Read an Excerpt
A Drexler University Novel
By Jennifer Blackwood, Candace Havens
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 Jennifer Blackwood
All rights reserved.
Good: giving a guy a heart attack from your wardrobe choice.
Bad: guy having a literal heart attack.
The worst part? My "killer" outfit wasn't even cute. And it definitely wasn't a guy I was trying to impress. Nope. Instead, I stood in my baggy green Office Jax shirt, hovered over my middle-aged coworker as he clutched his chest, beads of sweat pouring down his red face.
I scanned the service floor for Jack, the owner of Office Jax. The store was empty, no one around to help Mike—except me. And for a pre-med student, I had no clue what the hell I was doing. People assumed since I sported acceptance into Drexler's medical program, I had some massive knowledge about all things medical, but I wouldn't be learning any lifesaving techniques or medical procedures until I was actually in school. So at this moment? Totally screwed. Like only one Oreo left in the sleeve and all the grocery stores are closed screwed.
I took one last look around the store, praying for Jack to walk through the sliding doors like a white knight coming to save the day, but with the only sounds in the store being Mandy Moore's "Candy" streaming through the intercom and no footsteps, it was apparent I was on my own. I let out a heavy sigh and rocked back on my heels. Of course something would go wrong as soon as Jack went on lunch break. Nothing bad ever happened at a convenient time—like when I actually had a medical textbook handy. "Hold on, Mike. I'm calling for an ambulance."
Mike gave a weak nod, the sweat from his face dripping onto the linoleum floor. My scalp prickled as I surveyed his declining state. Red face. Shortness of breath. Pain in arm. All roads led to a heart attack. C'mon, think, Ms. Future M.D. I was rewarded with a symphony of crickets.
Sweat started to pool at the small of my back, and I wiped the back of my hand over my slick forehead. Damn it, do something! But for the life of me, I couldn't remember anything from my CPR classes, the information locked away in a part of my brain that wasn't functioning during my inner freak-out. Should I give him aspirin? That one commercial for Bayer flashed through my mind. Heck, who actually bought Bayer besides people over seventy?
I looked around the store. Maybe Jack kept some medicine around in the staff room? Doubtful. He didn't strike me as the free handouts type. My gaze landed on the walk-up ladder, the place where this incident started.
Guilt threaded through my stomach, knotting my insides like a tightly wound ball of yarn. This was my fault. If I'd helped Mike haul that mammoth of an office chair onto the overhead storage shelf instead of letting him be all macho caveman I don't need your help with this, Jules, he probably wouldn't be in this situation. To make it worse, my shirt had ridden up as I was tying my hair into a bun, and Mike had looked over, checking out my stomach, just before he dropped the box and doubled over. My pulse throbbed in my ears, my vision wavering. God, what if he died?
I shook my head. I could not think that way.
Mmmkay, girl, this is your chance to prove you got the lady cojones.
I gave myself a mental pat on the back and left Mike's side. Pulling out my phone from, I dialed 911, my shaky hands barely able to punch in the three digits. The dispatcher picked up on the second ring, her voice calm and level. "911, what's your emergency?"
I inhaled deeply, willing my mind to stop spinning. You can do this. Help Mike. "Yes, I have a—hold on." I turned to Mike. "How old are you?"
"Why does that matter? Just tell them the address."
I put my hand on his shoulder. "It's important they know how old you are." At least that's what all my favorite hospital shows emphasized.
Mike gave me a pointed glare.
I chewed on the inside of my cheek. Didn't he know how important details were in life-threatening situations? It's okay, just sound professional. Fake it. "I have a middle-aged man, who I believe is having a heart attack."
"All right, ma'am. What's your address?"
Shit, I should have had that information ready before I called. "Just a sec." I put my hand over the speaker. "Do you know the address?"
Mike stared at me, his eyes wide with horror, like I was the most incompetent person to be dealing with this situation. Quite possible. Having a 4.0 GPA clearly did not equate to nerves of steel in emergency situations.
"Right. I think the address is on a pamphlet up front. I'll be right back." I shot up from my squatting position and, as I sped toward the customer service station, my boot caught on Mike. I toppled over his thick body, and he let out a loud groan as my knee connected with his gut. My phone sailed through the air until it crashed against the Customer Service counter.
"Shit," Mike hissed.
I scrambled to my feet and went back to his side. "Oh my God, I'm so sorry."
I tried to dust off the mark my shoe left on his uniform, but he brushed me off. "Damn it, Jules, get me an ambulance!"
"Right. Sorry." I wiped my sweaty palms against my pants and went to grab my phone.
