Alex’s world stood still the day her father passed. After more than a year of living frozen in that moment, she decides to take the first steps out of her grief by enrolling in a paramedic program. It’s in one of her first classes that she meets Megan, a pretty but aloof medical student who has a few skeletons of her own in the proverbial closet. Can they work together to mend their broken hearts?
My latest novel, THE ORIGINS OF HEARTBREAK, is available now on Amazon. Read the bonus scenes below.
CHLOE AND MEGAN KISS
She flopped down on the couch, intending to find something inane on television to distract her from her awful choices, but Chloe sat down next to her. Megan rolled her eyes – Chloe always took the seat directly next to her, never leaving an empty cushion, which everyone else on the planet realized was common courtesy.
“Well, study group wasn’t really a thrill a minute, either,” Chloe said, finishing her granola bar and setting the wrapper neatly on the coffee table. It would be less than five minutes before its presence there drove her to distraction and she had to get up and throw it away.
“No way,” Megan said, looking conspiratorially at her roommate. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard you admit that you weren’t having the most amazing time ever all the time. Especially when it comes to studying.”
She was teasing Chloe, but it was true. She was so relentlessly optimistic all the time, this comment was truly out of character for her.
“Well, to be perfectly honest, Ivy gets under my skin sometimes too,” Chloe said, actually lowering her voice so that Ivy – who lived several blocks away in on-campus housing – wouldn’t hear this admission.
“Get out of town,” Megan said, shoving Chloe’s shoulder and sending her off balance for a moment.
“Tell me more!”
It was nice to focus on this instead of navel-gazing, and Megan wanted to stay in this moment for as long as possible to avoid thinking about Alex.
“She’s just a very negative person,” Chloe said, and then with a blush in her cheeks, she added, “Like you sometimes.”
“A lot of the time,” Chloe said. “But at least you’re usually negative in a joking way. Ivy can be sort of draining sometimes with her relentless pursuit of knowledge and good grades.”
“Oh, so you noticed,” Megan said, rolling her eyes.
“Yeah,” Chloe said, and it was fun to watch her get going after holding in these criticisms for almost a year and a half. “Like, did you notice that sometimes she contradicts the professors in the middle of lecture? It’s like, okay, we all get that you’re smart, but you don’t have to be an asshole, too.”
Megan let her mouth drop open and she said, “Chloe Peterson, did you just cuss?”
“I got carried away,” Chloe said, putting a hand over her mouth.
Megan pulled it away, her eyes lighting up as she joked with her. “You did. Say it again. Say asshole, because I need to commit this moment to memory.”
“You know who’s an… asshole?”
“You,” Chloe said, moving to punch Megan’s shoulder. Megan caught her by the wrist and Chloe leaned in and kissed her. She closed her eyes and opened her mouth, her tongue just grazing Megan’s lips, and then Megan jerked away.
“Whoa,” she said, dropping Chloe’s wrist and jumping off the couch.
Chloe looked up at her with her brow knit together, confusion clouding her expression. “I’m sorry. Is it because I called you… that? I was joking.”
Megan sighed and just said, “No, it’s not that. I’m sorry, Chloe, I shouldn’t have let that happen.”
Then she turned and went back into her room, forced once again to be alone with her thoughts. She was really on a roll tonight – first Alex, and then Chloe. She knew that Chloe had a crush on her – it was obvious from their first semester together – and if she’d been more aware of her surroundings instead of being so absorbed in avoiding her feelings, she would have seen that kiss coming from a mile away.
Megan kicked off her jeans again and climbed into bed, pulling the sheets all the way up to her ears. She probably shouldn’t leave her bed for the rest of the night, lest she find a third person to torment.
ALEX AND MEGAN KISS IN THE SNOW
She couldn’t keep up the ruse any longer, and she thought if she tried to hold in her emotions any more she’d burst. She stepped forward and put her hand on the back of Megan’s neck, pulling her into a deep kiss.
She was relieved to find Megan’s body sinking into hers, her hands coming out of her pocket and her arms wrapping around Alex’s waist. The snowflakes continued to coat them both and Alex shivered unconsciously at the cold, all of her awareness focused on the way that Megan’s lips felt like home.
“Yeah,” Megan said, and Alex was surprised to see that tears had begun to form in her eyes. They were glossy and filled with emotion. “I know.”
“I want you,” Alex said.
Megan laughed, and Alex wiped one errant tear off of her cheek before the cold had a chance to freeze it there. Megan smiled and said, “Do you want to come inside? It’s too cold to keep talking out here.”
“Yeah,” Alex said. “I would like that very much.”
IVY TELLS CHLOE ABOUT ALEX
Megan’s next lecture class with Dr. Morrow, still working their way through the respiratory system, was a particularly painful one. Chloe arrived early as usual, and she was sitting in the front row with her laptop on one desk and her textbook opened on the one adjacent. What wasn’t usual was the look that she shot Megan when she came into the room.
Usually she smiled and tried to wave her over to take the empty desk on the other side of her two-desk setup. Sometimes Megan did, and sometimes she preferred to slip into an inconspicuous spot at the back of the room. It all depended on how annoyingly cheerful Chloe had been that morning in the apartment and how far away Megan could get from her nemesis, Ivy. Today, though, Chloe was already gone by the time Megan got up and she didn’t acknowledge her when she came into the lecture hall.
