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Olivia Sullivan had no job, not even the remote prospect of a job, but she was holding her worries at bay by staying busy.
In the mornings she helped her friends finish floors, clean walls and sew curtains for the Harbor House. Windows gleamed. Potted flowers beckoned from the new porch and Jilly's new cafe was in final testing mode.
After almost two years of renovation work, their grand opening was set in three weeks.
So far Jilly had served up mouthwatering double-chocolate brownies, pistachio-raspberry scones and both regular and vegetarian BLTs with her signature chipotle mayonnaise. Once word got out, the cafe would be thronged with locals, Olivia knew. And in the spring the tourists would be close behind.
But the cafe had already become a money drain. As a busy, award-winning chef, Jilly needed a hightech kitchen, but the equipment upgrades had pushed the Harbor House's old pipes to the very limit. Jilly's husband, Walker, had done what he could to improve the plumbing, but a complete overhaul was the only answer.
And a complete overhaul would cost a fortune.
The yarn shop would take time and care to make a profit, too. Olivia planned to work there herself as often as possible, but she wouldn't take a salary until they were on better financial ground. So she needed a real job. And real jobs in architecture weren't falling off trees.
She shoved away the old sense of panic and focused on her current errand instead. She was on her second trip to the hardware store that day. The kitchen drains had backed up again.
Out to sea, gray clouds piled up over gunmetal water. Olivia had heard that a storm was headed inland early the next day, and she wanted all her errands done well before the bad weather hit. As a coastal native, Olivia knew that island storms could never be taken lightly. She had vivid childhood memories of blocked roads, mudslides and flooding along the coast.
As she parked at the main square across from the police station, Olivia waved to Tom Wilkinson, the county sheriff.
He crossed to her car, then leaned down with a tired smile. "Glad to see you back, Olivia. How are things up in Seattle?"
"Fine, Tom. Just fine. I'm glad to see you keeping everyone in line here on the island."
"I try. But these are changing times." He looked away and rubbed his neck as if it hurt. "So you won't be here long? Going back to Seattle next week?"
"Not right away. We've got loads of work yet to finish at the Harbor House. Our grand opening is right around the corner. I hope you'll be there."
"Couldn't keep me away. Especially if Jilly has BLTs and caramel latte macchiatos on the menu."
"You can count on it. She's been making up new recipes all week. You're going to like what she does with chocolate." Olivia found it easy to chat with this man who had been part of the town for three decades. With strangers she became awkward, searching for conversation, ultraselfconscious, but not with Tom. He never seemed to judge her or criticize the way her father's friends did.
"Has the mayor been by to see you yet?"
"No, but I haven't been home very much. Too busy at the Harbor House."
"He said he was looking for you. Wanted you to come over for dinner and drinks, I think."
Olivia was glad she had missed him. She had never felt comfortable with her father's old friend. The current mayor and his wife seemed fixated on the newest model of Italian sports car or the most fashionable jewelry designers in Seattle. Neither was Olivia's style. "I guess I should go." She held up a long handwritten list. "Walker Hale is counting on me to track down snakes and flappers."
"More kitchen leaks? It's a good thing that you have Walker to help out with the plumbing. Otherwise that old house could get very pricey." The sheriff looked back at the police station. "So you'll be around? Over at the Harbor House mostly?"
"If you want me, that's where you'll find me."
Olivia had a feeling that Tom was going to say something else, but he just nodded. "Better get your errands done soon. That storm looks like it may reach land earlier than predicted. My right knee is aching, so this could be a bad one." He straightened slowly. "I'll tell the mayor where you'll be."
Olivia hesitated and then shook her head. "Tom, would you mind not doing that? I
Well, I'm going to be busy all week. I really shouldn't take time off to socialize."
The sheriff raised an eyebrow. "No time for drinks and chitchat about the mayor's newest sports car?" He laughed dryly. "No problem. Your secret is safe with me. Now get going. The mayor's due across the street for a meeting with the town council any minute."
It was a small act of defiance, but Olivia was glad she had avoided an excruciating night of empty gossip and pointed personal questions. She didn't want to be rude to her father's friends, but she had nothing in common with them.
Frankly, none of her father's friends understood why she was so interested in saving the Harbor House. Several had told her that manual labor was unbecoming to someone in her social set.
Olivia wondered what social set that was. The jobless and nearly broke one?
The wind began to hiss as Olivia crossed the square beneath leaden skies streaked with angry black.
She had already been to the local hardware store half a dozen times in the past week. Right now she suspected the old Harbor House was their best customer, between paint and yard tools and plumbing supplies. The owner looked up and waved as she loaded her cart with washers and flappers and something called a plumbing snake. While she checked out, Olivia kept looking to the west, where the sky was ominously gray. The first drops of rain hit before she reached her car.
Hail followed, hammering her windshield as Olivia turned onto the coast road. It was times like this that she wished the town council had voted to broaden the road, but there had never been enough moneyand too many people wanted Summer Island left unchanged.
