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Return To Me by Erin O'Reilly

Prologue

 

 

     Darkness filled the room and a moldy stench permeated the air. The cold from the hard, damp floor she was laying on infiltrated her body, making her shiver uncontrollably She wanted to curl up into a tight ball to find some warmth, but her wrists and legs were bound. Thirst begged to be quenched and when she licked her lips, her tongue stuck to the dry, cracked skin. How long had she been there? Syd took an inventory of her body. She was naked and she could tell from the pain in her abdomen and on her face that she’d been beaten and the cold puddle she was lying in was, most likely, her own urine. The ache between her thighs made her realize that there was a strong possibility that she’d been raped but couldn’t recall the event if it had happened.

     “Help,” she called out in a weak voice that barely reached her own ears. “God, please help me.”

     As if her prayers were answered, she heard a door moan as it opened and she turned her head in the direction of the sound. Blackness prevailed as the sound of hard soles on concrete came closer.

     “Help me,” she cried.

     A swift kick to her rib cage made her groan in pain. “Why are you doing this to me? Just kill me and be done with it,” she said in a voice that lacked strength.

     “Tell us what we want to know.”

     Syd frowned. She knew that voice. It couldn’t be. But she knew in her heart that it was. “Why are you doing this to me, Carly? You’ve worked by my side for six years…why?”

     “You couldn’t keep your mouth shut and just do your job, could you? We were ready for a major breakthrough that would have prevented diabetes but you wanted to pull the plug.”

     She kicked Syd again, only harder.

     “It will do more harm than good and you know it. That anomaly can’t be overlooked.” Syd’s mouth was dry and it was painful to form words but she persevered. She needed Carly to understand and stop this madness. Syd closed her eyes and a vision of Ellie floated before her. Oh, my love, I’m so sorry, she thought.

     “Kill me,” she whispered. With her bound feet she kicked out, hoping to make contact—but met only air.

     “Any success?” a male voice asked.

     Where did he come from? Her head was killing her suddenly but she closed her eyes and searched her memory. The man had always been there.

     “No, and I don’t see that changing,” Carly’s voice answered.

     “Then we have no choice. Sedate her, clean her up, and bring her to the operating room.”

     A needle pierced her skin.

     Darkness.

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

     The sun’s early evening rays pierced the low, thin cirrus clouds and beat down on the narrow strip of sand that the incoming tide was gobbling up. Two women ran hand in hand along the beach, laughing as incoming waves slapped their ankles. Finally reaching the narrow path that lead up and away from the beach, the two women walked a hundred yards before sitting on a large flat rock.
     Ellie Scott chuckled as she took off her soggy running shoes and poured out the ocean’s water. “I didn’t think we were going to make it,” she said.

     “Neither did I,” Sydney Tanner said, breathlessly. “If our running is any indication, I think we should start jogging again.

     “Do you think we’ll see it?” Ellie asked, pointing toward the west and the setting sun.

     Syd looked up at the sky then the horizon. “Clear skies. I don’t see how we can’t.”

     Both women watched as the sun seemed to make its way below the horizon. Just as it was about to disappear, they saw a green flash.

     Ellie grinned. “Our record is still intact,” she said as she gazed into her lover’s eyes before they kissed. For the past nine years, on the anniversary of the day they’d met, they would come to sit on this same flat rock and watch for the green flash that occurred just as the sun set.

     “Let’s take this home.” Syd pulled away and a look of love filled her face.

 

 

     “What’s wrong?” Ellie asked, when they got to Syd’s truck.

     “Nothing.”

     “Please don’t give me that, babe. You’ve had that perplexed look on your face for weeks now. What’s going on?”

     Syd took Ellie’s hand and kissed it. “It’s not another woman, if that’s what you’re thinking.”

     “That never crossed my mind.” Ellie laughed nervously. “Is it work?”

     For the past six years, Syd had worked as a microbiologist for a medical research company. The work was always exciting, for it was on the cutting edge of new disease cures. She had always looked forward to going to work but that had recently changed.

     “Please tell me,” Ellie pleaded.

     Syd turned her head and stared out the front window before looking back at her wife.

     “It’s the tests I’m doing…but I can’t really divulge much.” She shook her head. “I know what I have to do and I’ll sort it all out when I get to work.”

     “You are the most ethical person I know. No way will you let something get by you.” Ellie said. “I’m proud of you for always doing the right thing.”

     “Thanks. Sometimes you need to flex your muscles so people will take you seriously.” Syd bent her elbow and grinned. “And I have some pretty awesome muscles.”

     Ellie reached out and squeezed the taut arm. “That you do.”

     Syd twisted the key in the ignition and the truck roared to life. “I think a pizza and a beer with my best girl is calling me.”

     Syd set her jaw. There was more to the story—a lot more—but the nature of her job wouldn’t allow her to divulge anything until she resolved the mess.

    “Sounds good to me if there’s a leisurely bath after.”

     Syd smiled then nodded. “Are you reading my mind?”

     “Always.” Ellie took Syd’s hand and squeezed it.

 

 

     Later, lying in bed, naked and sated, Ellie sighed. “I wish this day would never end.”

     “Me too. I think we need to work it out better so that our days off sync more often than once every other week.” Syd pulled Ellie closer and kissed her blond hair.

