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       Gabriel's Hope (#1, Rhyn Eternal), p.1

           Lizzy Ford
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Gabriel's Hope (#1, Rhyn Eternal)
Gabriel’s hope

  Book I, Rhyn Eternal

  A continuation of the Rhyn Trilogy Saga

  By Lizzy Ford

  Cover design by Regina

  EPUB edition

  Gabriel’s Hope copyright 2012 © by Lizzy Ford

   Cover design copyright 2012 © by Mae I Deisgn

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.

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


  See other titles by Lizzy Ford



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  #ya, #paranormal, #romance, #paranormalauthors, #rhyntrilogy

  Chapter One

  Deidre rubbed her hands on her legs. The papery hospital gown was rough beneath her palms, the dark room too cold. She sat on the table in the exam room facing a line of backlit x-rays and cat scans on the wall. Gazing at the obvious mass in her brain, she knew the results were bad, but were they worse?

  Impatiently waiting for her longtime surgeon, she pushed herself off the table and crossed to the desk, where a small folder sat. If its contents were like the reports she’d seen in the past, it would be full medical nonsense. She was able to decipher some of it after all the tests she’d been through. She flipped it open. The summary of results might as well have been in a foreign language with the medical terminology, abbreviations and sprinkling of what seemed like random numbers.

  “Come on,” she muttered at the file. Skimming it, her gaze settled on the last line of the first page.

  When patient presents, inform of advanced deterioration of tumor stability. Recommended local hospices attached to report.

  Hospice? They wanted to shove her away for the last few months of her life? Deidre closed the file, chewing her lip. Dr. Wynn knew better. Every week, he asked how many things she checked off her bucket list. She wasn’t the kind who sat around waiting to die, not when she wanted so badly to enjoy every day until she was no longer able to.

  Which would be soon. She blinked away tears. She didn’t want to die. At twenty-six years old, she must’ve done something pretty bad in a past life to deserve this. Karma was a bitch, but it wasn’t indiscriminate, was it?

  Dr. Wynn knocked and opened the door. He was tall and slender with cocoa skin, dazzling blue eyes and prematurely white hair that made him appear twice his age. His features were heavy and roughly hewn. Though not traditionally handsome, he moved and spoke with a diplomat’s grace. He kissed her cheeks and waited for her to heft herself back onto the table. Instead of seating himself on the traditional doctor’s stool, Dr. Wynn sat beside her on the table, hands folded across one knee.

  His smile didn’t reach his eyes. It never had. She’d thought him cold and distant at first, until she learned his background. He was one of those medical prodigies that mentally existed on a level too removed for most people to follow. He’d stuck by her for over three years, though. It had to mean something.

  “It’s not good, is it?” she asked.

  “No,” he replied in the smooth, velvety voice that talked her down from hysterics several times many times.

  She swallowed hard and gazed at the charts on the wall. She already knew, but it seemed worse when a doctor said it.

  “There really is nothing I can do this time,” he said. “We’ve been through every option.”

  “How long?” she whispered.

  “Three months at most.”

  Deidre nodded, not sure how to respond. He’d told her the chances were slim long ago, but she wasn’t ready for him to admit defeat quite yet. She’d been anticipating this moment for awhile. Sitting through it, she didn’t think it was ever possible to be prepared for the news.

  “I am very sorry, Deidre. You are a sweet girl,” he said.

  “No worries,” she said, forcing a smile. “We all have to go at some point. At least I know how and when, right? You’ve …done so …” She couldn’t finish it through the sudden tears.

  Dr. Wynn hesitated then hugged her. Deidre closed her eyes and rested against him, trying to imagine what the last days of her life would be like. She’d let herself grieve for a day – maybe two – and then fill her world with as much sunshine as possible. She’d been on the verge of death for years. She could handle this turn of events.

  “Logan won’t take this well,” he said, referring to her boyfriend of almost two years. “I will always meet you both for dinner again to explain, if it helps you.”

  Deidre drew a shuddering breath then groaned.

  “If there is a Logan still?”

  “More or less,” she said. “He seems to be waiting for the inevitable while I try to check off my bucket list. He doesn’t get that I’m not going to waste my time mourning when I can live.”

  “It’s a difficult time for both of you.”

  “Yeah.” She moved away from him, wiping her face. “I think he feels guilty for wanting to leave his dying girlfriend. Most days, I just want to tell him to get it over with and move on.” She rolled her eyes.

  “You’ve lived on your terms the past few years. No one will fault you for taking that one step further and cleaning house,” Dr. Wynn said with a faint smile.

  “Are you saying he’s the dead weight and not me?”

  “Your humor is morbid, darling,” he said, though he chuckled. “I was thinking more along the lines that he can have no objection when I ask you to dinner, if he’s out of the picture.”

