Entirely by Accident
by B, Layne and Jo
Someone had to ride the perimeter of the Meridius property and at the moment, East was the fittest man for the job. He'd saddled up a bay gelding, choosing him for his fearlessness more than his spirit. Figuring there may be a lot of property damage from the storm, the last thing East wanted was a spooky horse under him, one that would balk at the sight of a downed tree or fence.
Packing some essentials into the saddle bags, the young horseman mounted and rode out to ride along the fence line. He'd fix what he could and make a mental note of the stuff that was beyond the ability of one man to repair so he and Maximus or one of the other hands could take care of it later.
He'd been out for an hour, soaked to the bone even though he wore an oilskin drovers coat and hat. This storm system had a touch of evil in it, he was sure of that. He and his sure-footed gelding saw more than their share of gullies to navigate and it didn't take long before the pair of them were dog tired. He steered his mount up on a dirt road to make the ride home a bit easier.
The horse noticed it first, snorting and shaking his head. East dropped a hand onto the big bay's neck to calm him but in a few seconds he noticed it too. It was a scent that was unmistakable, steam and anti-freeze. It grew thicker and heavier as he moved along and he found its source just at a curve where the road split to head to town. Seeing something that made him pick up his pace, East dismounted before the horse stopped at the scene of an accident.
Someone had run off the road and his heart was in his throat. A small car had plowed into a tree and by the looks of things it had just happened.
Climbing down into a ditch and working his way up to the other side, East approached the driver's side of the vehicle, hoping he wouldn't find anyone there but his worst fears were met when he caught sight of the driver slumped in the front seat.
He tapped on the cracked window but got no response. Bracing himself, he grabbed onto the door handle and spread his legs to try to pull it open. It was jammed at the hinges from the car's impact. Climbing around to the passenger side of the car, East removed his coat and used it to protect himself as he broke the glass from the already cracked window.
After unlocking it, he managed to get that door open. Crawling inside he touched the person's shoulder.
"Mate, you alright? Speak to me, eh?" he said. His eyes grew wide when he
noticed that the person at the wheel was not a bloke as he'd originally thought.
In fact when she raised her head he had to blink several times. She was not only
a she but she was ...beautiful.
Sarah Langston had been to visit friends and was on her way home to Coffs Harbour. She'd known there was flooding, had hoped to be able to avoid most of it, as she really needed to get home.
It had been about halfway there that she realized she wouldn't make it. The water on the roads, even the most well-traveled ones, was too deep and her car too small. When she'd come to a sign pointing the way to the Glen, a new little town she'd heard about, Sarah had hoped she could make it there. Hopefully, find a place to stay until the worse of things was over.
Her car had been difficult enough to control on the better roads, but she'd been totally unprepared for hitting the ruts in the dirt road. The depth of water hid the worst of them. As Sarah hit one of the deepest, the wheel was jerked from her hands.
The little car plunged toward the side of the road. She caught a vague glimpse of a tree through the pouring rain, before the car plowed into it. Sarah's head hit the windshield, as she was flung partially forward, despite her seatbelt.
She lost consciousness for some unknown period of time, although it felt like only a couple of minutes. As she began to come around, she was vaguely aware of someone tapping on the window, of a slight screech of metal, as though someone were attempting to open her door. The sounds stopped and her fogged brain told her that she had been hallucinating. Who would be out on a road like this in the middle of such a storm?
Then she heard the sound of glass breaking. Had a tree fallen on the car? Sarah tried to raise her head to look, but a wave of dizziness and nausea hit her at the slight movement, and she was forced to slump over the wheel again.
When she heard the sound of a man's voice and felt a hand touch her shoulder, she gritted her teeth and forced herself to lift her head, despite the sick feelings. Another tidal wave of dizziness swept over her and Sarah lost consciousness again, just as the thought hit her that, whoever he was, he had the prettiest eyes she'd ever seen.
Now what should he do? It wasn't like he could call anyone, he didn't have one of those dang cell phones. He couldn't just leave her there. He had no choice, he'd have to get her out of that metal trap and take her back to the station.
Not knowing if she could hear him or not he spoke to her anyway.
"Take it easy now, don't be frightened. My name is East and I'm going to help you."
He tried to move her but she seemed stuck. Not thinking at first, he noticed that she was seat belted in. Fumbling with the buckle, East managed to free her. His big hands may have seemed rough but from years of gentling horses they were more gentle then those of a surgeon.
He was a strong lad, and he pulled her from the seat with ease, lifting her to cradle her in his arms. He managed to set her up on the horses back, keeping her stable until he mounted behind her, not an easy feat for a lesser man but East made it look simple.
He wheeled the horse slowly, and started back toward the Meridus' station
with no plan but to get this poor sheila someplace warm and dry.
