Pine Mountain # 4
By: Kimberly Kincaid
Releasing February 3rd, 2015
IF YOU CAN’T STAND THE HEAT…
Teagan O’Malley can handle a crisis. She’s a paramedic, it’s her job. But she never expected to land in the kitchen of her father’s pub, with no notice, no cash, and no room for error. The kitchen is not her favorite place. Lucky for her, she just scraped a bad-boy chef off the pavement after a motorcycle accident—and something about him says he can turn up the heat in more ways than one.
Adrian Holt has had a rough few years, and he’s not eager to get tangled up in anything more complicated than a good risotto. But with a broken arm and a head full of bad memories, he needs a challenge to keep him sane. Teagan’s dare-me attitude and smoldering mess of a bar are just what the doctor ordered. And the two of them together might cook up some even better medicine…
Teagan shouldered her first-in bag and jumped out of the rig, her boots barely making contact with the pavement before one of the cops securing the scene had fallen into step beside her. “Morning, Officer. What’ve we got?”
Although her eyes were locked in on the scene about thirty yards away—which was thankfully blocked from incoming traffic by a pair of police cruisers—Teagan’s attention was just as sharply focused on the cop’s response.
“Motorcycle versus minivan. Motorcycle driver is over there, single rider, wearing a helmet. Denies losing consciousness, no visible head injury, but he’s combative and complaining of left arm pain. I’ve got an officer on him now, just to make sure he didn’t fly before you got here. He’s going to be a handful.”
“Oh goodie. I eat those for breakfast,” Teagan said, moving swiftly past the barricade. “How about vehicle two?”
The officer tipped his chin at a dark green Honda Odyssey sitting halfway on the shoulder of the road, hazard lights flashing in perfect orange rhythm. “Minivan driver has her two kids in the backseat, all parties belted in. Everyone appears stable with no visible injuries, no complaints of pain. Scene is secure. Just let us know what you need.”
“Got it, thanks.” She swung her gaze at Evan before letting it land on the Honda. “You want the minivan before the cops take her report? I’m grabbing Chris and Jeff from Seven to help nail down this single rider and make sure he’s stable for transport.”
Evan shook his head and shot her a wry grin. “I know you owe me, but I can take the cranky biker.”
As if on cue, strains of a heated altercation filtered past the scene noise, pulling a sardonic laugh from Teagan’s throat. “Call it even for the fridge. I’ve got this.”
He turned with a shrug toward the nearby minivan. “You’re a glutton for punishment, O’Malley.”
Understatement of the frickin’ year.
Teagan called for the two firefighters before turning her attention toward her patient, who stood arguing with one of Pine Mountain’s finest in the middle of the road in spite of the fact that she was certain he’d seen better days.
Holy big-man-on-a-stick, this might be more than she’d bargained for.
Even though his back was half-turned and she was a good ten paces away, the guy was obviously huge, and from the sound of it, he was no stranger to being righteously pissed off. Still, the unmistakable edge of pain bled through his tone as clear as sunrise over Big Gap Lake, and the way he clutched his left arm at such an awkward angle against his body told her all she needed to know. Pissed off or not, she was getting her hands on him, pronto.
“Hey, Chris, run and grab the backboard from the rig and roll the cot over here, yeah? Jeff, you’re with me for trauma assessment. I get the feeling it’s going to be an adventure.” She lasered her focus from her crew to the injured man without breaking stride or waiting for answers.
Time to get to work.
“Sorry to interrupt, gentlemen, but I heard this is where the party is.” Without a second thought, Teagan slipped into the hairbreadth of space between the cop and her irritated patient, assessing the latter with a critical eye. Her subconscious gave a whisper of recognition as she looked at his rugged, stubbled face, but the tickle of familiarity took a backseat to the visual assessment she needed to do in order to gauge his injuries.
The guy had nearly a foot on her, which was pretty freaking impressive considering she measured in at five foot- seven. The physique that went with his height left impressive in the dust, though, especially since his chest was as thick as a double-wide trailer and every ounce of it appeared to be muscle.
Make that leather-clad muscle, which had probably saved his ass, quite literally. As best she could tell, thanks to his now-banged-up jacket, the guy’s road rash appeared shockingly minimal, although she’d have to get the garment off to be sure.
