It's been a long time since I've shared any of my work here. The past eight months or so have been pretty wild. My mom has been very ill and as her primary caretaker, all of my free time was devoted to her for a good chunk of the year. She is holding steady now and I finally have a little bit of time to get back into writing and I've decided to start right here. So, today I want to share with you my favorite of all my books. The whole first chapter, in fact.
Oh...and if you get to the end of this post, you'll find a link for a giveaway during the month of October....
All She Never Wanted
A Summer Indie Book Award Nominee by Carolyn LaRoche
One moment changed everything…
Evie Ward had everything she’d ever dreamed of. An action-packed job where no two shifts were ever the same, the best friend a girl could ever want, and a fairy tale wedding just days away. Her life was absolutely perfect. Until one bullet—one horrible choice—left her with a broken heart and shattered dreams. Fleeing the city she loved and a lifetime of memories, Evie took a job in the Outer Banks of North Carolina in the hopes that the ocean air and fresh beaches could somehow restore her soul. Falling in love again wasn’t part of the plan.
Landon Reed was on top of the world. The money, the women, the status—he had it all until one bad decision nearly cost him his life. His father gave him three months to get his act together or be cut off from the family fortune and business. No house, no job and no money. His will and his patience are tested further when his father hires a nurse to whip him into shape. She may be little but she's mean and it looks like Landon has finally met his match.
With her shattered heart and his broken spirit, the road to recovery will be long. Can they help each other heal or will their fractured pasts be too much to overcome?
“I swear there’s a black market for gauze and bandages.”
Alone in the shadowy storage room, talking to myself somehow made it feel less dark and creepy as I gathered re-stock supplies for the various bays in the emergency room. We were always running out at the worst possible time so I grabbed supplies whenever there was a tiny break in the action. I hated the oversized closet we used for storage. Something about the space made it feel forgotten and cold. I tried to get in and get out, as quickly as possible, every time.
The door opened, flooding the room briefly in fluorescent lighting before it closed again quickly. The shadows returned. Heavy footsteps sounded methodically. Much too heavy and methodical to be another harried nurse in rubber soled shoes. Gooseflesh rippled along my arms and the tiny hairs on the back of my neck prickled as I slipped behind one of the tall shelving units. Stacks of cloth gowns, boxes of bandages and rolls of gauze all went flying from my arms as I backed into a solid form and let out a scream.
A large hand closed over my mouth lightly, stifling the sound. I relaxed as soon as I recognized the touch and scent of him.
“You make those scrubs look so hot they should be illegal.” The harsh whisper and hot breath against my ear sent a shiver hopscotching down my backbone.
“What are you doing? You know you can’t be back here.” I whispered against the slightly stubbled jaw that nuzzled my cheek.
“I work here. Same as you.”
Turning around, I slid my arms up over a solid mass of polyester covered Kevlar and wrapped them around Matthew’s neck, pulling him close. “You do not. Besides, only nurses are allowed in the supply room.”
Matthew leaned down and pressed his lips lightly against mine. “I’ve been dying to do this since my shift started. I kept volunteering for calls where I might have to go to the hospital.” His radio crackled in the dim light of the closet as he pulled me closer. “Finally got lucky—brought in a vic that had an unfortunate meet up with the knuckle side of a fist.”
Matthew laughed and tapped the tip of my nose with his finger then kissed the spot. He’d started doing that on our first date. It annoyed me then because it made me feel like a child. Now though, it was our thing. The way he let me know he adored me and I leaned into the tiny touch. “No. I didn’t hit him. It was his wife, actually.”
“He didn’t like the lasagna she made for dinner.”
“You’re kidding.” I laughed.
“I never kid about work.” Matthew breathed against my ear, sending those shivers in to high gear once again. It didn’t matter what he said, the sound of his voice always sent my heart racing.
A loud pop sounded outside the closet, followed by three more. Matthew froze, his head turned toward the door.
“Did you hear that?” I asked
“Shhh!” Matthew let go of me and stepped toward the door as several more pops rang out.
“What was that?” I was pretty sure I already knew though.
