Saving Beck by Courtney Cole ~ Waiting on Wednesday

Reminiscent of the beloved novels by Mary Kubica and Jodi Picoult comes a chilling portrayal of a son’s addiction and its harrowing effects on both him and his mother from New York Times bestselling author Courtney Cole. SAVING BECK releases July 17, 2018. Check out the teaser below, and pre-order your copy of SAVING BECK today!

There comes a time when offering your life for your child’s doesn’t work, when you realize that it’ll never be enough. 

The cold needle in his warm vein was a welcome comfort to my son at first. But then it became the monster that kept us apart. 

Heroin lied, and my son believed. It took him to a world where the last year didn’t happen, to a place where his father was still alive. What Beck didn’t understand was that it couldn’t bring his father back from the dead. It couldn’t take away his pain, not permanently. 

You think it can’t happen to you, that your kids, your family, will never be in this situation. 
I thought that too. But you’re wrong. 

Step into our world, and see for yourself. 
Watch my golden boy become a slave to this raging epidemic. Watch me try and save him. 

Drug addiction comes with a price. 
Trust me, you’re not equipped to pay it. 

Don’t miss this heart wrenching, evocative, yet hopeful novel—it will leave you forever changed.

***  PREORDER NOW ~ RELEASES JULY 17, 2018  ***
Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Audible

The hospital is a beacon of light and hope as we pull in. I barely remember to put my car in park before I jump out and I leave it in the middle of the lane, the tires wrenched haphazardly toward the curb.

“Ma’am, you can’t park there,” a guy in a security uniform says with his fake badge, but I don’t answer. I toss him my keys and push my way to the doors, and that’s when I see him.

My son.

They’ve pulled him out of the ambulance, and he’s so still, so white. He’s got the body of a man and the face of a boy, and he’s got vomit in his hair. One hand dangles over the edge of the gurney, orange flecks dripping from his fingers to the floor, but no one notices, no one cares.

“Beck,” I breathe, and he doesn’t open his eyes. “Beck,” I say louder, as loud as I can. His mouth is slack, but he’s not dead, he can’t be dead because someone is pumping his heart with her fist. She’s running next to the gurney, and she’s pounding on his heart, making it beat.

“Coming through,” she yells at the doors, and there is a team of people working on him. They’re frantic, and that’s not good.

I chase after them, through the emergency room, through the people, but someone grabs me at a giant set of double-doors, the gateway to the important rooms.

“You can’t go in there,” a nurse tells me.

“That’s my son,” I try to tell her, but she doesn’t care. “Beck,” I scream, and I try to see through the windows, but I can’t because he’s gone. “I love you, Beck. Stay here. Stay here.”

The nurse grasps my arm, and I can’t stand anymore. My legs are tired and the adrenaline… it numbs me. I collapse beside her and she tries to hold me up, but she can’t… I’m on the ground.

My face is wet, when did I start crying?

“You have to save my son,” I beg her, my fingers curled into her arm. I stare into her eyes. Hers are green, ringed with blue, and she looks away. Something about her seems so familiar, something about those eyes.

“We’ll try, ma’am,” she says uncertainly. It’s the uncertainty that kills me. “We’ll do everything we can. I’m going to take you to a quiet room, and give you a blanket. Is there anyone I can call for you?”

I shake my head. “No. I already called my sister.”

“Okay,” the nurse says quietly and her name tag says Jessica. She takes me to a waiting room, a quiet private one, the ones they use when the outcome might not be good. I know that because I’ve been here before.

I swallow hard and she puts a cup of coffee in my hand.

As she does, she pushes a stray hair out of her face and her bracelet catches my eye. A simple chain with a silver dolphin on it. I’ve seen it before.

“You were here the night my husband was brought in,” I realize slowly. “Weren’t you? Do you remember me?”

It was a year ago. A year, two months… I check my watch… six days and twenty-two hours ago. Of course she doesn’t remember me.

But Jessica nods.

“I’m so sorry about your husband,” she tells me now, her voice quiet and thick. “I swear to you, we did everything we could.”

