Click on image to enlarge.
by Nicole Morgan
Description: After waking from a coma following a brutal attack Shelby meets a man who is a stranger to her. Rex, who found her bloody and beaten body, vows to never let anyone hurt her ever again. A bond forms between the two and after months of a casual and comfortable friendship things start to change for Rex. Falling in love with his best friend was not what the consummate bachelor had intended. For some reason though, when it comes to Shelby he cannot seem to control his emotions. Giving into his desire for her he kisses her. While it was a shock to Shelby, it awakened something within her that she wasn't aware that she had possessed. Passion. Rex and Shelby begin to fall in love, unaware of the stalker who has targeted her and has been watching her for months. As their relationship intensifies Shelby starts to remember more from her past. Abuse she had suffered as a teenager, which was long since buried is suddenly bubbling to the surface in a horrific wave of nightmares. Dealing with the pain of the past only brings the two closer together. This however, doesn't sit well with her stalker who is determined to have her for himself by any means necessary. As he sets his plan into motion and more memories come to the forefront, the two are forced to deal with more than they ever realized. The questions of who will survive and who will be destroyed remains. And will a surprise from Shelby's past shock them all?
eBook Publisher: Solstice Publishing, 2009 2009
eBookwise Release Date: July 2009
17 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [394 KB]
Reading time: 283-396 min.
Six months ago...
The haze was slowly lifting as she began to wake up. She tried to open her eyes, but realized that she couldn't. They felt so heavy. Why did they feel so heavy? She could hear a voice. It was a man's voice. No, not just one man, there was more than one of them. Where was she? That smell, disinfectant maybe? She heard beeping, but wasn't sure where it was coming from. Why couldn't she open her eyes? What was happening to her? Her body hurt so badly. Why did she hurt? She wanted to cry, but the tears wouldn't come. Trying to calm the emotions that were churning inside her she concentrated on the men's voices. What were they saying?
"Is she going to be okay?" The first man asked.
A different man answered him. "God willing man, God willing. The doc is still worried about her head injury. I sure hope so though." There was silence as she heard a deep exhale. Then he continued. "Look at her man. How--God, how could any man do that to a woman?"
"Listen we'll be saying our prayers. You call us if there's anything we can do okay? We're going to head downstairs and check on Tamara and see if Jack needs anything before we head out." This from a different man altogether. There must be three of them in the room.
She heard the door close and then there was silence. Was she alone? And if she was, alone where? Where was she? Suddenly she felt a presence come over her. Like someone was standing and leaning right over her. Then she felt a warm brush of lips across her forehead. She wanted to wince at the pain but couldn't. Surprised by the discomfort she wondered how could a kiss hurt?
"You sleep good Shelby. Rest and get stronger. I'm going to get some coffee and I'll be right back." The second man whispered to her as he gently brushed some hair off of her face. Who was he? Who were all of them? She hadn't recognized any of the voices. He had called her Shelby, and suddenly she was hit with a horrifying realization. She didn't know who she was. And what's more is she didn't know where she was or why she was there. Before her mind could continue to ponder her questions and truly panic she felt herself letting go and gave into the blackness as she drifted the rest of the way into a deep sleep.
Four days later...
She could hear voices again. One was the same. It was the same soothing voice she came to expect every time she started to wake. But the other one seemed different. She didn't think she had heard this voice before. She tried to quiet her racing thoughts to concentrate on what they were saying.
"...still here?" The new man asked. She tried to think, did she know his voice? After listening to it carefully for several moments she realized she didn't. She wished she could just open her eyes and see who was standing before her. Her body still hurt and she still didn't know why. She had so many questions she wanted to ask.
"Yeah, and I'm going to stay here too. I won't, I can't leave her. Don't ask me to explain it, I'm not sure that I can, but I think she needs me." The man that she had heard so many times answered back. Every time she began to wake up he was there. He was either talking to someone or sometimes he was talking to her. She was able to figure out from his words that her name definitely was Shelby. That had surprised her at first. But now the name seemed more familiar. She wasn't sure if it was because he had called her that so many times that she was starting to believe it, or if she really knew that she was Shelby. There was one thing for certain though; she still had no idea who he was.
She waited to hear more, listening to him always gave her clues. She still didn't understand what was going on. Like why she couldn't open her eyes, or why her body hurt. But listening to his voice always calmed her and made the fear and uncertainties diminish, if only a bit. She was staring to think of him as her lifeline. She wondered if she would still be fighting to wake up if he wasn't there.
"If you need anything at all, all you have to do is call. And, if there are any changes make sure you let us know. Tamara would want to know." This came from the other man. He had said Tamara. Some men that were here before had mentioned that name too. Why did it sound so familiar? Was Tamara a relative, a sister, or maybe a friend? Oh how she wished she had the answers to all of these questions swirling around in her mind.
