Friday, February 15, 2013

#FREE first chapter from LET'S PRETEND #NewRelease #RomCom #IAN1 #Romance #ebook

Let's Pretend 
Excerpt: Chapter 1
Copyright Monique DeVere 2010 & 2013
Published through Amazon by Crystal Swan Publications
All Rights Reserved

“Bet you can’t wait to get away from this place.”
Suzanne, an anaesthetist and Dr. Isobel Murphy’s close friend sidled up to her as Belle stripped off her latex gloves and surgical mask on her way out of the OR, and dropped them into the yellow contaminates bin.
With the high-stressed job of a trauma surgeon at King’s Reach Hospital in East London, anyone would think she’d be anxious to take a break for a few days, but Belle was dreading her trip to Connecticut. Not because she was afraid of flying. This was going to be the first time she’d face her family since her marriage crashed and burned.
“It’s not so bad.” She was weary on her feet from already putting in sixteen hours. In comparison, Suzanne looked fresh and ready to go—even her red ponytail swished with energy—but then her shift had only started four hours ago.
“Speak for yourself.” Suzanne entered the changing rooms ahead of her.
“There are worse jobs.” Belle tugged off her scrubs and binned them before pulling on her street clothes, glad to be heading home.
“Better ones, too. What I wouldn’t give for the nine-to-five.”
Belle often wondered whether having a nine-to-five job would have saved her marriage. Her hours were crazy and even her days off weren’t guaranteed. She lost count of the nights the job had yanked her away from the few snatched hours she and Luc had together. Her job wasn’t the only problem—Luc’s was too.
“You wouldn’t last five days in a nine-to-five, Suz. Any other job would be too unexciting for you.”
Suzanne chuckled. “You know that’s true. When are you due to fly out?”
“Two weeks and three days.”
“You lucky duck. Not that you’re counting or anything.” Suzanne winked. “Give your family my love and tell that gorgeous husband of yours, I said ‘hi’ when you see him tonight.”
“Thanks.” Guilt tightened her insides. “I will.” No one knew she and Luc had separated and she wasn’t ready to share the news. Not even with family.
They exited the changing rooms, strolling past the reception area when one of the nurses leaned sideways to catch Belle’s attention. “Dr. Murphy, your sister phoned while you were in surgery. She said she tried your mobile but you have some sort of fault on the line and she couldn’t leave a message.”
“See you later, Suz.” Belle veered toward the desk where the dark haired nurse was catching up on paperwork.
“Yeah, see you tomorrow, Belle.” Suzanne continued on her way.
Belle smiled. “Did my sister leave a message?”
The nurse grabbed a yellow message slip and handed it over. “Only for you to call her back when you’re free.”
“Thanks.” She took the note then dug in her leather tote for her phone.
A busy psychologist, her sister didn’t make many chitchat calls. Mia wouldn’t be calling if it weren’t important. Checking her phone’s signal and battery bars, she hit the number three button on the keypad to speed dial Mia’s mobile number. Knowing her sister, she’d still be at her office in south Kensington on the other side of London even though it was close to nine P.M.
“Hi, I have a patient waiting so need to be quick,” Mia said on answering. “I just wanted to make sure you were still going to Gran’s weekend after next.”
Belle let out a quiet breath of relief. Her sister hadn’t phoned to tell her something tragic had occurred. Belle’s heart still skipped as if she had.
“I’ll be there.”
“I’ve arranged cover. I’ll be there.” Not because she wanted to be but she’d been avoiding her family for months. It wouldn’t be much longer before they started asking uncomfortable questions.
“What about Luc, is he coming?”
The mention of her ex-husband gouged a pit in Belle’s stomach. How was she going to tell them that her marriage to the world’s most perfect man was over?
“Um—uh...he won't be able to make it, sorry.”
“What do you mean he ‘won't be able to make it’?”
“Just what I said, Mia. Luc is busy and won’t be accompanying me to Connecticut.”
“Why ever not? Gran has called a family get-together. That means all of the family.”
Only Luc was no longer part of their family. Unfortunately, she wasn't ready to tell her sister that yet.
“As I said, he's unavoidably busy.”
Mia paused for a couple of beats. “I see.”
Belle hoped she didn’t. She hated when Mia used that psychologist tone. She just knew her sister was about to nag. If she wanted to keep her family out of her business, she needed to get her sister off her back.
She spewed out the first excuse that came to her. “He’s on an important training course. I know he’ll hate not being there, but we’ll make it up to Gran.”
Belle knew Mia appreciated how essential training was to Luc’s job. As a result, she wouldn’t push the subject. A firefighter had to be continuously at the top of his game. Ready for any disaster and that meant regular training.
“We’ll all miss Luc, but you will be there, right? No excuses?”
“Yes, Mia, I’ll be there.” Belle dragged in a guilty breath as she headed toward the exit. She couldn’t wait to get into the fresh air, jump in her car, and head home. How was she going to get through the weekend with her family and avoid dropping a bombshell on them—especially Gran? “I’m looking forward to it.”
“I can’t wait to catch up. What with your schedule and mine we never see each other anymore.”
