Sunday, April 27, 2014

Chapter Five of the #FreeRead From DANGEROUS MEDICINE by @StephRyanAuthor #romantic #suspense

Welcome back! I hope the last few weeks have been kind to you. It's still a bit hectic in the Ryan household, but there's finally light at the end of the tunnel as they say. I've had a few messages from folks looking for the next installment in my romantic suspense novel Dangerous Medicine. Wait no longer. It's here!

Chapter five finds our heroine Miranda Jacobs at the hospital waiting to hear more about her brother's condition. He'd been slipped a potent veterinary drug in his beer at a fraternity party. Unfortunately, he suffered a seizure from it and had fallen down a flight of stairs. He's currently in a coma while his family holds vigil in the hospital waiting room. 

Our hero, Jake Martinelli appears to be well known by the Jacobs family—much to the bewilderment of Miranda. Not only has she found herself fiercely attracted to the sexy police detective, she figures out her family may be doing a bit of matchmaking on her behalf. If it was any other time, she'd go with it, but not while her brother's life hang in the balance.

For those of you who need to catch up, here's the links to the previous chapters.

Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4

Now let's continue on with Dangerous Medicine...

Chapter 5

The doors of the elevator opened and Miranda stepped out into the hallway with Jake close behind her. She bit her lip, unsure where to go to find her family.

He placed his right hand on the small of her back and gently guided her toward the waiting area to their right. 
“The neurology patients have their own wing and waiting area.”

She’d initially stiffened at his touch, but then relaxed as if the two of them together was the most natural thing in the world. It was as if knowing he was there with her—for her, gave her renewed strength. “Thanks. I have to admit I didn’t hear one word of the directions from the nurse on the first floor.”

“It’s understandable. You have a lot on your mind.”

“Aunt Randi!” Her eldest nephew, Billy, ran toward her with his arms wide. “I knew you’d come. Nobody’ll tell me what’s going on with Uncle Matt. They treat me like a baby.” Billy squeezed her waist with his arms and locked his fingers together behind her back.

She loosened his death grip and then knelt down to his level. She gazed into the seven-year-old’s hazel eyes. He appeared frightened and torn with his need to be held and to be treated like a grown up. “Hold on there, cowboy. We’re all worried. No one’s keeping things from you. The doctor’s haven’t told us what they found on his last round of tests yet. I’ll help explain everything as soon as I know. Okay?”

Billy nodded and threw his arms around her neck. As she stood up, she lifted him into her arms. “Let’s see about finding your parents, huh?” She looked over her shoulder and noticed Jake grinning from ear to ear.
He shook his head. “You continue to surprise me, Doc.”

“Is that good or bad?” She searched his face for some clue as to what he meant by his comment. “I hope you’re prepared, Detective. You’re about to be mobbed by a very emotional, loud, but loving family. Did I mention loud? Can you handle it?”

Jake chuckled. “We’re about to find out. By the way—it’s a good thing.”

Miranda’s cheeks burned. “I’ll keep that in mind, Detective…uh, Jake.”

“There’s my girl.” Michael Jacobs Sr. stopped his pacing and strode over to where she and Jake had been consoling Billy. “I was about to send out a search party and then remembered you were with Jake. Had to remind your mother you were safe if you were with him. How are you, son?”

Jake smiled and shook his hand. “As good as can be expected. How are you and Madeline holding up?”

“Ah, you now the Missus. She’s the strong one of this family. It would take World War III to rattle that woman’s revolve. It’s something my dear daughter here picked up.” Mr. Jacobs hugged her before she had a chance to protest.

Jake nodded and smirked. “So I’ve noticed.”

Rattled by the turn of the conversation, she’d forgotten to ask how the hell Jake fit into her family. They talk as if they’ve known each other for years. I’ve been away for far too long. The fact it had taken a family tragedy to open her eyes filled her with guilt. She patted Billy on the back and hugged him again.

“There’s my mom now.” He squirmed out of her arms, grabbed her hand and pulled her toward the woman in question.

His mother, Marah, the second born of the Jacobs clan, greeted her with a bear hug. “I’m so glad you’re finally here. If anyone can make sense out of this thing, you can.”

“Where’s Bill?”

Marah ruffled Billy’s hair and shooed him back toward his grandfather. “He drove the rest of the kids to McDonald’s. Billy here didn’t want to go. No sense arguing with him when he gets like that. He’s as stubborn as you and Ma.” She laughed in spite of the tears that threatened to spill down he rosy cheeks. “He’s been such a brave boy through this whole thing. He’s helped out with his brother and sister and the cousins. We’re so proud of him.

