Past Sins – Chapter One, Part Three

I hope you enjoy this last excerpt from Past Sins, available now in e-book on Amazon.

Cold pressure prevented Perry lifting her eyelids. She brought her hands up, clawing, fumbling, panic filling her as she struggled with what ended up being nothing more sinister than a washcloth over her eyes. Dangling the dripping cloth, she stared at it, listening to a voice nearby, on a phone it seemed. The contractor. Ethan Taylor.

Sitting up, she struggled to view the room around her. In the shadowed corner at the sofa’s edge she saw movement.

“She seems to have come around. If you hold on, I’ll check.”

The man moved toward her, a cell phone against his ear, dark hair disheveled and pushed back from his brow. He crouched on the floor beside her. Staring at him, Perry shoved herself closer to the back of the couch.

“Hey, how are you feeling? Do you remember who I am?”

“Yes.”

“Who am I?”

“Ethan Taylor,” she whispered.

He nodded. “Do you know where you are?” he continued, prompted by the voice on the phone.

“On the sofa. In my living room.”

“Do you remember how you got here?”

The answer to that didn’t come as readily. She frowned in concentration, squeezing the washcloth. Ethan Taylor took the cloth from her hand, shoving it into an empty glass. The wet splotch left behind spread into the existing dampness of the fabric draping her legs.

“I’m on the phone with a friend who’s a doctor. He needs an answer to my last question.”

“Right,”she breathed. He nodded, waiting. Why was he asking her these questions? Lifting her gaze, she glanced briefly at his face before staring over his shoulder toward the window. Leaves hung listlessly on the maple outside, crooked shadows barring the aged glass indicating the advent of evening. When had that happened?

“Your vitals seem fine. However, my friend and I have been discussing the possibility you might have hit your head? Did you? I don’t see any signs of it, but that really would be cause for a trip to the hospital.”

Attention recalled, Perry reached up, pushing her fingers through her damp hair, checking her skull for tenderness.

“My head doesn’t hurt.” She eyed the mud on her clothing. Over her ruined dress she wore a man’s shirt. His shirt. Yes, his shirt, because he didn’t have one on. Made sense. Sort of. Somehow she recognized the scent of him locked into the fabric, nearly overpowered by the smell of…what? The creek. Right. And something else.

She stood quickly, moving away from the man. He shot to his feet as well, putting a hand to her arm in support, fingers altogether too warm considering the fact his jeans were soaked and he stood beside her shirtless. She shied away from the sight of his torso, muscular and lean.

“You carried me?”

He dropped his hand from her arm, cradling the phone against his collar bone, muffling their conversation from the person on the line. 

“I did,” he said.

“From the falls?”

“Yes.”

“All that way,” she whispered.

“All that way,” he answered, repeating her words in a manner that made her cringe inside. Not angry, not condemning. Concerned, perhaps. Perplexed. Maybe even a little amused, now she hadn’t gone and died on him.

But dying had never been a part of it. Or, God, had it?

Under cover of his shirt, she slapped her arm, grabbed the flesh over the narrow bone of her wrist, twisting hard. Not dead. Not dreaming.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m sorry you had to do that.”

He shrugged, naked shoulders shifting in fluid movement. “Leaving you to tumble back into the creek wasn’t an option.”

A muffled question came from the phone. Ethan lifted the instrument to his ear, asking the doctor to repeat what he’d said. Perry stared at him, a chill coursing her skin that had nothing to do with wet clothes. She tucked her shaking hands beneath her arms, clutching her abdomen. Reality, memory, left her breathless.

“She’s up, standing here looking at me.”

His gaze met and held hers for a moment before sliding away. Dark eyes. He had very dark eyes, and long lashes. With the return of appalling lucidity, she tried to remember what his eyes looked like. It occurred to her she’d possibly never seen them at all.

“She remembers me carrying her now.”

“With nauseating clarity,” she muttered. His head snapped back toward her, mouth opening, but his friend spoke again.

“I don’t know,” Ethan said into the phone before addressing her. “You’re not pregnant are you?”

Perry shook her head.

“Ill?”

“No.” She saw the next question in his eyes before he spoke it. “I haven’t been taking any drugs, I don’t drink.”

“Never fainted before?”

She drew a deep breath, releasing it slowly. “No.”

At his expression, Perry’s shoulders jerked beneath the borrowed work shirt still draped around them. She lifted her chin. “I’m going to put some dry clothes on.”

“Will you be all right?”

“Yes,” she said, handing him his shirt. He took it, letting the garment dangle from his fingers, then lowered his hand to his thigh. Wet jeans clung closely to his body. Too closely. Not his fault, Perry reminded herself. He wouldn’t have been in the creek if not for her.

Turning away, she strode to the staircase, paused there, glanced back. “I have nothing dry to offer you, but I’ll bring you a towel. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “A towel is fine.” Spinning on his heel, he spoke once again into the phone. Perry’s gaze lingered on his back, wondering at the physical feat of his actions, then she turned to climb the stairs.

In the hallway above she paused to listen to his calm voice, unruffled as he finished his call, as if he made a habit of rescuing abruptly-unconscious women, carting them home in their soaking wet summer dresses. She looked down, fisting the damp, dirty fabric into her curled fingers. She remembered the morning she put it on, walking out the kitchen door to take a stroll in the woods.

Three days ago.

And that’s it! Thanks for stopping by!

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About robinmaderich