Sarah could hear the man speaking, but couldn't sort out the words in her jumbled mind, other than a syllable or two here and there. She thought she heard "east." Was that the direction she'd been going? Right now, she had no idea. However, the voice had a soothing, melodic quality that calmed her.
The man lifted her with what seemed to be great ease. In her semi-delirious state, that reminded her of the way her father had lifted her and carried her when she'd been a toddler. She smiled a little and mumbled something, laying her head against his shoulder for a moment.
Then, Sarah was being lifted high. Onto the back of a horse. A horse? Surely, her mind was playing tricks on her there, she thought to herself. She'd been thinking of her father, so maybe she was lost in one of the fairy tales he used to read to her. Maybe this man was a handsome prince come to rescue her--the maiden in distress--by putting her onto the back of his horse and riding away with her.
As the man sat behind her, she was cradled in his arms. They felt warm and nice, after all the rain and cold. When the horse wheeled around, Sarah's head seemed to wheel with it and she lost consciousness again. Her last thought was how strange it seemed that the nightmare of a car accident should turn into a fairy tale dream.
He couldn't remember the last time he had his arms around a woman, though he was certain it was under different circumstances. For a fleeting moment he actually enjoyed holding her until his better judgment told him it wasn't proper to feel that way.
She seemed to fit so well and the feel of her lying against him gave him a sense of purpose. Getting her back to the tack room where it was warm and dry was his first desire.
Turning the horse off the road and onto the path that led to the stable had him hold her tighter. He breathed in the scent of her hair and wondered where he smelled that wonderful aroma before. Ah, yes it was similar to the flowers that Joimus had in the greenhouse. Gardenia he thought. That was it.
The rain fell in sheets again and he opened the front of his drovers coat to cover her as best he could. The puddles by the barn were knee deep when he arrived and the water splashed up his thighs when he dismounted. Holding her with one arm, he quickly tugged her down into his arms. Leaving the horse for a moment, East carried her into the tack room and he lay her on his bunk. Brushing her wet hair back, he stopped for a moment to gaze at her face. Beautiful hardly described her; she had the face of an angel by his reckoning.
Standing with a sigh, he bent to cover her with a wool blanket that lay at the foot of the bunk.
"I need to tend to my horse, love. Be right back."
He hated leaving her if for only a moment but the horse needed care too.
During the ride, Sarah was in and out of consciousness, but always convinced that she had to be dreaming. Every movement the horse made seemed to cause excruciating pain in her head. At the same time, though, she felt steadied and comforted by the warm, solid presence of the man with his arms around her.
She opened her eyes once, when he lay her down in some place that felt warm and dry. It seemed like forever since she'd felt anything warm and dry. Lying there, Sarah looked up at him, trying to focus her eyes.
She had a brief impression of a face that was young and clean-shaven, but strong. Her father would have said it had character. It was handsome and those beautiful blue-green eyes were looking at her. So this was what Prince Charming looked like. He also had a worried frown, which made lines between his eyes. Sarah would have raised her hand and smoothed them away, but her arms and hands felt too heavy to lift.
She felt a warm, slightly rough blanket being put over her body and, somehow, she managed to find the strength to give her Prince Charming a very brief smile before her eyes closed and she slipped back into sleep.
East returned in a few minutes to find her still in her deep slumber. It worried him. She should have been awake by his reckoning. Perhaps her injury was more serious than he anticipated and he thought it best he seek help and Joimus was the only one he would trust. He didn't want to admit it but his fear was that this beauty he'd found would be taken away from him once he sounded the alarm. He knew he had to risk it, he knew it was in her best interest.
Sitting on the bunk beside her, he reached carefully to sweep some loose tendrils of hair off of her face.
"You're going to be okay, love. I'll see to it. I'll get help now."
Fighting the urge to kiss her cheek, he lingered for a moment before leaving her once again. His destination, the main house. Knowing full well of the ordeal that Joimus endured, he hoped she'd be well enough to help. He trusted her.
East shivered as he stood at the back door to the main house. He kept one arm
wrapped about his body as he knocked on the door. The tail end winds of the
storm showed no mercy as its thick fingers teased him, poking and prodding at
him just to watch him suffer a bit.
Distantly, through the deep fog of her much-needed sleep, Joimus thought she heard some sound, just enough to rouse her slightly. Deciding it was merely the wind blowing that branch of the apple tree against the kitchen window, she curled more deeply into Maximus' side, immediately drifting back into slumber.
Enough time had passed and East figured his wait at the door was futile. He fought his way back to the stable then the tack room. Finding the woman still sound asleep, he pulled up a chair close to her and sat down in vigil. He'd remain there until the storm passed and he could get help or until she woke. Whatever came first.