Authors: Colleen Helme
A SHELBY NICHOLS ADVENTURE
Copyright © 2011 by Colleen Helme.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at the address below.
Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Locales and public names are sometimes used for atmospheric purposes. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to businesses, companies, events, institutions, or locales is completely coincidental.
Book Cover Art by Damonza.com Copyright © 2013 Colleen Helme
Book Layout ©2013 BookDesignTemplates.com
Carrots/ Colleen Helme. – 2
To my daughters
Erin and Melissa
SHELBY NICHOLS ADVENTURES
Lie or Die
Secrets That Kill
Trapped by Revenge
Deep In Death
ROMANTIC FANTASY NOVELS
Flame of Destiny
I would like to thank my family for reading this book as a work in progress, and for your continued encouragement to finish the story. Especially like to thank Tom, for supporting and encouraging my creative nature. Thanks to my daughters, Erin and Melissa, for your excitement for my books and also sharing that enthusiasm with everyone you know. To Damon for the wonderful cover art! I love it! And last but not least to my fans whose wonderful comments and reviews keep me going. You’re the best!!
My life changed that day because I didn’t have any carrots.
I was driving home when the dark, threatening clouds that had been gathering all afternoon finally let loose, and it began to pour. It was April, so rain wasn’t unexpected, but it couldn’t have come at a worse time. All I wanted to do was go home and relax, but first I had to stop at the grocery store and pick up some carrots. I was planning on making chicken soup for dinner, but I didn’t have any carrots, and everyone knows you can’t make chicken soup without carrots.
Luckily, the grocery store was on my way home. I pulled into the parking lot, but all the close spots were taken, and I ended up parking so far away that I knew I’d get soaked. Did I really need those carrots? I turned off the engine and without the wipers going, I could barely see out the windshield. I waited a few minutes, hoping the rain would let up, but when it didn’t, I knew I’d have make a run for it.
Gathering my courage, I took a deep breath and jumped out of the car. I made a mad dash for the doors, and was nearly there when a massive puddle blocked my way. I was running too fast to stop, so I jumped. I barely made it over the center of the puddle before my feet splashed dirty water halfway up my pants and soaked my shoes. My breath caught at the sudden wetness and I stifled a curse. By the time I reached the doors, not only were my shoes completely drenched, but the splash made it look like I’d wet my pants.
Totally humiliated, I had two choices. Either go back to the car and admit defeat, or take it like a man. I grabbed a shopping cart and marched into the store. Now that I’d made it this far, there was no turning back. It didn’t matter that my shoes were squeaking, and water was trickling down my neck. Or that my hair was now plastered to my skull, and water was dripping from my nose. Come hell or high water, I was going to get those blasted carrots.
I got to the produce aisle and triumphantly placed the carrots into my cart and stood there. I did it. So why was I feeling let down? Where was the euphoria of accomplishing what I’d set out to do? Then I realized that I’d been through all that for a measly bunch of carrots. What was I thinking? I’d risked life and limb for this? I wiped the rain from my face, and pushed the hair back from my forehead. There had to be something else I needed.
I suddenly had a hankering for some Hostess Cupcakes. Yummy chocolate goodness with creamy whipped filling inside. Now was my chance to grab a box. I could probably hide them easily enough in the back of the kitchen cupboard with the pots and pans. No one but me would know where they were. While I was at it, why not pick up some more Diet Coke? I hated to run out, and it never hurt to have extra on hand.
When I reached the check-out stand, I was feeling lots better. This hadn’t been a wasted trip after all. My cart was at least half full. As I placed the items on the black conveyor belt, I noticed the checker had raised her eyebrows. Sometimes the checker can tell what I’m making for dinner from what’s in my cart, but not tonight. She rang up my items; carrots, celery, Diet Coke, cupcakes, and potato chips. Then she gave me one of those knowing looks while she scanned the Twizzlers, Cheetos, and candy bars. With a guilty flush, I quickly explained that most of it was for my kids and their friends. It was the truth, but from her smile, I wasn’t sure she believed me. Maybe I had gone a little overboard in the unhealthy foods department.
As she placed the bags into my shopping cart, somebody screamed. My heart skipped a beat, and I flinched when an earsplitting boom came from the area near the bank. I stared in astonished disbelief as a man fell heavily to the floor, blood oozing from his chest. As he fell, he grabbed the rubber mask from the face of the man beside him, and I realized that man had a gun.
