Crashed, p.1
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       Crashed, p.1

           K. Bromberg
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Crashed


  Table of Contents

  Dedication

  PROLOGUE

  CHAPTER 1

  CHAPTER 2

  CHAPTER 3

  CHAPTER 4

  CHAPTER 5

  CHAPTER 6

  CHAPTER 7

  CHAPTER 8

  CHAPTER 9

  CHAPTER 10

  CHAPTER 11

  CHAPTER 12

  CHAPTER 13

  CHAPTER 14

  CHAPTER 15

  CHAPTER 16

  CHAPTER 17

  CHAPTER 18

  CHAPTER 19

  CHAPTER 20

  CHAPTER 21

  CHAPTER 22

  CHAPTER 23

  CHAPTER 24

  CHAPTER 25

  CHAPTER 26

  CHAPTER 27

  CHAPTER 28

  CHAPTER 29

  CHAPTER 30

  CHAPTER 31

  CHAPTER 32

  CHAPTER 33

  CHAPTER 34

  CHAPTER 35

  CHAPTER 36

  CHAPTER 37

  CHAPTER 38

  CHAPTER 39

  CHAPTER 40

  CHAPTER 41

  CHAPTER 42

  CHAPTER 43

  CHAPTER 44

  EPILOGUE 1

  EPILOGUE 2

  ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

  About the Author

  Copyright

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

  Copyright © 2014 K. Bromberg

  Crashed by K. Bromberg

  All Rights Reserved. In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher or author constitute unlawful piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. If you would like to use material from this book (other than for review purposes), prior written permission must be obtained by contacting the publisher at kbrombergwrites@gmail.com. Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.

  FBI Anti-Piracy Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of a copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, in investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to five years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.

  Cover art created by Tugboat Design

  with Shutterstock image # 62700331

  Copy and Line editing by The Polished Pen

  Proof Edit by Amy Tannenbaum

  Formatting by Hayson Publishing

  Except for the original material written by the author, all songs, song titles, and lyrics mentioned in the novel Crashed are the property of the respective songwriters and copyright holders.

  To Mom and Dad ~

  Thank you for teaching me that life isn’t about how you survive the storm, but rather how you dance in the rain.

  And I’m finally dancing…

  Thwack. Thwack. Thwack.

  The resonating pain in my head pulses to the sound assaulting my ears.

  Thwack. Thwack. Thwack.

  There is so much sound—loud, buzzing white noise—and yet it’s eerily fucking quiet. Quiet except for that damn thwacking sound.

  What the hell is that?

  Why the fuck is it so damn hot—so hot I can see the heat coming in waves off of the asphalt—but all I feel is cold?

  Motherfucker!

  Something to the right of me catches my eye—mangled metal, blown tires, skins shredded to pieces—and all I can do is stare. Becks is going to throttle me for fucking up the car. Shred me to pieces just like my car strewn all over the track. What the fuck happened?

  A trickle of unease dances at the base of my spine.

  My heartbeat accelerates.

  Confusion flickers at the far away edges of my subconscious. I close my eyes to try and push back the pounding that’s suddenly playing percussion to my thoughts. Thoughts I can’t quite grasp.They sift through my mind like sand through my fingers.

  Thwack. Thwack. Thwack.

  I open my eyes to try and find that goddamn sound that’s adding pressure to the pain …

  … pleasure to bury the pain …

  Those words whisper through my mind, and I shake my head to try to comprehend what’s going on when I see him: dark hair in need of a trim; tiny little hands holding a plastic helicopter; a Spiderman Band-Aid wrapped around his index finger that’s spinning the pretend rotors.

  Spiderman. Batman. Superman. Ironman.

  “Thwack. Thwack. Thwack,” he says in the softest of voices.

  So why does it sound so loud then? Big eyes look up at me through thick lashes, innocence personified in that simple grace of green. His finger falters on the rotor as his eyes meet mine, cocking his head to study me intently.

  “Hi there,” I say, the deafening silence reverberating through the space between us.

  Something’s off.

  Completely not fucking right.

  Apprehension resurfaces.

  Hints of the unknown whirl around my mind.

  Confusion smothers.

  His green eyes consume me.

  Anxiety dissipates when a slow smile curls up the corner of his little mouth smudged with dirt, a lone dimple winking at its side.

  “I’m not supposed to talk to strangers,” he says, straightening his back some, trying to act like the big kid he wants to be.

  “That’s a good rule. Did your mom teach you that?”

  Why does he seem so familiar?

  He shrugs nonchalantly. His gaze runs over every inch of me and then comes back to meet mine. They flicker to something over my shoulder, but for some fucking reason I can’t seem to drag my eyes from him to look. It’s not just that he’s the cutest fucking kid I’ve ever seen … No, it’s like he has this pull on me that I can’t seem to break.

  A little line creases his forehead as he looks down and picks at another superhero Band-Aid barely covering the large scrape on his knee.

  Spiderman. Batman. Superman. Ironman.

  Shut the fuck up! I want to yell at the demons in my head. They have no right to be here … no reason to swarm around this sweet looking little boy, and yet they keep swirling like a merry-go-round. Like my car should be around the track right now. So why am I taking a step toward this polarizing little boy instead of preparing for the ration of shit Becks is going to spew at me, and by the looks of my car, that I obviously deserve?

