Beyond Always

By Carrie Carr

Part 11

 

Disclaimers:   I don't know why I keep trying to disclaim these folks – goodness knows I've chatted with them/about them enough. So, I'll just say that all names, places, people, and situations I write about are fictional. They are not based on anyone or any place. Although Amanda would disagree, I do own these characters – so please, no stealing :)

If you have anything to tell me, please let me know at cbzeer@yahoo.com . You can also get the scuttlebutt on my website, www.CarrieLCarr.com . Drop by and say hello. 

Big time thank you: To my chat group at Carrie's Crossing, who keeps me motivated. And to my awesome beta readers, Kay and Kelly – thanks for keeping me on the right track!

Dedication:   This story is dedicated to the love of my life, my beautiful Jan. She's the reason for everything I do. Forever and always, my love.

** The chapter numbers have changed, due to some reworking of the original text. I apologize for any confusion – Carrie **

Part 1


Chapter Twenty-Four

The rain continued to pound the outside of the truck, which rocked with the force of the wind. Lorrie tried to keep from crying, but every movement of the truck caused her left arm, which hung lifelessly below, to sway. Her seatbelt kept her in place but she was too far away to reach the still woman beneath her. “S…Sh… Shelby ?” She wiped the tears from her face with her good hand. “ Shelby ?”

Lorrie sniffled. “ Shelby , wake up. Please?” She twisted in the seat, which brought more movement to her arm. “Aaah!” Her tears dripped off her nose as she cried.

The sound of Lorrie's distress brought Shelby around. She attempted to open her eyes, but only her right one would obey. “Ugh.”

“ Shelby ?” Lorrie rubbed her fist under her nose to wipe away the tears. “ Shelby , are you all right?”

“Uh,” Shelby groaned as she tried to get her bearings. “Lorrie?”

Lorrie sobbed in relief. “I thought you were dead,” she cried.

Shelby was able to move her head, but almost threw up at the motion. “Fuck.”

“What's wrong?”

“Gimme a sec,” Shelby ground out between her gritted teeth. She concentrated on her churning stomach, closing her eye and silently pleading with herself to not get sick.

While she waited, she took stock of her condition. She was crushed against the driver's door and the pain coming from her left shoulder was almost as bad as the sharp throbbing from her head. She cleared her throat. “Lorrie? Are you okay?”

“My arm hurts really bad.” As she spoke, Lorrie no longer heard the roar of the wind and the truck quit rocking. “I think the wind stopped.”

“Good.” Shelby slowly moved her right hand until she reached her belt. She took her cell phone out of the leather holster and used her thumb to push the keys. The off-key tones she heard made her want to cry. “Fuck. No phone service.”

Lorrie crossed her right hand over her body. “Should I unbuckle my seat belt? Maybe I can help you.”

“No!” Yelling made Shelby 's head hurt worse and she was afraid she was about to embarrass herself by throwing up. “Let's just sit still for a minute and try to figure something out, okay? I don't want you to fall and hurt yourself more.”

“I think I can turn and stand on the dash,” Lorrie said, as she carefully raised her legs and braced them. “Then I won't fall, right?”

Shelby swallowed the bile that rose her in throat. She could feel a wet stickiness along the left side of her head, and fuzzily wondered what it could be. She was so focused on the pain that she didn't hear Lorrie's comments.

The click that announced the release of Lorrie's seatbelt was loud in the cab of the truck. An instant later, Shelby heard the girl scream in pain as she dropped from her seat.

#

Tom heard the crash in the front of the feed store and jumped up out of his chair. The electricity flickered off, so he blindly rushed out of his office toward the main showroom. “Oh, my god.” The feed store, like many of the older buildings in Somerville , was surrounded by large shade trees. One of the biggest trees from the west side of the building had crashed through the roof. He ignored the rain that dampened his face as he moved closer. His first concern was his employee. “Rebecca?”

He stepped cautiously toward the largest pile of rubble, where tree branches mixed with ceiling tiles and glass. “Rebecca, where are you?”