“I know,” I tell her. Because I do. The accident was so bad, there’s no way anyone could’ve survived. Except for Beck. He lived. But Matt...his injuries were insurmountable. That’s what the doctor told me that night.

I stare at the door, and this is the same room and that is the same door, and this is the same blue-tiled floor. For a minute, I’m back in that moment, and the doctor is coming in. I’d waited for hours and his face was so grave and I knew, I knew, before he could utter a word.

I shook my head because I didn’t want to hear what was coming next, but he spoke anyway.

Matt’s injuries were insurmountable, he’d said. We did everything we could.

But everything wasn’t enough, and my husband died.

“Is it a different doctor tonight?” I ask suddenly. “I need a different doctor. One who can save my son.”

I know it’s illogical. I know it was never the doctor’s fault, but it doesn’t matter because Jessica is nodding. “It’s a different doctor tonight,” she tells me. “Dr. Grant, and he’s very, very good.”

“Okay,” I whisper. “Okay.”

“If you need anything, you tell me,” Jessica says and I can see that she means it. She likes me. Or she feels sorry for me. It doesn’t matter which. I nod and she’s gone, and I’m alone.

Just like I was a year ago, and just like that night all I can do is pace.

I’m a caged mama wolf and there’s nothing I can do, but I know that if I stop moving, Beck might die. My energy is attached to his energy. I have to move. It all depends on me.

So I walk in circles.

I walk six paces, over the six white tiles, then I turn, taking three steps over the blue. I tread back six paces over the white, and then turn again, taking three more over the blue.

I will not stop, Beck. I won’t fail you. I won’t.

It becomes rhythmic, and I match my breaths with my steps. I’m a machine, a time-keeper, a being made of clock-work as I walk in circles, marking time. Every step I take, Beck is still alive. I feel it in my heart. It’s all up to me.

Courtney Cole is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling novelist who would eat mythology for breakfast if she could.

She has a degree in Business, but has since discovered that corporate America is not nearly as fun to live in as fictional worlds.

Courtney was born and raised in rural Kansas, but has since migrated south. She now lives in Florida and writes beneath palm trees.

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Saving Beck by Courtney Cole ~ EXCERPT REVEAL

Reminiscent of the beloved novels by Mary Kubica and Jodi Picoult comes a chilling portrayal of a son’s addiction and its harrowing effects on both him and his mother from New York Times bestselling author Courtney Cole. SAVING BECK releases July 17, 2018. Check out the teaser below, and pre-order your copy of SAVING BECK today!

There comes a time when offering your life for your child’s doesn’t work, when you realize that it’ll never be enough. 

The cold needle in his warm vein was a welcome comfort to my son at first. But then it became the monster that kept us apart. 

Heroin lied, and my son believed. It took him to a world where the last year didn’t happen, to a place where his father was still alive. What Beck didn’t understand was that it couldn’t bring his father back from the dead. It couldn’t take away his pain, not permanently. 

You think it can’t happen to you, that your kids, your family, will never be in this situation. 
I thought that too. But you’re wrong. 

Step into our world, and see for yourself. 
Watch my golden boy become a slave to this raging epidemic. Watch me try and save him. 

Drug addiction comes with a price. 
Trust me, you’re not equipped to pay it. 

Don’t miss this heart wrenching, evocative, yet hopeful novel—it will leave you forever changed.

***  PREORDER NOW ~ RELEASES JULY 17, 2018  ***
Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Audible

The hospital is a beacon of light and hope as we pull in. I barely remember to put my car in park before I jump out and I leave it in the middle of the lane, the tires wrenched haphazardly toward the curb.

“Ma’am, you can’t park there,” a guy in a security uniform says with his fake badge, but I don’t answer. I toss him my keys and push my way to the doors, and that’s when I see him.

My son.

They’ve pulled him out of the ambulance, and he’s so still, so white. He’s got the body of a man and the face of a boy, and he’s got vomit in his hair. One hand dangles over the edge of the gurney, orange flecks dripping from his fingers to the floor, but no one notices, no one cares.