“Stay here! Whatever happens, do not leave this room!” he ordered, pushing me behind a rack of supplies. “I love you, Evie.” He leaned down and pressed a hard kiss to my lips.
I grabbed at his uniform. “Don’t go out there.”
“I have to. Just stay in here.” He pulled my hands free from his shirt before yanking the door open and running into the hall. As the room flooded with light, I caught sight of the determined set of his jaw and the forty-five caliber Smith and Wesson in his hand. Screams filled the air as several bangs rang out in quick succession.
We’d all trained for this. Drilled time and time again yet I never thought it would actually happen. Everyone had the same responsibility—protect the patients. Don’t be a hero. I couldn’t stay in the store room; the way Matthew had commanded. It was my job to get patients to safety.
Looking around for something to use to protect myself, I grabbed the fire extinguisher off the wall by the door. I ran from the storeroom with the extinguisher held in front of me and straight into the pits of hell.
Blood splashed the floors and crisscrossed the shiny white tile in the shape of shoe prints. People scattered in every direction as their screams permeated the air. I quickly scanned the waiting room trying to make sense of what I saw.
Matthew’s voice rang out above the chaos. “Stop! Police! Drop your weapon!”
“Who’s gonna make me?” I could hear the crazy in the voice that responded as the emergency ward again filled with gunfire. The screams got louder and somewhere a baby cried but all I could focus on was Matthew. I found him by the main door already engaged with the assailant. People ran screaming from the standoff. Matthew stood, feet planted shoulder width apart, arms extended in front of him as he fired over and over. The gunman jumped around as he fired back erratically, miraculously missing Matthew with every shot he took. Without thinking it through, I charged forward, the fire extinguisher poised above my head. The man had his back to me, gun pointed straight at my fiancé’s chest. Matthew caught sight of me and yelled.
“Evie! No! Stay back!”
The man turned on me then, gun waving wildly and let off a couple of rounds. Either I had no idea I was about to die or I just didn’t care. I’m not sure. I only knew that as he turned back to Matthew and unloaded the rest of his clip into the man that was supposed to someday be the father of my children, something inside of me snapped.
The extinguisher crashed down on the gunman’s head, knocking him to the floor. Over and over, I slammed the heavy metal canister against his body all the while yelling Matthew’s name. Arms wrapped around me, prying the extinguisher from my hands as tears poured down my cheeks and my heart pounded against my ribs. Fighting against the hold on me, I finally escaped and ran to where Matthew’s crumpled form lay on the bright linoleum. Blood had already begun to seep through the black fabric of his uniform. His breath came in short labored gasps as a tiny trail of red ran from the corner of his mouth and down the side of his chin.
Dropping to my knees, I felt for his pulse. If it’s strong and steady he’ll be all right. It’s not. It’s weak and erratic. My own heart kicked into high gear as I readied him for CPR.
“Don’t leave me, Matthew!” I pulled at his shirt, tore at the Velcro bindings of the stupid Kevlar vest that was supposed to protect him but had done nothing to stop the rifle bullets that tore into his body.
The sobs rolled heavy and fast as I counted the holes in his torso. Four. The left lung, straight into the liver, somewhere in the intestines and the right side of his neck. The way blood spurted from the wound, I knew the bullet had nicked an artery. Wrapping my hands over his neck and shoving a finger into that hole, I begged God not to take the man I love.
“Fight, Matthew! Fight! You can’t die! I need you!” I lay there, clutching his body and sobbing. Feet ran by us but I had no idea who they belonged to. Voices melted into one with the fire alarms and raging monitors and I heard none of it. The only sound I wanted to hear was Matthew’s heart beating in his chest again.
Someone tried to lift me but I held on tighter. Soothing words were murmured and gentle hands worked to pry away my grip on Matthew’s body but I held on as if my life depended on it.
As if his life depended on it.
As if I could pass my life’s breath into him and bring him back to me. I bargained with God. I made promises to the devil but nothing brought life back to Matthew. An hour could have passed, or barely a minute as someone finally managed to separate our bodies. The wild roar had died down to just loud. There were uniforms everywhere. Doctors, paramedics, cops, firefighters. I grabbed at the first white coat that came within my reach.
