The growl of the engine became louder, and she stifled a sliver of unease. One wrong move on this dirt-packed, hilly trail could result in disaster.
The motorbike abruptly crested the hill, heading straight toward her. She leaped off the trail to get out of harm’s way. But she landed off balance, her foot slipping on loose rocks and branches. She went down hard. The motorbike swerved around a curve, the driver letting out a loud whoop.
“Idiot,” she muttered, assessing for injuries. Her knees and the palms of her hands were scraped raw from her tumble, but it could have been worse.
She stood, and her right ankle zinged with pain. Great. Just what she needed—a sprained ankle roughly two and a half miles from home.
The sound of the motorbike grew louder again, and she stared at the trail, unable to believe the guy had the nerve to come back after the reckless stunt he’d pulled. Sure enough, he was riding down the trail, once again headed straight for her.
For a split second, she had the distinct impression that he was purposely trying to run her down. She scrambled out of the way, grasping the trunk of a tree for support as the motorbike whizzed by, so close that she could feel the heat from the engine blasting against her legs.
She clung to the tree for several long moments, afraid the motorcyclist was going to come back for a third time. She sent up a silent prayer, thanking God for her safety, before she finally let go of the tree and hobbled back onto the trail. She limped as pain reverberated up her leg with every step. Finding a thick tree branch, she improvised, using it as a walking stick.
The soft thud of footsteps on the trail made her tense. She forced herself to relax; there was no reason the driver of the motorbike would decide to come back on foot. It wasn’t unusual to pass other joggers on the trail.
Sure enough, a runner came into view. A tall man, wearing a sweaty orange T-shirt and navy blue shorts, with ear buds tucked into his ears blocking out the noise. Personally, she didn’t get why anyone would want to listen to music while running when the peace and quiet was so much more soothing. But to each his own.
As the jogger approached, she grimaced when she recognized Gabe Allen. She shouldn’t have been surprised; she’d passed him on the running trails before, and they’d exchanged brief greetings before heading their separate ways.
When he caught sight of her, he frowned and immediately slowed down, tugging the ear buds from his ears. “Larissa, are you all right? What happened?”
She willed her heart rate not to jump as he stepped closer, concern darkening his warm, brown eyes. She cleared her throat and strove for a light tone. “Did a hotshot on a motorbike fly past you?” she asked wryly. “Because he ran me off the trail—twice.”
“Yeah, I saw him.” Gabe dropped down to a crouch to examine the scrapes on her knees before he gently prodded her ankle. She sucked in a swift breath, and he glanced up at her. “This looks like a bad sprain.”
“Thanks for the diagnosis, doc,” she said lightly. “I realize I’m just a nurse, but I kinda figured that out all by myself.”
Gabe didn’t take offense but sent her a lopsided smile. “You should probably get an MRI to rule out ligament damage.”
She shrugged. “Yeah, but I can’t do that until the swelling goes down, anyway, right?”
“Right. You’ll get a better picture if you wait a few days,” he agreed, rising to his feet. “Come on, lean on me, and I’ll help you get home.”
“What?” His offer was so unexpected she nearly lost her balance. The last thing she needed was to cozy up to Gabe for two and a half long miles. “There’s no need for you to cut your run short because of me. I have my trusty walking stick. I’ll be fine.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. I’m not leaving you here like this. Leaning on me is way better than using a stick, and my place isn’t that far, just a mile and a quarter from here.”
A mile and a quarter still seemed like a long way, but it was better than going all the way to her apartment. She reluctantly nodded. “All right. But I’m hot and sweaty,” she warned as he wrapped his arm firmly around her waist.