Between the Gutter and the Sky
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by Babe King
Description: This hunky youth worker is NOT what the doctor ordered! Dr. Jaclyn Donnel will fight anything to fix the inefficient health care system that let her father die. When charismatic youth worker, Sam Allen's expensive new rescue program threatens her under-funded ER, they're bound to butt heads. Sam knows first hand that the only way out of the gutter is a hand up. He's determined to save Tasmania's street kids, regardless of cost and the sexy, headstrong doctor opposing him, until one youth demands a price even Sam won't pay--Jaclyn's life. They may not save the world, but they might just save each other.
eBook Publisher: Freya's Bower/Freya's Bower, 2007 2007
eBookwise Release Date: July 2009
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [266 KB]
Reading time: 160-224 min.
A bar anchored each end of Jansen's Alley, making it a good place for the inebriated to relieve themselves as they stumbled home. The feral smells of gasoline and old drunks' urine--probably still twenty percent proof--seeped from derelict walls. The nearest streetlamp had been smashed. No one would replace it here. Some things were better done in darkness. The lamp across the street cast a wide, dirty circle, lending just enough light to cast long intrepid shadows over graffiti-covered, multi-leveled buildings.
Decades earlier, the area had been a fashionable place to shop. Now, cheap run-down outlets interspersed with vacant, boarded-up shops. Rebel turf. Trespassers were often robbed and given a taste of their own blood. Memories of the coppery salt taste still filled Sam's mouth as he pushed between the dumpsters, seeing again the assembled army of misfits in their blue jeans and black T uniform. His comrades in arms. Years had passed, yet still the heat from their sweaty bodies as they jostled and scuffled getting ready to protect their turf affected him ... Past memories had his shoulders tensing, his fists curled.
The noisy throng jostled--smoking and swearing--the denim skunges over their shirts branding them brothers. Rebels without a cause, looking for someone to rumble.
Dicko sauntered over with his fingers stuck through the belt straps of his straight-legged jeans. "Hey, Sam. Lend me your knife, man. Your ma's gonna whoop you good if you get cut up again. You talk better with your fists, anyhow."
Dicko light-fingered the knife and swooped it overhead. It flashed in the night, but he fumbled the weapon and almost took out an eye. Didn't get his nickname for nothing. Sam had been pissed at him, but there'd been no time to retrieve his knife. Rats scurried in the darkness of the alley, not all of them on four legs. The soft chant of fight pulsed through his blood as the sounds of the rival gang approached.
Moses, the Rebel sergeant-of-arms, swaggered up beside him, scowling and ready for action. He cracked his battle-scarred knuckles, whistled, and the world turned red and sticky on a human roar of hate.
Punches landed, kicks connected, but any pain throbbed somewhere removed, somewhere for later when the bloodlust wore off. Sam's fists turned raw, his knuckles split as he crunched through enemies. Every hit released the stored resentment of a thousand abandoned days. Each punch payback for a father who didn't love him. A mother who couldn't cope.
Dicko fell, but his grubby hand still wielded Sam's knife. With a sickening thrust, his blade plunged deep into the chest of Dicko's attacker. Blood spurted everywhere. Hell, he'd never seen so much blood. The kid fell over Dicko with the knife still sticking out of him like Excalibur in its rock.
Flashing blue lights swept the alley, the fight, and his mates, like a devil's disco in the depths of frozen hell. A scurry of feet scraped around him. Gang members fled. He retrieved his knife, pulled it out of the gasping, dying kid, and wiped congealing gore on his shirt as if drying the supper dishes. Terror sparked in the kid's eyes as he died in the dirty gutter, yet Sam felt nothing but numb, blank shock. A policeman yanked his arms behind his back and clicked the cold cuffs around his wrists. He didn't care. Didn't even fight them off...
Sam breathed hard, his face bathed in sweat. He looked at the cold alley now. This place of nightmares, failure and death still haunted him, yet he saw nothing more than a run-down hovel in want of cleaning and repair. Things changed. The alley was no longer a boogieman. He wasn't a scared, confused kid anymore.
A soft sobbing led him to one of the dumpsters and he lifted its lid. Neville lay inside, curled around stinking trash and rubble. What whoreson fate left a vulnerable fifteen-year-old here overnight? Heck, he wanted to shake people for not caring, for not doing more to help.
Sam checked Neville over quickly, but aside from being filthy and reeking of urine, the boy looked unhurt. Maybe he'd wet himself. At least he hadn't set another fire as he did sometimes when afraid.
"Shh," Sam soothed, offering Neville a hand. "You're okay now. Come on out. There's nothing here to hurt you anymore. I'll keep you safe and take you home."