One Night with a Hollywood Hero
Unforgettable Nights (Book 9)
Tagline: Can they confront their pasts to build a new future together?
Star of the hit TV show Bite Me, Kyle Grange let fame go to his head and spiraled down a dark path. So he’s escaping to a secluded mountain cabin to rediscover the person he used to be. When an injured woman invades his solitude and he realizes she doesn’t recognize him, Kyle sees a chance to make a connection as his true self. Wholesome and health conscious, Sierra is different from any woman he’s ever known. Stranded without phone, Internet, electricity, or medical facilities in a southern California rainstorm, Kyle cares for Sierra’s injuries. As he becomes a giver instead of a taker, he develops feelings for Sierra he never expected. But will she still care for him when they return to the real world and she learns who he really is?
Late to meet her group for a camping trip, physical therapist Sierra Nash takes a shortcut off the path, twists her ankle, and plunges fifty feet down the mountain. Her desperate cries bring a strong, surefooted man to her rescue. Even in jeans, a faded tee and a week’s worth of beard, he’s incredibly handsome. He carries her to his cabin to wait for help. But a flash flood washes away the trails, and Sierra finds herself spending the night, and the next several days with a man, who tends to her sprained ankle and treats her like a princess. Can she dare to believe he loves her for who she is? Or will she lose Kyle if she reveals who she used to be?
Maybe she should have stayed on the trail.
Sierra Nash trudged up the mountain’s steep incline, her body weighted by the large backpack and bedroll. The hiking group she was trying to connect with was probably all assembled and waiting at the assigned meeting place.
If she hadn’t stopped to help her elderly neighbor carry in her groceries, she’d be there already. Now running twenty minutes late, she’d thought this narrow wooded path might be a good shortcut. But she hadn’t foreseen it constricting even more, the slope sharpening into an almost vertical cliff. Tree branches snapped across her face. The scent of pine surrounded her like an imprisoning wall. Sierra dug her hiking boots into the ground as she trudged upward, focusing on the sporadic rays of sun glinting through the dense forest.
Just a little more. As soon as she reached more level ground she’d cut back toward the trail. Surely the group would wait a few minutes for any stragglers. Sierra hadn’t pre-registered for this camping trip because her boss hadn’t approved her week off until the last minute, but the website had said there was still plenty of room available.
The air was heavy with humidity. She wiped a bead of sweat off her brow. As she slogged forward through the undergrowth, her foot slid and slipped into a hole.
Damn! Her leg folded under her, twisting her foot into an awkward angle. Gasping in pain, Sierra tried to regain her balance, but as she leaned her weight onto her other foot, it wobbled and skated, forcing her legs into a split she’d never experienced in yoga class.
She was sliding. Falling. Then her whole body crashed through hard pebbled ground, increasing in speed as it barreled down the mountain. Sierra clawed at the earth with her fingernails, grabbing at anything she could as she tumbled, but trees and vines whipped past her reach. The San Gabriel Valley loomed ominously below. She rolled to her side, then to her back, trying to slow her momentum, kicking at hard, unrelenting ground.
“Aiiiii!” Her leg slammed into the side of a tree. Sierra finally caught a foothold on an exposed tree root. Her hand grasped at leafy undergrowth. Breathing past the excruciating pain, she opened her eyes. Her whole body ached. Her ankle throbbed as if clamped by a vise. But the valley had stopped moving. And she had stopped sliding.
But for how long? Her backpack and bedroll were wedged against the tree. The vine she clung to would give way soon. Sierra struggled to sit up, then decided better of it. She didn’t dare move her foot, or dislodge her backpack, for fear of losing her tenuous hold and plunging farther down the mountain. Despite the dizzying pain, she’d have to try to keep her position until help came.
Carefully she dug her fingers into her jeans pocket and drew out her cell phone. No service.
Her stomach clenched. No reason to panic. There must be some cabins, or campers, or hikers nearby. Barely moving her neck, she glanced around the mountain forest. It was still, quiet. No sound but the wisp of a breeze. Not even a squirrel raced across the terrain. She was so far off the trail and so far below them, her would-be camping companions would never hear her. The odds of anyone else finding her on this remote area of the mountain were improbable. Yet she did what any other human being fighting for survival would do. She yelled as loud as she could.
“Help! Help! Somebody please help me!”
Kyle Granger sipped his coffee on the porch of the log cabin. At this altitude, the odor of Los Angeles smog seemed a distant memory, superseded by the sweet scent of damp earth. This was just what he’d needed, a couple of weeks alone with his thoughts, away from the temptations that had caused more screw-ups than he liked to admit.
After the first few days, he’d found himself taunted by severe withdrawal, not from drugs or alcohol, but from Facebook, Twitter, the Internet. No Wi-fi up here. Or cell service. But he’d toughed it out, traded the noise of modern civilization for the peaceful chirping of birds and occasional rustling of leaves. Instead of the stress of living up to an impossible image, his only worry was which frozen pizza to pop in the oven for dinner.
A sound penetrated his musings, but after six days not hearing a human voice it took a second to register. Kyle cocked his head and strained to hear. Something was making a human-like noise. Maybe it was birds teasing one another, trying to mess with his mind.
He listened harder. The sound came again. It was definitely a voice. A female voice, if he wasn’t mistaken. Setting down his coffee cup, he stood and tried to determine the direction of the sound. The agent who’d rented him this place had assured him there were no other cabins within two miles. Most of their clientele came out here, like him, for privacy. And the trails, such as they were, were impassable except by four wheel drive vehicles. A hiker?
