On one horrible morning, the existence Anthony Saunders knew disappeared with the crunch of twisted metal. The other driver lost his life. Anthony lost his sight. He almost lost more, but for a single voice. A voice that reached through the fear and confusion, and kept him calm while the Jaws of Life tore open his flipped car. A voice that followed Anthony during his long road to recovery as he learned to live with his disability.
Firefighter Dan Middleton's job is to save lives. He certainly doesn't expect to hear from the rescued victims after they leave his brief care. When a blind man he only vaguely remembers arrives at the fire station to express his gratitude, Dan is stunned. He's even more stunned to discover he genuinely likes Anthony. More than he's liked anybody in a long time.
Dan finds it difficult to balance his career with a real relationship, while Anthony is still trying to find a way to stand on his own two feet. They only need to have the courage to follow a voice in the dark.
His stomach flipped when he saw the wreckage strewn across the entrance ramp. Pieces of metal littered the concrete, leading the way like bread crumbs to the guts of the scene. One car had flipped into the center lanes, the passenger side crushed inward, while the other rested on its side on the shoulder. That one, a Mustang that couldn’t be more than a year old, had the most damage. The windshield and driver’s side window were smashed, and the entire left front flank mangled. The driver’s door bowed so deeply, Dan knew there was no way the driver had survived the impact.
The road was coned off to redirect oncoming traffic, but it didn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out what had gone wrong. The Mustang had hit the other car trying to merge from the entrance ramp. He had to have been going far too fast, then tried merging far too soon. Neither one of them ever really had a chance.
He was the first one off the truck when it came to a stop. He took two steps toward the Mustang before the closest cop cut him off.
“Work on the other one.” The man’s badge read Wentz. Beads of sweat already dotted his high brow, even though the marine layer hadn’t yet burned off to reveal the sun. “The Mustang was DOA.”
Dan hadn’t expected to hear any different and veered course. His heavy boots crunched against the shards of thick glass peppering the highway. The EMTs hovered nearby, waiting for a body to help, but his focus was on the man he could see trapped inside the overturned car. His first instinct whispered the man was unconscious, but a slight shift of his shoulder, secured by the seatbelt that had held him in place, said otherwise.
Dan crouched at the side of the car, bending his head to peer in through the broken glass. Dark hair hung down in long strands over the man’s face, though the hair at the sides and back was short enough to reveal oozing cuts where flying glass had cut him. The man had a tattoo half-hidden by his shirt sleeve, but that, too, was covered in blood.
“Sir?” He had to speak up in order to be heard over all the traffic. “Don’t move, sir. We’re going to get you out of there as soon as we can.”
“What happened?” The words were wet, like even they were coated in blood. “What’s ... happening?”
“You’ve had an accident. We’re here to get you out. I need you to stay perfectly still, though, okay? This is going to take a couple minutes.”
“I can’t see you. Everything’s dark.” His voice rose an octave. “I can’t see.”
“Calm down, sir. I’m sure everything is going to be fine.” No, he wasn’t. Loss of vision meant head trauma. The man’s survival odds plummeted. “Take a deep breath. Focus on my voice.” He waited until he saw the hitch in the man’s chest, but a trembling had already started in the man’s limp hand. Dan had to distract him. “My name’s Dan, by the way. What’s yours?”
The question was met with a long pause. And then faintly, “Anthony.” Another long pause. “Dan ... my mom ... she’s waiting for me. At the airport. My mom ... will you go get her?”
“Yeah,” he agreed automatically. “Just as soon as we get you out of here.” Glancing over his shoulder, he saw Boyer and Alequin hauling out the Jaws of Life. “Where’s she flying in from?”
“Paris ... no ... no ... that’s not right. Rome. Her vacation.” Blood rolled down Anthony’s hand, and his fingers twitched. “Can’t leave her. Promise me ... you won’t.”
“Rome. Got it. I’ll make sure she doesn’t get forgotten. You have my word on it.” He stood at the sound of the others approaching. Though he didn’t think Anthony could hear him, he lowered his voice and stepped closer, just to be sure. “He’s conscious, but bleeding bad. We can use the spreader to get the door off, but there’s a dash bow up across one of his legs. We’ll have to roll it back in order to get him out.”
Boyer nodded and moved around him to get to the edge of the smashed door. Dan knelt back down again to speak to Anthony.
“My team’s here. We’re going to start cutting you out of there, okay? Don’t be startled by the noise. The spreader works on hydraulics, so it sounds a lot worse than it is.”
Alequin started the engine to power the hydraulics. Despite Dan’s warning, Anthony cried out. He cried out again when Boyer began prying the door from the frame. The vibration made more blood drop from Anthony’s fingers, and he groped uselessly, as though seeking something to hold on to.
“I’m here.” His instincts told him to comfort the man, reach out to him in some way, but the broken glass and Anthony’s unknown injuries made that a very bad idea. “So tell me about your mom’s trip. She send you pictures?”
“She’s got ... rolls of film. She ... she wants me to take care of them.” Anthony’s voice faded. “And wine. She shipped boxes of wine ... and olive oil. But she doesn’t drink.” He suddenly gained more volume. “Don’t leave her.”
“I won’t. I gave you my word, didn’t I? I don’t go back on it.”
Metal groaned as the spreader did its job, the door peeling away like tissue paper. The vibrations jarred glass free from the window frame, and the tinkling as it hit the ground sent another visible jolt through Anthony.
“Stick with me here, Anthony.” Dan edged back, out of Boyer’s way, but the new angle and fresh opening gave him his first real look at the man’s face. A wide mouth, strong jaw, good looking in a boyish kind of way. “We’ve almost got the door off.”
“What then? I can’t see, Dan. I can’t see you. I can’t feel anything. Oh my God ... I can’t...”
“You can. You will. That’s just the shock speaking. Everything is going to be fine...”