Tom slipped on the wet tile and fell to one knee beside the debris. He noticed a scratched, pale hand only inches away from him, and he shakily reached for it. “Rebecca, can you her me?” It was cool to the touch. “Hey.”

The fingers wriggled. Over the sound of the rain, a weak voice called out. “Help me.”

“I'm here.” Tom tried to separate the branches so that he could see her, but it was too dark. “Don't move, okay? I'll go see if I can find someone to help me get this mess off you.”

“Please don't leave me,” Rebecca cried. She managed to turn her hand over and grasped his with surprising strength. “I'm scared.”

He lightly squeezed her hand. “I know. Um, can you tell if you're hurt?”

“I…I'm not sure.” Rebecca's voice trailed off.

“Are you in any pain?” Tom almost leaped out of his skin when the wind slammed something against the building. “God.”

Rebecca tried to pull her hand free of his. “Maybe you should be somewhere safer.”

Tom used his free hand to wipe the water from his eyes and face then looked around. Part of the roof was missing and rain soaked everything in sight. “Not much else can happen where we're at.”

“Do you feel cold? I'm freezing,” Rebecca said.

“It's a little cool, with the rain and all. You just hang in there, all right? As soon as the storm passes, I'm sure help will be here.”

“Could you do me a favor, Tom?” Rebecca's voice had softened to the point where he had to lean closer to understand her. “If something happens, could you—”

He shook his head. “No, no. Don't start thinking like that. Everything's going to be okay.”

“I hope so. But, just in case, could you tell Shelby that I love her? Please?”

“ Shelby ? Her?” Tom released her hand. “You…you're a lesbian?” He hadn't gotten a chance to know Rebecca very well, but he had hoped to work up the courage to ask her out on a date.

“Tom? Please, don't leave.” Rebecca began to cry. “God, I'm so scared.” She wriggled her fingers. “Please? Tom?”

#

As the wind and heavy rain slammed the VFW building, the five women who had been working in the hall huddled together. They were underneath two tables that were pushed against the strongest interior wall. At one point, they heard the windows in the kitchen shatter, but no one made a move to investigate. The electricity failed right after the storm started and the building had already started to get warm and humid.

“I don't think I can take much more of this,” Kathleen whimpered. She had admitted a paralyzing fear of severe weather just as the storm hit, much to the disdain of Phyllis. “I thought I could handle it, but I just can't.”

“Sssh.” Anna Leigh had her arms around Kathleen, who shook so hard it nearly rattled her teeth as well. “Listen.”

The howling wind had stopped, and now the only sound was the hard rain on the roof. They could also hear the rain coming into the kitchen, and one of the main doors of the building had blown open during the peak of the storm.

Phyllis Chambers crawled from beneath her table. “Goodness, that was intense.” She brushed off her slacks and then looked at her hands. “I wonder how long it's been since anyone has swept or mopped around here.”

“Really, Phyllis. I think we have more important things to worry about than dirty floors,” Evaline chastised. She was a friend of Phyllis' mother and had plenty of dealings with the snotty younger woman. Evaline held out her hand to Kathleen. “Come on out of there, honey. We're perfectly safe.”

Kathleen accepted the helping hand and then turned to assist Anna Leigh. “Thank you for understanding, Mrs. Cauble.”

Anna Leigh hugged her. “Please, dear, call me Anna Leigh.” She turned to the final woman in their little group. “How are you doing, Mary? I know it had to be painful for you to be under there for so long.”

“I'll live,” Mary assured her. She was on the Ladies Auxiliary committee that planned the barbeque, even though she had severe arthritis and couldn't always help. “I hope everyone outside was able to get to cover.”

Phyllis snorted. “They could at least see the storm coming. We had no warning at all. No one even bothered to run in and tell us.”

“Be that as it may, someone should go check,” Evaline said, giving Phyllis a pointed stare. “Thank you for volunteering, Phyllis.”

“Excuse me?”

Mary jumped in. “Come on. I'll go with you, and we'll see if anyone needs any help.” She grabbed Phyllis' arm and led her toward the open door.

