A Riverton Romance, Book 1
Published 2016 by Book Boutiques.
Copyright © 2016, Melanie James.
All rights reserved.
The day started out much like any other for Officer Adam Jennings. Riding with him in the front seat of his cruiser was his best friend and partner Jake Matthews. Being on patrol with Jake was one of his favorite places to be.
The only path that Adam ever saw for himself was that of a policeman. He liked helping people and this was the best way that he knew how. Sure he had to deal with the lowest of the low, but most of the citizens he interacted with were good people who just got off track every once in a while. He took his job seriously, but he still believed people should be given the benefit of the doubt. He firmly believed that most people tried hard to be good and do their best.
Adam was thankful he didn’t live or work in a city with a high crime rate. He wanted the people in his community to feel safe. Whether they were home with their families, out and about running errands, or enjoying an evening on the town, their safety was important to him.
Adam had never been married, or even close to marriage. The only person he had to think about other than himself was his twenty-two year old sister, Jenny. When their parents died ten years earlier in a horrific car accident, Adam stepped up as a big brother to raise Jenny the best way that he could.
It wasn’t always easy. He was fresh out of the police academy and knew nothing about raising a teenage girl, but he did his best and Jenny seemed to turn out alright. He was beyond grateful that she didn’t rebel too much during her teen years. Adam didn’t have the time or patience to deal with a bunch of teenage drama.
Jenny was a lot like Adam in the respect that she didn’t date a lot. There were the occasional boyfriends of course, but Adam never had to worry about killing them for hurting his sister.
Adam put the thought of any serious relationships on hold while he was raising Jenny. He didn’t think it would be good for her to become attached to someone he was dating, especially if the relationship wasn’t serious enough to lead to marriage. He tried to set a good example for her. The last thing he wanted was for his romantic exploits to make it back to his baby sister. Just the thought of it made him cringe.
Adam was no angel. He dated, but he did so discretely. He would only go out when he knew that Jenny had plans with her friends. He always made sure that whoever he went home with, knew up front that he would only be spending one night with them. Second dates were out of the question, because he never wanted anyone to get the wrong idea.
Dating had become easier now that Jenny was in college, but he still hadn’t found anyone that piqued his interest enough to want to settle down. Most of the women that he met were shallow, rude, and completely obtuse. The woman he would marry would be kind, compassionate, and witty. She would be independent, yet willing to stand beside him as an equal partner. He wasn’t interested in anyone who was looking for a free ride. Women like that were to be avoided like the plague.
It was a quiet morning, as they traveled along their normal route. Adam and Jake had made a few traffic stops, but that was about it. Adam didn’t mind quiet mornings, it meant the citizens of his sleepy town were safe and staying out of trouble. “I think it’s time for our morning coffee stop,” Jake said, breaking the comfortable silence.
“Sounds good,” Adam replied as they headed to the local convenience store. Adam noticed the empty parking lot as they slowly exited the car and closed the doors. He took the lead as he and Jake entered the store. There was nothing normal about what was happening as Adam stepped inside.
Before he could react to what he saw, he heard a loud BANG and was knocked backward by an excessive force. He felt a burning in his shoulder, chest and lungs. He yelled out in pain as he reached for his shoulder.
He was shocked when he pulled his hand back, it was warm, and wet, and covered with blood. The pain took his breath away and he began fighting for air as he collapsed to the floor. Adam heard two more shots ring out. The only thing he could think of was Jake. He prayed that his partner wasn’t hit.
Adam could hear the sirens in the distance. Jake knelt beside him yelling his name. He tried to focus on what Jake was saying but the pain was too much. Thoughts of Jenny ran through his mind. He always thought he would have a chance to say goodbye to her. “Look after Jenny,” he mumbled to Jake. The darkness kept pulling him under as he fought to keep his eyes opened. Soon the darkness offered a beautiful respite from the pain that could no longer be denied.
Amanda was tired of being alone on Valentine’s Day. She was twenty five and had never received a Valentine’s Day gift or surprise, unless she counted the ones she received in grade school and she wasn’t counting those. She was satisfied with her single status. It was everyone around her that seemed to have the problem with it. She hated Valentine’s Day more than any other day of the year. She was convinced it was a day that was designed for the sole purpose of making all the single people in the world feel like shit for being alone.
