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Authors: Angel's Touch

Heather Graham (2 page)

BOOK: Heather Graham
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Now he was silent. And very grim.

“Don, they couldn’t possibly have fired you!” she said.

He was silent—that craggy profile still turned toward the road. Then he sighed. “No. No one fired me.”

“Then…?”

He shrugged.

“It just—sucks. This whole Christmas thing just sucks. The rest of the world is already off or in the middle of a party. I work my tail off—like I’ve been doing for weeks now—and the boss walks in and thinks energy makes me too young to be fit for an important job.” He glanced at her at last. “They took the case from me, Cathy.”

“Oh, Don!” she commiserated.

He turned off the Avenue, heading out for the freeway. Cathy noted that the traffic was getting not just heavier, but wilder. People trying to get around the escape-the-city crunch were just about driving along the sidewalk.

“We didn’t have to go to work on Christmas Eve,” he reminded her a bit bluntly.

“No. I’m sorry.”

“We could have been in Aruba.”

She lifted a hand in the air. “But Christmas is—”

“Snow and ice on the roads. Maniacs who would happily shoot you to get you out of their way.”

“Mistletoe and holly, hot chocolate, sweet little squeals of delight when kids open a special package, dollars in little black kettles that just may make life sweeter for some unfortunate soul—”

“Who could get his butt up and work for a living, probably,” Don interrupted.

“Don!”

He sighed, staring at the road ahead of them again.

“Cathy, I—”

“What?”

He shook his head. “Cathy—it’s just wrong, what you do.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“It’s wrong, it’s crazy, it’s self-destructive. You go nuts over other people’s kids at Christmas. When someone is pregnant, you buy her gifts and maternity clothes. As soon as a baby is born, you’re there to gush over it. You’re just hurting yourself.” He stopped for a second, then finished, “You just hurt us both, this time, buying more silly gifts to stick under a Christmas tree for kids that aren’t even our own.”

She stared at his profile, stunned, hurt. Then she realized that he was the one hurting. Hurting for her as much as he claimed that she had just hurt them both.

“I’m okay, Don. Maybe I will never have a child, maybe we’ll never even be able to adopt one. But I’m not hurting myself; I take pleasure in a friend having a baby—”

“It has to make you suffer!” he exploded.

She shook her head. “Of course, I wish it were me. But a baby is just precious, whether it’s mine or not. A child is just precious. Oh, Don, I am really sorry, and you do have a right to choose how to spend Christmas, too. If you really want to go to an island next year and sit in the sun, we can do that. But I love to spend Christmas with my nieces and nephews. It doesn’t hurt me. I’m okay, honest. And if—”

“What?” He shot a glance toward her.

“If those jerks don’t appreciate you enough, you should just up and quit.”

She saw his lips twitch. He started to smile.

“Cathy, I can’t just up and quit. We bought a very expensive co-op apartment—”

“I have a good job.”

“Yes, and you’re an up-and-coming designer. You’re going to have to make choices—you can’t work knowing every time you buck the system you’re risking the roof over our heads and really succeed.”

“Don, you’ll get another job, you’re a brilliant young attorney.” She shrugged and grinned. “They can’t hide your light under a bushel forever! Quit. Go somewhere else. I can cover us while you do it.”

He stared at her hard. “Then what? What if a miracle occurred and we were able to conceive a baby? Or the perfect infant dropped out of the heavens? You wouldn’t be able to stay home with our child, which is what you’ve always wanted.”

She looked ahead. “You don’t believe in miracles.”

He lifted his hands from the steering wheel in aggravation. “No, I don’t. Something is wrong with us and we can’t—”

“Something is wrong with me,” she corrected softly.

“Something is wrong with us,” he insisted, “and we can’t have children. That won’t change. Do you think itsy-bitsy Christmas elves will pop down on you like snowflakes and permeate your skin to repair whatever isn’t quite right in your reproductive tract?”

“Don!”

He exhaled, thinking what an ass he was. He shook his head. “I’m sorry, I’m just in a hell of a mood. I worked my butt off and all I got was a good kick in it! We’re good people, with good jobs, and what happens? We can’t do what the majority of murderers, rapists, and thieves can do easily—reproduce! Life sucks, and Christmas sucks big time.”

