I hope you enjoy … and come back every day before release day (April 11) for more of the countdown!
(If you missed yesterday’s post, you can find it here.)
Damien’s voice—tense, afraid—seems to wrap around me. Something tangible that, maybe, I can cling to. That I can use to pull myself back.
“Sweetheart? Baby? Come on. That’s it. You can do it.”
I feel the warmth of his body surrounding me. Cradling me. His words are soft with encouragement, but the gentleness only hides an undercurrent of fear. I imagine his face in front of me, coming in and out of shadows.
Then I realize that it’s not my imagination. Instead, my eyelids are fluttering open, my body trying to return to normal even though my mind is still lost in this odd netherworld where time seems so painfully slow and Damien’s arms so deliciously warm.
“That’s it, baby. You’re going to be fine.” I see the worry that tightens the lines around his mouth. That sharpens the amber of one eye and transforms the onyx depths of the other into a hopeless abyss. Then he turns to speak to someone else, his voice low and strained. “Where the hell is the damned ambulance?”
“On its way. I think I can hear the siren.” Caroline stands behind him. Her brow is furrowed, and she’s twisting her hands. Farther back, Misty clings to her little boy, her expression pinched, and I wonder if she is concerned about me or about what her new neighbors will think.
I hear the approach of sirens, too, and despite the summer heat, my skin prickles from the ice water that suddenly floods my veins, the chill pushing me all the way into consciousness. With a vague sense of wonder, I realize we’re back on the front lawn. But I have no idea how we got here.
“What happened?” My voice is raspy, but it’s enough to send relief washing over the three faces around me.
Carolyn steps forward, and though she puts her hand on Damien’s shoulder, her eyes are on me. “Nikki, sweetie, it’s going to be okay. It’s probably just the heat. Nothing to worry about at all.”
I try to push myself more upright. It’s harder than it should be—I’m light-headed and unsteady—and when I see fresh worry on Damien’s face, I stop trying and simply let him hold me. “I fainted?” Of course, I did, but the thought is so startling that I can’t help but state the obvious as a question.
“You scared the crap out of me,” he says.
“I’m okay now.” I speak firmly, as if saying the words will make them true. Then I try to shift to my knees so that I can push myself all the way up to standing, but Damien holds me down.
“No, you don’t.” He holds me firmly in place. “Sit and rest until the ambulance gets here.”
I grimace at the thought of being examined here on Misty’s landscaped front lawn. “Honestly, it’s not like I got bit by a rattlesnake or suddenly came down with Ebola. I just got light-headed. It’s no big deal.”
“It is to me,” he says, and with those simple words, my argument dies on my tongue. I’m fine—I know that I’m fine—but Damien needs the reassurance, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to fully erase the fear from his eyes.
Update: You can read the final installment of the sneak peek here
And if you’re just now meeting Nikki & Damien, why not grab of copy of Release Me, the book that started it all!