Because she had no real experience with this holiday, she saw it as nothing more than a Hallmark holiday. One that was created for couples that suddenly remembered their supposed love for one another and tried to show it by giving each other the most expensive and gaudy gifts that they could find.
Honestly if one more nurse on her floor talked about Valentine’s Day with that foolish look on their face, she was going to choke them! Every woman that she worked with who was dating, expected a ring from their boyfriend after only two months of being a couple. She was beginning to believe they were all dropped on their heads at birth. There didn’t seem to be any other explanation for the rampant stupidity that Valentine’s Day hosted.
Perhaps if Amanda had someone to share this special day with, she wouldn’t be so grim about it. Even that was doubtful. The possibility of her finding a man to celebrate with in the next few weeks was slim to none. She never had much time for a man in her life and she didn’t date at all.
She never attended a homecoming dance or her junior prom when she was in high school. She didn’t attend any school dances and she never participated in any extracurricular activities. She simply didn’t have time, because of the amount of care that her parents required.
Her small group of friends seemed to understand at first, but as the years went by, the few invitations she did receive dwindled to none. Her classmates didn’t understand the life she lived or how she grew up, and after a while they stopped trying. Most were sympathetic to her, but there were always a few asshats that felt the need to ridicule her. Those were the types of people she hated the most. How could people make fun of those who were ill or had a medical condition? She would never understand them and she wouldn’t even try.
Even as a nurse, she still saw some of her co-workers participate in this exact behavior. She often asked them why they chose to work in the medical field to begin with if they lacked compassion and didn’t take their jobs seriously.
“Girl you need to lighten up,” Tiffany said with a saccharine smile on her face.
This was a common argument on her floor. Amanda always took her job seriously. After the death of her parents, she didn’t want anyone else to die on her watch.
Tiffany was an older lady, her senior by twenty years, quite possibly more. They often butted heads when it came to the seriousness of their jobs.
“Honey, if you keep it up, this job will eat you alive. We’re not working the ER, ICU or CCU units. Most of our patients are here to recover from surgery, ain’t nothing that’s gonna kill them. If we don’t laugh and joke about some of the shit that happens here, it’ll get the best of us. I’ve been doing this job for a long time and I’ll tell you one thing, don’t be stressing all the time. It’s gonna make you wrinkly and old before you know it!”
Amanda couldn’t grasp this concept. She didn’t think there was anything funny about someone being in the hospital, no matter how minor their problem. Time in the hospital meant time away from family, loved ones, missed work and added bills. The last thing a patient needed was for the hospital staff to laugh at them.
The other nurses didn’t understand her attitude. Amanda was different. She spent her childhood taking care of her sickly mother after her dad passed away from his own lengthy illness. She never had the money to hire a full-time nurse to help with her mother’s care, so Amanda did all she could to make sure her mother was comfortable. Visiting nurses stopped in every day to check on her mom, but there wasn’t much they could do for her other than administer pain medications. It nearly killed Amanda to watch cancer eat through the last of her immediate family at a rapid pace.
Over the course of her young life, she had to bury the two people that she loved the most. She never wanted to watch another human being die. After she buried her mother, Amanda found herself all alone in a big empty house and she began to wonder what she should do with the rest of her life. Her life had been about caring for both of her parents for as long as she could remember. They were gone now and that left Amanda feeling not only heartbroken and hollow, but completely lost. There were certain perks to being an only child, but this was not one of them. Right now she would have given anything to have a brother or sister.
Her mother’s funeral was not a grand affair, but she was glad to see that her aunts, uncles and cousins were there to support her. As they paid their last respects, each and everyone one of them made Amanda promise that she would continue the tradition of Sunday brunch at her Aunt Belinda’s house.
