Alysia has spent the last ten years avoiding relationships, but the night her life implodes, she meets Nick. Now all bets are off.
Haunted by her past, Alysia’s desperate for answers. She needs Nick and the group sworn to aid those unable to go to the law for help, because TETRAD will do what law enforcement cannot or will not—believe her when she says she knows who’s after her.
My name is Nick Wheeler and I’m with TETRAD, where I use my unusual skillset to best advantage. But what I didn’t expect is to become involved with a trauma nurse, or for it to become so deadly, with the stakes rising hour by hour.
I’m Alysia Rossini. One look at Nick Wheeler and I know he’s the one to help me forget the past. But is it fair to expose him to such danger? And will I live long enough for the chance to be with him?
Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of mild peril and violence. There are scenes of kidnapping and captivity, references to murder, drug taking and to a serial killer.
General Release Date: 7th January 2020
Alysia Rossini peered through the windshield of her Dodge RAM at the weather, which was growing fouler by the second. Her hands were clamped so tight to the steering wheel that her knuckles ached. The painted lines delineating the watery pavement had long vanished. Desperate to keep the vehicle on the road, she leaned in closer to the dash, her clothes damp and clammy from the perspiration that trickled down her spine. She had the wipers cranked to their highest setting, yet they were unable to keep up with the deluge of sleeting rain lashing the thick glass in heavy gusts. Her stomach churned with worry and the terrible sense of foreboding disquiet that had crept in during the hour-long journey, fueled by her intense isolation.
The hazy, gray, uncaring Cascade Mountains stretched out for hundreds of kilometers in all directions, looking like a distant planet. Driving home alone made Alysia hesitant to pull over. It was just as easy to get rear-ended on this treacherous highway as not. And that vehicle following behind was stalking too damn close. The driver needed their fucking head examined.
A few more tense kilometers inched by, Alysia clenching her hands tight to the wheel and flicking her glance at the rear-view mirror every few seconds. Her reduced speed kept her from hydroplaning the four-wheel-drive truck but increased the length of time with the idiot on her tail.
Finally, the squall began to ease, the lights of the vehicle behind her becoming more than just two white eyes glaring through the mist. Rolling her head from side to side, she worked to loosen the tenseness of her shoulders. The harsh reality of her twenty-four-hour work day followed by a visit with her friend Kate flashed through her mind, bringing with it added sadness and desperation—and an even more acute sense of isolation.
She shook her head, trying to shake the memories free. Reliving a nightmare loop never solved a damn thing. What she needed most was a drink. Ease from the pain of the job and Kate’s devastating illness. Thank goodness it wasn’t far to the gas station. She sped up, pressing her foot down on the pedal. The lights of the forecourt beckoned just ahead, sanctuary in a storm.
Oh, God no. The SUV following too damn close fishtailed in her rear-view mirror. It swayed side to side in a macabre dance, jerking back and forth like an artful pickpocket escaping the hands of justice. In slow motion, Alysia took in the horror of the vehicle beginning its death roll. It spun out of control, end over end, then came to rest on the side of the highway, belching billows of smoke.
She took her foot off the gas and swung the wheel to the right, preparing to turn around and pull to the side of the road near the stricken vehicle. No point in her having an accident as well.
She thrust her truck into park, glancing at the SUV ahead of her. Steam poured from the wreck in undulating waves. The wheels still spun, their fancy chrome hubcaps catching glimmers of light from her fog lamps.
Picking up her cell phone, she made the call.
“Nine-one-one, how may I help?” a voice on the other end of the lifeline asked in a calm, reassuring manner.
“Be advised there’s a single vehicle accident on the Coquihalla, just north of the Great Bear snow sled, and five hundred meters south of the service station. I’m Alysia Rossini, trauma nurse with BC-STAR. The only one on scene. Vehicle rolled over about thirty seconds ago. Please call my crew and alert them to land in the parking lot at the gas station. Oh, and to watch for the overhead wires on the north side of the lot.”
She glanced up again, a strange popping sound pulling her attention away from the operator recording her call. “Advise the vehicle’s now on fire! I’m heading in!” She cut the call and thrust the phone into her jacket pocket. More help was on the way, but it wouldn’t be for at least fifteen or twenty minutes. That was, if they could fly in this poor weather.
After grabbing a fire extinguisher and her portable trauma bag—a smaller version of her work kit— from the seat behind her, she opened the driver’s door, stepping out onto the slippery roadway. Freezing rain pelted her head and shoulders, each stinging piece of water a harsh rebuke she took scant note of. The sight of flames emerging from near the front of the vehicle sent her adrenaline skyrocketing. She swallowed hard, focused on the next few precious moments of opportunity to save a human life from being snuffed out of existence.
She raced to the overturned SUV, her move second nature. Only tonight there was no secondary nurse running alongside her from the helicopter to the scene. She would be the only one providing the critical first few moments of assistance—often the difference between life and death.
She dropped her kit a few feet from the vehicle but held on to the fire extinguisher. Pulling off the metal firing pin, she directed the heavy red cannister’s black hose at the undercarriage near the motor compartment, where bluish streaks of flame fueled by gasoline and rubber were shooting out and already rising higher.
