Read Heart Block Online

Authors: Melissa Brayden

Heart Block

Synopsis

Happily ever after is easier said than done…

Sarah Matamoros can’t complain. After immigrating from Mexico when she was nine years old, she’s content with the life she’s made for herself in sunny San Diego. She works hard at her mother’s housecleaning service by day and spends the evenings with her quirky eight-year-old daughter, Grace.

From a very young age, Emory Owen had several concepts drilled into her head. Success is everything. Be the best. Fight your way to the top. Expectations were high in the Owen household and the world was watching. Born into a high society family, Emory never wanted for anything…at least anything money could buy. When she meets Sarah, hired to sort her mother’s home, her sterile life suddenly sparks into color.

But when the emotional logistics of combining two very different worlds proves to be too much, a terrifying turn of events spurs the question: If love exists, can it really find a way?

Heart Block

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Heart Block

© 2012 By Melissa Brayden. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN 13: 978-1-60282-809-4

This Electronic Book is published by

Bold Strokes Books, Inc.

P.O. Box 249

Valley Falls, New York 12185

First Edition: November 2012

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

Credits

Editor: Cindy Cresap

Production Design: Susan Ramundo

Cover Design By Sheri ([email protected])

By the Author

Waiting in the Wings

Heart Block

Acknowledgments

First of all, I have to share with you how much I enjoyed working with the characters in Heart Block and how much I will miss them now that our journey together is complete. But I know without a doubt that I’ll carry a little piece of each one of them along with me as I go. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

But down to serious business. There were numerous people who contributed to making this story happen, and I would be remiss in not offering them my gratitude.

Many heartfelt thanks to the following people:

Len Barot and the well-oiled machine of creativity that is Bold Strokes Books. I feel supported, nurtured, and cheered on in all the right moments, and that’s pretty cool. It’s my hope that we have many more stories to tell together.

Sheri. You turn out amazing covers and this one brings me great happiness.

The great writers I’m now happy to call my friends. That’s been the best surprise of all. The publishing world can feel scary at times, and I’m beyond grateful for the advice, laughs, and heartfelt conversations we’ve had over the past year. How lucky I feel to know you.

My editor, Cindy Cresap, who is smarter than me. Thank you for catching my errors and thinking of things that would never occur to me in a million years. You’re also always right and thereby valuable beyond measure. You made this book stronger and are the voice of reason to my Hail Mary attempts at writing. Thank goodness for that.

The “Core Five” and the “New Additions.” You made me who I am and taught me what I know. Thank you for wine nights on the patio. Game nights around the table. And memories to last a lifetime. You keep me going. You’re my safe place to fall.

The readers who have sent me notes, e-mails, and Facebook messages that keep me smiling. You make a difference.

Dedication

Love to A, T, & B

Chapter One

Laundry had never been sassier. Sarah clutched the basket of clothes to her side with her right hand and freed her hair from the ponytail holder with her left. Giving her curly hair an effective shake so it fell in haphazard waves down her back, she proceeded to dance down the hallway of her two-bedroom apartment for all she was worth. It was mid morning, she had the place to herself, and damn if she wasn’t going to work it for the length of the song. She sashayed aggressively on the downbeat of the chorus to “Brick House” and shimmied forward then backward through the second verse, adding her own Latin flair. She full-on rocked out the remaining distance before jumping onto the couch, discarding the laundry basket, and falling to her knees, finishing the number like the champ she knew she was. She internally applauded herself, not necessarily for skill, but for serious commitment. Finally, she picked up the laundry basket and calmly completed her walk to the washing machine.

It was a good day, and Sarah was enjoying the leisurely pace she’d established for completing the mundane chores on her to-do list. Just outside her petite laundry room, she straightened Grace’s second grade school picture on the wall and smiled as the image of her daughter, two years younger then, grinned back at her.

Sarah made a mental checklist of all the things she needed to accomplish before the day was out and groaned inwardly when she recognized the tap-tap-tap of small raindrops on the laundry room window. Okay, she’d have to make a few adjustments to her day. Luckily, there were still several more around-the-house chores she could knock off the list, followed by a short trip to the grocery store. She sighed deeply, deciding that in order to be practical, she should probably pick up the pace a tad.
Less dancing, more working
.

She hit the start button on the washer, mamboed her way into the kitchen, and poured her second cup of coffee that morning. There could never be too much coffee. Somewhere in the back of her mind, it registered that the phone was ringing. She turned absently in its direction, interrupting her enjoyment of the warm, caffeinated pick-me-up.

“Hello,” she answered cheerfully. She was always a morning person.

“Yes. Hello. May I speak with Sarah Matamoros please?”

“This is Sarah.” She glanced at the caller ID readout. It was Grace’s school calling, which gave her minor pause. She’d dropped her off at school nearly two hours ago. “Is everything okay with Grace?”

The calm female voice hesitated. “That’s what I’m calling about, Ms. Matamoros. Grace had an incident in her classroom this morning and lost consciousness for several minutes.”

