Before I was an author, I admit I worried at times that I had this other, secret side of me. Often funny, but in an odd way. This strange, unladylike side would come out at the most inopportune times with a suspiciously male version of a sexual innuendo or dirty joke. Worse, this bizarre side would respond to a tense situation with the emotional depth of an amoeba coupled with the personality of a frozen Popsicle. Help! There was a guy living inside me! I just hoped he was hunky with killer white teeth.
Then I became an author and it all made sense. The kind of sense only other authors come to appreciate. I wasn’t inflicted with a split personality (not to mention gender disassociation); rather, I was nurturing the inner heroes to all my future books. See? Serendipity strikes again.
Don’t believe me? Meet Mitch McKenna and see for yourself.
Officer Landis’s voice pierced his brain. “Okay, everyone back off, please. Show’s over. We need to get Mr. McKenna in the Jeep. You all right, Mitch?”
Emma rushed to his side. “Let me help you up. Wrap your arms around my shoulders.”
“Let’s get him in the Jeep. Can you stand?” Officer Landis pulled him up and leaned him against his shoulders. Emma grabbed his other arm, and together they led him to the back of the Jeep.
Mitch peeled his droopy lids open when he felt Emma’s arm on his back. His head fell forward and his face nestled on her neck. He inhaled her perfume. “You smell nice.”
Officer Landis cleared his throat. “Let’s get you wrapped up in the blanket. Emma, try to keep him warm.”
Her heat seeped into his skin. His head was foggy and his lips felt swollen. “So soft…so sweet.”
Emma rubbed his arms to get his circulation going. “I think he’s delirious. Should we take him to the hospital?”
“No hospital. Hot shower,” Mitch mumbled.
Officer Landis revved the engine. “He needs to get out of those wet clothes. We’ll take him back to the trailer.”
Mitch’s lids felt heavy and he struggled to keep awake. Exhaustion fought with his desire to savor the way Emma was rubbing his neck and using her body to keep him warm.
“Stay awake, we’re almost there,” she whispered.
“Hmmm—” he nestled in deeper between her breasts, “—n…nice,” he murmured, a smile tugging the corner of his lips.
With the Jeep’s heat blasted, Emma felt sweat trickle down her spine. Mitch sat slumped next to her in the back seat, his head buried in her chest. He kept murmuring unintelligible words she hoped Brandon couldn’t hear.
Could he feel her heartbeat thumping against throat? What made him run in after Bogie into the freezing water? Why would he do that for a dog he barely knew? Why would he risk his life to save her dog? She knew if Mitch hadn’t risked his life, Bogie would have drowned.
The reckless dog was fast asleep in the front seat wrapped in blankets. One of her neighbors had taken Lulu from her arms when she’d rushed to Mitch’s side.
Emma pushed back the wet hair from Mitch’s face. His skin felt warm, so she knew he wasn’t in danger of hypothermia. But she kept her palms on his face just in case and was surprised when he turned his lips into them. His warm breath dampened her hands and sent tremors up her arm. She inhaled the briny smell of the ocean that clung to his skin.
When they reached Mitch’s trailer, Brandon jumped out and opened the back door. “How are you feeling, Mr. McKenna? Do you think you can walk?”
Emma was surprised when Mitch pulled back from her, stretched like a satiated cat and nodded a greeting to Brandon. “I can walk. I’m all right. Thanks for the ride.”
Emma shut her eyes in mortification. He was awake?
When Mitch’s gaze found hers, there was an unmistakable awareness within their depths. The heat in the Jeep didn’t compare to the heat spreading inside her chest.
Mitch smiled. “Appreciate the sweet concern for my safety. Had I known almost drowning was all it took, I’d have done it sooner.”
She frowned when she detected a mischievous glint in his eyes. “You need to take those wet clothes off and take a hot shower before you catch pneumonia.”
“If you’re so worried, why don’t you come inside and take a hot shower with me to make sure I’m alright.”
Her gaze flew to Brandon’s, whose brows were stacked in military precision over the bridge of his nose. “See? He’s delirious. Are you sure we shouldn’t take him to the hospital?”
Mitch grunted. “I’m not delirious—my nuts are frozen. You want to warm those up with your palms?”