About the author:
Sasha Sutcliffe lives in Montreal, Canada with her musician boyfriend and four dogs. She spends most of her day fighting with her curly hair.
Here is a short sample from the book:
Dr. Alexa Ramirez expected to be a little sweaty after her usual post-work jog along the river. She didn’t expect to find a smouldering handsome stranger waiting outside the clinic as she returned, and she sure as hell didn’t expect him to collapse right in front of her.
She spotted him the moment she turned the corner. He looked completely out of place, tall and stately, dressed in a fancy suit and his blonde hair coiffed perfectly away from his face as he turned to watch her approach.
She reached for the iPod she had clipped to her waistband and slowed her pace, lowering the volume a little and sighing. This was her favorite time of day – when she could get away from the walk-ins and have a little alone time but it looked like duty was calling, even though she was technically off the clock.
The pale hue of the streetlight illuminated his face, making his skin looked soft and ethereal, as though he had just stepped out of one of Alexa’s dreams. But as she slowed her jog to a walk and drew closer, his expression changed. His eyes looked wild, panicked, his lips moved soundlessly as he tried to tell her something before he gave her a weak half-smile, then swayed and did a face-plant directly in front of her.
“Jesus!” she shouted, tearing off her headphones and darting toward him.
By the time she got to him, he was convulsing on the ground, his arms and legs twitching uncontrollably as his head rolled back against the pavement. Alexa peeled off her jacket, rolled it up quickly and placed it under his shoulder, she turned him to one side to keep him from hurting himself.
“Sir? Sir, it’s okay, you’re not alone. I’m here with you, alright? I’m going to help.”
The seizure only lasted for a few more seconds before his body stopped convulsing and his hands unclenched and his breathing slowed. Alexa waited a few seconds longer before she took the jacket and slipped it under his neck, then turned him over onto his back.
Immediately, she was struck by the man’s features. He looked even more perfect up close. He was obviously pale from fainting, but he was so serene now, so peaceful, that Alexa almost forgot he had collapsed. She knew it was wrong to ogle him at this moment. He was obviously in a vulnerable state. But his features were striking and for the briefest of flashes, Alexa thought maybe she had seen him somewhere before but she couldn’t quite place when or where.
He looked much less unkempt than most of the walk-ins she saw at the clinic. His perfectly blonde hair was tousled over one eye, and high cheekbones framed his slender nose. She moved a few stray strands out of the way, noticing a bump starting to form where he’d hit his head when he fell. His jaw was square, prominent, and his lips, although full, had now gone quite pale, almost blue, which snapped Alexa out of her daydream. She knelt over him, shaking him softly a few times.
“Hello, sir? Can you hear me?”
When he didn’t respond, she pressed her fingers to the side of his neck. His pulse was too weak to detect and his skin was cold. She looked up but his car, if he’d even come in a car, was nowhere to be seen. That was that – Alexa had to get him inside.
“I guess a little extra cardio can’t hurt,” she said to herself. She hitched her fingers under either armpit and dragged him toward the door. In a few seconds, she’d unlocked the door and managed to get him inside. She left him there, darting down the hall to the small examination room and grabbing a gurney, rolling it out the door and rushing back to where she’d left the stranger.
He stirred slightly, his eyelids fluttering as he tried to come around.
“Sir? I’m Alexa. I’m a doctor. You’ve collapsed, but I’m going to help you.”
He mumbled something but Alexa couldn’t make out what he was saying.
She knelt beside him again and using every ounce of strength she had left in her, she hoisted him up high enough that she could slide him partway onto the gurney.
“Listen, you gotta help me here. I’m trying to get you onto this bed, alright?”
For a brief second, he opened his eyes, only a slit, but he seemed to get a short burst of energy when he saw her and managed to haul himself up onto the bed before collapsing against the pillow.
“Good, that’s good.”
She rolled the bed back down the hall to the exam room and slid it into place. She grabbed her stethoscope and pressed it to his chest. She took a deep breath, calmed her breathing and listened.