Most people would assume that a family brunch implied a small gathering. That was not the case with Amanda’s relatives. It was all kinds of crazy, rolled into one big family. Her mother’s family was large and loud and filled the house with constant shouting, laughing, games and good times every week. Amanda could remember going to her aunt’s house every Sunday after church all through her childhood. It was something she looked forward to. She couldn’t give up on tradition now. This was the only family that she had left and she didn’t know what she would do without them. They kept her grounded at a time when she desperately needed it.
With their continued support, Amanda enrolled in a local college and started working on her nursing degree. She wanted to do something with her life that allowed her to help others who were going through the same thing that she went through. Taking care of the sick was her life and she didn’t know how to do anything else, nor did she want to.
Her parents left her a little bit of money when they died which helped to pay for school, but it didn’t cover all the costs, so she had to work to support herself. She continued to live at her parents’ house. It was the only home she had ever known and she didn’t want to move. Amanda found comfort there, even though she was the only one who lived in the large three bedroom home. She considered getting a roommate to help pay the mounting utility bills, but she had nothing in common with anyone her age. She felt it would have been more of a frustration than anything else. Their lives were worlds apart and she was content with that.
Amanda looked around at her co-workers. Her fellow nurses were good women and men, but she still felt like a stranger looking in at the cozy warm friendships they had formed. They laughed and joked with ease. She didn’t know how to do that. She never opened up to anyone. She wondered how they could let go of their worries and laugh about meaningless conversations and trivial thoughts. Would she, or could she ever be that person?
Her attention strayed to the decorated walls of the hospital floor she worked on. They were lined with paper hearts, ribbons and streamers in different shades of red, pink and white.
What Amanda wondered most about was, who in the hell came up with the idea that cupid needed to look like a man-baby in a diaper who shot arrows at people? How was this supposed to make people fall madly in love? Thanks, I’ll pass, she thought. If she saw something like that flying around she would swat it down. Without hesitation! She admitted the floor looked cute. It was much better than the plain, dreary and boring walls the hospital generally boasted, but Valentine’s Day still meant nothing to her.
Amanda thought about how Aunt Belinda loved holidays, any holiday. Her motto was “no holiday is too small, they should all be celebrated as equals with no discrimination.” Every year, her aunt would find a way to decorate and celebrate every holiday from President’s Day to Columbus Day and everything in between. She had to admit she was probably the only person who still recognized half of these days. But if it made Aunt Belinda happy, everyone in the family was quick to oblige. Even if it meant more pressure for the ever approaching Valentine’s Day.
She could already hear the conversation in her head as her Aunt asked, “Amanda, when are you going to settle down with a nice, handsome young man? You’re letting your life slip away from you. If you don’t find someone soon, you’ll be too old to give me great nieces and nephews.”
Frustrated, Amanda would respond with the same thing every week, “Auntie Belinda, I am happy with my life. I don’t need a man to make me happy. I love my job and it keeps me busy. Plus, I have you guys when I need more!”
Why did everyone think she needed a man to make her happy? Was there some universal secret that the couples of the earth were keeping? Everyone made such a big deal about dating, sex and marriage. She was sick of hearing about all of it!
With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, Amanda knew the annual Valentine’s brunch at her aunts would be filled with love-sick couples. Ugh! I will be the only single person over the age of sixteen again, she thought. Even the teenagers will bring their boyfriends and girlfriends to this event.
Maybe she should see about working that day, sometimes avoidance was the best way to deal with a problem. But deep down, Amanda knew that her uncles would drag her there, kicking and screaming if they had to. Unfortunately, there was no avoiding it.
As Amanda settled into her day, she cringed each time she glanced at the little cupids hanging from the ceiling. They freaked her out! Seriously! She wondered if flying insect killer would work on them, if there were ever a real infestation.
Amanda snapped out of the Valentine’s Day induced funk she found herself in and headed for the next patient’s room. Her morning had been spent helping several of the elderly patients that were assigned to her floor. She loved working with them, because they were very thankful that she lingered a little too long when she made her rounds. She liked to talk to her patients and catch up on all that was happening with their families. This was the part of her job that she cherished the most. Amanda adored giving each and every one of them personal quality time. She tried her best to let them know that she cared about them in her own little way. When she was in college, all of her professors warned her about becoming emotionally attached to the patients, but how could she not when she saw them as people, rather than a task or a job.
