Civilian life has proved more challenging than Jeremy expected when his time in the Marines ended. Even though he's moved back to Atlanta he's still a million miles away, and his brothers don't know how to reach him. When a caramel-eyed aspiring chef almost runs Jeremy and his dog over with her hot pink Prius, his life might have found the purpose he's been looking for. She's got her heart set on another man, so how can Meagan be his miracle, especially when she doesn't even like Jeremy? And what if that other man holds the key to Jeremy's sanity, what then? But then again, the Cocker men always did like a challenge…
I didn’t want to wake up, but now that I’m running I feel better. Relieved. Ghosts are left behind me. Just me and my dog and the blissful silence of dawn. My home is in a quiet neighborhood, a deliberate choice. At this hour the streets are always empty.
If I lived in a busy neighborhood I’d be tense from all the unexpected noises.
I’d be searching for an oncoming fight that never comes anymore.
Silence is necessary to my sanity.
But what I don’t need is a Prius so quiet I can’t hear it coming.
My eyes lock with the driver’s. She’s headed right for us.
Adrenaline shoots into me like I’ve been punched.
I yank Aslan’s leash back.
His paws struggle to run backwards, the fur around his neck stretched under his chain-collar.
The girl’s hands dig into the steering wheel, turning to the right.
Her car skids away just in time, so close that wind touches my face like a whisper from The Reaper.
But she’s not so lucky.
With that quick turn she over-corrected and I shout as she crashes right into the oak tree on the corner, the one diagonal from where Aslan and I stand. She wraps right around the damn thing like her car is made of tin.
Everything goes silent again. Except in my own fucked up head. Rifles explode as I race to the wreck. I know they’re not real, just a mirage from my memories I might never be able to shake.
Put Jeremy Cocker on the front lines.
He’s the quickest to react.
Jeremy was made to fight.
He’s never scared.
Yeah, right. I’m scared all the time, like everybody.
I just ignore it.
I make it to the crumpled hunk of metal and yank on the locked door handle, scanning her bloody face like a robot calculating data. The airbag is splattered liquid red and ballooned around her. I shout through the glass. “Hey! You alive?!”
She doesn’t answer, eyes closed, lips parted.
“Aslan, go there!” I shout and point him to the sidewalk. Pulling off my hoodie, I wrap the thick cotton around my right arm and slam my elbow through the driver’s side rear window, glass shattering. Reaching over shards of it I unlock the driver’s door and rush to yank it open and lift her out of the car.
I’ve gotta call an ambulance.
They’ll need a report.
The car is totaled.
Left my cell phone at home. Hell, I hardly use the thing, so of course I don’t have it with me. “Aslan, come!”
As we rush back, his leash dragging unmanned, I keep checking on her and repeating, “Hang in there. Don’t die on me,” but the sight of her bloody in my arms is jarring. I grit my teeth and shut the ghosts out. Jesus, how many times have I carried the wounded?