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Coming soon! Foul Play by Elisabeth Rees will be available Jan 5, 2016.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Elisabeth was raised as one of four sisters in the idyllic Welsh border town of Hay-on-Wye, where her father was the parish Vicar. She developed a love of romantic literature as a young girl and often dreamed of becoming a writer. After a very unfulfilling career in information technology, Elisabeth began to write for Harlequin Mills and Boon, and now writes full time from her home in West Wales. For more information visit www.elisabethrees.comExcerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
The life-support machine beeped away in the darkened hospital room, echoing the reassuring sound of a heartbeat through the air.
Senior nurse Deborah Lewis checked the wires and tubes attached to the body of the tiny baby boy. His parents watched closely, grief and bewilderment evident on their faces. The deterioration of their son had come quickly, and they were unprepared.
Deborah put a hand on the mother's shoulder. "He's in good hands here," she said. "Harborcreek Community Hospital has the best pediatric care in Pennsylvania."
One of Deborah's nurse colleagues, Diane White, appeared in the doorway. "Deborah," Diane called into the room. "Do you have a moment?"
Deborah clipped the medical chart onto the end of the steel bed frame and smiled at the couple. "I'll be back soon, okay?"
She joined Diane in the corridor and closed the door. The atmosphere in the pediatric unit was somber. Six children had recently fallen gravely ill; three of them were now on life support. It had been a bleak few days for the medical staff of Harborcreek Hospital, which was just a few miles from the lakeside city of Erie.
Diane held a pile of laundered sheets close to her chest, looking around anxiously as she spoke. "Frank Carlisle has been here," she said in a whisper. "He says he wants to talk to you about something important."
Deborah stood a little closer to Diane, noticing that her friend's baby bump was straining against the fabric of her scrubs. The mention of Frank Carlisle caused a ripple of anxiety to flow through Deborah's body. Frank, the hospital administrator, was responsible for overseeing the smooth running of the entire hospital and was well-known for maintaining a tight ship. News of the sudden spate of emergencies in the pediatric unit had displeased him. Usually she gave Frank Carlisle a wide berth, but in this instance she needed him to listen to her. And to take action. She suspected possible medicine tampering and had raised her concerns with him over a week ago, yet he had done nothing.
"I heard you spoke to him about the number of kids falling sick in the unit," Diane said. "And I also heard you want him to open an investigation. Are you sure that's necessary?"
"I'm really worried," Deborah whispered. "All these sick children are showing signs of renal failure. It just doesn't make sense. Up until now, we've only seen children over ten years old with these symptoms, but now we have a baby with failing kidneys, as well. His body might not cope with the strain."
A hospital orderly passed by, pushing an expectant mother in a wheelchair, and Deborah ushered Diane to one side. "I've never seen anything like it before—six children have been struck down with kidney failure in the space of just three weeks. I'm starting to wonder if someone has been interfering with patient medicine."
Diane clutched the sheets closer to her chest. "Are you serious?"
"Deadly serious," replied Deborah. "Frank thinks I'm being ridiculous, but I told him we need more security in our unit to be on the safe side—cameras, barriers, better alarm systems."
"But there's no evidence of drug tampering," Diane said. "Do you really think Frank will spend that kind of money just as a precaution?"
Deborah raised her eyebrows. "Frank would do anything to avoid a public scandal. The good reputation of this hospital is all he lives for." The pager on the waistband of her pants began to beep. She pulled it off impatiently. "I gotta go to the morgue." She held the pager in her hand, shaking her head. "Why would the morgue be paging me?" Then a thought struck her and she gasped. "We haven't had a child die recently, have we?"
"No," Diane replied. "But maybe a dead child has been brought in and taken straight to the morgue. They might need you to do the family liaison."
Deborah sighed. She hoped not, but as a pediatric nurse, that job fell to her from time to time. "Maybe," she said, holding out her hands to take the bedding from Diane's grip. "You want me to take these somewhere for you on my way?"
Diane shook her head. "I'm fine."
Deborah put a hand gently on Diane's growing belly. "Are you sure? If you need a break, please tell me. You're eight months pregnant. You're entitled to rest once in a while."
"I'm okay, honestly," Diane said as Deborah's pager began to beep again. "You go."
