I am so excited to be able to be apart of the Unconditional Anthology along side 9 other terrific authors. My contribution to this project is the second novel in my Gravity Series titled Falling From The Sky. All of my proceeds will be donated to the Dana and Christopher Reeve Foundation for the study of spinal cord injuries.
Read an excerpt below, fall in love with Hank and Callie, and one click for a great cause.
FROM CHAPTER ONE
As Hank’s medical coordinator, Callie was in and out, checking to be sure that the prescriptions his various specialists had ordered were appropriately dosed and would not conflict. She kept tabs on his vitals and watched for signs of infection. She was just one in a sea of faces caring for him.
It wasn’t until the fifth day after his accident that they had a real conversation.
Outside the door to his room, his parents were engaged in a heated conversation with a spinal specialist they’d whisked in from Cleveland. Callie slid past them to find Hank staring out the window. When he turned his head to meet her eyes, she could see that the post-surgical drug haze had lifted. In his gaze, she saw a man awake to the world, but in terrible pain. It was her job to try to figure out if that pain was something physical that she could relieve, or rather the distress of waking up to find he could not move his legs.
“Hi,” Callie said softly. “I’m Doctor Anders. Or Callie, if you wish.”
“Callie,” he cleared his throat. “You look really familiar.”
That wasn’t what she had expected him to say. It would have been as good a time as any to mention that they’d met about ten minutes before his accident, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Who would want to be reminded of that afternoon? “I’ve been here all week,” she said instead. “But we don’t expect you to keep track of the dozens of people who prod you all day.”
“And all night,” he added.
She sat down on a stool next to his bed. “That’s my fault. I need to know that they’re looking at your vitals every three hours. It helps me sleep.” She winked, and was rewarded with half a smile. “Now, quick—before the room is invaded again by nurses’ assistants—how’s your pain? Is there anything you need?”
Hank lifted one hand to his face, and Callie was glad to see it. If his injury had happened farther up his spine, he wouldn’t have been able to do that. With his palm, Hank rubbed several days’ worth of whiskers, which only served to make him look more rugged, while he considered her question. “Let’s see…I need a full rack of Curtis’s ribs, with spicy sauce and a baked potato. And I need to get the hell out of this hospital.”
She nodded obligingly, even though she couldn’t fulfill any of those requests. But if he was talking about food and getting out of here, those were both good signs. “You’ll be transferring to a rehab facility soon.”
“Yeah,” he sighed. His gaze wandered again, his eyes aiming at the window.
“The rehab place will let you sleep through the night,” she said, keeping her voice light. “And you’ll have your own clothes. I hear the food is better, too.”
“Couldn’t really be worse,” he said, turning to face Callie again. His dark eyes locked onto hers, and Callie felt the moment stretch and take hold. He didn’t say anything more, but he didn’t have to. Silently, an understanding passed between them. It didn’t matter if the food got better. Hank Lazarus was in for a shitty time, truly the shittiest time of his life. The distance he’d come these past five days was a descent from the highest high to the lowest low. And there wasn’t a damned thing either of them could do about it.
“Hang in there,” Callie whispered. “This right here is the very worst part.”
He didn’t break their staring contest. “You promise?” he rumbled, his voice pure whiskey and smoke.
But Callie didn’t get a chance to answer, because his parents burst into the room then, both talking at the same time. “Forty percent chance that he’ll walk from this guy, fifteen percent from the other?” Hank’s mother bleated. “These people call themselves scientists?”
“Flew him all the way out here, and it’s just more of the same,” his father muttered.
Callie watched Hank’s face close down as his parents approached.
“It’s ridiculous,” his father sputtered, pulling in a deep breath in order to fuel the next phase of his rant. Meanwhile, Hank’s jaw began to tick.
Callie stood up. “I know why you’re frustrated,” she announced, folding her arms. Hank’s parents eyed her, and Callie knew what they saw—a young doctor at a good but rural hospital. And she wasn’t even a specialist. But she had something important to say, and she wasn’t going to let them stop her. “You need answers, and you need them now. I don’t blame you at all.”
Hank’s mother opened her mouth to speak, but Callie cut her off. “Unfortunately, that’s not how the spinal cord works. It doesn’t care that you’re desperate to know whether he’ll walk again. There’s swelling and bruising, and his body is still in shock. It’s not the specialists’ fault that they can’t tell you what you need to know. The sooner you push for answers, the less accurate those answers will be, okay? Hank needs time, and we all need your patience. You won’t have the answers for maybe a year. And no specialist, and no amount of money can change that.”
Callie ceased her tirade to take a deep breath. God, she really shouldn’t have added that last part. Never mention money to rich people. She expected Hank’s parents to start yelling at her. But they didn’t. His mother only began to blink rapidly with saddened eyes. And Hank’s father wrapped his arms around her protectively.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered into the silence. “If you’ll excuse me.” Callie took a couple of steps toward the door. On her way out, she turned to look once more at Hank. To her surprise, he winked at her.
Callie walked out, and spent the next few hours wondering if she’d receive a reprimand for raising her voice to the Lazarus family. But the call never came.