Authors: Stephanie St. Klaire
A McKenzie Ridge Novel
Stephanie St. Klaire
COPYRIGHT © 2016
Stephanie St. Klaire
EDITOR: Joanne LaRe Thompson
A McKenzie Ridge Novel
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, or other status is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever known, not known or hereafter invented, or stored in any storage or retrieval system, is forbidden and punishable by the fullest extent of the law without written permission of the author.
Wow, my debut novel…
There are so many people that contributed to this process, and I want to thank each and every one of you, from the bottom of my heart…
First and foremost, all glory to God for seeing me through the storm, and providing ways around my obstacles.
To my hubby; my best friend and my happily ever after forever…I think that says it all.
To my children, my heart, who have been my biggest cheerleaders even though they cannot read mommies book. I credit them for all the recess and lunch ladies that they sold mom’s “grown up, love book” to on the playground!
My first fan, my mom, for being my sounding bored, and for only teasing me about the steamy scene’s once. You and dad have encouraged me from the beginning, and helped make this journey possible.
Thank you Grandpa and Grandma for the memories McKenzie Ridge, and its characters are born of. Gone, but never forgotten, and always in my heart.
Along the way I have met incredible women in this industry that inspire me, encourage me, support me, and make me a better person for knowing them...
Marina Adair, you are such a class act! I am forever grateful for your mentorship, support, and encouragement.
Joanne LaRe Thompson, you are such a blessing! I am so honored to have you on my team! The confidence you have in me, and your endless support is humbling!
MK Meredith and Amber Lacie…you are true examples of what makes this industry awesome! Thank you for being a part of my journey!
To everyone that had a hand in my journey, thank you for making my dreams come true…
Table of Contents
Blood curdling screams, high pitched, and ear piercing, was all that she could hear. Sam felt intense confusion by her surroundings, not understanding where she was, or where the sounds were coming from, nothing before her was clear. What just happened, who was screaming and why won’t it stop? Her body pulsed as sharp pain that she couldn’t identify flooded her head to toe. It was so intense it made her dizzy. It hurt everywhere. It hurt to move, to think even. The pressure in her head was nauseating.
Trying to provoke answers, she struggled to remember where she was, her last recollection was of being in her car. She remembers seeing something bright ahead, although foggy, it was blinding. Then she heard that haunting scream, but what happened after that? She needed to pull over, she shouldn’t be driving, not like this, but she couldn’t. She couldn’t seem to do anything; everything around her was so still.
It was dark, and everything was fuzzy. She writhed for clarity, attempting to overcome the confusion that left her in a groggy haze, which sparked new hints of fear. A sense of heaviness weighted her chest like a cement slab, making it harder and harder to breath, each gasp becoming sharper and more shallow than the last. More lights surrounded her now. The bright, blinding, white light was replaced with changing colors that were everywhere, clearly emergency related. There must have been an accident, but she couldn’t see it, nor could she identify where she was or what had happened, just the screams was all she could remember. This had to be a dream.
Finally coming into focus, she noticed Colton Sparks standing to her left, and he was talking to her; man he was hot in his Fire turnouts. It became evident that she was indeed in her car, and it was clear that he was standing next to her car, but what the hell was he saying? His look was so upsetting, so full of concern, so unlike Colton. She was struggling to hear him, to understand what was going on, and how she could help. This was definitely a dream, Sam decided, because Morgan Jameson appeared as Colton stepped slightly further down the car with a large object in his hand, some sort of tool. This was getting more confusing by the minute. Morgan shared a similar concerned expression as she began to speak. It was obvious that Morgan was speaking, but the words eluded Sam. She was probably asking her a plethora of questions…always a cop, that one.
As Colton and Morgan backed away in a rush, Blake Cooper from the local PD, and Jessie Clarke from Fire, could be seen in the blurred distance, rushing around with a handful of others. Ah, the whole gang was here, it was just a work dream. Too many MVAs coming in last shift, so she was just dreaming about them. It had been a busy week, after all, so weird dreams were a given, in her line of work, especially when she was sleep deprived. Sleep had eluded her the last several nights, thanks to a certain man that gave her goose bumps, the dreamy kind of goose bumps.