How many people involved? She’d only seen the driver’s head illuminated by dashboard lights, but that didn’t mean there couldn’t be others. Please, please don’t let there be children. That was the worst. Innocent victims forever haunted their rescuers.
She took deep breaths to steady herself, taking in air permeated with the stench of burning oil and plastic. The dry chemical cloud meant to kill the flames only added to the stink, making her head ache.
She fought the flames, smothering them until nothing but dark smoke rolled off the wreck. The night became silent with the crackle of fire gone. No screams. Was the driver unconscious? Or dead?
She threw the empty container away and grabbed her emergency bag, dragging it closer on the freezing roadway. On her hands and knees, cold and wet seeping through her jeans, she approached the driver’s door. Peering through the glass, she used her hand to swipe away the accumulated moisture. A man hung upside down from his seat, safety harness still in place, air bags deployed. No movement. She grabbed her flashlight from her kit and directed it inside. Just the one person. Thank you, God.
She reached for the door handle and tried jerking it open to find it stuck, hard.
“Damn it!” The expletive lowered her stress somewhat. A crowbar’s image flashed into her brain. She raced back to her truck and located the one under the front seat. After racing back to the wreck, she slipped the tool into the crack between the door and the side panel and pried with all her might.
“Jaws of life would be handy right now,” she muttered. She put her whole body into the action, all hundred and twenty-five pounds of sinew and muscle. She never neglected working out. Her job required a fit body. Unfortunately, she took most things to excess. A sudden memory of abusing alcohol at a convention the week before made her wince. Okay, so every responder on her crew had done the same, but she had to get a lid on things before her life spiraled right out of control.
The door gave way under her continued onslaught. Creaking in protest, it opened enough that she could squeeze her way inside. She placed her fingers on the man’s neck, checking for a pulse. Just detectable. He was struggling, gasping for breath. Blood dripped from a large gaping cut on his forehead, accounting for his unconscious state. She needed to get oxygen into his system, fast.
“Are you okay?” she asked, trying to wake him. He looked to be in his late twenties or early thirties, close to her age, maybe a bit older, with curly dark hair that flopped over his eyes. He looked somewhat familiar, but she couldn’t place him.
She didn’t want to move him, not until help arrived and they could safely secure him to a backboard. That was one of the things she didn’t carry. If there were unseen internal injuries or spinal fractures, she could do more damage. His body had been badly abused.
The harsh breathing stopped and her adrenaline spiked. Cardiac arrest?
She had to incubate him or he was at risk of brain damage. She moved away and opened her medical kit, pulling out a laryngoscope to locate his vocal cords, the entrance to his trachea. The bag also included the polyvinyl endotracheal tube with a balloon at the end required for the delicate operation. She needed to create a seal to prevent air from leaking out when she forced a breath with the portable suction bag, and to stop the patient from vomiting. It would be a tragedy to be saved, only to die of aspiration pneumonia days or weeks later.
Working upside down, all by herself, was going to make it challenging, if not impossible. But it wouldn’t be the first time she’d had to jury-rig a device to work in the patient’s favor. In the field, a nurse lived by her wits and quick ability to figure out what was necessary, or she washed out and left the profession for calmer waters.
Minutes slipped by. Alysia struggled to tube him, normally a two-person job. But then the hose cooperated and slipped down his trachea and into place. He was bagged. Thank you, God.
She began the process of getting life-giving air to his lungs. In and out. In and out. Just breathe, that’s it.
How long until help arrives? BC-STAR air prided itself on lift-off being within five minutes of getting the call. No vehicles had gone by and no one had left the gas station to check. The fire couldn’t have been large enough to be seen from that distance.
She looked into the man’s face again, brushing back his wet hair to check the deep wound on his forehead that showed the white of bone. It dripped a steady stream of blood, almost black in the low light.
Who was he? The shape of his face haunted her. She was becoming more positive she knew the guy.
Then his eyes opened. Eyes that had haunted her since she was twelve years old stared back at her.
Oh. My. God. Time jerked to a punishing halt.
January Bain has wished on every falling star, every blown-out birthday candle and every coin thrown in a fountain to be a storyteller. To share the tales of high adventure, mysteries, and full-blown thrillers she has dreamed of all her life. The story you now have in your hands is the compilation of a lot of things manifesting itself for this special series. Hundreds of hours spent researching the unusual and the mundane have come together to create a series that features strong women who don’t take life too seriously, wild adventures full of twists and unforeseen turns, and hot complicated men who aren’t afraid to take risks. She can only hope the stories of her beloved Brass Ringers will capture your imagination as much as they did hers when she wrote them.
If you are looking for January Bain, you can find her hard at work every morning without fail in her office with two furry babies trying to prove who does a better job of guarding the doorway. And, of course, she’s married to the most romantic man! Who once famously replied to her inquiry about buying fresh flowers for their home every week, “Give me one good reason why not?” Leaving her speechless and knocking her head against the proverbial wall for being so darn foolish. She loves flowers.
If you wish to connect in the virtual world, she is easily found on Facebook, Twitter and writes a weekly blog about her journey on Blogger. Oh, and she loves to talk books…