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by Linda Mooney
Category: Erotica/Erotic Science Fiction/Romance
Description: Miranda Sayers's only friend is her wheelchair. It has been her refuge and her escape mechanism for most of her twenty-six years. But the time has come when her grandmother can no longer help take care of her. Now Randi is faced with having to survive on her own, and unfortunately that future doesn't look promising. Collin First's job on Earth is to find the Ducts between his world and this one. As an Extinguisher, he has to eliminate those passageways before any of the dangerous creatures from Sandeflay can pass through and harm any humans. The last thing he expected when he took the assignment was to find the beautiful, crippled woman living one floor below his apartment. Before either of them can contend with the impossibility of their relationship, Randi and Collin are thrown together, seeking each other's love and help. And when circumstances force Randi to follow Collin to Sandeflay, the greatest miracle of all awaits them both.
eBook Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press, 2008
eBookwise Release Date: August 2008
206 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [540 KB]
Reading time: 348-487 min.
"Let me tell you, the shocks and wows in this book are outstanding. Sandeflay sounds like a place I would love to visit or even live. This book is full of life and the people are wonderfully real. Collin is hunk and in a few paragraphs you fall for him hard. Randi is a strong woman, and when she finds that place inside her, the one that she hid years ago, that lady is one that is so easy to like and in time you cheer for her and Collin. Especially when Linda throws one more extra surprise into the mix. Great book, a definite keeper.--Grade A"_Reviewed by Melisa, Simply Romance Reviews A Simply Romance Reviews
OUTSTANDING READ!"Ms. Mooney doesn't shy away from the issue of a relationship between a paraplegic and a handsome stud. Instead she lets the story grow with it. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Sandeflay. It parallels our world but some things are so much more advanced just as some things seem primitive in an exotic kind of way. I'm thrilled that I couldn't predict how this author would work things out. Just when I thought I'd guessed the path she would take she'd veer off on a side path that was much better than the simple storyline I'd envisioned. This story is rich in characters, love, eroticism and beautiful fantasy. Linda Mooney has done an excellent job of penning a story that will be fun for anyone who likes to get lost in a great book.--5 Hearts!"_Dee Dailey, The Romance Studio
Miranda Sayers felt the jolt rip up her back straight into her neck. Her head snapped forward in a whiplash motion. Giving a little shriek of pain, she grabbed the arms of the wheelchair and prayed she didn't topple over.
"Oh, shit! Randi!" The bus driver reached to catch her just before she went head-first onto the sidewalk. The bag of groceries she had been carrying in her lap flew outward, throwing fruit and cans and cartons in every direction.
Randi cried out again as the front wheels hit the concrete and bounced. Her feet fell off of the footplates, and at any moment she knew they would become trapped underneath the assembly. She panicked as she tensed, anticipating the mangling her calves and feet would take.
"My feet! My feet!"
The malfunctioning lift continued to rise. Like a horror movie in slow motion, she saw herself in the wheelchair going over the edge of the platform. Screaming again, she threw her arms around her face and head, hoping to protect them.
A form suddenly appeared in front of her. Long muscled arms scooped her up just as the chair finished its swan dive, crashing handgrips first against the curb. There was a screeching sound of stressed metal, and then silence.
Tremors left her gasping for air as she clutched the navy blue t-shirt, afraid to let go for fear of finishing her fall. Afraid that the resulting pain would only add to the agony she already had to suffer and would continue to for the rest of her life. The leather-clad arms clutched her tighter against the shirted chest. Somewhere above her head she could hear someone trying to calm her, soothe her racing heart, and settle her trembling that was slowly lessening.
"You're going to be okay, Miss. I got you. Disaster averted."
Slowly she managed to open her eyes. Mr. Westerfield's pale face swam into view. Seeing that she was watching him, the older man shook his head in apology.
"They told me they'd fixed the damn lift. I'm so sorry, Randi. Are you okay? Say something, sugar!"
The man was terrified for her. She could see it in his eyes and in the sweat beaded on his forehead. Mr. Westerfield was a good man. He often made it a point to make sure that whenever she had an errand to run, he would personally take her into her apartment building, right up to the front door, even though he wasn't required to help any of his passengers in that respect.
He had warned her when he'd picked her up earlier that afternoon that the lift had been giving him trouble lately. "Just hold on tight, just in case it starts to act up again," he told her as she rose to his chest level before backing into the special handicap bus for the short ride to the grocery store. If Granny Mae had been with her, the elderly woman would have shoveled her into the front seat of her old Chevy station wagon. But with Granny Mae gone now...
