A Change of Plans

At one point this month, I thought I’d write about all the ‘anniversaries’ from February 2020. That just smacked of beating a dead horse though. Then I thought, I still need to come up with something interesting, because I can’t just keep doing the monthly Weko Gazette posts.

I’d already accepted that the Christmas book I’d wanted to put out in December, and then January, was going to have to wait until the annual Christmas in July celebration. There wasn’t much I could do to prevent getting hit with two viruses in less than two months and, unfortunately, it took a while to bounce back from them.

Still, I needed to do something – but, I couldn’t think of anything. 

Until tonight.

And so, it’s back to the next book on the list. I’m partway through the final edits/rewrites on Quinn’s story (fourth in the Royal Sweethearts series – this is an affiliate link, learn more about those by clicking here). That means it’s time for another sneak peek. Hope you enjoy it! 🙂

~~~~~

Heart pounding like a jackhammer, Quinn MacMahon could feel beads of sweat breaking out on his upper lip. Willing himself to calm down, he laid on the bed in the dark room trying to focus on slowing his breath from panicked gulps of air to a more relaxed and normal rate. But he couldn’t break free. He could never break free.

“It’s a dream,” a disembodied voice chanted, like its owner was reading a child’s nursery rhyme. But it was his voice too. “It’s just a dream. It’s all in your head. Wake up, wake up before you’re dead!”

But no matter how hard he willed it to happen, the scene continued to play out in a nightmare that had been haunting him for the past five months.

It always started out innocently enough, trying to fool him. Trying to make him think it was all in good fun. Nearly everyone he cared about was there in the courtyard. Prince Cameron and his family. Nolan and Abby. Fin and Princess Briannon. Some of the other guards.

Unseasonably warm temperatures had melted most of the snow, more than a month earlier than usual, and the volleyball net had been set up as soon as the grass dried.

He heard the laughter and good-natured insults as each team gave their best effort to win the game.

Yeah. A perfect spring day. Or it had seemed to be.

Except he knew what was coming. Knew he couldn’t stop it from happening this time, any more than he’d been able to stop it the other times.

Fear set in and he could feel his heart begin to pound harder when the white ball sailed out of bounds and rolled toward the edge of the cliffs.

“It’s just a ball, let it go!”

The voice was frantic now, shouting. But, like a spectator sitting in a theater, he watched himself run after it. Like it mattered. Like they didn’t always bring extra balls because the odds were better than good they’d lose at least one more to the icy Atlantic.

But he was determined to save this one, laughing as he chased it. And then the dog appeared, as if from nowhere, probably thinking it was a game. Whatever the reason, the warnings came too late.

“Quinn! Look out!”

“Quinn, stop!”

“Quinn, no!

One step too far to the right to avoid crushing the little ankle biter and the ground gave way beneath his foot.

In that instant, he accepted the fact that he was going to die. Not protecting his king. Not protecting the king’s family. Those would have been noble reasons to give his life. But no. He was going to die because he tried to save a volleyball.

And then he was falling. Somewhere in the mess that was his mind, he remembered that part happening fast. But now, as he tried and failed to escape the clutches of the dream, it took forever.

The sky above him seemed larger than life, a vivid, impossibly brilliant shade of blue. The sun was bright, and perfect cottony clouds looked as though they’d been painted by the hand of the world’s most gifted artist.

He tried to concentrate on those, grateful he didn’t have to watch the jagged rocks below getting closer by the second. Once had been enough. More than enough. Like the impact. At least he always woke before reliving that moment, though he seemed to be getting just a little closer each time.

Being forced to remember the brief moments before he’d lost consciousness would have been too much. He’d never known such pain. He’d never prayed to die before either, but he’d done so that day.

Heart pounding fast now, Quinn could barely catch his breath. Then, mercifully, he woke, his body jerking so hard the bed shook.

Except for the drug induced sleep in the first few days following the accident, and for a time after each surgery thereafter, he’d relived the nightmare so often, he was almost afraid to close his eyes. He never knew what might trigger them, or what he might do to prevent them from happening.

Skin clammy and his body trembling, he commanded himself to calm down, to focus on the waves washing up on the shore outside his window. A soothing, relaxing sound, it should have helped, but it never did.

“It was just a dream,” he muttered, echoing the voice in his head, knowing that it really wasn’t. More like memories he couldn’t get rid of no matter how many ‘happy thoughts’ he tried to think after the sun set each night.

He wished he could forget it. Or that it had never happened in the first place. He wished he was back on Casteloria, doing his job instead of recovering here on Bois Blanc Island, praying he’d walk again. Knowing he never would. At least not like before. Before he was ruined.

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