Megan sighed and found an open seat in the middle of the room. They hadn’t spoken since their kiss and Megan wasn’t sure if Chloe was upset with her or just hurt, but either way Megan couldn’t shake the annoying feeling of guilt that had been hanging over her ever since.
She had no reason to feel bad about what happened—she kept telling herself that nothing had happened—but she also hadn’t spoken to Alex since the kiss. She pulled out her laptop and brought up her notes for this module, determined to push all of those thoughts out of her head for the next few hours and focus on medicine.
That was something she hadn’t been doing nearly enough of this semester, and it was beginning to take a toll on her. She’d barely even touched her research paper in the last few weeks, although she had spoken to Krys a few more times and knew that all of the swabs from the high school had come back clean. The kids completed their antibiotic courses and Paul Goulding remained the only casualty in what turned out to be a rather small and uneventful meningitis outbreak. Megan had to find time to write all of that up before the winter break, but every time she sat down to try, Alex popped into her mind. She had to stop thinking about her, even if seducing Chloe wasn’t the answer.
Ivy came into the room a few minutes later, giving a death stare to Megan and anyone else dumb enough to make eye contact with her. She always walked into class like she owned the place, her posture impossibly tall for her small stature as she sauntered to the front row. Megan had never seen Ivy sit anywhere else, and she’d also never gotten through a lecture without raising her hand to ask questions about ten times an hour.
Most of the time it was cocky stuff like, “According to my independent research, I found that lesions in the apneustic center are a frequent cause of apnea. Can you comment further?” and Megan was sure that in those moments, Dr. Morrow hated the little show-off just as much as Megan did.
Other times, though, her questions came in the form of fun little personal attacks that always caught her victim off-guard. Ivy would throw out things like, “Last week in her literature review, Megan said that alveolar ventilation is the volume of gas leaving the lungs, but actually she failed to account for the anatomic dead space, which does not encompass the alveoli.” Then Dr. Morrow would confirm that Ivy was correct—again—and Megan would roll her eyes and plot her takedown of the Witch of the Feinberg School of Medicine.
Fortunately, today Ivy couldn’t find any holes to poke in Megan’s previous statements and focused instead on Dr. Morrow’s incomplete coverage of the lecture material. It wasn’t until she released them for a twenty-minute break about halfway through the lecture that Ivy launched her daily personal attack.
Megan had gone outside and was sitting on a bench in the courtyard, sipping hot coffee from a cart nearby and enjoying the last few nice days before the fall really began to bluster onto campus. She was surprised when Chloe came over and asked to join her.
“Yeah,” Megan said, patting the bench seat beside her. Chloe sat down and Megan said, “Hey, are we okay?”
“Of course,” Chloe said, although her chipper tone was a little more forced than usual.
“I’m sorry about last night,” Megan said. “It’s just that we’re roommates and–”
“It’s fine,” Chloe said, cutting her off. “I get it. We see each other every day, and it would just be too awkward if it didn’t work out. Plus, you think I’m annoying.”
“Uh oh, incoming,” she said, watching Ivy come across the courtyard toward the coffee cart.
“Oh, she’s not that bad,” Chloe said, shrugging off Megan’s incredulous look. “She works really hard to be where she is, you know.”
“Sure,” Megan said. “Hard at work climbing up Dr. Morrow’s butt.”
Chloe laughed, but she gave Megan a disapproving look. Then to Megan’s chagrin, they watched Ivy walk over to their bench with her coffee in hand.
“What do you want?” Megan asked, and Chloe elbowed her hard in the ribs.
“Do you want to join us?” she asked, preparing to make room on the narrow bench.
“Hardly,” Ivy said. “I’m just doing a little observational research on how someone who has obviously cheated her way up to the head of the class spends her break time. When do you find time to study, Megan? Do you have someone who just slips you all the answers?”
“I can’t believe you have such great mobility despite that giant stick in your ass,” Megan said, not wanting to dignify her accusation with a response.
Ivy sneered and asked, “Does your little paramedic girlfriend help you study?”
Megan felt her heart in her throat as she glanced over at Chloe. Of course Ivy would have to bring out her knowledge of Megan’s relationship with Alex in this exact moment, right after she’d gotten done convincing Chloe that the reason they couldn’t be together was because she didn’t date. Great. Chloe looked like she’d just been kicked in the gut, and she looked at Megan with confusion.
“What does that mean?”
“You know the girl,” Ivy said. “She was the one Megan collapsed on when the autopsy was just too much for her.”
Chloe’s lower lip quivered for a moment, then she got up and marched back into the building. Megan stood up, clenching her jaw and not sure if she was angrier about the way that Ivy had just turned Chloe into collateral damage on her quest to destroy Megan, or at the presumption that she knew anything about Megan and Alex’s relationship.
“Asshole,” she said, then threw her half-drunk coffee in the trash and went back into the building. She tried to explain to Chloe that Alex was just a fling and Ivy had it all wrong, but she just kept saying that it was fine and Megan could do whatever she wanted. She didn’t seem to believe her.
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