When she walked in to check on her new patient, she wasn’t expecting to find the extremely good looking, half naked man that was sleeping soundly. She quickly clicked the mouse on the computer to read over his file. She was surprised by what she found. Adam Jennings, male, age 32, bullet wound to his right shoulder. He was a police officer, shot in the line of duty. It was a nasty hit that fractured his collarbone and collapsed his right lung. He should have been protected, but the shooter used an armor piercing round that sliced right through his bullet proof vest. The only upside from a medical prospective was that the bullet cut a clean path through him, but recovery was still guaranteed to be painful. He would be laid up in the hospital for at least a week. Looking over at the man in the bed, he looked sick and weak, his skin was a murky gray, nothing like the vibrant and virile man that she knew he should be.
He wasn’t quite out of the woods yet, his body had a lot of healing to do. The doctors patched him up as best they could, but with his injuries who knew how his body would respond to the surgery and the treatment plan. He was lucky to be alive in the first place. The only thing Amanda could do at this point was focus on her job and be the best nurse possible, ensuring he didn’t spend any more time in the hospital than absolutely necessary.
Amanda started her routine by checking his blood pressure. Next she moved on to make sure his pulse and heartbeat were good and strong and his temperature was normal. Any sign of a fever and they would have to worry about an infection. While she worked quietly to change his bandages a tearful young woman took a seat next to the bed. “I’ll be finished here in a few minutes and you can spend some time with your husband.” Amanda said automatically to let the woman know she saw her enter the room.
If Amanda had to guess, the girl looked to be in her early twenties, just a few years younger than her twenty five years and about fifty years younger than she felt. She was a pretty girl, even with her tear stained face. Amanda’s heart opened up to the girl immediately.
“Oh, no he’s not my husband, Adam is my brother. He’s not married. It’s just me and him. Our parents passed away ten years ago,” she said tearfully.
Amanda wanted to reach out and hug her, because she knew the fear first hand when it came to losing a family member.
“The surgery went well and the doctors have him pretty drugged up right now. I’m going to give him another injection here in a few minutes. We don’t want the pain medications to wear off, as it would be unbearable for him. We want to keep him as comfortable as possible for the next few days so that his body can begin to heal.”
The young lady nodded her head, “Thank you for taking care of my brother. I know it’s your job, but I don’t know what I would do if I lost him too. I was always scared that something would happen to him, because of his job. I knew that one day I would get a call saying he had been hurt. I really hoped that call would never come and now here he is.”
“I know it’s hard to watch when your loved ones have been hurt, but we’ll make sure your brother gets the best care possible.”
Amanda knew the drill of reassuring family members that the staff would work as hard as they could to take care of their loved ones. Sometimes, no matter how hard she tried to convince them, the only thing that helped to calm them was time.
“My name is Amanda and I’ll be here all day. If you need anything please let me know. Just press the call button and I’ll be happy to help you in any way I can. Make sure you take a break and get some lunch at the cafeteria downstairs. I’m sure that’s the last thing you are thinking of right now, but it’s important to keep your strength up for your brother. He needs you to be strong.”
“Thanks, I’m Jenny by the way. I’ll make sure I head down there in a little bit. I can’t think about eating right now. Is it okay if I just stay here and talk to him for a little bit? I read a magazine article that said it’s good to talk to people when they have been hurt, that they can still hear you. Do you think that’s true?”
“Absolutely, there are studies that show it helps patients to heal faster. You can hold his left hand, talk to him, read to him, all of it’s very therapeutic. I’m a firm believer that the person lying in the bed knows when someone is here with them and it comforts them knowing their loved ones are close by.”
Amanda was finishing her exam when Adam started to open his eyes. They fluttered at first a few times before he was able to fully open them with a groggy, unfocused gaze that was aimed in her direction. He tried to open his mouth to speak, but nothing came out.
She placed a reassuring hand on his chest and said, “You’re going to be fine Officer Jennings. You took a nasty hit in your right shoulder, but luckily the bullet went right through you. You should heal up just fine.”