“Wow, she's obnoxious,” Kathleen whispered. “What's her major problem, anyway? She was ordering everyone around all morning.”

Anna Leigh started toward the kitchen. “Do you mean Phyllis? She married a lawyer a few years ago, and now he's the county judge. Don't let her bother you, dearest.”

“Where are you going, Mrs., um, Anna Leigh?” Kathleen hurried to catch up to the older woman.

“To see what kind of mess the storm made of the kitchen. Perhaps we can salvage some of the sandwiches, at the very least. I have a feeling it's going to be a very long day.”

#

The rain fell steadily on the overturned truck and the cadence lulled Shelby into a semi-conscious state. She could still hear Lorrie sniffling, but her crying had stopped a few minutes earlier. “How're ya doin', kid?”

Most of Lorrie's weight was on her left foot, which had gained purchase on the steering column. Her right foot was on Shelby 's seat, inches away from her neck. “I think my arm's broke. It hurts to move it.”

Shelby slowly raised her right hand to her face in an attempt to wipe the blood out of her eyes. Her mind was a muddled mess. “We can't be too far from the house. Think you can get out and call for help?”

“I'll try.” Lorrie looked around but couldn't see any way out. “ Shelby ?”

“Yeah?”

“I can reach the handle and roll down the window on my side, but I can't climb out with just one arm.”

“That could be a problem.” There was only one solution and she dreaded it. She released her seat belt. “All right. I'm going to need your help.”

Lorrie stood over Shelby , holding her injured arm against her body. “What are we gonna do?”

“Do you think you can stand on the steering wheel or on the seat, so I can get up? Then I can boost you through the window and climb out after you.”

“Okay.” Lorrie kept her balance by bracing her good hand against the roof of the truck. It wasn't comfortable, but she was able to move around until she was out of Shelby 's way. “Do you need any help?”

Shelby bit off a sharp reply. The girl was only trying to be helpful. “Just ignore me for a few minutes, okay? I don't want your mom kicking my ass for using bad language around you.”

Lorrie giggled. “Momma cusses a lot, too. And I've heard my mom say things she doesn't know I've heard.”

“Yeah, I figured.” Shelby took a deep breath and released it slowly. “Okay, here goes.” She grabbed the steering wheel with her right hand and used it to leverage herself off the side window. The unsettling feeling of her sticky face peeling away from the glass caused Shelby 's stomach to churn. She gritted her teeth as she struggled to a sitting position. “Argh! God dammit, that fuckin' hurts!” The shoulder that she landed on throbbed to the point where she thought she may pass out. Shelby closed her eye and bit her lip to keep from fainting.

“ Shelby ?” Lorrie could see the blood caked on the left side of Shelby 's face. It slowly ran from her temple to her shirt and her hair was matted with drying clumps of blood.

“I think I'm gonna need your help, after all,” Shelby gasped. She held out her right hand. “If I can just get my balance, I think I'll be okay.”

Lorrie grabbed her hand and held on tightly as Shelby struggled to stand. She turned her head and noticed a crack along the back window. “Hey, look.”

Shelby leaned against the truck roof and opened her one good eye, but her vision was too blurry. “What?”

“The back window has a big crack in it.”

“How big?” Shelby ran her hand across the window, but with the leather glove on she couldn't feel anything.

“All the way across, I think.”

Shelby blew out a heavy breath. “Finally, something in our favor. I'm going to try and kick it out. It would be a lot easier than trying to climb up through that little window.”

“I can help,” Lorrie offered.

“I reckon between the two of us, it should be easy.” Shelby tried to get turned enough to use her leg, but the cab was too small. “Fuck. Okay, plan B. On the count of three, you kick and I'll ram it with my shoulder.” She closed her eye for a moment, inhaled deeply and then exhaled slowly. “One…two…three!”

#

“I think I like storms,” Ellie sighed. She sat in front of Kyle, who had her arms wrapped around her. “And I never knew closets could be so…romantic.”

Kyle kissed the side of her neck. “Does this mean I don't have to take you out on our anniversary?”

Ellie tilted her head as she enjoyed the gentle kisses. “I don't care where we are, or what we do. You know that.”

