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Julie was almost home when the sky opened up and released a torrent of rain, so thick it was blinding. She tapped on the brakes and slowed her PT Cruiser down. The winding road to her place was crudely paved, like a lot of country roads in the area. The shoulder of the road was nothing but a river of mud sliding over the slight embankment down into the retention ponds on both sides. She was aware that if she drifted over the line in these conditions she could easily end up in the water. Sheâ€™d seen it happen before.
Arriving at the last sharp corner before her house, she slowed even more. A large oak tree growing too close to the road provided a blind spot. She didnâ€™t want to take any chances that someone wasnâ€™t coming from the other direction, driving down the middle of the road to avoid the excess water. Just as she turned the corner a dark, blurry something in the road caused her to slam on the brakes.
"Holy crap!" Her car skidded to a halt. She hadnâ€™t felt any thump and knew she had managed to stop in time. Thoughts of Harriet, the old pond turtle, immediately came to mind. Sheâ€™d been around for as long as Julie could remember, and was often seen crossing the road from one pond to the other.
Julie sat there for a moment and watched the rain splash against her windshield. At least her car was getting a good wash. She scooted up and tried to see over the hood but the rain impeded her vision. And her windows were fogging quickly. The only thing left to do was wait and give Harriet time to cross the street.
A flash in her rear-view mirror drew her attention. The light coming down the road indicated someone was moving up behind her. The fact that it was a single light confirmed it was a motorcycle, and it had to be her hunky new neighbour, the cop. Heâ€™d moved in a couple of weeks before. Julie hadnâ€™t had the chance to take him a welcome basket yet, so the only thing she knew about him was that his name was Thomas Reevers. As he got closer, she realised he might try to go around her.
"Dang it!" Julie became concerned about Harriet. She couldnâ€™t just sit there and let her get run over. It wouldnâ€™t be the first time sheâ€™d had to rescue her in perilous conditions.
She quickly opened her door and got out. She was drenched before sheâ€™d even shut the door. Turning, she held her hand out and screamed, "Stop! Stop!" She couldnâ€™t see who it was behind the visor, but her message got across because he slowed to a gradual stop. Julie rushed to the front of the car and glanced down. Harriet was moving like a snail, oblivious to the danger she was in.
Julie picked her up and slowly walked across the road with the intention of putting her down on the shoulder, and nudging her in the direction of the pond. As soon as she stepped onto the somewhat slimy shoulder she went down hard, releasing a high-pitched scream and just managing to hold on to Harriet. Landing on her back, Julie felt mud and water soak through her clothes. With the wind knocked out of her, she set the turtle down and remained where she was until she could catch her breath.
"Are you all right?"
She glanced straight up to see the motorcycle rider standing over her. It was hard to tell from her position, but he appeared tall and well-built. His jeans were soaked, revealing thick thighs. His brown, bomber-style leather jacket glistened and looked old. His black helmet hid his features from the neck up.