“Beck,” I breathe, and he doesn’t open his eyes. “Beck,” I say louder, as loud as I can. His mouth is slack, but he’s not dead, he can’t be dead because someone is pumping his heart with her fist. She’s running next to the gurney, and she’s pounding on his heart, making it beat.

“Coming through,” she yells at the doors, and there is a team of people working on him. They’re frantic, and that’s not good.

I chase after them, through the emergency room, through the people, but someone grabs me at a giant set of double-doors, the gateway to the important rooms.

“You can’t go in there,” a nurse tells me.

“That’s my son,” I try to tell her, but she doesn’t care. “Beck,” I scream, and I try to see through the windows, but I can’t because he’s gone. “I love you, Beck. Stay here. Stay here.”

The nurse grasps my arm, and I can’t stand anymore. My legs are tired and the adrenaline… it numbs me. I collapse beside her and she tries to hold me up, but she can’t… I’m on the ground.

My face is wet, when did I start crying?

“You have to save my son,” I beg her, my fingers curled into her arm. I stare into her eyes. Hers are green, ringed with blue, and she looks away. Something about her seems so familiar, something about those eyes.

“We’ll try, ma’am,” she says uncertainly. It’s the uncertainty that kills me. “We’ll do everything we can. I’m going to take you to a quiet room, and give you a blanket. Is there anyone I can call for you?”

I shake my head. “No. I already called my sister.”

“Okay,” the nurse says quietly and her name tag says Jessica. She takes me to a waiting room, a quiet private one, the ones they use when the outcome might not be good. I know that because I’ve been here before.

I swallow hard and she puts a cup of coffee in my hand.

As she does, she pushes a stray hair out of her face and her bracelet catches my eye. A simple chain with a silver dolphin on it. I’ve seen it before.

“You were here the night my husband was brought in,” I realize slowly. “Weren’t you? Do you remember me?”

It was a year ago. A year, two months… I check my watch… six days and twenty-two hours ago. Of course she doesn’t remember me.

But Jessica nods.

“I’m so sorry about your husband,” she tells me now, her voice quiet and thick. “I swear to you, we did everything we could.”

“I know,” I tell her. Because I do. The accident was so bad, there’s no way anyone could’ve survived. Except for Beck. He lived. But Matt...his injuries were insurmountable. That’s what the doctor told me that night.

I stare at the door, and this is the same room and that is the same door, and this is the same blue-tiled floor. For a minute, I’m back in that moment, and the doctor is coming in. I’d waited for hours and his face was so grave and I knew, I knew, before he could utter a word.

I shook my head because I didn’t want to hear what was coming next, but he spoke anyway.

Matt’s injuries were insurmountable, he’d said. We did everything we could.

But everything wasn’t enough, and my husband died.

“Is it a different doctor tonight?” I ask suddenly. “I need a different doctor. One who can save my son.”

I know it’s illogical. I know it was never the doctor’s fault, but it doesn’t matter because Jessica is nodding. “It’s a different doctor tonight,” she tells me. “Dr. Grant, and he’s very, very good.”

“Okay,” I whisper. “Okay.”

“If you need anything, you tell me,” Jessica says and I can see that she means it. She likes me. Or she feels sorry for me. It doesn’t matter which. I nod and she’s gone, and I’m alone.

Just like I was a year ago, and just like that night all I can do is pace.

I’m a caged mama wolf and there’s nothing I can do, but I know that if I stop moving, Beck might die. My energy is attached to his energy. I have to move. It all depends on me.

So I walk in circles.

I walk six paces, over the six white tiles, then I turn, taking three steps over the blue. I tread back six paces over the white, and then turn again, taking three more over the blue.

I will not stop, Beck. I won’t fail you. I won’t.

It becomes rhythmic, and I match my breaths with my steps. I’m a machine, a time-keeper, a being made of clock-work as I walk in circles, marking time. Every step I take, Beck is still alive. I feel it in my heart. It’s all up to me.

Courtney Cole is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling novelist who would eat mythology for breakfast if she could.

She has a degree in Business, but has since discovered that corporate America is not nearly as fun to live in as fictional worlds.

