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.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Part 14 of Who Are You?

Chapter 18
Lauren looked at Max lying in the bed and she couldn’t help the flood of guilt that hit her again.  “Max, I’m so sorry.”
            “Stop saying that,” he said softly. 
            “I can’t help it.  All I’ve been is trouble for you and I am sorry.  If I hadn’t pulled that stupid stunt on Halloween, none of this would have happened to you.”
            “You keep forgetting that I asked you out not knowing it was you on Halloween.  I can be slow sometimes, but I would have figured out how attracted I am to you eventually.”
            “I think that’s your head injury talking,” she chided.
            “I didn’t get hit that hard.”
            Lauren raised her eyebrows as she looked at the goose egg on his head.  “You haven’t looked in the mirror yet, have you?”
            Max chuckled.  “I don’t think I want to.”
            Biting her bottom lip for a moment, she worked up the courage to do what she knew needed to be done.  “I think we should stop seeing each other.”
            “What?!” Max almost shouted as he sat up.  His face contorted in pain caused by either the movement or the volume of his voice.  Probably both.  “No,” he said as he slowly leaned back against his pillow and touched his fingers gingerly to his head.
            “At least while this maniac is loose.  I couldn’t stand it if you got hurt again,” Lauren reasoned.
            “So, I’m supposed to sit back and take it easy while a sociopath hunts you down?  I don’t think so.  How could you even think I could do that?  And what about the baby - don’t I get a say in how to keep my child safe?  ” he demanded.
            Lauren stared at Max’s face now twisted in pain and anger.  They both wanted the same thing – to keep the other safe.  But she was the one carrying this baby; didn’t she get to decide what was best for him or her right now?  Saved from responding by the door to his room opening, Julie, Max’s nurse came back into the room.  She looked from Max to Lauren with concern, obviously able feel the tension between them.  “We’re going to move you soon,” she said to Max.  “You’re going to be in a room on the seventh floor that they’re getting ready for you now.  I’m going to help transport you and then hand off your care to Ginger, who’ll be your nurse for the rest of the night.  Do you need anything before we move you?”
            “I’m thirsty,” Max said trying to keep his anger towards Lauren out of his words so they came out strained.
            Julie frowned slightly.  “I can probably give you some ice chips, but the doctors don’t want you to have fluids until you get upstairs and can be properly monitored for intake and output.  How about your pain?”
            “It’s definitely still there,” Max told her.
            Looking pointedly at Lauren and then back to Max, the nurse said, “It’s important that you try to stay calm and relaxed to keep your blood pressure down.  You need to let your head have a break from stress.  But the doctor did write an order to increase your pain meds if your pain wasn’t relieved with the first dose.  If I give you more, you’ll have a difficult time staying awake.  Ginger will have to arrange to have someone sit with you to keep waking you up for the next few hours.”
            Lauren felt even guiltier now.  Great, she was making him feel worse.  Why was it that anything she did in regards to Max blew up in her face?  “Maybe I should go,” she said.
            Max glowered at her.  “So, you’re just going to leave without finishing this conversation?”
            “This conversation isn’t helping your head,” Lauren countered.
            “You leaving sure as hell isn’t going to help it either, but if you’re too much of a coward to stay and work this out then maybe you should go,” he told her as he let go of her hand and folded his arms across his chest.
            Now it was Lauren’s turn to get mad.  “I am not a coward!  I’m trying to do what’s best for you!”
            “Obviously not because I’m telling you what I think is best for me and you’re not listening to a damn thing I’m saying!”
            “Hey!” Julie said loudly interrupting their back and forth.  “I don’t care what you two are fighting about but you need to knock it off!  Max, you need to rest.  Miss, you need to either stay or go but stop arguing with him.”
            Lauren felt like she had just been scolded like a school girl, which she deserved.  And Max was right; she hadn’t been considering what he wanted.  Yes, she was the one carrying the baby, but Max was its father and she did need to consider his feelings.  She just wasn’t used to having to let someone else play a part in her decision making.           “I’ll stay,” she said tersely even though with the way Max was looking at her now she wasn’t sure he still wanted her to stay.
