Heather Holmann has been diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer, and there's no hope. The disease will kill her, but she is determined to control the remainder of her life. Not wanting her sons to see her wither away, she decides to hire a hit man. Riley McCoy is a DEA agent working deep undercover. Heather overhears him talking about his job and concludes that he's the man for the job.
Worried that Heather will blow his cover, Riley agrees to meet with her. When he learns of her situation, he agrees to the job; he watched his own mother die from cancer, after all, and he knows the pain that Heather is facing. Even so, the more he gets to know her, the more he realizes he loves her.
Meanwhile, Jasmine Sato-a crooked FBI agent desperately in love with Riley-threatens to reveal his identity to the mafi a unless he gives in to her desires. To prove her point, Jasmine blows the covers of several agents, in her obsessive quest for Riley's heart.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.49(d)|
Read an Excerpt
THE DEATH WISH HIT
By LIZ HOWE
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Liz Howe
All rights reserved.
The air in her lungs felt acidic as she tried to force herself to breathe. Everything audible, including the sound of her doctor's voice, was muffled to almost complete silence. Her future had just come to a screeching halt upon learning that she was in the fourth stage of pancreatic cancer. Her head turned slowly towards the doctor's private office window, staring out towards the tree outside.
Heather Holmann was a forty-year-old woman with long, sandy blonde hair. She was attractive and of average height and build. Her beauty was simple in nature; a strait broad-tipped nose just below almond-shaped green eyes, and a strong, squared jaw encasing uneven lips. It took very little for her to dress up and wow a room full of people. On the other hand, with no effort at all, she could go unnoticed by the world while out in public. She preferred it that way.
Several weeks earlier she had not been feeling well and since it was close to her annual health check-up, Heather decided to have her regular exams done a little sooner. She figured the stress of being a divorced, single mother trying to make ends meet was just taking its toll on her. Her eating habits had not been the best lately and what used to be an occasional antacid tablet seemed to become a daily fix.
A few days after the exams, she'd received a call from her physician's nurse, insisting she come in immediately. Now, after hearing the devastating news that she only had a couple of months left to live, she slouched in the leather chair opposite of her doctor, dazed and confused.
The professional setting was characteristic of most doctors' private offices. It was very tidy with lots of dark wood furniture polished to a beautiful, glossy shine that reflected the sunlight squeezing in between the slits in the blinds covering each window. Matching book shelves stood just behind the desk on either side. There was a good mix of favorite novels, medical books and professional awards that were interrupted every so often with personal pictures of smiling faces and people happily embracing each other.
"Heather ... Heather?" Dr. Yazzie called out. "Do have any questions for me?"
Dr. Yazzie was a beautiful Native American woman around fifty or so. She had high, rounded cheeks with a thin nose and long hair that seemed to be darker than black. Her light brown eyes were like crystal and her smile was warm and inviting. Her skin was flawless, much like that of the models on the posters in a cosmetic store.
"Umm ... yes," Heather responded, turning away from the window and refocusing her attention on the physician. She drew in a half breath as if to prepare to ask the doctor a question, but then reconsidered, exhaling it back out. She placed her hand slightly over her mouth and softly-uttered "No ..." what more could Dr. Yazzie explain to her that she hadn't covered already.
A million thoughts were running through her head.
How could this happen?
How could I have not known?
What about my boys? Their graduations? Their marriages? My grandchildren?
Could there be some kind of a mistake? Heather wondered, looking over at the CT scan and ultrasound images on the view-box. It didn't make sense, but there it was in black and white, the cancer clinging to her organs.
"I'm sorry to have to give you this devastating news, Heather," the sympathetic physician said. "The symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer are deceivingly silent. That's why it's known to be the fourth deadliest cancer. In a lot of cases, by the time it's been detected, it has already spread throughout the body, as it did in your case. At this point, any treatment we can give you won't help, but I can assure you that when it's time, we have procedures we can use to alleviate the pain."
She could tell that Heather was not hearing much of what she was saying. This was nothing new for her though, as she had done this many times before. The stunned look on Heather's face was the tell-tale sign. She pushed her chair back and stood up walking out from behind the desk and over to one of the matching dark, walnut cabinets near a small conference table, and pulled out a sample box of medication.
"I've already written you a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication. You'll find it in the folder with your paperwork I've prepared for you," Dr. Yazzie informed, walking back over to Heather and handing the box to her, "but here are some samples of the medication until you can get your prescription filled. It'll help relax you a little bit."
Heather looked over at the viewbox, absently taking the box from the physician's hand, and then back up at her with a blank stare.
"Thank you ... doctor," was all Heather could manage as she slowly stood up from the chair, taking the box along with the paperwork with her. Feeling light headed, she clutched her purse as she reached down for the arm of the chair to steady herself. Dr. Yazzie immediately leaned forward to offer assistance.