Too bad the rest of his injuries didn’t match, namely that arm he was cradling like a helpless newborn. She didn’t even want to get started on the laundry list of other injuries that could be lurking beneath the dirt-streaked denim and leather.
She passed the first-in bag to Jeff, who caught it without looking while the police officer stepped to the background to give them a wide berth.
“My name is Teagan O’Malley, and I’m a paramedic with Pine Mountain Fire and Rescue,” she said, her hands a flurry of movement as she geared up to do a rapid trauma assessment. “Can you tell me your name?”
The guy lifted a pierced eyebrow toward his spiky platinum hairline and speared her with a stare caught somewhere between hazel and cold gray. God, how did she know him?
“I’m fine,” he ground out, his voice pure gravel and aggravation. “Which I already told that fucking jarhead, but he wouldn’t let me leave.”
Yeah. It was going to take a little more than a bad attitude and some uncut testosterone to get her to back down. “That fucking jarhead, as you so eloquently put it, might’ve saved your life by keeping you here until you can be medically cleared. While I doubt there’s a gift registry for that kind of thing, a simple thank you might be nice. Just to be on the safe side.”
Her would-be patient took a step back, his stare going from cutting to calculating in the span of a breath. “I don’t need to be medically cleared,” he said, although it didn’t escape her notice that he caught the cop’s attention to toss him a tight nod.
Teagan bit back the temptation to point out that, from the looks of things, he was a walking, talking version of the game Operation with that arm bent up like it was. “Okay. Why don’t you let me give you a quick once-over to be sure?”
“No.” The word fell between them without subtlety, and she drew back with a frown. The tough guy routine was cute really, but nobody was indestructible.
“Look, I know this isn’t fun, but it’s necessary, so—”
“If you think I’m getting in that ambulance, then you don’t know shit.”
Jeff locked eyes on her in a nonverbal communication of say the word, but Teagan gave a quick shake of her head. She’d handled enough tough guys to fill a stadium, and this one was no different.
She craned her neck and stepped close enough to see the numerous abrasions peppered in with the guy’s dark stubble, meeting his stare head-on even though it sent an involuntary shiver down the plumb line of her spine.
“Let me tell you what I do know.” She dropped her voice to just a notch above a whisper and threw on a smile as thick and sweet as store-bought frosting. “I know your arm is broken, and I think you know it, too. I know you don’t want me to look at it even though it hurts like a bitch. And I also know that’s not an option, because it’s possible that broken arm is the least of your worries. So here it is. You can either cooperate with me and we’ll do this the easy way, or I can sedate you and work you over so thoroughly, I’ll be on a first-name basis with every last part of you. Are we clear?”
A muscle tightened in the hard line of his jaw, drawing out the silence for a beat, then two before he turned toward her ever so slightly, as if waiting for her to get on with it.
Good enough, she thought as she lifted her hands to start checking him out.
But before Teagan could even start on his pulse, the guy’s free hand had turned to form an ironclad circle around her wrist.
Heat shot all the way up Teagan’s arm and her heart whacked against her ribs like a hockey puck dropping at center ice . . . right up until she realized the guy had simply reached out to get her attention.
“Adrian.” The word, little more than a harsh affirmation, pushed past his lips quietly, and it snapped her focus back into place.
As fast as he’d touched her, he loosened his fingers, as if the movement of getting her attention in the first place had drained his strength to fumes. “My name is Adrian. And yeah. My arm hurts like hell.”
And just like that, she was moving again, even though her skin still prickled with strange and residual warmth.
“Can you rate the pain on a scale of one to ten, ten being the worst pain you’ve ever felt?”
Something Teagan couldn’t get a gauge on flickered across his expression, darkening his eyes to a steely green gray, but he snuffed it out with an audible exhale. “If I don’t move it, it’s fine.”
“And if you do?”
Adrian paused. “Six.”
Damn. She’d hate to know what had given him his ten. “Okay, Adrian, here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to have you sit on this cot.” Teagan stopped to acknowledge Chris’s impeccable timing as he rolled the thing over, and she reached for the trauma shears Jeff had wordlessly taken from the bag before she continued. “And I’m going to ask you a couple of questions while I check you out. You okay with that?”