“It’s going to be all right. It has to be. Hold on to that for Ma and Pop.”

As they settled back in the chairs to wait for more news about Matt, Miranda glanced around the room and counted heads. Michael Jr., the third born, appeared to be in deep conversation with Jake. She raised her eyebrow and made a mental note to talk to her brother later. The whole idea Jake suddenly stopped by her parents’ house took a different twist if her brother or father had something to do with it. That’s the more likely story. As at ease as he is with my folks, he would’ve known they were here holding vigil.
Michael’s wife, Jennifer sat quietly on a large couch and nursed her baby. Next to her was Miranda’s youngest sister, Melody. She and her fiancé, Philip were expecting their first child. They were to be married that Christmas, but knowing the young couple, they would postpone it if need be to be there for the family. They’d already done so twice because of the passing of Phillip’s father the year before. Those two need some happy family event. They’ve already put their lives on hold too many times.

Miranda excused herself from Mara and joined the other ladies. “How are you guys holding up?”
Melody rubbed her very pregnant stomach. “As well as can be expected at the moment. The baby is kicking the hell out of my spleen—at least that’s what I think it is. She’s going to be athletic like her Uncle Matt. I think I’ll sign her up for soccer lessons now.” She giggled and grabbed Miranda’s hand to place over her stomach.

Three more swift kicks pummeled her hand. She leaned over and whispered toward Melody’s stomach. “Hey there, sweetie-pie. It’s your favorite aunt. You had better let up on your ma’s spleen for a while. How about going for her bladder? You know how she loves to get up fifty times an hour to go to the bathroom.”

Melody slapped Miranda’s arm. “You devil!”

“Phillip go with Bill to McDonald’s?”

“Yes. As you know, hospitals aren’t one of his favorite places to be so he jumped at the chance for a change of scenery. He didn’t think one man should be left alone with four kids all under the age of six. You should have seen them. They left here singing ‘Follow the Yellow Brick Road’. It was quite a site. Phillip loves kids and can’t wait to be a dad.”

“Well, he’ll get lots of practice before your daughter comes into the world. What is it? Less than two months away now?” That old familiar stab of jealousy pierced her heart. She’d wanted a family of her own more than anything, but even now she found it hard to admit to herself she’d give up all hope of being a mother while she was in vet school.

Melody placed her hand over Miranda’s and squeezed. “I know that look. There’s still time for you yet. Just because you didn’t get to experience this first as our big sister, doesn’t mean it will never happen.”

“Have to have sex for that to happen.”

Melody laughed. “Well that’s the fun way to do it, but there’s always the turkey baster.”

Miranda snorted. “There’s always that!”

Madeline Jacobs, the family matriarch, walked into the room. Her normally porcelain complexion appeared ghostly white. She tried to be strong in front of her children, but Miranda could tell she was barely holding on. Madeline caught her daughter’s eye and attempted to smile.

Miranda stood and crossed the room in four strides. She embraced her mother and struggled to hold her composure.

Madeline pulled back and brushed the hair from Miranda’s forehead. “Stop blaming yourself, girl. You couldn’t have prevented this even if you tried. You know your brother. He’s always in the thick of things. 

Did you know he wanted to be a police officer?”

While her mother’s soft Scottish brogue normally eased her anxiety, this time the words she said raised more questions. She hated being so far out of the loop where her family was concerned, but she only had herself to blame. She’d moved away. She’d made her career her focus and made less time for the people that meant the world to her. No more. I’ve missed so much. Phone calls and hit or miss weekends just aren’t enough. “When did he decide on that? The last time we spoke he still hadn’t settled on a major.”

“Not too long ago, darlin’ He’s been working close with our friend, Jake over there. He’s been a good influence on your brother and kept him out of trouble as best he could. Like you, Jake’s feeling guilty over not being able to protect him from this.”

Miranda’s stomach churned. The bitter taste of bile hit the back of her throat and she swallowed several times to force it back down. “What do you mean? I thought his accident happened at a frat party. How would Detective Martinelli been able to prevent it from happening?”

Madeline’s green eyes blazed. “Well, it seems your brother was going off to do his own investigative work on a case. The police believe someone deliberately tried to harm him because he had been snooping around. If I ever get my hands on the low-life who did this—”

“Stop, Ma. No point getting all fired up before we know for sure. We have to let the police handle it.” She’d said the words out loud for her mother’s benefit as well as her own. The urge to strike out and make someone pay for hurting her brother grew to frightening levels inside her. Calm down. No need to make things worse. You need to be strong and keep a cool head for the family.

The doors to the waiting room opened and a group of doctors approached. Miranda scanned their faces in an attempt to read their mood, but came up empty. This can’t be good.