More hail struck the glass, and Olivia hunched forward, squinting to see the road. A driver in a small truck pulled closer, blared his horn and zoomed around her into the oncoming lane. She gripped the wheel tightly and let him pass. Even if he was a fool, she wouldn't be. A sharp turn lay just ahead.
That caution saved her life.
The driver in the truck hit his accelerator, trying to pass an oncoming SUV, but he was too late.
Olivia heard the awful whine of brakes as he skidded hard and struck the SUV. Both vehicles spun toward the ocean.
Rocks tumbled as the SUV skidded into the mud. Directly in front of her, Olivia saw a minivan with a school logo half buried in another mudslide. Two adults were at the doors, calming the frightened children.
But the stalled school minivan blocked the road.
There was no room in her lane. Olivia had to make a decision, and she had less than a second to do it. Otherwise she would hit the van.
Lights flickered in the oncoming lane. Olivia prayed she would make the right choice.
She hit her brights twice and turned left. Rain hammered down, and more mud washed off the inland hill. She saw the worried face of the school-bus driver as she passed. Olivia hoped they had called for help, but she didn't dare dig in her bag for her cell phone. She needed all her attention to keep from skidding.
Headlights loomed out of the sheeting rain. She heard the shrill cry of a siren as she yanked the wheel right, back into her lane. The siren grew louder.
A car shot out of the fog in front of her. With a sickening crunch, metal hit metal. Olivia felt her tires spin wildly and go into a skid.
She was going to die right here. Right in the middle of the coast highway. It just wasn't fair, because she hadn't even begun to live. She had responsibili- ties, friends that would miss her. And somewhere, there might be a man she could love
Olivia wanted to love someone. She wanted to feel strong arms around her at night and wake up to a warm body wrapped around hers.
Light exploded behind her eyes as something struck her hard from behind. The force of impact spun her car back into oncoming traffic.
Her head snapped forward and her shoulder slammed against the wheel. Through a haze of pain, she saw a police car cut across in front of her. Had she run into it?
The doors swung open and a man climbed out.
The siren seemed to come from everywhere, shrill and high. Lights flashed in front of Olivia's eyes, leaving her nauseous. Her shoulder was on fire and she couldn't seem to breathe.
Then she fell into a well of endless pain.
Olivia opened her eyes to searing torment at her neck and shoulder.
Someone was pounding on her car door, trying to get in.
She lifted her hand and even that tiny movement was excruciating. A blurry figure was pointing downward and jamming something into the window.
Olivia gritted her teeth, inched forward and gasped in pain as she managed to unlock the car door. When it opened, she almost plunged to the ground.
Strong arms caught her.
"Are you okay? That was a bad impact."
The words sounded blurry. They were swallowed up by the banging behind her eyes and the slam of her pulse.
"Need to get you out of this car."
Strong hands released her seat belt. With an odd sense of detachment, she felt the officer touch her neck, then pull back her hair. Searching for signs of trauma, Olivia guessed. If she remembered that, she hadn't lost all her faculties.
"Where does it hurt?"
"My neck. I hit my head." She shivered as rain struck her face. Then Olivia gave a broken laugh. "Everywhere hurts."
"Let's get you somewhere safe. I put up some flares to hold traffic. An ambulance should be here shortly." There was something comforting about his low, husky monotone. It made her feel he wasn't scared. As if he did this all the time, pulling people out of wrecked cars during a major coastal storm.
"Ready to go?"
Olivia half nodded. She tried to see his face, but it was raining too hard.
There was something else. Something about that voice
But her head was starting to throb and when he tried to lift her, something in her shoulder popped. A bone shifted and then ground against another joint.
She screamed at the sudden, blinding pain.
Dimly she felt him lean her back against the seat.
He crouched beside her and touched her forehead. "You've got a dislocated shoulder. I heard that joint give way and I can see its position. I can set it back into place, and since I don't know how long that ambulance is going to take, I think that would be bestif you agree."
Olivia could barely understand him. Every fiber of her being was screaming madly from the pain in her shoulder.
"Do you understand? It's going to hurt, but you'll feel better. Nod if you hear me and if you agree."
Olivia locked her jaw and managed one sharp nod of assent.
She hadn't known it was possible to feel pain like this. It wiped out all her sanity and logic. She had to make it end.
"Do whatever. Just do it now. Make it s-stop."
"We'll get you through this." He leaned closer, his chest against hers. He pulled off her scarf and opened the top of her sweater, touching her shoulder.
Olivia realized he was being as gentle as he could, taking time.
She didn't want him to be gentle. "Just do it. Do it now. Whatever it takes."
"Okay." One strong arm slid around her back and his other hand locked. "This is some heck of a storm. They said to expect rain, but who knew the hillside would collapse. If there's one thing I hate"
Olivia's mind was screaming for him to stop talking and make the pain go away. But she was following his words, slipping in and out of consciousness as he rotated her arm and then raised it, holding its position tightly. He was gentle, but the pain was excruciating, bone slipping against bone. Olivia gasped and passed out.