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Excerpt - Need Me

Chapter One

A rivulet of sweat trickled down Robert Chamber’s forehead and dripped into his right eye. He ignored the sting from the salty moisture the same way he blocked out the screams of the hysterical woman at the top of the crevasse into which he now descended. He didn’t blame the woman for being terrified, but his priority now was her nine-year-old son, who was stuck on a ledge at least fifty feet down.

This wasn’t a simple repelling mission. Several issues complicated it. The crevasse was only about six feet wide, which limited maneuvering room. At almost ninety pounds, little Davey Peters wasn’t so little. Plus, based on what he’d shouted up to them, there was a good chance he’d suffered a broken arm during his fall.

Robert would literally have to haul Davey part way out of the crevasse since the boy wouldn’t be much help to him. Once they neared the top, where the crevasse widened a little, the team at the top could pull them up. However, most the work fell on Robert’s capable shoulders.

“I’m coming, Davey. You just hang on, okay?”

“Yeah.” Davey’s voice was thick with tears.

Robert moved around an outcropping of rock and stopped. “Kenny, hold up on the line,” he said.

“Sure thing, Rob.” Kenny Stone’s voice came through nice and clear in Robert’s wireless ear com. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah.”

Robert trained his Maglite downward, scoping out the situation below. He was relieved to see that the remaining distance to Davey’s location was free of other outcroppings.

“Okay, go ahead, Kenny. Just had some rocks to get around and wanted to make sure the rest of the way was clear,” Robert said.

“Roger that.”

Robert smiled at the no-nonsense tone of the head of their branch of the Colorado Mountain Rescue. He continued downward until he reached Davey.

“Hey, buddy. You’ll do anything to get out of going to school tomorrow, huh?” he joked. Humor was a good tool in high stress situations, and Robert employed it now.

Davey smiled a little. “I guess.”

Robert adjusted his glasses and started looking Davey over. “Are you sure that your legs are okay? Do they hurt at all?”

“Just the cuts, but that’s it,” Davey replied. “My arm hurts like hell.”

Robert hid his amusement over the curse word, but he didn’t lecture Davey, either. If he’d broken his arm, he’d say some choice words, too. “Can you move it?”

Davey shook his head, his blue eyes filling with tears.

“That’s all right.” Robert unrolled the nylon sling he’d brought with him. “I’m going to put this on you to keep it in place while we climb out of here.”

Compassion washed over Robert when Davey bit his bottom lip and nodded, obviously trying to be strong. Gently, he put Davey’s arm in the sling and strapped it tight to Davey’s torso to stabilize it. Then he put a harness on Davey.

“Okay, Davey, I need your help,” Robert said, attaching Davey’s rope to his line.

Davey’s brow furrowed. “You need my help? I thought that you were here to save me?”

Robert chuckled. “I am, but you still have to help. No matter what happens, don’t kick and scream. Also, use your legs to make sure that you don’t scrape off the rock wall. But don’t kick real hard or you’ll jerk us both around and we could get hurt. You got all that?”

“Yeah.”

“Excellent. Let’s do this.” Robert made sure that all of nuts, the small metal anchors that fit into cracks in the rock face, were untangled and ready to go. “Okay, Kenny, take us up real slow.”

“Who’s Kenny? My name is Davey,” the boy said.

Robert laughed. “Kenny is the old fart who runs the rescue team, Davey. We use wireless coms to talk to each other.”

“Like the ones on TV?”

“Yeah.”

“Cool!” Davey said.

Although it expended precious energy, Robert continued conversing with Davey as they made slow progress up the rock face. It kept Davey’s mind off the pain and assured Robert that he wasn’t succumbing to shock. Robert’s muscles burned from the effort it took to haul the chubby boy towards the top.

He had to get creative when they reached the outcropping, which used up more of his strength, but Robert was in his euphoric state by now. Adrenaline coursed through his veins and soon he didn’t feel his protesting muscles or straining tendons. All that mattered was getting Davey to safety and defeating the cruel mountain.

About twenty feet from the top, Robert looked up and saw Kenny and a couple of other people looking down at them.

“You guys doing okay?” Kenny hollered down.

“Ow! Kenny, if you’re going to yell, take the com out first. You almost blasted out my eardrum,” Robert said.

“Oh, sorry about that.”

“You can speed it up now that it’s getting wider,” Robert told him. “Davey, you okay?”

“I’m so tired.”

“I know, but we’re almost there, buddy,” Robert said.

“Okay.”

When they reached the top, several pairs of hands grabbed Robert and Davey, hauling them up into the early May sunshine. Once they were on firm ground, Davey’s parents swarmed him, carefully hugging him as they cried with relief. Robert removed Davey’s harness and the paramedics took over.

“You okay, Rob?” Kenny asked.