Miranda took her mother’s hand and together they joined her father, her brother Michael and Jake. The rest of the family gathered around them. Madeline found her voice first. “Well, what did you fine gentlemen determine with all your fancy tests? Is my son going to be all right?”

Dr. Moriarity, the Jacobs’ family physician, cleared his throat. “We have found the swelling of Matt’s brain has stopped and is in fact decreasing. It’s occurring much faster than we had originally anticipated, so there’ll be no need for surgery at this time. You’d asked me to be straight forward and not sugar coat anything for you.”

“Go on, Doctor. We can take whatever you have to say.” Madeline’s grip tightened on Miranda’s hand to the point she lost feeling in her fingers.

“We have no idea how much damage the brain tissue sustained from the fall. The fracture in his skull is stable and shouldn’t contribute to any further trauma to the delicate tissue. As far as we can tell, Matt had an allergic reaction to the Ketamine itself. It triggered the seizure center of his brain and caused him to lose consciousness before he fell down the stairs. I wish we had more for you, but we won’t know the full picture of what happened until he wakes up. If he wakes up.

Miranda held her tongue long enough. “Are you saying if he doesn’t come out of the4 coma soon, there may be a chance he’ll never do it?”

Dr. Provost, the neurosurgeon, shook his head. “Not exactly. Even if he wakes up within the next hour, he may still be mentally and or physically impaired. I’m sorry, but we can offer very little hope at this point other than to wait and see. We simply can’t determine anything more at this time. We’re doing all we can. The rest is up to him.”

She refused to acknowledge the words ‘no hope.’ “Is he on a respirator?”

“No. He’s breathing well on his own. He also responds to some stimuli at this point. Quite a few of his reflexes are intact, but slow.”

Her analytical mind took over and kept her rooted to the spot when all she wanted to do was jump for joy. There is hope! “Thank you. I’m sorry to be so abrupt with you. I know you’re doing everything you can for my brother. I need to see him for myself to believe this is actually happening.”

Dr. Moriarity’s brown furrowed with concern. “I must prepare you. He’s hooked up to a lot of machines. I could come as a shock—”

Her blood boiled. “You’ve known my family for over thirty years and you know me. I won’t waste time reminding you I’m still as stubborn as I was when I was a teen. I need to be alone with him for a few moments if you don’t mind.”

He nodded and gestured for her to follow him.

Miranda moved to join him but stopped short because of a gentle touch on her arm from Jake.
“I’ll be right here if you need me.”

Her stomach jolted at his unexpected kind words. She’d forgotten he was there. She had so many questions for him about his relationship with her brother, but what really caught her by surprise was her desire to rush into his arms and forget about everything except the two of them. Good Lord! Get a grip. You just met the man.

Instead of acting on her fantasy, she put her hand over his. “Thanks. Would you mind sitting with Billy for a bit? I think he could use you a little more than me at the moment.”

“Sure, anything to help, Doc.”

She smiled. “Randi.” Although the way he says Doc, I could get used to it.

* * * *

Jake squeezed her hand once and pulled his away. “You got it, Randi.” He watched her square her shoulders and fall in step behind Dr. Moriarity. Their footsteps echoed down the hallway. Jake turned back toward the lounge and found Billy off in the corner by himself, crying.

He approached the boy and sat next to him. “Hey, your Aunt Randi asked me to talk to you while she goes in to see Matt. We know more about what happened. Do you want to hear it?”

Billy looked up. Tears streamed down his red cheeks. “You don’t think I’m too young to understand?”

“Nope.” Jake reached out. Billy turned and collapsed into his arms. He pulled him onto his lap and rocked the boy until his sobs slowed. He waved off Marah and signaled the two of them were okay. “You see, someone put a drug in Matt’s drink at a party. They did it to hurt him. I know you probably can’t understand why someone would do that, but there are some very bad people out there; people who don’t care if they hurt anybody else or not as long as they get what they want.”

Billy wiped his eyes with the handkerchief Jake handed to him. “I know there are bad people out there. I know Uncle Matt is a good person and doesn’t deserve to have things like this happen to him. Grandpa said you’re trying to find the person who did this. Are you?”

Jake hugged the boy to his chest. “You bet. I’m not going to stop until I find out who did this and make sure he goes to jail for a long, long time. Okay?”


“Now you know Matt is in a deep sleep. They call it a coma. That means he can’t wake up on his own yet because his body had to work so hard to heal itself. What the doctors just told us is they don’t know when he’s going to work up.”

“I’m scared he won’t ever wake up.”