A fact Belle was beyond grateful for because there was no way she’d be able to keep her enormous failure from her sister if she saw her regularly.
“Me, too. Look I have to go, a casualty just came in.” She hated to lie but Mia had a way of wangling information out of her and she wasn’t ready yet.
“Okay, sis. I shouldn’t keep my patient waiting either. See you next weekend.”
“See you.”
Belle’s thumb hadn’t left the end call button when the automatic doors slid open and a thin man rushed in carrying a small, pale, and groaning woman.
“Help me! Somebody! My girlfriend’s hurt—she’s hurt real bad.”
Belle dropped her phone and tote on the Information desk she was passing. “Will you look after this for me?”
The young man staffing the desk nodded.
Belle hurried to the couple. Two nurses followed her, one pushing a wheelchair.
 “I’m Dr. Murphy, what happened?” She couldn’t see any obvious injuries on the woman. “Would you like to place your girlfriend in the wheelchair, sir?”
Although he was struggling under the woman’s slight weight, the man held her closer. “No, just help her.”
The woman, lost in her grimy trench coat, her hair stringy, ravished face telling the tale of a hard life, groaned, then vomited on the man carrying her. The putrid scent of stale booze and partly digested curry permeated the air.
“I need to examine her.” Belle ushered the man and woman into the nearest examination room with one of the nurses close on her heels. “Can you tell me what sort of injury she sustained?” Snatching a pair of blue latex gloves from the selection of sizes on the wall, she pulled them on. “Put her on the bed.”
He shook his head, held onto his girlfriend, and started to cry as he rubbed his face in her greasy hair. “I’m so sorry—I’m so sorry, Ruth. I didn’t mean it.”
“Sir, you have to let me examine her.” Belle was pretty sure this guy was high on something. Chances were that his girlfriend hadn’t been drinking alone. But he didn’t smell of booze—not that she could decipher any other scents beneath the sharp stench of sick. “Sir—”
“Jack.” He sniffed, awkwardly wiped his nose on the sleeve of his vomit-soaked grey T-shirt.
“Jack, every minute you delay me from examining Ruth is a minute she isn’t treated. Can you tell me what happened?” Belle moved slowly to the second door in the small room, a door that opened to the ward. She beckoned to Carl, the security guy. She had a feeling she was going to need him.
“You can’t let her die.”
Belle signalled for Carl to remain just outside the door.
He nodded.
She left the door opened a crack and turned back to Jack. “Then let me treat her. Let me examine her injury.” She spotted a wet patch of blood on Jack’s stomach. “Are you also hurt?”
Belle stepped toward him and around to his left side for a closer look. She saw no obvious wound. Ruth’s legs hung over Jack’s left forearm, his right arm banded around her upper back to keep her pressed against him. Whatever injury she had must be located on her left side.  
“No, not me,” he shouted. “It’s her.” He more or less dropped Ruth onto the narrow bed. “See? Do something. She won’t stop bleeding.”
Blood leaked from a wound in Ruth’s abdomen. The girl whimpered and sighed, assuring Belle her airway was clear. Ruth’s pulse was erratic and her hands icy cold, exhibiting hypotension and further inspection showed poor perfusion.
“Ruth, can you hear me?”
The girl gave a weak groan.
“I’m Dr. Murphy. Can you tell me what happened?”
Ruth shook her head.
Belle lifted the bloodstained sweatshirt. A one and a half inch penetrating wound lanced the left upper quadrant of the girl’s abdomen just under her ribs. The pressure of her weight pressed against Jack’s body had stemmed the flow but now it began to gush. The severity of bleeding told Belle she was dealing with a vascular organ injury. Most positively the spleen.
Belle took the gauzed pad that Zoë, her nurse, handed her and applied it to the wound. Before she could ascertain how severe the gash was, she had to see if the bleeding would stop.
A stab to the spleen would usually stop on its own but the significant blood loss alerted Belle that Ruth’s attacker had damaged a major artery in her spleen, making it possible for her to die in less than an hour from time of stabbing.    
“How long ago did this happen?”
“I don’t know.” Jack grabbed fistfuls of his hair and pulled.
Think. How long ago?” Belle wanted to shake the information out of him. He had to have some idea, and knowing how much time she had was vital.
“Just fix it. Just shut up and do your job.” Jack’s hand disappeared into his jeans pocket.
From the corner of her eye, a dirty silver object drew Belle’s attention even before Zoë gasped. She glanced sideways to find Jack wielding a blood-smeared kitchen knife. Right then she knew Jack had attacked his girlfriend. What sort of idiot carried around a possible murder weapon?
“If she dies, you die.” He waved the knife in front of Belle, dislodging clumps of un-chewed rice from his T-shirt. The regurgitated particles fell to the tiled floor.
Belle had a tough stomach, but the odour and sight of Ruth’s vomit was really testing her. Her body was already pumping with adrenaline, but the chef’s knife in a clearly unstable man’s fist had her heart pounding double-time. She glanced at the blade then at the door to discover that Carl had entered the room. She suspected he couldn’t do much to get the weapon from Jack because the man was too close to her and any sudden move was liable to cause more harm than good.
