When Chloe Strickland is caught in the sudden snowstorm on a deserted mountain road, she has no idea how quickly her life is about to change. Devon McCallister never expected a simple act of kindness to turn his life around from a carefree screw-up to an unexpected hero.
The headlights of the Hummer caught something strange up ahead. Something that looked like smoke coming from just up the road, but it was still too early in the season for fires.
The low beam of the lights found a break in the snow covered road made by a set of tire tracks that started twenty feet ahead and went straight over the edge of the mountain. They were fresh.
Devon slammed on the breaks and said a silent prayer for the four-wheel drive. The Hummer shuddered, but managed to grip the road. He hit the SUV’s flashers and got out of the vehicle, reaching for his cell phone in the process.
It was almost impossible to see beyond the driving snow over the side of the mountain, but wedged in a group of trees was a small car, its front end crushed beyond recognition against them. Smoke billowed up from its wasted engine but as far as he could see, there wasn’t any fire...yet.
After several attempts to get a signal on the phone, Devon was able to dial 911. He told the operator what had happened and asked her to send EMS air-flight services as quick as possible out of Bedford.
Devon’s footsteps stumbled over the frozen terrain as he made his way slowly down the mountain, managing with difficulty to keep his footing through the deep ice and snow. At fourteen thousand feet, it took months of warm days for this much accumulation to melt.
When Devon reached the driver’s side, he knew in an instant it was bad. The driver, a young kid, lay smashed and bleeding against the steering wheel. The airbag hadn’t inflated and the kid wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.
The door was so badly crushed that it wouldn’t budge when Devon tried to pry it open. The side window had been shattered by the impact. Just a few jagged pieces of glass still held in place.
He felt for a pulse at the base of the young man’s throat, almost certain he was dead or close to it. There was no way anyone could have survived that type of an impact unprotected.
Devon couldn’t find a sign of life in the boy and was just about ready to move around to the passenger, a woman who didn’t look much better than the driver, when he heard the faint, struggling gasp for breath coming from what he’d believed to be the deceased driver.
He leaned close to the boy, trying to catch his faint breathy words. The kid sounded as if he were speaking through water, most likely blood.
“Hang on son, there’s help on the way. Just hang on a little while longer.”
The boy tried to turn his head but couldn’t. His neck had probably snapped when he’d hit the wheel. God only knew what else was broken.
But he was desperately struggling to speak and Devon leaned in until his head was almost touching the boy’s lips. He struggled to understand the gurgling words of the dying man.
“Take care of her for me...don’t let her die up here,” the kid whispered with difficulty, his voice strangled over his frantic attempts at gathering air.
“Don’t worry about the girl, I’ll make sure she’s okay, just stay still. Don’t try to talk. Help is on the way.”
“I’m not going to make it. But its okay, he told me it would be okay. He told me you’d come.” The boy’s words ended in a flurry of coughing that left him still weaker, his words slurring together. “You have to promise me you’ll look after my wife. Please mister, promise me you’ll take care of Chloe for me. Tell her, tell her…I love her. Tell her not to worry about me because I’m going to be okay.”
Devon almost didn’t catch the last of the boy’s words. He made one more gasping attempt to draw air, then he was still. Even before Devon tried again to find a pulse, he knew there wouldn’t be one.
“I promise, kid, I promise. Don’t worry, I won’t let you down.” Devon gave the only answer he could to that sad final request. A little too late to bring the kid any comfort.
As he stood looking down at the young man, tears gathering in his eyes, he could almost feel the presence of something else there with them. He hadn’t been aware of the strange silence until now. He’d been too concerned for the boy, but now it was almost deafening. The wind had gone quiet. There wasn’t a single sound at all in the silent driving snow.
Something he couldn’t even attempt to define was here as an unseen witness to the kid’s death. Was with them still, as the seconds of silence ticked away.
He shivered in the cold crisp mountain night. Not from fear or from the cold but out of some kind of reverence for the death of that young man and what was there with them now.
Whatever it was, he knew it wasn’t his imagination, just as he’d known it was there for the kid alone. Moments after his death, the eerie silence left the mountainside in an instant and the noise of the storm returned.