess that made sense. I wrapped her in the towel and handed her up. She seemed perfectly happy to go to him. She proceeded to lick his face and anywhere else she could reach as he lifted her out. Hussy.
He disappeared again. Oh man. He was cute. Who was this guy? And why did just seeing him make my heart start to race? Guys didn’t usually make me nervous. I grew up with way too much testosterone in my house.
More door opening and closing. I could hear the puppy barking now, but it was muffled. He must have put her inside the car. When he came back again, he lay in front of the drain this time. He put his upper body back in and reached both arms down.
“Uhhh, I’m not sure this is going to work.” I hedged.
“Just grab my arms and put your feet on the wall.”
I know I looked skeptical.
“Or stay here. Up to you.” He shrugged.
I was starting to get really self-conscious. I must have looked and smelled six kinds of awful, and when I’m embarrassed or uncomfortable, I get cranky.
“Fine, but when I pull you in here with me, don’t say I didn’t warn you,” I growled. I grabbed a hold of his arms and started to climb out. Instead of me doing any of the work, he just kind of pulled and rolled us out of the drain. Of course I ended up on top of him, which was even more embarrassing, but at least I was out. He looked up at me and laughed.
“Wow, you aren’t as light as you look.”
“Excuse me?” I glared at him. Was he trying to make me mad? He did not know who he was dealing with. I jabbed him in the gut with my elbow as I got up.
“Ooomph. Okay I deserved that.” He rolled and stood up so gracefully. How did people move like that? He opened the car door and reached in for the puppy. He wrapped her in the towel again.
He walked back to me with the puppy in his arms. I noticed he was ridiculously tall. I suppose anyone is tall compared to me, but still—he was at least six foot one or two and towered over me. His brown hair curled just a little at his collar, and he had mesmerizing blue eyes. I wondered if I needed to check to make sure drool wasn’t hanging out of my mouth. He was gorgeous. His face had been shadowed in the drain, so it hadn’t been obvious. He could be a model, for heaven’s sake. He had the body—tall and athletic—and the face—beautiful eyes and well-defined cheekbones. My stomach felt like squirrels had taken up residence. And something kept nagging at me…
“Friend of yours?” he asked.
“No, I just heard her barking when I got out of my car.” I pointed to my Jetta parked across the street in front of my house, wishing I didn’t smell like a fish hatchery. I didn’t even want to think about what I must look like right now.
“So you decided climbing into a storm drain, in the pouring rain, in a flood zone, was a good idea?” He laughed. “You couldn’t have maybe called somebody to help?”
Well, it sounded pretty dumb when he said it like that. I did have a tendency to act first and think later.
I glared at him. Gorgeousness aside, no need to point out my stupidity. It was rude. “Hindsight and all.” I looked down at the puppy. She really was adorable. “I guess I’ll have to call the pound to come get her. I hate for her to go there. My dad will never let me keep her.” I really didn’t want to send her to death row.
“I’ll keep her. At least for a little while. I’ll ask around. Put up some flyers.” He grabbed a backpack out of his car, slung it over one shoulder, and shut the door again.
had a soft spot for dogs? Of course I knew the feeling couldn’t be mutual, since my attraction quotient had tumbled down into the negatives at this point. I didn’t think I was a raving beauty normally, but I wasn’t unfortunate-looking either. I had my good points. Good complexion, long brown hair, dark-brown eyes. I didn’t totally hate my body, other than my very white skin. Today I knew I was nowhere near my best, however. As a matter of fact, the only way I could have looked worse was if I had the flu. Ugh.
We stood there in the pouring rain with the dog in between us. I reached out and patted the puppy on the head. She licked my hand. When I looked him in the eyes I had the weirdest déjà vu feeling. Like I had been here before, yet everything seemed off.
“See ya around, Rory.” He smirked.
How did he know my name? He walked up to the house across from mine and opened the door with a key. Wait. As soon as the door to his house shut behind him, I knew. It was like a montage from a movie playing in my head. It sped by fast to the point I almost felt dizzy. Scenes from my childhood played out quickly. Running around on the golf course at night, swimming in the ocean, and spying on my brothers. All with the same adorable brown-haired, blue-eyed boy.
He was back? I hadn’t seen or heard from him since we were eleven years old and he moved with his grandparents to Florida.
And his first impression of me on his return? A drowned smelly rat in a storm drain. Fabulous.
