Second chances, p.1
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       Second Chances, p.1

          Wendy Thomas / Romance & Love
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Second Chances


Second Chances

By Wendy Thomas



Copyright 2014 Wendy Thomas



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Cover by Madelene Martin

Edited by Amanda L. Pederick





This e-book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author's imagination and not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locations is coincidental.







My deepest thanks to my mom, for always encouraging me. No matter how crazy I get. To my life long friends Tracy, Donna and Jodi for reading everything I have ever wrote and loving me enough to give me the push I needed. To Chris, for inspiring me. Mostly I would like to thank my wonderful husband, Randy, for all the love and support a girl could ever ask for. I love you.



Shasta McCray was taking a moment to relax, when the phone on her desk rang. The screen showed it was her best friend, Amy Chance, calling so she relaxed. At least it wasn't another job coming in, she'd only just finished the report on her latest case. As she reached over the cluttered array of test results she had been poring over, she concluded that her job as a Chicago criminologist was anything but restful. Her tired voice lifted as she answered the phone.

“Amy, hi.”

“Shasta, you have to come home, now!”

Amy’s voice was full of urgency and fear. Shasta instincts prickled, her friend was a doctor and not prone to false alarms or over exaggerations.

“What’s wrong Amy? Is it Mom?”

“Your mom is fine. It’s Adrian. He’s in a coma and it doesn’t look good..”

Adrian. It was a name that haunted her every moment. Amy’s brother was the last person to want her at a time like this.

“I don’t think so Amy. It’s not a good idea.”

“Shasta, you have to.” Amy’s voice took on a desperate note. “Please, you’re the only one who can reach him. Don’t let pride stop you from helping him.”

Shasta froze inside. The low jab about her pride stung with it’s accuracy.

“Amy, I can’t.”

“You did it before. When no one else could get through to him, you did. You changed his life. Now I need you to save it.”

“I’ve already hurt him too much.”

“Please, Shasta. Try.” The raw pain in her voice killed any remaining objections. Realizing what she had to do, she reluctantly agreed. She heard herself saying.

“Ok. I’ll be there as soon as possible.”

“Call me when you get your arrival time. I’ll meet your plane.”

“Fine. Later.”

All the reasons she shouldn’t go raced through her mind as she arranged for an emergency leave of absence. The years of pain and longing stretched out in front of her like an uncrossable desert. She fought to keep her emotions under control as she prepared to travel. Within two hours she was on a plane headed for Des Moines, Iowa.

Shasta’s fiery curls were as disorganized and unruly as ever by the time she boarded the plane. She finally allowed herself to think about Adrian. Images of him filled her mind and tore at her soul. Adrian Chance was the one she’d not been smart enough to keep.

Adrian had been serving time for grand theft auto when she met his family. At 16, Amy had quickly become the sister she’d never had. Their parents became additions to her own family. Adrian was angry and rebellious. His family’s pain over him drove her to take action.

She had written Adrian letter after letter while he was in prison. At first the letters were scathing; she told him every painful detail his family was going through because of him. Somehow that turned to friendly and by the end of the year there was real affection. Even love.

Another, memory followed on the heels of the first. This one blended her own memories with Adrian’s accounts.

It was early June. The summer before her senior year. Amy was staying with her while her parents went to Adrian’s parole hearing. It was the first case on the docket that day. It was early when they got word that he was coming home. They would arrive around five that afternoon.

That gave them about eight hours to make their plan work. Amy got out her mom’s address book and called every member of the family she could. Shasta got busy making a list of everything they would need. Her mom had offered to make the banner on their computer.

All day they decorated and worked to make the party perfect. Family members arrived and parked several blocks away to hide their presence. From the outside, there was no sign of life. Amy asked her mom to call when they got close to home so she could be there to greet them.

When they arrived, the living room was dark. The only light was from the kitchen where Shasta had been busy. She posted herself in the doorway between the rooms to be out of the way. She wanted the family to greet him first. When he opened the door, the light from outside shone around him like a holy aura. She thought he was the most handsome man she had ever seen.



Sound erupted around them; everyone cheering his arrival and clamoring to welcome him home.

Adrian searched the sea of faces until he saw her in the back of the room. Her hair looked like fire around her, glowing in the light from the room beyond. Her eyes glowing as they locked onto his. It felt like she had been stabbed when someone stepped between them and broke their connection. Adrian’s soul called to hers so strongly in that look that when the connection was lost she nearly fell. She was shaky and needed a distraction so she went into the kitchen and began putting ice in cups. The noise was loud enough to cover the sound of his approach behind her.

“Are you an angel or are you real?” Adrian asked her. She did not know how to respond as he held out a hand to her. She could have walked away in that moment, but she was already too much in love with him. She took his hand and got lost in his eyes till his mom came in and asked him to come talk to someone.

It was his first night home. The party was breaking up and she had only had one very brief moment with him all night. Shasta was starting to clean up when Amy chased her outside to get some air. She was facing the back yard when she heard the door open behind her.