“Me too, Billy. It’s okay to be frightened, but you have your family to help you be strong. We have to do the best we can and send happy thoughts to Matt. I believe he can hear us when we do that.”

“Even if we can’t tell him in person? They won’t let me in to see him.”

Jake nodded. “Our prayers are taken to him right away. It’s like your mind is connected to his. He can’t answer back yet, but he hears every single word. How about we say a prayer together for him?”

“Can we do a family circle?”

Marah approached. “I think that’s a great idea, honey.” She beckoned the rest of the family. All joined hands with Billy and Jake. They prayed to give Matt the strength to come back to them.

Jake added his own silent prayer to theirs. Please help me find the people responsible for this so no other family has to go through this kind of pain ever again.

* * * *
All Rights Reserves ©Stephanie Ryan 2014

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter from @StephRyanAuthor

Happy Easter everyone! It's been a busy week and I hope today finds you all in a festive mood, ready to spend the day with your family. Mr. Ryan and I have a quiet day at home planned. This year we decided not to do the anything special except spend the day together. 

It's the season of rebirth and renewal and a time to reflect on how you can change your life for the better. However you choose to celebrate the day, I wish you much love, peace and tranquility.

For those of you who've stopped in for the next chapter in my romantic suspense novel Dangerous Medicine, it will be available next week. Edits ran longer than expected. For those of you who haven't read the first four chapters, here are the links. Let me know what you think of the story so far.

Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4

I'll leave you with one of my favorite commercials while I go on a hunt for my hubby's secret stash of chocolate!

Until next time,

Saturday, April 12, 2014

#FreeRead from @StephRyanAuthor DANGEROUS MEDICINE Chapter 4 #romantic #suspense

It's that time again! Welcome to Through Stephanie's Eyes and week four in the free read of my debut romantic suspense novel Dangerous Medicine. I'm winding down to the last two chapters I'll have up for free. The rest of the story will be included in the full novel released in a few months. 

This week we're up to chapter four. If you missed the previous installments, here are the links:

Chapter 2
Chapter 3

To bring you up to speed here's a bit of a summary of the story so far.

In Dangerous Medicine, you meet Dr. Miranda Jacobs, a veterinary cardiothoracic surgeon in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. Thefts of one of the most common veterinary anesthetics are on the rise resulting in the sale of it on the street as "Special K." Miranda comes face to face with the devastating effects of ketamine when her brother is slipped some at a fraternity party. He has a severe allergic reaction that ultimately puts him into a coma. 

Miranda puts her fast-paced career on hold in order to be with her family at her brother's bedside. It's on the way to the hospital that she literally collides with Detective Jake Martinelli. Sparks fly between them, and Miranda finds herself fiercely attracted to Jake even though she knows very little about him. 

Jake Martinelli is nearly knocked off his feet when he meets Miranda for the first time. Normally he'd avoid headstrong, career oriented women like her, but something drew him in like a moth to a flame. She awakened feelings he thought dead a long time ago. He tried to ignore his growing attraction for her  while he concentrated on finding the person responsible for putting her brother in the coma, but his mind continued to wonder what it would be like to have her in his bed.

And now this week's free chapter...

