Muscles tensed, and my hands tightened on the wheel in a steely grip as my eyes narrowed on the blank white nothing in front of me. Wind howled around the huge four-wheel drive truck, snow and ice and hail and who the fuck knows what else whipping across the windshield.
It was like driving through a goddamn sno-cone maker, and I was right in the middle of it.
Real roads would have been easier. Hell, not going over the fucking mountain would have been, too. But then, you didn’t hire me for taking the easy route. Hell, you didn’t hire me for easy jobs; period.
I gunned the engine, my eyes peering through the haze of frozen white hell blanketing the road in front of me. The road was treacherous. The conditions sucked. To most sensible, rational people, this was suicide — a quick way to get my ass skidding over the side of a cliff. But I had a deadline to make. And like I said, they didn’t hire me to take it easy. They hired me because I got it done, no matter what.
And hey, I’d had worse. No one was shooting at me this time.
The truck shuddered as I cranked the engine RPMs higher. I was pushing this beast to within an inch of its life, but it could take it. The truck was custom built to take a pounding and keep on going. Lifted suspension, steel-reinforced frame, roll bars, and an extended backseat to the cab in case I needed to camp out somewhere a while. It was also bulletproof, but like I said, for this job, I didn’t think that was going to play a part.
A gust slammed into me from out of nowhere, I growled and yanked the wheel, pounding on the gas as I skidded right through the ice slick that almost knocked out my back tires. My eyes darted to the side of the treacherous mountain road, and the steep, rocky, snow-covered embankment down the side to the pine trees below.
I was sure this mountain — Blackthorn Mountain — was beautiful when it wasn’t trying to kill you. But right then, it was me against the mountain, and I was going to show this motherfucker who was boss.
I had a deadline, and I had cargo that needed delivering. And this one was extra important. This one was a special delivery, to a close friend and benefactor of Angelo Capello, head of the Capello Familia. I’d run transport and smuggling jobs for Angelo before, but this one was different. This one had him anxious, and for a hard-as-nails old-school mobster like Angelo, anxious wasn’t a look he was used to.
I had no idea what I was carrying. Didn’t want to, either. I never did. But just the same, this one felt off, and I knew it. This wasn’t the usual guns or drugs. Or if it was, it was a fuckload of guns or drugs. I only caught a glimpse of the huge crate Angelo’s boys loaded into the steel-reinforced covered back of my truck. The back was built like an armored truck, and the only key hung around my neck. But again, something felt different with this one.
Not just different. Off.
I shook my head, narrowing my eyes on the bleak, frozen road ahead, and I tightened my grip on the wheel. There was no room to be thinking of fuck-all except getting through and not falling to my death in the process. Whatever I was hauling, it was none of my business. In fact, I was paid well to assure it wasn’t.
The huge snow tires crunched over the icy snow, and the wedge on the front of the big truck plowed right through the drifts whipping across the road. I was nearing the peak. The tree line thinned, and it felt like I was on top of the fucking world, with the whole white sky roaring around me. I glanced at the dash clock and grinned.
Shit, I might even make it there earl—
It was like a bomb went off. Something hit, hard, and I roared as the truck skidded sideways across the road. Tires screeched and metal whined. My world shrunk to just me, the wheel, and the road. My muscles rippled, clenching as I yanked the wheel hard, but it was too late, and the truck was sliding too fast.
There was no guardrail this high up on the mountain road, so it was soundless as the truck skipped over the ice, over the ledge, and then just hit dead air. Time froze, and it was like I was dropping in slow motion, weightless as the truck fell.
And then, I hit, and everything sped right back up again.
The truck slammed down, tipping and rolling, and I roared, the cross-strap of my seatbelt yanking tight across my chest as the whole world went upside down. My head ricocheted off the side window, and I grunted, tasting copper and seeing black spots as the truck flipped once, twice, three more times, tumbling down the side of the whole fucking mountain before suddenly, it caught. Wood splintered and snapped around me as the tree line caught the tumbling truck, and suddenly, it all went still.
At first, the silence was deafening — just ringing in my ears as I blinked, trying to focus. My vision swam, and all I could hear as the ringing started to fade was this roaring sound. And it took me a second to realize it was my pulse, thundering in my ears.
I looked around, blinking. The truck was at a forty-five-degree angle to one side, half buried in snow and jammed against the side of three huge pine trees. My vision swam as I scanned the truck. I ducked to glance out the windshield to see how far I’d tumbled, but I groaned at the pain in my neck. Whiplash, from the fall.
I blinked, finding my breath, ignoring the soreness spreading through me as I scanned the dashboard. I looked down and saw my smashed cell phone by my feet, and I swore.
The CB radio half crackled to life when I turned it on, but it shorted almost instantly, sizzling and sparking before dying. But then, even if it worked, I didn’t know why there would be a signal on top of a fucking mountain in the middle of nowhere anyways.
The engine was dead, but I had a generator and a space heater built into the thing, if it came down to staying put for a while. And I had food and water too. But not that much. And it wasn’t like anyone was going to be looking for me. Well, Angelo would when I didn’t deliver, and he’d most likely figure I’d run off with his cargo. But even he wouldn’t be looking up here.
My jaw tightened as I stared out through the windshield.
In short, I was fucked.
I was just about to start checking myself for injuries, when I heard it. I froze, eyes darting around outside the truck. The sound came again, and my eyes narrowed.
That wasn’t the wind.
It was screaming. Muffled, urgent, screaming. And it was close.
I yanked my jacket on, wincing at a dull pain in my shoulder and in the side of my head from hitting the window. I pulled the .45 from its hidden holster under my seat, shoving it into the waistband of my jeans as I prepared myself. The door opened after a shove, the icy wind hitting me like a fist, sucking my breath away as I grunted and jumped down from the truck.
The sound suddenly came again. As I turned back to my truck, horrible realization slowly dawned on me.
You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.
I wasn’t carrying guns or drugs. I was transporting a person.
I swore, pushing my way through waist-high snow as fast as I could as I moved to the back of the truck. I yanked the key on its chain around my neck out from my jacket, undoing the lock, gripping the handles, and yanking the door open.
I don’t know what I expected, but I know one thing for damn sure.
…I didn’t expect her.
The girl was shivering. Half naked, wet, scared looking. And gorgeous.
Stunningly gorgeous. Long blonde, golden hair, with this pale snow-white skin that almost glowed in the winter world around us. And big, wide, hazel eyes looked at me with this cold fury. She was practically naked, wearing just a t-shirt and panties, and she shivered, her teeth chattering as they raked across her ruby-red lips.
What the fuck is this?
“Are— Where…” She blinked, trembling, her eyes darting over me, looking past me, glancing up at the crooked angle of the truck ceiling.
Fuck, she was beautiful. Beautiful in a way that took the wind out of me. Beautiful in a way that fucking slayed me, and tore at something inside of me. Beautiful in a way that sent a blaze of heat through me, shaking me to my damn core.
…Beautiful in a way that stunned my military-honed instincts just long enough to not realize it when she suddenly lunged at me, fists swinging, a scream on her ruby red lips.
Her knee caught me in the nuts, and I groaned, doubling over as she rushed past me, jumping into the waist-high snow. I grunted, whirling and shaking my head at the sight of this gorgeous, half naked, and half frozen mystery girl trying to run away from me through three and a half feet of snow.
…Like hell I wasn’t about to chase her.