“Hello, Angel.” She turned at the sound of his rough voice and saw him reaching for her again. She was helpless to resist going to him.

“Adrian.”

“I can’t believe I am finally here. I’ve dreamt of touching you for so long. I don’t think I really believed you were real until tonight.” He looked at her in awe. One hand was holding hers and the other was hovering close to her cheek like he was afraid to touch her. He was trembling.

“I’m real. You may want to rethink getting close though.”

“Why? Do you belong to someone else?”

“No. Guys are too scared to get close to me. I’m a bomb waiting to go off.”

“That’s one of the things I love about you though.” He laughed. “Your temper saved me. I don’t think I’m able to stay away.” He touched her cheek softly, reverently. “The only thing that scares me is how much I feel for you.”

He slowly dipped his head to hers. She reached for him moments before his mouth found hers. His lips were soft and patient for the moment it took her to demand more. She clung to him, giving him her heart completely in that kiss. The heat seared her. Changing her forever.

***

Shasta choked back a sob that threatened to rock her tiny frame as it hit her again how much she missed him. Reliving that first kiss only made Shasta’s longing intensified. The last time she had felt safe and secure, had been in his arms.

Questions filled her. Where had her life gotten so confused? Where had she gone so wrong to have let the only man to ever touch her soul get away? Correction, she had pushed him away. He had not gone willingly. Then she became engaged to a man who’d left her at the altar, having realized her heart still firmly belonged to Adrian.

Pride and anger had always been her go-to responses. Standing before her family and friends she made a decision that would decide the course of her life. She could not let him be right about Adrian. Shasta did her best to make sure Adrian never found out. She swore Amy and her mom to secrecy and she never went home.

The ten years of pride separating them looked vast and uncrossable. Shasta knew she had to find a way. She had to tell him the truth, even if he never woke up. She devoutly prayed it would not come to that.

Then, when Adrian was out of danger she would return to Chicago, bury herself in work and try to forget all over again. There could be no doubt of her return. She had to let Adrian go once and for all.

***

When Shasta’s plane arrived, Amy was waiting as promised. She was taller than Shasta, standing a graceful 5’8. Her raven black hair was cut stylishly at her shoulders. A look of intense relief filled her elegant features when she saw her.

“Shasta! I’m so happy to see you!” She said, rushing to engulf her friend in a warm embrace.

“I’m here sis. Now, let’s get going and you can tell me what happened.” When they reached Amy’s blue sedan they settled in for a talk.

“So, how did this happen?”

“Adrian was working in his shop,” she shuddered. “You know he builds furniture, right?” When Shasta nodded she continued. “He was trying to get a piece of wood from a high rack when the whole thing collapsed on him. He was alone when it happened. Fortunately, a customer came in, found him and called 911. That was just over twenty four hours ago. Everything possible has been done, now he has to want to come back.”

“And that’s where I come in?”

“Shazzy, I really don’t know what else to do. I know you don’t want to face him and I even sort of understand why. That’s why I waited to call you. If he decides to give up…” Amy shuddered as her words hung thickly around them.

“Amy, I don’t know how much I can help. The truth may hurt him more.” She sighed.

“Do you still care for him?”

“I never stopped.” Shasta looked down at her hands, unable to look at Amy.

“Then it has to be enough. At least he will want to wake up for you. He still loves you. You always made him want better for himself. You have a way of reaching him when no one else can. Fight for him. Use that temper of yours to jolt some strength into him.”

Shasta looked a little dubious. “What if your little plan doesn’t work? What if he doesn’t wake up?”

Amy glanced over as she drove. “Then we gave it our best.”

***



When they reached the hospital Amy took Shasta straight to Adrian in ICU. When she saw him her heart caught in her throat.

“Adrian.” His name came out like a sob as Shasta went to his side. The sight of Adrian’s strong hand lying limp tore at her heart. His brilliant blue eyes were closed, his short, raven hair was a mess and lacked the shine it always held. Two glaring red lines marred the skin above his left brow. Bruises covered his handsome face and much of his upper body.

With great care, Shasta held his hand and straightened his hair.

“Adrian, it’s Shasta. I’m here.” She hung her head sadly. “Finally. We have so much to talk about. There is too much left unsaid between us. I know that’s my fault. I’m so sorry. Please, Adrian, I know you must be in a world of pain right now.” She squeezed his hand as a tear escaped. “Come back to us. We need you.”

Shasta sat by Adrian’s side for an hour recounting to him the first time they saw each other before a nurse gently pulled her from his side.

She found a bathroom near the waiting room and splashed water on her face. She felt totally drained. Mentally she had tried to pour all her strength into his weakened body.

When she made her way to the waiting room, Amy and their mother Liz Chance were there. They took Shasta in their arms and cried. It was Liz who finally spoke.

“Dear, I want to thank you for coming. You can’t imagine how much this means to us. He never stopped loving you, even when he knew it was impossible, he still never moved on.”

