We have a brand new standalone novel from Brenda Rothert—a contemporary romance laced with mystery and suspense—and I have an excerpt for you!
The scent of cedar is lulling me to go somewhere. I follow the sweet, clean smell, trying to open my eyes so I can figure out where I’m going. My eyelids are so heavy, though.
I turn my head to the side, still trying to open my eyes. There’s something I don’t like about not being able to see what’s happening around me, but I can’t quite remember what it is. This sense of being underwater seems impossible to shake.
Might as well just sink back into the dark, murky depths of the ocean inside my head. It’s too hard to find the water’s surface.
The sound of the deep, unfamiliar male voice forces me out of my slumber. When I open my eyes, there’s a tall man in a white coat standing several feet from me.
My heart flies into overdrive. I try to move away from him, but my hands hardly move. I’m tied to the sides of a bed.
It comes back in an instant. I’m at Hawthorne Hill, the mental hospital in Montana that Aunt Maggie dumped me off at. But who is the dark-haired man in my room?
“You’re safe, Allison,” he says, putting his hands out in front of his chest to show me they’re empty.
Like that helps. This guy could kill me with one of his bear-paw-sized hands wrapped behind his back. I jerk against the restraints, tears filling my eyes.
“I’m Daniel Delgado,” he says, pointing to the name stitched onto his white coat. “I’m a doctor.” He gives me a second to process that before continuing. “Listen, Allison. You were sedated, but we’re bringing you out of the sedation now. You probably feel groggy and confused, but that’s completely normal.”
I swallow and stop fighting against the restraints. Instead, I look over at one of my bound wrists and then up at the doctor.
“I’ll take them off if you promise me you won’t pull out your IV line.”
I meet his eyes, which are a warm, caramel shade. There’s no challenge in the way he holds my gaze, but I can tell he’s studying me. Assessing me. Trying to figure out if I’m crazy, just like everyone else here.
“Just give me a nod if we’ve got a deal,” he says.
It’s a tough call. I don’t want the IV line in my arm. I know why it’s there—to run fluids, nutrients, and medicine into my body. To keep me alive and healthy.
Alive and healthy are two things I don’t want to be anymore. The flashbacks are merciless, and they never stop, even when I’m asleep. I can’t escape my own head as long as I’m alive.
But being tied to this bed is unbearable. The terror I feel at being unable to escape is enough to choke me. I’d agree to anything right now to be freed.
I nod once, and Dr. Delgado leans down to unfasten the first restraint.
“I’m not a fan of restraints,” he says as he works. “I think they do more harm than good. But if you’re putting yourself in danger, we may not have a choice.”
As soon as he gets the first restraint off, he lifts my wrist to examine it. His hand is twice the size of mine, but he has a gentle touch.
There’s a little redness from my brief struggle against the restraints, but Dr. Delgado seems to dismiss it. He sets my arm back on the mattress and walks around to the other side of the bed to free my other hand.
“I’m the general practitioner here at Hawthorne,” he says. “I’ll come see you every day, prescribe meds when you need them, and treat any injuries or illnesses you may get. Dr. Heaton consults with me on her sessions with you, and we collaborate on any prescriptions or treatments for mental health.”
He seems more chill than Dr. Tillman, who got aggravated when I wouldn’t answer his questions. That son of a bitch threatened to have me sedated several times, and apparently, he went through with it.
“I see we’ve got a dry-erase board there for you,” Dr. Delgado says, nodding at my bedside table. “Anything you want to ask me or tell me?”
I shake my head. The second restraint is removed, and I rub my wrist.
“If you have any problems at all, let me know. You can roam around the place during free hours from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.”
I look over at the window, where the open curtains reveal a clear blue sky. Most people would call this a beautiful day, but not me. I can’t find beauty in a world with such ugliness. A place that would allow the brutal murder of the other half of my heart.
Closing my eyes, I shut out the sunshine. Fuck sunshine. I want dark clouds. Torrential downpours. Destructive tornadoes.
“I’ve taken you off the sedative, but Allison…let me know if you’re struggling with anything. Sadness, insomnia…whatever it is, I can prescribe you something to help. I’m sure you’re still hurting from the loss of your sister. I’m very sorry about that.”
My throat tightens and burns. He’s the first one to mention her, other than that bitch Dr. Heaton. And I don’t like it. It hurts too much to hear anyone speak of her. It brings to the surface what’s already horrifyingly real.
I grab the bedcovers, lie down, and curl up, pulling the covers over my head. This doctor seems like a decent enough guy, but I can’t listen to him anymore. I need to cry until my head pounds, so I can feel something—anything—other than the ache that’s burned its way into my very soul.