Courtney was born and raised in rural Kansas, but has since migrated south. She now lives in Florida and writes beneath palm trees.

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Saving Beck by Courtney Cole ~ WAITING ON WEDNESDAY

Reminiscent of the beloved novels by Mary Kubica and Jodi Picoult comes a chilling portrayal of a son’s addiction and its harrowing effects on both him and his mother from New York Times bestselling author Courtney Cole. SAVING BECK releases July 17, 2018. Check out the teaser below, and pre-order your copy of SAVING BECK today!

There comes a time when offering your life for your child’s doesn’t work, when you realize that it’ll never be enough. 

The cold needle in his warm vein was a welcome comfort to my son at first. But then it became the monster that kept us apart. 

Heroin lied, and my son believed. It took him to a world where the last year didn’t happen, to a place where his father was still alive. What Beck didn’t understand was that it couldn’t bring his father back from the dead. It couldn’t take away his pain, not permanently. 

You think it can’t happen to you, that your kids, your family, will never be in this situation. 
I thought that too. But you’re wrong. 

Step into our world, and see for yourself. 
Watch my golden boy become a slave to this raging epidemic. Watch me try and save him. 

Drug addiction comes with a price. 
Trust me, you’re not equipped to pay it. 

Don’t miss this heart wrenching, evocative, yet hopeful novel—it will leave you forever changed.

***  PREORDER NOW ~ RELEASES JULY 17, 2018  ***
Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Audible

Courtney Cole is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling novelist who would eat mythology for breakfast if she could.

She has a degree in Business, but has since discovered that corporate America is not nearly as fun to live in as fictional worlds.

Courtney was born and raised in rural Kansas, but has since migrated south. She now lives in Florida and writes beneath palm trees.

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Such Dark Things by Courtney Evan Tate ~ Excerpt & Blog Tour

From New York Times bestseller Courtney Cole, writing as Courtney Evan Tate, comes the psychological thriller that will keep readers up turning pages long into the night, SUCH DARK THINGS! “Written in breathless style, this page-turner relies on quick thrills, surprise twists…[for] readers seeking a fast entertaining tale…”(Publishers Weekly).Grab your copy of SUCH DARK THINGS today!

I thought I knew him. He thought he knew me. We were both wrong…

Dr. Corinne Cabot is living the American dream. She’s a successful ER physician in Chicago who’s married to a handsome husband. Together they live in a charming house in the suburbs. But appearances can be deceiving—and what no one can see is Corinne’s dark past. Troubling gaps in her memory mean she recalls little about a haunting event in her life years ago that changed everything.

She remembers only being in the house the night two people were found murdered. Her father was there, too. Now her father is in prison; she hasn’t been in contact in years. Repressing that terrifying memory has caused Corinne moments of paranoia and panic. Sometimes she thinks she sees things that aren’t there, hears words that haven’t been spoken. Or have they? She fears she may be losing her mind, unable to determine what’s real and what’s not.

So when she senses her husband’s growing distance, she thinks she’s imagining things. She writes her suspicions off to fatigue, overwork, anything to explain what she can’t accept—that her life really isn’t what it seems.

Amazon US | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

 

I scan through my texts.

None from Corinne. I’m oddly disappointed, even though she never texts me during the day. The ER keeps her too busy. But still. I thought she might text after this morning’s sex.

One from Michel.

How are you doing?

And several from a number I don’t recognize.

Hi there. It’s Zoe from Vilma’s.

Damn it.

I swallow, and I read her other texts.

You left your credit card at the café this morning.

Do you want to meet me so you can have it back ASAP?

I feel a jolt. First, fuck. I left my card someplace? I can’t even remember the last time I did that. How irresponsible. I practically don’t have a credit limit, so a thief could have a field day with it.

Second, how weird that she’s texting me. So weird.

I can just pick it up from Vilma in the morning, I answer. Thanks for letting me know.

I see the three bubbles on my text screen signifying that she is answering. So I wait without putting my phone down. The idea of who is on the other end of the phone gives me a jolt, a thrill, even though my initial thoughts about the girl weren’t flattering. She might have clear daddy issues, but she has an ass you could bounce a quarter off of. It strokes my ego that she’s texting me.