He smiled softly at her and placed his warm hand over the top of hers.
Jenny quickly jumped up to see her brother gazing at the nurse, “Oh God Adam! You scared the hell out of me! Don’t you ever do that again!”
He looked over to her briefly and gave her a tiny grin before looking back to Amanda. He never let go of her hand. Just when she thought he would release his hold, he pulled her hand weakly up to his mouth and placed a soft kiss on it before closing his eyes and drifting off into a healing slumber.
Amanda stood there for a minute in complete shock. Never before had a patient done that, but then again Adam wasn’t her standard geriatric patient. It must have been the medications that made him grab a hold of her like that. She didn’t want to think about the feel of his warm, soft lips on her hand. Amanda plucked her hand gently from his grip so she could administer his pain medications.
The narcotics were powerful enough to keep him asleep, so she wouldn’t have to worry about him trying to get up and ripping his stitches out. It was Amanda’s experience that if the patients were not sedated enough they would often wake up disoriented and try to get up or move around. This usually ended with the patient in much more pain than necessary and often opening up their wounds. She didn’t want to see Adam go through that ordeal fresh out of surgery.
When Amanda finished up in Adam’s room, she quietly slipped out and headed for her next patient. Mrs. Martinez was always such a nice woman. She never failed to put a smile on Amanda’s face. She could imagine having a woman like this for a grandmother. It must be fun to sit around the dining room table at large family gatherings, listening to the matriarch recite stories from a time long ago to all those that wanted to listen.
Amanda had never met either of her grandmothers as they both passed away before she was born. She had a few memories of one of her grandfathers, but even those were few and far between. She wished she had a larger immediate family, but that was nothing but a dream. She would have to make do with her extended family that she loved dearly.
“Hi, Mrs. Martinez! How’s my favorite patient today?” Amanda asked cheerfully as she entered the room.
Mrs. Martinez was recovering from hip replacement surgery, but she didn’t let that get her down. She had to be one of the spunkiest women that Amanda had ever met. She was going to miss her when it was time for her to be discharged.
“Now what have I told you young lady, my name is Maria. If you keep calling me Mrs., then everyone is going to think that I’m an old fuddy-duddy! I’m trying to find a date here you know! You should come down to rehab with me someday and prowl around with me. Why just today…I met this really nice gentleman, he’s quite the looker! He’s in for a broken hip. Tell me honey, do you think the two of us would still be able to knock boots in our condition?”
Amanda could do nothing but shake her head and laugh. Mrs. Martinez was such a character. You never knew what was going to come out of her mouth next! God bless the old woman and her shenanigans, she was not going to go quietly into a grave. If the grim reaper wanted her, he was going to have one hell of a fight!
Throughout the day Amanda made her rounds checking and double checking on all of her patients. This was something that she felt she had to do with each and every one of them. She treated them with love and kindness, just like she had done with her parents during their illnesses.
When she went back in for the final time to check on Adam, he was still asleep. As she started to check his vitals, he opened his eyes. They were much clearer and sharper than the last time he attempted to look at her. He motioned for a drink and she held a Styrofoam cup with a straw up to his lips for him to take a drink.
“Careful you don’t want to drink too much until we know for sure if your stomach can handle it,” she said in a soft warm voice.
* * * *
The ice cold water felt like heaven sliding down Adam’s throat. His tongue no longer felt like dry, crusty sandpaper. It was hard to follow the instructions of the angel above him, when all he wanted to do was chug the water down as fast as he could. He didn’t remember much about the shooting, only that the bullet went right through his vest. Son of a bitch, he thought.
Adam hoped that he was the only one injured. The whole situation was a disaster from the start. A quick stop for coffee had turned deadly the moment Adam walked into the convenience store in the middle of a hold up. The robber turned around and fired, hitting Adam in the shoulder. What Adam didn’t know was that Jake was quick to respond. He took the robber down seconds later and then called for backup and an ambulance.