Sarah stood up straight, her hand fluttering to her heart, her stomach dropping as if on cue. “What happened?”

“We’re not exactly sure. Her teacher mentioned she’d been quieter than usual most of the morning, but she assumed Grace was just tired. Just as the students were beginning work on their science assignment, Grace got up to sharpen her pencil and collapsed in front of the sharpener. She didn’t strike anything as she fell, but it took a couple of minutes to revive her and EMS was called. She’s alert now and communicative but still somewhat confused about what happened. The paramedics have expressed concern and would like to transport her to Mercy General for further evaluation. Can you meet them there?”

“Of course.” Sarah looked around the room wildly for her purse. “I’m leaving now. Thank you.” She hung up the phone just as her once-stable world seemed to tilt on its axis. She gripped the countertop tightly to steady herself against the onslaught, her heart ready to jump from her chest. After a few purposeful deep breaths, her vision once again cleared and the room righted itself.

As she made her way through the door of her apartment, she thought back to earlier in the day, scrutinizing Grace’s every move with new perspective. She’d been just fine a few hours before in the car on the way to school. They’d talked about their plans for the summer and the possibility of Grace attending the YMCA’s day camp now that she would be in the fourth grade and showing signs of responsibility. She’d been so excited. The image of Grace’s face lighting up at the news played like a movie in Sarah’s mind. So what had gone wrong? Her rational side understood that Grace could have fainted from something as simple as not having eaten a decent breakfast. They had been in a hurry and she hadn’t examined whether Grace had actually eaten the cereal and juice she’d set out for her. But the mother in Sarah feared the worst, conjuring up all sorts of terrifying scenarios. She put her key in the ignition and gunned the engine, doing eighty-five easy on the freeway.

*

It was raining outside. Hard. Emory Owen could hear it mercilessly pelt the roof and see the thick drops as they raced past the somewhat smudged window she stared out. It was the kind of rain that made her want to stay inside, snuggled up under the comfort of her favorite chenille blanket, a cup of hot mint tea in her hand. Instead, she sat amidst uncomfortable blue plastic chairs, harsh fluorescent lighting, and year-old magazines in the waiting room of Mercy General.

“Miss Owen?” A pause. “Excuse me, Miss Owen; did you hear what I said?”

She did and she didn’t. Emory turned fully to the older woman in the white coat who’d said her name. She blinked, trying in vain to clear her head. “I’m sorry. Would you mind repeating that?” Numb. With very good reason, she felt numb.

The woman’s tone softened. “My name is Dr. Turner and I’m in charge of your mother’s case.” Emory accepted the extended hand and stared at the woman, randomly noticing the patches of gray at her temples. “Why don’t we sit down?” Emory nodded her agreement, trying to read the doctor’s face. “We’ve run some tests on your mother. It was a massive stroke, just as we originally thought. Unfortunately, Ms. Owen, her prognosis at this point is not very promising and there are some things we need to discuss.”

Emory nodded her understanding, suddenly acutely aware of the sounds in the room—the hum of the lights overhead, the steady beep of an unidentified machine behind the nurse’s station, the squeak of the custodian’s sneaker on the vinyl floor just feet away. Everything seemed so much louder. Why?

“The stroke has caused her brain a great deal of trauma. What this comes down to, Ms. Owen, is a profound loss of brain function.”

“She’s brain dead? Is that what you’re saying?”

The doctor nodded. “It is. Her heart and lungs are currently sustained by artificial means, but—”

“I understand. Can I see her?” Emory asked.

“Of course. Is there someone we can call for you?”

“No, there’s no one. I’ll handle it.” And she would.

*

“A heart block?” Sarah repeated. “I’m not sure I understand. What does that mean, Doctor…?”

“Turner,” the woman supplied. She had kind eyes. “A heart block occurs when the electrical impulses that tell the heart to beat do not transmit properly. The EKG showed that the heart block in Grace’s case is producing a bradycardia, or very slow rhythm, which we believe was the cause of her loss of consciousness this morning.”

Sarah leaned against the wall for support. She didn’t like the implications of what she was hearing. “Is this a life-threatening condition?”

“No, not usually. Grace is lucky. She’s not dealing with a complete block but rather a block of the second degree. The impulses in her heart are delayed, slowing her rhythm, but they’re not blocked entirely.”

Sarah shook her head slowly. “Why didn’t I pick up that something was wrong?”

Dr. Turner placed a reassuring hand on Sarah’s shoulder, dipping her head to meet her eyes. “Don’t beat yourself up. Without an episode like this one to prompt an EKG, the block wouldn’t have presented itself on a normal checkup. Most likely, Grace was born with this condition. Often times with symptoms like fatigue, shortness of breath, a fluttering feeling in the chest, children don’t know how to describe what they’re feeling and assume they’re simply tired.”

It did make sense, but Sarah still felt as if her mother’s intuition had somehow failed her. She should have known something was wrong, should have picked up on the problem. “What do we do now?”

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