Blue-Eyed Devil Page 57

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"Yes you are. Most women would be in hysterics by now."

"I was w-working up to that," I said into his shirt collar. "You just c-caught me early in the process."

He gripped me closer. "You're safe, sweetheart. It's all right now."

I tried to set my teeth against the chattering. "I can't believe you're here."

"'Course I'm here. Anytime you need me." He squinted up at the hole in the ceiling, where one of the maintenance men was angling a flashlight to help us see. "Manuel," he said, "you guys got a sump pump at the bottom of the shaft?"

"Nah," came the regretful reply. "It's an old building. Only the new ones got pumps."

Hardy's hand stroked up and down my shivering back. "Probably wouldn't make a difference anyway. Can someone shut off the main disconnect switch? I don't warn this thing to start moving while we're getting her out."

"Don't need to, it's off."

"How do you know?"

"There's an automatic shunt trip."

Hardy shook his head. "I want someone to go to the machine room and make sure the f**ker's really off."

"You got it, jefe." Manuel used a two-way radio to get in touch with the supervisor running the security office. The supervisor said he would send their only available guard to the machine room to shut off the mainline switch for all the elevators, and call back when it was done. "He says he can't get the cops," Manuel reported to us. "Nine-one-one is broke. Too many calls. But the elevator company is sending a guy."

"The water's getting higher," I told Hardy, my arms linked tightly around his neck, my legs clamped on his waist. "Let's get out now."

Hardy smiled and pushed my straggling hair back from my face. "It'll only take a minute for them to find the disconnect switch. Just pretend we're in a hot tub."

"My imagination's not that good," I told him.

"You've obviously never lived on a drilling rig." His hand rubbed over my shoulders. "Are you hurt anywhere? Any bumps or bruises?"

"No, I was just scared for a little while."

He made a sympathetic sound, gripping me closer. "You're not scared now, are you?"

"No." It was true. It seemed impossible that anything bad could happen while I was holding on to those solid shoulders. "I'm just c-cold. I don't understand where the water's coming from."

"Manuel says a wall between the garage and a drainage tunnel collapsed. We're getting runoff from some pretty big waterways."

"How did you find me so fast?"

"I was just heading home when you called. I hightailed it over here and got a hold of Manuel and his buddy. We took the service elevator to the level just above this one, and I popped the doors open with a bent screwdriver." He kept smoothing my hair as he talked. "The escape hatch on the elevator was a little harder — I had to knock a couple of bolts out with a hammer."

We heard some static and a garbled voice from the two-way radio overhead, and Manuel called to us. "Okay, jefe. Switch is off."

"Great." Hardy squinted at Manuel. "I'm going to hand her up to you. Don't let her fall into the hoistway — she's slippery." He pulled my head back until I was looking into his eyes. "Haven, I'm going to push you up, and then you get on my shoulders and let them pull you out. Got it?" I nodded reluctantly, not wanting to leave him. "Once you're on top of the elevator," Hardy continued, "don't touch any of the cables or drive sheaves or any of that shit. There's a ladder attached to the wall of the elevator shaft. Be careful while you're climbing — you're as slick as a greased hog on ice."

"What about you?"

"I'll be fine. Put your foot in my hand."

"But h-how are you — "

"Haven, quit talking and give me your foot."

I was amazed by the ease with which he lifted me, one big hand fitting under my bottom to boost me up to the two maintenance men. They gripped me beneath the arms and pulled me onto the top of the elevator, holding me as if they feared I might skid over the side. And I probably would have, I was so covered in slime.

Normally I could have clambered up the ladder with ease, but my feet and hands kept slipping on the metal. It required concentration and effort to make it to the landing, where Hardy had pried open the hoist doors. There were more people to help me, a couple of office workers, the security supervisor and guard, the newly arrived elevator technician, and even Kelly Reinhart, who couldn't stop exclaiming in horror, saying over and over, "I just saw her a half hour ago . . . I can't believe this . . . I just saw her . . . "

I ignored them all, not out of rudeness but single-minded fear. I waited beside the open doors and refused to budge, calling out Hardy's name anxiously. I heard a lot of splashing and some grunting, and a few of the foulest curses I'd ever heard in my life.

Manuel was the first to emerge, and his companion came next. Finally Hardy crawled out of the hoistway, dripping and covered with the same dark slime I was, his business clothes plastered to his body. I was certain he didn't smell any better than I did. His hair was standing up in places. He was the most gorgeous man I'd ever seen in my life.

I launched myself at him, wrapped my arms around his waist, and drove my head against his chest. His heart thudded strongly under my ear. "How did you get out?" I asked.

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