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Chapter 1 Preview Cont.

“Stop compressions, please.”

Habit drew her eyes to the monitor hanging at the foot of the bed. Expecting the worst, she prepped for the flat line that meant death, but there was movement. A quiver. Liv’s heart jumped into her throat.

Professional decorum be dammed, Liv bounced on the balls of her feet and pointed at the monitor. “That’s fine v-fib!”

She dove to her knees and fumbled through the defibrillator settings. The black cloud hanging over the room cracked with a ray of light. Hope. And Liv latched on.

The resident closed in on the screen as if he couldn’t trust his eyes, “Well I’ll be Goddamned. Let’s get her going! Start with two jules per kilo,” he ordered, but Liv was three steps ahead.

“Done. Charging to fifty.” The pack at the end of the stretcher did the rest. The room went silent. The de-fib signaled ready. “Everyone clear.”

The gaggle of eager nurses, medics and a respiratory therapist jumped away with Liv’s command. The little body jolted off the mattress. She seemed to hover in midair. The moment she settled back down, the baby girl was back.

“Good God! She’s in a normal sinus.” Another nurse rushed to the baby’s side and squeezed a breath into her lungs. The doctor pressed his fingers into the hollow of her neck. His face split into a wide smile.

Olivia mirrored it, but not before glancing at the ceiling and through to Heaven on the other side. The conversations quickly went back to the unit hot gossip and what time the Starbucks should open. Everyone knew this was a tiny blip in the girl’s outcome, but the ER had done their part. They saved the life. The rest would be up to God and the Pediatric ICU. She wiped the sweat from her brow and turned to get the family, relieved she wouldn’t be starting the conversation ‘I’m Nurse Olivia, I’m sorry but we did everything we could.’

“Hey, Liv.”

She stopped. The resident broke away from the fashionably late attending rubbing sleep from

his eyes.

“That was a good call.”


The rhythmic rock and sway of the ‘L train was going to be Liv’s downfall. There wasn’t a Monster drink big enough to keep her eyelids from rolling shut. It didn’t matter that she was squished by strangers, or saturated with the noxious stench of BO and bleach – because it probably came from her. She crinkled her nose, and discreetly tried to sniff her pits. The hipster wedged into her side shifted. Something clung to the wrinkled, faded blue scrubs she’d worn the last fourteen hours – she just hoped it wasn’t the residual funk of the crash GI bleed she pawned off at shift change.

The prospect of sweet sleep taunted her with a soothing chorus of hisses and hums and home was an eternal six stops away. Liv’s eyes fluttered shut, her head bobbed to the side. A smack against the Plexiglas shook her into consciousness. She pulled out her cellphone, ready to break a cardinal rule of the ‘L and ignored the judgmental leers from the other commuters. They hadn’t been up for twenty-four hours on four hours sleep.

“C’mon Lottie. Answer. Answer. Answer…” she chanted to the ring, imagining the voice on the other end. Breaking the second rule of common courtesy, Liv took to calling her best friend before an acceptable hour for a well-bred southern lady.

“Livy, I swear someone had better be dead,” Charlotte drawled into the phone, her usual warm voice clogged with sleep. Even if it was after eight Georgia time, Charlotte Van Sutton didn’t rise before nine without fresh coffee and a homemade peach muffin on her dressing table.

The ‘L’s disembodied conductor announced Clark and Lake. “Talk to me Lottie. I’ve got to make it five more stops.”

“And I’ve got fifty-eight more minutes before Nanny brings me the twins.”

Liv’s brow furrowed. Of all the people she grew up with in the world of Savannah affluence, she never thought Lottie would fall into that hot bed of hypocrisy and pretentious laziness. Still, Lottie was her family. Livy and Lottie, cradle to the grave.

Liv forced a smile into the phone. “How are Ashton and Louise? Walking yet?”

Charlotte groaned a muffled sentence which meant she was shifting to sit up in her one-thousand-thread-count sheets and down comforter. “Walking, yes. Sleeping, No.”

And that affected her how? Nanny Kamp had been the twins’ nanny since before they were born, catering to a pregnant Lottie’s pampered whim. An awkward pause filled the line. The best time to talk to Lottie these days was after four PM and her late afternoon julip; the juicy gossip didn’t get discussed until brunch anyway.

Liv got an elbow in the ribs, hardly accidental. “Sorry, Lottie. I just needed to…”

“…Stay awake. I know.” Finally, Liv heard the compassion she expected from lifelong friendship. “If you must work, why don’t you work during the day like a normal person?”