"Sure, of course I will. Is she doing okay?" Her lifeline asked.
"Yeah, she got lucky. Shelby here is the one who suffered the most. I got to tell you man, it breaks my heart seeing a woman beat up like that. I thought Tamara had bruises. But my God, I can't believe how much of Shelby's body is covered in them. That man is a damn monster."
She was beaten? No wonder her body hurt so badly. She felt a familiar touch on her hand. The man who had sat vigil by her bedside, the man she had come to expect every time she was able to lightly lift the veil of unconsciousness. He was holding her hand, caressing her knuckles. His touch was so soothing.
"I know man. Maybe that's partially why I can't leave her. I feel like she needs some one here to protect her, to be there for her, to keep her safe, you know what I mean?" His voice did nothing to hide the anguish he felt for her.
She wished she knew who he was. This wonderful man who obviously cared for her so much? She was starting to feel it again, that gentle tug of her consciousness. She was being pulled under. She hated when this happened, she wanted to stay awake. She loved to listen to him talk and keep her company. She was starting to realize though that it was probably the drugs she had been given for pain that kept causing her to slip back under. But she didn't want to miss anymore. She wanted to listen to him and get lost in the comfort of his voice. It was too late; she could barely hear him now as she drifted off.
Six days later...
The room was quiet. How could the room be quiet? Every time she awoke before she could hear him. Did he finally leave her? Had he given up? She tried again to open her eyes, knowing it would be useless, it always was. But still she tried just the same. She was tiring from the effort and was about to give up when she could feel movement. Her eyelids were beginning to flutter. Was she finally going to be able to open them this time? She kept trying. God, it was so tiring. It seemed as though there were twenty pound weights on her eyelids.
Then she heard a faint sound. It sounded like a groan. No, not a groan, but a snore maybe? Someone was snoring. Oh thank God, he is here, he hadn't left her. He's just sleeping. She should have known he wouldn't leave her. From everything he had been saying she shouldn't have doubted it for a minute. If she could just open her eyes she would finally get to see him. Then she was sure she would remember who he was. She kept trying until finally she saw a sliver of light. It was dim but it was so beautiful.
Just one more push and her eyelids would open. She was sure of it. Push, push, come on Shelby you can do it. Then finally, ah, at last, her eyes were open. She had to squint. There was barely any light on in the room at all, but it still seemed so bright, so blinding. She turned her head just slightly and looked over to the side of the bed. She saw a very large man sitting in a chair. His hair shorter than short, not completely shaved, but close. And so dark it was jet black. He had a scruffy looking beard and although he was sitting it was apparent that he was a very tall man. She couldn't really see his legs but his torso and arms appeared to be covered in muscle. She looked at him for a moment, studying him, waiting for the memories to come flooding back. But after a couple of minutes nothing had registered. It was at that awful moment that she realized that she had absolutely no idea who he was. Not once in all the times she heard him talking to people was his name ever mentioned. And now staring at him and looking at his face, was like looking at a stranger.
She started to cry. She had so many hopes for when she finally woke up. How could she not know this man that had stayed by her side for so long? She didn't hurt as bad as she used to, now she felt more soreness than pain. Continuing to stare at him as tears rolled down her cheeks she felt helpless. She must have made a slight noise because he jerked from his sleep startling her.
"Shelby?" He said in a gravelly voice. "Oh, you're awake. They didn't know if--they weren't sure if. I can't believe you're really awake. I've got to get the doctor. Wait here, don't go anywhere, I'll be right back." He looked at her then, realizing what he had just said. "I know dumb thing to say. Hang tight honey, I'll be just a second." He leaned over to kiss her forehead before he turned away.
She tried to talk, to get him to stay but he was too fast. And all that came out of her was a muted squeak, not even loud enough to be a whisper. He came back seconds later with a doctor in a long white coat and what looked to be like a dozen nurses. They were moving all around her bed in rapid motion checking monitors and making notes in her chart. They were talking to each other in medical terms that didn't make any sense to her. Why wasn't anyone talking to her? What was going on with her? Why was she here and what had happened to her? Was she going to be okay? She was starting to get scared. Where was he? As if reading her thoughts she heard his voice from the doorway.
"It's okay Shelby, let them check you over and make sure you're okay. You surprised them by waking up so quickly." What he didn't say was that she surprised them by waking up period. "They'll just be a few more minutes and I'll be right here. I'm not going anywhere." Then he winked at her and smiled. God, who was he? Not knowing him, what his name was, or anything else that was going on was driving her crazy!
"Shelby, my name is Dr. Kentworth. Do you know where you are?"