Chapter 4

Miranda grabbed her keys and raced out the front door with her mother’s travel bag over her shoulder. As soon as she turned toward her car, she slammed into a six foot wall of solid muscle. She’d stumbled backward and an angry retort died on her lips. In front of her stood the one of the hottest men she’d ever seen. He simply oozed raw sexuality. “Oh, excuse me,” she stammered. “I’m sorry. I’m just on my way out. Is there something I can do for you?”
Jake flashed a crooked grim. “You must be Matt’s sister Miranda, the veterinary surgeon. I’ve heard a lot about you. Now it’s my turn to apologize.” He extended his hand and gripped hers firmly. “Detective Jake Martinelli. I’m one of the officers investigating what happened to your brother.”
Her cheeks burned. I must look like a complete idiot right now, practically drooling over a stranger. She wondered if this was the same Jake Matt had mentioned on the tape. She hoped so. It had been a long time since a man smiling at her could make her hands sweat and her mouth go dry. She liked the felling—a lot. “I…I was just on my way to join my family at the hospital. Thanks for your concern, but—”
“Shouldn’t you get that?”
“Your purse is ringing.”
She laughed at herself for being so flustered over a man. “Excuse me a minute. Hello? Pop is that you?” She walked a few paces away from Jake to talk to her father privately.
“Of course it’s me. Didn’t my smiling face come up on that fancy smart phone of yours? What’s keeping you, girl? Matt’s tests are done and the doctor’s going to give us the results any time now.”
“I was on my way out the door and practically ran over a Detective Martinelli. He stopped by to see about Matt. How come I’ve never heard of him before today?”
Mr. Jacobs chuckled softly. “You’re very hard to get in touch of you know. Always at work, no time for your family. How are we supposed to tell you what’s going on if we never see you?”
“Pop…”She sighed and rolled her eyes. Not this again.
“Never mind that now, just bring Jake along. He’s your brother’s friend and should be here when the doctors give us the news. Besides, I think I can trust him with my baby girl.”
“Will you please stop being so overprotective? I’m a grown woman. I can take care of myself.”
“I’m just looking out for you, like any father would. Now hurry up and get here as soon as you can—but don’t go driving recklessly!”
“Goodbye, Pop.” She disconnected the call with one tap to the screen and then dropped it back into her purse. She sighed and then smiled when she turned to find Jake leaning against his Jeep watching her. “Well, my father vouches for you. I guess that means I can trust you.”
His deep laughter caused her stomach to flutter. “Glad to hear it. How about I give you a lift to St. Mary’s? You’ve driven quite a ways and you must be tired. It would give me a chance to help out.
She hesitated. “That’s very generous of you, but…”
“Come on. I’ll even turn on the siren and flashing lights. We’d be there in no time.”
She noted the mischievous sparkle in his eyes and realized he wasn’t kidding about the sirens. “Okay, I’ll ride with you as long as we do it without all the bells and whistles.”
“Party pooper.” He took the duffel bag from her and placed it in the back seat of the vehicle. He whistled. “What have you got in there? Rocks?”
She rolled her eyes and watched his thigh muscles bulge against his tight jeans as he climbed into the driver’s seat. “Everyone criticizes my packing.”
“I wasn’t criticizing, just making a comment.”
“How about you concentrate on getting us to the hospital before my father goes out of his mind worrying about what’s taking us so long?”
“As you wish.” He slid his sunglasses on, threw the Jeep in reverse, and backed out of the driveway.
She caught him sneaking side glances at her. He appeared to be as nervous as she was next to him. He fumbled with the radio and grimaced as a myriad of sappy love songs popped up on every channel.
“Hey, turn it back. I like that song.”
He motioned to her that the radio was all hers. “Go for it.”

She found the station he’d passed by. She sat back in the soft leather seat and closed her eyes. She conjured up a romantic setting in front of a fireplace somewhere and let the deep melodic voice of Toni Braxton fill her mind. She looked up into the face of the man in her daydream. It was Jake. She snapped her eyes open only to find him concentrating on the road ahead.
She longed for him to look at her and flash his crooked smile that took her breath away less than a half hour before. She wanted to get closer to him so she could take in more of his cologne. She recognized the scent, but couldn’t remember what it was called. The more she tried to picture the label on the bottle, the more it drove her crazy.
“What’s wrong?”
She started and found herself lost in his eyes. He’d removed his sunglasses now that the sun had set completely. She tore her eyes away from his long enough to note they’d stopped at a red light about three miles from the hospital. Her cheeks burned again. Damn it to hell! “N...nothing’s wrong. Why do you ask?”
“You had a strange look on your face, like you were anywhere but here with me. Thinking about your brother?”
She shifted uncomfortably and hoped he hadn’t noticed the flush blazing across her face, neck and now her chest. She fought for control and willed the tears to stay away. She lowered her voice, afraid if the world heard her fear it would make it come true. “I don’t know what I’ll do if he doesn’t come out of this. I’m absolutely terrified I’m never going to be able to hear his voice again.”
He didn’t say a word. Instead he covered her shaking hands with his large callused one. With that simple gesture, she knew he understood.