“I…I…”Shasta stammered.

“Honey I didn’t mean to... I just wanted you to know why we believe your presence will turn the tide for him.” Her strong voice soothed Shasta.

Liz Chance was a tall woman in her late fifties. Her dark hair was nearly all gray. She was a strong woman who was known for saying exactly what she thought. For some unknown reason this bluntness provided Shasta with a small bit of reassurance. She knew that, even after she and Adrian finally confronted each other she would still have a friend in her.

“I need to call mom.”

“We called her and she’ll be here soon. She’s bringing food. You need to keep up your strength.”

“I’m not leaving.”

“I know. You can at least eat well and have your own pillow here.” Amy replied.

***

Shasta and Liz alternated sitting with Adrian through the long, quiet hours of the night. Amy checked on him often. One night turned into four. Day and night Shasta stayed at the hospital. She went to her mom’s house on brief trips to shower and change.

Each time she sat with Adrian, Shasta searched for some change in his quiet face. She was by his side as much as they would allow. Holding his hand, she told him of her life. She reminisced over their shared past and apologized for letting their friendship go, carefully avoiding talk of love.

Adrian’s family came and went. Shasta’s mom came often to check on everyone. Even Shasta’s step-dad dropped in a few times during that long week.



***

Finally, they got what they’d all been praying for. Early on Sunday morning Shasta was with Adrian, her head resting on his arm. He opened his eyes and stared at her mass of curls for a moment. They seemed to glow from the light seeping through the cracked door. He reached out and stroked her hair.

Shasta raised her head and looked into his blue eyes. Disbelief filled his face. His hand moved from her hair to reverently stroke her cheek. For a moment they just stared at each other.

“Thank heavens! I’ve been so scared.” Shasta whispered. Her voice cracked and tears rolled down her cheek. Adrian caught them with his thumb and wiped them away. Shasta leaned into his touch and kissed his palm and for that moment they were the only two people in the world.

Reluctantly, Shasta called the nurse. She was quickly pulled aside, the doctor was paged and several more people poured in the tiny ICU cubicle.

Shasta held herself and quietly made her way to the waiting room. She was soon joined by Amy’s boyfriend, Ridge, and her parents.

After what seemed like hours Amy emerged, smiling. “Adrian’s vitals are all strong and from what I can tell it looks like there will be no permanent damage. Some tests are being done to make sure. You can all take turns seeing him but make your visit short. He needs to rest. Shasta, he is asking for you so you should go first. He is being moved to another room. I’ll show you all where. You can see him in an hour. Just keep this visit short.”

Later, Shasta knocked lightly on Adrian’s door before slipping into the room. It was sterile white but the curtains were open letting in the morning sun.

“Shasta, is that really you?” His voice was a harsh whisper. To Shasta it was like angels singing. She crossed the room and took his hand.

“I’m here, Adrian.”

“I thought you were just a dream. You’re really here. How can…” Shasta stopped him.

“It’s okay. We can talk later.” Shasta softly ran her fingers down his arm. “I’ll be back. For now you need to rest.”

“What about your husband?”

“There is no husband. I’ll explain later. Don’t worry about it.” With that, she kissed his forehead and left the room.

Adrian was filled with confusion. She was right. They were in for a long talk. He was filled with determination. He would get his answers if he had to force them out of her.

As soon as she escaped his room, Shasta took a deep breath. It had not taken Adrian long to nail down the point of their coming talk. She had hoped he would be too tired to question her this time. Now, her answers only gave him more questions. As Liz approached the door she placed a hand on her shoulder and whispered “Thank you.”

Ridge came over and lead Shasta gently away. “It will be awhile before you can go back in. I’m taking you home to sleep,” He signed in ASL. Too tired to argue, she allowed him to take charge.

***

Shasta slept for half the day. Her mind was not worried over Adrian’s survival. When she woke nearly ten hours later she took her time getting ready. Her mom made her a large bowl of soup that she dallied over.

She was deeply afraid of what was to come. She had been avoiding this for a long time and a part of her wanted to run. As soon as the thought crossed her mind she stopped it. Adrian knew she was single now and if she left he would come after her as soon as he was able.

Amy was at the nurses station nearest Adrian’s room when she got there.

“Hey sleepy head!” Amy greeted her. By the happy smile she wore she knew he was better. “He’s only been awake about an hour. He’s been demanding to see you.” She nudged Shasta towards his room. “Go, talk to him. Take your time. I’ll be through with my shift by the time you get done. Then we can talk if you want.”

Shasta’s stomach flipped nervously as she walked towards the door. She knocked then let herself in. Adrian was sitting up watching the news. He looked bored.

“Adrian.” Shasta’s soft, nervous voice carried across the room.

He looked up and stared into the emerald eyes he had fallen in love with so many years ago. She wore her hair the way he liked it. Loose and free. He hated it when she pulled it back. Some things were not meant to be controlled.
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