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       Jacked, p.1

           Tina Reber


  Copyright © 2014 Tina Reber

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead is coincidental and not intended by the author.


  This is a work of adult fiction. The author does not endorse or condone any of the behavior enclosed within. The subject matter is not appropriate for minors. Please note this novel contains profanity and explicit sexual situations. All trademarks and copyrighted items mentioned are the property of their respective owners.

  Cover design by Sarah Hansen, OKAY Creations

  Edited by Marion Archer, Marion Making Manuscripts

  Interior Design by Angela McLaurin, Fictional Formats

  Ebook ISBN: 978-1-942644-00-2


  The Love Series:

  Love Unscripted

  Love Unrehearsed


































  We all have skeletons in our closets.

  Doctor Erin Novak was only sixteen when she was accused of a crime she didn’t commit. Since that moment, she has made it her life goal to pursue emergency medicine, pouring her heart and soul into assuring another innocent life isn’t lost to the hands of the wicked.

  We all have secrets we’ve never shared.

  Detective Adam Trent has lost control of everything, starting with losing his partner to a punk with a gun and then everything else to the crushing guilt. Now a member of the elite Auto Theft Task Force in Philadelphia, it’s his job to be one step ahead of the criminals stealing expensive cars in the city. Too bad the television cameras keep getting in the way of his investigation.

  We all have pasts that we can never escape.

  A stolen car, a tragic chase, and a traffic stop crosses the fates of these two, tying them together in ways that are unimaginable. As their love and trust grows, so do the enemies that threaten their survival, testing the strength of their commitment. Can true love endure half-truths, past pains, and secrets never meant to be shared?

  Some things are just out of our control.

  This book is dedicated to all of the first responders around the globe who, despite how dire the situation, how hopeless the outlook, always make their presence known and give their all. Whether you are a professional or volunteer, you are our first line of defense, performing your duties without second thought or personal regard, serving and protecting others in their time of need. We are all forever in your debt.

  A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this novel will be granted to the following:

  The Sweeney Alliance, a non-profit, Texas-based organization, provides training programs and educational material relating to grief, post-traumatic stress, and suicide prevention for the emergency response community and their families in North America. We promote a mentally healthy work environment through cooperation with local, state, and national fire service and law enforcement agencies and organizations. We make available local grief support groups and electronic newsletters and bereavement resources globally for the public in general.

  For more information, please check out their support blog website:

  MY HANDS TREMBLED under the hot water as I rinsed the blood off Cal’s wedding band. A few hours ago his ring was pristine, unmarred by the ugliness of life. Now it was blemished with deep scratches scored into the gold, preserving their horrific moment for all eternity.

  My colleague, Doctor Bayshore, had to surgically remove it as the lower portion of Cal’s arm had been crushed beyond repair.

  I watched the red swirl at the bottom of the stainless steel wash sink while trying not to envision what they had gone through—the terror, the crash, the agonizing pain—how in an instant lives are changed forever.

  Anita, one of our ER respiratory therapists, gave my shoulder a quick squeeze as she hurried past. I took the gesture for what it was—a silent “hang in there” between friends that broke the ghastly images plaguing my mind.

  I didn’t know it was Cal at first when the Life Fight paramedics gave us their ETA. All I knew was that my trauma team was prepped and ready to receive the fifty-eight-year-old male coming in via helicopter at ten minutes to midnight from a multi-vehicle crash on the Schuylkill Expressway. University was the closest hospital with a Level One trauma center, so it was commonplace for us to receive the critical accident victims that resulted from the congested traffic conditions around Philadelphia.

  I saw the packing where part of the patient’s left arm had been unceremoniously amputated, overheard the Life Flight paramedic inform the nursing staff of the patient’s name and vitals, looked up at his bloodied face under the oxygen mask, and froze.

  Soon after that, my ex-boyfriend and fellow med school graduate, Doctor Randy Mason, locked his arms around me and physically carried me out of the trauma bay.

  I think I yelled, but for some reason, I can’t remember.

  I’d tended to thousands of patients during my residency and had assisted in about every type of trauma one could imagine. I had seen things and dealt with things made from the depths of people’s worst nightmares, but this was the first time I’d lost my hold.

  I’d managed to pull myself together enough to call my parents, though keeping my voice steady and clear had been damn near impossible. I glanced up at the large clock on the wall again. I’d made that call forty-two minutes ago. Cal’s golden hour of survival had been up well over an hour ago. I was praying he’d make it out of surgery though the odds were stacked against him.

  Sherry peeked around the doorframe and pocketed her stethoscope. “You okay?”

  I tossed my soiled gloves into the biohazard bin. “No.”

  “Oh honey, I’m so sorry.”

  I buried myself into her welcoming arms.