* * * *

He admired her strength. Anyone else would have completely crumbled when hit with the news she’d received that afternoon. Michael had hinted she would be this way and keep everything inside in order to protect the rest of her family. Outward strength or not, he longed to be the one to take away all of her pain and see her smile light up her emerald green eyes again.
The short toots of a car horn brought him out of his day dreaming with a start.
She smiled. “Now who’s a million miles away, Detective?”
As he put the Jeep into gear, he glanced toward her again. “I’m glad I brought a little amusement to your day, but from now on why don’t we both stick closer to home. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve enjoyed your company but it’s much too distracting. You have the uncanny ability to make my mind turn to mush. That’s not good when I’m driving.”
She appeared to struggle with suppressing her laughter. It began as a small giggle, progressed into an all-out fit complete with tears, and then finished with hiccups. “I’ve never had that effect on any one. Is that good or bad?”
He pulled into the visitor’s parking lot and turned off the engine. “You continue to surprise me. I thought I had you all figured out when we collided in your parents’ driveway. Just who are you, Dr. Jacobs?”
She wiped the tears from her eyes and stifled a few more giggles and hiccups. “I wish I knew. I’ve been working on the answer to that question for several years now. I thought I had the answer once, but I’d been proven wrong in the worst sort of way.”
He nodded. “I have a pretty good idea what you mean. Why don’t we leave it at that for now, and promise to continue this conversation later?” He got out of the Jeep and walked over to the passenger side and helped her out of her seat. He didn’t want to push the conversation any further—at least not now.
She appeared simultaneously relieved and disappointed that he didn’t pursue their talk. She paused and held his gaze for a moment. “Detective?”
“Jake, thank you for driving. You helped keep my mind occupied on things other than my brother.”
He shifted from foot to foot, momentarily uncomfortable.
She grinned and seemed to take great pleasure in his squirming. “Any way, thanks for your company.”
“It was my pleasure, Doc.” He retrieved the duffel and carried it as they walked toward the hospital entrance. He sensed it wasn’t easy for her to thank him, or to allow him to carry the bag for her. In his mind he pictured her at war with herself, fighting the impulse to snatch it from him and rush into the building on her own. He wondered what kind of fool had let this woman slip through his fingers. Who hurt her so badly that she pulled away from life and refused to rely on anyone but herself?
Normally he shied away from headstrong, career oriented women like Miranda Jacobs. They were too much like him in that regard with no room for a private life outside of the job. However with her, he recognized something there between them—some sort of pull on his heart that drew him toward her. She stirred feelings in him he thought were dead a long time ago. She frightened and fascinated him all at the same time. He decided there and then, as he watched her walk through the hospital doors, he would have her in his life. He simply had to.

* * * *

All Rights Reserved ©Stephanie Ryan 2014

Monday, April 7, 2014

#FreeRead: Chapter 3 of the #Romantic #Suspense DANGEROUS MEDICINE by Author @StephRyanAuthor

Welcome back to Through Stephanie's Eyes. This week has been a bit of a whirlwind. Finally, I have Chapter 3 ready for you this week. For those of you who missed the first installments of Dangerous Medicine, you can find them here:

Now on to the next chapter. Enjoy!

Chapter 3

Jake slowly exhaled as the hot water washed over his taut, aching muscles. The rhythmic pulsing of the water pounded away at the tension in his neck, shoulders, and back. His mind wandered back to the night he offered Matthew Jacobs the opportunity to bust up the gangs of drug dealers that had invaded the local university campus and surrounding areas.
He remembered it as if it were yesterday instead of just over two years ago. He’d never forget the night Matthew had been arrested for possession of marijuana. The one time local football hero had appeared to be at an all-time low. The way he’d walked into the station and his overall demeanor simply oozed defeat. Jake knew that feeling all too well. His heart had gone out to Matthew then and he’d come up with a way he could redeem himself in his own eyes.

* * * *

Two years ago, Saginaw County Police Department

Jake rubbed his eyes. He’d spent the last three hours catching up on paperwork he’d let pile up. He had no one else to blame for it. He detested writing reports and filling out the endless forms that had always been a part of the job. If he could con another of his team to do it for him, he’d have done it in a heartbeat. 
Unfortunately, all of them hated it as much as he did so all of them tackled it on their own. Most kept up with it along the way—not Jake. He put it off until the absolute last minute every single time.

He looked up from the last form as one of the undercover city officers walked by with a perp in tow. Jake immediately recognized the handcuffed co-ed as the one time high school football phenom, Matt Jacobs. He’d followed the boy’s playing days through the papers and had even caught the last few games the kid had ever played—including the last that had ended his hopes of a future in football. There must be some kind of mistake. No way would this kid be into drugs now.

The officer waved him over. “Mr. Jacobs. This is Detective Martinelli with the Narcotics Division. He also works closely with the local DEA.”

“DEA? Seriously? Does this really have to go this far? I swear it wasn’t mine.” Matthew visibly paled.

“Give me a few moments with the detective and then we’ll go through your story one more time for the record.”

Matthew slumped in the chair and nodded. “Take all the time you need. I’m not going anywhere.”

The officer pulled Jake aside and kept his voice low. “I believe him but since he’s on campus and in the athletic department—”

“You thought he’d be of some use to our drug ring investigation.”

The officer nodded. “I was going to call you when we got here, but I see you’re still elbow deep in paperwork.”

Jake laughed. “Just finished the last of it when you got here. Looks like I’m hanging out a bit longer. Shame to see Mr. Jacobs get a record for something like this. Let me see if I can convince him to join my team.”