“Mmm-hmm.” Kyle put her hands under Ellie's shirt and stroked her stomach. “Me, either.” Suddenly, something seemed different which caused her to stop. “Do you hear that?”

“Huh?” Ellie was lost in a sensual haze. Anytime her lover touched her, she melted. Kyle had been wonderful during the storm, holding her close and exchanging gentle kisses to keep her calm.

Kyle kissed Ellie's head and stood. “The wind stopped.”

“Is that a good thing, or a bad thing?” Ellie accepted a hand up and put her arms around Kyle's neck. “Next time, we have got to have a flashlight, or something in here. I hate not being able to see your eyes.”

“Yeah, I didn't think about the power going out. All I wanted to do was make sure you were safe.”

Ellie found Kyle's lips easily in the dark. Once they broke apart, she laughed. “Depends on what I'm supposed to be safe from. The storm, yes. I was very safe. Making out in a dark closet? Not so much.”

“I didn't hear any complaints,” Kyle teased.

“And you never will.”

Kyle held Ellie's hand and led her from the closet. They both stopped when they saw the damage to the bedroom. “Damn.”

The bedroom was soaked from the rain, which continued to fall. Glass was everywhere, as were wet leaves and small twigs and branches. The white, padded bench that sat beneath the window was drenched and covered with mud.

Ellie gingerly walked to the window and looked out. Although she was soon as wet as the rest of the room, she didn't move away. “Hey, Kyle?”

“Yeah?” Kyle stood beside her. “Wow. I wonder where that came from?” Just outside their window was a narrow section of wooden trellis. “I guess that's what broke the window, huh?”

“Probably.” Ellie turned to take another look at the bedroom. “I hope everyone at the fair is okay. Lex and Amanda were going to take the kids.”

Kyle kissed her on the forehead and retrieved her cell phone from the nightstand. “I'll give Amanda a call and see.” She dialed Amanda's cell phone number and frowned at the recorded message. “Lines are out.”

“Can we run by the town square and see if they're there?”

“Sure, baby. How about you get into something dry and I'll board up the window, okay? I think I have some plywood out in the garage.”

Ellie grabbed her before she could leave the bedroom. “Thanks. But I don't see why I should change, especially since we're going right back out in this mess.”

“Maybe because I'm overprotective?”

“Probably. But I love you for it.” Ellie swatted her on the butt. “Go on. I'll try to get some of this mess cleaned up while you take care of the window.”

#

Rebecca's pleas were more than Tom could ignore. He took her hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze. “I'm sorry. It's really none of my business who you, umm, you know.” It wasn't as if he didn't know any gay people. Lex Walters had been coming to the feed store her entire life. But, Rebecca seemed different. Now that he was over the shock, he knew he had to help her.

“I…I'm so cold, Tom.”

“I know. Look, let me run back to the office and see if I can call someone to get you out of there.” Her grip kept him from leaving. “Rebecca, I promise I'll be right back. But I can't move this tree or any of the other stuff without help.”

She released his hand. “Please, hurry. I don't want to be alone.”

Tom got up. “I'll be right back, I promise.” He stumbled over the ruins and slipped on the wet tile, but finally reached the office. He picked up the phone but heard nothing but static on the line. “Crap!” He didn't want to return to Rebecca without something positive, so he left the office and headed out the back door. “I'll find someone to help.”

Back in the showroom, Rebecca couldn't stop shivering. She was lying on her stomach with her right cheek against the floor and she was chilled to the bone. “Tom?”

She waited for an answer, but between the rain that fell and the noises made by the damaged building, she couldn't hear anything. As the cold numbed her body, Rebecca found it hard to stay alert. “Someone, please, help me,” she cried.

#

“I can't believe all this damage was done by wind and rain,” Kyle said. “Good thing we kept our vehicles in the garage.” She was behind the wheel of her shop's truck, which she had borrowed until she could finish the rebuild on her own car's engine. “I've never seen so many beat up cars and broken windows from a thunderstorm, before.”

Ellie pointed to a house as they passed. “It looks like their roof is gone. Do you think a tornado did this?”