Another shot went off, and everyone scattered for cover. Everyone except me. My brain seemed to be moving in slow motion, and I stood there with my mouth open like a dummy. How could something like this be happening in my grocery store? The man with the gun pivoted and saw me staring at him. His eyes blazed with demented zeal, and he fired.
Next thing I knew, someone was holding a cloth to my head and murmuring something I couldn’t make out. His face was white, and when he spoke, his voice shook. I tried to ask him what was wrong, but the words just wouldn’t come out of my mouth. What was I doing on the floor? What was that awful noise?
I finally recognized the wailing sound of sirens. That seemed to jolt my senses awake, and I reached for my head. It suddenly hurt. I started to sit up and smashed the potato chip bag with my elbow. The bag exploded and sent chips flying everywhere.
The man helping me was horrified. I tried to tell him that I hadn’t meant to make such a mess, but he wouldn’t listen. Instead, he kept trying to push me down, but there was no way I wanted to lay my hurting head on those greasy chips. His face turned a bright shade of red before he finally quit trying and left to get help.
Safe from the potato chips, I sat up and caught my breath when the world started to tilt. Maybe sitting up hadn’t been such a good idea. I concentrated on taking deep breaths, and was rewarded when everything came into focus. Good. That had to mean I wasn’t hurt too bad, right?
My relief turned to panic when I felt something trickling down the back of my neck. It was warm and sticky, with a faint coppery smell, and my stomach turned into a queasy knot. I clutched the cloth a little tighter and swallowed.
Just then, a young man knelt beside me. He wore a paramedic’s uniform, and his eyes held quiet confidence. His calm manner soothed my racing heart, especially when he told me I was going to be all right. That was when my eyes got a little misty and it was hard to swallow past the lump in my throat. He didn’t laugh or seem embarrassed by my tears, and his concern was so sweet, that I almost started to cry in earnest. Since I didn’t want to become a blubbering idiot, I concentrated on getting up off the messy floor.
“Whoa, what do you think you’re doing?” he asked. “You should stay there until we make sure you’re stabilized, and then we’ll load you onto a gurney.”
Load me? He made it sound like a monumental task. Like I was a big sack of potatoes or something. A crazy fear came over me that if anyone tried to pick me up they’d stagger, or groan or something. Maybe even pull a muscle. How embarrassing would that be? Not that I was overweight or anything, but I wasn’t as slim as I used to be. “That’s okay. I’m really not feeling so bad. It’s just a little knock on the head. There’s no reason why I can’t walk to the gurney.”
His mouth quirked and he started to argue, but he didn’t have much of a say in the matter when I stood up. His arm came around my waist to steady me, and I was grateful for his help. He was stronger and bigger than I first thought, and when he smiled encouragingly, I started feeling better. Maybe he could have picked me up after all.
After sitting down, I realized I was still a little shaky, and it had nothing to do with him. At least I didn’t think it did. He urged me to lie down, but I felt silly lying down when I wasn’t hurt that bad.
He pursed his lips in disapproval, and I was just about to relent when my attention was drawn to the man lying on the floor. Paramedics surrounded him, and were frantically working to save his life. An oxygen mask covered his face and several white bandages on his chest were soaked in blood. They inserted an IV in his arm, and when they lifted him onto the gurney, the rubber mask fell out of his hand. My stomach clenched, and I didn’t feel so good anymore.
“Okay, I’m ready here. Let’s see the damage.”
I gratefully turned my attention to the paramedic beside me. He had little rubber gloves on his hands, and medical packages laid out ready to use. He gently moved my hand holding the cloth from my head, and I blanched at the sight of all that red blood. My blood. I swayed, but the paramedic must have figured something like that would happen, and with relative ease, maneuvered me to lie flat on the gurney. He was good.
“Don’t worry. Head wounds usually bleed a lot, but you’re going to be fine. The bullet just grazed your scalp. You’ll need a few stitches, and you’ll have a headache and a little pain, but nothing serious. You’re very lucky.” He staunched the bleeding with a bandage and began wrapping it around my head. “We’ll get you to the emergency room, and the doctors will take care of you.”
I nodded, grateful I’d taken a shower and washed my hair that morning. Then what he said hit me. The bullet? I’d been hit by a bullet? In the head? Oh my gosh! And they were taking me to the hospital? I blurted the first thing I thought of. “Where’s my purse? I can’t go anywhere without my purse.”