Sam couldn’t say anything, and she no longer saw her friends by the car, just the lights that were fading in and out. Unsure where everyone had gone, she started to feel unsettled. She could hear the voices now, all around her—shouting, and what sounded like some sort of saw, but she couldn’t see anything. None of this was making sense. A strange sensation fell over her as if the world was shifting around her; it wasn’t a dizziness, but not still either. It made her feel funny as her body began to feel light; it didn’t seem to hurt anymore. She felt cold, although it was the middle of summer. If she didn’t know any better, she would have thought she was floating. She heard voices again, including
She opened her eyes to find Dawson Tayler. Oh she was definitely dreaming, again, about the sexy EMT who flooded her thoughts by day, and controlled her dreams by night. After last night’s roll in the hay, or river bank as it may, she thought he was out of her system, or at least her dreams. Apparently not. She had to admit, it was a damn good roll, and she wouldn’t mind a repeat.
It was another hot night in the bus. Dawson and his partner, Carigan, were dispatched to a single MVA on the dark and winding back roads that traced the outside of town. Lights and sirens blaring, they came upon the scene, Fire and PD already there, and it was bad. The car, or what was left of it, was wrapped around a big Ponderosa. It wasn’t even recognizable, just a heap of metal and glass everywhere. Smoke was rising from what was likely the head of the car, since it was billowing up the trunk of the tree.
“Jesus, Carigan, it looks like they need the morgue pickup, not an ambulance,” Dawson said to his partner as they approached, seeing the full spectrum of what they were called to. These calls were never easy. “Whoever is in there, God bless them for surviving so far. What a fricking mess. I hope we got here in time, Cari.”
Having seen this before, especially in peak tourist season, Carigan replied sympathetically, “Probably another drunken tourist from the rodeo, lost in the back roads.”
As they jumped out of the ambulance and grabbed their equipment, Colton Sparks, from Fire, intercepted Dawson, stopping him before he could approach the victim. Dawson didn’t like the look on Colton’s face. Something was wrong. Watching over Colton’s shoulder, eyeing the wreckage, a light stealthy tingle drove through him, as familiarity set in. He was piecing the demolished car before him, back together in his mind, when Colton dropped an earth-shattering bomb.
“Hey, Daws, hold up man, you need to know. Shit, um, I’m sorry, but it’s Sam. She’s hurt real bad, man, real bad,” Colton said, placing his hand on Dawson’s shoulder, full of sympathy and support for his friend. “You okay, man? You got this?”
Stunned, no words to be found, he stared, watching, as Jessie and the others from Fire were peeling back pieces of the car with their equipment. Sam was trapped in that heap of metal, and he was there to rescue her. He had just been with her last night, probably one of the best nights he had ever had. He was at a loss at how his world turned upside down so quickly. They were both on shift tonight, him on the ambulance, her in the ER. They had promised to see each other, something he had been looking forward to since leaving her the night before, but not like this, never like this.
Taking in the scene before him, the ground below him shifted, as the gravity of the situation fell heavy upon his shoulders. This wasn’t just a wreck, or a fender bender. There wasn’t a word for the enormity of what sat before him, wrapped around that tree. Smoke floating from the heap of torn metal, fluids spilling from all over, and the blood that appeared to be everywhere—overwhelmed didn’t begin to explain what he was feeling.
Then he saw her. Pale, nearly gray, lifeless, covered in lesions and gashes, bruises already appearing, even in the darkness of the night. Her battered, injured body just lay there as her eyes blankly stared, mouth opening and closing, searching for sound, he thought, or maybe air. Without understanding, he felt his heart crack in two, as he watched this woman cling to life.
“Tayler, grab the cart, damn it! Get over here, she’s ready for extraction! Let’s go!” Carigan shouted to her partner, needing his assistance, as she stabilized their patient for removal.
Shaken from his daze, he grabbed the gurney and ran to assist his partner, setting aside his feelings for Sam, and what had happened, looking at her strictly as his patient. They quickly, but carefully, removed her from the heap of metal that was completely unrecognizable, the top peeled away like a tin can. He wouldn’t let her die, not today, not on his watch, they wouldn’t end this way.
Dawson was staring at her, his expression blanketed in concern and worry. Why was light-hearted Dawson looking so damn serious, where was that panty-melting smile and charm? She looked around with her eyes only, unable to move her head. It was so bright, with lots of metal, and sterile-looking. Were they in his ambulance? Dawson grabbed something from above her and briefly fidgeted with her arm. She couldn’t feel much, but she knew those were his hands; his touch was exhilarating and unmistakable. She felt him. She finally felt something that wasn’t pain, or numb. He was holding her hand, and she could hear him, finally she heard his words.
“Sam, please stay with me, you’re going to be okay, baby. Hang on, okay?” Dawson spilled, anxiety lacing his words. “Fight, honey, we are almost there, you’re going to make it. You’ve got to fight!”