He dropped his chin a fraction, and the wince it produced wasn’t lost on her. “What’re those for?” Adrian asked, gaze firm on the shears in her grip.
“I’m sorry, but in order to get a good look at you, that jacket’s got to go.”
The feral expression she’d just lulled off Adrian’s face made a vengeful comeback. “You’re not cutting my jacket.”
Oh, come on. She was a paramedic, not a magician, and that arm probably resembled a jigsaw puzzle right out of the box. “You got any better ideas on how to get it off over a broken limb, Einstein?”
“As a matter of fact, I do.”
In the time it took her to blink, he had the jacket halfway off his shoulders even though the move had to hurt like nothing else, and Teagan’s gut gave an uncharacteristic yank.
But before her words could make it all the way out, the deed was done. “There . . . you go,” Adrian grated, his face roughly the color of the sheet on the cot as he gripped the jacket in his free hand. “Problem solved.”
“Are you out of your mind? I can’t help you if you’re only going to make things worse!” Christ. If there were broken ribs in that granite wall of a chest of his, he could’ve single-handedly punctured a lung with that little stunt.
His voice only held the slightest hitch as he fixed her with a stoic glance. “You said you needed it off to get a good look, right? Now you’re free and clear, Red.”
Jeff reclaimed the trauma shears and put them in the bag with a sheepish grin. “Hate to admit it, O’Malley, but he’s kind of right. What do you need first?”
Teagan sucked down a deep breath and shot Jeff the mother of all death glares. “I’ve got the RTA. You work on getting the stuff together to splint that arm.” She turned her glare on Adrian as Jeff began to rummage for what he needed. “Park it,” she said, jutting her chin at the cot.
Miraculously, he settled against the reclined back of the rolling bed and let her take his vitals without argument. The numbers were startlingly good for someone who’d just turned his motorcycle into spare parts in the middle of the road, but she’d seen vitals nosedive without warning too often for that to mean he was in the clear.
No better way to assess an injury than to let your fingers do the walking. Starting at the top of Adrian’s platinum blond head, she skimmed her hands over him, missing nothing as she worked her way down the corded muscles in his neck and chest. The injury to his forearm indicated an obvious break, but since the skin was intact, she placed the limb carefully at his side to await a splint before sliding her hands to his abdomen.
“Careful. Any more personal and you’re going to have to take me to dinner first.”
The comment, and the hint of dark humor that came with it, caught Teagan totally off guard under the circumstances, and her fingers stuttered over the left side of his rib cage. She’d done thousands of assessments, and never once had they been anything other than a hundred percent perfunctory.
But right now, with her hands about an inch above the low-slung waistband of Adrian’s jeans, her brain heaved forward into forbidden territory, and her girly parts were all too happy to shake off the dust and go along for the unexpected joyride.
Teagan cleared her throat. Twice. “I’m, ah, just making sure nothing else feels broken. Did you lose consciousness at any time? Any dizziness, nausea, trouble breathing? Anything like that?” She reset her hands and forced herself to concentrate as she moved them over the rest of his upper body.
Wow. He really was . . . wow.
And she really needed to knock it off.
“No, and no. Like I told the cops, I’m not an idiot. I don’t ride without a helmet.”
She worked her way down the lower half of his body, satisfied that everything was in working order before returning her attention to his face. “Good intentions aren’t always enough to save people, you know.”
His pupils looked round, reactive, and a lot less pissed than before, and his gravelly voice held a hint of amusement as he said, “Spare me the lecture, Red. I’m a big boy.”
Teagan fought both the urge to agree with him and the burning desire to roll her eyes. “Gee, I’ve never heard that nickname for a redhead before.”
Kimberly Kincaid writes contemporary romance that splits the difference between sexy and sweet. When she's not sitting cross-legged in an ancient desk chair known as "The Pleather Bomber", she can be found practicing obscene amounts of yoga, whipping up anything from enchiladas to éclairs in her kitchen, or curled up with her nose in a book.
Kimberly is a 2011 RWA Golden Heart® finalist who lives (and writes!) by the mantra that food is love. Her digital Line series is all about the hot cops and sexy chefs of Brentsville, New York. She is also the author of the Pine Mountain series, which follows small town singles as they find big-time love. Kimberly resides in Virginia with her wildly patient husband and their three daughters.
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