“Go for it. I’ll get started on the paperwork in case he doesn’t take you up on your offer.”

“Don’t worry. He’ll go for it. If he doesn’t, I’ll finish up his booking myself.”

The officer laughed. “I’ll let you handle things from here on then.”

Jake returned to the desk and sat down opposite Matthew. “Mr. Jacobs, I have a proposition for you. I need eyes and ears on campus and you need for this charge to disappear.”

“What are you saying? You want me to be a snitch?”

Jake laughed. “When you put it that way, it doesn’t sound like a great idea. I need your help here. If you agree to do it, I can make it so no one will ever know about this possession charge.”

Matthew held up his cuffed hands and glared. “From where I’m sitting, it sounds like you’re blackmailing me.”

“I am.” Jake held Matthew’s gaze.

Matthew blinked a few times. “You’re kidding me right? Isn’t this sort of thing illegal?”

“I don’t know. It’s all in how you look at it. I do know that having over three ounces of weed in your possession is illegal and we can book you for it tonight.”

“You’re asking me to spy on my friends and classmates and share that information with you in exchange for not having this go on my record? Unless I’m mistaken, this state considers possession of any amount of weed to be a misdemeanor at best. I could just take my chances with the courts and see if a judge will believe the truth. The pot isn’t mine. I don’t know who it belongs to. I was the designated driver for and took thirty or more people home tonight. It could belong to anyone.”

“Then you won’t mind writing down their names and addresses.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me. You know damn well the program doesn’t work that way. If the students need a ride home, we provide it. No questions asked. I don’t know the names of over half of the people who were in my car tonight.”

Jake held back a smile. He’s good. He knows I can’t force him into this deal. Better come up with a better angle. “A drug charge—even a misdemeanor won’t look good to your employer. You’re an assistant coach for the SVSU football team right?”

Matthew closed his eyes and hung his head. “Yeah.”

“I’m not asking you to spy on people, Matt. All I ask is you keep your eyes and ears open. If you see or hear anything suspicious, I’d appreciate the head’s up. It’s our job to investigate every tip and lead, no matter how insignificant it may seem. You’re in a position of authority. Students already come to you for help. Some may be afraid to come to us directly with information. You could help with that.”

Matthew sighed. “I understand what you’re saying, Detective. It still feels like I have no other choice here. If I don’t agree to help you, I’ll be charged. Before Monday, word of my arrest will be all over campus and in the local papers. I can see the headlines now. Local Football Hero Turns to Drugs to Get Over Loss of Future NFL Career.”

Jake winced. The kid is too hard on himself. Just like I was at his age. Nothing has to leave this station. We come up with a cover story. You’re studying criminal justice, right?” He stood to remove the cuffs from Matthew’s wrists.

“Yeah. Thought about being a cop—” He rubbed his wrists where the cuffs had chaffed.

“This experience could help you figure out if you really want to be one or not. You could tell people you’re doing research. What do you say? Is it a deal?”

Matthew nodded. “Okay. I’ll accept your blackmail terms on one condition.”

Jake chuckled. “And what’s the condition?”

“You’ll be the one to explain to my folks why I didn’t call to let them know I’d be out late. By now my mother has called all of my brothers and sisters as well as all of my friends to be sure I’m not lying in a ditch dead somewhere.”

“That bad, huh?” That clinches it. He is a younger version of me, right down to worrying the shit out of his mother.

Oh you don’t know the half of it. She has all the hospitals on speed dial and I’m sure she’ll call the station any time now.”

The officer who had brought Matthew into the station, strode across the room. “There’s a Madeline Jacobs on the line wishing to report a missing person. Says her son would never be out this late without calling her.”

Jake laughed. “It’s all good. I’ll talk to her and apologize for keeping her son so late. The research for his class project got a bit more detailed than we had planned.” He winked and handed the phone over to 

Matthew. “Go ahead and prove you’re alive. I’ll talk to her when you’re done and promise to get you home in one piece.”

Matthew grinned and picked up the phone. “Ma? Yes, it’s me. I’m sorry I didn’t call earlier…”

* * * *

That had been the beginning of a friendship that Jake had come to cherish. To him, Matthew was the little brother he’d always wished he had. They shared many of the same interests and Jake recognized much of himself in Matthew, albeit a much younger and more naive self than he’d cared to admit. Even his choice of a career in law enforcement had mirrored his own. The more time the two of them spent together, the easier it was to see Matthew as a friend and colleague.