The sound vanished for a minute, then started again. It reached Kyle’s ears as barely a whisper but it was probably just faint from being far away. “Help.” The plea was almost a whimper. “Please help me.”
Slamming his feet into his boots, he tied the laces securely to make sure he didn’t trip over them. He’d done that the first day, stubbed his toe on a tree root, and landed on his ass. Good thing the rental company provided a first aid kit with the cabin.
He followed the voice, hoping to home in on the woman’s location as it got louder. But it got softer, like a fading whine. Kyle’s chest stiffened and his fingers clenched. The person might be injured. What the hell was he going to do if he found her?
“Hello?” He called out into the emptiness. “Is someone there?”
He waited, his throat closed up tight. Finally the voice answered, “Here.”
Here where? Altitude and vegetation distorted the sounds. He couldn’t tell if she was above him or below him.
The voice was coming from the east, somewhat farther down the mountain. But the trees blocked his view.
Kyle dug his boots in with every step, testing his footing. If she’d slipped and fallen, he wouldn’t be much help if he did the same. “Keep talking. I’m coming,” he said confidently, although he had no idea whether he was actually nearing her or walking away from her.
Then he saw her. She was wedged against a tree, half-sitting, half-lying, a large pack between her body and the giant tree trunk. Wheat-blonde hair mussed from what must have been a steep tumble.
Kyle stumbled over the rough terrain toward her. “Are you okay?” Stupid question. He tried another. “Can you get up?”
She pointed to her right foot, pinned against a large above-ground tree root surrounded by thorny undergrowth. The red boot looked twisted at an unnatural angle, and from the pain etched into the woman’s face, Kyle guessed her ankle might be broken.
He winced. “You can’t move it?”
“No unless I want to slide farther down.”
Kyle glanced up at the treacherous cliff above them, the path of broken tree limbs and shrubbery that marked the path of her fall. She’d fallen from all the way up there?
He grabbed onto a low branch and extended his hand. “Take my hand. I’ve got you.”
Puffing out breaths of air, she studied his hand. “No offense, but if you can’t hold me…”
“I won’t let you go,” he promised. Still he positioned himself below her, so that if she rolled down, his body could block her fall. What would block his fall was anyone’s guess.
“Do you think you can move your foot—not much, just enough to free it?”
The woman grasped his hand and carefully eased her foot out of the tangle of undergrowth, stabilizing her position.
Kyle let out a shaky breath. “Are you okay?”
“Oh, sure. I’m ready to get up and dance.”
Kyle let the sarcasm pass. She had to be in a lot of pain, and frightened. He crouched beside her. “Mind if I take a look at that foot?”
“Are you a doctor?”
“No. But right now I’m all you’ve got.” He untied her laces and slipped off her boot and thick sock. The bruised ankle was swollen and purple, but not bleeding. No bone poked through the skin, but if it was his ankle, Kyle wouldn’t want to put any weight on it.
“It hurts like hell,” she said, examining the injury, “but I don’t think it’s broken.”
“Are you a doctor?”
“No. Physical therapist. But I’ve seen limbs mangled a lot worse than this. I think I can probably walk on it, if you’ll help me stand.”
He glanced at the backpack wedged between her body and the tree. Even an able-bodied person would find it difficult to rise with that gargantuan pack strapped to his or her back. Kyle reached behind her and removed the straps from her shoulders. “Can you lean forward?”
When she did, her shoulders slumped as if…well, as if a heavy weight had slipped from them. She let out a deep breath. Grasping his hand, she placed her other against the ground and tried to get to her feet.
Swaying unsteadily, she landed with a thump on her rump. Then, scowling, attempted the rise again.
“Why don’t you just take a few minutes to regain your strength?”
Sitting on the ground beside her, Kyle turned to study her face. It was a pretty face, even with tears welling in her Pacific-blue eyes. Her cheeks were tanned, as if she were no stranger to the outdoors. She might be as young as twenty. Or as old as thirty, if she was a woman who took care of herself. Kyle appraised her with appreciation. She looked like she took care of herself. Healthy lifestyle, probably. Not the entitled type he was used to who fussed over a broken nail.
“What were you doing out here anyway? This is a pretty isolated part of the mountain.”
“I was late to meet my camping group and I…took a shortcut.” She grinned sheepishly. “Not my smartest decision. If you hadn’t come along, I don’t know what I would have done.”
“I’m glad I heard you. If I hadn’t been sitting outside…” He got to his feet and offered her both hands, sniffing the thick air. Clouds heavy with moisture hinted at an impending spring shower. “Think you can walk a little ways if I help you? My cabin isn’t too far.”
“Your cabin?” She eyed him suspiciously.
“Just until I can get you down the mountain safely.” He glanced below him. “It’s two miles to the road. And you don’t want to make that journey sliding on your ass.”
She took his hands and pulled herself up, dangling one leg.
Kyle clasped his hand around her waist to support her. “Lean on me.” Like partners in a three legged race, they took a tentative step.
“My stuff!” She started to reach for the backpack and bedroll.
“I’ll come back for it later.” Steadying her against the tree, he bent for the boot he’d removed from her foot and tied the laces around the tree, hoping the bright red beacon would help him find it again.
They tried moving again, but she did more hopping than walking, wincing with each step as he guided her to more level terrain.
When they reached flatter ground, Kyle paused and took a deep breath. She was putting on a brave front, but there was no way she could walk the rest of the way to his cabin with a busted ankle. Summoning all his strength, he planted his feet securely, bent his knees and lifted the woman into his arms.