Authors: Amity Cross
(#5 The Beat and The Pulse) by Amity Cross
Copyright © 2016 by Amity Cross
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 written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This book 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 persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
All song titles, song lyrics, products, networks and brand names mentioned in this book are the property of the sole copyright owners.
The bonds that tie us together is the most mysterious thing humanity has ever experienced. The things that bring us together defy logic. They can even defy time and space. There is no rhyme or reason for them existing, except that they’re meant to be.
at the message on my phone, I shoved down the urge to hurl the stupid thing across the dark street.
The message notification taunted me like a red flag in front of a bull.
I just need to know you’re okay.
I stood around the corner from the Emergency department of St. Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne, leaning against the brick wall as the clock neared three a.m. I didn’t mind working all-nighters. It kept my mind off some things and on others that mattered more than the stupid asshole who was messaging me on Facebook from the other side of the world.
Why the hell hadn’t I blocked him yet?
Rolling my eyes, I pressed delete. The only reason that piece of shit wanted to know the state of my mental well-being was for his own sense of closure. Well, fucked if I was giving it to him.
Pushing off the wall, I smoothed down my blue scrubs, straightened my white coat, and fixed my unruly red hair back into place. Time to go back to work doing what I did best. Forgetting.
Tires squealed loudly, and I curled my lip in distaste.
. Hooning in a hospital zone.
Rounding the corner, I stumbled as I caught sight of a man lying on the footpath. Not just lying there…he was
strapped to a spinal board
. What the hell?
The roar of an engine pulled my gaze upward, and I was just in time to see a dark colored van rounding the corner as it disappeared into the night.
A surge of adrenaline coursed through my veins, and my heart hammered wildly in my chest as I rushed forward and fell to my knees on the concrete beside the man. He was covered in blood, his face torn and already swollen. Pressing my fingers against his neck, I felt the faint flutter of a pulse, and I said a tiny prayer.
Thank fucking hell
He began to moan, his body trying to rouse from unconsciousness, and I leaned over him. “It’s going to be okay,” I said, pressing my palm against his forehead. “I’m a doctor. I’m going to help you.”
He moaned again, trying to open his eyes, but I laid my other hand over his heart. “Don’t try to move. Hold tight, okay? I’m going to get some help.”
Rising to my feet, I sprinted into the ER and practically screamed at the assembled patients, doctors, and nurses who were bustling around with their own problems. Three in the morning was still a nightmare in here, but it was a nightmare any time of the day…just the depth varied.
I need some help here!
what they say about the light at the end of the tunnel?
Well, it’s all bullshit. There is no light…just bitter disappointment.
My eyes opened a crack and light flooded in, blinding me. I was drowning…numb and cold.
Blinking, a white ceiling came into view. I didn’t recognize it, and for a moment, I wasn’t sure what my name was or why I was here. Or where
It took me a moment to work out I was Josh Caplin. I was a fighter. I fought for money.
The last thing I remembered was toeing the line in the cage at The Underground. It didn’t look anything like this white ceiling. That place was a shithole, but it was the only shithole I belonged in.
I was too tired to give a fuck. Darkness seemed like a good idea. Better than struggling. Better than trying to fight.
Yeah, darkness sounded real fucking good.
he cage felt different tonight
The crowd was fidgeting, and the air crackled like it was charged with electricity.
Maybe because an old champ had come back for a taste of blood. Ash “Maverick” Fuller stood before me in the cage, looking every bit the formidable beast everyone had made him out to be. If this was the real world, he’d be in the heavyweight division, and I’d be down in the lightweight, but we weren’t. We were in the asshole of the fighting world where none of that shit mattered.
The Underground wasn’t made for sunshine and rainbows. No, it was blood…and glory for those who made it out the other end.
Maverick’s gaze met mine as he toed the line opposite me. The tattoo that covered his entire chest and torso made him look meaner than he actually was, which only served to psych his opponents out. Shaking my head, I didn’t let it get to me. Being lighter meant I had some advantages. The rest of that stuff was just mind games—the only ones I wanted to play were strategic and in the moment.
“Maverick,” I said with a polite but curt nod.
Maverick grunted like an arrogant asshole, and I narrowed my eyes.
Max held up his hand, eyeballing us. “You know the rules. Give ‘em a good show.”
He dropped his hand, and I lunged, not giving Maverick a chance to strike first, but I’d underestimated the hulking giant. My right fist flew too high as I went for his temple, and he ducked. When his shoulder smashed into my chest, I gasped for air, stumbling to the side.
