Authors: Susan A. Bliler
Susan A. Bliler
Copyright © 2012 by Susan Bliler
Cover Artwork done by:
Spine and back cover done by:
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidences are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from Susan A. Bliler.
“For singing me to sleep when my heart was sad.
Let me tell you a dream…”
The car in front of Lucia came to a screeching halt. Too late, she realized that the action was intentional and all she could do was grit her teeth and brace as her cherry red BMW M5 slammed into the back end of the white street racer that cut her off. The impact was devastating!
Her body slammed forward then was just as violently jerked back thanks to her racing grade safety harness. Somehow, her car came to rest teetering atop that of her teammate, Kennedy, and Lucia watched helplessly as Kennedy scrambled from the crushed vehicle beneath Lucia’s own and ran to safety. Relief at her teammate’s escape was only momentary.
Before she could even consider her next course of action, flames sprang to life under the hood of the car and the front dash console. Lucia began frantically trying to free herself from her safety harness. She cursed the fat fingers of her racing gloves, her oversized helmet, and the too-small buckle on the harness, but she didn’t curse the custom racing suit she wore. Accompanied with the protective suit underneath, her racing suit was all that kept her flesh from being seared by the intense heat of the flames as the fire quickly spread.
Seconds passed like minutes, and Lucia had no time to notice her surroundings, nor did she care any longer how her team was faring in this illegal endurance street race. The heat was becoming too much and she’d spent far too much time trying unsuccessfully to free herself. Those precious moments had allowed the fire the chance to feed on the material in the cab of her car. As she pressed frantically on the button of her safety harness, she was anticipating the fire reaching the fuel line and the car exploding with her in it at any second. That thought inspired the deepest sense of fear, which led to the most drastic of decisions.
Quickly, Lucia removed her gloves. Instantly, she felt the delicate skin of her hands blister from the heat. She quickly looked down to relocate the fastener on her safety harness, but the size of her large helmet and its rear strap that connected to her head rest prevented her from being able to adequately look down.
In sheer panic, Lucia used her blistered hands to remove her helmet. The sound of the fire was terrifying! She’d always heard the expression ‘roaring fire’, but this was the first time she’d ever truly understood the term. As she forced the helmet from her head, the flames licked up at her face as if they had been waiting for her creamy porcelain features to be revealed. She screamed in agony as her now melting hands worked at a speed she thought impossible to grasp the searing hot fastener of her harness and free her from her terror.
Before her arms were free of the safety straps, her legs had already begun shoving her body up from her seat. Her hands were slapping at her racing suit attempting to extinguish the flames that were devouring her suit closest to her face. As her legs locked straight and made her erect, her torso bent and she leaned sideways to allow her body to fall from the car to the ground just beside the now nearly flame-engulfed vehicle. Because her car sat atop that of her teammate, it was a longer fall to the ground than Lucia had anticipated, but desperate times called for desperate measures.
On the ground, she rolled frantically back and forth, extinguishing the flames on her racing suit. Looking to her left, she realized that her car was completely engulfed in flames and knew she needed to get as far away as she could because the amount of fire practically ensured explosion. The sight of her racer igniting the dark London night was horrifyingly beautiful.
Lucia pushed herself up off the ground, the pain from her burns temporarily numbed by her adrenaline. She stood then immediately crumbled back to the ground. Looking down, she saw crimson seeping from a gash in her left thigh. Again, she struggled to her feet and hobbled as quickly as she could away from the car. Her chest burned from inhaling too much smoke, and her thigh throbbed demanding attention but neither compared to the white-hot searing pain of the burns covering her hands, neck, and cheek. In survival mode, she ignored the pain. Her eyes darted across the track to the pits…to safety.
She struggled to quicken her pace but her progress was nullified when she had to jump backward to avoid a silver Audi that sped past nearly hitting her. In shock, she realized it was Warren and that the race continued, which only added another element of danger to her already doomed attempt at escape.
Lucia’s heart contracted painfully as she became aware that Warren had to have seen her car crumpled and in flames, yet he chose to continue the race. She shook the thought from her head and quickly limped while dragging her left leg in an attempt to clear the still-active racetrack. She cleared a plume of smoke and looked up to see a black Nissan speeding straight at her. Like a deer caught in headlights, her body refused to move while her mind went a mile a minute. She could only stand and watch as her fate sped toward her. Somewhere in the distance she heard a scream, but only managed to throw her hands up in front of her face as she turned her head away, her heart thudded to a halt in her chest.
An eternity passed with Lucia holding her breath and she only opened her eyes when she realized she was being shaken. She turned to meet the penetrating gaze of Draken Shatan. Instantly she realized that the scream she thought she’d heard was actually the screeching of his tires. Draken was the last thing Lucia saw before her body finally succumbed to the pain and shut down. She crumpled in his arms.
Opening her eyes, Lucia was greeted by pain. She licked her dry lips, forcing her eyes wider and looked around the room. It was unfamiliar. She attempted to sit up in the bed, but before she could execute the maneuver, she realized her hands felt strange and lifted them to meet her blurry gaze. Both hands were thickly wrapped with gauze. As her eyes became more focused, she looked down the length of her body. The movement revealed just how tense and sore she was.