Deborah smiled and started to walk quickly down the corridor, feeling her blond curls bounce in rhythm with her sneakered feet. She pressed the button to call the elevator and as soon as she was shut away inside she let the smile fall from her face. Her friend's pregnancy should be a cause for happiness and joy, yet it only served as a reminder that her own biological clock had started to tick. When she had been young and naive, she had assumed she would be a longtime wife and mom by the time she turned thirty, raising a family in the beautiful surroundings of her hometown of Harborcreek, where she lived close to her mom and dad, and a whole bunch of friends who made her feel loved and blessed. The only thing missing from her imagined vision of the future was the man she'd thought she'd marry— Cole Strachan.
She exited the elevator and began walking to the morgue, concentrating on the sound of her rubber soles squeaking on the tiled floor, trying not to remember the day Cole had ended their relationship. He'd done so shortly after enlisting in the navy, telling her that he was too young to settle down, that he needed to live a little. Come on, Debs, she muttered to herself. Ten years is too long to still be grieving. Get over it.
She fixed her gaze on the end of the long corridor as she walked through the warm sunlight streaming in from the large windows lining the passageway. Cole may have broken her heart but he had not broken her spirit. She was stronger than that.
She walked a little closer to the wall when she saw a man approaching carrying a stepladder. His head was bent over a piece of paper in his hand, no doubt trying to work out his location in this large hospital with its maze of linked corridors. Her pager began to beep again and she yanked it from her waistband, furrowing her brow at the display. The man with the stepladder passed her by, engrossed in studying his scribbled directions, narrowly missing her head with the metal rungs. She considered reprimanding him for his carelessness, but the pager alert had been upgraded to level one. She picked up her pace to seek out the hospital's autopsy attendant, Dr. Keller-man, in order to ask him why a pediatric nurse would be required so urgently in his department.
The morgue was quiet. The front desk where the clerk normally stood to sign in new admissions was empty. Deborah used her hospital security card to open the door of the morgue, feeling the coolness of the room rush over her face.
"Dr. Kellerman," she called. "This is Nurse Deborah Lewis from Pediatrics."
"Dr. Kellerman," she repeated, edging her way through the door. "Are you here?"
She walked into the room, averting her eyes from gur-neys where deceased patients were covered with white sheets, feet poking from the ends, paper tags tied around gray skin on big toes. She shivered and wrapped her arms around her shoulders, creeping between the rows, heading to the room where the steel refrigeration compartments stored the bodies until collection by a funeral home. A creak on the floor caused her body to give a sharp, involuntary jump. She stopped in her tracks and took a deep breath, shaking her mane of curly hair and mentally chastising herself for allowing the presence of death to cause her this level of unease. She was a nurse. Dealing with loss of life was part of her job. Yet this felt different. This felt uncomfortable, as though the dead were watching her invade their resting place. Her eyes lingered on the stillness of the bodies beneath the sheets. She thought she saw a twitch, a faint hint of a movement underneath a shroud. Her heart picked up pace, and she averted her eyes, telling herself not to be absurd. Her mind was simply playing tricks on her.
Deborah pushed open the dividing door that led into the storage room and called out.
"Hello? Is anybody here?"
The hum of the refrigeration units filled the air in the white, windowless room with steel cabinets covering two walls, floor to ceiling. Each unit had a sturdy handle to slide the compartment out for easy access. One of the units had been left open, cold and empty, ready for its next inhabitant. But there was no sign of Dr. Kellerman or any of the morgue staff.
"Well," she said under her breath. "This was clearly a waste of time."
She turned back to the door that led into the morgue and a gasp of pure terror left her lips. Looming toward her was a shrouded figure, arms outstretched, rasping noises coming from beneath the sheet. Glancing behind the eerie figure, Deborah spotted an empty space on a gurney from where he had risen.
She was stunned into temporary paralysis, watching as the person came ever closer, looming over her, swaying on his feet like a man just learning to walk.
"No," she managed to utter as she felt her body being pushed back. The cold, smooth steel of the refrigeration units slid against her back, and strong, clammy fingers closed around her wrists. Within seconds, she was being pulled toward the open compartment. Her sneakers jarred against the floor as she tried to stop herself slipping, but it was no use. She felt as though she'd been transported into a horror film. This wasn't possible.