I was forced off balance at Maverick’s back, and I didn’t have enough momentum to bring myself back and strike. Like lightning, he twisted and kicked.
His shin slammed into my stomach, and I fell flat on my back, the lights overhead blinding me. Desperately, I kicked out, sweeping my foot, hoping I’d bring the fucker down. When my ankle connected with flesh, I lunged as the mountain was toppled.
Raising my fist trying to get a KO, he bucked and pushed at me. Then I was falling back again.
My vision was filled with nothing but Maverick’s fist, and I winced as it connected, pain splintering through my cheekbone. Kicking and struggling, I tried to free myself, but he had me pinned under his superior weight.
The crowd roared, chanting for a KO, feeding the adrenaline of the beast that held me in place like a helpless little lamb.
I wasn’t weak
With a roar, I shoved him hard, and he fell to the side. A split second later, my foot was colliding with the fucker’s stomach. He curled in on himself like a little girl, and as I stood over him, he reached out—his hand like lightning—grasped my ankle, and yanked.
I fell hard, harder than before, and my head collided with the concrete. Stars exploded in my vision, my ears roaring with the sound of blood rushing through my veins.
While I was dazed and confused, Maverick dived on me.
His fist smashed into my temple, and I grunted in pain, the reflex hurting my pride more than my head. I tried to grapple, but I couldn’t grasp his arms…there was too much blood. His or mine? Probably mine.
Maverick hit me again, his fist smashing into my face. Was it my eye? My jaw? My cheekbone? I didn’t know. Everything was numb, but still, I fought. My stupid fucking pride was stopping me from tapping out. I’d never quit.
He hit me again. It was like he’d lost his grip on reality.
And he hit me again.
I couldn’t move. I couldn’t get out of the way. I was totally fucked.
I spat blood onto the floor, my vision blurring, my entire body feeling numb and very far away.
Then darkness. Just never-ending darkness. It sucked me under, and I was glad because darkness was better than this.
that white ceiling again.
I almost regretted surfacing from the black because it was the best bloody sleep I’d had in my entire life. I wanted to go back. The darkness was uncomplicated and
. Much better than this futile life bullshit.
My eyes were scratchy like they’d dried out, and my throat and tongue felt like I’d swallowed a pile of dirt.
They called me Steel. Strong, dependable, hard as nails. I was meant to hit like a sledgehammer and cut through flesh like a sword, but right now, I felt rusty as fucking shit.
Putting two and two together, I realized I was in a hospital. The air stunk like disinfectant and stale piss. The sounds of people moving around were muffled by the curtain that had been swept around the end of the bed, giving my pathetic ass privacy from prying eyes.
Something didn’t feel right, but I palmed it off as being groggy from whatever drugs I’d been pumped with. My limbs felt heavy, I could hardly open my eyes, and my strength—which I always had shitloads of—was nonexistent.
Turning my head, everything was white and pale blue. Tubes and cords ran from my body into alien looking machines that beeped as they recorded whatever it was they were used for. A woman stood beside the bed, checking the buttons and screens, her fiery red hair tied up into a messy ponytail. A nurse probably.
A nurse with fire for hair
I breathed deeply, my throat feeling like sandpaper as oxygen rasped along it and into my lungs. Coughing, I closed my eyes as they began to water.
“Here,” a female voice said. “Have some water.” A straw pressed against my dry lips. “Just a little at a time, okay?”
I sipped, the water going down like a dream, and I glanced back up at the nurse. What was her name? Ginger? Maybe it was Embers, Sparks, Firecracker…
Looking down at myself, I realized I must look like absolute shit. I couldn’t see my face, but I reckon it was black from the pounding I took. The hospital gown wasn’t very fashionable, but at least it was something.
“Welcome back, Mr. Caplin,” the nurse said, putting the cup of water onto the table. “I’m Dr. Walsh. I’m your orthopedic surgeon, and I’m the lucky person in charge of those broken bones of yours.”
Doctor? I felt like a dick for assuming she was a nurse even though she couldn’t read my mind. I just blinked at her, waiting for the spiel.
She stood at the end of the bed and smiled at me, her pretty brown eyes—no, they weren’t quite brown, maybe honey—ran over my body as she fumbled for the silver pen in her coat pocket.
Rolling up the end of the blanket, she exposed my bare feet and said, “Tell me if you can feel this.”