She tried to speak but instead mouthed the word, "Hospital."
"Good, very good. Do you know what day it is, what month, what year?"
She started to panic, realizing that she didn't know. How could she not know? Wait, she was almost positive that it was 2008. She once again tried but was only able to whisper the numbers to him, "Two thousand eight?" It was as much of a question as it was a statement.
"Excellent. Very good." The doctor smiled at her. "You young lady are quite the little miracle. You rest now. It is late and we don't want you to do too much right away. Tomorrow we will run some tests. If you need anything at all I'm sure Mr. Metcalf here will call us." He patted her on the top of her head and walked out. All of the nurses followed him out as if he led them by a chain.
Mr. Metcalf. So that's his name, well at least his last name anyway. Why doesn't that sound familiar to her? She was concentrating, trying to place that name from somewhere in her memory when she was interrupted from her thoughts by the sight of him coming to her bedside and sitting next to her. He took her hand and kissed her knuckles. The piercing emotions over took her, she began to cry.
"Shh, don't cry Shelby. You're going to be fine, there's no need for tears. Save your energy, concentrate on getting stronger. I promise it will all be okay. They said as long as you were able to wake up on your own that that was a good sign for a full recovery." As he said the words he prayed he was right. There were still uncertainties about her recovery. The doctors hadn't even expected her to wake up at all. The trauma that her body had sustained was too severe and she had slipped into a coma.
"I'm sorry." She whispered.
He was shocked by her words. He definitely hadn't expected her first words to him to be an apology. "What are you sorry for sweetheart? You have nothing to apologize for."
She tried, even as she started to say the words she continued to try to place him and find him from somewhere in her memory. "I don't know you. I don't remember you. I know I should and I'm so sorry." She was sobbing now.
He leaned closer to her over the bed railing. "Shh, it's okay honey. It's not your fault, you wouldn't remember me. We've never met before. My name is Rex, Rex Metcalf. And I don't mind telling you that I have never looked more forward to meeting anyone in all my life. There was a while there when I thought maybe you wouldn't wake up at all." He smiled at her, showing off dimples. "But that doesn't matter now. You did wake up and you're going to be fine."
"I don't understand." She whispered. "If we've never met, why--you've been here, I could hear you. You never left me. How do you know me?"
He reached his hand to her forehead and gently brushed some hair off of her face. "My best friend Jack is marrying your friend Tamara." He continued to smile at her. Despite his disheveled appearance he looked ruggedly handsome.
Tamara, she had heard that name mentioned before. The mention of it this time sent chills racing through her body. Suddenly a horrible memory came back. "Tamara--oh God, Tamara. What have I done? He was going to--is she okay?" It was all coming back to her, in bits and pieces but she was remembering the brutal force of the attack they had both suffered. "Oh God, Rex, please tell me she's okay. I never meant any of the things I've done or said to her." She closed her eyes and fought against the tears. "Oh Tamara, I'm so sorry." Her voice was but a squeaky whisper of sounds as she apologized to the friend that wasn't there.
"It's okay. She's fine, Tamara is fine. And you are going to be fine too, I promise!" Gently brushing the tears from her face he winked at her again.
"Why?" She asked him.
"Why what honey?"
"Why? If we've never met, why have you stayed with me? Why are you here with me? I heard you, the things you said. You wouldn't leave, you said you couldn't leave. Why?"
He laughed at the question. He couldn't explain it to her. It was a completely reasonable question that he had absolutely no way of answering. "I don't know. All I do know is that when I picked you up and carried you out of that burning apartment I felt like from that moment on that you were my responsibility. I just couldn't leave you. I had to make sure you were okay."
"You saved my life?" She didn't remember a fire. She remembered the vicious attack, the agony, fear and pain, but she couldn't remember being in a fire.
With a slight nod of his head he tried to dismiss it. "Perhaps I did, but you've been the one fighting for it for the past week and a half. I still can't believe that you're actually awake. Now I want you to get some rest. I didn't sit here with you all this time to have you over do things and hurt yourself worse. And don't worry. I'll be right here when you wake up."
"But I--." She didn't want to sleep. It seemed like that was all she had been doing. She wanted to stay awake and talk to him, but she could already feel her eyelids getting heavy.
"But nothing, get some sleep. You need all the rest you can get. I'll be right here when you wake up. I promise."
"But what about your life? Don't you have a job to get back to? I don't want you to get into any trouble." It was becoming harder to keep her thoughts in order. She was slowly drifting into sleep.
The last thing she remembered was him laughing at her before he said, "I don't have a job sweetheart. I'm sort of, shall we say, independently wealthy. It's a curse, but what are you going to do?" He leaned over and kissed her forehead before she fell completely under and succumbed to sleep.