For what felt like a long while, she didn’t hear anything. She watched the man, the rise and fall of his chest slow, slight. So he was getting some air, he was still breathing.
She looked down at him, the harsh overhead lights made his skin look shockingly pale, almost porcelain, with an underlying blue tone. It wasn’t that cold out but she’d been gone on her run for almost 2 hours. Who knows how long he’d been standing in the cold outside the clinic?
Exactly. She had to act fast. She grabbed a pulse monitor and slid it onto one of his slender fingers, then reached up for the monitor and flicked it on. Nothing happened. She tapped it, as if that would make it work, then took his hand and made sure the monitor was on properly. Still nothing.
“This is exactly why we need equipment that actually works,” she said, clenching her jaw and trying to keep her temper in check. She’d been fighting with these ageing machines for months and now, when a patient’s life truly depended on them, the machine decided to act up again.
She tore the monitor off, taking out her stethoscope and thermometer from the tray. “Looks like I’m going to have to do it the old fashioned way.”
She grabbed one of the ready-heat blankets from the cart, tore open the packet and unfolded it. She could feel it start to heat up right away and she covered him with the sheet. Covered now, she waited for a few minutes, slipping a hand under the blanket every now and then to see that he was, in fact, starting to warm up.
Taking out the stethoscope, she clamped the eartips into either ear then pressed the diaphragm to his chest and listened but…she couldn’t hear anything. His chest was rising and falling, but she couldn’t find his heartbeat. She moved the diaphragm around on his chest as quieted her own breath, straining to hear. Finally, after what seemed like an alarmingly long time, she thought she caught the faintest flicker of a heartbeat.
Alexa exhaled loudly, pulled the blanket back up to cover him and hooked the stethoscope around her neck. “Yeah…that would have been weird.”
She paced the floor beside the bed and watched to make sure he was still breathing. Who was this guy and what was with the look he gave her when he first saw her? Did she know him? Had she met him before and just forgotten who he was? How did he get here without a car?
Either way, it didn’t really matter right now. It seemed like he was stabilizing, so she went over to him, felt around his body, patted his pockets in search of a wallet or some other identification.
“I don’t usually get this fresh when I first meet someone but desperate times call for desperate measures.”
Inside, there was no wallet, but she did find a cellphone. She plucked it out of his pocket, scrolled to the contacts and strangely, only found 1. She hit the auto-dial and brought the phone up to her ear. The person on the other end answered almost immediately.
“Mr. Thorne. My god, man. Where the hell are you? I’ve been worried sick.”
The man on the other end was silent.
“Hi, my name is Dr Alexa Ramirez. I run the Walk-In Clinic out on Route 25.”
There was a long pause before the man responded. “Yes?”
“Your friend – Mr. Thorne, is it?”
“Yes. Mr. Thorne. Mr. Dane Thorne.”
“Right. Well, I found him collapsed outside my clinic about 10 minutes ago.”
“Christ! Is he…”
“No, he’s alive. In and out of consciousness, but alive.”
“I’ve got him under a warming blanket right now and I’m about to give him fluids to…”
Alexa frowned. “What?”
“I mean…fluids won’t work. He’s been ill. What he needs is blood.”
”Um…what do you mean…blood.”
“His blood…it’s weak. He…he needs a transfusion.”
“Okay. I…uh…I would have to do further tests on him before I’m comfortable giving him any blood. Really, he should be in a hospital for treatment of that kind.”
“No! Um…he hates hospitals. Whatever you do, don’t take him to the hospital. He’s at your clinic, you say? Can’t you just treat him there?”
“I…guess I could but I would have to type him first and find out–.”
“Please, you don’t understand. He’s been gone for days. Missed his treatments. If you check his pocket, he should have paperwork stating that I’m his medical contact. What he requires is a blood transfusion. If he does not get it–.”
Before he could finish his sentence, the man started convulsing on the table.
“Jesus!” Alexa darted over to him.
“What?” the man on the phone shouted. “What is it?”
“He’s convulsing. I have to go.”