She swallowed, or tried to. Her throat was still constricted and dry. There was no spit left in her. "I-I'm okay." Lifting her face, she started to thank the man whose arms continued to cradle her, when she caught sight of who it was. "Uhh..."
Hazel eyes smiled down at her. "You sure you're not hurt? You looked like you were shaken up pretty rough there," the voice gently inquired.
His was a baritone voice, bordering on a velvet bass. In the past three months since the man had moved into the apartment directly over hers she'd only seen him less than a dozen times, but each time he had spoken to her. They were mostly polite words like "good evening" or "good morning." Once he had wished her to, "Have a good one today," and all in that nice chocolate-sweet voice she wished she could roll herself up in. Nuts and whipped cream optional.
His face wasn't extraordinarily handsome, but it was arresting. Today a day's dark growth covered his cheeks, chin, and upper lip. Along with a head of short, dark curls, he looked like he had just stepped out of the pages of a men's catalog or outdoor magazine.
"Uhh..." Taking a deep breath, Randi started to shake her head. A sliver of pain reached into her brain and pinched hard at the temples. Hissing, she winced and lifted a hand to her forehead.
"Maybe you ought to go to the emergency room," that succulent voice suggested.
"No, no," she quickly objected. "Please. Just let me go in. Please."
"Are you sure?" Mr. Westerfield moved closer and placed a hand on her shoulder. "You took a bad tumble."
"Is her chair usable?" the man asked, nodding with his head at the wheelchair lying upside-down nearby.
Randi watched as the bus driver righted the seat, giving it a little shake as he checked it for damage. "Seems to be in working order," the man proclaimed.
Before she could make a comment, she felt herself being lowered into the seat. Almost immediately, she missed the feel of his warmth that had surrounded her. That sense of security that had enveloped her as real and as solid as a blanket was gone. A tremor went through her as she watched her upstairs neighbor pull back and hook his thumbs in the pockets of his jeans; large, strong-looking hands that had touched her legs and waist. Hands she couldn't feel, neither their pressure nor their heat. And never would, a tiny voice reminded her, not when there wasn't a single nerve left in her lower body that could react or respond to anyone's touch.
Mr. Westerfield took the handgrips and proceeded to push her into the apartment building. Mr. Chocolate Voice held the door open. As the caster wheels bumped slightly over the threshold, the movement awakened another fresh jolt of pain. She didn't know she had made a sound until the bus driver bent over her with another searching look.
"Randi, maybe that fall threw something out of whack in your back again. Maybe I need to take you over to Saint Lazarus Hospital, just to be on the safe side, you know?"
"I'll be okay, Mr. Westerfield. I promise. A couple of my painkillers and I'll be good as new," she tried to assure him.
"Listen. I'll check up on her and make sure she's doing okay," her neighbor suggested. Randi stared up at him in surprise. She received another shock when he grinned down at her and winked. "If she starts looking like she needs medical help, I'll rush her over to the hospital."
Mr. Westerfield squinted at the stranger who had voluntarily given aide. It took him all of two seconds to make up his mind. Giving the man a nod, the bus driver replied, "Appreciate the offer, Mr...."
"Collin First." The man held out a hand, which Mr. Westerfield shook. "I have the apartment right above Miss Sayers."
The remark seemed to add credibility. Faded blue eyes then turned to Randi. "You okay with that, Randi?"
"Yeah. Sure. But I'll be fine. He won't have to bother himself." She tried to sound confident but wasn't sure how well she had pulled it off. Her head was throbbing now. It was taking everything in her not to show them how much pain she was in. There was only so much pity she could take, especially in front of a man she least wanted to appear fragile and vulnerable to.
The torn bag was set in her lap. It was evident the bananas were bruised, as well as the apples. But at least she had all of her groceries back. Randi sighed at the meager amount she would have to make last for the next week.
"Thank you again, Mr. Westerfield. Next Tuesday?"
"Two o'clock," the man promised with a grin. "You sure you're going to be all right?"
"I'll be fine. See you Tuesday." Grabbing the handrims, she started for the lift that would take her up to her second floor apartment. Mr. First was there ahead of her to punch the up button.