Forcing her hands to remain steady, Belle continued to work on Ruth, who hadn’t stopped groaning and writhing in pain since she entered the hospital. She couldn’t let Jack see he’d rattled her. She had to keep a cool head, especially since Zoë was plastered to the far wall, visibly shaking, her breathing stuttering, eyes fixed on the waving knife.
“Trying to intimidate me with a weapon isn’t going to get this done any faster. Why don’t you use that energy to give me the information I need?” Belle checked the wound. Still bleeding pretty good. “Ruth is going to need surgery and you’re going to have to sign consent forms. You can’t do that and keep a knife on me at the same time.” Belle glanced to Carl. Thankfully, he had moved closer without Jack noticing. All she had to do was keep him occupied. “Why don’t you put the blade down and concentrate on your girlfriend? We’re wasting time, Jack. I need to get her to OR stat.”
Belle turned to Zoë. “Let OR know we have an emergency. A possible splenic haemorrhage.”
Zoë nodded, edged toward the door.
Jack’s brows snapped together. As if he hadn’t noticed Zoë in the room until now, he swung around, pointing the knife in her direction. “Don’t move.”
She stopped, raised her shaking hands as she looked to Belle for direction.
“It’s okay, Jack. Zoë is only going to make sure we save Ruth’s life. In order to do that, we have to operate.”
Jack swore viciously. “Operate here. Let her help you.” He jabbed the knife in Zoë’s direction.
The nurse shrunk back.
“I can’t operate on your girlfriend here. This room isn’t equipped or sterile enough.”
“Then make it equipped!”
“Let me take her to OR. I promise I’ll take good care of her. Just allow me to do it now before it’s too late. If she dies, the police will charge you with her murder. You don’t want that, do you, Jack?”
“ did you know?” Broken sobs racked him. “You can’t let her die.”
It didn’t take a genius to jig the pieces together.
“Then allow us to get her into OR.”
Zoë resumed her direction toward the door.
“I said don’t bloody move.” Jack swore, grabbed the nurse’s arm, and skated her across the room. She hit the wall with a smack.
Anger burst through Belle. Her instinctive obligation to protect her colleague teamed with the knowledge her patient was bleeding to death had her lunging for Jack. Carl moved at the same time, got to him first. He grabbed Jack’s knife arm and twisted it, but Jack was stronger than his spindly body led them to believe and he wrenched himself out of Carl’s hold, sending the guard sprawling. 
He sprung at Belle, evil glinting in his drugged up eyes. On instinct, and a whole lot of ire she raised her knee and connected him dead centre in his wedding tackle. She wouldn’t be surprised if one of his balls flew into his throat aided by the force she’d put behind her knee-jab.
“Umph! Ahhww!” His pain-filled grunt echoed around the room.
He stumbled back but didn’t drop the knife. The business end of his weapon preceding him, he charged her again.
Belle froze.
Zoë screamed.
Carl dove forward.
Her back was to the bed where Ruth lay. If she sidestepped Jack, he could stab his girlfriend again. She had no choice but to try to block the attack, knock his arm away before he got close enough to harm her.
Time slowed.
The gory blade glinted, fluorescent light overhead lending added menace.
Belle held her breath.
She didn’t have time to plan, only act and she did. The lessons she learned from her self-defence class did her proud as she grabbed his arm, making sure to keep the knife away from her and, locking his arm in her hands, she swivelled away from the bed, jammed her butt into his groin, and flipped him over her shoulder.
He went down like a poked soufflé.
The knife clattered to the tiles and Belle kicked it away. Carl joined her, taking over the task of restraining the winded attacker.
Belle rushed back to her patient. The girl was barely breathing, her pulse weak. Zoë ran from the room to warn OR. Belle pressed the emergency button for assistance, only vaguely aware of Carl carting Jack through the opposite door. He’d make sure Jack was properly detained, but Ruth was her priority and if she didn’t move fast, she’d lose her.
The OR buzzed with activity and adrenaline as Belle worked to save Ruth’s life. Just as she suspected, the knife had penetrated the girl’s spleen, nicking the splenic artery.
The assisting nurse handed Belle the clamp. “Love is crazy.” The nurse shook her head in incredulity. “Look what he did to her. It’s enough to make you extra cautious about who you let into your life.”
Belle repaired the artery. Her patient would live but Belle was so beyond tired. She needed a break from this place. Suddenly the trip she’d been dreading couldn’t come fast enough. She couldn’t wait to get away for a few days. Even if she did have to pretend all was perfect in her world.

(C) Monique DeVere 2010, 2013
All Rights reserved.

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  1. Good job, Monique. Makes me want to read more!

  2. Hi, Maria,

    Thanks for visiting and commenting. I do hope you read more ;D

  3. That's an amazin first chapter. Best of luck, Monique!

  4. Thank you, Kate! :)

    So glad you stopped by to read the first chapter of Let's Pretend. :D :D


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