  And yet I still can’t resist.

  I take another step toward him, slow and deliberate in my motions, like I am with the boys at The House.

  The boys.

  Rylee.

  I need to see her.

  Don’t want to be alone anymore.

  I need to feel her.

  Don’t want to be broken anymore.

  Why am I swimming in a sea of confusion? And yet I take another step through the fog toward this unexpected ray of light.

  Be my spark.

  “That’s a pretty bad owie you got there …”

  He snorts. It’s so fucking adorable to see this little kid with such a serious face, nose scattered with freckles scrunched up, looking at me like I’m missing something.

  “Thanks, Captain Obvious!”

  And a smart-ass mouth on him too. My type of kid. I stifle a chuckle as he glances back over my shoulder again for the third time. I start to turn to see what he’s looking at when his voice stops me. “Are you okay?”

  Huh? “What do you mean?”

  “Are you okay?” he asks again. “You seem kind of broken.”

  “What are you talking about?” I take another step toward him. My fleetin
g thoughts mixed with the somberness of his tone and the concern etched on his face is starting to unnerve me.

  “Well, you look broken to me,” he whispers as his Band-Aid wrapped finger flips the propeller again—thwack, thwack, thwack—before motioning up and down my body.

  Anxiety creeps up my spine until I look down at my race suit to find it intact, my hands patting up and down to calm the feeling. “No.” The words rush out. “I’m okay, buddy. See? Nothing’s wrong,” I say, sighing a quick breath of relief. The little fucker scared me for a second.

  “No, silly,” he says with a roll of his eyes and a huff of breath before pointing over my shoulder. “Look. You’re broken.”

  I turn, the calm simplicity of his tone puzzling me, and look behind me.

  My heart stops.

  Thwack.

  My breath strangles in my chest.

  Thwack.

  My body freezes.

  Thwack.

  I blink my eyes over and over, trying to push away the images before me. The sights permeate through a viscous haze.

  Spiderman. Batman. Superman. Ironman.

  Fuck. No. No. No. No.

  “See,” his angelic voice says beside me. “I told you.”

  No. No. No. No.

  The air finally punches from my lungs. I force a swallow down my throat that feels like sandpaper.

  I know I see it—the chaos right before my eyes—but how is it possible? How am I here and there?

  Thwack. Thwack. Thwack.

  I try to move. To fucking run! To get their attention to tell them I’m right here—that I’m okay—but my feet won’t listen to the ricocheting panic in my brain.

  No. I’m not there. Just here. I know I’m okay—know I’m alive—because I can feel my breath catch in my chest when I take a step forward to get a closer look. Fingertips of dread tickle over my scalp because what I see … that can’t be ... it’s just not fucking possible.

  Spiderman. Batman. Superman. Ironman.

  The gentle whir of the saw pulls me from my ready-to-rage state as the medical crew cuts the driver’s helmet down the center. The minute they split it apart, my head feels like it explodes. I drop to my knees, the pain so excruciating all I can do is raise my hands up to hold it. I have to look up. Have to see who was in my car. Whose motherfucking ass is mine, but I can’t. It hurts too goddamn much.

  … I wonder if there’s pain when you die …

  I jolt at the feel of his hand on my shoulder … but the minute it rests there, the pain ceases to exist.

  What the …? I know I have to look. I have to see for myself who is in the car even though I ultimately know the truth. Disjointed memories fracture and flicker through my mind just like pieces of the splintered mirror in that fucking dive bar.

  Humpty fucking Dumpty.

  Fear snakes up my spine, takes hold, and reverberates through me. I just can’t do it. I can’t look up. Don’t be such a pussy, Donavan. Instead, I look to my right into his eyes, the unexpected calm in this storm. “Is that …? Am I …?” I ask the little boy as my breath clogs my throat, apprehension over the answer holds my voice hostage.

  He just looks at me—eyes clear, face serious, lips pursed, freckles dancing—before he squeezes my shoulder. “What do you think?”

  I want to shake a fucking answer out of him but know I won’t. Can’t. With him here at my side amidst this whirling chaos, I’ve never felt more at peace and yet at the same time more scared.

  I force my eyes from his serene face to look back at the scene in front of me. I feel like I’m in a kaleidoscope of jagged images as I take in the face—my fucking face—on the gurney.

  My heart crashes. Sputters. Stops. Dies.

  Spiderman.

  Grey skin. Eyes swollen, bruised, and closed. Lips lax and pale.

  Batman.

  Devastation surrenders, desperation consumes, life sputters, and yet my soul clings.

  Superman.

  “No!” I yell at the top of my lungs until my voice falls hoarse. No one turns. No one hears me. Every fucking person is unresponsive—my body and the medics.

  Ironman.

  The body on the gurney—my body—jolts as someone climbs on the stretcher and starts compressions on my chest. Someone fastens the neck brace. Lifts my eyelids and checks my pupils.

  Thwack.

  Wary faces. Defeated eyes. Routine movements.

  Thwack.