Robert nodded to the affirmative as he watched the medics load Davey into the ambulance. Amid the flashing lights and static from walkie-talkies, Robert took off his rigging and caught his breath. If only every rescue could end so well…

Kenny clapped Robert’s shoulder, cutting into his thoughts. “Damn fine job, Rob.”

“Thanks.” Robert handed his earpiece to Kenny. “These really come in handy.”

Kenny took the com with a chuckle. “Nice of your rich friend to donate the money for them and some of our other new toys.”

Robert smiled as he thought of his best friend, Kate’s husband, Ric Stanford. The guy had more money than God, but he rarely flouted it. Kate had put a bug in Ric’s ear about the rescue holding a raffle to earn money for some new equipment.

Kate had told Robert about Ric handing her a signed check for ten grand the next morning to send to whoever ran the show. Robert had been amazed. It wasn’t every day in his world that someone dropped ten G’s on something like it was only a dime.

“Yeah, Ric’s a good guy.”

“So are you. That kid was lucky that you were available,” Kenny said. “You’re just the right guy for this kind of job. Steady, tenacious, and you never panic.”

“Thanks,” Robert said as he went over his equipment to make sure it was ship-shape.

Once he was finished and made sure he was no longer needed, Robert went to his SUV and threw his climbing stuff in the back. Getting into the driver’s seat, he sat back for a few minutes to decompress.

Then he pulled out his cellphone and hit Kate’s icon.

“Robbie! How did it go? Is the little boy okay? Are you all right?”

Robert laughed. “Easy, Special K. I’m fine. They took Davey to the hospital. Just a broken arm and a bunch of scrapes as far as I know.”

“Oh, I’m so glad.”

“Me, too.”

“I don’t know what I’d do if I ever lost you.” Kate sniffed. “You’re my best friend, you know?”

Robert grinned. “Oh, boy. Here come the pregnancy hormones.”

“Shut up. I can’t help it.”

He got a kick out the way his normally level-headed boss sometimes got a little crazy these days. At fourteen weeks along, Kate’s mood swings were in full force. “I know. You’re adorable, though. I’m heading home for a nice hot shower and a nap.”

“Don’t forget to eat.”

“Yes, Mommy.”

“You suck,” she said. “Talk to you later.”

“Bye, Special K.”

Robert hung up, started his car, and headed down the mountain to Cooper’s Creek. Although he was exhausted, he decided to swing by the hospital to find out how Davey was doing. Robert could never rest until he checked on the people he rescued. So, instead of going home, Robert headed for Cooper’s Creek Medical Center.

 

*****

 

“Caitlynn, can you come in a little earlier this evening?”

Brooke Carpenter rubbed her forehead as she spoke into a desk phone in the Cooper’s Creek Medical Center ER. She loved her new job as head ER nurse, but there were drawbacks to it. Like trying to find nurses and clerks to cover shifts when employees called off.

That afternoon, they’d had a rush of patients, whose conditions ranged from cardiac issues to respiratory infections. The nurses who’d called in sick were repeat offenders, and Brooke decided that heads were going to roll. There were plenty of good nurses out there who’d be glad for the jobs.

“You can? That’s fantastic. Thanks, sweetie.” Brooke chuckled. “Pfft! You know me. I never get out of here on time. Gotta go. Bye.” She rolled her office chair over to a computer and brought up their charting system. Narrowing her eyes, she muttered, “Dr. Danforth, you just pissed off the wrong woman.” She logged off and left the nurses’ station.

As another nurse approached her, Brooke stopped her. “Monica, have you seen Dr. Danforth?”

Monica, a middle-aged woman with dark hair, shook her head. “No. Is everything okay?”

Brooke sighed. “He’s leaving soon and he still has four charts to finish. I have to catch him before he goes. If you see him, tell him I want him, okay?”

“You got it, Brooke.”

Brooke’s voice grew faint as she thanked Monica. “Oh, good Lord.”

Monica followed Brooke’s gaze. “I’ll say. Who’s that?”

“A woman’s wet dream in a rock climbing outfit,” Brooke responded.

Monica muffled a laugh behind the clipboard she carried. “I take it you know him.”

Know him? Sort of. They’d spent her friend Kate’s wedding on the dance floor but he’d never called her after that. Perhaps that had been a good thing. She’d still been hurting over the way her cheating finance, now ex-finance had treated her. Robert might have sensed her hesitation that night, but now it was time to put the mistakes of her past behind her.

Brooke raised an eyebrow. “Oh, yeah, I know him, and I intend to get to know him a whole lot better. Excuse me for a moment.”

“Sure thing,” Monica said.

Brooke zeroed in on the man she’d had a crush on for several months. Robert Chambers was the total package—he just didn’t know it. The man was six feet of lean muscle with an adorable smile, messy brown hair and soulful brown eyes behind black glasses.

