You don’t have to be an established book reviewer; you just need to have an opinion! I would like YOU to help me create the perfect suspense romance novel.

The working title is Who Are You? The novel will be a stand alone sequel to Hearts On the Run and will focus around Max, an assistant district attorney who is seduced by his dream woman – who then disappears on him without a trace. When he finally discovers who she is, he’s in for another surprise. It seems someone else is after her as well, and will use any means necessary to get her. Even if that means killing Max to get him out of the way.

Intrigued? There's more: I’ll even publish your name at the end of the book under a section titled, “My Opinion Mattered.” (You may stay anonymous if you would like.) If this sounds like fun, then this is how you can critique the novel every step of the way:

Every couple of days, I will post a small section of the book. After reading it, comment on what you liked, what you didn't like, how the dialogue flowed, character traits, how well edited the section was, and whatever else you can think of while reading. I will then revise the section based on your suggestions. Names published under the "My Opinion Mattered" section will be listed in order of number of comments contributed, so comment often! For those just joining us, please check out the blog archives to start the book from the beginning.

There is also an area to vote on how well you think the novel is progressing. You will be able to change your vote as the novel progresses to best reflect how you feel at any given time along the journey to a completed novel.


Friday, July 8, 2011

Part 13 of Who Are You?

Max came to with a strange man leaning over him.  “He’s coming around,” the man said and his voice ricocheted around inside Max’s head like a canon ball with spikes sticking out of it.
“You don’t have to yell,” Max grumbled but his own voice seemed just as loud.  What the hell?  “What happened?”
“You took quite a blow to the head.  You’re in an ambulance on the way to the hospital…” the man was saying but his voice faded into oblivion as Max lost consciousness again.
The next time he woke up, he was being moved from the ambulance stretcher to a hospital gurney.  A doctor stood over him shining a light into his eyes.  “Mr. Canter, can you hear me?”
“Yes,” Max mumbled.
“We’re going to get a CT of your head.  We have to make sure you’re not bleeding inside your skull,” the doctor explained as the gurney started moving.  “I need you to try to stay awake, okay?”
“Okay,” Max said.  Talking and the movement of the gurney both amplified the agonizing pain in his head.
A deep baritone rumbled next to him.  “Max, it’s Kerkowski.  Did you see who did this?”
Max started to shake his head as he moved his eyes to look at the burly, gray haired police captain walking next to him, but it hurt too much to move.  Not to mention something around his head and neck prevented him from moving more than the slightest amount.  “No,” he managed to say through the sea of nausea the sway of the gurney was causing.
“We think it was Lauren Stevens’ stalker.  Someone spray painted a message on your car that said, ‘she’s mine.’  Are you sure you didn’t see anything that would help us find this bastard?”
Max caught himself before he tried to move his head again.  “He hit me from behind.  Is Lauren okay?”
“Yeah, by the time she found you the bastard had already taken off.  She called 911 and followed behind the ambulance.  She’s worried sick about you but I told her not to be too concerned; you’re too thick headed to let a little thing like a tire iron damage that brain of yours,” Kerkowski ribbed him.
“Great, thanks.”  Max tried for sardonic but his ability to only speak in mumbles didn’t carry it off.   Hit by Lauren’s stalker in his yard?  The guy must be keeping closer tabs on her than anyone guessed.
“Anything you can remember gets us one step closer.  Did you see his sleeve, a watch, the color of his clothes or skin?
“We’re here,” the doctor said as he pushed a door open.  “You’re questions are going to have to wait.”
“I didn’t see anything,” Max said.  “I wish I had.”
Kerkowski nodded.  “Okay, I’ll wait in your room in the ER.” he said as Max’s gurney was rolled into a bright room with a large machine in the middle that looked like a donut with a tongue depressor sticking out of the middle.  The shock of the brightly lit white room caused unbearable pain in his eyes and he slammed them shut.
“Max, I need to know you’re awake.  I need you to keep your eyes open.” 
“It’s too bright in here,” Max complained.
“We can dim the lights but we need you to stay awake.  We’re going to move you onto the CT table now,” the doctor said meaning the tongue depressor part of the machine.  “We don’t want you to help, let us do the work.  We have you on a board that we can slide over.”  Looking at the two new people now standing next to the table, he said, “On three.  One, two, three.”  They slid Max over and little explosions went off in his head with the movement.
For the next fifteen minutes, Max laid on the table with his head in the middle of the donut.  Something inside of the machine spun loudly when it was turned on and his head was killing him.  It felt like a power drill was working its way through his skull – handle and all.  Fifteen minutes felt more like three hours by the time the technicians and doctor finally decided they had enough pictures.  Then they had to move him back onto his gurney which jarred his head even more.
“Can I get something for the pain?” he finally asked the doctor.
“As soon as we get you back to your room.  We needed the CT results first.  It doesn’t look like your skull was fractured and we don’t see any bleeding in your brain.  But you do have an egg sized lump on your temple that’s causing some pressure that we need to keep an eye on.  We’re going to go ahead and admit you for observation and monitoring.  Sometimes the swelling can hide a bleeder from us on initial exam.”
“If you give me something for the pain, you can keep me as long as you want,” Max told him as he struggled to keep his head as still as possible as the gurney rumbled through the hallways.
It finally stopped moving when they put him in a private room in the ER.  Kerkowski and Mike Hannigan, an officer Max knew pretty well, hovered in the corner while a nurse drawing up medication into a syringe stood off to the side of the room by a counter with a sink.  His eyes scanned the rest of the room and finally rested on Lauren.  Relief washed over him now that he could see for himself that she really was fine.  Max held his hand out to her and she took it.  She brushed at the tears in her eyes with her other hand.
