Authors: Catherine Gayle
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and incidents are either the work of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, organizations, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Light the Lamp
Copyright © 2014 by Catherine Gayle
Cover Design by Kim Killion, The Killion Group
All rights reserved under the International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any electronic or mechanical means—except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without written permission.
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For Debra and Cherish, who helped to make my last Easter Sunday one of the best in my memory.
Thank you to Tammy Falkner for allowing me to borrow one of her Reed brothers to create a tattoo.
The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction:
NHL: National Hockey League
AHL: American Hockey League
Columbus Blue Jackets
Detroit Red Wings
New Jersey Devils
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
San Jose Sharks
I was about
to cross over the Hawthorne Bridge when I saw hazard lights blinking on a car up ahead, the bright yellow flash jarring against the darkness of the night. The car had pulled into the cross section between the highway and the exit before it had stopped, which was the worst place to break down short of blocking a lane of traffic. This spot wasn’t really a shoulder, and it was directly over the bridge.
People used those spots to make ill-advised passes sometimes, almost causing wrecks in the process. Earlier tonight, while I was out exploring the city, I’d witnessed someone making a last-second exit by cutting across the exact spot where this car was stopped.
I tried not to worry too much because I didn’t know this person. At first I succeeded because it looked like whoever had been in the car was gone. I assumed the driver must have turned on the hazards, popped open the hood to see what the problem was, and then left the car like that. Maybe someone had stopped to give them a ride.
But as I got closer in my rental car, my heart stopped.
A woman came around from in front of the old Buick and opened the back door on the driver’s side. She kneeled down to the pavement, the free-flowing, flowery skirt of her dress and her unbound blonde hair flying from the wind of speeding traffic. Her bare feet and the open car door were actually in the lane closest to her while she searched for God only knew what.
Images of Livia flashed through my mind—my beautiful, sweet wife Liv, who had never wanted to leave our native Sweden but eventually did it for me. Thinking about her always brought a sharp ache to my chest. Then came the even more painful images of the wreckage, the ones they’d flashed across the news in the immediate aftermath and that the hockey media kept showing every time they talked about my inability to score since the accident.
I swallowed hard and blinked rapidly. Crying and driving would never be a good combination. Besides, it had been over a year and a half. I should be able to think about her without losing it now, shouldn’t I? I had to get it together.
Before I had grasped what I was doing, I’d slowed my car and pulled off onto the shoulder just as I passed the woman and her vehicle. As soon as I came to a stop, I put my rental in park, turned on the hazard lights, and got out, racing back to her with the headlights of the oncoming traffic nearly blinding me.
By the time I was close enough for her to hear my voice, she’d stood up again and closed the car door. She was returning to the front of the old Buick with a flashlight in one hand and what looked like a gallon jug of water in the other.
Miss?” I shouted into the wind and noise.
Her head shot up, and she smiled at me. “I’m fine!” she called out. “My engine just got too hot. I’m going to add some water and let the radiator cool off for a few minutes.”
I didn’t stop jogging until I reached her. “Why don’t you come somewhere safe with me while you wait for it to cool?” I asked, cringing at the sense of desperation in my voice. You’d think that by the age of thirty-four I would have better control of myself. I bit down on the inside of my cheek, hoping that would help me to calm down. She would think I was a madman if I didn’t relax, and then there would be no way I could convince her to come with me. “You can’t stay here,” I said once I thought I had reined myself in again. “I can drive you away from the highway and we can call for someone to help with your car.”
She blinked at me a couple of times, and I was struck by the blue of her eyes. They were so bright and clear as to be startling. Her smile, though—that wasn’t just startling; it was striking.
This woman isn’t Liv
, I reminded myself, and her appearance ought to help me to remember that. This woman, for as beautiful as she was, looked nothing like Liv. I didn’t have the first clue who she was. There was no black ice on the roads; it had been a gorgeous spring day today, and there wasn’t a cloud blocking the moon or stars in the sky, even though a cool breeze was blowing. I had no way of knowing how many drivers out on the roads tonight had been drinking, but the fact remained that this was an entirely different situation.