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Nick opened his eyes and sucked in a breath. The air caught in his throat and he coughed, his ribs straining. Lifting his head from the back of the seat, he fumbled with the door handle.
"Sir? Sir, please don't move," a voice to his left instructed.
Confused, Nick tried to sit up straight. The steering wheel was pushed against his chest, pinning him to the seat. Looking across the crumpled hood of the car, he saw broken glass and the grill of a large truck. His pulse raced, the blood thumping in his ears, as he continued to tug at the door handle.
"Please don't move, sir" the voice repeated. "We're going to get you out of there as soon as we can but I need you to sit tight, ok?"
"I can't... I can't feel my legs," Nick spluttered, panic edging into his voice. "Why can't I feel my legs?"
Turning his head as a hand reached through the window and rested on his shoulder, Nick saw the voice belonged to a male paramedic.
"I can't feel my legs," he repeated, the words clipped short by lack of breath.
"What's your name, sir?" the paramedic asked.
"Nick. Nick Carter."
"Ok, Nick. I'm Matt. You've been in an accident and it's possible you have a neck or spinal injury..."
Nick swallowed hard and closed his eyes.
"I need you to keep your eyes open, Nick. Can you do that for me?"
Nick's eyes stayed shut.
"Nick? Open your eyes, Nick," Matt repeated, turning to call over his shoulder. "I need help here!"
Pulling a penlight from his triage kit, Matt reached back into the car and lifted Nick's eyelid. He was shining the light into Nick's left eye when a female paramedic joined him, crouching beside the crumpled door.
"What've you got?" she asked.
"Nick Carter. White male, late twenties, blunt force chest trauma, possible head, neck and spinal injuries,” Matt recited, pulling a neck brace from his kit. “Initially responsive - said he couldn’t feel his legs - then lost consciousness. Pupils are dilated."
"Nick Carter?"
"That’s what he told me,” Matt replied, reaching through the window to fasten the brace around Nick’s neck. "We need to get him out of here, Sam."
"Get him on oxygen and monitor his vitals," Sam replied, peering over his shoulder into the car. "I’ll be right back."
Matt nodded and Sam moved to the front of the semi where a middle-aged police officer stood speaking to the driver.
"Chief? He’s in a bad way. We need to get him out of there now."
"Rescue team’s on its way, Sam," the chief replied. "Do what you can for him until they get here."
Sam nodded, pulling her mobile from her pocket and beginning to dial as she made her way back to Matt and Nick.
"Still unresponsive?" she asked, lifting her phone to her ear.
Matt nodded, checking the gauge on the oxygen canister.
Sam ran a hand through her dark hair and turned away from the car, listening to the phone ring.

Thirty minutes after speaking to Nick, Hannah began to worry. She knew he didn’t want her to be tag-teamed by Brian and Leighanne and his not being there to stop it was out of character. Sliding a plate of pureed vegetables into the microwave and pushing the door shut, she checked her watch and leaned back against the counter. Jack was asleep in the guestroom but would be awake soon, hungry, impatient and grizzly.
Leighanne walked into the kitchen, wine glass in hand, as the microwave beeped shrilly. Smiling at Hannah, she rinsed her glass and pulled the dishwasher open.
“Smells good,” she said. “What is it?”
“Jack’s dinner,” Hannah replied, pulling the plate out and setting it on the bench. “Potatoes, spinach, carrots...”
She trailed off, not sure if listing vegetables was too casual or too curt. Either way, she didn’t want to continue the conversation.
“I used to do the same for Baylee,” Leighanne replied, wiping her hands on a checked cloth. “But he liked cheese in his. He gets that from his dad... The addiction to cheese...”
Hannah opened Alex’s cutlery draw and pulled out a fork, beginning to slowly stir Jack’s vegetables.
“So... When is Nick due back?” Leighanne asked.
Hannah continued to stir.
“I don’t know. I thought he’d be back by now,” she replied.
Leighanne leaned back against the refrigerator and folded her arms across her chest. Hannah glanced sideways at her, the defensive posture duly noted.
"Listen, Leighanne..."
"No, Hannah, wait," Leighanne interrupted. "I want... I just want you to know that Brian and I don't blame you for any of this."
Hannah lay the fork flat on the plate and turned to face her.
"You don't blame me?" she repeated.
Leighanne hesitated.
"No. Well... Blame might not be the right word," she spluttered. "Brian and I just want what's best for Nick and Cassie."
"Give me a break," Hannah muttered. "Did either of you stop to think that maybe what's best for Nick and Cassie is for there to be no Nick and Cassie? I know Brian's angry that Nick's throwing his marriage away or whatever it is Brian thinks is happening. But you know what, Leighanne? Neither of you is in that marriage. Neither of you knows what was really going on."
"Nobody but Nick knew what was going on in that marriage," Leighanne replied. "He kept so much from Cassie and nobody thinks it's going to be easy for them to fix it. But it God's eyes..."
Hannah held up her hands.
"I don't mean to offend you, Leighanne. I really don't. But please, please don't preach to me about a marriage you know nothing about," she said, carrying Jack's plate to the table.
Leighanne sighed and unfolded her arms. In her bag on the table, her mobile began to ring and she excused herself as she reached for it.
Hannah turned away, opening the refrigerator and pulling out a bottle of apple juice. Behind her, Leighanne spoke in a strangely quiet, anxious tone.
"Where?" she asked, pausing for the reply. "How?"
Hannah unscrewed the cap of Jack's sipper cup and began to fill it with juice.
"Okay. Okay, we'll meet you there," Leighanne continued. "Thanks, Sam."
Their eyes meeting as Leighanne flipped her mobile shut, Hannah arched an eyebrow.
"It's Nick," Leighanne said quietly and Hannah's stomach knotted. "There's been an accident."