Authors: Maegan Abel
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2014 Maegan Abel
Cover Design Copyright © 2014 Maegan Abel
All rights reserved.
Editing by Monica at Word Nerd Editing
To my Grandma Abel
You gave me the love of words and I
only hope you’re proud of what I did with them.
“I’ll follow thee and make a heaven out of hell,
To die by your hand which I love so well.”
- William Shakespeare,
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Twenty-two black tiles surrounded by countless white. With the entire hallway ahead of me, all I see are twenty-two black tiles.
One. Two. Three. Four…
I start at one end of the hall, counting the black tiles again as I walk in a straight line to the double doors. Looking through the glass, I'm still unable to see anything.
One. Two. Three. Four…
I follow my path in the other direction, pulling out my phone as I walk. I press the button and frown at the screen. Still no word. I debate calling again
When I slide my finger to unlock the phone, I see the small splatter of blood crusting in the crease of the case. I swallow hard, tugging up the edge of my shirt to rub it away. The stiff cotton of the borrowed scrub top is useless, smearing the dark red across the white of the plastic case.
I stare at the streak, the macabre scene of the last few hours flashing in vivid detail through my mind. I can still smell the overwhelming tang of blood over the almost burning stench of sterile cleaner. I realize I've made it to the elevators again
I see my blurred reflection in the matte silver doors. My messy hair doesn't hide the blood matting the strands
The tortured look in my eyes brings things into focus once again.
I slap my open hand against the door twice, my palm making a satisfying crack in the almost silent corridor.
"Open, dammit!" I hiss the words through clenched teeth, frustration boiling over into anger. "Ugh!" I slap the door again before turning away.
One. Two. Three. Four…
I pause as movement on my right catches my eye, drawing my attention to the tiny room.
O.R. Waiting Room
The movement was someone shifting in a chair. A small girl asleep on the lap of a young woman. I stare for a moment. There are definite similarities between them in the color of their hair and the shape of their faces, but the girl is too old to be her daughter. Sister, maybe? The girl stirs in her sleep and her little body shudders as she makes a face. Is she whimpering? The young woman is staring back at me with wide, frightened eyes. I probably look like some sort of morbid ghost pacing this hallway with blood streaked hair and a haunted expression.
I break our stare, glancing up at the clock above her.
I turn and lean against the wall beside the door before looking at my phone again. I notice the smears of sweat from my palm and I wipe my hands one at a time on the scrub pants. Acknowledging the sweat makes me aware of the beads dripping from my temples and the trail running down the small of my back
The excruciatingly cold air blowing from the vents overhead laughs, threatening to freeze the sweat as it forms.
I unlock the screen to my phone, my hands trembling as I scroll to my most recently called number. Just as I'm about to press the button, the whir of the double doors opening automatically seizes my attention and I see the doctor from the emergency room. I start forward, my heart pounding, ignoring the ding of the elevator and the sound of my name being yelled from behind me.
shit!" Jackson's voice is the first to reach my ears. I cough, tasting blood as I try to take a breath to speak.
"Quit your fucking pouting, Lee." Tish leaned across his girlfriend
Kas, in the half circle booth to shove my shoulder. Turning my head slowly, I raised an eyebrow at him, daring him to do it again
He lifted his hands in surrender.
I smirked in victory and looked around the nightclub, eyes always alert for my next conquest, even though tonight was about celebrating with Zane. It was hard to focus on anything with the flashing lights and the feeling that my brain might actually be pounded out of my skull by the bass
Clearly, I wasn't drunk enough yet. The constant haze of cigarette smoke and useless nightclub fog made my eyes water. I carefully ran a finger under each eye to keep my makeup from smudging.
I'd been to Lust exactly four times since moving in with Tish and Zane. Twice for Tish's birthday and twice for Zane's. It was a tradition for them. Although they came more often, reserving a VIP booth and dragging me along was for birthdays only
As far as roommates went, I'd pretty much hit the jackpot. Well, in all honesty, as far as friends went
I'd won the lottery. Jared Tishler was the big brother I never had. From the moment I met him, he'd been fiercely protective of me. And
well, Zane was like my other half. Not in a romantic way; more in the way you look at someone and they can instantly speak your thoughts. Sometimes even before you have them. He was my partner in crime.
"I need more alcohol," I said, grumbling under my breath. I heard Zane's chuckle beside me as he flagged down our waitress. Cali? Carly? I didn't know
but it was some stupid shit like that. She batted her lashes at Zane as he ordered us another round.
"Why won't you dance with me?" Jackson poked his head around Zane to look at me and I dropped my head with a groan. Jackson Miller, with his dark hair and olive skin, looked like he could be Tish's younger brother rather than Zane
he was no blood relation to their family. Jackson was a paramedic, like Zane
Since the day they’d been teamed together, the two of them had been friends.
