Sunday, February 3, 2013

Accidental Affair by Leslie McKelvey (excerpt)

A Fateful Decision

Laine Wheeler threw an arm across her dog’s chest and stood on the brakes as the rockslide tumbled quickly toward her.  As the Range Rover shook she discerned arms and legs flailing, and realized with alarm that it wasn’t a bunch of boulders rolling down the steep embankment.  It was a person.  The front end of the SUV dipped as it shuddered violently to a stop, and the individual landed in a crumpled heap not six feet from her front bumper. 

Heart knocking against her breastbone, she exhaled sharply, then looked at Maverick, her half-dog, half-wolf sidekick who seemed as startled as she.  Maverick woofed softly and put a paw on her arm.  Laine took a deep breath, grabbed a handful of thick, gray and white fur, and turned her gaze forward.

The person hadn’t moved.  She glanced first left then right toward the tree line and wondered if there were more people where this one had come from.  Both sides of the two lane highway were edged with ten foot wide shoulders hemmed in with 20 foot high embankments topped with thick pine and evergreen.  When no other bodies came somersaulting down the embankment, she turned her eyes back to the unknown acrobat.

What the hell was going on?  Laine blinked as her pulse ratcheted up a couple of uncomfortable notches.  There were no lakes or rivers nearby, and the closest campsite was more than 20 miles away, so what was this person doing out here, literally, in the middle of nowhere?  Staring at the rumpled figure she waited, but he, or she, didn’t move.  Was this a carjacking?  An attempted kidnapping?

She gulped and frowned.  “Don’t be ridiculous, Laine.”  She glanced at the dog, whose wise, golden eyes were fixed on her.  “What do you think, Maverick?  Is this a carjacking . . . in the middle of nowhere?  And who’d want to kidnap me?  My former in-laws?”  A short, sharp laugh escaped her.  “No, they’re happy enough I left Chicago.”  Her gaze was drawn back to the person in the road.  “Maybe they want you, Mav.”  The dog whimpered.

Her brain was working at warp speed, trying to wrap itself around what she’d just witnessed.  No matter which idea she entertained, none was a reasonable explanation for the body lying in the road, none that boded any good anyway.  She felt the adrenaline hit her bloodstream and took several deep breaths, then opened the door and stepped out.

“Stay there,” she said to the dog.  Maverick woofed again and did as he was told. 

Laine took a step then stopped.  What was she doing?  The side of a deserted highway was no place to be a hero.  She looked at the prone figure for a moment, debating with herself.  A low, pained moan escaped the person, and the mournful, gravelly sound spurred her.  Laine squared her shoulders.  Right place or not, she wasn’t the type to run, and she knew there was no way she was going to just leave an injured person in the middle of the road.  She ran around the front of the Rover, looked down at the person for a split second then knelt at their side.  It was a man dressed in camouflage pants and a khaki shirt, and from the stained, disheveled state of his clothes it looked like he’d been rolling in the dirt well before his tumble down the embankment.  He lay on his side with his back to her, he wasn’t moving, and the silence hung heavy.  She waited a few moments, and as each second ticked off her alarm grew.  Laine hesitated then pressed two fingers into his neck to check for a pulse.  It was weak and thready but it was there, and she sighed in relief.  Grasping his shoulder, she rolled him onto his back.

Dark red blood stained the upper left side of his chest and Laine drew back, startled.  That she had not expected.  It took her a second to compose herself, and she reached for the collar of his shirt to get a look at the wound.  Before she could peel back the material his fingers snaked around her wrist.  She jumped and fell onto her backside, her heart nearly exploding from her chest. 

"Please."  His grip tightened slightly.  "Get the bag and get out of here."  He spoke in a hoarse whisper.  "They're not far behind me."


Debby said...

I have always wondered how you can have an accidental affair. I guess I will need to read the book to find out.
debby236 at gmail dot com

Leslie McKelvey said...

Haha! Well, it's not a "how-to" book, but if Jack Vaughn dropped in MY lap, I think I'd have to find a way to accidentally take advantage of that.