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Grayslake: Furrever Yours

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Chapter One


FOR GRAYSLAKE FANS: This book can be read as a standalone. It is set a few weeks after the events that take place in the first book in Celia Kyle’s Grayslake series.



“Oh, my God, that poor cucumber,” R.N. Amelia Soldheim said in horror, looking at the offending vegetable right before she dropped it into the bright-red biohazard bin. She carefully peeled off her gloves and tossed them into the trash. “The places it’s been. The things it’s seen.”

“What about poor me? I can never unsee that.” Heather Appleby, nurse’s aide, grimaced as she glanced over at Vern Underhill, who lay face down on the gurney in Room 12 of the Grayslake Memorial Hospital’s emergency room, pale butt hanging out, pants bunched around his ankles. He was completely unashamed and leafing through a magazine now that the vegetable had been extracted from the place where it was never meant to be.

She’d heard Allen, one of the other nurses, mutter, “Stupid hyena, not again,” as Vern was wheeled into the E.R. by the paramedics. That was an interesting way to describe him. He did have a weird laugh.

Heather walked over to the sink and washed her hands for a third time, just on principle. After several years of working first as an E.M.T. and now in the E.R., she shouldn’t be surprised at the things human beings did to themselves. But she was. Especially on the overnight shift – people’s I.Q.s seemed to drop about twenty points when midnight came and went.

“Vern, I seriously do not want to see your flabby butt, or any part of you, in my E.R. ever again,” Amelia snapped at her patient.

“Kin you get me a co-cola?” he drawled, lazily flipping the magazine’s pages.

“Can you bite me?” Amelia scowled at him. “Don’t answer that. You do not want to get on my bad side right now.”

The curtain was yanked aside, and their nurse manager for the evening, Kerry, stuck her head into the room. Kerry was in her fifties, with brown hair shot through with gray, yanked back into a severe bun. She worked a ton of overtime in the understaffed E.R., and was famous for her unflappable nature and the fact that her face only bore one expression: annoyed. “Are you two about finished in here?”

“Hey, Kerry, do you want some salad?” Amelia said wickedly.

“Amelia. You are evil and will burn for your sins.” Heather punched her friend on the arm.

Kerry looked at Amelia with skepticism. “What kind of salad?”

“Biohazard bin salad.” Amelia doubled over in a gale of laughter.

Vern flicked a glance of annoyance at them and went back to his magazine.

“The answer to that question will always be no,” Kerry said, without the slightest flicker of expression, and withdrew from the room.

A call from the direction of the ambulance bay made them both snap to attention.

“Incoming!”

“Someday I will make her crack a smile,” Amelia vowed as she hurried out of the room towards the ambulance bay.

“Twenty bucks says never,” Heather said, following on Amelia’s heels as the E.R.’s automatic doors swooshed open.

“You’re on. Whoever makes her smile first wins.”

After the newest patient, a drug addict who’d overdosed, was taken care of, there was a brief lull in the storm. It was 3 a.m., and apparently the crazies had decided that the E.R. staff could take five minutes to pee and gulp down some vending machine food. Very thoughtful of them, Heather mused as she leaned on the counter and yawned.

Then she caught a glimpse of herself in one of the reflective doors and grimaced. Ugh. Her chestnut hair always started out smooth and shiny at the beginning of her shift, and then exploded into frizzy tendrils that made her look like Medusa. Her nurse’s scrubs were horribly unflattering to the female figure, especially to a full-figured girl like her; she looked like a light-blue apple.

“Are you looking at your reflection? Here? Why would you do that to yourself?” Amelia wondered.

“Apparently I’m a masochist at heart.” Heather hid a yawn behind her hand and leaned on the counter.

“No, that’s Vern.” Amelia giggled wickedly. Then she glanced at the E.R. door as it opened.

“Loverboy is here,” she said, and Heather felt the familiar mix of tension and arousal flood her body even before she laid eyes on him. Her skin went goose-pebbly and her heartbeat sped up.

“Loverboy” – his real name was Sheriff Knox Carlson, from Sandy Creek, a county which bordered Grayslake. Burly and surly was the best way Heather could describe the sheriff.

She’d known him for about a year, technically – she’d met him at the scene of a flipped-over vehicle when she was working as an E.M.T. in north Georgia the previous summer. He’d been on vacation, driving by the scene, and had stopped to help. Fortunately, since all the people in the SUV were wearing their seatbelts, no-one had been seriously injured. Knox had proven to be freakishly strong, when he ripped open the door of the upside-down car and helped the occupants crawl out one by one.

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