"Heather, can I call someone to give you a ride or get you a cab?" Dr. Yazzie asked.
"No," she replied, more quickly than she intended, her legs weak as she walked to the large wooden office door. "Thank you," she said, struggling to make eye contact with Dr. Yazzie. Her pace was slow and unsteady. In less than thirty minutes Heather's whole world had gone from boring, yet content, to one with a near-future of nonexistence. Here today, gone tomorrow.
She walked out of the private office and past the nurses' station with her head down, trying to avoid the eyes of those walking past her. Every step felt like ten. The walk through the lobby door to her car seemed like an out-of-body experience, as if she were walking down an endless tunnel that led to nowhere. She was desperately trying to fight off the tears that she could feel welling up inside her. All she wanted to do was collapse and cry. Each breath was impossibly heavy.
"You can do it," she whispered to herself. "Just make it to the car."
Seconds later, when the dark grey Volkswagen Jetta's door closed, Heather rested her head on the steering wheel and started to cry, her emotions completely overwhelming her. The reality of what remained of Heather's life was quickly sinking in. She knew she was going to die. The unknown and absolute horror of the entire situation rushed over her. With every breath, raw emotions came flooding out too. She gasped for another breath, wanting to cry it all away.
Her thoughts immediately returned to her two boys. Mark was twenty years old and had recently moved out when he left for college. He was in his second year at PSU. Ricky, her youngest, was fifteen and still lived at home with her, however, he had been spending more time with his father in recent months.
Heather opened the sample of medication and washed it down with the half full bottle of water sitting in the Jetta's black cup holder. Once she was satisfied the pills had successfully made it down her throat, she replaced the lid on the bottle and set it back into the holder. She turned the key starting the engine, and pulled the gear shift into the drive position exiting out of the parking lot. Despite the feeling that she was going to vomit at any second, she continued to push herself.
As she made the usual stops and turns on her way back home, she drove down a tree lined street in the Belmont Heights district of Long Beach. She imagined what the remaining time she had left would hold for her and her boys. Would Mark drop out of school to come back home and take care of her until she died? would Ricky's life fall apart after losing his mom at such a young age? or would they both prove to be the strong men she had so desperately tried to raise, the kind of men who would make her proud? Her distraught thoughts grew deeper and deeper, almost to the point of panic.
"Hey!" yelled a frantic voice from outside her car. Heather slammed on the brakes, her car coming to a sliding halt. An older gentleman walking his dog had just entered the intersection when she'd absently attempted a right turn, completely oblivious of both of them.
"Watch where you're paying attention, you stupid lady," the man shouted, pumping his fist in the air as he walked by at a snail's pace in front of her car. The old man continued to mouth obscenities to her as he made his way to the other side of the street.
Waiting until he was at a safe distance, she completed the turn and continued down her street until she approached her driveway and pulled in, putting the car in park. Quickly swinging the door open, she threw her upper body out the door, and began to vomit. After retching everything she'd previously eaten before her appointment, she pulled herself back in, wiping her mouth the best she could on the short sleeve of her shirt, and tried catching her breath. She sat there for a moment with her eyes closed and her head leaning back on the headrest until she gathered enough strength to exit out of the vehicle and up the steps to the front door of the wraparound porch.
Her house was a modest, two story, early twentieth century bungalow that was commonplace in her Long Beach community. During her separation and divorce, her parents offered for her to stay in it until she could make other living arrangements. Eventually, she ended up buying it with the proceeds from her divorce settlement.
As she opened the door, she stood in the entryway scanning the large living room and thought about all the special dinners and events with her family while growing up in the house. Her steps were still slow, though she had now managed to steady herself better. As she passed through the living room towards the staircase where a large mirror hung on the wall, she looked at herself, eyes wide as she examined them. The whiteness didn't have the look of jaundice the doctor mentioned associated with pancreatic cancer, but then again, she was using eye drops lately with her allergies bothering her.
She then looked at her face; her skin had a slight bronze tint, but nothing out of the ordinary for someone who lived near the beach. It just didn't make sense to her. All her symptoms seemed like those of any normal situation. She had always assumed the back pain she felt come and go the past few months, was from getting older. Bloating. Don't all women bloat? she thought. How could she be perfectly healthy one day, then given such a short time to live the next?
"Why?" she asked aloud, looking back at herself in the mirror. "why me?"
Turning away from her reflection, she walked up the wide U-shaped staircase and through the short hall pausing at Mark and Ricky's bedrooms to look in. They were empty, as usual. Little by little her house had gradually become a quiet, empty and often lonely place. The house was far too big for just her anymore. Even though Ricky still came several times a week, the stillness the other days brought made her feel sad and depressed.