She moved the pen, but there was nothing. Frowning, I shook my head. I didn’t like where this was going.
Moving to the other foot, she said, “How about this?”
I shook my head again, and she moved up each leg with the same result. It wasn’t until she hit my waist that I felt the silver pen poking into my skin.
Dr. Walsh lowered her gaze, covering me with the blanket again, and for a split second, I saw the concern in her features. Fuck concern, there was nothing from the waist down.
. Considering I was a fighter and a man who loved using his cock, this was bad news. The baddest fucking news on the airwaves.
“You’re pretty battered and bruised, Mr. Caplin,” she said, not even mentioning the fact that I was paralyzed. “You’ve got multiple breaks in your ribs and arm, your jaw has a hairline fracture, and your spine… Well, there is significant swelling that is placing pressure on your spinal cord. We won’t know much until it’s had a chance to settle.” She shook her head, her eyes brimming with sadness. “They just left you out on the footpath.”
“What?” I blinked hard at her. As if not being able to feel my cock wasn’t bad enough, those assholes had left me on the street? I blinked again until all I could see was the doctor’s pretty red hair.
“Some friends you have,” she said, shaking her head. “At least they put you on a spinal board. That saved your life.” She flipped open the chart that had been hooked onto the end of the bed and scanned the mumbo jumbo inside.
“I can’t feel my legs,” I said, something inside of me wanting to have her full attention again.
“I know,” she replied, glancing back at me. “Right now, it’s a waiting game. Until that swelling subsides, we just don’t know…”
“Don’t know if I’m permanently paralyzed or not?” I asked, narrowing my eyes.
She looked away. Hooking the chart back onto the railing at the foot of the bed, she slipped her pen back into her breast pocket. She took a few steps until she was standing beside me, her hand coming to rest on my shoulder. I felt
“What were you doing, Mr. Caplin? Do you remember what happened to you?”
I’d gotten the shit beat out of me at an illegal underground fight, but I wasn’t a total idiot. Telling her would land me right in the path of the cops and even bigger trouble with The Underground. The least of my problems was being fucking paralyzed if that happened. Dr. Walsh was trying to empathize with me, bring herself down to my level so I trusted her. Problem was, I never trusted anyone in my entire life.
I turned my head and stared out the window at the blue sky beyond. There were no clouds, just endless color.
The doctor’s hand fell away, and her white coat rustled as she moved away from the bed.
“We’ll be doing some tests later today to further determine the best treatment plan for you,” she said. “Now that you’ve had some time to rest, we’ll take you down for an additional CT scan on your spine to make sure nothing else is happening.”
Fuck this. Fuck my life. “How long have I been here?”
Wasting away in a hospital bed like a fucking failure
“A couple of days.”
“Days?” I asked, turning my gaze back to her with a scowl.
“You’re very lucky to be talking to me right now,” she said, reacting to my pissed-off aura. “Most patients who come into the ER with your type of injuries aren’t as lucky. We need to intubate most of them and cut open their skulls. Just remember that. Most people don’t have all expenses paid private rooms, either.”
She straightened up, smoothing down her coat and her frosty exterior.
All expenses paid?
I frowned, my head starting to ache.
“Does your head ache?” she asked, moving closer. She smelled nice, and up close where I could see her better, she wasn’t pretty…she was beautiful. If I could feel my legs, I’d be chasing her but not in this life.
I narrowed my eyes, fully intending to take the headache and just deal with it.
“Now is not the time to depend on your pride, Mr. Caplin,” she said curtly. “Does your head hurt?”
“Yeah,” I said through a sigh. The doctor with fire for hair had bite in her. Sparks would suit her if I were cocky enough to call her that to her face. “A bit.”
“I’ll have a nurse come in and give you something to help.” I was almost disappointed she wouldn’t be around to stick me with a needle, even if she was a little on the bitchy side. ”Rest up, Mr. Caplin. We’ll be back to see you later.”
I watched her move away and disappear behind the curtain, the scent of her perfume lingering in her wake—citrus.
Closing my eyes, it felt like only a second had passed when I felt someone leaning over me. Glancing up, I couldn’t help sighing when I saw an older nurse brandishing a syringe standing beside the bed. She wasn’t exactly in my age range, and she wasn’t exactly Dr. Walsh.
“What?” the nurse asked, shoving the needle into one of the tubes that were sticking out of me. “Expecting someone prettier?”