"I. Don't. Dance
" I said each word separately, emphasizing them for what felt like the hundredth time.
"Come on, Lili. Sydney isn't here and you know you're the only one she wouldn't get mad about me dancing with."
"How are the twins?" Tish asked. I sighed in relief at the distraction. Jackson's wife
had given birth to their daughters at only twenty-seven weeks. They were still in the NICU and Jackson was taking a few hours away from the hospital to celebrate with us.
"Chloe is about the same
but Zoey was doing a lot better today. They both still have a long way to go
but it looks more promising every day," Jackson said, grinning like the proud father we knew him to be.
When Jackson had announced the pregnancy on New Year's Eve of last year, I thought Sydney was going to kill him. They had just found out that morning and she'd made him promise not to say anything yet. But, in true Jackson form, he hadn't been able to resist. He was over the moon at the thought of being a father. He was at every appointment with Sydney from the beginning
At the first signs of trouble with the pregnancy, he was constantly at her side, always able to find the silver lining to the clouds.
As Jackson and Tish spoke across the table, Zane leaned toward me, whispering into my ear. "You going to dance with me for my birthday, Pixie?"
I leaned away and he smirked as I leveled him with my most innocent expression. "Isn't it enough that I'm here?" I placed my elbows on the table as I batted my lashes with a wicked grin, my chin resting on my laced fingers. "I'm present enough for any man's birthday." I gave him a quick wink.
He laughed at my playful arrogance and I shrugged as I saw the waitress approached with our drinks.
Tish raised his shot glass. "To my dickhead baby brother who is nowhere near as awesome as me
but he tries hard! Here's to twenty-five being better than twenty-four."
I almost choked on my shot, laughing at Tish as Zane slammed his back and placed the glass on top of the stack of empties in front of him, not bothering to look at his brother. "Douche."
I followed Zane's eyes, seeing the blonde at the next table as she waved with a small wiggle of her fingers. I scoffed and Kas leaned forward to glance in that direction as well. I looked back at Kas and burst out laughing.
Kas was the most recent addition to our tight-knit little group, though she and Tish had been together for well over a year now. I was wary of her in the beginning but I've always been distrusting of people so my judgment wasn’t always the best. Tish loves her and she has made him happy, which is all that matters to me.
"Reaching in the front of her dress and fluffing up her tits for you would be less obvious," Kas said to Zane as she grabbed the beer bottle in front of her. The blonde attempted to look coy as she crossed her legs dramatically, watching our table out of the corner of her eye.
"Ten says she'll be over in the next fifteen," I said to Kas. It was an ongoing thing between us to bet on the tourists. We certainly had more than our share of them in Vegas and they were always fairly predictable.
"Twenty says she'll try to get Zane away from the table before she talks to him." Kas held out a hand to me and Zane rolled his eyes.
I watched the blonde for a moment, noting that she seemed to be taking stock of me as I sat beside Zane. It was something we got a lot
People were always confused by our relationship. I could tell that she saw me as a challenge and I knew Kas was misjudging her. She was making eye contact, daring me to stake a claim on Zane
but I just smirked at her and shook my head as I looked away. He was free game.
The back and forth bullshit flirting between Zane and the blonde lasted fifteen minutes exactly. Just enough time for Jackson to say his goodbyes and head out to be with his family. Kas elbowed me and I glanced up as the blonde slid from her stool at the high table, nearly stumbling on her ridiculous hooker heels. I snorted a laugh and Zane shot me a glare with a small turn of his head. I straightened my expression as best I could and glanced away as she approached.
" I heard her say in a voice that she was trying way too hard to make sound sexy. I fought back a smirk, not daring to look at Kas for fear of losing it. I grabbed my beer, hoping to hide my smile behind the bottle as I took a drink. "I'm Bambi." She actually pronounced it like 'Baaaaaaam-bee'
the last syllable squeaking up almost a complete octave.
I spit beer all over the table. I couldn't help it. I mean, seriously? Who named their kid Bambi unless they planned for her to have an occupation where she pulled dollar bills out of a thong all night? When I caught Zane glaring at me, I covered my mouth with my hand and dropped my forehead onto the table to try to hide my laughter, knowing it was useless.
"Of course it is," Kas laughed through her words beside me, not even trying to mask her amusement.
"Zane. Would you like to dance?" I heard his deep voice beside me and I choked back my laughter, reigning it in to lift my head from the table. He extended his hand to her and she was beaming at him with the same absurd smile I'd seen girls give him since we first started spending time together. He slid out of the booth, leading her away as I watched.