I actually have the card with me. I didn’t want anything to happen to it. I’m in town running errands. I could meet you for lunch?

Another jolt.

She wants to meet for lunch? Is this for real?

What a kind offer, I answer and my heart literally pounds. But I would never impose on you like that. If you’re working tomorrow, I’ll pick it up then.

There are three bubbles. She’s typing.

But nothing comes through.

I wait.

The three bubbles are still there, then they disappear.

Still nothing.

I can’t help but picture her in her overly-tight waitress uniform. The bright blue complemented her skin tone, and her tits were busting out of the top. The skirt was short, and it’s quite possible that she made it that way on purpose.

For a minute, being a red-blooded man, I picture that ass bent over a chair, her uniform skirt hitched up to her hips. Her lacy panties would be shoved to the side…and I think she’d be shaved.

I indulge for just a second, then I push the images out of my head. It’s a fantasy. That’s all.

I’m normal.

I love my wife.

I miss my wife.

Corinne is my world.

I jam my phone into my pocket as my door opens with my next patient.

“Mr. Ford,” I greet the elderly man in front of me, the one with OCD who is at this very moment wiping his feet on the carpet as he walks to wipe away all germs from his shoes. He does it a thousand times a day. “I’m so glad to see you. How have you been?”

He takes a seat in the chair across from me, careful to keep his right foot crossed over the left, and for the next hour, I’m immersed in the world of an obsessive man. This week, his new habit is stepping on a particular stair-step on his porch precisely four times every time he goes home.

We discuss coping mechanisms, and the chemical reasons that OCD could be at play in his brain, and when we’re nearly done, I find him staring at the portrait of Corinne and me sitting on my desk.

“You’re a lucky man,” he tells me, and his cloudy eyes are pensive. “I lost my Helen a decade ago. I haven’t been the same since.”

No, he hasn’t. His OCD emerged that year, when he was lost in grief.

“I am lucky,” I agree. “My wife is a brilliant woman.”

“She’s a looker, too,” Mr. Ford observes, and I try to see the picture through the fresh eyes of a stranger.

Corinne’s eyes are bright and blue, her hair long and blond. She’s thin, she’s trim, she’s tall. Her legs are long, her smile bright.

She is a looker. Sometimes I forget that.

Probably because I haven’t seen her in days and days.

I hide my stress. My patients don’t get to hear my very real and very human problems.

We finish our session and Mr. Ford leaves, and I wrap up my notes. When I’m finished, I’m surprised to realize that it’s lunchtime.

Ginny pokes her head in. “Hey, boss. I’m going out for lunch. Should I bring you something back?”

I could meet you for lunch?

Unbidden, the texted words flash through my mind, and guiltily, I push them away. Fuck, man. Not cool.

“I’m good,” I tell Ginny, and I think my words have a double meaning. I’m good. I don’t have straying thoughts about a woman who isn’t my wife. Not real straying thoughts.

Ginny leaves, and I grab my jacket, and as I do, my phone buzzes, and I think my wife might’ve texted me back.

I’m startled when I see that I’m wrong.

It’s not Corinne.

It’s a picture.

Of Zoe.

I was right. She’s shaved.

My heart thuds as I stare at the nude picture.

Her tits are big and full and her thumb is brushing her nipple, her other hand caressing her shaved vagina. Her eyes are big and turned to the camera in a sultry gaze, and she’s completely and absolutely naked.

Are you freaking kidding me?

I swallow hard, and it’s not like I haven’t been hit on before. I have. But this is different. It’s so blatant, so outrageous, and frankly, in some hidden and shameful spot, it turns me on.

Fuck, man.

I’m sorry, I’m married, I reply, typing with shocked wooden fingers.

Because I’m good. The stiffness in my crotch doesn’t count.

Three bubbles.

That’s fine, she answers. Do you want a girlfriend?

Sweet Jesus.

She can’t be serious. Is her generation so blatant and direct?

No, I answer. Sorry.

Three bubbles.

