She’s this enigma.
A beautiful mess.
A brilliant mind with a sharp tongue.
Our first meeting, she stopped me in my tracks.
But she wants nothing to do with me.
He’s only a guy.
Gorgeous with a million-dollar smile . . .
But still, a guy.
I can ignore the unfamiliar softness of his brown eyes.
I can ignore the way he walks, stops, and stares as though he’s waiting for something.
He’ll lose interest. They always do once they know they’ll get nothing from me . . .
This story can be read as a stand alone novel. It is a spin-off story in the From The Wreckage series.
The Ending . . .
I blink, setting off a bomb of excruciating pain. A mirror has exploded within my head, the shards tearing fissures through my brain matter, chasing the lurking shadows from my mind.
“He’s waking up. Tell them he’s waking up.”
A voice like a gunshot speaks over me. Loud. Jolting. I turn away from the noise, and a click reverberates, filling my ears as a searing slice of pain screams up my neck, shooting into my jaw.
The shadows return, pressing me down, down, down. I gasp.
“Hey, dude, don’t move.” I feel a sudden pressure on my forehead. “We’ve called 9-1-1. Stay still.”
My mouth fills with sour bile as I attempt blinking again. My eyes won’t open, not completely. My vision is reduced to a slit of light. A glowing face. No. A face, lit by the glow of a cell phone, and outlined by the night sky. My mouth opens and nothing comes out. My tongue is thick, coated with the tang of metal. I swallow. Blood?
“Is that—” A feminine voice joins the deeper one above me. She’s further away. Standing maybe? Her gasp is audible. “Ray, that’s Austin Rutledge.”
Ray’s gunshot voice startles me, “Holy—”
Yes. Yes, I’m Austin. What happened? Why won’t the words form?
“What about the other—?” the female’s voice waivers. There’s sniffling. A sharp intake of air. Is she crying? The pressure on my forehead lessens. What did she mean by the other? What is the other? Answer her question, Ray.
There’s a faint whir of sirens in the distance.
“They’re almost here. Hang in there, man.”
I attempt drawing in a deep breath, wheezing at the pain and lack of oxygen. What is wrong with me? Think, man, think. Where are you?
A scream explodes in my head. A memory.
It’s female and blood-curdling.
“Damn it,” the words tumble from my lips, blood pooling in my mouth. I twist, spitting out the thick warmth, gagging on it, and on the fear in her scream. Dread coils within my gut.
“You shouldn’t move. You could have a spine injury.” The wavering female voice advises. Spinal injury?
My mind scrolls through sounds and images in an attempt at figuring things out. There was a scream—she screamed, didn’t she?
Why can’t I remember?
“What do you think happened?” the girl asks Ray. His reply is a low mumble, their voices fading as the sirens become louder. Come closer.
I blink. I have to concentrate to accomplish the simple movement—my forehead wrinkling, my teeth gritting. I have to force it. Each breath is an order, not an act of human nature.
Ray moves out of my line of sight and I focus on the sky. The night is black. No city lights or buildings. It’s dark pillows of grey clouds painted against an inky sky with pin prick stars peeking in and out of view.
Red flashing lights break into the haze.
I grip at the cold grass beneath me, my fingers digging into the ground for leverage as I attempt sitting up. It’s pointless. Fire burns within my arm, and my shoulder is numb. Do I even have an arm left? I can’t feel it, but it’s there. I know it is because earlier she was holding onto it. I see it. I see her—laughing up at me, holding my arm, making a joke.
“C-c-c,” the gurgled sound barely touches the air beyond my lips as fire and darkness press upon me. Sirens fill the air, much louder now. Doors slam. New voices speak. My eyes slip closed as hands probe. I float between two worlds. Darkness and pain. Darkness fights harder, winning . . . except—
Her scream . . . her voice.
I jerk too, but don’t move. I’m tied down. Wincing, I force my head to clear. To see. To speak.
“Cassie.” Her name is stronger this time. My chest tightens as though my air has been cut off.
A face appears before me. “There you are. It’s going to be okay, Austin. We’re—”
“Cassie.” Blood dances over my taste buds as I raise my voice. “Where’s Cassie? Where is she?”
The face morphs into a frown, shaking back and forth.
No, don’t shake your head at me. Where’s Cassie?
My body goes weightless. A gurney. An ambulance. The pieces of the puzzle sort themselves, understanding sinking in. I’ve woken to a nightmare. I’m being loaded into an ambulance. I’m broken. The police are here. The medics are here.
She’s not here.
I blink, forcing my eyes wider—and I vomit as the ambulance doors slam closed. A medic tilts the board I’m attached to sideways as the feeling of movement sets in. The ambulance drives away from the wooded field where my body was found, leaving behind the couple who found me. Leaving behind strobes of red and blue lights.
Leaving behind a black body bag.
Michele writes novels with fairytale love for everyday life. Romance is always central to her plots where the genres range from Coming of Age Fantasy and Drama to New Adult Romantic Suspense.
Having grown up in both the cold, quiet town of Topsham, Maine and the steamy, southern hospitality of Mobile, Alabama, Michele is something of an enigma. She is an avid Yankees fan, loves New England, being outdoors and misses snow.
However she thinks southern boys are hotter, Alabama football is the only REAL football out there and sweet tea is the best thing this side of heaven and her children's laughter!
Her family, an amazing husband and three awesome kids, have planted their roots in the middle of Michele's two childhood homes in Charlotte, North Carolina.