Kyle shook her head. “I don't think so. But I wouldn't be surprised to find out we had hurricane-force winds. It's almost impossible to find clear streets.”

“I really appreciate you taking me to the town square. I just want to make sure my family's safe.”

“I'm worried, too. Besides, we can cut over by the shop on the way. I want to check and see if we had any damage.” Kyle stopped when they came upon a huge elm that had fallen across the road. “Crap.” She put the truck in reverse until they came to a cross-street. “We'll have to cut through by the high school.”

Ellie ignored her mumbling and stared out her window. Tree limbs littered every yard and many of the cars had cracked or shattered windows. “Unbelievable.” She held on to the handle over her door as Kyle drove onto the sidewalk to bypass another fallen tree. “Don't ever complain about my driving again, Kyle. At least I stay on the roads.”

“Not much choice, baby. Besides, it's not like—” Kyle slowed when she noticed the stopped truck ahead. “Wow. Look at the size of that tree. I hope those guys got out okay.”

Ellie unbuckled her seat belt. “We'd better go see.”

“Hey, at least wait ‘til I stop,” Kyle yelled. She parked and jumped out to follow her lover. “Ellie, wait.”

The closer she got to the vehicle, the faster Ellie walked. Even from the back, the large, green Dodge pickup looked familiar. “Oh, no.” She turned to Kyle, who jogged up beside her. “It's Lex's truck.”

“Are you sure?” Kyle tried to look through the driver's window, but it was blocked by a tree limb. “I can't see inside.”

Ellie pointed to the door, where the edge of the Rocking W Ranch logo could be seen. “We need to see if she's in there.”

“I'll check the other side.” Kyle walked around the truck and moved a plastic child's playhouse out of her way. “Shit.” The passenger's side of the truck was obscured, and one of the larger branches had blocked the door. She turned and headed toward the rear of the truck. “I couldn't tell—” Kyle stopped when she saw Ellie in the bed. “What are you doing?”

“I think I can see through the back windows. The leaves are thinner back here.” Ellie disappeared into the foliage. “Kyle, do you have a screwdriver and a flashlight? I can't see a damned thing.”

Kyle decided against arguing. She went to her vehicle and searched through the attached tool box, grumbling the entire time. She found a small crowbar as well as a flashlight and a hand saw. “Better than nothing, I guess.”

Ellie stood by the tailgate and helped Kyle up when she returned. “A crowbar? Perfect! We can pry the sliding window open and I can squeeze through.”

“Oh, hell, no! You're not climbing inside. We're just going to look and see if anyone is in there.”

Ellie ignored Kyle's outburst and took the crowbar from her hands. Without another word, she squeezed through the branches and out of Kyle's sight. “Hon? Could you bring the flashlight?”

“I swear, she's gonna be the death of me.” Kyle struggled through the leaves and branches, only to see Ellie's head and shoulders disappear through the window. “Ellie!”

Ellie popped back out and almost bumped faces with Kyle. “The branches have covered all the other windows, and with the rain and clouds, it's too dark to see inside.”

“Maybe I should go in,” Kyle offered.

“I'm a nurse. If there is anyone inside, they may need medical attention.”

Kyle shook her head. “I don't want you to risk it. If the wind gets up again—”

“All the more reason for me to hurry.” Ellie took the flashlight from Kyle's hand. “I'll holler if I need help, I promise.” She quickly kissed Kyle's lips and turned away.

Kyle watched helplessly as Ellie disappeared into the cab of the truck. “Be careful,” she called after her.

Inside, Ellie was on her knees in the back seat and shined the light toward the front. She could see a dark head that rested on the flattened airbag on the driver's side. “Lex?” Ellie stretched over the seat and touched the driver's shoulder. “Lex, can you hear me?”

When she didn't get an answer, Ellie touched the side of Lex's neck, relieved to find warm skin and a strong pulse. “All right. Good.” She turned the flashlight toward the passenger side of the truck to see a man in a similar state. His pulse was strong as well and she exhaled in relief.