Tears pooled in the corners of my eyes. Did I have to be such a screw up right this second? I mean, I had another seven hours left in this day. It would be much appreciated—by Mike and me—if I could cash in the bumbling nervous crap after I got off work.
Sweet baby cheeses, get it together. My coworker was having a heart attack, and I was the one having a mental breakdown. No time for that. He needed help—and quick. Squashing down those thoughts, I beelined it to my phone and pulled it together long enough to rattle off the address I found on the back of a printer protection plan pamphlet.
The dispatcher assured me an ambulance was five minutes out. Good. The faster we got him out of here, the better chances he'd have at a full recovery. Even though my pulse hammered like I was going into cardiac arrest, and my mind raced a million miles a minute, I needed to hold it together. This was going to be my life in five years. Hopefully the jittery factor would diminish with a med school degree. But as of right now, instead of M.D. after my name, I was Jules Carmichael: employee at Office Jax—pushing protection plans, memberships, and listening to people's printer woes.
I kept the phone pressed to my ear, followed the operator's instructions to stay on the line, and told Mike, "They'll be here soon." I took his hand in my own and squeezed. "It'll be all right. My grandpa had a heart attack a few years back. EMTs get here really fast."
Mike looked up, his eyes assessing whether or not to believe me. "Yeah?"
"Mm-hmm." I massaged his palm, thinking back to fishing with my grandpa on the dock of his Georgia estate. I'd spend three weeks every summer in Peach Grove. Three weeks filled with fishing, drive-in movies, ice cream, and more fishing. Without fail, he'd catch the biggest fish in the lake, releasing it as soon as he reeled it in. We'd continue this until lunchtime when Nanna brought us PB and Js. God, I missed him.
The hairs on the back of my neck prickled. Crap. "Oh, uh—"
His face fell. "He didn't make it, huh?"
I inwardly groaned. Votes tabulated, official results: Jules wins worst comforter in emergency situations. "No." Girl, you are going to need some better material to comfort future patients.
I mentally side-eyed my subconscious. No shit, Sherlock.
We remained in uncomfortable silence for a few minutes, Mike focusing on his breathing, me focusing on not screwing up anymore, occasionally updating the operator. Rocking back on my heels, I stared at the shiny tip of my stiletto boot, a scuff mark on the floor, anywhere but Mike. Bile crept up my throat, and I quickly tamped it down, focusing on breathing through my nose and not upsetting him any further. Heck, after that slapstick routine, he probably expected me to do something as messed up as puking on him by now.
A few minutes later, the ambulance careened through the parking lot, and two first responders jumped out and rushed inside to Mike. I stepped back and watched them haul him away in the bus. I blew out a sigh and leaned against the counter, blocking out "Ice Ice Baby," which threatened to make my ears bleed. One week on the job and I already wanted to tear out the speaker system in this place. Throwback songs were cool, just not ones from the decade of inflatable furniture and Tamagotchi's.
Jack came back a couple minutes after the ambulance left and let me off early. I clocked out and made my way to my Subaru in the parking lot, barely holding it together, hands violently trembling. I slid into the car and pressed my head into the back of the worn leather seat. What was up with me back there? So much for calm and collected.
What would Mom say? I screwed my eyes shut, dots swarming against the darkness. She'd say that the medical field was the only reliable job market nowadays and to suck it up. I agreed, it was reliable, and I was ready for the payoff when I graduated med school.
I opened the glove compartment and pulled out a stick of gum and popped it in my mouth, chewing it until my jaw ached. I focused on pushing away the self-destruction looming along the peripherals of my frontal lobe.
That was some scary shit back there. I'd never actually seen anyone have a heart attack before. Watching it on TV, I could remain an impartial third party, yell at the characters on the screen, wipe drool off my face while the hottie doctor saved the patient. But in real life, I realized just how underprepared I was to handle those types of situations.
After going through at least six ways I could have done the whole call differently—like, HELLO, having the address handy!—I started up the car.
I rested my head on the steering wheel and breathed deeply through my nose. The bass of a rap song pulsed through my body as I tried to let the music take me away, like it usually did. But even that couldn't calm my nerves. Ever since I cracked the perfectly molded armor of my I have my life together façade by getting caught up in Adderall, pieces kept flaking off, exposing every flaw. All those years spent creating an image I couldn't uphold completely wasted.
My throat constricted as tears blurred my vision. Maybe I should focus on biology, get a job in a lab, away from society.
You'd probably contaminate some vials and start a SARS epidemic.
This pep talk was so not helping.
No, this called for the big guns. Payton. Best friend extraordinaire. She'd know what to do; maybe she'd have some suggestions on how to get over these post-emergency jitters. I put my car in gear and made the fifteen-minute trip back to our Whisky Creek apartment complex.
