19 May 2008

Chapter 1 of Connelly's Flame--unedited

Here is the first chapter to Connelly's Flame. Unedited. Enjoy.

So this is what it feels like to be at the end of your life.
The car careened out of control, spilling hot coffee all over the dark-haired man behind the wheel burning his leg. A burn that soon faded from memory. As the vehicle crashed through the guardrail along the isolated highway to flip down the snow-covered embankment, the relatively short life of its driver flashed before steel gray eyes.
Ross Murdock Connelly wished he would just be able to see the love of his life one more time. He knew he had been driving too fast along the slick roads but the desire to see her overcame his normal sense. To be able to hold her in his arms one more time. So he had taken this supposed shortcut, an idea that seemed pointless as he grew dizzy from the revolutions the car made.
As he was tossed from the vehicle he lost consciousnesses. Waking in the snow moments later he felt rather than saw the incinerating blast that engulfed the totaled vehicle. The swirling winds covered the sound of the explosion as the metal ripped apart and flew into the night sky.
“Charmane,” his injured voice muttered as his eyes closed again, submitting him to the pain free world of oblivion where a beautiful face with sparkling doe eyes beckoned to him.
“Where the hell is that smoke coming from?” the scratchy voice asked the interior of her vehicle. “I’m the only one that lives up this way. For that matter, who the hell is traveling on this road this time of the year?”
The old Land Rover was moving about five miles an hour. Even at night the smoke was obvious, billowing across the beams her headlights made as they cut through the snow and wind. As the dented vehicle passed the broken guardrail, she knew.
“Damn it,” she swore as she stopped as carefully as she could. Setting the brake, she turned the heat to high and began to shove her body into the thick coat and other winter accessories that had been eagerly discarded the second her body was warm enough in the car.
Fighting the wind and snow whose chill cut right through the thick layers of clothing she wore, Dezarae Phoenix Kerry began to yell into the night. “Hello? Hello! Is anyone down here?”
Struggling to slip only a minimal amount, she gazed through slitted eyes as she approached the wreckage. “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.” Gathering the thick coat tighter against her body, she realized that if there had been anyone in the car, they were dead now. Still, she looked around.
By some miraculous stroke of luck Dezarae found her eyes drawn to what looked like a human lying face first in the snow, illuminated by the burning glow of the car. Eyes watering from the stinging force of snow pellets, she struggled to get to him.
“Are you okay?” she screamed only to have her words whipped away into the night. No response. Kneeling beside the body, she touched the shoulder and asked again. Nothing.
The person lying there was a man. A large man wearing only a long-sleeved shirt and pants. No jacket or anything. “How the hell am I going to get you up the hill?” she muttered as she cleared away the snow from his face so he could breathe. Then she checked for a pulse; he had one.
A groan barely reached her ears. But she took it as a good sign. “Hey! Hey, Mister. You okay?” Dezarae noticed his body shivering and, without a second thought, took off her heavy wool coat and put it over his body.
“Mister. Come on, wake up!” she yelled down by his ear. Even through the layers of clothes she wore she immediately felt winter’s bite down to her bones. “Can you move?” Dezarae knew the dangers of moving an accident victim but he would die out here if he didn’t move. Her teeth began to chatter.
“I’m here,” a gravely voice said.
Thank the good Lord. “Can you move? Do you think you can help me get you up? Or does it feel like you have a neck injury?”
“I can move,” he rasped.
“Okay, slowly now. I will help you.”
Inch by tortuous inch, the man moved. Dezarae felt her eyes grow wide as she looked at his body. Dear Lord, he is fine and big. As he managed to get to his hands and knees, she helped him slip the coat on. It barely seemed to fit him while it engulfed her.
Dropping into the snow, Dezarae slipped under his shoulder to help support him. He smells like leather and spices. Shaking her head she waited for him to drop more of his weight on her. Come on man, I’m freezing here. “I can help you. Let’s go.”
Almost reluctantly it seemed, he let her have some more of his weight. As he got unsteadily to his feet they began the climb up the hill. The farther up they got, the more of his weight she supported.
“Good thing I am not a weakling here, Man,” she mumbled under her breath. “You weigh a lot more than it looks like you would.” Dezarae had never been so happy to see her car.
Opening the door, she helped him into the back and just kind of pushed him in. He toppled over to the side and, after making sure his feet were in, she shut the door to move to the other side and drag him across the seat so he was almost stretched out. Then it was back to the tailgate to grab another blanket to cover him with.
Climbing into the driver’s seat, she allowed the warmth to seep into her body. Taking a drink of her now-lukewarm coffee she pulled off her gloves, wiped her eyes, and began to drive home. She glanced back frequently at the man in her backseat. He had apparently drifted back into unconsciousness.

Pulling into her garage, she turned off her vehicle and got out. “Good work today, Old Man,” she said as she patted the green door affectionately. Dezarae moved to the back and opened it.
The man lying there had a cut on his head. He had dark hair that was cut short. A face that was beginning to show the signs of a shadow seemed sad. Thick black lashes rested against his cheeks.
Cocking her head to the side, Dezarae smiled as she looked at him. He was very handsome. And in danger of getting pneumonia if she didn’t get to work. “I don’t know who you are, Mister, but you have to wake up again.”
“I’m awake,” that deep voice grated although the eyes never opened.
“Sit up and we will get you inside where it is warm. Come on,” she insisted.
Like before, he moved slowly. But this time there was no wind, snow, or hill to fight. So it didn’t take long before she was helping him into her bed dressed in only his boxers. Great, I find a man and he has a damn rebel flag tat on his chest as a backdrop for an anchor. Damn, he is fine, even with that tat; I hope he doesn’t get frostbite.
She gazed over his limbs and didn’t see any signs of it, but time would tell. It was important now to get him warm. Dezarae covered him in her blankets and thick comforter before she left to change into dry clothes herself and make him something warm to drink.