She walked into Mark's room. It was decorated much the same way it was when he left for college. Throughout the room were pictures of him with his friends from graduation and different snowboarding trips to Colorado they went on. An autographed poster of Chris Bradshaw hung on the wall next to the book shelf with awards and trophies from school and snowboarding competitions.
She was exhausted in every way—mentally, emotionally and physically. She just wanted to go to sleep and then wake up to find out that all of this was nothing more than a horrible nightmare. She pulled the covers of Mark's bed back and slid under them, not bothering to take off her clothes. She wrapped her arms around herself tightly, as if she was giving a conciliatory hug to herself.
Another lonely night, she thought as she fell asleep, tears still rolling down her cheeks.
Heather awoke the next morning to the sounds of birds chirping outside the window and the increasing light of the sun illuminating Mark's room. Her head was pounding and she felt like a fish being swirled around in a fish bowl. As she forced her eyes open against the light, she reached up pushing her matted hair back, and rubbed her face. She began to look around, confused as to why she was in her son's bed, and still in her clothes from the day before.
Just then an instant flash of the previous day's conversation with Dr. Yazzie brought her eyes to a wide-open stare as she struggled to remember if it was all a dream or some crazy reality. She toyed with the thought for a moment that it was just a bad dream, but within seconds, she knew better. She laid in bed for a few moments then pulled the covers off, dragging herself up in a semi-sitting position, the effects of the anti-anxiety medication still lingering in her system. Her mouth and throat were dry and her stomach felt upset. She closed her eyes hard and then opened them, blinking multiple times as if to orient herself.
She headed downstairs to her newly remodeled gourmet kitchen to pour herself the usual first cup of coffee for the day. She loved her kitchen. In a big house that bred loneliness much of the time, she always felt cozy and content when she was in the kitchen. It was the crowning achievement of her home. From the floor to ceiling, it was exactly the way she wanted it.
The cabinets were made of light, rich maple wood with dark granite countertops. New stainless steel appliances rested on large Brazilian tiles with diamond-shaped insets that brought so many of the colors together. The coffered ceiling hid recessed lights that bathed the entire kitchen in warm light. She didn't use it much anymore since the boys were not at home as often, but she still loved it.
As she entered into the kitchen, she noticed the smell of a fresh brewed pot of coffee was not present. Turning on the kitchen lights, she slowly walked over to the coffee maker and lifted the empty pot, her suspicions confirmed.
"Crap," she sighed, recalling that she hadn't prepared it the previous evening. This is a great way to start off the day, she thought sarcastically to herself. She opened the cabinet above the coffee maker and pulled out her favorite Starbucks Café Verona coffee and filters, prepping the machine for her morning caffeine fix.
As the aroma from the coffee beans, blending with the steaming hot water, started to fill the kitchen, she slowly walked around the living room studying the different photos of her family. The pictures brought back fond memories of times past. Pictures of hiking trips to the mountains, the boy's fishing trips with their friends, camping trips, visits from friends and relatives. A small smile broke at the corner of her mouth as she took it all in. The sights, sounds and scents of those moments came back into her mind. Happy memories were attached to all of the pictures.
Walking over to the sculpted, French antique, marbled fireplace, she picked up a picture off the mantle of her and her two sons, standing in front of a waterfall in Hawaii and smiled again. It was taken a few years after the divorce. It was one of Mark's favorite pictures. He was finally taller than his mother and no longer needed to stretch his body to compare heights, and the picture proved it. His dark, curly brown hair was fashionably past his ears, and his green, drowsy shaped eyes passed down from generation to generation on his father's side, were obscured by the sunglasses he wore.
Ricky had a goofy grin on his face while making a hang loose sign with his hand. The surfer bug had bitten him and he started to imitate the local's way of life the more he saw it. His short, strait, blonde hair was the opposite of his brothers, with a strong cowlick on the left side of his forehead. His sunglasses, pushed up and resting on the top of his head, revealed her almond shaped eyes with his father's blue eye color. Both of the boys had inherited her broad nose.
A sense of pride flickered in Heather's heart. They had a great time and it reflected in the framed picture. Of course, there was the usual bickering and arguing that family trips tended to pack with them, but overall it had been a great success. It was a confidence builder for her to know that she could do things independently and on her own for her and the boys.
She continued across the mantle, stopping to look at a picture of the boys when they were young. She picked up the frame and held it carefully in her hands. Mark was seven or so, curled up on the couch, with a sweet smile looking up at the camera. He had been quiet and shy for the longest time, never getting into trouble and always doing what he was told.
Excerpted from THE DEATH WISH HIT by LIZ HOWE. Copyright © 2013 Liz Howe. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc..
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