The acrid smell of rubber and gravel hit him, and sweet meadow grass where one tyre had dug a path on the extreme edge of the slope.
Luca hunkered beside the prone figure, heart hammering, adrenalin pumping. He couldn't see blood despite the tear in the leg of the rider's leathers. But the guy lay unmoving.
Dread rose. Had he hit his head?
'Where does it hurt?' He fought the instinct to reach out and investigate. Better to let the rider tell him, if he could.
'Everywhere.' The voice was soft and husky and somehow familiar. It must be a trick of imagination, fired by relief at discovering the rider was conscious.
'Can you move your legs?'
'Just give me a second.'
The second stretched out till finally the rider moved. First one arm then the other, slowly closing each hand. Then a ripple of motion-
'Don't sit up!'
Too late. The black clad figure rose on one elbow then lurched sideways. Luca grabbed one skinny upper arm, holding him steady. Was it a kid, rather than a man? That would explain the voice. And make his control of the bike even more remarkable. Only an experienced rider could have come so close to saving himself in the circumstances.
'I feel a bit woozy.'
'I'm not surprised. You bit the dirt with a lot of force.' His gaze strayed to the drop beside them and the next stretch of tarmac well below. Luca's belly lurched. If the rider had been less experienced, or less lucky, he'd be dead now.
But the guy had grit. Slowly, with only a hitch of breath betraying any pain, he sat higher, legs stretched out before him. Surely he couldn't have done that if he'd damaged his spine? As if in response to his silent thoughts the rider rotated first one foot then the other, then bent first one then the second knee.
Luca released a pent up breath. Years ago he'd been first on the scene when a novice had tried a black ski run and barely survived. The kid had never walked again.
'You're lucky to be alive.' The words burst out from the dam of half-buried memories.
'I know. I swear I saw my life flash before my eyes.' Again that strange sense of recognition as he heard that voice. But as it was muffled by the bike helmet that meant nothing.
'Let me help with the helmet.' Luca wouldn't be happy till he'd checked for injuries. The fact the rider was talking was excellent but-
'I can do it.'
Was it imagination or was the guy slow to move? If Luca didn't know better he'd say he read reluctance in the rider's movements, though logic told him it was more likely pain.
The black helmet rose and a froth of long, dark waves cascaded down past the rider's shoulders. Luca blinked, his brain scrambling to catch up with the evidence of his own eyes. The rider twisted away, putting the helmet on the ground, and the sun gleamed on an unexpected curve beneath the black biker's jacket. The curve of a female breast.
Slowly the woman turned her head. Eyes that were familiar yet unexpected met his. Unexpected because the woman he knew had plain brown eyes, not grey-blue the colour of the sky at dusk.
Yet the face was the same. Clear, pale skin, straight nose and a neat jaw. A familiar face, yet... different. Without thick-rimmed glasses there was nothing to distract him from those surprisingly lush lips. Or the stunning beauty of that bright gaze.
Luca frowned. Either he was going crazy or this woman was the almost-twin of his redoubtable PA. The woman he'd last seen in a charcoal trouser suit, high buttoned shirt and flat shoes. The woman whose idea of living dangerously was allowing one of the junior secretaries to order dinner when they worked late.
He blinked. It couldn't be. Allegra Davis was even now driving up from Milan to meet him at the alpine resort his brother Gennaro had just completed building. Unless she was already there, briskly beginning the site visit in anticipation of his arrival.
One thick leather glove rose and the woman pushed the hair back from her face. Hair that gleamed richly in the sunlight and smelled of vanilla.
'Hello, boss. Fancy meeting you here.'
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