     “Maybe I’ll see if I can work the hours you do.” Ellie laughed at the absurdity of her words. “But somehow I don’t think they will go for three in the morning till three in the afternoon. It is the emergency room though, so who knows.”

     Syd moved and kissed Ellie before caressing her cheek. “Let’s not worry about that now,” she purred. “I have something important to do.”

     “Really? Whatever could that be, Dr. Tanner?”

     “Let me show you, Dr. Scott.”

     They had been married for nine years, together for ten, yet the passion they felt for one another had never waned. It was rooted in deep desire and a love that seemed to extend beyond time and space.

     Syd ran her fingertips across Ellie’s body, eliciting moans of pleasure. “You are so beautiful, my love.” Her mouth greedily took Ellie’s—the kiss was deep and sensual.

     Their lovemaking this time was slow yet fervent, each taking time to lavish the other with all the love they had. Sated they held one another, whispering words of love until they fell into a restful sleep.

 

 

     At five the next morning, Ellie leaned down and kissed Syd’s lips. “When you get home from work tomorrow morning, wake me, okay?”

     Syd drew in a deep breath, smelled the fresh, clean scent of Ellie, and smiled. “It will be my pleasure.”

Ellie raised her eyebrows. “Your pleasure is what I’m aiming for.” She gave her wife one last kiss before turning to go.

     Syd watched as Ellie sashayed toward the door. “You know that I won’t be able to go back to sleep now, don’t you?”

     “Good. I hope you will be turned on all day thinking about what I’ll be doing to you tomorrow morning,” Ellie said over  her shoulder.

     Sitting up in the bed, Syd let the sheet fall away, exposing her breasts. “Come back to bed,” she purred.

     “God, I wish I could. You look delicious all rumpled and needy.” Ellie looked at her watch and shook her head. “You don’t know how badly I want to do that but I’m going to be late.”

     Syd grinned and crooked her finger. “Be late.”

     Ellie rushed to the bed and pulled Syd to her before kissing her passionately. “That will have to hold you until you get home. I’ve really got to go.”

     “I know. Don’t like it, but I understand. Let’s hope the day flies by for both of us.” Syd kissed Ellie. “I want you.”

     Ellie growled and stood. “You are a temptress and I will think of nothing else all day.”

 

 

     That afternoon around six, Ellie opened the door to their home, went in and kicked off her red clogs. Looking around the room, she frowned.

     “I wish you were here,” she whispered as she put her work bag on the nearest chair.

     Her day had been long and filled with drama as well as trauma. The emergency room had bustled the entire  day with one emergency after another. Usually the people who came to the emergency room used it as an outpatient clinic but there were nine genuinely urgent situations that day. The one that stuck with her was a twenty year old woman who had arrived near the end of Ellie’s shift with massive injuries, very close to death. Ellie knew that the woman, on life support, didn’t have long but she worked laboriously to keep her alive. Her goal— to keep the patient breathing until her family arrived.

     Ellie had firsthand knowledge of the guilt and sorrow people felt when they couldn’t say goodbye. A few years ago, her mother had been lingering on the edges of death but had rallied and was doing so much better. A patient Ellie was treating in the emergency room had taken a turn for the worse so she had left her mother for a short while,  promising to return soon.

     When she returned an hour later, her mother had passed and Ellie never got to say goodbye. Now it was her mission to do all she could to keep someone alive until his or her family arrived.

     That night, the slightly overweight young woman had opened her eyes and cried out for her mother.

     “She’s on her way so hang in there, Susie,” Ellie had whispered.

     Then, to make matters worse, Doctor Michael Creighton entered the room, prepared to harvest the patient’s organs., Ellie met him at the door. In a hushed tone she hissed at him.  “You can’t have her yet.”

     “Is the next of kin on their way?”

     “Keep your voice down,” Ellie ordered. “The parents are on their way. I want you to leave them alone until they can say goodbye. There’s nothing worse than you hovering over  them when they are grieving.”

     “You’re too soft, Scott. She’s going to die so why not use her organs so someone else can live?”

     Ellie shoved the man, eyes flashing. “First of all, she isn’t dead yet and there is a possibility that she’ll recover.”

     Creighton’s eyes raked across the patient. “Yeah, right. Just keep her alive until I get the signature.”

     “I don’t have a problem with that,” she said through gritted teeth. “My problem, Doctor, is you hanging around like a vulture. This girl and her loved ones deserve to have some time together. Then you can feed on her.”

 

 

     Now, alone in the empty house, Ellie did what she always did when she lost someone so young—she cried. The sound of her cell phone announcing a text message caused  her to pull the instrument out of her bag. When she saw the message from Syd, she smiled.

     Just want you to know I love you.

     The message didn’t surprise her for it was always the same. What did puzzle her was how Syd always knew when she entered their home—it was as if she had radar or something.

     I love you back, Ellie wrote in reply. She would have to be satisfied with that until Syd arrived home in about eight hours.

     After a meal of leftovers, Ellie took a shower, then slipped naked under the sheets. She pulled out her ebook reader and opened the latest novel by Dean Koontz and began reading. She knew she’d eventually fall asleep and she looked forward to feeling Syd’s lips on hers, waking her.

 

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