The only pain that Adam could feel was a dull ache in his shoulder and chest. The narcotics they had him on must have been doing a good job, but he didn’t appreciate the fact that they kept knocking him out. He had a dream that Jenny was standing over him and yelling at him. He hoped he was wrong. He hated upsetting his baby sister. While she was proud of him for his service to his community, she despised his job more than anything on the planet. Now she had an even better reason to nag him about finding a new profession.
He suddenly remembered his angel standing above him looking down at him, “Thank you Angel,” he said to her in a broken and cracked voice.
He wanted to sit up, but knew that she would never allow it. He had no idea how long he had been laying in this bed. If it were up to him, he would already be out the door. He could imagine how that would piss off his captain. He probably already called in an order to handcuff him to the bed if necessary. Although, if the angel above him wanted to handcuff him to the bed, he would have no problem with that whatsoever! Was he seriously thinking about a woman when he was lying in a hospital bed with a hole in his shoulder? He smiled at his own thoughts.
“So Angel, how am I doing? Am I going to live?”
Amanda had to smile at him. His color was looking much better and he seemed to be processing all that was going on around him. His words seemed slow and sluggish, but that was normal with the amount of medications he had been given.
“You’re doing fine, Officer Jennings. You should be up and about in a few days, as long as your healing continues at a good pace, but that is going to depend on how much trouble you try to get into. The doctor has ordered that you are not to get out of bed for any reason for at least another day. Don’t fight the medicine and try to get as much rest as you can. Your body needs it. If you need anything just press the button. Okay?” She waited for him to nod his head before she continued on with the tasks of making sure everything was in order.
“Anything for you Angel,” He replied with a little more focus. “Was there another girl in here earlier? My sister?”
“Yes, Jenny was here, but she went down to the cafeteria to eat dinner. She said that she would be back up in a little while. The poor girl, you gave her quite a scare. She calmed down after the doctor made his rounds and talked to her this evening. She really loves you and cares about you, but I’m sure you already know that.”
Jenny seemed like a sweetheart and she was truly terrified when she first saw her brother. Amanda was happy to see a much calmer version of her.
“My sister is the greatest. I don’t know what I would do without her. Thanks for letting me know. If I fall asleep before she gets back, please tell her that I love her and that I’m sorry.” Adam felt like shit for making her cry, but this wasn’t something that could have been avoided. He would have loved to have dodged the bullet, but that just wasn’t in the cards.
“I sure will, but for now, you need to get some rest. I’m about to give you your medicine and it’s going to make you go back to sleep. Do you want another drink first?”
When he nodded a simple yes, Amanda held the cup and straw up to his mouth again and allowed him to take a nice big drink this time. When he had his fill, she set the cup down and gave him the injection through his IV. The effects of the drugs were almost immediate. She could see his brown eyes begin to droop and his body begin to relax. Once again he managed to grab her hand and mumble something incoherent before drifting off. Once she was sure that he was out cold, she pried her hand from his surprisingly firm grip. She couldn’t imagine why he kept latching on to her. It was almost as if he was looking for comfort from her. Surely he had to have a girlfriend that would want to be by his side, she thought.
When Amanda got back to the nurse’s station, she started on her paperwork for the night shift. She wanted to make sure they were clear on the orders for each patient. It should be a quiet night for them, as everyone seemed to be recovering well at this point. When she saw Jenny, she motioned for her to join her.
“I’m heading home in a few minutes, but I wanted to give you a quick update and let you know that your brother is improving. He woke up for a few minutes and asked about you,” Amanda said quietly. “He wanted me to tell you that he was sorry for worrying you and that he loves you.”
“Thank you, so much,” Jenny said, wiping softly at the tears that started to flow.
“If you need anything at all tonight, make sure you ask the nurses. We have plenty of extra blankets and pillows if you are planning on spending the night.”
Amanda headed home with thoughts of a particular patient running through her mind. She wondered what it would be like to come home every evening to a man like Adam. She knew it was wrong to think about one of her patients in anything other than a professional manner, but she couldn’t help it. Adam was the type of man that a woman’s body immediately responded to and she was after all, a woman. For the first time in her life, Amanda wondered what it would feel like to be touched intimately by a man like Adam.