  “No!” I shout again, panic reigning within every ounce of me. “No! I’m right here! Right here! I’m okay.”

  Thwack.

  Tears fall. Disbelief stutters. Possibilities vanish. Hope implodes.

  My life blurs.

  My eyes focus on my hand hanging limp and lifeless off of the gurney—a single drip of blood slowly making its way down to the tip of my finger before another compression on my chest joggles it to drip on the ground beneath. I focus on that ribbon of blood, unable to look back at my face. I can’t take it anymore.

  Can’t stand watching the life drain from me. Can’t stand the fear that creeps into my heart, the unknown that trickles into my subconscious, and the cold that starts to seep into my soul.

  “Help me!” I turn to the little boy so familiar but so unknown. “Please,” I beg, an imploring whisper, with every ounce of life I have in me. “I’m not ready to …” I can’t finish the sentence. If I do then I’m accepting what is happening on the gurney before me—what his place beside me signifies.

  “No?” he asks. A single word, but the most important one of my fucking life. I stare at him, consumed by what is in the depths of his eyes—understanding, acceptance, acknowledgment—and as much as I don’t want to leave the feeling I have with him, the question he’s asking me—to choose life or death—is the easiest decision I’ve ever had to make.

  And yet, the decision to live—to go back and prove like fucking hell that I deserve to be given this choice—means that I’ll have to leave his angelic little face and the serenity his presence brings to my otherwise troubled soul.

  “Will I ever see you again?” I’m not sure where the question comes from, but it falls out before I can stop it. I hold my breath waiting for his answer, wanting both a yes and a no.

  He tilts his head to the side and smirks. “If it’s in the cards.”

  Whose fucking cards? I want to yell at him. God’s? The Devil’s? Mine? Whose fucking cards? But all I can say is, “The cards?”

  “Yup,” he responds with a little shake of his head as he looks down at his helicopter and back up to me.

  Thwack. Thwack. Thwack.

  The sound becomes louder now, drowning out all noise around me, and yet I can still hear the draw of his breath. Still hear the pounding of my heart in my eardrums. Can still feel the soft sigh of peace that wraps around my body like a whisper as he places his hand on my shoulder.

  All of a sudden I see the helicopter—Life Flight—on the infield, the incessant sound of the rotors—thwack, thwack, thwack—as it waits for me. The gurney shunts forward as they start to move quickly toward it.

  “Aren’t you going?” he asks me.

  I work a swallow in my throat as I look back at him and give him a subtle, resigned nod of my head. “Yeah …” It’s almost a whisper, fear of the unknown heavy in my tone.

  Spiderman. Batman. Superman. Ironman.

  “Hey,” he says, and my eyes come back into focus on his perfect fucking face. He points back to the activity behind me. “It looks like your superheroes came this time after all.”

  I whirl around, heart lodged in my throat and confusion meddling with my logic. I don’t see it at first, the pilot’s back is to me, helping load my stretcher in the medevac, but when he turns around to jump in the pilot’s seat and take the joystick, it’s clear as day.

  My heart stops.

  And starts.

  A hesitant exhale of relief flickers through my soul.

  The pilot’s helmet is painted.

  Red.

  Wit
h black lines.

  The call sign of Spiderman emblazoned on the front of it.

  The little boy in me cheers. The grown man in me sags with relief.

  I turn back to say goodbye to the little boy, but he’s nowhere to be found. How in the hell did he know about the superheroes? I look all around for him—needing the answer—but he’s gone.

  I’m all alone.

  All alone except for the comfort of those I’ve waited a lifetime to arrive.

  My decision’s been made.

  The superheroes finally came.

  Numbness slowly seeps through my body. I can’t move, can’t think, can’t bear to pull my eyes from the mangled car on the track. If I look anywhere else, then this will all be real. The helicopter flying overhead will really be carrying the broken body of the man I love.

  The man I need.

  The man I can’t lose.

  I close my eyes and just listen, but I can’t hear anything. The only thing in my ears is the thumping of my pulse. The only thing besides the blackness that my eyes see—that my heart feels—is the splintered images in my mind. Max melting into Colton and then Colton fading back to Max. Memories that cause the hope I’m grasping like a lifeline to flicker and flame before dying out, like the darkness smothering the light in my soul.

  I race you, Ryles. His voice so strong and unwavering fills my head and then dissipates, glittering through my mind like ticker tape.

  I double over, willing the strangling tears to come or a spark to fire within me, but nothing happens, just lead dropping through my soul and weighing me down.

  I force myself to breathe while I try to fool my mind into believing the past twenty-two minutes never happened. That the car never cartwheeled and pirouetted through the smoke-filled air. That the metal of the car wasn’t cut apart by somber-faced medics to extricate Colton’s lifeless body.

  We never made love. The single thought flits through my head. We never had the chance to race after he finally told me the words I’d needed to hear—and that he’d finally accepted, admitted to, and felt for himself.

  I just want to rewind time and go back to the suite when we were wrapped in each other’s arms. When we were connected—overdressed and underdressed—but the horrific sights of the mangled car won’t allow it. They have scarred my memory so horribly for a second time that it’s not possible for my hope to escape unscathed.

 

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