She could still remember how wonderful it had been to dance in his arms all night at Ric and Kate’s wedding. They bonded over their joint need to help people, her as a nurse and Robert as a member of the mountain rescue team. They both found their roles hugely satisfying. She’d thought they had a real connection but, for some reason, Robert had not rung her for a date. To say she’d been disappointed was an understatement. She’d even asked Kate if he was seeing someone but she’d said no. So what was this man’s story? Perhaps she hadn’t been as obvious about her feelings as she’d thought. She frowned. Maybe she’d been too obvious and he’d run! Time to find out.

Clark Kent, eat your heart out, she thought, walking towards him. His blue spandex climbing shorts hugged his powerful thighs highlighting the fact that he was a very blessed male specimen. The matching black spandex, short sleeved shirt fit his trim waist, wide chest, and big biceps like he’d been poured into it.

“You look lost, Mr. Chambers,” she said, nearing him.

He looked for the source of the voice and then smiled when he spotted her. Her stomach did a little flip as the expression made him even better looking.

He adjusted his glasses and stood a little straighter. “Hi, Brooke. How are you?”

“I’m good, thanks. How about yourself?”

“Tired, but fine. I was wondering—”

“Frank! Look who’s here!”

Brooke watched a dishwater blonde rush out of a nearby exam room and waylay Robert, pulling him into a hug. “Thank you so much for saving Davey! You’re an angel.”

Robert smiled and hugged her back warmly. “You’re welcome, Mrs. Peters. I’m just glad I could help. How is Davey?”

Mrs. Peters backed off a little as her husband came out of the exam room. “He’s in Radiology right now, but they’re pretty sure that it’s a simple fracture.”

“That’s good.”

Frank stuck out a hand to Robert. “There’s Superman.”

Robert grinned and accepted Frank’s manly hug.

“We owe you,” Frank said.

“No, you don’t. That’s what I’m there for,” Robert said. “I just wanted to check on Davey and make sure he really is okay.”

“You are so sweet,” Mrs. Peters gushed. “He’ll be sorry that he missed you.”

Brooke watched as Robert responded. He looked a little agitated and she had no idea why. The little boy would soon be back to fitting fit. “I’d like to give you my number. Will you give me an update on him?”

“Sure.” Frank pulled out his phone and took Robert’s number.

When Robert had said goodbye to Davey’s parents, Brooke said, “I didn’t know you were the one who rescued him.”

“Yeah, that was me.”

His bashful smile tickled Brooke no end. She looped an arm through his. “Well, Superman, from what I hear, that was a tricky rescue.”

He colored as he laughed. “Don’t tell me that nickname is going to stick. All your other ones do.”

Brooke shrugged a little. “I have no idea what you mean.”

“Bullshit,” he responded in a quieter voice. “Let’s see. Tyler is GQ, Emily is Wonder Woman—”

“Because she puts up with GQ,” Brooke interjected. She and her best friend Emily’s husband, Tyler Jeffries, often didn’t see eye-to-eye. “And because I wonder what she sees in him.”

Robert said, “Hey, Ty’s a good guy. Cut him a break. He treats Emily like a queen and he loves those kids.”

“That’s the way it better stay if he doesn’t want to find his expensive GQ suits cut to shreds,” Brooke said.

Robert patted her hand. “Down girl.”

She gave him a disbelieving look. “Did you just compare me to a dog?”

His eyes bugged out and his face reddened. “No, no! Bad joke. Occupational hazard.”

Brooke pretended to still be offended. “I’m not sure I believe you. Still, what do you expect from someone who manages a veterinarian practice.”

Robert stopped walking. “Brooke, I’m sorry. I was just kidding—”

“Talk is cheap, Robert. You have to make it up to me.” She gave him a coy look and giggled when he laughed.

“You got me.”

“I’m not kidding,” she said giving an exaggerated sniff.

His grin made her heart skip a couple of beats. “What can I do to make you forgive me?”

“I don’t know.” She crossed her arms over her chest.

“C’mon, there has to be something.”

“Well, there is this one thing…”

“Name it.”

Brooke looked into his eyes. “Take me to dinner.”

The surprise on his face was hysterical, but Brooke restrained her laughter as she pulled a pen from the breast pocket of her green scrub top. “I’m sure I’ve given you this number before. I hope you’ll use it this time.” Taking his large hand in hers, she wrote her number on his palm and walked away.

After a few steps, she turned back around. His eyes jerked up to hers and he blushed. Brooke made a phone out of her pinky and thumb. “Call me,” she mouthed and turned back around. She smiled to herself and put a little extra swing in her hips just for the hunky superhero in glasses before she walked behind the nurses’ station again.


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