  Sherry rubbed my back. “Reception just took your parents to the private waiting room.”

  I wiped my cheek. “Okay, thanks.”

  She gripped my upper arms. “I know this is tough but you’re tougher. You know that, right?”

  I nodded, though not fully convinced.

  “Your mom isn’t handling things well. She insisted on seeing them and then demanded to see you. She probably could use a sedative but I think they’ve got her calmed down for now. Do you want me to go with you? You don’t need to do this on your own.”

  I took a deep breath, willing myself to find the courage and professional detachment to get through this. “Thanks, but I think I’ll be okay.”

  “I’ll walk with you.” She grabbed a box of tissues from one of the supply drawers and then draped her arm over my shoulder. My chest tightened with every st

  Doctor Jen Wyatt trotted around the far corner, clad in her favorite dark blue scrubs and the new sneakers we’d just shopped for a few days ago. As soon as she saw us she started to run. She nearly sideswiped my ex, Randy, as he came past the nurses’ station; both of them repelling away from each other like two magnetic opposites. He also noticed the dark look she shot him, giving her one in return.

  Despite my current mental state of upheaval, her little reaction brought joy to my heart. So did her rushing to my side in the midst of a crisis.

  “Oh my God, Erin,” Jen said, ignoring my former lover as he followed her. She pulled me into a crushing hug. “I am so sorry. Are you okay?”

  I closed my eyes and hugged her back, hoping that when I opened them again I wouldn’t be staring at Randy’s sexy new glasses through Jen’s long, shimmery black ponytail.

  I hadn’t had a chance to tell her I’d noticed her new hair color, either. It went well with her complexion.


  Oh no.

  I knew that voice well. I used to jump through hoops to hear him utter my name, but now it was like verbal daggers straight into the heart. I squeezed my eyes shut, willing him to go away. “Not now. I just can’t,” I groaned into Jen’s shoulder.

  “Erin,” Randy called again.

  “Oh good grief,” Jen said. She spun around to face him, holding her hand up in warning. “Now is not the time, Doctor Mason.”

  Randy ignored her and tugged my arm. “Are you all right?”

  What a moronic question. I hadn’t been “all right” for quite a while, mostly due to the trauma he had caused on my heart, but that was irrelevant at this point. I’d been managing. I pulled my elbow away. I didn’t need him adding to my emotional defeat.

  Jen glared at him. “Of course she isn’t all right.”

  He scowled back at her and pointed at me. “I’m not talking to you, okay? I’m talking to her. Erin. Hon…”

  “Oh God.” The words in my head slipped out of my mouth, constricting my ability to swallow in their wake.

  Jen glanced at me, came to some conclusion, and then turned back on the man I thought I’d once loved in some delusional moment of my past.

  “Now is not the time. So do us all a favor, save your words and leave her be. We’ve got this.”

  His mouth dropped open to argue, his body poised to adamantly disagree. I didn’t have any fight left in me.

  Jen shushed him with her hand. “I said we’ve got this. Now go on.”

  I wanted to kiss her and her southern-bred sass for being so awesome.

  “I’ll check in with you later, Erin,” he grumbled, taking a retreating step.

  I couldn’t keep from watching his sexy ass as he stormed off.

  “He’s a jerk,” Jen said. “You do not need that man in your head clogging your brain anymore. Now you just forget about him and let’s take care of you.”

  I was glad she was being my shield as I was in no position to defend myself or my failing willpower.

  Sherry nodded. “I agree. I was taking her down to the family room. Her mom and dad are waiting.” She pointed down the hallway.

  “Okay.” Jen put her hand on my shoulder, steering me. “We’ll go with you.”

  We stopped a few feet from the waiting room door and Sherry handed the box of tissues to me. “Here, take them just in case. You ready to do this?”

  NO, I was most definitely NOT ready to do this.

  I nodded anyway.

  Jen rubbed my arm. “You want one of us to go in there with you? I don’t care about protocol.”

  Actually I didn’t want anyone to have to go in there and see my parents cry. I wanted to reverse the wicked hands of time and eradicate this entire nightmare from my life. “Thanks, but…” I stared at the ominous door. “I’ll be okay. I have to be, right?”

  Jen hugged me again. “We’ll be right here if you need us.”

  I took a deep breath and forced myself to open the door.

  My mother startled when she saw me. Her eyes were red and puffy and she was sniffling into a wad of tissues. My dad looked tired and disheveled, as if new worry lines had crinkled his forehead and weary bags had formed underneath his eyes. I could tell he’d dressed quickly; his shirt, which was always tucked neatly into his pants in a staunch, business-like fashion, was wrinkled and hanging out.

  I should have waited for Doctor Sechler to update them but this was my family, not some random group of strangers. I sat down next to my mom, taking her chilled, trembling hands in mine, trying to will her to stop begging Jesus to give her another answer with my steady gaze.