Finally warm, dry, and comfortable, Dezarae slipped back into her bedroom to check on her ‘guest’. He had drunk the cup of broth she had made for him but she wanted to wake him up every now and then. His head injury was cleaned and bandaged and, as she looked at him, she saw he was sleeping comfortably.
Gathering up his wet clothes, she searched for any kind of identification and couldn’t find a single thing. No wallet, nothing.
“Well,” she whispered as she took his clothes out of the room and put them in the washer. “I sure hope you aren’t a serial killer.” After the load was set, she returned to her room.
“Wake up,” she said softly. Nothing. Fearing the worst, Dezarae reached down to pat him on the cheek. “Hey,” she spoke in a normal tone. “Wake up.”
The second her hand landed on his stubbled face, her wrist was caught in an ironclad grasp. Panicked, she flashed her eyes to his and found herself looking into the steeliest gunmetal eyes she had ever seen. They were alert and they scared her.
Warm. Comfortable. Dry.
Finally he was warm.
Fuzzy recollections flashed through his head as he remembered being helped into a vehicle. The most vivid thing he could remember was the cold. The biting pain of the cold.
Now it was warm. He felt better.
The faint sound of the door opening brought him as alert as he could be. Watching through his lashes he lay still as the figure of a woman filled the doorway.
She was pretty, if he wanted to think about it. A thick green sweatshirt concealed most of her figure from him but he would guess she was very curvaceous. Her skin was brown, nut-brown. He would put her about five-five. Her hair was thick and curly, hanging down past her shoulders, framing her face gently. Her lips were full and lush.
It was her eyes that got him. They were dark and they stared directly at him as she moved quietly into the room. It seemed to be almost concern he saw in them and he wanted to know what color they were. He noticed she wore a pair of black sweatpants and had large fuzzy red slippers on her feet, as if she had killed Elmo or Animal and turned one of them into a pair of slippers.
As he lay there, he watched her go through his clothes, searching for something. She took his clothes and left just as silently as she had appeared. He didn’t know who she was and that bothered him.
His mind was just too jumbled right now to figure things out. Before he could do anything one way or the other, the doorway was once again filled by his mysterious woman.
She moved effortlessly across the floor to stop beside the bed. Her head tilted to the side as she gazed upon him. “Wake up,” her silken voice said. He refused to move and she spoke again. “Hey, wake up.”
He’d had an instinctive reaction when her hand touched his face. Without conscious thought, he grabbed her and captured her wrist in his hand. She gave a frightened gasp as her eyes moved up to meet his.
Chocolate. Sinfully dark chocolates were what her eyes reminded him of.
A pink tongue snuck out and licked full dusky lips. “Can you let me go please? I am not going to hurt you. I just had to wake you up.” Dezarae could feel the intense pounding of her heart. “Please, you’re hurting me.”
Those eyes never left hers as he dropped her wrist as if it burned him. He remained silent as she stood straight and rubbed her sore wrist. “Sorry I frightened you but I was worried that you had fallen unconscious again,” she muttered, still absently rubbing her wrist.
Those smoky eyes moved down her body slowly and back up again making Dezarae feel as if she stood before him totally naked. When that intense gaze reached her eyes again, she felt flushed.
Damn it. No man has made me feel like this before. At least not a man I don’t know and have never met. Swallowing to give herself extra time to regain her composure, Dezarae tried to affect a look of indifference.
“Can you stay awake until I get you some more broth to drink?” she asked, glad he didn’t know her well enough to know just how affected her voice sounded.
Still, all he did was stare at her. Jesus, that is one unnerving stare. “I will take that as a ‘Yes’. I’ll be right back.” Dezarae fled to the solitude of her kitchen and made him another cup of broth. By the time it was ready, her heartbeat had returned to normal.

This time she knocked on the doorframe before she walked in, holding the cup as if it would keep her safe from him and his stare. With determined steps, she moved to the bedside and held it out to him even as his eyes held hers.
“Here, drink this.” She flicked her gaze from his to the drink and back again. My God, he is suspicious. “What, you think it’s poisoned?”
Well, those eyes narrowed as they moved from her face down her chest and back again. They stared into her soul and assessed her. Unnerved her.
“Look.” She put the cup up to her lips and took a drink of the warm liquid. “It is fine, now come on you need to get some nourishment in you.” Dezarae offered him the cup again.
One strong tanned hand reached up and took the cup from hers. A quivering began in her belly as she felt his fingers graze against hers. Bringing the cup to his mouth at the very last second, he turned it and drank from the exact spot that she had put her lips. Those gray eyes never left hers as he drained the cup.
What would it be like to have his lips on mine? Guess he doesn’t have anything against me yet. Knees trembling from the erotic picture his lips touching the same place as hers had she took the cup back and swallowed. Now was as good a time as any. “Who are you?”
He blinked as he looked almost hesitant since she had seen him awake. Dark masculine brows furrowed in thought. Only to scrunch together tighter before he looked up at her and said in a confused voice. “I don’t know.”

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