Her senses snapped back to full attention, realizing that this scenario truly wasn't possible, and she began clawing, kicking and fighting with all her strength. This was not a dead man rising. This was a living man masquerading as the dead. And he was trying to hurt her.
Her slight body was no match for the large bulk of the man, and she realized with terror that she was powerless to prevent him from pushing her into the refrigeration unit, then holding her down and sliding the box into its place.
She filled her lungs with air and screamed with all the breath in her body as the light faded away. And she was suddenly surrounded by people who would never hear her cries.
Cole Strachan hoisted the stepladder onto his shoulder in the hospital corridor and studied the scribbled directions on the paper in his hand. This place was a nightmare to navigate, and he was hopelessly lost, having walked around for at least half an hour. He balanced the ladder against the wall and decided to take a rest. He knew Deborah worked somewhere in the hospital, but that's just about all he knew. And it was probably all he deserved to know. His belly was a swirl of dread and excitement to think that he might see her again after ten years. Would she have changed? Would she still be beautiful? Would she still have that amazing mane of golden curls? But most important, would she forgive him?
A man in a gray suit turned a corner and came bustling toward him.
"Mr. Strachan from Secure It, I presume?" the man said with an outstretched hand. "I wondered if you might be lost, so I came looking for you."
Cole shook hands and smiled. "You must be Frank Carlisle, the hospital administrator. Am I right?"
The man nodded. "Follow me, Mr. Strachan, and I'll take you to the pediatric unit so you can have a look around and give us your expert opinion on our security systems."
Cole's heart sank at the mention of pediatrics. The last thing he ever wanted to see again was a sick child. He'd seen enough suffering of innocent children to last a lifetime, and losing his baby son to SIDS two years ago had just about finished him off. That was when he decided to come home to the place he'd been raised. He'd not only left the SEALs in Little Creek, Virginia, he'd left a wife who had divorced him and memories of a son he'd barely had a chance to get to know. Moving back to Harborcreek had been a hard decision, but it felt right. God was leading him back to a place where he belonged. And back to a woman to whom he needed to make amends.
He picked up his ladder and began walking, following the hurried footsteps of Frank Carlisle.
"So you're looking to give the pediatric unit a security overhaul, huh?" Cole asked.
"Indeed we are," Frank replied, leading Cole through a network of corridors. "I chose your firm because I figured that an ex-navy SEAL would give us the best security advice." He stopped and called the elevator. "Your background is very impressive, Mr. Strachan. What brings you to the Erie area?"
"I'm from Harborcreek originally," Cole replied, stepping into the elevator and gently easing the ladder in alongside him. "I recently came home to set up my own security company. It took off straightaway, and I already have ten employees."
"It's nice to have a local man working with us," Frank said. "Most of the staff in Pediatrics are from Erie, but one of our senior nurses is from Harborcreek. Maybe you know her."
Cole's throat seemed to close up and lose its moisture in an instant. "Maybe I do," he managed to say. "What's her name?"
The elevator glided to a rolling stop and an army of butterflies began to beat their tiny wings inside Cole's belly. "Is she a petite woman with a lot of blond curls?"
The doors smoothly opened and Frank led Cole into the corridor, using a swipe card to activate the pediatric unit door. "Yes. That's her."
Cole's eyes darted around as they walked into the unit. The walls were brightly painted with cartoon characters, and he caught an aroma of disinfectant and clean laundry.
"I know her," Cole said. "Is she here now?"
"She was supposed to be here for this meeting," Frank said. "But she seems to have gone AWOL, I'm afraid." Frank stopped a female doctor who was walking past. "Dr. Warren, do you know where Deborah is?"
"She got paged," the doctor replied. "To the morgue, I think."
Frank's eyebrows knitted together. "But the morgue staff are on a training day today. They won't be back until 5:00 p.m." He scratched his head. "And why would the morgue page a nurse from Pediatrics?"
Cole detected an edge of concern in the hospital administrator's voice. "How long has she been gone?" he asked the doctor.
Dr. Warren glanced at a clock on the wall. "About an hour or so."
Cole saw the look that passed between the doctor and Frank, betraying their anxiety. "What's going on?" he asked. "Is there something I should know?"
"Not at all," Frank replied briskly. "I'm sure everything is fine."
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.
Book Description Love Inspired, 2016. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0373677286
Book Description Love Inspired, 2016. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110373677286