“Please! Help him! That man’s supposed to be my husband next month. You have to save him. I can’t live without him!”
“Evie.” Hands gripped my biceps and gave me a gentle shake. “Evie!”
“Mary Ellen. Thank God! Matthew’s hurt! We have to help him.”
Mary Ellen wrapped an arm around my shoulders and pulled me in close. “It’s okay, Evie. They’ve got him. Let me help you. Are you hurt?”
I shook my head, the tears soaking my lashes blinded me. My eyes stung as I dragged a fist across them.
“Oh, Evie. Don’t! Let me help you.” Mary Ellen, my closest friend and fellow nurse grabbed a towel off a supply cart and pressed it to my eyes. “You have Mat—blood—all over you. Don’t wipe your eyes again until we can clean you up.”
I shook my head and pushed the towel away. “I don’t need to get cleaned up. I need to get back to Matthew.” Turing around, I started back to where Matthew had been but stopped and spun straight into Mary Ellen. “He’s gone! Where is he?”
“Come on, Evie. Let me help you. Please.” Mary Ellen looked at me with such sadness that I couldn’t bear the weight of it and collapsed right there in the middle of the emergency room.
It was dark when I slowly became aware of my surroundings again. The familiar click and beep of the monitors that filled the hospital on a regular day were all that I could hear. There was no more fear. No more chaos. Just the sound of my breathing and the hushed brush of soft soled shoes against waxed flooring.
Memories slipped back into the fog of my mind, blending together like the colors of a kaleidoscope.
I bolted upright, pulling at wires and tubes I hadn’t realized were attached to me. An alarm sounded, piercing my eardrums with its high-pitched chirp. The curtains parted and Mary Ellen stepped into the small space.
“What are you doing, Evie?”
“I need to see Matthew.” The need shifted to absolute desperation. Mary Ellen’s hands closed over mine.
“He’s gone, Evie.” The words were quiet. Her usually sparkling eyes dulled with sadness.
“What do you mean? I just saw him.”
“Evie! Listen to me.” Mary Ellen never raised her voice. Ever.
My best friend looked so sad. I’d never seen her look like that before. “I’m so sorry, Evie. Matthew’s gone. He didn’t make it. There was nothing the doctors could do. He lost too much blood and there was just too much damage.”
Gone? Matthew didn’t make it? The words swirled through my brain with the force of a tornado. Pictures flooded my mind. Matthew on the floor. Blood. So much blood. I shook my head against the relentless images.
“No,” I whispered.
Mary Ellen’s eyes were soaked with tears. “I’m so sorry, honey.”
“He’s not gone. Matthew’s a good cop. He would never let himself get killed.”
“Oh, Evie. He was a good cop. He saved a lot of people today.”
“Stop talking about him like that!”
“Like what, sweetie?”
“In the past tense!”
“But I stopped the bleeding! He wouldn’t leave me. He loves me.” My pulse pounded in my ears so loudly it drowned everything else out. I shook my head over and over. “No. He’s not dead. He can’t be dead.”
Mary Ellen gathered me up in a hug, patting my back and murmuring soft, incomprehensible words. Still I couldn’t believe it. Refused to believe it. How could she lie to me like that? With shaking fists, I pounded against her chest. “You’re lying! Why would you do such a thing? You’re supposed to be my best friend!”
“Oh, honey,” she whispered. “I’m so sorry. I’m so very sorry.”
The sobs took over then. Great, massive, body quaking sobs that shook me to my very core. Mary Ellen just held on, smoothing my hair and murmuring against my ear. I couldn’t—wouldn’t—be soothed against the shattering heart inside my chest as the reality of Matthew’s death took over. The tiny shards cut like glass against my lungs as I gasped for air.
“Evie!” Mary Ellen called from somewhere far away. “You have to relax! Breathe, Evie!”
Breathe. It was such a simple concept. The lungs expand with fresh oxygen to feed my cells while they collapsed with the release of carbon dioxide. I did it a thousand times a day without ever once thinking about it so why had it become so damned impossible to do now?
“Just let me die.” I think I said it out loud. My brain told my mouth to speak but I couldn’t tell if it listened.
Just let me die.
Without Matthew, I was already dead anyway.
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