She wore a clean white hospital gown and she lay atop crisp white linen sheets, the scent of the perfumed detergent wafted up to her nose, which was surprising because the scent of smoke had been so strong before she’d passed out that she thought she’d never shake the scent.
Her left leg was propped up on pillows with her thigh tightly wrapped in bandages. She righted her head and realized that something was on her neck and chin. With her hands wrapped, she wasn’t able to feel her throat. Turning her head slightly from side to side, she realized that her neck and chin were bandaged as well.
Her entire body ached as if she’d been beaten, and her lungs burned from the smoke inhalation she’d endured. She sighed and allowed her body to relax into the bed, again lifting her gaze to look about the room. It was either the nicest hospital room she’d ever seen, or she wasn’t in a hospital room at all.
The room was ornately decorated. The dark oak of the floors, matched that of the doors and walls. The windows, framed with floor length satin burgundy panels were covered with billowing sheer white linings, which allowed her to see that it was a clear summer’s night.
Is it still the same day?
She wasn’t sure how long she’d been unconscious.
Still scanning the room, she was captured by the sheer beauty of the place. A filled bookcase lined one wall, and the paintings, plants, and furniture gave the room the feel of an elegant yet rustic castle.
Again, Lucia licked her lips wishing for a drink of water. She turned her head looking for a side table hoping to find a pitcher and a glass, but she was shocked when her gaze fell upon Draken Shatan sleeping silently in a chair next to her bed.
What in the hell is he doing here?
Quickly, she again scanned the room attempting to decipher just where exactly she was. She remembered the race in vivid detail. She also remembered Warren racing by and Draken nearly hitting her. She couldn’t help but question why Warren wasn’t at her bedside instead of his enemy.
Where in the hell is my team?
Lucia quietly attempted to push herself to a sitting position, forgetting again that her hands were badly burned. When she pushed her fists into the mattress and attempted to put her weight on them, she instinctively let out a cry. Blinded by tears, she didn’t see Draken startle from his sleep.
“Are you alright, what’s wrong?”
Lucia was holding her hands up in front of her, but didn’t want to let on that she was in pain even as a tear rolled down her cheek. She licked her lips and attempted to say, “I’m fine,” but her throat—damaged by smoke and intensely dry—only managed to croak the words in a slight whisper.
Draken stood and grabbed a glass off the bedside table and quickly filled it with the pitcher of water that sat next to it. He leaned over Lucia as he held the glass to her lips while his other hand slipped behind her neck and cradled her head.
Lucia gazed at him questioningly beneath furrowed brows while slowly sipping from the glass. She accepted several small drinks and turned her head away to indicate she was finished.
Draken returned her head to the softness of the pillow then set the glass on the side table.
Clearing her throat as best she could, Lucia managed in a slightly louder whisper, “Where is Warren?” She didn’t miss the dark expression that clouded Draken’s features or the clenching of his jaw at the mention of Warren’s name.
“He’s not here.” The response was gritted out from between clenched teeth.
“Where is here?”
Draken sat down in the chair by her side and looked at her evenly, his dark eyes piercing hers as he answered, “You’re in my home”.
Her mouth dropped, “Why...how long have I been here?”
He leaned back in his chair, crossing his hands behind his full head of jet-black hair as he offered a nonchalant, “You’ve been here four days.”
Lucia straightened her head as her eyes rested on her propped up leg. “My leg?” she questioned shortly.
Draken uncrossed his hands and scooted his chair closer to the bed as if he didn’t want her to miss what he was going to say. He leaned closer and said with all seriousness, “The gash was pretty deep. There was severe damage to the muscle tissue, tendons, and nerves, but if you give it adequate time to heal, you should recover fully…aside from the scar.”
“Scar?” Lucia repeated softly still frowning at her leg.
Draken saw panic instantly spread across her features as she sat up, the panic causing her chest to rise and fall erratically with the increased speed of her breathing. “What’s wrong? Lucia, what is it?”
She looked up at him with dread in her eyes and asked, “My face?”
His scowl melted and he stood to sit carefully on the edge of her bed. He sighed then spoke evenly, “Listen to me. You’re going to be fine. The burns to your hands were the worst because they were exposed to the flames the longest. The doctor grafted skin onto them and expects you’ll regain full use, but you will have extensive scarring. The burns to your neck and face were less severe. You escaped the car quickly after you removed your helmet, and the fact that you had your hair tied back and your head covered in the racing suit greatly spared you. Your neck and face will have slight scarring, but it won’t be as bad as you think.”
“Mirror!” Lucia demanded in a shaky voice, not at all concerned that she was being abrupt with the man who had apparently been taking care of her since her accident. Her fear was nearly tangible as she sat wondering how bad she looked, and she couldn’t help but wish that Warren or Kennedy, or any of her teammates were there with her. She was fighting to keep from crying and demanded again. “I want to see a mirror!”
Draken gave Lucia a defeated look as he sighed. He didn’t move for a moment, only staring at her as he obviously wrestled with his options. Then he slowly got up and retrieved a mirror from a bureau by the window. He returned and slowly handed Lucia the mirror.