“Please! Doctor, you have to help him. Blood. What he needs is blood. Or else he’ll die! Please help him! I’m on my way. You have my consent to treat him as you see fit. Just…don’t let him die!”
The man hung up before Alexa could protest but she didn’t have time for that anyway. Dane’s body was contorting awkwardly, his legs and arms jutted out as he twisted and writhed in pain.
She pocketed the phone, then placed one hand on either side of his face to try to hold him steady and keep him from throwing himself off the bed. The moment she touched him, it was as though he knew she was there and instantly started to calm down.
“It’s alright, Dane. That’s your name, right? Dane? I’m here now. Everything’s going to be alright.”
Her voice seemed to soothe him and his breathing slowed, he relaxed and fell softly back onto the bed. After a few seconds his breathing started to slow and Alexa whispered to him in a low, soft voice.
As the convulsions subsided, she got a good look at him and was struck by the exquisite structure of his face – high cheekbones, strong yet delicate brow, full lips. She knew it was wrong – to be checking him out this way when he was obviously ill – but she was instantly drawn to him, almost like she knew him or at the very least had seen him before.
His eyes remained closed but very slowly, very quietly, he lifted his hand and placed it on Alexa’s which still cupped the side of his face. She almost thought she was dreaming when he managed to open his eyes long enough for her to see how shining emerald they were. The sides of his mouth turned up at the corners in a soft smile, as though it was a moment of recognition.
“You,” he whispered.
For a brief moment, everything else in the room seemed to fade away and Alexa’s thoughts went cloudy and she had a brief flash of what felt like a dream. A fireplace burned in a darkened room, the fragrant scent of lilacs wafted around her, and she felt the soft touch of a warm hand on her skin.
Alexa blinked, and the vision was gone, but in the next moment, Dane started seizing again.
Her mind raced, her thoughts flitted by too quickly to second-guess herself. She knew what she had to do, no matter how much her brain was screamed at her to stop.
Alexa released Dane, then went directly to the cupboard and grabbed the supplies she needed. Even though she was about to do something drastic, she knew in that moment that she would do anything to save the stranger.
She took out a clipboard, recorded Dane’s blood pressure, pulse, respirations and temperature in the chart, hoping that if she stuck to procedure, she’d come to her senses and change her mind about what she intended to do.
Alexa knew her own blood type – O, the universal type. But she had no idea what type this guy was. Her heart raced as she threw her head back and took a deep breath. The chances of him being compatible weren’t that slim but…what if he wasn’t what if she went and gave him her blood and it didn’t help. or even worse..what if it killed him?
She looked down at him. He was tall, slender, but lying there, so pale and weak, he looked so small. Alexa knew she couldn’t simply stand by and let him die.
She shook her head, her brain screamed at her, replaying rules, regulations, the possibility of a law suit, but she managed to push those thoughts to the back of her mind as she got out the supplies she needed.
She went to the refrigerator, flung the door open and pulled out the drawer. As a small clinic, they relied upon donations from the public but people hadn’t been giving much of late and as she flipped through the reserves, she saw that they had a number of packets of both A and B but no O.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” she said, flipping through the blood packets again, but still, only specific types of blood.
She shook her head, sat back on the stool and looked over to where Dane lay. If she gave him A or B and he was the opposite type, she could kill him. O was the only safe bet and they were out.
“I’m not though,” said aloud, hoping that by saying it, it might talk her out of what she was thinking. Now she knew understood how having Type O blood was a blessing and a curse. She had the means to potentially save him, but doing so could open up a can of worms that started with law suits and could end with her single-handedly tanking her career.
She stood and went over to him. As though sensing she was there, his eyelids fluttered and he looked up at her. Alexa felt her stomach lurch with uncertainty but when he flashed her a weak smile, he nodded, it was like she couldn’t say no.
“It’s okay,” he said. “Do it.”
“How…How do you know…”
“I’ll be fine…if you help me.”
As she stood over him, something in his eyes, in his gaze, willed her to act. She placed one hand on his face and looked down at him. When he started seizing again, Alexa didn’t think. She acted.