The Man Must Marry

By: Janet Chapman


Their driver motioned up the road, and Sam saw several cars in the ditch ahead. People were stumbling out of them as other vehicles stopped to help.

“The sports car cut off that blue SUV, which braked suddenly. I could only head for the ditch, boss,”

Ronald explained.

“Good driving.”

“We pretty near rolled,” he confessed.

“Like I said, good driving. Have you called it in?”

Just then, Sam heard sirens coming from a distance. Ronald’s teeth flashed white in the darkness.

“Everyone’s got cell phones.”

“See if there’s a blanket in the trunk.”

“There is,” Ronald assured him, hurrying to get it.

“Don’t let him near the car!” Willamina cried, trying to pull out of Sam’s embrace.

“There’s no fire, Willamina. Come sit down here with the others. You’re shaking. Are you sure you’re not hurt?”

“Don’t patronize me!” she snapped, shrugging out of Ronald’s jacket and letting it fall to the ground.

“That car could burst into flames at any minute. It’s happened before!”

“It won’t happen this time,” he promised, grabbing her and sitting down with her on his lap. Hell, if it worked for his brothers…

“It—it’s happened to me before,” she whispered against his chest, shaking uncontrollably. “I barely got her out before it exploded.”

“Got who out?” he asked softly.

She wouldn’t answer and quietly started sobbing. Ronald returned with a blanket and tried to hand it to Sam. He shook his head, shrugging out of his evening jacket. “Take it to the others. And tell me as soon as an ambulance gets here.”

Sam wrapped his jacket around Willamina and simply held her while she fought her ghosts. He rested his chin on her head, liking the feel of her snuggled against him. He remembered how she’d had them all laughing not long ago, telling them how she’d gotten rid of her husband. Willamina Kent was an enigma. She was sassy and clumsy, short and plump, and apparently contented that way. She was compassionate and empathetic, and she loved Abram Sinclair. For all of that, Sam admired her. Even in terror, she’d remained level-headed enough to want everyone out of the car. Sam could hear Darcy and Paula wailing about their torn dresses and run stockings.

Sam smiled. Willamina probably had runs in her stockings and rips in her dress, but she wasn’t complaining. He ran his fingers through her hair, undoing the last of her topknot. Soft, silken curls cascaded over his hand, making him shiver.

Sam sighed as he looked toward his brothers, who had stood up and were staring down at the two women huddled together on the blanket.

Ronald was back with his beloved car, and Sam could see him muttering to himself as he walked around it. The headlights were still on, and from the expression on Ronald’s face, the front end was not a pretty sight. The chauffeur looked as if he was going to cry.

The police arrived, along with several ambulances. Willamina wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, wincing when she moved to get off his lap.

“Where do you hurt?”

“I’m just lame.”

“Can you sit here while I talk with the police?”

“Of course,” she said, wiping her cheeks again. “I’m fine. Go.”

Sam set her on Ronald’s coat, taking the time to snug her up in his own jacket. “Stay right here until you can be checked out by the paramedics,” he told her, not leaving until she nodded agreement.

As soon as he walked away, Willa stood up and went to Darcy and Paula, keeping Sam’s jacket wrapped tightly around herself. Damn, she couldn’t stop shaking. It had been five years, but it could have been yesterday for the terror she felt. Last time, it had been just her and her niece, Jennifer, but it had been dark then, too, and Willa had also been forced off the road. Only her car hadn’t landed safely in a ditch; it had hit a culvert and rolled, stopping against a ledge and bursting into flames. Bruised and bleeding, Willa had needed all of her strength to get Jennifer out before it had exploded. Willa still had scars from the incident, but none as deep as the one she carried in her heart for her niece.

“How is everyone?” she asked, sitting on the grass in front of the women. Jesse and Ben were talking to a policeman nearby. Sam was with another officer and Ronald, looking over the car.

“Nothing’s broken, except my bracelet,” Darcy answered, holding her arm up. Willa could tell it was made of diamonds and likely cost more than the car. She’d probably be a little upset herself if she had broken something that expensive. “At least you didn’t lose it,” she offered.

“That’s true. How about you? Did you get burned or something? I heard you yelling about a fire.”

“No. I’m fine. And there wasn’t any fire.”

“Ladies, can you walk to the ambulance?” a young man asked, hunching down to shine a flashlight over

them.

“With help,” Darcy answered, taking another man’s extended hand.

“I think my ankle’s sprained,” Paula said. “It hurts too much to get up.”