So…that was really painful.
The golf cart was only going about fifteen miles per hour but still. Shane hit it full on.
Too late the driver squealed, honked, and the cart knocked Shane flat. Only not in that order and definitely not that concisely. It was more like Shane rebounded off the front headlight, hit the corner post of Norton’s white picket fence, and ricocheted back into the street where he landed on his back.
Probably not, but that’s how it felt to him as he lay gasping for air, trying to see through the black spots dancing in front of his eyes.
“Jesus Christ. What just happened?” Norton yelled from on high.
What had just happened should have been obvious, of course. Even Shane knew what had happened.
He wasn’t going to black out, was he? Although he had bigger worries, swooning away in the street would be beyond the pale. Or maybe pail, because he did feel kind of sick. How badly was he hurt? He wasn’t sure. He had landed in a puddle…or had lost one hell of a lot of blood very quickly. No, that liquid soaking his jeans was way too cold to be blood.
So the good news was he wasn’t bleeding out. And the bad news was…well, take your pick. It was raining harder than ever, for starters.
“Ow,” he said. Which was an understatement, but then he was known for his self-control. He tentatively raised his head.
“How the hell could you miss him?” Norton, still yelling, landed beside Shane in the very cold, very wet puddle. “Don’t move,” he ordered.
Maybe the exhaust from the golf cart was filling Shane’s lungs, but he couldn’t help admiring the easy way Norton had leapt from the ladder. That level of agility was enviable when you were trying to decide if rolling to the left would hurt more than rolling to the right.
“I didn’t miss him!” cried another voice, sounding very frightened.
“That’s what I mean. He was standing right in front of you.”
“I know! I hit him!”
It was like listening to two people who were on the same page but reading from different books. Shane began to make a cautious but more determined effort to rise. He didn’t think he had broken anything, though the next minute or so might correct that impression. What scared him was the idea something might have torn loose. Like a major organ.
“No, lie still.” Norton bent over him, looking pale and stern.
“I’m fine.” Of course, Shane would have said that if he’d been decapitated. No way was he going to lie here while Norton felt him over with careful hands—which was exactly what was happening. He could feel how cold Norton’s hands were through his sweater and jeans.
“Shane, you don’t know that.”
“Don’t.” Shane half rolled, half scooted away from Norton. He came to a halt, his nose inches from a pair of reindeer socks encased in Birkenstock sandals.
“I’m so sorry,” wavered an elderly voice. “You walked out in front of me. I couldn’t stop in time.”
“Not your fault,” Shane got out between gritted teeth.
“I’ll drive you to the hospital.” The old guy—small and portly in green turtleneck and green trousers—looked almost tearful.
“Not necessary. But thanks.”
“Just lie back,” Norton insisted, still helpfully groping Shane’s ass as he tried to resettle him in the puddle.
“Will you back off?” Shane pushed Norton away, got to his knees, and hauled himself to his feet, using the golf cart as a prop.
As luck—his luck—would have it, the brakes were not on, and the cart began to roll. Shane gasped and lurched forward.
Norton grabbed him, saving Shane from landing once more on his hands and knees. It was disturbing to realize how natural it felt to have Norton’s arms wrapped around him. Norton smelled exactly the same, although until that moment Shane had no idea he knew what Norton smelled like. His aftershave was masculine but unexpectedly cultivated. A blend of spice and sea spray. White woods, patchouli, and cinnamon.
Norton began, “I don’t…”
“…believe this,” finished Shane.
The driver made sounds of dismay, scrambling into his vehicle and hitting the brakes before the cart picked up any real momentum. “I’m so sorry,” he said. “I guess I’m a little rattled.”
“I’m okay,” Shane freed himself from Norton once again. Norton continued to hover…which, since they were about the same height, was hard to explain, but it did feel like he was looming over Shane, crowding him.
The elderly man climbed out of his vehicle again. “I really wasn’t going that fast,” he said. “But I looked away from the road—just for a moment—to see if I had my coupons.”
“I’ll run you over to the med center,” Norton said.
“Thanks, I’ve been run over all I need.” Shane put his hands up. “Really. I’m not injured. And if I decide I am injured, I can walk over to the med center myself.”
With that, he turned and headed for his cottage, trying not to limp, striving for dignity, which under the circumstances…yeah, no. Escape was the only realistic goal.
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