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I gave him the details and then said, “I’m going to have to put the phone in my pocket now. I need both hands, and it’s hard enough trying to hold onto the flashlight, too.”
Linc didn’t squabble with me. He only agreed. “Just keep me on the line.”
I did, shoving the phone into my front scrub pocket while I inched my way down.
Finally, I hit the bottom and winced when my feet sank down a couple inches into the mud.
Ignoring the way that they squelched as I moved, I gingerly started to sweep my flashlight in shallow arcs again, pausing briefly on what looked like a snake about eight feet away from me.
Fear climbing in my throat, I moved my light away from the snake and went back to sweeping, gasping when I found a bare foot.
I followed that bare foot up, moaning when I saw the body attached to it.
The guy was big. Really big. And he looked like he was in really bad shape.
He wasn’t moving, but his eyes were wide open, and he was staring at the light.
“Oh, God,” I moaned, hurrying toward him.
The water slogged around my feet, and I knew that I was splashing mud halfway up my leg, but all I could see was that man lying there, halfway submerged by the same mud I was trying to navigate.
The moment I reached him, I pulled my phone out of my pocket and placed it to my ear. “Linc, there’s a man down here, I found him. Hurry.”
With that, I put the phone back into my pocket, still connected, and started assessing the man like the trained ER nurse I was.
I set the light down on the large boulder that was next to the man’s head, but was miraculously at the perfect height, and started cataloging the injuries.
He for sure had a broken ulna. I could see the white bone sticking out of his arm.
He had a nasty gash on his face that was pouring blood, but his pulse was strong.
“Broken arm, nasty gash on my head, what feels like a broken ass, and something’s impaling me so that I can’t move.”
I looked up to find the man’s eyes on me.
“You’re trained?” I asked, bending over him to see about the impalement.
He was right.
He had what looked to be a piece of rebar sticking out of his side, impaling his flesh about six inches above his hip bone.
“Holy shit,” I breathed.
Then the sirens started to sound.
“Glad you found me,” the man said.
I was, too.
Then the leather that was covering his chest caught my eye.
I touched the patch above his heart. “Hoax?”
The man, Hoax, did this grin/smile thing that said he was only doing it despite the pain. “Yeah. That’s my name.”
Then he closed his eyes, looking like he was on the verge of passing out.
I needed to keep him talking.
“Are you in the motorcycle club? Bear Bottom Guardians?” I pushed.
“Yep,” he agreed. “I am. How’d you know?”
I didn’t see any point not to tell him the complete truth.
“Linc James,” I started. “Linc and I have this…connection. I’ve known him since he first joined.”
I blinked. “You know my name?”
“I know your name,” he agreed. “If you hadn’t said Linc and you had a connection, I wouldn’t have known who you were.”
Something warm and fluttery took up in my stomach, masking the fear for now. “Linc talks about me?”
“Oh, yeah,” he said. “Talks about you a lot. Especially when he’s drunk.”
I groaned. “Oh, shit. I’m almost afraid to ask.”
Hoax chuckled, which quickly turned into a groan.
But the pain didn’t stop him from explaining.
“Always good things, honey,” he rasped. “The man is only a little infatuated with you,” he was quick to explain.
I smiled and shifted in the mud, feeling it creep up into my crotch.
“Did he tell you about the mess I got him into this week?” I wondered.
“No.” He shook his head, causing blood to spill into his eye.
I looked down at my muddy shirt again, as well as my muddy hands.
I was torn in between putting pressure on his head wound and wanting to keep it as clean as possible. There was no doubt in my mind that there was bacteria down here. With all the trash that I could see lying around, paired with the stagnant, muddy water? Yeah, it was probably a breeding ground for all things bad for an open wound.
The sirens were getting closer, and I decided to wait to do anything with his head. The blood flow was lessening slightly.
“Linc and I have a history. He…well, let’s just say that we didn’t end things well. I’m still not sure why, by the way. Only one day he said, ‘this can’t happen yet’ and left me reeling.” I paused. “But he hasn’t completely left my life. He calls. Texts. Tries to stop over, but I make myself scarce when that happens.” I paused for a breath. “Anyway, he didn’t take no for an answer when he asked me out on a date, so to get back at him I accepted a date with a doctor from work…”
I went on to tell him everything. How I felt about said doctor. How I felt about Linc. How I’d inadvertently outed Linc as my baby daddy to my non-existent baby.
By the time I was done, Hoax’s smile was huge.
“I’ll bet that just made Linc’s day,” Hoax admitted.
I thought about that for a long moment and then grunted. “To be honest, he wasn’t really all that upset about it.”
Hoax grinned but didn’t laugh.
“That’s because you just gave him exactly what he wanted without making him work for it. You practically tied a pretty little bow to your sweet little head and then said, ‘Okay, take me, big boy,’” he explained.
I frowned. “I’m not sure what you mean.”
Hoax rolled his eyes toward me, avoiding an answer. “Even if you hadn’t introduced yourself, I would’ve eventually known who you were.”
My brows went up. “Really? How?”
“Linc,” he said, shrugging his shoulder slightly, then wincing. “Linc’s been talking about you for so long that I can’t even pinpoint an exact day. I know it’s at least been going on since he joined the club, and when we were talking about switching the name from the Dixie Wardens MC to the Bear Bottom Guardians MC.”
“What?” I was surprised. “You were once a Dixie Warden?”
He nodded once. “Yep. Originally, anyway. We chose to set up here because it was pretty localized to clubs that were friendly with the Dixie Wardens already. Mostly all of us were sons of original members of different chapters. For instance, my granddad is a member of the Benton chapter. Dixie is his name.”
I blinked once in surprise. “My stepfather is Big Papa.”
“I know,” he replied. “I told you I’d know who you were despite the intro. But that is due to Linc never shutting his trap about you, not because I ever saw you there. I was in the Marines until we branched off and changed our name to Bear Bottom Guardians.”
“Hmm,” I finally said. “I take it that the older generation wasn’t happy about y’all wanting to change the name?”
How had I not heard this before? I felt really stupid for not knowing.
This time Hoax couldn’t hold the laugh in. “Oh, hell no. That was also when I started to hear about you nonstop.”
But before I could get him to expound on his answer, the sirens drowned out our conversation and the lights started to color our world with a wash of red and blue as the emergency personnel arrived on scene.
Something touched my arm while I was busy looking up, and absently I swatted it away before I could think too hard on it.
But something big splashed in the water to my side, causing me to turn and look at what, exactly, it was that I’d swatted.
And that was when I saw a large snake slithering toward me, pissed off as all get out.
Before I could scream, let alone even blink, Hoax’s hand flashed out, and he caught the snake around the neck. The massive slimy thing opened its mouth and showed off his impressive fangs.