The whisper came closer, even as she pressed harder against the concrete at her back. “Are you in here, ma’am? I’ve come to help, Miss Warner. I’m from the government. Your uncle—”
Throwing her arms over her head, she released a full-throated scream as the whole house was rocked on its foundation by a blast more powerful than any before. Chunks of plaster fell, more boxes toppled, she bit her tongue and tasted blood. From the murky shadows, a dark shape leaped forward. Before she could scream again, Mandy’s balled figure was caged by a hard, lean, male body.
The stranger’s large hand pushed her head low and his cheek pressed against the side of her hair. The building shifted again, a box toppled from a shelf above, and the man surrounding her made an almost inaudible grunt as it glanced off his shoulder.
The world stopped moving. Silence descended. Even the gunfire seemed farther off.
Or maybe that was because Mandy could barely hear over her own harsh breaths, a counterpoint to the more measured ones of the man shielding her. Trying to calm herself, she inhaled deeper, taking in a combination of plaster dust and clean man-scent. The quiet voice spoke in her ear. “Are you hurt?”
She shook her head, trying to assess her new circumstances. The man’s accent was American, his actions protective. After four frightened hours, was she finally rescued? “Who—” she had to break off to work some saliva over her dry tongue, “—are you?”
He sat back on his haunches, his arms still curled around her shoulders. It allowed Mandy room to lift her head. “I’m Josh,” he said. “Your uncle sent me to find you.”
Visit the author: Christie Ridgway
Christie Ridgway is a five-time RITA finalist and the USA Today bestselling author of over thirty-five contemporary romances. She lives in San Diego, California, where Navy SEAL teams are based and can be seen training on local beaches. If that isn’t inspiration enough, she is the daughter-in-law of a former fighter pilot and now-retired Navy captain.