Home > Camden (Pittsburgh Titans #8)

Camden (Pittsburgh Titans #8)
Author: Sawyer Bennett





First step onto the sidewalk and my foot lands on a patch of black ice left behind from the storm three days ago. Luckily, it’s my right leg that slips out from under me and I manage to stay upright, but not without pulling my groin muscle. I grimace and take a tentative step, relieved that nothing seems to have torn. My knee feels solid.

I curse the grocery store for not doing a better job of clearing the ice from where their customers walk along slowly. So slow that I get passed by a gentleman who’s easily in his eighties and yeah… that’s humiliating.

The old man turns, his cheeks ruddy from the cold. “Need some help?”

I’m a fucking professional hockey player. I don’t need help from an octogenarian. But I’m a polite dude, so I just smile and shake my head. “Had surgery on my knee. Exercising a little caution.”

“Aah,” he says in understanding. “Better safe than sorry, right?”


“Well, good luck with your shopping,” he says, eyes twinkling with what might be a little pride he’s in better shape than me. “Once you’ve got the shopping cart before you, you’ll be steadier.”

And it gets more humiliating.

“Thanks,” I mutter, but I doubt he heard me. He’s taken off, disappearing through the sliding doors.

The trip through the market is an exercise in futility. I do as suggested, using the cart for support and make my way up and down the aisles. I wanted to cook some chili but I’ve had the worst luck. So far, they’ve been out of ground beef, canned tomatoes and kidney beans. I’ve managed to add an onion to my cart but my repertoire of recipes is so limited, I’m not confident I can do anything else with it.

“Fuck it,” I grouse as I decide not to cook and just grab some cereal. I’m tired from a long day of rehab and it’s fucking cold out. I want to get home.

As luck would have it, they’re out of my favorite cereal, and even shittier luck, out of my second favorite as well.

Not sure what cosmic forces I’ve offended, but nothing’s going right and it’s leaving me feeling unsettled. In fact, a bit of panic swells inside and I glance around the cereal aisle. Nothing dangerous lurking.

I put the onion on the shelf in the empty spot where my Lucky Charms should be. I leave the cart and make my way to the front of the store, deciding to order a pizza for dinner.

It’s gotten dark in the fifteen minutes or so I’ve been in the grocery store. Another wave of anxiety hits and I get the distinct feeling that if I step out of the safety of this building, something bad is going to happen to me.

Sucking in a long breath through my nose, I hold it for the count of two before letting it out slowly on a four count. I read online that deep breathing can help center and calm you, and I’ve tried it when I’m agitated for seemingly no reason. Honestly, it does nothing for me, but I make myself do it three more times.

“Nothing bad is going to happen,” I whisper.

Not sure if I actually believe that, but I can’t stay here all night. At some point, they’ll kick me out.

I man up and walk past the registers to the sliding doors that swish open as I near them and then out into the blustery cold evening.

Glancing around, I take in the well-lit parking lot and the customers walking in and out of the store. I see my car only ten yards away. Nothing scary out here, unless you count a rogue piece of ice, but I can see the blacktop looks dry and safe.

I feel like a fucking idiot and these instances of fear that come upon me are unexplainable. I have nothing going on in my life that should make me feel this way. Other than a near mishap on the ice, getting shown up by an eighty-year-old man and a frustrating trip around the grocery aisles, nothing’s been going on to make me feel out of control.

Everything is fine.

I’m a hockey player.

I have a great job.

Great friends.

A wonderful life.

“I have a wonderful life,” I repeat and just like that… the panic recedes. I simply needed to remind myself I’ve got it good.

Shaking my head, I chuckle and take a step off the curb. I barely get my other foot down before I hear the noise.

It’s so loud, I clap my hands over my ears. A piercing, whining, shrieking sound of metal on metal, but no one else seems bothered by it. People stroll in and out of the store.

It gets louder and then the air current seems to change. A foreboding, electric feeling that cranks my anxiety to full throttle. I tip my head back and at first, I don’t understand what I’m seeing. Something huge, hidden in the clouds but with blinking lights… right above me and falling fast.

My first thought is a UFO but as it breaches the clouds, I realize it’s an airplane. A massive jet hurtling out of the sky, nose-diving straight at me.

I’m powerless to move as I stare at it.

Closer and closer, until I can actually see the pilots inside, their mouths open in what I’m assuming are screams of terror. I lock eyes with one of them and I think I see sorrow in his expression. Not sure if he’s sad he’s going to die or that he’s leaving behind a family, or hell… maybe he’s sad he’s dropping a plane on my head.

I lift my hand, mesmerized by the aircraft now forty, thirty, twenty… ten feet from me. And…

Bolting straight up in bed, I bark out a cry of horror, even though I’m instantly awake and know I merely had a terrible nightmare.

It’s not my first rodeo… these planes dropping out of the sky dreams happen pretty frequently. I rub my hands over my face, not surprised to find it sweaty. Despite the immediate awareness that I’m safe and sound in my bed, it takes a few minutes for the last dredges of fear to shake out of me. The dream was so realistic and yet, in hindsight, all of it was ridiculous from the start.

My knee is fully healed, no eighty-year-old would beat me in a fast walk, there’s no way the grocery store would be out of all of those items and it’s inconceivable that a plane would drop out of the sky onto my head.

And yet the terror it produced was as real as if it had actually happened. I thought I was going to die and I wasn’t ready to go.

I flop back onto my mattress and stare at the ceiling. The moonlight shining through the window casts shadows from the bare trees outside. I consider doing the deep breathing exercises I did in my dream, in hopes of relaxing enough to go back to sleep. But they don’t work in real life either.

Granted, it’s only something I’ve read about and I’ve never actually had someone show me how to do it, so I’m not sure I’m doing it correctly.

I close my eyes, the first step in returning to slumber. All that does is start a replay loop of the plane falling on me. My eyes pop back open and I watch the tree shadows above me.

Attempting a supposed tried-and-true method, I imagine sheep jumping over the branches and count each one. I make it up to twenty-seven before my mind drifts toward its inevitable path.

Not a dream catastrophe, but a real one.

The first anniversary of the Pittsburgh Titans’ plane crash is a month and a half away. While I’ve been plagued with more night terrors than I can even begin to count, they’ve gotten worse in the last two months. I have no clue why because honestly, I feel at peace with things.

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