“Don, Don, it doesn’t!” Cathy said, twisting in her seat. “Dear God! Think of all we have that others don’t! Think…”

He could hear Cathy talking, but not what she was saying. They’d cleared the city; they were approaching railroad tracks. He could hear the
ding-ding-ding
warning that a train was coming. He could hear the sound the train made, the great wheels turning, a sound every child knew.

The striped gate that closed to block the road when a train was coming had gone crazy, rising, falling, rising, falling.

The train was whistling.

And the sound … There was something wrong with the sound the train’s wheels were making.

The cars were derailing, he thought.

He glanced in his rear-view mirror. Above the
ding-ding-ding
of the warning signal and the shrill whistling of the train, he could hear a mallardlike honking sound. Louder and louder. Lights, coming from the high beams of a mammoth truck, were shooting blindingly into his rear-view mirror.

Ding-ding-ding-ding

Honk! Honk!

“Jesus!” he shouted suddenly.

The train was coming. And the driver honking behind him wasn’t trying to be Christmas-obnoxious—
he had lost his brakes.
Within split seconds, the truck was going to send him flying into the train, then come crashing into it behind him. He couldn’t yell, Cathy, duck! He couldn’t calmly ask, Cath—you got your seatbelt on? He couldn’t dart to his left because he was hemmed in. He couldn’t slide to his right because of the snow plow sitting idle.

Whether they ducked, braced, or laced themselves in with a dozen seatbelts…

It wasn’t going to matter.

He looked at her. His knowledge of what was about to happen was in his eyes.

Seconds. Split seconds. He’d heard a drowning man saw his life flash before his eyes as he went down. He didn’t see the life he’d lived. He saw the little things he would miss. That rare robin’s egg blue sky over the high-rises of Manhattan. His mother’s corned beef, the rich, deep, aroma of his father’s pipe tobacco. The sight and scent of fall in Central Park.

Cathy.

Cathy.

Cathy…

A little late to realize what an ass he’d been. Seconds were gone. Milliseconds…

“Oh-God-Cathy-I’m-so-sorry-I-love-you—I-love-you-so-much!” he cried.

Her eyes widened. She stared at him. She’d heard the train, but not the very different sound of it. She’d heard the truck horn, but she hadn’t realized.

Dark blue eyes stared at him. Angel eyes, he had always thought. And “Angel” eyes, he had told her, after they had married. So huge now, so beautiful, so puzzled and concerned.

“Don, I love you, too,” she began in confusion.

Then the truck hit.

The train let out a final ear-piercing whistle—then twisted from its tracks.

Trains, cars and people plummeted through the night.

For a second, there was silence.

All that could be heard were the strains of “Silent Night, Holy Night,” coming from a car radio.

A light dusting of snow suddenly started to fall.

And then the screams began.

Chapter 1

“S
ILENT NIGHT, HOLY NIGHT …”

Dimly, dimly, he could hear the music. It came louder now, yet the music, the song was still so soft.

“All is calm …

“All is bright …”

No, nothing was calm. It was the night from hell. There was cacophony. So many screams, cries, groans …

“Cathy, Cathy!”

The impact was over. No more movement. Fire! He inhaled, smelled no gas. He couldn’t see! he realized. He blinked. Something was in his eyes. Blood. Oh, God, he blinked again. Almost cleared his vision. Don went to unhook his seatbelt, trying to realize how he had become so cut up. No airbag in the old Beamer, he thought. He saw that the windshield had caved in.

His beige coat was drenched in something sticky and dark. Blood, he thought dizzily. More blood. Cathy. Oh, God, Cathy. He blinked again. Looked for her. Groped for her. Her head was bent forward. Glass fragments had rained over her hair. He reached for her, gently, thinking that he had to be careful, couldn’t disturb her, the paramedics would be coming, police, doctors…

“The children, the children, all those babies!” someone was shrieking. There were screams again, cries, moans, broken sobbing. He couldn’t think about those sounds. Cathy, Cathy, oh, God, Cathy…

And the cold … The cold was stealing over him even as he reached for her. He had to touch her. He didn’t dare try to discover why he was drenched in blood. He touched her cheek, frantically crying her name.

“Cathy, please, oh, Lord, Cathy, please, don’t, don’t die, please …”

She stirred, slightly. Lifted her head.

Opened her eyes.