  “Mom, listen. Uncle Cal is alive, but… He’s in… He’s in critical condition.” The urge to cry was imminent, but I had to be strong. I couldn’t leave the delivery of this information to anyone else.

  My mother sniffed. “How…? How bad is he?”

  I held my breath for a moment and collected my words—words that were failing me because I knew no matter how I said them they would have devastating effects.

  “The truth, Erin,” she bit out.

  “His left arm was completely severed near his… his elbow, Mom. There was nothing we could do.”

  The way her eyebrows crinkled, I knew she was confused that such trauma could come from an automobile accident. I tried not to speak in complicated medical terms.

  “What does that mean?”

  I squeezed her hand in mine. “If he pulls through this, he’ll need to wear a prosthetic arm. There was no way… They can’t reattach it.”

  She sucked in a gasp.

  Losing part of a limb wasn’t the worst of his injuries. “What concerns us the most right now is his head injury. He was unconscious when he came in.”

  She wiped her nose while her tears made rivulets down her cheeks. “Oh my God. Is he? Is he going to make it?”

  I was proud of her for trying to be brave. Should I lie? Fill her with false hope? Does she even need to know that he went into cardiac arrest during air transport?

  “I don’t know, Mom.” In his current condition, it was a miracle he still had a pulse. I gave her the standard benign answer that we all recited from rote. “We’ll know more as we assess the test results.”

  She nodded while her pale lips trembled.

  “He has the best team looking out for him right now, Mom. Our chief orthopedic surgeon, Doctor Sechler, is working on him. He and Doctor Giffords are experts in their fields.” I squeezed her hand. “Just pray for him, okay?”

  My mother’s gaze grew distant. I knew she was in shock. “Can I see him?”

  “Not right now. He’s in surgery.” I adjusted my hospital pager as a way to divert my telling eyes. “I’ll go get another status update in a little bit.”

  “Okay. And Karen? How is she?”

  I took her momentary distraction discarding tissues to peg my father with a knowing stare, our silent communication that we’d perfected over the years when we wanted to keep her from overreacting. When his shoulders slumped and the sob erupted, I knew he understood.

  Anguish tore through me with renewed force. I’d seen my father go through the gamut of emotions over the thirty years of my life but this was one of the few times I witnessed him shed tears.

  The last time he’d cried openly was when the police had led me away in handcuffs when I was sixteen.

  My eyes blurred and I wanted to leap into my dad’s arms to hug his pain away, but like that day, I felt shackled. Helpless. My Uncle Cal and Aunt Karen were their best friends. Cal was my mother’s twin and her only brother. The four of them did everything together—vacations, weekly dinners, shows, you name it. I knew this was killing them. It had to be as it was killing me.

  I held back my sob while the spot above my breastplate started to burn, ripping fire up into my throat. “She, ah…”

  My mom’s focus narrowed, questioning me.

  “Their car flipped and rolled, Mom. She’s gone.”

  “No. No. The
y were on their way home from Nate’s. We were there for Noah’s third birthday party. No. What do you mean, she’s gone? What are you saying? Oh, no. Please, no.”

  Nothing. I was saying nothing. The flight nurse had informed me that my aunt had been partially ejected and then crushed under the vehicle. All I could manage was an unspoken no. As soon as my mom comprehended, her body started to convulse. Thankfully my father pulled her into his chest when she succumbed to the realization. Seeing my mother go through this level of anguish was my undoing.

  I covered my mouth, trying to hold back my sputtering, but it was no use; my professional façade lay in a heap in my lap.

  My cousin Chris came rushing into the private waiting room, stopping abruptly when he found us.

  “What happened to my parents?” Chris frantically demanded, looking directly at me for answers. “Where are they?”

  His brother, Nate, was a few steps behind and white as the snowflakes dusting the shoulders of his heavy winter coat. His wife, Andrea, was clutching his hand, looking just as sickly and scared. “What the hell is going on?” Nate asked.

  The Chaplain came in behind them, gently urging them farther into the waiting room with sympathetic smiles and soft-toned instructions.

  After the Chaplain and I told them what they needed to know, I placed their father’s simple gold wedding ring into Nate’s hand.

  “DAD, TAKE MOM home. It’s late. There’s nothing more you can do here. He’ll be in surgery for a few hours.” I held my dad’s arm, encouraging him along. “Go and get some rest, okay? I’ll call the second I have an update.”

  He nodded stiffly, unable to fully converse with me.

  I held his vacant stare, hoping he’d listen. “He’s not in good shape, Dad. You understand what I’m saying?”

  He ran a hand back through his peppered hair. His voice hitched when he softly muttered, “Yeah.”

  “Are you going to be able to drive home? I could drive you.”

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