Why was he smiling? “Is this it?”
He held it up so I could see it, and my mouth dropped open. “Yeah. How did you get it?”
“Someone brought it over. Here, I’ll put it next to you so you won’t lose it. Then we’ll put you in the ambulance and take you to the hospital.”
“Okay, thanks.” I got cold all over and started to shake. The realization that I had nearly died washed over me with freezing clarity. That crazy bank robber had fired a gun and shot me in the head! I could be dead right now! I tried to calm down, but the shaking seemed to get worse.
The paramedic patted my arm with concern, and then spoke over my head to someone. “I think she’s going into shock.” For the first time, I realized there were several people standing around me. One of them put a blanket over me, and took my wrist to check my pulse.
“I’m going to give you something to help you relax, all right?”
I nodded gratefully and hardly felt the sting in my arm. A few moments later, the drug took effect, and I was able to settle down. When they started wheeling me to the waiting ambulance my fear dissipated, and I felt a lot better. It had even quit raining, and the air had a nice, fresh smell to it.
Almost to the ambulance, a man in a dark suit came to my side. He smiled encouragingly, and two big dimples magically appeared in his cheeks. I’d never seen dimples like that. When he started to talk they wobbled in and out of his cheeks like little tornados. He looked at me expectantly, and I realized I hadn’t caught a thing he’d said.
He smiled again and repeated his question. “My name is Detective Harris. Did you see the man who shot you? We were hoping someone got a good look at him.”
“Oh…yeah…I did.” When I didn’t elaborate, the detective said something about talking to me at the hospital. “Sure thing,” I said, or at least that’s what I tried to say. It came out more like, “Shrthn.”
I strained to get another look at his dimples while they loaded me into the ambulance. He kept smiling and those dimples started to spin. I shifted my position to keep him in sight while they closed the ambulance doors. My elbow slipped and I almost fell off the gurney. The paramedic helped straighten me out, and put a pillow under my head. Before I knew it, I was so relaxed that my eyes wouldn’t stay open, and I dozed off.
I woke to the glare of bright lights, and realized I was in the emergency room. Two men in green scrubs and funny hair nets wheeled me into a curtained area that gave the impression of privacy, but allowed me to hear everything else that was going on. It was a little disconcerting. A nurse came in and introduced herself, then took my blood pressure and pulse.
When she was done, she asked me about my health insurance. Luckily, I knew right where my purse was, and rummaged through it until I came up with the card. Things were still a little fuzzy, and when she asked me who my next of kin was, I panicked.
“You’d better let me call my husband. I don’t want him to worry.” Christopher had enough on his plate without me adding to it. He put in long, hard hours at his law firm, and usually stayed late, so I knew I could catch him there.
The nurse wouldn’t let me near the phone. She assured me they could place the call, and after thinking it through I relented. Besides what could I say other than, “Hi honey, I’ve been shot in the head, can you come to the hospital and get me?” He’d probably think it was a joke, and I was only saying that to get him to come home.
The doctor was gentle and stitched me up pretty fast. The only thing I didn’t like was when he kept saying how lucky I was. Just an inch or more over, and my brains would be mush. I moved my eyes to look at him when he said that, but his lips weren’t moving. “Did you just say something?” I asked.
He smiled, shaking his head. “Just a few more stitches and I’ll be done. I know this has been a difficult experience, but you’re doing great. Just hold still a little longer.”
That was strange. Things must have affected me more than I thought. My head was numb but it still hurt, and I did feel a little out of it. That probably explained it.
“There, all done.” The doctor smiled, and I let out my breath in relief. Just then, the nurse opened the curtain and there was Chris, looking stoic and scared at the same time. My heart caught like it always did when I saw him unexpectedly. His dark, wavy hair was slightly mussed, like he’d run his hands through it several times. His face was so pale that it looked like he’d forgotten to shave, and his deep brown eyes seemed to gleam with extra moisture. He cleared his throat and smiled before coming forward, and taking my hand.
“Hey there.” He was trying to sound casual, but I could hear the underlying stress in his voice. “How’s she doing?” he asked the doctor.
“Great. We’re all done here. I’m going to give you a prescription for the pain and some instructions on how to care for the stitches. I’ll be back in a moment.”