Hmm. We’ll see.

 

Courtney Cole is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling novelist who would eat mythology for breakfast if she could.

She has a degree in Business, but has since discovered that corporate America is not nearly as fun to live in as fictional worlds.

Courtney was born and raised in rural Kansas, but has since migrated south. She now lives in Florida and writes beneath palm trees.

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NEW RELEASE!! Such Dark Things by Courtney Evan Tate ~ Sarah A’s Review

I thought I knew him. He thought he knew me. We were both wrong…

Dr. Corinne Cabot is living the American dream. She’s a successful ER physician in Chicago who’s married to a handsome husband. Together they live in a charming house in the suburbs. But appearances can be deceiving—and what no one can see is Corinne’s dark past. Troubling gaps in her memory mean she recalls little about a haunting event in her life years ago that changed everything.

She remembers only being in the house the night two people were found murdered. Her father was there, too. Now her father is in prison; she hasn’t been in contact in years. Repressing that terrifying memory has caused Corinne moments of paranoia and panic. Sometimes she thinks she sees things that aren’t there, hears words that haven’t been spoken. Or have they? She fears she may be losing her mind, unable to determine what’s real and what’s not.

So when she senses her husband’s growing distance, she thinks she’s imagining things. She writes her suspicions off to fatigue, overwork, anything to explain what she can’t accept—that her life really isn’t what it seems.

Amazon US | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

Two stars as a psychological thriller
Four stars as a romantic thriller

Such Dark Things is touted as a psychological thriller, and it is.  Kind of.  While the genre isn’t what I primarily read in, I do read a fair few psychological thrillers, and this book just didn’t quite fit in with them.  There was a little too much concentration on the interpersonal relationships for it to be completely out of the realm of romance, which is fine for me, but if you’re looking for a true thriller, Such Dark Things just doesn’t quite meet the mark.

Such Dark Things is a standalone romantic thriller, in my opinion.  There are plenty of psychological elements to it, but they tend to take on more of a supporting role to the other themes in the book.  It is written in dual first-person perspective, with dueling timelines, narrated by Jude and Corinne.

The plot of this book had amazing potential.  It had more secrets than I could imagine, more violence and fear than I would want to deal with in real life.  Corinne’s cracks were so large you could feel all the soft gooey parts of her desperately trying to escape from her from the beginning of the book.  In those first few chapters I had great hope for this book and, while it didn’t meet the expectations I had for it, I still quite enjoyed it; just for different reasons.  Instead of appreciating how Ms. Tate got into my head and made me question every single thing I read, I loved watching how Corinne and Jude and their relationship deteriorated throughout the novel.

I had so looked forward to really getting into Corinne’s head and feeling the kind of crazy she was feeling.  It’s that desperation I enjoy most about psychological thrillers, and I just didn’t quite get it in Such Dark Things.  I would have loved the focus to be more Corinne’s devolution into supposed madness; I think it would have gone miles to sell this book as something beyond romance.

I’m of two minds when it comes to this book.  It was an intriguing romance about fighting the pitfalls of neglecting your relationship and avoiding the traumas of your past.  It excellently highlighted how easy it is for an outside entity to manipulate the dynamics of a marriage when that marriage isn’t well tended.  And for all of that, I absolutely loved the book.  However, it missed the mark for me as a psychological thriller.  I just really would have loved to have seen more of Corinne’s descent without the added insight from Jude, as I think it made her point of view feel more sane since he also felt things weren’t completely normal all the time.

I wish this book had been a little more psychological and a little less about the interpersonal relationships.  I think in highlighting how the people related to each other there were too many clues as to the ultimate reveal of the book and I had figured out what was going on by about a third of the way through the book.  Had there been a little less focus on just one of the relationships in the book would have completely changed the tone of the novel and likely have prevented me from putting the pieces together as to what was really at play under the surface.

Courtney Evan Tate is a pen name for an author who originated in the world of romance.  Those roots were evident in this novel.  Between the detailed sex scenes and the focus on how the characters related to one another, the romance devices came through.  The idea of this book was quite fascinating, and I do believe, with some focus and study of the world of psychological thrillers, Ms. Tate could have success in this genre, I’m just not sure if this book will resonate well with people who don’t read in both romance and thriller genres.