  A laugh bubbled up. “You’re insane, Doc. You’ve always been a little sweet on me, haven’t you?”

  “I’ve yet to meet someone as brave in the face of death as you are. I admire your joie de vivre and am always fascinated by your perspective on life.”

  She wiped her face, affected by his words. That a cultured medical genius found her inspiring was beyond flattering. His gentle flirting reminded her of how charismatic he could be, when not telling her she was getting ready to die.

  “I also regret you choosing Logan over me,” he said, rising.

  “You’re a good man, Doc,” she said with a watery smile.

  “Wynn,” he corrected her. “You’ve been more than a patient for months now.” He held her gaze for a moment too long before looking away.

  Their history was too personal for her to feel uncomfortable standing near-naked to a man who’d had a crush on her for awhile. He’d cut her open and seen her from the inside out. There was nothing she kept from him. If anything, she felt lucky to have a doctor who saw her as more than a case.

  “Okay, then, Wynn,” she said. “I’m headed to the coast this weekend. Logan’s taking off work early today, so we can have a long weekend at the beach. I’ve always wanted to stay in a beach house. If your girlfriend was going to dump you, wouldn’t you rather it happen at a beach house?”

  He raised an eyebrow.

  “I’m joking.”

  “Are you?”

  “I haven’t decided yet,” she admitted. “If I do, I’ll call you for that dinner date when I
get back.”

  “I’ll await your call.”

  Always polite, always a gentleman. He’d never liked Logan, but he’d never say it directly. Something about his proper responses made her smile.

  “There may be signs soon of deterioration, Deidre,” he said with gravity.

  “I know, Doc,” she replied then recited. “Hallucinations, incurable pain, loss of muscular control, cognitive dysfunction. It’ll be a slow, painful death.”

  For the first time in their history, a flicker of emotion crossed the features of her surgeon. He rubbed his jaw.

  “Yes,” he said at last. “It will be. For which I feel entirely responsible.”

  “Omigod, Doc,” she said. “Don’t get all emotional on me now. One of us has to keep the other calm, and it won’t be me.”

  “Deidre, for what little this is worth, I apologize for not being good enough or smart enough or quick enough to prevent the inevitable.”

  “Ah, Wynn,” she said, touched by his subtle emotion. “You have nothing to apologize for. You’ve been the one constant in my life since this mess started. I wouldn’t trade you for anyone.”

  “Perhaps I’m the dead weight in this relationship.”

  “You can be so charming when you want to be.” She smiled and reached out to squeeze his arm. Most of the times, conversation with Dr. Wynn was like talking to a robot. Today, he was human. “Remember: no apologies, no regrets. Got it?”

  He chuckled, this smile the largest she’d seen yet.

  “Wynn, I will call you for dinner when I get back,” she said. “Promise.”

  “I hope you do,” he said. The façade returned, and he moved towards the door. “Have a nice weekend, Deidre.”

  “You, too, Wynn.”

  He left her alone. If nothing else, Wynn was going to make a terrific friend during the last leg of her life, which comforted her a little. She stared at the charts again. It was hard to imagine she had a tumor in her brain the half the size of her fist. She was happy to be functional, though that wasn’t likely going to last long.

  She wasn’t going to let things get worse. She lived on her terms; she’d die on her terms. Her hands trembled as she got dressed. The decision made to face death soon, the only thing she hadn’t quite worked out was how she planned to do it. Did she tell Wynn what she planned? Ask him for help? Or just disappear one day? Somehow, it seemed wrong not to warn him.

  Deep in thought, she left the hospital. The spring air was heavy and humid already in Atlanta; it felt like summer. She walked from the hospital campus to a crowded sidewalk that ran beside a main street. The scents of food from street vendors and car exhaust filled the air outside the quiet hospital grounds. It was lunchtime, and the sidewalk was packed with people in business attire headed to the small bistros, cafes and other eateries lining the business district of downtown Atlanta.

  Pausing at her normal bus stop, Deidre debated walking instead of taking the bus. Soon, she wasn’t going to have the option of walking. She needed to put more effort into taking advantage of life while she could. She moved away from the bus stop and joined the crowds on the sidewalk.

  She waited until she reached a quieter side street before dialing her boyfriend. Logan picked up on the third ring.

  “Hey.” He sounded distracted.

  “Hello to you, too!” she said cheerfully.

  “I’m running behind. Anything new?”

  “Not really.” She frowned at his tone. “Got word the inevitable is coming in three months or so.”

  Logan was silent. She heard him typing in the background. He didn’t respond.

  “You still there?” she prompted.

  “Sorry. New client brought in a dump truck full of receipts and needs his return done by close of business today. I’m trying to wrap up everything as fast as I can,” Logan said.

  “You didn’t hear what I said.”

  “No, Dee,” Logan sighed. “I’ve got a lot going on. Did Dr. Wynn have good news?”