Ellie turned to the back window and stuck her head out. “Lex is in here, along with some man I don't recognize. They're both alive, but unconscious.”

“That's a relief. Let me help you out of there and we'll go find some help.”

“I can't leave her here like this.”

Kyle shook her head. “I'm sure as hell not leaving you here by yourself.”

“You have to. I can't tell how serious their injuries are, and we need to get them out.”

“No, El. Please don't ask me to leave you.” Kyle hefted the saw. “I'll work on the branches by the door. Maybe we can get them out that way.”

“Kyle.”

“Let me try, okay? You've seen the damage around here. I'm sure the emergency services are overwhelmed.”

Ellie nodded. “All right. I'm going to go back and keep an eye on them, in case they come to.”

“Holler if you need me.”

Ellie reached through the window and wiped the rain water off of Kyle's face. “I'll always need you. Be careful out there.”

“I will. You, too.” Kyle kissed her hand and backed away.

#

The rain had slowed to a drizzle, although to the two trudging through the mud, it didn't matter. Shelby 's left arm was useless. She had her hand tucked into the front of her belt to keep it immobile, and each step brought agony to what she assumed was a broken collar bone. She glanced at Lorrie, who silently kept up with her. “How're ya doin', kid?”

“I feel stupid,” Lorrie muttered. “Sorry I threw up on you.” Once they had made it out of the truck, the two of them put a splint on her broken wrist. Lorrie cried so hard at the pain that she threw up all over Shelby .

“Hey, don't worry ‘bout it. Rain washed me right off.”

Lorrie kept her eyes on the ground. “I bet you don't cry like a baby.”

“I do, and have, on occasion.”

“Really?” Lorrie looked up and stumbled.

Shelby caught her and kept her from falling. “Yup. Many times. Nothing wrong with it, kid. Everyone that has a heart, cries. I'd worry more about someone who doesn't show emotion.”

“I guess I never thought of it that way. But I threw up on you! That's something little kids do.”

“Nah. It's a natural reaction to hurtin'. Like I said, don't worry about it.” As they crested the hill, Shelby pointed ahead of them. “See? We made it.”

Lorrie sniffled and wiped her nose with the back of her hand. “Do you think Momma will still be in town?”

“I reckon she's out of her mind, worryin' ‘bout you. We'll take Rebecca's car and find her, I promise.”

Once they reached the back door, Shelby stopped. “Fuck.”

“What's wrong?”

“I left my damned keys in the truck!” Shelby punctuated the sentence with a firm kick to the middle of the door. It burst open and slammed against the interior wall. “Rebecca's gonna love me for that.”

Lorrie followed her inside. “You won't get into trouble? Momma gets into trouble when she breaks stuff.”

Shelby took a set of keys from a bowl on the counter. “She's been after me for years to replace that door.” She went to the refrigerator and took out two cans of soda. “If you'll check the pantry, we should have a bag of cookies in there. Grab ‘em and we'll head for town.”

 

Chapter Twenty-Five

Amanda finished with Eddie's diaper as Charlie came into the living room. He had volunteered to check the upstairs rooms for damage after the storm. “How bad was it?”

“Not as bad as I thought it would be, considering part of the roof is gone,” Charlie said. He sat in the chair closest to Melanie and Teddy, who were busy drawing pictures. “I think the majority of the damage is to the attic and the guest room. But I'd feel better if an expert checked the roof, before y'all spend the night up there.”

“Thanks, Charlie.” Amanda put Eddie on the floor and patted his rear. “There you go.”

Eddie laughed and joined his sister and cousin. “Meemee!”

Melanie tore off a page from a coloring book and handed him a thick crayon. “Don't eat this one, okay?”

“Good,” Eddie agreed.

“It'll be a little crowded, but you can bunk in with us,” Martha offered as she fed Hunter his bottle. “The barns protected our place really well.” The heavy winds tore part of the roof from the ranch house and barn, but no animals were injured.

Jeannie brought in a tray of sandwiches and drinks. “I hope peanut butter and jelly is okay with everyone.” She placed the tray on the coffee table. “I wonder if the storm was as bad in town as it was out here. I still can't get Rodney on the phone.”

