Her heart seized, and she struggled to regain control.
“Hey, you okay?” the man on top of her whispered. “I’m going to try to move and see what shape we’re in.”
As he spoke, his warm breath caressed her ear, helping her relax a bit. She didn’t know why, but she felt safe with him. Which was stupid, considering where they were.
The mountain around them rumbled again, and she trembled, gripping his shirt. He wrapped her closer, pressing her cheek against his chest. Despite his calm demeanor, his heart raced. Did he think they would die here? Her head throbbed like the devil pummeling his way into heaven, but she didn’t want to move. She didn’t want to know they were trapped.
When the tremors stopped, he raised his head. She blinked and stared at his face. The beam from the flashlight had gone dim in the dust, but she could make out his features. Barely. His dirt-filled hair fell over his forehead and nearly reached his chin. The scar down one side of his cheek made him look like a pirate, and the hard pulsing line of his jaw seemed to confirm her worst fears. “Are we going to die?”
The shadow that swept through his hazel eyes was there and gone so fast she thought she’d imagined it.
“Thank you, if you’re lying.” She reached up to his face and touched his cheek, his jaw still clenched, contradicting his assurances.
He met her gaze, and his eyes flashed with gold. “Are you hurt?”
She tried to sit up, but rocks surrounded them. Oh, dear God, how would they get out of here? She couldn’t breathe. Her head throbbed worse whenever she moved, and her heart thudded against her chest like she had run a sprint. The feeling that she had to do something struck again. What was she supposed to be doing? Every time she tried to focus, pain stabbed through her brain, triggering flashes of light and odd sounds...and terror.
“My head feels like it’s going to explode, and I’m seeing double. I can’t think.”
She struggled to rise, and the world grayed. She clutched at his shirt, twisting the fabric hard. She panted and stared at him, unblinking, willing the world to come into focus.
The first thing she noticed was the bloodstained carpet, and she gasped. “Was I inside that?”
The man backed away, preparing to stand aside, but she clung to his cotton shirt. She didn’t want him to leave. She needed him close. He was the only thing real in this craziness. “Someone tried to kill me, didn’t they?” she asked, pressing her hand to her bloodied forehead.
She should know the answer, but her entire mind was blank.
“I don’t know what happened,” he whispered, his voice deepening. He stroked the back of her hand, his touch gentle but steady. “But you’re fine. Just breathe in. I need you calm for us to escape.”
His gaze held her captive. He took in a deep but shaky breath.
She did the same. The dog pushed against her leg, and she curled her fingers in its fur again. Daniel exhaled, and she mimicked him, breath for breath. Unable to look away, she pinned her focus on him, inhaling through her nose, letting her lungs expand and fill.
Her grip eased a bit on his shirt, but not enough that she couldn’t feel the rapid heartbeat beneath her hand. “Are you okay?”
Something dark and haunted crossed his face again. A second later it was gone.
“I’m fine, but you’ve got a hell of a knot on your head.”
She raised her hand and felt the swelling and the sticky residue. A small whine escaped her. “It hurts.”
“I bet it does.” He pressed his fingers gently against her scalp. “Why don’t you sit back down and drink while I dig us out.” He tugged a canteen from his belt, tilting it against her lips.
Gratefully she let the water sluice down her throat. “Thank you.” Her voice cleared somewhat.
She took another sip. “How did you find me?”
“Trouble must have heard you.” The man turned and started pulling stones to the side to clear the passageway.
“The dog. I’m Daniel, by the way.” He threw a large rock farther away. “And your name?”
She opened her mouth, and nothing came out. Why couldn’t she think of it? Everyone knew their own name. In an instant the crushing pain was back. The flashes of light. Muffled cries and hazy images. Trying desperately to stop her head from spinning, she clutched the heart-shaped locket around her neck like a good-luck talisman. “Oh, my God...”
Daniel turned around at the panic in her voice.
“I don’t know my name.” Her hands clutched at his. “Daniel, how can I not know my own name?”
The dust from the mine filtered the beam from the flashlight, but it was more than enough to let Daniel know they were screwed. Sweat that had nothing to do with exertion slid down his back. He was fighting off a PTSD meltdown and now this. How could he comfort her when he felt borderline psychotic?
He had to get outside. Fast.
“What’s my name?” the woman repeated, her voice shaking.
Daniel’s grip tightened on the rock he held. He hated the fear and bewilderment in her words, and he’d be damned if he let her see his alarm for both of them.
The blood on her temple oozed again, droplets landing on her dusty silk shirt. Someone had wanted her dead. That person might still succeed if Daniel didn’t dig them out quickly. He had no answers for this terrified woman, and couldn’t give her much in the way of comfort except to wrap her in his arms and hope she mistook his trembling as her own.
Daniel stroked her dark hair. “You’re going to be okay,” he reassured, knowing his words may not be true. “Once that bump goes down, you’ll remember everything.”
“What if I don’t?” She shivered.
He pressed her closer. “You will. It’s common with head injuries to be a little fuzzy.”
She shook her head, then winced, pressing her hand to her temple. “This isn’t fuzzy. I. Can’t. Remember. My. Name.” She paused, her eyes widening, then she whispered, “I can’t remember...anything.”
Swearing internally, Daniel gently stroked her black hair and forced what he hoped was a confident smile to his face. “Maybe we should call you Trouble. You deserve the moniker more than the mutt over there.”
At the sound of his name, Trouble’s head cocked.
“Or we could go the princess route. Sleeping Beauty might be appropriate.” Daniel kept his tone light, trying to divert her focus...and his. “Except she had blond hair. You could be Snow White. Her hair was black.”
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