Be okay? Going to make it? Panic struck as reality set in. Something was wrong, something
. She couldn’t feel anything other than his warm hand and the heaviness on her chest. Why couldn’t she feel anything? Oh my God, it
an accident and she was the victim; they were all there for
Colton, Morgan, Dawson—all the lights—something happened to her! Dawson squeezed her hand. He looked down, eyes pinched closed, and was talking again, what the…was he,
Oh shit! Oh shit, this was bad, really fucking bad! Sam’s last thought, before everything got cold, dark, and silent…was Ellie.
Completely and utterly affected by Sam as the lone crash victim of such a brutal sight, and how devastating it truly was, Dawson was taken aback by the overwhelming emotions rushing in. Continuing to talk to her while she was in and out of consciousness, he found himself on auto-pilot, professionally. While he assessed the deep longing and hurting in his chest, he said all he could to comfort her, praying even, as he took it all in.
Head to toe, covered in injuries, bleeding immensely, and frightened by the gash and swelling on her head, he was relieved when they arrive at the emergency room, and she was still alive. At the ready, the staff met them at the doors, emotions and fear evident as they were all anxious to receive their co-worker, their friend, sweet Sam, as their next patient.
“Cari, what do we have?” Asked the thirty-something, highly accomplished, Doc Charles, an ER favorite, and probably the best doctor to care for Sam.
“MVA, unconscious female, mid-twenties, BP 95/60 and dropping, multiple trauma’s to the…” Carigan rattled off, completely by the book, not letting emotions get involved, until her dear friend was handed over to those that would be charged with saving her. She could break down later, when Sam was in the right hands.
“Where’s my other nurse…all hands on deck!” Doc hollered, scanning the staff surrounding the gurney, waiting for answers, before landing his eyes on the patient laying before him on the gurney.
“You’re looking at her, doctor. Our vic is Sam,” replied a teary Nurse Jan, senior to her peers, deeply affected by the visual impact of Sam’s injuries.
“Son of a…Let’s go, trauma one, everything we’ve got, people!” Choked Doc, realizing the extent of the injuries to tackle. The emotion of it surrounding one of their own overcame him briefly, before leading Sam away, ready to fight whatever battles her injuries presented.
With a blank stare, completely stunned, Dawson stood there, watching his colleagues wheel Sam off, not knowing if it was the last time he would see her.
, he hoped not. Not this, not again.
Dawson finished his shift in a daze. Staged at the rodeo primarily, it was a typical night at such an event. First, they tended to a call for a toddler with corn in his nose, and his frantic mother. Toddlers with small objects shoved in various orifices were a pretty common call, even if it wasn’t typically an emergency, but this kid managed to get what appeared to be half the cob up there. There were also a handful of bumps and bruises from the inevitable rowdy drunken cowboy brawls. The eye-roller of the evening, however, was a man passed out in the park, naked; who gets that drunk? When the rodeo was in town, they saw all kinds of crazy, and tonight was no exception. For the first time ever, he didn’t love his job, he didn’t want to be here.
Standing at the foot of Sam’s bed, Dawson found himself back at the hospital. The black and blue that covered every inch of skin exposed was startling, leaving her nearly unrecognizable. The cuts to her head and face were equally shocking. Flashing back to the scene, he could only imagine what was beneath the bandages and splints that concealed the worst of her injuries. The sight of her damaged body moved him, an all too familiar emotion that he thought he buried a decade ago.
Despite her traumatic injuries, she looked peaceful, as if she was just sleeping, but the sounds of the machines that were monitoring her and ultimately keeping her alive, reminded him that she was at anything but at peace. What happened? What would cause such a dramatic and horrifying accident? It’s the middle of summer, the roads are clear, all the locals are very cautious of wildlife wandering in the road, so it just didn’t make sense why she hit that tree, that far off the road, that hard.
Everly Shaw, Sam’s best friend and their colleague, walked in, catching him in deep thought. As a nurse on staff, Sam’s emergency contact, and adoptive family, she was privy to Sam’s lengthy list of injuries. Focused on Sam’s face, still beautiful, even if roughened, Evie began to share the outcome of Sam’s accident.
He heard the words broken, punctured, fracture, and maybe even concussion, but he wasn’t sure, he was completely consumed with the desire to help her, see her healed. Everly’s final words were loud and clear, and shook him from the subject of his distraction. His heart stopped for a moment, and the wind knocked from him, if ever so briefly, when she said, “coma.”