Slamming on his brakes, Ryker did a one-eighty, his car coming to a stop on the narrow shoulder about twenty yards back from where the SUV had driven off the road

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Slamming on his brakes, Ryker did a one-eighty, his car coming to a stop on the narrow shoulder about twenty yards back from where the SUV had driven off the road. Phone out, he dialed 911 as he ran, giving the operator a basic rundown of where he was and what had happened. He didn't mention Emmie or Sam, simply saying an SUV drove off the road and the people inside needed help fast.

"Just stay on the line with me, sir, and keep clear of the accident scene."

"Afraid I can't do that." Peering down at the wreck to assess the situation, Ryker took in a quick breath. The car was a broken egg in the middle of a rocky nest situated on the edge of the shoreline. The bottom of the SUV reflected weak rays of golden red from the remains of the sunset up to where Ryker now stood on the edge of the cliff. A mangled guardrail lay off to his side, and the post the SUV had taken out was nowhere to be found. It must have gone down with the car. The only spot of good news was that it was low tide. At least he wouldn't be dealing with a flooded car in addition to a crashed one. But low tide only lasted so long...

"I'm going down now."

The operator kept her voice even, but Ryker could tell she was becoming exacerbated by him. "Sir, given the nature of the scene you described, you'd be putting yourself at risk attempting to go down by the vehicle. I know you're concerned about the victims, but your actions might make you a victim as well. Please remain calm. We'll have emergency responders there soon."

He couldn't remain calm, though, and he couldn't wait, not with the thought that Emmie might be down there, hurt... or worse.

"Just... please hurry!"

Ryker hung up on the well-intentioned operator and used both hands to scramble backwards down the embankment. It was a steep bluff with perhaps a thirty-foot or so drop. He clung to the branches of small shrubs growing out of the cliffside as he slowly made his way downward. About halfway through the descent, he lost his foothold when a loose stone gave way below him. He swore, realizing he might be about to prove the operator right. Dangling there, the dry branch keeping him from falling began to bend ominously.

Just as it snapped, he managed to find purchase on an exposed root. A few minutes later, he was down.

The front of the overturned SUV was badly crushed where it had run into the guardrail. A man hung suspended from the driver side, blood streaming down his face.

It was Sam. And that meant...

"Emmie!" he shouted as he made his way around the car to the passenger side. "Emmie, can you hear me?"

She was suspended by her seatbelt, eyes closed. The door was too mangled to open, no matter how much Ryker tugged on it. Taking off his jacket, he folded it over his arm and carefully brushed the broken glass from the window away from its frame and out onto the ground. He reached his hand inside, past the now deflated side impact airbags, pressing two shaking fingers to her neck.

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