Just when I think I have The Outlier Chronicles fleshed out, a storyline for a completely separate book creeps into my brain and completely takes over. On Saturday night I had the idea for a New Adult Contemporary Romance Novel (sheesh, that’s a lot of words) and now it’s Tuesday and I’m 10,000 words in and can’t get the characters out of my head. Since I’m so excited about this new, stand alone book, I thought I’d share a very rough draft of the first chapter (there is a prologue before this, but you’ll have to wait until it’s published to read that.) I’m working on ideas for titles, and right now am toying with “Heart for Ransom” or “My Ransom.” I’ll mostly likely end up scrapping both of those, but that’s what I’ve got so far.

(This book will be intended for older teens / college age, in that the heavier subject matter will be more fitting for a mature reader.)

CHAPTER ONE

“Ma’am, I need you to lie still.”

The lights are so bright in here. Like at the dentist when they angle you back in those uncomfortable tan chairs and then give you sunglasses to shield the glare. Or maybe it’s to keep stray bits of the plaque they scrape off your teeth from flying into your eyes. That’s probably the real reason they make you wear them, because that would be revolting. Whatever it is, I could use sunglasses right now. Why don’t they give you shades here?

“Do you have some sunglasses I could borrow?” My voice is raspy, crackling like a pre-pubescent boy’s. I haven’t spoken since the call and it feels like I have to relearn how to place my tongue against my teeth and the roof of my mouth to form the words and make them sound the way they should.

He laughs at me, a low, sexy chuckle deep in his throat and catches me completely off-guard. “No Ma’am. We don’t have sunglasses.” He turns to his left and mutters, “Trav, hand me that paper?”

I assume whoever “Trav” is does as he’s told, because within seconds, and after the sound of tape being torn and paper rustling, the light dims significantly.

“There. That any better?”

I attempt a nod, but my neck won’t allow it. “Yes, much.”

“You need to try to stay still, Ma’am.”

I grit my teeth and open my eyes wide. “Ma’am? Really?”

He laughs again. Now that the light isn’t as blinding, I can see him more clearly, which is weird because I’d always assumed you needed light to see. But before he was silhouetted against it, and now it diffuses softly across his face. He has a nice face. I like his face.

Oh man, my head feels really light. So does my whole body. Like a balloon filled with helium. I like balloons, too. Geez, what did they give me?

“You don’t want me to call you Ma’am?” He drags a hand through his hair and the brown strands situate back into their tousled position.

“No, I don’t. I like your face and I like balloons, but I don’t like being called Ma’am.”

A burst of laughter erupts from someone positioned near my head—probably Trav—but the guy in front of me holds his stoic gaze. “If you like my face, then why were you asking for sunglasses? That would make it pretty hard to see me.” I glimpse a coy smile pull up the corners of his mouth. His lips are full and ruby red. I like his lips, too.

“Because you guys keep it so damn bright in here.”

“Well, usually we can turn the lights down while we’re driving, but something went haywire with them last week. Repairing that has kind of taken a backseat to you know, saving lives and all,” he says, still placed in front of me. I hear Trav scribbling something down on a piece of paper nearby. “Plus, we’re supposed to keep a close watch on our patients. Lighting helps with that.”

“You need light so you can see my face,” I explain, just in case he didn’t get it. “I have a nice face, too.”

“Yes, Maggie, you have a nice face, too.” I can hear the smile in his voice and when his hand grasps my wrist, the shock of it spikes my breathing. “You have to slow down that heart rate, Maggie, or we’re going to get in trouble for not stabilizing you in the field.”

“That would be easier to do if you didn’t touch me.” I wiggle my toes. The shoes are gone. Crap. I hope they weren’t left out there with my car. Cora’s going to have my head if I don’t return them. Maybe she won’t notice they’re missing. Not a chance, Cora notices everything.

“You don’t want me to touch you?” He’s done checking my pulse, but his fingers still hover over my skin, fluttering my insides. “Cause I can switch with Trav and he can do all of this if you like. But I guarantee you, his ugly mug isn’t as pleasant to look at as my nice face.”

“Dude, you’re cruel.” Trav pipes up from his post at the side of the ambulance wall. “It’s not right to mess with them when they’re medicated.”

I nod—well more like roll—because nodding my head makes it loll side to side. If it weren’t attached to my neck, I think it might actually tumble right off my shoulders.

“I’m not messing with her.” He checks my pulse again.

“Whatever, Ran. What’s her rate?”

“158.”

A gust of air rushes out of Trav’s mouth and it smells like an odd mix of coffee and mint. “Dude, you seriously need to get that down.”

“Working on it.” Ran pushes off his seat and presses something into an IV bag hanging above me. It looks like a balloon. Weird.

“Are you qualified to do that?” I ask, gesturing toward the bag, lifting my hand slightly but it feels like there’s a weight coiled around it that tugs with an equal amount of resistance.

“Administer an IV?” Ran asks at the same time he clips the cap on whatever is in his hands. “Yes, I am. I’m a paramedic and have completed over 1,500 hours of training. That should give me a little authority.” He drops the syringe into a canister near him and it clatters against the plastic. “I’m more than just a pretty face, Maggie.”

Trav’s shoulders pull up and he situates himself in his seat. “Sit, Ran. We’re here.”

I blink my eyes. “Where?”

Ran slumps down next to me and wraps his hands around the metal frame of the stretcher I’m draped across. He stabilizes it as we rock over a speed bump and coast into park. “We’re at the hospital, Maggie.”

I expel a hot sigh of relief. “Oh good,” I smile, my head spinning like I’ve just completed twenty pirouettes en pointe. “That’s exactly where I was headed.”