Saving Dandy James
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by Shelly Gail Morris
Description: Small town wife and mother Dandy James has never known happiness or real love, and is shocked to find both at the foot of a ravine in a mangled Mercedes. The beautiful stranger inside evokes novel feelings of passion, and forces her to consider just how much she's given up in the name of security.
Wealthy land developer Colin Kessler has led a lonely life muddling through the daily motions of his demanding career and the unfulfilling nights of sexual promiscuity. When he meets Dandy, he knows she is his angel, sent directly from heaven to rescue him.
Dandy must stand up to her abusive husband and fight to keep what is rightfully hers. Colin admits his family life is a disaster and vows to address all the problems he's ignored for years. Can they both right wrongs and still survive to share the deep love they share they've found for one another?
eBook Publisher: Zumaya Publications/Zumaya Embraces, 2010 2010
eBookwise Release Date: April 2010
2 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [346 KB]
Reading time: 216-302 min.
Dandy gripped the steering wheel as her heart pounded. This did not look good.
Why? Why did she decide to run to the market for a silly magazine? She'd seen the dark clouds drifting toward her neck of the woods, and heard the deep rumbling of the storm approaching. In springtime, when the rains were heavy, thick patches of slick mud coated the worn concrete roads--she knew this well.
But with Patsy Cline crooning on the truck's old cassette player she'd sung along, enjoying the beginnings of the downpour. Running into Adele's Mart, the cool rain had felt delightful on her skin. She'd actually giggled.
Nothing was amusing now. Tennessee rains could be dangerous, and as the seven-mile journey home loomed before her, she started to sweat. It seemed like she'd driven directly into a typhoon.
The windshield wipers had little effect as heavy rain pounded the glass. The skies were a deep gray and it was only four o'clock. She bit her lip hard. It had been utterly foolish of her to leave the comfort of home with the impending storm and for such a ridiculous reason. Had she lost her mind completely?
She noticed two red taillights ahead of her in the distance. Thank heavens. She could follow them and hope the driver could see the road a little more clearly and guide her in the right direction.
She sped up, thankful for the coincidence. Although she'd lived here all her life, she'd lost track of exactly where she was, and there were ravines all along the edges of this tiny two-lane road that led nowhere. And what in the world was such a puny car doing way out here?
Suddenly, lightning flashed. A tree to the left of the road went up in flames, and the tiny car plummeted into a ditch. Dandy stiffened and slammed her foot on the brake. The back of the truck spun around on the slick surface, completely out of control. She kept her foot on the brake and prayed the old piece of shit would just stop.
The tires squealed. A scream burned her ears, and her throat dried out in an instant. Her stomach knotted as terror coursed through her. Finally, the world stopped spinning, and the steering wheel was the only thing she could focus on.
Glancing up, she saw that an oak tree had split in two, although only a few flames now trickled upward as the heavy downpour extinguished the blaze. Her heart shook her chest and she exhaled, struggling to catch her breath. She leaned back in the seat, put the truck into park and began to cry. Thank you, Lord.
She closed her eyes then opened them again. Through her tears, she saw the taillights in the ditch beside her. Oh, my God, the puny car. Someone was trapped, probably injured. What should I do? She had to get down there--and fast.
Inching the truck out of the middle of the road and over onto the far edge of the shoulder, she tried to be calm and think clearly. Thunder boomed. She turned off the engine and stared through the rain at the vehicle in the ditch. What was she going to find?
She'd never been brave, and the sight of blood made her sick, even when it belonged to the livestock. Ben had called her a pathetic coward too many times for her not to believe it.
She wiped the fog off the windshield and looked up and down the winding road. No one was coming. It wasn't a well-traveled road, and especially not on a day like today. It was purely up to her to help whoever was in that car.
She grasped the door handle. This was going to change her. She could feel it. At thirty-eight, Dandy James was finally going to grow up.
She took one final breath and darted out into the storm. Her feet were unsteady as the immense downpour drenched her. Flashes of alabaster lightning lit her way as she headed down the embankment. Suddenly, her feet slipped out from under her, and she fell hard on her backside, sliding right up to the passenger's side of the car.
Ignoring the pain, she stood and confronted a fancy Mercedes. The airbag was inflated, filling up the interior and coating it with white powder. She rushed to the driver's side and pounded on the window. There was a spattering of blood on the glass.
"Hello!" she shouted. "Are you okay?"
There was no movement. She tried to open the door, but it was jammed, so she dashed to the passenger's side, flung the door open and climbed in. There was a man, unconscious, still belted in, his head resting on the airbag as it slowly deflated. Dandy took his face in her hands. He opened his eyes, and despite the darkness, she could see he was struggling for breath.
Leaning over, she placed her mouth on his and started giving him mouth-to-mouth-resuscitation. His emerald eyes were red and swollen, and she could almost feel his agony.