“I’m so sorry,” she said.
Max tried to smile but it hurt.  “It’s not your fault,” he assured her.  “You’re not the one who hit me in the head.”
“No, but if it hadn’t been for me this never would have happened.”
“We don’t even know for sure this was about you.  It could have been someone who hates me for putting him behind bars,” he reasoned through the pain in his head, even though the message Kerkowski said the stalker had put on his car really left no room for doubt. 
She opened her mouth to argue with him but Kerkowski spoke first.  “Ms. Stevens, we’d like to go over the information you gave Officer Hannigan at the scene.  Maybe there was something you missed, some detail you thought was unimportant at the time.”  Turning to the nurse getting medication ready to put in Max’s IV, he asked, “Is there somewhere we can go for a little privacy?”
“There’s a family consultation room just down the hall and to the left.  I believe it’s empty,” the nurse said as she uncapped a syringe and picked up the tubing running to the IV.  She attached the syringe to a port and depressed the plunger slowly.
“Thanks,” Kerkowski said as he ushered Lauren and Hannigan out of the room. 
It didn’t take Max long to start feeling some relief from the pain as the medication began circulating in his system.  But it also made it even harder to keep his eyes open.  “This is probably going to make you sleepy,” the nurse explained.  She was about twenty-five with a slender, pretty face and her brown hair was pulled back into a pony tail.  Her ID badge said her name was Julie.  “But we still need for you to stay awake, so I’m going to be checking on you frequently while they get a room ready for you upstairs.”
Max nodded carefully, amazed that he could move with only the dullest ache in his head now.  “Thanks.”  Julie smiled at him and left the room.
It was another ten minutes before Lauren came back into the room with Kerkowski.  She smiled wanly at him and seemed to be at a loss as to what to do with herself until he held his hand out for her to grasp again.  She took it and stood next to him, worry lines etched in her face.
“I don’t know what it is with you ADA’s this year and trying to get yourselves killed, but I sure wish you’d knock it off,” Kerkowski said shaking his head.
Max snorted.  “Maybe it’s just the shoddy police force we work with not keeping us safe.”
Kerkowski laughed.  “Yeah, that might be it.  Think you trust us to keep you safe tonight, or would you like us to call in the National Guard?”
“Maybe you could put them on notice,” Max retorted and tried to smile at the captain’s jesting but grimaced when that much movement of his facial muscles pulled on his injury.
“I’ll get right on that,” Kerkowski said good-naturedly.  “In the meantime, I’m going to arrange for an officer to be outside your room.  No one will be allowed in without your permission.”
Max’s lips formed a thin line as he thought about what Kerkowski needed to know.  With a quick look at Lauren, he blurted out, “Lauren’s pregnant.”
Kerkowski’s eyes became saucers and he whistled softly.  “You don’t say.  Well, that’s certainly not going to help the situation.”
Lauren looked puzzled.  “What do you mean?”
“If this,” Max said pointing to his head, “is what happens when he believes we’re just dating, I can’t imagine what you being pregnant is going to drive him to do.”
Kerkowski crossed his arms over his chest and stared long and hard at Lauren.  “I’m surprised you didn’t mention this.” 
“We wanted to keep it to ourselves for a while,” Max explained. 
His mouth in a thin line, Kerkowski addressed both of them.  “Probably a smart move, I guess.  Keeping it under wraps until we nab this bastard is a good idea.”
Lauren nodded and Max couldn’t help but notice the tears in her eyes again.  He squeezed her hand and she tried to smile.  “Hey, this is a good thing.  Now this bastard has actually committed a crime, so Kerkowski and his officers can go after him.  And if he left evidence at the scene, they’ll find him in a heartbeat.  After that, we can take out an ad in the paper to announce it if you want.”
Lauren shook her head sadly.  “I don’t care about telling people about the baby.  I care that if this person finds out I’m pregnant, he’ll come after you even harder.  I’m so sorry I involved you in all of this.”
“This is not your fault,” Max said sternly squeezing her hand again. 
“I second that,” Kerkowski said as he put his large hand on her shoulder.  “We just don’t want to fuel the fire, is all.  We’re obviously dealing with a sociopath here, so if it’s not Max or the baby, he’ll find some other reason to go after the people in your life - and then he’ll come after you.  Not because of anything you did or said.  These people’s idea of love is obsession that more often than not, turns into violence.  And Max is right.  We have something to go on now.  We can start talking to people and collecting alibis.  The forensics unit is going over Max’s house with a fine tooth comb.  My guess is, he’s been there before spying on the two of you so there has to be some evidence for us to find.  We’re also going to talk to your neighbors and look around your grandmother’s house to see if we can find any traces of him.  We’ll get this bastard and then you two can celebrate that baby of yours.”
Lauren looked like she wanted to believe him.  “Thank you.  Do you really think he left evidence?”
Kerkowski nodded his graying head.  “Every sociopath slips up somehow, somewhere.  We’ll get him.”  Lauren smiled again and it almost reached her eyes. 
“Alright, I’m going to get out of here and let the two of you have some privacy.  Hannigan’s going to stay until I have someone assigned to your room for the night.”
“Hey, Tom, before you go,” Max looked at Lauren briefly, debating if he should say anything.  The pain in his head made him decide he should.  “The only person we know of that knew Lauren was with me was her ex, David Spencer.” 
Lauren looked shocked.  “David wouldn’t do something like this!  I know him; he’d never resort to violence.”
Kerkowski didn’t look convinced.  “Love and obsession do crazy things to people.  We’ll put him on the top of the list for questioning.”  With a nod to Max, he headed out the door.  Hannigan followed after him closing the door behind him.

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