“I'm half-tempted to drive in and see,” Amanda added, before she left to wash her hands.

Martha handed Hunter to Jeannie and followed Amanda down the hall. “Usually I'd be the first one to tell you to stay put.”

“But?” Amanda ducked into the spare bathroom and vigorously scrubbed her hands.

“But, I'm as worried as you are.”

Amanda dried her hands and joined Martha in the hallway. “I thought Jeannie and I could ride in together, so we can check on Gramma and everyone else. But if Teddy goes, Mel will want to go. And if Mel—”

“Don't you worry about the kids. Charlie and I will take them to our place.”

“All of them?”

Martha put her hands on her hips. “Are you saying I can't handle four children?”

“Um.”

“That's what I thought.” Martha patted her on the cheek. “Run upstairs and pack an overnight bag, just in case. We'll have a movie marathon this evening, and let the bigger kids camp out in the living room. Eddie can sleep with us and Hunter will be just fine in the portable crib.”

Amanda gave her a quick hug. “Thanks. You're a braver woman than I, that's for sure.” As she headed for the stairs, she heard Martha's parting shot.

“I raised Lexie, didn't I? How much harder can those four little angels be?”

#

“Damn it, Lex! Stay still,” Ellie snapped as the paramedic placed the cervical collar around her cousin's neck.

Lex hadn't stopped complaining since she had become conscious. Her right wrist was splinted and she awakened to find herself strapped to a backboard. “I need to call Amanda.”

“The phone lines are down. Just relax and let these guys take care of you.”

“How the hell am I supposed to relax, when I'm trussed up like this?” When Ellie came into her line of sight, Lex lowered her voice. “I don't want Amanda to be worried.”

Ellie rubbed her shoulder. “I promise, I'll get in touch with her. How's your vision, now?” When Lex first came to, she had trouble seeing anything.

“Still a little blurry.”

“Well, that could be due to your broken nose, cuz. Or the concussion you probably have.” Ellie felt, rather than saw, Kyle join them. She gratefully leaned into the arm around her shoulders. “How's he doing?”

Kyle watched as they loaded Weldon into the back of the ambulance. “Not too bad. His broken leg is the only thing they're worried about.” She moved to where Lex could see her. “How are you, Lex?”

“Fine. I need to get home and check on my family. None of this is necessary.” Lex blinked as something occurred to her. “Damn it. Ellie?”

“What?”

“Lorrie went with Shelby to help with her fence. Could you—”

Ellie followed as the firemen took Lex toward a waiting ambulance. “We'll find her. Don't worry.” As they loaded the stretcher, she asked one of the men, “Which hospital are you taking her to?”

“Parkdale. The storm barely touched them over there.”

“Thanks.” Ellie turned and fell into her lover's arms. Now that the rain had stopped and the clouds had lightened, she could easily see how badly the truck had been wrecked. “I can't believe that tree didn't kill them.”

Kyle kissed the top of Ellie's head. “Yeah. I kind of freaked out when I saw the blood all over Lex's face. You were great, though.”

“I don't feel great, just drained.” Ellie walked beside Kyle as they returned to the wrecked truck. Two uniformed men were trying to secure the doors. “Sheriff Richards, is there anything else we can do here?”

Jeremy turned away from his deputy. “No, we've got it.” He handed Ellie a bag. “This is the stuff out of the glove box. I didn't want to leave it behind.”

“Thank you. And thank you for getting help here so quickly.”

“Well, having a woman jump in front of my cruiser gets my attention.” He pointed at Kyle. “Next time, just wave. I could have hit you.”

Kyle blushed. “All I knew is that we needed help, and yours was the first car I'd seen since we got here.”

“You did what?” Ellie asked.

“Um.” Kyle held out her hand to the sheriff. “Thanks for everything, Sheriff. Could you have Lex's truck towed to my shop?”

Jeremy shook her hand. “Sure.” He listened to the chatter from the radio on his belt. “Sounds like we've got several of the surrounding towns sending help. I'd better head on over to t