Picture Perfect Legacy
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Don't take my baby. Please don't take my baby. The woman's plea whispered in the steady swish, swish of the wipers. Her image wavered among the falling flakes of snow, horror streaking in anguished tears down her face.
Marly O'Shea shivered and forced her attention back to the narrow, twisting road grudgingly carved out of the side of the mountain.
The heater of her Jeep Wrangler valiantly battled the fingers of icy air creeping through the gaps in a canvas top that seemed to shrink each summer while it lay bundled in Marly’s garage. She much preferred the heated summer breezes that tangled her over-curly hair in wild abandon to the frigid winds laying icy sheets of moisture in the dips and shadows of the road she now traveled.
A gust of angry wind blasted around a curve, rattling the canvas top of the Jeep. The flurries of snow grew heavier, layering the road in a relentless white. Marly shifted into a lower gear and concentrated on what she could see of the road illuminated by her headlights.
Until she realized the headlights careening through the darkness weren't hers. They bore down on her, like a missile seeking its target.
Adrenaline spurted through Marly’s veins. She leaned on the horn and steered the Jeep as far to the side of the road as possible without sliding off the edge.
Brighter and brighter, the lights obliterated the darkness until Marly thought they would explode. Then, as suddenly as they appeared, the lights jerked away, bouncing down the road behind her and quickly disappearing.
The tires of the Jeep hit gravel, then slushy mud. Frantically down-shifting, Marly eased to a stop and sat frozen. Nothing dared intrude on the deafening silence of the night but the roar of a creek echoing in a canyon far below.
Another brilliant light flashed on, and Marly jerked her arm up to shield her eyes. A sharp rap on her door sent her grabbing for the purse that had slid onto the floor. Reaching inside, her fingers wrapped around the taser her overprotective brothers presented to her as a moving-away-from-home gift.
Cradling the weapon on her lap, Marly turned to confront the man standing beside her Jeep. A halo of light silhouetted the man’s bushy hair and beard, but his features remained obscured in shadows.
“Are you hurt?” His voice flowed like melted honey, its comforting tones at odds with his unkempt appearance.
Slowly, Marly shook her head. "No."
“We need to get you off this curve before another car comes through. I’m going to hook my winch to your vehicle and pull you back onto the road.”
He disappeared into the curtain of light, leaving Marly with only the impression of broad shoulders encased in black leather.
Her heart raced. It was the near accident, she told herself.
Soon, metal clunked against metal as the man hooked a cable to the underside of her vehicle. After a moment’s token resistance, the Jeep moved back onto the solid surface of the road.
A sigh of relief flowed through Marly’s body, brought up short by the sudden reappearance of the man beside her vehicle. Many times her brothers scolded her for being too trusting. Narrow hips and long legs snugly encased in worn blue jeans could belong to a serial killer as easily as a white knight.
“Step out while I check your vehicle for damage.” A jagged scar over the man’s right eyebrow gleamed as he reached for her door handle.
Every murder mystery she read as a teenager gave the bad guy a scar. She wasn’t taking any chances. Adrenaline pumped through Marly’s body once again as she leveled the taser at the man’s chest. “Stop right there.”
Irritation briefly crinkled the man's brow. “The undercarriage of your vehicle might be damaged.”
“Step away from the vehicle.” Marly juggled the taser in one hand while using the other to crank the key in the ignition. The Jeep sputtered to life, rocketing relief through Marly’s veins. The man quick-stepped backward as she shoved the vehicle into gear and stomped on the gas, leaving her mystery rescuer--or would-be attacker--standing with the snow falling on the dark velvet of his tousled hair.