That puppy owed me big.
After I had showered off whatever was in that storm drain and warmed up, my adventure seemed a little unreal. Why was he back? Why now? He had lived with his grandparents in the house across the street from me from the time we were five until the summer we were eleven. Gage and I had been inseparable from the moment he moved in. His grandparents were raising him, and they were only too happy to let him spend all his time with me.
He had been an almost silent kid. He stuttered and got made fun of a lot, so he didn’t say much. But I talked enough for the both of us. We had our own way of communicating, and I think he preferred it that way. I never made fun of him or tried to hurry him up when he couldn’t get a word out. He stuttered the least when it was just the two of us.
Gage got himself into trouble on a pretty regular basis as we got older. He didn’t like letting a wrong go undefended, so he got in a lot of fights at school. The fights didn’t always have to do with him. Sometimes kids picked on him about the stutter, but most of the time kids were bullying other kids. He couldn’t stand back and just let some kid get picked on. He got a reputation for being a troublemaker when he stood up for himself and others. The biggest problem came if someone tried to pick on me. He would punch first and ask questions later if someone was giving me a hard time.
Now he was here, and I hadn’t even recognized him. Of course I only remember the “pre-teenage him,” and he had changed a lot. He had been awkward and gangly when he left. He was so good-looking now that it made me nervous. The situation obviously didn’t freak him out, and he must not think much of it or me. He definitely implied I was fat. How did a Friday suck this bad?
I still had this all running around in my head when I arrived at the sushi place a couple of hours later to meet my family for dinner. I frowned as I walked into the restaurant. I could feel a headache coming on.
I loved sushi, but family time had been stressful lately, and I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to it. My dad and I hadn’t been getting along. He refused to let me grow up. I constantly argued to be allowed the freedom my brothers had at my age: an adult-free weekend, camping trips with friends, or even surfing with somebody not on his approved list. We had had some epic battles lately, and I really didn’t see it getting any better in the near future.
My parents were sitting in a booth already waiting for me. My brothers were supposed to be meeting us, but since they were college students now, they could get away with a myriad of excuses for not making our Friday night dinners.
“Sorry I’m late.” I slid into the booth next to my mom.
“Hey, sweetie, how was your day?” my mom asked. They were both perusing the menu even though we had eaten at this same restaurant almost every Friday night for the last four years.
“Good. Wet.” I already knew what I wanted, and our favorite waiter, Enrique, brought me my green tea without my having to ask for it. I smiled my thank you. He didn’t say much, but we had an understanding. I ordered my usual.
“Are the boys coming?” I asked. I already thought I knew the answer, but I was hoping anyway.
“Jackson might. Jeremiah had something,” my mother mentioned.
“Or someone,” I mumbled.
“Aurora.” My dad weighed in. “Knock it off.” I thought about sticking out my tongue but controlled myself.
“Well, you know that’s what it is.” I didn’t know why it was all right to overlook anything my brothers did, but everything I did was put under a microscope. I would never get away with missing Friday night dinner for a date unless it was with Dominic, and I wasn’t willing to go there. Yet. If ever.
“Well, there is no need to be crude. What did you do after school?” My mother was good at changing the subject.
“Not a whole lot. The usual.” Except I got stuck in a storm drain, almost drowned, and Gage Maddox had to pull me out. “So, do we know about who moved in across the street?” I asked my mom.
“I’m glad you brought that up.” My dad looked like he was trying to be casual but not really accomplishing it. “I meant to talk to you about this already. I heard from Gianni Rossi that Nathan Elliott bought the house from his parents and has moved in.”
He glanced up from his menu to look me in the eye.
“Gage has moved back here to live with him. This kid is still trouble. He has been living with his grandparents all this time, but he got into so much trouble down in Florida they couldn’t handle him. They had to send him to live with his uncle. I don’t want you hanging out with him again—are we clear?” He looked agitated. Waiting to see if I was going to freak.
“Are you kidding? Why would you judge him that way?” Ridiculous.
“Well, trouble is trouble, Rory, and we don’t want to go back there.” My dad glared at me—I assumed, to make his point.
“Dad, we were kids. It was stupid stuff like egging the clubhouse and stealing a golf cart to go joyriding.” I huffed. “I haven’t been in any real trouble since I was eleven.” I hated that he threw that back in my face, when I had worked so hard to change.