EXCERPT #2 from BLIND SIDED by Lindsay McKenna
“Raw pain shot up through Kara’s face as she sat down on a chair in the day care center, gripping her cellphone in her hand. Her attacker had left. Or had he? Warily, she looked around, but her gaze was fastened on the opened door and entrance to the day care area. Stunned and hurting after regaining consciousness, she’d crawled to the chair and pulled her phone from her pocket to call 9-1-1. Dizzy, her ears ringing, she tried without success to stop the blood from pouring out of her left nostril. It felt as if half her face had been ripped off. The heat, swelling, and pain making her whimper. She was hunched over, praying that someone, anyone, would get here fast to help her.
The woman on the 9-1-1 line said a Kenedy County sheriff’s cruiser was on its way. How far away was it though? Her hair hung like curtains on either side of her face as her bloody, slippery fingers carefully pressed against her nose. The pain was excruciating, so she stopped trying to examine the extent of her injury.
Shattered by the attack, Kara kept worrying that her assailant would come back. But everything was quiet in the day care center and out in the hall beyond it. The rain was slacking off, the thunder moving farther east, the storm passing quickly through the area. She heard the front door open and then close. Who was it? Her heart pounded hard in her chest. Was it the man coming back to finish her off? To kill her?
Stifling a cry, she straightened, tense in the chair, unable to walk much because her knees were feeling so weak. Her breath hitched as she saw a sheriff’s deputy appear in the entrance, his revolver drawn. A gasp tore from Kara—she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. The man wearing the black Stetson, dressed in a deputy’s uniform, was none other than Cade Patterson! She’d heard through the county grapevine that he’d come home two years earlier, but she had never run into him or seen him. His shoulders were so broad that she longed to simply lay her head on them and collapse into his arms. His light brown eyes were large, wide set, and assessing her, holding her distraught gaze.
“Kara!” He looked as shocked as she did. “What happened? Is there anyone else here?” he asked urgently, his head swiveling to take in the room.
“A man attacked me from behind…I-I don’t know why…” Her voice sounded young, like a scared child, not her normal alto tone. She saw that his eyes were filled with concern.
“Okay, stay where you are for a moment. I have to clear every room to make sure no one is still in here.”
She nodded. “I’m not going anywhere. I can’t walk. I’m dizzy.”
“I’ll be right back,” he promised.
Huge tears of relief squeezed out of her eyes. Kara wrapped her arms around herself, the blood dripping continuously down onto her white blouse, forever staining it. Cade was like a silent shadow, disappearing from her view as he moved down the hall, pistol drawn. Was her attacker still in here hiding? Waiting to jump her again? She felt so cold. So alone. And yet, Cade was here! He was the last person she’d ever expected to see and she was infinitely grateful it was him.
Kara had been hoping to see him on the street, maybe catch sight of him at the local diner or run into him at the grocery store. But she never had, until now. Gulping, hating the metallic taste of blood in her mouth, she swallowed, her stomach roiling.
Cade’s voice was so close to her, she snapped her head up, gasping, not hearing him return to her side. He stood before her, sliding his revolver into the holster and safing it.
Her hand flew to her throat as she stared up at him. How tall he was! She remembered the boy of eighteen. That was the last time she’d seen him. Even though Cade had played football, the coach was always after him to put on more muscle, but he never had. Her gaze traveled up, from his narrow hips encased in dark blue gabardine trousers to the light khaki-colored shirt that stretched across his broad chest. And those proud, straight shoulders of his that looked as if they could carry the weight of the world on them. She knew from Cade’s hard, younger life, that he’d carried his mother who had been so broken by her husband’s unexpected death.
Words stuck in her tight throat as he crouched down close to her, placing his hand tentatively upon her upper right arm, his gaze melting into hers.
“Broken nose?” he asked gently.
“I-I think so…he hit me. That’s the last thing I remember.”
“I’ll call an ambulance,” he said, his hand reluctantly leaving her arm so he could make the call from his shoulder radio.
She looked beyond him, panicked, as he ended the call. “Is he still here, Cade?”
Shaking his head, he said, “No, no one’s here. We’re alone. Are you hurt anywhere else, Kara?”
Just the low warmth, the concern in his eyes, brought more tears. She choked and sobbed, “I-I don’t think so…I didn’t expect this…I don’t know who he was. He attacked me from behind. I got a look at him after I smashed his foot with my heel, just for a second before I tried to run from him.” Cade’s hand was stabilizing as he lightly moved it up and down her upper arm, as if to comfort her.
“We can cover all that later.”
“God, I wish my nose would quit bleeding.” She held up her bloodied fingers.
“Hold on,” Cade murmured, rising. He pulled out a white linen handkerchief from his back pocket, slipping it into her hand. “Press two fingers gently against the root of your nose and pinch the area as much as you can without causing yourself more pain. It should slow and stop the bleeding,” he said, crouching next to her once more.
Needing his comforting touch, she closed her eyes and held the handkerchief against her nose with one hand and pinched the root of her nose with the other. “I-I’m not hurt anywhere else. Bruised knees maybe, that’s all.”
Kara began to shake uncontrollably, barely holding herself together. Some of the bleeding was slowing down and that was good. Absorbing Cade’s masculine nearness, she felt like a thief stealing his light, his energy. Listening to the low timbre of his voice as he spoke to the Sarita dispatcher requesting a forensics team and back up, she once more felt that powerful swell of protection embracing her. And yet, Cade was not even touching her! Missing his hand on her arm, she needed to connect with him once again. It was a wild, unbidden thought and she couldn’t stop any of her rampant, twisting feelings from barreling through her right now.”
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