            “Thank you,” he said between gritted teeth.  “I hope that wasn’t too difficult for you.”
            Lauren sighed at his sarcasm.  She probably deserved that, too.  “I’m sorry, you’re right.  I wasn’t taking into consideration what you wanted.”
            Max’s lips started to curl up and his eyes began to soften.  “Did you just say I was right?  Because I don’t believe I’ve ever heard you say that before.”
            “Don’t get used to it, you’ll probably never hear it again,” she teased softly as her own annoyance began to wash away.
            Max held his hand out to her again and she accepted.  “I know you’re scared but we can’t let this psychopath come between us.  There’s more than just us we have to consider,” he said pointedly.  “You’re not in this alone anymore.”
            “I know,” Lauren said but that didn’t appease the worry or guilt in her mind.
            “How’s your pain?” Julie asked interrupting their tender moment with the reality of Max’s care as she disposed of the syringe she had used to give Max more pain medicine.  Lauren had a new appreciation for nurses who must have to deal with a lot more than they bargained for in nursing school.  Each patient must come with their own special drama, and she bet that nurses must have to play referee a lot when a patient’s life circumstances start to interfere with his or her care.
            Max smiled.  “Better.”
            “Great, then let’s get you upstairs.”  Julie released the breaks on his bed and propped the door open.  A young guy in scrubs came in and helped her get his IV and various monitor chords gathered up and ready for transport.  “We’re going to move him now,” she said to Officer Hannigan.  She went to the head of Max’s bed and started pushing the gurney out of the room.  Lauren and Hannigan followed behind as Julie deftly weaved around the hallways to the elevator large enough for all of them and Max’s gurney to fit.  They got off on the seventh floor and she pushed Max into a private corner room.  She told him to lie still while she went to find Ginger, his new nurse, to help get him off the gurney and into his room bed.  She was back in a moment with the aptly named plump nurse with a shocking head of orange hair and freckles.  The two of them helped Max sit, and then stand up, insisting he go slowly.  Julie adjusted his new bed to a sitting position for him and then he took the couple of steps to the bed.  Just that little bit of movement seemed to exhaust him as he laid his head back on the pillows and closed his eyes once he was in bed.
            “Are you okay?” Lauren asked.
            “As soon as the mariachi band in my head stops playing, I’ll be fine,” he said without opening his eyes.
            “Take care, Max,” Julie said as she pushed the gurney back out of the room.
            “Thanks,” Max said opening his eyes to give her a quick smile. 
His new nurse captured his attention next.  “Max, I’m Ginger.  After I get these chords in place,” she said as she began attaching chords to the various monitoring equipment, “I’m going to review your medical history and then I have some information that I need to go over with you regarding your care.  Would you like your friend to be in here or would you rather she wait in the visitors lounge?” Ginger asked and then turned to Lauren. “It’s a standard privacy question we ask everyone.”
            “It’s fine if she stays,” Max said.
            “Okay, we’ll get started then.  The faster we go through this, the faster you can rest.”  Opening the lap top that she had rolled into the room on a little cart, Ginger began the process.  For the next twenty minutes, she asked a series of questions about everything from prior illnesses and injuries to family history and religious preferences.  She logged all of Max’s answers into the computer.  Lauren didn’t realize how in depth a medical history could be. 
When Ginger was finally finished with her questions, she closed the lap top and said to Max, “I’ve requested a volunteer to sit with you for the night.  We’re going to have to wake you frequently to make sure your cognitive abilities stay sharp.  The pressure from your wound is pressing on your skull and the neurologist is concerned about fluid build up between your skull and brain.  We’re going to be monitoring your ICP, intracranial pressure, and giving you a medication called Mannitol to help reduce that pressure along with your pain medication.” 