I count the ceiling tiles in the night.

The light from the moon illuminates the dark just enough to see them.

From down the hall, I hear screaming, but that’s normal here. I’m under no illusions about what this place is.

I hear the nurses’ shoes as they scurry toward the noise, and I look again at the ceiling. There are over five-hundred tiles. I’m not sure of the exact number because every time I count, I get distracted.

I’m so lonely, and I know for a fact that I shouldn’t be in this room. I’m a physician. I should be medicating whomever is screaming.

But I’m not a doctor in this building. I have no credentials here. I’m a patient, like everyone else. It’s a difficult pill to swallow. It’s a fact that lodges in my throat and won’t go down.

With a sigh, I roll to my side, and stare at the wall. It’s white and stark, and the sheets beneath me are cold and thin. My bedding at home is luxurious and thick, spun Egyptian cotton, one-thousand thread count. It’s funny how accustomed I’ve gotten to nice things over the past few years.

During my childhood and med school, I didn’t have anything. Now, I pretty much have everything. And in this place, it’s a stark reminder of the differences between home and here.

The biggest difference of all is that I’m here, and Jude is not.

It’s hard to sleep without my husband. In all the years that we’ve been married, we’ve never been apart. We always sleep curled up together, our limbs intertwined. No matter how little we’re able to see each other during the day, we always wear each other like a second skin in the night.

I wonder if he’s struggling with this as much as I am?

I’ll ask him on Saturday.

God, I don’t get to see him until Saturday?

What day is it now?

With a start, amid my rambling thoughts, I realize I don’t know.

I don’t know what fucking day is it.

How long have I been in here?

One day?

Two days?

Three?

Four?

The walls close in on me, getting tighter and tighter, until I squeeze my eyes shut so that I don’t have to see them. The only way to survive this is to just plow right through it. I’ll do what they want me to do, and I’ll breathe, and I’ll talk to them, and I’ll remember, and I’ll get better.

I count, whispering, the monotony lulling me into sleep.

One one thousand.

Two one thousand.

Three one thousand.

The last number I remember is one hundred before I drift into the abyss of sleep.

“Cunt.”

The hissing whisper wakes me, and my eyes open wide, and I don’t know how long I’ve been sleeping. Minutes? Hours?

At first, I think I’m dreaming, but then I see the outline of a girl…a woman…in the chair next to my bed.

It’s dark so I can’t see her face, but her nail polish glints in the moonlight. It’s chipped around the edges. She chews her nails, and she seems so so familiar.

“Who are you?” I ask, a pit forming in the base of my stomach.

“Your worst nightmare.”

I sit straight up in bed, trying like hell to adjust my eyes to the dark, and in that one split second, she’s gone.

I scramble out of bed, turn on the lights, and the nurses find me moments later crawling on my hands and knees, searching beneath my bed.

“What are you looking for?” they ask curiously as they help me up.

“There was a girl in here…” I tell them, and they look at each other strangely because we’re definitely alone now.

“What did she look like?” one asks me as I crawl back into bed.

“I couldn’t see her,” I have to admit. “It was too dark. And her face…it seemed blurry.”

“Maybe you were dreaming,” one suggests.

“I wasn’t,” I insist. “I wasn’t alone.”

But they don’t listen. They turn off my light, and maybe I really am crazy.

I’m on edge for the rest of the night, watching and waiting for someone to appear, but they never do. My muscles are tight and coiled, ready to lunge out of bed again.

But I don’t need to.

She doesn’t come back.

I’ve got to relax. I’ve got to breathe.

I count my breaths until I finally fall asleep again.

The last breath I remember is number five hundred and four.

Courtney Cole is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling novelist who would eat mythology for breakfast if she could.

She has a degree in Business, but has since discovered that corporate America is not nearly as fun to live in as fictional worlds.

Courtney was born and raised in rural Kansas, but has since migrated south. She now lives in Florida and writes beneath palm trees.

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