He wanted to hurl his phone as far away from him as he could, but that’d only piss him off more when it shattered. “He has a huge library. He has a big house near campus. He’s so nice and kind and sweet.” Ugh, her voice echoed in his head. Yeah, but the mental giant couldn’t compare with Riley’s ability to hike to the top of all the Fourteeners in Colorado, or his knowledge of camping in the rough. Or hell, even how to fix iced-up pipes when the weather froze early.
But no. She loved his intellectual ass and his smarmy sweetness. Sweet glory of all, Riley had to swallow back bile. It still turned his stomach.
She’d been the coolest woman in Denver, and considering how large the city had grown, that was saying a lot. But no matter what Riley had done to get her attention, she ignored him and fell in love with the geeky if brutish professor of U.S. History at the University of Colorado. Whoopdee fuckin’ doo. So what if Riley didn’t remember the full list of Presidents? So what if he didn’t know all the signers on the Declaration of Independence? So what if he hadn’t boned up on the foreign policies of the last four administrations? He wasn’t planning a Trivial Pursuit marathon.
Riley snarled as he turned onto the highway headed back to Cloudburst, the town he’d moved to so no one would know him and make fun of him. At least he had a chance to start over and find a new life. Not that he wanted a new life. He’d been the big man on campus while in Denver. Until her. And when she’d dumped him, all his so-called friends had called him a loser. He’d needed to get away. No one knew the name Riley Gastone in Cloudburst, and he liked his anonymity.
Most of the time.
It wasn’t that he missed the constant parties and attention in Denver, not really. It was more the sense of knowing his place, where he belonged, while he was there. In Cloudburst, he was no one, anonymous, and safe from ridicule. That’s good, right?
Before he could come up with an answer, flashing lights of several emergency vehicles filled his windshield and he slammed on the breaks of his truck as he pulled quickly to the side of the road. What the hell is going on? He threw the truck into park and opened his door, scanning the fire trucks and ambulance for any clue to the hold up.
“Sir, please get back into your vehicle.” A sheriff’s deputy approached him, her expression serious.
“What’s going on?” He stood his ground as he looked around the deputy.
“Someone was injured while hiking and their bringing her out. We need to keep this area clear. Please get back into your vehicle.” The deputy’s expression remained politely impassive.
“Are they okay?” He kept looking over her shoulder.
“The rescue crew is bringing her out now. Please stay in your vehicle, sir.”
With that, the deputy walked away and Riley had nothing better to do than get back in his truck. He wanted to help, to find the best way to get the hiker out, but on some level he understood the SAR guys and firefighters had it well covered. He’s always wanted to take the SAR training, but it hadn’t seemed necessary when he’d been in Denver. Maybe I should look into it now.
At the moment, he couldn’t do anything because the firefighters appeared carrying out a basket with a body in it. They’d secured the hiker so she couldn’t move, but he had the oddest hope she’d survived. He watched them transfer her into the ambulance, one of the firefighters getting in with her before they closed the doors.
The ambulance took off toward Chimney Rock and Riley waited for the go-ahead from the deputy. But something damn near stopped his breath and narrowed his world down to a single point.
A woman stopped beside the fire truck and pulled off her helmet. White-blonde hair held in a bun made her blaze against the darker colors of the truck and trees. He couldn’t take his eyes off her. A few whisps had escaped the bun to frame her face in a pale halo, but when she met his gaze across the distance between them with arctic blue eyes, he lost all the breath remaining in his body. I must meet her.
He almost shoved his door open to get to her, but she turned away and climbed into the fire truck without another look. The pain of separation made him sob, but the words printed on the side of the truck gave him hope. Cloudburst Hot Shots. They were based in his home town.
Riley grinned. Maybe living in this little town wouldn't be so bad. He’d do his damnedest to meet the icy-eyed firefighter. He started his truck and waited for his turn to go, new purpose blooming in his chest.
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