            “You don’t need to get a volunteer, I can sit with him,” Lauren said.  “I’m not going to get any sleep anyway.”
            “Is that okay?” Ginger asked Max.
            “I’d prefer it, actually,” Max said as he relaxed into the pillow and closed his eyes for a moment.
            “Alright, I’ll be back to check on you in about an hour unless a monitor starts beeping before then.  Don’t hesitate to push the call button if you need anything.”  With a smile, she left the room.
            Lauren looked around Max’s room trying to figure out what to do with herself.  The room was large for a hospital room with a recliner as well as seating on the window ledge.  Max also had his own bathroom with a shower stall.  There was a flat screen TV on the wall in front of his bed and underneath it a small closet for his belongings.  Near the door was a small nurse’s station with a counter and locked cabinets above and below it. 
“Is there anyone I can call for you?  You’re parents?” Lauren asked.  She realized that she didn’t really know much about Max’s family and she didn’t have the first clue as to how to contact them.
            “No, I’d rather save my mother’s hysterics for tomorrow.  They’re down in Florida, so there’s not a whole lot they can do except worry anyway.  I do need to talk to Margaret, though.  Someone’s going to need to take over my case load for a couple of days.”
            Lauren looked at him doubtfully.  “It may be for more than a couple of days.”
            “Nah, I won’t let it be,” Max said tiredly.  Lauren could tell that his medication was making him drowsy.  “Tell me what happened after I passed out.”
            “You hadn’t come back from chasing your neighbor’s dog, so I went outside to help you.  I found you unconscious in your driveway.  I called 911 and after I made sure you were still breathing, I got Captain Kerkowski’s number from your phone and called him.”
            Max smiled.  “I’m sure he appreciated that phone call.”
            “He uttered a few choice words that I don’t want to repeat and then he said he’d meet us here.”
            “He’s a little rough around the edges but he’s a good guy.”
            “From how worried he was, I’d say he’s a good friend, as well.”  Pulling her cell phone out of her purse, she asked, “Do you know Margaret’s number?”
            Max knitted his eyebrows together to think about it and then put his hand gingerly to his forehead.  “I can’t remember it off the top of my head.  It’s in my phone but you could call Jack Pierce instead and he’ll call her for me.  His number is…”
            Lauren cut him off.  “That’s okay, I have Jack’s number programmed into my phone.”  She laughed softly at Max’s raised eyebrows and pointed look.  “I had your number in my phone before we started sleeping together, too.  I tend to talk to you ADA guys a lot.”
            “Mm hmm,” Max said doubtfully as he closed his eyes again.  “Good thing I know Jack’s a happily married man.”
            “Not to mention his wife could kill me in a heartbeat with that black belt of hers,” Lauren reminded him.
            Max chuckled.  “Yeah, she probably would, too.  She’s pretty protective of Jack.”
            “Well, she can keep him,” Lauren said as she leaned over and gently kissed Max’s cheek as her hair fanned over him.  “I like you better.”
            “Good thing,” Max said with a satisfied expression as he pushed her hair back behind her ear.
            Standing up straight again, Lauren pulled up Jack’s number and pressed talk.  She grimaced when she glanced at the clock, it was already after eleven.
            “Lauren?” Jack said sleepily into the phone.  “I’m afraid I’m not on call tonight.”
            “I know.  I’m not calling about work.  Max has been hurt,” she told him.
            “What?!  Is he okay?” Jack asked sounding wide awake now.  She heard his wife in the background asking what was wrong.
            “He was attacked with a tire iron in his driveway and received a blow to the head.  He’s in the hospital and they’re monitoring him for pressure on his brain,” Lauren explained.
            “Is he conscious?”
            “Yes, he’s awake.  He’s just in a lot a pain.”
            “Can I talk to him?”
            Lauren put her hand over the mouth piece.  “Are you up for talking on the phone?” she asked Max.
