Published September 2, 2011 by Christa Maurice

Want to start at the beginning?


Colleen threw out her hands to catch herself. Gravel bit into her palms and then into the side of her knee and thigh. Noises became crystal sharp. The guy running down the sidewalk. The crunch of tires coming toward her head. She flexed into the fetal position, wrapping her arms over her head as if that would protect her from the weight of car tires. Brakes squealed in her ears and a door opened. Footsteps rushed past her. The expected crush of a car on her head didn’t come.

Colleen, are you okay?”

Colleen tried to open her eyes, but found she had squeezed them so tightly closed that it took a surprising effort. When she finally managed, she looked up at Dan hovering over her, one hand resting lightly on her shoulder. “He threw me out in traffic,” she muttered.

We saw.”

Even in her dazed state she could hear the steel edged fury in his voice.

Are you hurt?” His voice softened as he slid his hand along her arm tenderly. Colleen moved on response. Stinging sensations erupted in her hands, leg and cheek. “I think so. Why? Do you want to call the paramedics?”

Do you need paramedics? I’ll call…” Dan started to stand, already making the call in his mind.

Dan, it was a joke.”

Scowling, Dan settled next to her again. “It wasn’t funny.”

Grace threw open the door. “Colleen, holy shit,” she squealed. “What happened?”

I’m fine.” Colleen tried to sit up, but couldn’t seem to control her suddenly shivering limbs. Dan wrapped his arm around her shoulders pulling her upright and against his hard chest at the same time. Colleen shuddered again, but this time not from the shock of being thrown in front of a car. “Grace, go tell Connie to call Dennis. I think I’m going to have to go to the station to file a report.”

Holy moley.” Grace wheeled around and trotted into the store.

Dan helped Colleen up as far as the front bumper of the car. It was unnervingly close to where she had been laying. “Are you sure you’re okay? I can call your other boyfriend if I have to.”

Very funny.” Colleen hugged herself. The air suddenly felt too cool and her teeth started to chatter. April in LA shouldn’t make her teeth chatter. Maybe she did need a paramedic.

Nothing to see here folks,” Dan told the crowd gathering on the sidewalk.

Scott them made a liar of him by pulling the credit card guy through them handcuffed. He looked angry enough to chew through steel. “Colleen, are you okay?” he asked.

I’m fine,” Colleen said through chattering teeth.

Is this the man who pushed you into the street?”

It is.” At least Scott was following procedure. “And he has stolen credit cards on him.”

No, he doesn’t.” Dan draped a jacket over Colleen’s shoulders and leaned down to pick something up. “He tossed them in the street at the same time he was tossing you.”

I never seen that credit card before,” the guy shouted.

Ask Gary.” Colleen shuddered. Instead of making her warmer, the jacket seemed to be making her colder. “Gary will remember the number.”

You’re going inside.” Dan pulled her to her feet. “I don’t need you going into shock on me. I swear, you act like you’ve never been shoved in front of a speeding car before.”

Grace met then halfway across the store carrying a ceramic cup. “I made you some tea. I thought it would make you feel better. Connie called Dennis and he’s on his way. He said you have to wait until he gets here before you can leave. And the ebar wants to know if you want a care package,” she asked, trailing them across the store to the office door.

A care package?” Colleen couldn’t even imagine what that meant. Dan had his arm wrapped around her waist and heat was seeping back into her body like sitting beside a fire after an afternoon in the snow. Dan opened the office door and guided her inside. “Can you see if Scott needs anything?”

Got it. I’ll take care of everything.” Grace thrust the cup at Dan and dashed away.

She’s nuts,” Colleen said.

You all are. What were you thinking chasing after that guy?” He took her into the break room.

I wasn’t chasing him. I was stalling him.”

Dan put his hands around her waist and lifted her onto the table. “You were doing something stupid. He could have thrown you in front of a car I wasn’t driving.” He pressed the teacup into her hands.

You were just across the street. I knew if I could just keep him here for a few minutes you’d be here. Oh not that, it’s septic,” she said as he turned to her with a dish rag in his hand.


It’s been in the sink since the store opened. It’s breeding new life forms as we speak. Here, I’ll get it.” She set aside the cup and started to slide off the table.

He put up one hand. “You sit still. You were getting shocky out there. Where are the clean towels?”

That drawer. And the first aid kit is in the one next to it.”

Great.” Dan pulled out the alcohol and splashed it liberally on a clean towel. “In the future, you will call us, get a good description of the bad guy and let us catch him. Understand?” He swabbed off her hands, causing them to sting as well as throb.

Dan, I knew you were right across the street. It would only be a matter of seconds before you got here.”

Your head was under my bumper.” Dan knelt to clean off her knee. He paused, looking up at her seriously. “I nearly squished you like a stray cat.”

Oh Dan.” Colleen sighed dramatically. “You say the sweetest things.”

Dan grumbled, but it turned slightly strangled as he started pushing up her skirt to wipe off her leg. Colleen held her breath, enjoying the sensation of his fingers against her skin. The almost painful sensation of want coursed up her spine.

Dan.” She gasped.

Huh?” He sounded groggy.

This is a –“ She’d intended to say bad time or bad idea or something to indicate that he should stop, but her mouth didn’t want to say anything like that. It was leaning more toward “don’t stop.”


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