Silently they entered the tiny compartment. Because the elevator was so small, she didn't have room to turn her chair around, which was a blessing this time. Mr. Hero remained by the doors on the short ride up. As soon as the doors opened, Randi backed out expertly and wheeled down the hallway to 2A. She started to insert her key into the lock when another twinge of pain momentarily blinded her, and she fumbled, missing the keyhole.
A large, strong hand gently took the key from her trembling fingers and opened the door for her. He helped push her inside, continuing into the main living area before he released the handgrips.
Before she could ask him to leave, she heard him walk over to the light switch. Randi said a quick prayer that the electricity hadn't been turned off yet. To her immense relief, the overhead bulb came on, throwing a pale glow throughout the room.
Not yet, the little voice inside her head murmured thankfully. But soon, she reminded it. Any time now; any day now. When the electric company said they were going to cut a person off, they didn't kid around.
"Where do you keep your medication?"
Randi wheeled around to see the man glancing down the narrow hallway that led to the back bedrooms. He looked over at her. "Are they in the bedroom or the bathroom?"
"B-bedroom," she managed to stutter. "First bedroom."
He vanished from sight. Rather than wait for him, she proceeded into the kitchen to place her foodstuff on the dining table. There wasn't much, but by the time she put the quart of milk in the refrigerator and closed the door, and turned to stuff the sack in the trash can, he was standing in the doorway watching her. Their eyes locked. The expression on his face was unreadable, but Randi could feel her nervousness increase with every passing second. The room was quiet to the point where she could hear her own breathing like giant bellows echoing in the silence. Finally, the man held up a familiar bottle.
"I found the painkillers. Label says to take one every four hours as needed for pain." He held out the bottle, which she took. Touching his hand was like having a vibrant presence mock her condition. He was everything she would never be--strong, self-reliant, and able to walk on his own two feet.
There he stood, confident and able, and obviously in prime condition. The old brown leather jacket only emphasized the wide, developed shoulders. The faded jeans with the threadbare knees had to be butter soft to the touch. The boots were scuffed. The man definitely was not the indoors, stay-at-home or stuck-in-the-office type. Even his face bore testimony he had been in his share of close calls, if the little bump on the bridge of his nose and the thin white scar running through his left eyebrow was any indication.
Collin First was a man's man--rugged, independent, and disastrously good-looking. Enjoy the view while you can. She managed to add a weak smile to her thanks.
"From the look of it, it seems your apartment and mine are identical in layout, except I sleep in the far bedroom." He cocked his head at her. "Don't you live here with your grandmother?"
She nodded slightly. "Well, yes and no. The lease is still in Granny Mae's name, but she had to go into the nursing home in September. She ... she's not in good health."
"Sorry to hear that."
Oddly, he honestly sounded regretful.
"So you've been living here alone for the past month? Month and a half?"
"Yeah." Randi managed a shrug. "But Granny Mae's been sick before. I manage."
Another minute of uneasy silence followed. She kept her eyes locked on the cylinder of medicine in her hand. "Mr. First, I want to thank you for saving me out there," she began. Conflicting emotions were tugging at her, both of them pulling with equal strength. She didn't want the man to leave. At least not right now. It was like an opportunity had opened a door for her. A chance to talk to someone who would listen and maybe provide her with a bit of company.
Yet, on the other hand, the man was a stranger. She didn't know anything about him. Not a thing. Not where he worked or what kind of car he drove. The most she could swear by was the fact that neither she nor her grandmother had ever heard any kind of noise coming from overhead, which meant the man was quiet. Neither had they seen anyone come and go from the man's apartment other than himself. If he had a girlfriend, they rendezvoused at her place, or elsewhere. She hadn't even known his name until fifteen minutes ago.
"Call me Collin," he offered before checking his wristwatch. "And you don't have to thank me. I'm glad I was able to help. Oh, crap. Hey, I hate to do this, but if I don't leave I'll be late for an appointment. Look, are you sure you're going to be okay?"
Holding up the bottle of painkillers, she flashed him another smile. "I'll be out like a light in half an hour."
"Well, if you need something bang on the ceiling, okay? You got a broom handle you can use?"
"I'll be fine," she repeated. "But if I run into something I can't handle by myself, I'll pound on the ceiling for you."
Collin gave her a grin that was equal parts relief and sincerity. "Good girl. Okay. Well, I'll drop by in the morning just to make sure you didn't fall into a coma or anything. See you then, Miss Sayers."
"Randi," she called to his departing figure.
"Got it! Randi!" he yelled back, and a moment later the front door closed.
Five minutes later the electricity went out as well. * * * *