When I burst through the door, Payton lay sprawled across the couch, skimming through a running magazine. She must've still been mulling over which races to enter for July and August, like she had been all week. In terms of running, she was Grade A badass, running faster than I could ever attempt, even if my favorite celeb was at the finish line offering to be my baby daddy.
"Sup, bitch?" I threw my keys and purse on the counter and made my way to the sofa.
She looked up from the magazine and smiled. "Not much, skank. How was work?"
Payton had been my roommate since last summer. We'd bonded over our mutual caffeine and chocolate addiction, and the fact we were both med majors. Eat chocolate. Drink coffee. Study. Sleep. Repeat. Except it was currently summer, so studying was pushed off for a few more months.
I gave her a hug and then collapsed on the edge of the couch she wasn't occupying. "Sucked. My coworker had a heart attack."
"What?" She sat up and rolled the magazine in her hands, one eyebrow jetting up her forehead. "For real?"
"Yeah." I put my shaking hands on display. "This hasn't stopped since he went down for the count. Poor guy, I called down to the hospital, but they wouldn't tell me how he was doing."
"How are you doing?"
Horrible? Like curling up in the fetal position and eating a whole sleeve of Oreos.
"Fine." I knew what she meant, though, even if she didn't say it outright. She was asking if I was thinking about relapsing.
I was damn proud of my six months sober status. Did a pick-me-up sound hella good right about now? Heck yes. But I was better than that. I broke up with Adderall a long time ago, and didn't want to go down that road again. But convincing people of this proved to be a tougher feat. Especially Mom and Dad. I had my lowlife brother, Eric, to thank for that one.
I'd been trying to compensate for his mistakes since I was fifteen and, last year, drove myself into the ground. Between work and school, I didn't have enough time to keep up with everything. When a guy in my class offered to hook me up with some "study aids" I jumped at the chance—and voilà, first class ticket to rehab.
The need to juggle fifty things at once like Martha Stewart planning a holiday party at the White House still clawed at the back of my brain. An annoying itch that I couldn't scratch. So instead of having copious amounts of artificial energy to perform, I chugged coffee by the gallon and struggled to make it work.
Payton stared at me with an arched brow. She totally didn't buy what I was selling.
"Just a little shaken up. I see my counselor tomorrow; I'll talk about it then." Part of the agreement for finishing my rehab included weekly counseling sessions. At first, I hated seeing a psychologist, but now? I liked talking about my problems to someone who wasn't going to judge me.
She nodded and squeezed my hand. "I'm so proud of you."
I blew out a breath, my bangs fanning over my forehead. "Thanks." I just wished she was proud of me for something other than not popping pills.CHAPTER 2
My plane landed, the massive hunk of metal rocketing across the tarmac at McKinleyville. I pressed my head against the back of my seat and blew out a sigh as the flight attendant announced our early arrival. Great, more time for Dad to really take a dig at my performance at Baylor. Perfect start to the summer.
I pulled out my cell phone and powered it up. Seven unread messages from Lex rapid-fired across the screen. How many times could someone say they were sorry? She was up to two hundred and thirty-one. I quickly typed in Go fuck yourself but then deleted it. No use giving her the satisfaction of a response. Silence said it all. You messed up, now deal with it.
As I clicked out of her message, a text rang in from Dad.
In short-term parking. See u soon.
Home sweet fucking home.
I hadn't talked to him since he'd received my academic expulsion letter from Baylor. He bought a one-way ticket to McKinleyville, the closest airport from Spring Hill, for me and said "we'd talk later."
I had a feeling there wouldn't be much talking, just a lot of yelling, especially when he just dropped thousands on my schooling. I didn't blame him for being pissed—I just didn't want to be within a ten mile radius of the aftermath.
The plane pulled up to the terminal and the fasten seatbelt sign clicked off. Would the flight attendants really notice if I stayed on the plane and got off at the Seattle stop while my luggage circled around baggage claim and my dad stewed in the car? I'd heard about people stowing away on airlines, couldn't be too hard. Anything seemed like a better option than spending my summer at home with Dad, working at the store. The only reason I was home and not back in Texas, crashing with friends, was the fact that everyone went home for the summer, and I didn't have a job there. No money equaled summer from hell at home.
An elderly lady sitting to my left tapped my shoulder, giving a short reprieve from the Ryan Pity Party. "Excuse me, could you help me with my bag?" She pointed to the overhead compartment. "The purple one."
Excerpted from Foolproof by Jennifer Blackwood, Candace Havens. Copyright © 2015 Jennifer Blackwood. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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