Jake had allowed their friendship to cloud his better judgment when Matthew had asked him to let him in on a case involving the date rape of a college student six months ago. She’d been one of the assistant caches for the girls’ basketball team. Jake knew Matthew was too close to the case and should have kept him as far from the files as possible. Instead he allowed him access to the police reports, and the officers in charge of the case had included Matthew in some of their brainstorming sessions on how to proceed with the case. They had treated him as the campus liaison he’d become, but forgot he was also human and a good friend to the girl who had been attacked.

Much of the evidence against the fraternity boys accused of the crime had been circumstantial at best. She’d been brought into the emergency room unconscious. The toxicology report of her blood revealed she’d been given a nearly fatal dose of ketamine. Luckily, the person who had found her new CPR and had been able to give her mouth to mouth breathing until the EMTs had arrived.

The girl had regained consciousness a week later to discover she’d not only been drugged, but had been the victim of rape as well. The ER doctor on duty had ordered a rape kid performed when the girl had been admitted. The doctor’s hunch had been correct. Thankfully they’d collected enough samples to run DNA analysis on.

Lawyers for the accused had delayed the collection of samples from their clients as long as they could. Eventually all six of them showed up at the police station to donate under the watchful eyes of their parents, lawyers and several police officers. Just last week, the police and prosecutors got the break they’d been hoping for—conclusive evidence all six suspects had sex with the victim.

Unfortunately, the lawyers intervened yet again. They had all six out of jail on bond within hours of their arrest. So far each attempt at setting a trial date had been thwarted. Delay after delay had begun to take its toll on everyone, including Matthew.

“Why do these assholes get to walk around free when you’ve done everything by the book? The DNA matches. My friend nearly died because these animals thought it would be fun to spike her drink and screw her while she lay there unconscious and unable to defend herself. They took away her right to say no.”

Jake shook his head. “It’s not fair, but they will pay for what they did to your friend, Matt. I promise.”

“I can’t sit around here right now. If this is what it’s like to be a cop, I don’t know if I want to do it anymore. I need some time away from everything to think things through. School, work, the student-police liaison work—all of it is just too much for me right now.”

“Take all the time you need. Just so you know—you’re not alone. All of us go through these doubts all the time in our profession. What keeps us going are the cases where we do make a difference. You’ve made a difference since you’ve started working with us. Don’t forget that.”

Jake mentally kicked himself for not recognizing how angry and disappointed Matthew had become in the justice system. Three days after their last conversation, Matthew was in a coma, victim of the same drug that nearly killed the basketball coach. I should have known he’d take matters into his own hands. Hell, I’d do the same thing if roles were reversed.

He dressed quickly and grabbed his phone from the charger. He scrolled through the missed calls and let out the air from his lungs. No calls or texts from the Jacobs family. “No news is better than bad news. Time to head over to their house and convince a woman I’ve never met I’m there to drive her to the hospital.” He glanced at his reflection in the mirror in his entryway. “At least I won’t scare the shit out of her right off the bat. Let’s just hope she doesn’t kick me in the nuts and run off screaming.”

* * * *

Miranda pulled into her parents’ driveway just after six o’clock. An eerie feeling washed over her as she entered the front door. No noises reached her ears. Nothing. With all the children and grandchildren running in and out of the house all the time, the silence that overwhelmed her now gave her the chills.

She decided to take her father’s advice and raid the refrigerator after all. With very little effort, she found the fixings for a turkey sandwich on whole wheat, a banana and her favorite chocolate milk. She settled down at the breakfast bar to feed her now growling stomach. Out of the corner of her eye, she noted the light flashing on the ancient answering machine. She reached across the counter and pushed the play button.

“Hey, it’s me. Just called to tell you that I’ll be home late, so Pop, don’t wait up.” Matthew’s voice resonated throughout the room.

She nearly fainted. She clutched the counter top and listened to the rest of the message.

“Tomorrow, let’s see if we can get Randi to take a few days off to visit. I want her to meet Jake. I think she’d like him. Well, better go now. Love ya!”

Her hand shook as she rewound the message and played it again. Thank God my parents still love the old technology. She searched the cabinet for a blank tape and then placed it in the machine. She put the other with her brother’s voice on it in her purse. She’d give it to her mother at the hospital.

“Shit!” She glanced at the clock and berated herself for wasting time. She gulped down the last of her milk and put the dishes in the sink. She ran up the stairs to her parents’ room. She had less than two hours now before visiting hours were over and she needed to see her brother for herself before she’d believe anything more about his condition. Hang on, little brother. I’m coming!

* * * *

All Rights Reserved @Stephanie Ryan 2014

Thank you for stopping by this week. Let me know what you think of the story so far. Chapter 4 is up next within the next two weeks. Come back and visit again!

Until next time,