“Everything good happens after three in the morning. Or don’t you remember senior year and all our TriDelt debauchery?”

Liv almost heard the reminiscent grin erupt on Lottie’s face. “For some reason I don’t remember much of that at all. I have no earthly idea why that would be of course.”

“They say it gets easier. You should have seen what I got to do last night…” Liv said, feeling her excitement crescendo into storytelling mode.

“Why don’t you just come home, Livy? It’s got to be gettin’ cold up there. C’mon, ‘They who must not be named’ won’t bother you… you can stay with us in the guest house.”

“It’s been almost two years, Lottie, you don’t need to lump Logan into the same category as Lord Voldemort.”

“Oh, I wasn’t talkin’ about that asshat cheater ex-fiance of yours. I was talkin’ about your Momma. You know she’s…” The voice dropped. The inside of the train went dark.

“Lottie, you there?” Liv yanked her iPhone from her ear and scowled. No signal.

The grumpy hipster sitting to her right threw herself into a standing position. She leered into space and clicked her tongue.

“Ya, see? That’s why you don’t talk on the ‘L. Rude.”

Liv ignored the brash commentary and shut her eyes praying for the polite patience bestowed upon southern born ladies. Why did the Lord test her so frequently? The ‘L stopped, and her eyes opened. The twerp vanished and she had just two stops left. She could almost smell her sheets and the prospect of not suffering through a day’s worth of night shifter’s insomnia should’ve made her giddy, but the mention of Logan’s name ached in her gut. The pain and embarrassment suffered at the hand of Dr. Logan St. James of Chatham County Hospital and his scandalous preference for little blonde play-things had long healed over, but left her scarred and forever tied to the city she’d never call home.

To her right, another nurse rose to her feet. Blessed with the label of statuesque since toddlerhood pageants, Liv made the best of County Med’s boxy, blue scrubs. And yet silly girl envy, curled her lips. Petite, sensuous. A lovely pixie with curves for days. Even the leggiest beauties would be green for such a killer little body working her hour glass beneath nurses’ famously unflattering uniform. Liv’s polar opposite except for the exhaustion etched beneath their eyes.

Despite the minor itch of feminine jealousy, Liv tingled with camaraderie. Kinship. Solidarity for all who save lives while the rest of the world slept.

The camaraderie must have been contagious. “Whoever told you it gets easier is a lying douchebag. All of this,” she said, gesturing to her oval face strained with lack of sleep, “Is why we get paid extra. Early Botox slush fund. I’m sure you don’t remember, but I’m Torey. I sat through hospital orientation with you a few months back. You work in the ER? Olivia, right?”

“It’s just Liv.” She laughed and cautiously evaluated her surroundings. It was never hard to spot a nurse, but that doesn’t mean they want everyone to know they work in the armpit of the hospital. The train car jerked along the track. Torey took it in stride, not even grasping for a rail.

“I’m part of the county ER burnout program. I take care of tiny humans now.”

Liv scrunched her face working to make the connection. In the nursing world those specialties were like going from Nancy Pelosi to Ann Coulter.

“ER to NI? That’s a pretty big leap.”

Torey shrugged. “Take a big leap, or take a big leap into the lake.”

Liv sighed. The bedside nursing struggle was real. “Burnout’s a bitch.”

“And now my patients are two pounds and change,” Torey added. Liv stretched her aching back. That sure as hell seemed like a tick in the better job category.

“So what do you do to flip? Meds? Booze? Combo of both?”

Liv grinned. Secretive. Sultry. “Glass of red wine, bubble bath, and a date with my battery-operated boyfriend.”

Torey’s stoic exhaustion cracked. “I name you my new best friend. That’s what’s missing with those baby nurses. The crass funny.” The train slid to a stop. “This is me. You back tonight?” Liv gave her a sleepy nod. “Ugh, yeah. Me too. Hope you get some rest. I’ll see you around.” With a friendly smile and wave, Torey scurried off the train.

One more stop. She could make it one more stop. The train groaned forward. The best thing to do would be to stand, stand and resist the sway. Sleep crept in weighing her down, like warm honey oozing over her limbs. With strength she never knew she possessed, Liv lumbered upright. The doors split open and the usual onslaught of oncoming passengers was non-existent. The Franklin Park platform was a ghost town.

A shout rang out.

“Someone call an ambulance!”

Liv rolled her eyes then glared at the sky. “Oh for cryin’ out loud…”

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