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“The owner want to offer you a permanent spot on the weekends, and the guitarist before you asked if you’d collaborate with him,” Carter says.
We’re outside the bar, talking after my successful set. I’m leaning against my bike, hands in my jacket pockets. It’s about eleven at night, and if I don’t get home soon, Mom’s gonna kill me.
“I told them both you’d think about it.”
I laugh. “I’ve gotta get going. Thanks for everything.” I stand on my tip toes to peck him on the cheek before roaring out of the parking lot.
My hair streams behind me, and I revel in the wind. Even this late, Nashville is alive with the sound of music and drunken singing. I love it.
I decide to take the scenic route because it’s a clear night and head out of the city to ride the back roads to my house.
I’m halfway home on a deserted stretch of road, surrounded by miles of hay fields, when something knocks me off my bile with the force of a wrecking ball.
My first thought is that a deer has jumped on me. But a deer wouldn’t wrap their arms around me in a tight grip and take the brunt of an impact that should have killed me. A deer also wouldn’t be cursing roughly in my ear as we bounce across the hay field.
We skid several hundred feet before coming to a stop. I’m under whatever had hit me, my heart pounding in my chest. It’s too dark to see anything, and I can’t move, not even when a voice speaks. “Are you okay?” the deep voice says, right above me.
I can’t form thoughts, let alone words. I nod automatically, and the person releases me and stands up. As my eyes adjust, I see how tall he is, especially compared to the night sky. I can’t make out any feature. He lowers a hand to help me up, but I’m shaking so badly I can hardly pull myself to a sitting position.
“Are you sure?” he asks. I can hear a laugh in his voice now.
I feel my own hysterical laughter bubble up, and I put a shaky hand over my mouth to catch the giggles.
The guy mutters something I can’t make out, then pulls out a small flashlight. He crouches down and turns it on. I jump and stop giggling.
“Relax, I’m not gonna hurt you,” he mutters. He shines the light along my arms. I notice small cuts on my ungloved hands.
I finally find my voice when he moves to check my neck. “I’m pretty sure knocking me off a moving motorcycle is gonna hurt me.” I shiver despite the warm spring air when his fingers brush my neck to sweep my dark hair behind my shoulder. I push the light away, wincing. I felt sore already. “Why did you do that? How did you do that?”
He ignores my question and tries shining the light into my face again, but I slap his hand away. “Would you stop that?” he snaps. “I’m trying to see if you have a concussion.” I flinch away from the light. He sighs. “Do you have a headache?”
“Now that you mention it,” I say sarcastically.
He chuckles. “I’ll think you’ll be fine. Do you have a name?”
“Sawyer,” I say, almost vehemently.
“That’s an unusual name for a girl,” he says.
“I’m not a typical girl, why have a typical name?” I say, quoting things my mom has said to me when questioned about the origin of my name.
“I’m Daniel.” He doesn’t offer his hand to shake, which I’m infinitely glad for.
“Well, Daniel, care to explain why you tackled me off a moving bike?” I ask. I’m still shaking, but it’s more controllable now.
He stands again and holds a hand down. I scramble up without taking it.
I see, on the road I’d been driving on moments before, a blazing fire. How did I miss that? I can make out the hull of a truck in the middle of the inferno, and a man pacing unsteadily, talking on a cell phone.
“He’s drunk,” Daniel says. “His lights were off. You would have hit him head on and been killed.” His voice is emotionless and I shiver again.
I feel like I’m going to faint as the meaning of his words sink in. “Oh,” I say weakly. I grab his arm as the world tilts, then goes black.