Home > Reunited on Sugar Maple Road(8)

Reunited on Sugar Maple Road(8)
Author: Debbie Mason

Josh handed her the phone. “He wants to talk to you.”

As she relayed Em’s vitals to Cal, Josh hoped they were good enough to set his best friend’s mind at ease.

“You forgot to mention you were a hero too, Coach,” the paramedic said after disconnecting from Cal. “If it wasn’t for you, his sister most likely wouldn’t have made it.”

“I was just doing my job. If it wasn’t me, my partner would’ve got her. And give yourself some credit. She wouldn’t be here without you. None of us do this alone.”

“Told you he was a good guy, Robyn,” Lottie said.

“Hey, you make it sound like someone’s saying I’m not,” Josh said.

Lottie winced. “Hate to tell you, Coach, but you’ve got yourself a reputation as a ladies’ man. They call you the Heartbreaker of Highland Falls.”

They had it wrong. He was the one who’d had his heart broken when his wife left him three years ago. He’d thought they had a good marriage. Sure, they’d had their ups and downs, but who didn’t. His parents and Cal and Bri were an anomaly.

He’d been shocked when he’d come home from work to find his wife gone, their joint bank accounts cleaned out. Two days later, she’d filed for divorce. A week later, he’d learned she’d left him for her ex-boyfriend. It’d taken Josh almost two years to feel like putting himself out there again. But as much as he enjoyed women and dating, he wasn’t up for anything long term. Which was probably how he’d earned himself the heartbreaker designation.

“Do you not hear the sirens, people?” Lottie grumbled, blasting the horn.

Josh was about to suggest she take the side street when he felt the weight of someone’s stare. He glanced at Em, relieved to see her eyes open. She smiled, a beautiful, luminous smile, and it was a shock to his system. It was a very un-Em-like smile, especially when it was directed at him. There was something different about the way she looked at him too. A softness, a vulnerability in her eyes that he’d never seen before.

“You stayed,” she whispered.

“Of course I stayed.” He took her hand in his. It was still cold, and he clasped it between both of his. “You almost died, Em.”

Her gaze moved to his, and she frowned, her dusky-pink lips turning down. And that’s when he knew she hadn’t been looking at him after all. But who had she been talking to, if not him? He glanced at Gus, who’d moved to Em’s side and licked her cheek. Okay, so maybe she’d been talking to the dog. But something didn’t feel right.

“You up to answering a few questions, Officer Scott?” Robyn asked.

Em nodded, looking at Josh with another one of those luminous smiles, and it freaked him out. “Ah, Em, Robyn asked if you know today’s date,” he said, repeating the question the paramedic had just asked.

“Saturday, September twenty-fifth,” Em said, her voice a hoarse whisper.

She didn’t seem to be suffering any cognitive impairment, which was great, but it didn’t explain why it felt like she was staring at him but not really seeing him. He glanced over his shoulder and noticed that Gus was looking behind him too.

Josh returned his attention to Em. “How old are you?”

“Thirty,” she said with a touch of attitude. Okay, that was more like the Em he knew.

“Do you know where you live?”

“Yeah, thirty-nine Sugar Maple Road.”

“Do you know who I am?”

“Yeah, a pain in my butt,” she said, drawing a guffaw from Lottie and a smile from Robyn.

Oh yeah, she was back to her grumpy self, and for some reason, that ticked him off. “Yeah, well this pain in your butt saved your life. A little gratitude instead of attitude would be appreciated.”

She glanced at Robyn.

The paramedic nodded with a smile. “He did. At one point, he thought I’d given up on you, and he took over the last round of chest compressions. So if you have bruised ribs, blame him.”

“I’m sure she will,” Josh said, worried now that he might’ve cracked one of her ribs.

“Thanks,” Em murmured, glancing up at him.

“You don’t have to thank me, Freckles.” He added her childhood nickname in hopes of getting a rise out of her. He didn’t want her getting lost in her head, thinking about how she’d felt the seconds before she’d lost consciousness. He couldn’t imagine how terrified she must’ve been. He didn’t want to think about how close they’d come to losing her.

A beep, beep signaled the ambulance was backing into the hospital bay, and Robyn prepared for Em to be off-loaded. “Can you carry the IV for me, Coach?” the paramedic asked as the ambulance came to a stop, and the doors opened.

“Sure.” He stood up, reaching for the bag.

Em turned her head in his direction and nodded. “I love you too,” she whispered.

Josh dropped the IV bag on her chest.



Chapter Four



Em’s brain felt sluggish, her mouth dry, and every muscle in her body ached. She heard the rattle of carts and orders being called out in the hall outside her room over the steady hum of the machines monitoring her vitals. She was lying on an uncomfortable hospital bed, covered by a warm blanket. She didn’t need to open her eyes to know it was morning. The room was bright, and she smelled bacon and eggs.

She placed a hand on her grumbling stomach, tempted to reach for the Call button and ask for something to eat. But then she’d have to open her eyes. She didn’t want to. She was afraid last night had been a dream, and Brad had never been there. Her oxygen-deprived brain playing tricks on her.

She cracked open her eyes and turned her head. Brad smiled and moved to the side of the bed.

“You really are here,” she whispered, smiling as she reached for his hand. Her fingers went through his, landing on the cold, metal rail instead. He looked so vibrant and alive, but he wasn’t, and a ball of emotion clogged her throat.

He met her gaze, and she saw her own sorrow reflected in his eyes. “I wish I could touch you, hold you, kiss you, but I can’t, Em.”

“I don’t care. I’m just glad you’re here. That you didn’t leave me.”

“I was always with you. Even if you couldn’t feel me or see me.”

“But you’re here now, aren’t you? I’m not imagining this.”

“I’m here, Em.”

“And you’ll stay. You won’t leave me.”

He hesitated, and her heart began to race, causing the monitor to beep. “You promised.”

“I know I did. It’s just that—” He looked away.

“It’s just what?” She was so focused on Brad she didn’t realize her brother had entered the room until he said, “Em, who are you talking to?”

If she told him Brad, she’d never get out of the hospital. “Myself.”

Cal frowned and walked to her side. He leaned in and hugged her. “You scared the hell out of us.”

She nodded, tamping down a defensive response. It wasn’t as if she’d nearly drowned on purpose. But she would’ve felt and said the same if their roles were reversed.

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