She blew air into his mouth and prayed. After a few minutes, when she pulled her mouth away, he gasped, and she watched with relief as the color returned to his pale face.
"Are ya hurt bad?"
He gripped her hand. "Don't leave me," he whispered, and then his chin slowly sank to his chest and he passed out.
A clap of thunder shook the small car. Dandy felt tears of fright flowing down her cheeks. What was she supposed to do now? She glanced out the window as flashes of lightning lit up the dark countryside. I should go get help. I should.
Pain centered in her chest. He'd told her to stay. She did what she was told--always. She studied him. He seemed to be breathing with ease now, but his legs looked crammed up under the steering wheel and she wondered if he was trapped. She turned so her back was toward the windshield and sat on the center console. Blood oozed from his nose. She swallowed the lump in her throat and wiped the blood away with the sleeve of her jean jacket.
She touched his dark hair. It was tousled and slightly long. The strands were soft beneath her fingers. She ran her hand over his cheek. It was smooth, clean-shaven. He was a pampered man, for sure. His neck was thick and muscular. He was wearing a suit and tie. She loosened the tie and the top few buttons of his shirt. She caught a sweet musky scent, unlike anything she'd ever smelled on Ben. If she'd been standing, it would have made her knees weak.
He was good-looking, like one of the celebrities she watched on television or one of the cowboys she saw on the Rodeo Channel, but he looked more like the executive type than the rugged type. She didn't want him to die, not now.
Suddenly, he squeezed her other hand, and she remembered he was still holding on to her. She stared at their entwined fingers. They looked so comfortable and natural that way. She didn't know him at all, but for some reason, she liked him.
She caressed his hand. "Don't die," she cried.
With the rain beating down and her body growing cold, she found herself trying to remember when was the last time anyone had held her hand. Ben didn't hold her hand, never had. They hadn't even made love in many years. She'd given him a son and a farm--her job was done. Perry was eighteen now and probably hadn't held her hand since he was six.
She pressed her lips together. Her mother had held her hand four years ago, as she died in the cottage. Yep, that was it--the last time anyone had grasped her hand. Yet, this stranger's touch provided her with a feeling of warmth, like maybe everything would be alright, like maybe people still held one another for support and comfort. She prayed her hand gave him the same assurance.
Suddenly, she heard a crashing sound and turned to see her truck rolling down the hill behind them, landing on its side then flipping over, the wheels spinning.
"What?" the man said, lifting his head. "What happened?"
"My truck," Dandy began. "It just slipped down the embankment 'cause of the mud."
"Shit, my legs," he groaned, squeezing her hand tighter as lightning and thunder cracked the sky.
"What can I do to help you?" she asked, feeling that all-too-familiar uselessness. "I have to get you out."
He turned to her and spoke, his voice soft. "You breathed life into me. You're my angel."
Dandy was stunned. She'd never had a man speak so tenderly to her. His words warmed her, and unconsciously, she squeezed his hand.
He smiled weakly. "There's a cell phone in the briefcase in my trunk. It's coming down too hard right now, but when it eases up, you could get that."
"I'll get it now."
"No. It's too dangerous."
Dandy tilted her head and smiled a bit. "You hush up. You need medical attention pronto." With regret, she released his hand. "How do you get your trunk open?"
"There's a latch on my left, but I think my left arm is broken."
Dandy leaned across him and pressed the button his window down, grateful that the accident hadn't damaged the electrical system. She jumped out, dashed around the car and leaned in the window, located the trunk latch and pulled it. Nothing happened.
The front of the car was at such an awkward slant it was difficult to get back out of the window. Her feet sank into the mud as she took in the man's battered face. The wretched pain on it tore at her heart.
I have to get him out.
She leaned in again and fumbled beneath the airbag. Her hands were slippery, and the muscles in her arms tensed as she pulled and yanked at the latch. Her feet were unsteady. She felt clumsy and useless. With horror, she realized the dashboard practically rested on his lap.
His eyes met hers. "It's no use."
She heard the despair in his voice. "Don't worry. Maybe I can pry the trunk open." She straightened and looked around for a stick. All she could see was water, more water and mud. She hurried back around the car and climbed inside. "Can I get into the trunk from here?"
"Not that I know of," he said, turning his head slightly.
She dove into the back seat and checked for a way to gain entrance to the truck, but there wasn't any. She crawled back to the passenger's seat, pulled her jacket off and wiped the rain from his face. The deflated air bag covered the steering wheel. She laid her jacket over it.
"Oh, my legs," he groaned. " I can't stand it. Talk to me. What's your name?"
"Dandy," she murmured.
"That's a nice name. Different."
"When I was born, my daddy saw me in my mama's arms and declared I was a fine and dandy young'un. My mama said she knew right then that I was meant to be called Dandy." She pressed her lips together, trying not to think about her father.