  She hesitated, agitated. “The usual.”

  “Maybe you need a new surgeon. He hasn’t done anything for you in awhile,” Logan suggested.

  I’d dump you before Dr. Wynn, she replied silently.

  “If we got married, you’d have health insurance. You could find a good doctor,” Logan added.

  “We’ve discussed this. We’re not getting married when I’m on my deathbed, and Dr. Wynn is the best there is!” she snapped. Deidre stopped in the middle of the busy sidewalk, too angry at the idea of losing her friend and doctor to care when someone jostled by her.

  “The best there is doesn’t take on charity cases, Dee.”

  “You know, Logan, maybe he likes me enough to want to help me. There are a lot of good people in the world.”

  “He likes you too much, in my opinion. I told you I got a bad vibe from him when we had dinner a few weeks ago.”

  “Whatever. You’ve got work to do and I need to pack,” she said. “You care which shirts I pack for you?”

  “Leave out the one you got me for my birthday. I’ll wear it tonight.”

  “Okay. Good luck with the tax stuff. I’ll have everything ready for when you get back,” she said.

  “See you tonight.” He hung up before she could say farewell.

  Deidre glared at the phone, comparing Logan’s unconcerned response with Dr. Wynn’s kindness. She joined a few others at a corner waiting to cross the street. She pulled up Dr. Wynn’s office number on her cell, tempted to invite him to the beach this weekend instead of Logan.

  Someone near her gasped, and Deidre glanced up, expecting to see a fender bender or similar issue in the street. A woman nearby was staring at her. Deidre saw the strange flash of a red, glowing tattoo on the lady’s exposed neck. It faded when she looked directly at it.

  “Are you here for me?” the woman asked in a hushed tone.

  Deidre turned to see if there was someone behind her the stranger spoke to. There wasn’t.

  “Um, no,” she replied. “I’m just … waiting for the green light.”

  “You must be here for someone. As long as it’s not me.” The woman was smartly dressed in a suit. She didn’t seem like the lunatic kind. She beamed a smile and faced the street again.

  Deidre shook her head. She’d been asked that question more than once while out and didn’t understand it, unless it was some sort of odd Southern greeting. As soon as the signal to walk flashed, she put some distance between her and the crazy woman.

  It took five blocks before her agitation at Logan faded, and she started paying attention to the world around her. Her angry march turned into a stroll. Deidre stopped to admire bouquets being sold on a street corner. Most of them were wilting in the Atlanta heat.

  Like me. She grinned at the thought.

  Taking pity on the sad flowers, she bought a bunch before continuing on her journey home. She commiserated with the brown-tinged blossoms left behind by other customers who didn’t want to be so close to death. The petals were like silk, their scent strong and sweet.

  “You’re still beautiful to me,” she told them. “Logan won’t agree. What a jerk. Maybe you all can go with me to the beach and we’ll leave him at home.”

  Entertained by her pep talk with the flowers, Deidre reached her towering apartment building a short time later and paused to collect the mail. Her gaze fell to the envelope from South Peachtree Mortuary Services. She’d bought her casket months ago and was on a payment plan. Holding the bill made her hands sweat and her heart beat faster. She wanted to burn or shred the sign of her impending demise. How many twenty-six-year-olds planned their own funerals?

  “Don’t worry, flowers,” she murmured as she entered the elevator. “We’ve got a better plan, right?”

  The other occupant of the elevator glanced at her. She smiled and shoved the bill into her purse. She could pay it this month or put the three hundred dollars towards a one-way ticket to wherever she wanted to be when she died.

sp; She liked the latter plan much better.

  The apartment was quiet when she entered a few minutes later. She tossed her keys on the counter and set down the flowers. She dug out the envelope from the funeral home and tore it in half. The sight of it lying in two pieces was gratifying. Unable to outmaneuver death, she could at least take out her grief and anger on a poor little piece of mail.

  Bottle of wine in one hand, Deidre retreated to her bedroom to pack. She caught her reflection in the mirror and admired her hair. Naturally white-blonde, she’d dyed it pink on a whim last weekend. Logan hated it, but she loved it.

  She drank straight from the bottle as she moved around the room, gathering and piling clothing into a small suitcase. She left out the shirt bearing Logan’s initials as he requested then glared at it.

  “Sorry, Logan,” she told the shirt. “We’re through after this weekend. I got too many things on my bucket list.”

  Deidre wiped away more tears and went to her messy desk, where a red-covered notebook sat on a pile of paper. She opened it and reviewed the to-do list of things she wanted to experience before she died. Some of them were crossed out. Most were not. She added yet another item to the growing queue.

  Dump Logan. Her attention lingered on it for a moment before she wrote one more.

  Ask Wynn to dinner.

  Satisfied, she closed the notebook. The end of her life started this weekend. She was going to enjoy it, no matter what.

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