Angel eyes. Oh, Cathy. Oh, God, take me. Let her live—she has so much life, so much to give to everyone …

“Don,” she said, barely mouthing his name. She smiled, but there was something in that smile. It was weak, wry.

And he knew.

God wasn’t listening. There were no miracles.

She was dying.

And she knew that she was dying.

And being Cathy, she was grateful anyway. Grateful to see his face again, reach out and touch him once more.

“Don…”

There was so much darkness around them. The wreck had knocked out street lights. Headlights flared and died, blazed eerie patterns of illumination over the tragic accident. He saw her face; it disappeared. Saw it, lost it. Those eyes. Angel eyes.

“Cathy!” he found her fingers. Curled his own around them. He leaned toward her. Her door, damaged in the crunch, fell open with a horrible rasping sound. Cathy slipped from the car.

“No!” he cried, fighting the waves of frigid cold that were sweeping over him, stealing both his strength and his will.

Waves of death.

Yes, death.

How strange that he should know it so clearly, and with such absolute certainty.

It didn’t quite matter what had occurred. Just what injury it was that soaked his coat in blood.

Oh, God, this was it, this was how it happened. Death was cold, Death was ice. Killing first the extremities, then the limbs, then the heart, the mind…

The soul?

With every effort, he dragged himself from the driver’s seat, to the passenger’s seat. Out the door.

He fell on her. Damned himself even in death as he heard the painful expulsion of her breath.

“Cathy …” He could hardly make a sound anymore. Tears stung his eyes. “Cathy … are we dying? Cathy, oh, Cathy…”

She looked at him and nodded. Winced. Sound went on around them, so distant, part of a different world. He brought his fingers to her again. Ten bloody fingers entwined. Someone was sobbing near them. He was dimly aware of what he heard.

“The children, the children, someone help me, they’re in this car. Oh, dear God, the blessed little orphans, help, help, someone help them…”

Something huge and black passed by them. He thought that Death had swooped down for them then, quickly and neatly. But the huge black thing came and went, leaving a flurry of snow to fall down upon them, as if they were done for already. Don blinked. Not death, but a nun. Running across the metal-and-flesh-strewn accident scene. Trailing blood herself, trying to get help.

Sirens, so many sirens suddenly. So close.

So distant.

He held her right fingers, those on her left hand trailed into his hair.

“I love you. So much. Those poor little ones in the train. Don, oh, God, I had you, I had everything. No regrets, Don.”

“Not even children?” he whispered bitterly.

She smiled. “I had you. I had so much. I can almost … die happy.”

“Don’t say it, don’t say it, dammit. Cathy, you can’t die—you can’t—and you can’t be happy—”

“We’re together, Don.” She inhaled. Her chest rattled terribly. There was blood in her lungs, he thought. A clinical realization. At such a time.

“Dying together,” he told her. He wanted to sob, to rail, to curse loudly and furiously.

Demand a miracle.

He hadn’t the strength.

Nor the belief.

Cathy was talking. He wanted so badly to hold on to her. He didn’t even seem to be able to do that.

“But life was good. Listen to me,
I had you
.”

“You had an ass. I had you. Everything. Oh, God, Cathy, help is coming, listen to me, sweetheart, you have to hang on, you can make it.”

“Cold, Don. So cold. Hold me.”

He wanted to hold her. The cold had seized him. His limbs. His torso. His heart, he was certain. He could suddenly hear it beating. One thump. A very long time. Another thump. Each beat coming more and more slowly. Soon the pulse would stop completely.

“Touch me!” she whispered.

He couldn’t feel her heart at all.

“Touch me!” she pleaded again. “Don, I can’t! I can’t! I’m too cold to reach you. Please, touch me, reach me, let me feel you one last time…”

He tried. Tried again. Dragged himself up. He pressed his lips to hers. And died.

Or thought he died. It was the weirdest damned night. He touched her, kissed her. The cold overwhelmed him, sweeping throughout the whole of him. But now…

Apparently, he hadn’t been hurt that badly at all. He had been hallucinating.

He had his hands on a heavy luggage bin and was shoving it aside. There had been a railroad conductor beneath it, pinned there. The man was unconscious, but breathing evenly. He might have a broken leg, Don mused, looking at the position of the fellow’s limb, but it looked like he had a good chance.

BOOK: Heather Graham
9.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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