She tensed as above the wind and the drumming rain she heard an engine, and realised a vehicle was coming from the opposite direction—and coming fast. Did they know the road? Did they think speed would get them over the bridge?
Did they have a four-wheel drive? All these questions flashed through her mind, but she knew she couldn't take a risk on any or all of those factors. She must warn them. She abandoned her tree and ran out into the middle of the road, jumping up and down and waving her arms. She was wearing a red-and-white fine gingham blouse, and she prayed it would stand out—though she knew her loose beige three-quarter-length pedal-pushers would not; they were plastered with mud. Perhaps nothing, she thought later, would have averted the disaster that then took place.
The vehicle was coming too fast. It didn't even brake. But as it hit the torrent raging over the bridge, just as had happened to her car, the back fishtailed, the stream got it, and it too was swept away at a dangerous angle. Bridget winced and put a hand to her mouth, because she could see faces at the windows of the vehicle, some of them children, and there were childish cries as windows were wound down, one piercing scream.
Then the car disappeared from sight.
She sobbed once and forced herself to examine her options, but they were pitifully few—actually she had none, she conceded, other than to try to reach the car on foot. Her mobile phone was sitting in her car…. But another vehicle suddenly appeared around the bend behind her, and this one managed to stop without skidding, well clear of the torrent.
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Bridget tried to catch her breath, but it was a panting, emotional explanation she gave. She finished by saying passionately, 'There were children in the car! They'dhave no hope against a torrent that can wash away cars. Have you got a phone?
Mine's in the car. We need to alert—'. She was feeling thoroughly overwrought by now. She jumped up and down in exasperation. The stranger took a very brief moment to examine her sodden, highly emotional presence. It happened just after I passed. He stopped to open the back of the rather elderly Land Rover he was driving. He turned to her impatiently. I only have one waterproof, that I happen to be wearing—'.
And—' Bridget drew herself up to her full height: Had it been doomed from the start, their rescue mission? They certainly gave it their all. But climbing their way downstream beside the swollen creek, in pouring rain, with bushes and small trees whipping in the sudden gusts of wind, was not only heartbreakingly slow, it was exhausting.
It was also bruising and scraping, and before long, with still no sign of the car or any of its occupants, all her muscles ached.
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That might have accounted for her slipping suddenly and getting herself caught up on an old piece of fence line at the edge of the creek. Somehow a piece of wire slipped into the belt loop of her pants, and she couldn't free herself however much she wriggled. She looked backwards over her shoulder, and nearly died to see a dirty wall of water coming down towards her.
She didn't give it a second thought. She squirmed out of her pants, but the water caught her and she'd have been washed downstream if her companion hadn't leapt in beside her, managed to tie the rope around her waist and somehow drag and half-carry her to relative safety. They both kept going—until, when her lungs and her heart felt like bursting, he finally called a halt. It was a cave, with rocky walls, a dirt floor and an overhang overgrown with dripping bushes and grass.
Bridget collapsed on the floor. When her panting had subsided a bit, she said with irony, 'Looks like the rescuers will have to be rescued. Bridget sat up and looked around tentatively. She wasn't all that keen on small spaces, but the thought of what lay outside outweighed her tendency towards claustrophobia.
For the first time her partially unclothed state struck her. She looked down at her bare legs, then realised her blouse was torn and showing parts of her blameless pink lace and silk bra. It was also muddy and torn. She looked up and discovered her rescuer on his knees, looking down at the dripping, twisted, half-clad length of her with a little glint of admiration in his amazing blue eyes—it was the first time she'd noticed them. But just as she felt like squirming in embarrassment he looked away abruptly and started to undress himself. She watched him in startled suspended animation as he ripped off his waterproof jacket, then his long-sleeved plaid shirt, revealing a tanned, muscular chest sprinkled with dark hairs and a pair of powerful shoulders.
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For a moment her eyes rounded in admiration of her own, then she swallowed with a strange little squawk of sound—a squawk of unwitting apprehension. He said, matter-of-factly, 'I'm Adam, by the way. Why don't you take your blouse off and put my shirt on? I'll look the other way. Bridget fingered the shirt. It was mostly dry, and it emitted a reassuringly masculine odour of sweat and cotton. The Dragonlords of Xandakar. Virgin River Collection Volume 1.
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