The man winced in pain.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to run on."
He let out a slow moan. "No, you have a lovely voice. I could almost picture that happy scene. I'm pleased to meet you, Dandy. I'm Colin Kessler. How..." He took a slow breath and continued. "How did I get so lucky as to have an angel like you find me?"
"Lucky?" Dandy repeated. "You've gotta be kidding. What are you doing out in this neck of the woods?"
"I'm a builder, and my corporation is always looking for scenic spots for new developments and golf courses. An agent contacted us about some land that was going on the market this fall." He pressed his lips together. "I was just checking out the view."
"Not a good day for that. Me and my husband own a farm nearby."
"Were you on your way somewhere important?"
She felt a tinge of embarrassment. "It's stupid," she replied, shaking her head.
He grasped her hand again. "Distract me from this misery, or I think I'll start screaming," he told her in a shaky voice.
"Oh, you poor thing. I'm so sorry for you."
"Tell me about yourself, Dandy. Why were you out on such a night?"
"Well..." She paused. "The new People magazine comes to Adele's Mart on Saturdays. I like to pick one up every now and then. Sometimes I get to feeling a little out of touch. I like to read about all the exciting things that happen in the rest of the world." She gazed at him, and he smiled. "Nothing much ever happens out here." He coughed a few times, and her heart ached for him. "Let me try and get to the Harrison's place. I know it's near."
His eyes locked on hers with an intense urgency. "Don't leave me."
"Are you sure?" she asked, caressing their entwined hands again with her free one. "I need to get help."
"Don't go. I need you. I need your voice," he said in a broken whisper.
Her chin began to quiver. "I'm frightened," she admitted.
He tried to lean his head back on the head rest, closed his eyes and tightened his fingers around hers. "Me, too. You can't drive in that."
"My truck slid down the hill," she reminded him.
"Oh, yeah. I think I remember that. Well, you most definitely are not going out on foot."
Dandy exhaled. "I wish I had a cell phone. My son has one."
"Tell me about your son," Colin suggested, without opening his eyes.
"Perry's a good boy, helps Ben a lot." She racked her brain. They weren't close. "He travels around competing in rodeos--he wins the blue ribbon in calf-roping almost every time."
"Do you go with him?"
Dandy shook her head. "Oh, no. They don't want me around. I'd just be in the way. I stay home and tend to Lilly Bell and the other horses we board. I keep up the yard around the house and do a little gardening."
"Lilly Bell?" he asked.
"She's my old mare. A gentle sweetheart."
"What do you grow in your garden?"
"Tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins and stuff. I make a mean hot salsa."
"I'd like to try it someday. Will your husband come looking for you?" he asked, sounding hopeful.
"They're both in Texas right now--another big rodeo. I'm afraid I won't be missed by anyone. What about you? Will your wife call out the authorities?"
He raised his head and opened his eyes. "I'm up from Chattanooga, and I was planning to stay the night. Bridgett is probably whooping it up with her friends."
She detected a twinge of sorrow in his voice. A man with such a compassionate voice should be missed, cherished. "Do you have any children?"
"Two girls. Megan is fourteen and Celia is seventeen."
"Little girls are so precious."
"Just one son?" Colin asked.
She took a slow, deep breath and thought hard about her answer. Colin was a stranger to these parts.
"No. A long time ago..." She stopped mid-sentence, rubbed her forehead and changed direction. "It's been a joy raising Perry. When I had him it was the best day of my life. Three days after he was born, I spiked a temperature of one hundred and five degrees and had to be rushed to Grady General for an emergency hysterectomy. I'd always dreamed of a house full of children. That was the worst day of my life." She gave a little snort. "And believe me the Worst Day of My Life Award had a lot of competition.
"I think Doc Wallace caused the infection. He was three sheets to the wind when he delivered Perry. Anyhow, what's done is done."
Colin caressed her fingers. "I'm so sorry."
Dandy was wholeheartedly embarrassed. "Oh, I don't know why I gave you that whole sob story. It must be this storm. It's thrown me for a loop."
"You have every right to be upset about that. You should have sued the pants off that guy. What did your husband do? Wasn't he furious?"
"He and Doc go way back. He'd never admit his good buddy did anything wrong. It would be my fault before his."
"You didn't deserve..." He broke off, and his eyes began to flutter. He fell gently forward onto the steering wheel to rest on her jacket.
Tears choked Dandy, and she sobbed uncontrollably. She released his hand, crossed her arms over her stomach and rocked back and forth. He'd fainted.
"Oh, Jesus," she cried. He has to be okay. He's so kind and considerate, and he asks thoughtful questions. Why am I telling him my life story? Why am I burdening him with old painful memories? He's a stranger, yet it doesn't feel that way. Am I that desperate for companionship? What the hell is wrong with me? And how--how--am I ever going to get us out of this nightmare?