            “Yeah,” Max said holding his hand out for her phone.  Lauren could get the gist of the conversation from Max’s end as he talked.  “Hey, Jack.  Yeah, I’m okay.  Just got a knock on the head is all.  We think it was probably the stalker that’s been bothering Lauren.  She’s been getting flowers and letters and such, but this is the first time he’s been violent.  Yeah, lucky me,” Max said sardonically.  “Kerkowski is working on it.  Mike Hannigan’s outside my door until a replacement comes.  No, you don’t need to come down here.  Lauren’s here with me.  But could you call Margaret for me?  I’m not feeling up to that conversation.  Thanks, man.  Yeah, I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
            Max handed Lauren her phone back after he rang off.  “He’s going to call Margaret for me.”
            “Are you sure there’s no one else I should call for you?” Lauren asked again.
            “No, I think I’d just like to relax for a bit.  Get my mind off from everything going on.  Do you see the TV remote?  Maybe I can catch highlights from tonight’s game.  That would help me stay awake,” Max said as he adjusted his bed so he was reclining back more.
            “It’s right here on the same device as your nurse call button,” Lauren said as she placed it within his reach on the bed.  She moved the blue reclining chair from the corner of the room so it was next to Max’s bed.  “I had better give Ben, my boss, a call.  I promised to keep him apprised of anything involving the stalker.”
            Max looked surprised.  “He knew about it?”
            “Yes, I told him a couple of weeks ago.”
            “And he didn’t advise you to go to the police?” Max asked in astonishment.
            Lauren frowned.  “No, he agreed with me that there probably wasn’t anything the police could do.”
            Max was frowning now.  “And he wasn’t concerned at all with your safety considering the kind of people you work with on a daily basis?  Gee, does he allow sexual harassment in the workplace, too?”
            Feeling defensive, Lauren said, “Of course not, Ben’s a good boss.  He was just being realistic.”
            Max’s eyes were flashing in frustration.  “Being realistic would have meant taking into consideration that you’re not a pre-school teacher with a parent with a crush, you work with criminals for God’s sake!  The first thing good old Ben should have done was pick up a damn phone and get an investigation going!  How could he be so blasé about one of his staff receiving anonymous gifts and letters that were obviously the product of an obsession?”
            Lauren hadn’t really looked at it like that.  Maybe Ben should have given her better advice.  “He did say if anything else happened he would take it to the police himself.”
            “Well, that falls into the too little too late category,” Max said angrily.
            “Max, this isn’t Ben’s fault.  If you want to be angry with someone for not taking action sooner, you should be angry with me.  I’m the one that hoped if I ignored it, it would all go away.”
            Max closed his eyes again.  When he reopened them, his face was less tense but it looked like it was taking serious effort on his part to keep it that way.  “I’m not blaming your boss.  Or you.  I’m just pissed that this is happening at all.  Maybe if I had known sooner, I could have gotten an investigation going and prevented this.”  Reaching over to play with her hair, he said, “I am glad that it’s not you lying in this bed, though.”
            Lauren leaned into his hand.  “Do you really think Captain Kerkowski will find anything?” she asked trying to deflect the conversation back to a less explosive topic.
            “Yes,” Max said right away.  “He takes it personally when anything happens to his friends.  He’ll find something.  This conversation is definitely making my head hurt more, how about if we talk about something else for a while.”  Then with a gleam in his eyes, he added in a husky sexy voice, “Do you know what would make me feel better than this pain medication?”
            Lauren narrowed her eyes playfully.  If he could think about sex right now, she finally believed he would be okay.  “If it’s what I think you’re thinking, you can forget it.  The nurses would have a fit.”
            Max chuckled.  “Yeah, probably.  Can’t blame me for trying, though.  I had some ideas about how we could have spent the night.”
            Lauren smiled.  “You’ll be up and around in no time and we’ll plan some time together – doing whatever you want.”
            “Deal,” Max said as he closed his eyes again.  Lauren thought he was falling asleep but after a moment, he opened them again.  “Or you could just move in with me.”

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