Sometimes life doesn’t go as planned….
Trey Arking was on his way to becoming TBC Pro-Rider of the Year until a bull named Brickhouse derailed his life, paralyzing him.
Sara Corday wore Trey’s engagement ring and dreamed of their life together. Her dreams altered when his life changed.
Trey is unable to see the wonderful future of his dreams from a wheelchair, but Sara is determined to help him see hers. Can these two stubborn people find a way to live again?
Doctor James Marshall, the neurological specialist, strode into the room, his gray hair cut close to his head, his walk purposeful, his gaze focused on the chart in his hands. Trey’d met the man for the first time yesterday when he’d woken up. Dr. Marshall had come in to do some tests on his legs and reflexes as well as discuss the results of MRIs on his spine. The man wore a perpetual scowl, thereby intimidating him. Trey couldn’t get a read on his results, no friendly bedside manner, no small talk, only short, clipped questions and grunts when Trey had asked questions. The man’s “resting bitch face” would be wonderful at a Vegas blackjack table. No one would be able to tell when he had the winning hand. Trey was positive the doctor would make millions.
Having Sara beside him, hearing the prognosis as well, would give him perspective. Trey would be able to discuss exactly what the doctor said and recommended with someone who had a vested interest in his improvement. He hoped she didn’t get overly emotional, though. She’d always worn her heart on her sleeve, and he didn’t need to worry about upsetting her along with trying to deal with any news he’d receive. His focus would be on walking. Sitting in a wheelchair for the rest of his life wasn’t an option.
And if he didn’t get the answers he wanted from Dr. Marshall, he was sure there were other doctors, more experienced doctors, he could contact.
“All right, Doc. Give it to me straight. When will I walk again?” Trey believed in getting right to the heart of the matter. No beating around the bush. At Sara’s gasp, he looked at her. Her hands were in her lap, twisting around a handkerchief. It appeared she was creating origami animals, the way the piece of fabric twisted and folded. Sara wore her shoulder-length blonde hair up, off her neck. Her regal look was complemented by the green blouse and black skirt she wore. She was beautiful, sexy, and he wanted to eat her up. But nothing was happening down below his waist.
Trey glanced at the blankets on his lap then back up to the doctor. The sadness in Dr. Marshall’s gaze sent Trey’s stomach spinning.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Arking. There’s still swelling of the spinal cord area. We removed some fragments of the backbone that were pushing on the cord, irritating it near the L1-L2 lumbar region. At this time, we are unable to tell if the cord is damaged. If there is damage to the cord, it would depend on where precisely, as to what it might affect. The lumbar region has the best success rate for recovery, but that’s not a guarantee. We give patients up to one year for improvements. We will continue with physical therapy to help with muscular atrophy and to strengthen the core, which, in turn, will help you, should you improve enough to walk.” The doctor flipped through the chart to another page. “The good news is you have no intracranial hemorrhaging and the brain trauma has improved. Your most recent MRI showed no swelling and no cracks in the skull. While we aren’t sure about any secondary symptoms you might exhibit, such as a loss of memory or depression, we will also continue to monitor those issues. We are confident the coma was helpful in giving your body time to heal.” Dr. Marshall tucked the chart under his arm and reached out to shake hands.
“Thank you, Doc. I’m determined to get back to my life as soon as I can. I’ve already lost three months.” Trey’s words came out like a warning.
“Mr. Arking, I understand determination. It’s what has gotten so many of the former military men and women back on their feet after coming home injured from overseas. But I have to caution you to not end up pushing so hard, you undo all the good work you accomplish. We will run our last batch of tests on your head and then, if there are no other issues, we will send you to a step-down rehabilitation center tomorrow.”
“What’s this step-down? I don’t want to go to a nursing home and be surrounded by old people.”
“It’s a place where patients go when they leave the hospital, but can’t go home yet. Most will be about your age, although some are teenagers and some are elderly. It’s not a nursing home. You’ll need physical therapy daily, ideally more than once a day, if you are as determined as you seem. The Wildbrook Center has medically trained therapists who specialize in spinal cord injuries. It’s your best shot.” The doctor nodded at Sara and closed the door.
Sara stood and leaned over, getting into his face. “Trey Arking, you will do what the doctor tells you. I am just glad you are here. You coded twice in the ambulance.” She shook her finger in his face. “You died. Do you understand? They had to jump-start your heart. Then you were in a coma. We didn’t know if you were goin’ to come out, let alone speak to me again.” Her anger dissolved into tears as she laid her head on his shoulder and cried.
Trey patted her back and held her close. He looked over her shoulder at the wall of windows overlooking the nurses’ station. “Shhh, honey. It’ll be okay.” He brushed a slip of hair that had escaped her bun off her face. “Curl up here next to me and rest. I’ve got you.”
Sara nodded and climbed onto the bed. She curled up under Trey’s arm and snuggled in close to his body.
Soon, Trey could hear her restful breathing, indicating she’d fallen asleep. It felt right to have her in his arms. He studied her body. She’s lost weight. Probably not taking care of herself, worried about him. Trey sighed and tugged a blanket over her. Trey wanted to get better so he could be the man she deserved, the husband she needed. He knew she’d been by his side since the accident. It was the kind of woman she was. Sometimes he wondered who was more stubborn, him or her.
Sara’s neck hurt. She tried to turn over, but her leg cramped up. Charley horse! The pain! She stretched down to rub her calf and stuck her knee through the rail of the bed.
“Oomph!” She tried untangling herself and fell over Trey’s legs with her ass stuck up in the air. Her hair had long ago fallen out of her bun and covered her now-heated face.
Sara jumped up and looked at her fiancé’s shit-eating grin. “Did you smack me?”
Trey raised his brows and smiled wider. “Who me?”
She growled at him. “Since you are the only person in the room…” As ladylike as she could, Sara climbed off the bed, straightened her outfit, and stood next to Trey with her hands on her hips. “What was that for?” She was glad to see the twinkle in his eyes. She’d been so worried over the last few weeks.
“Come here, woman.” Trey wiggled his finger. “A good wife gives her husband a kiss when she wakes up.”
“I’m not your wife, yet.” She enjoyed their bantering. Trey’s looks were the first thing that had attracted her. The tight Wranglers and cowboy shirt stretching tight across his chest. But it was his sense of humor and witty mind that cemented her love for him.
“What if I say please?” He used his puppy dog eyes in order to sway her.
“Begging might help.” She winked at him. Then Sara strolled over, her hips swaying, her hands lifting her hair off her neck again. This was a woman’s power. She stopped just before reaching the bed, undid the top button on her blouse then another. After three buttons, she pulled back the collar, exposing the tops of her breasts, and ran her fingertip across them.
Trey watched her closely. His eyes were glued to her motions. Trey’s breathing sped up.
Sara leaned in and gently bit his bottom lip then ran her tongue over it. Trey reached up and pulled her face closer, pressing their lips together in a passionate kiss. When she pulled back, she was breathing heavily herself. “Are you happy, now?” she teased.
“It’s a start.” He winked at her. “If I’d have known how hot you got over a smack on the butt, I’d have been giving you them for a while now.”
Sara turned and looked at her fiancé over her shoulder. “A girl’s gotta have some secrets. Now, I know this place has food coming for you, but I’m going to hit the cafeteria. Do you want anything?”
“Naw. Just you. Why don’t you bring your food up here and we can have a picnic lunch in bed?” Trey patted the spot next to him.
Sara rubbed her nape. “Only if you promise to give me a massage. Sleeping all scrunched up put a crick in my neck.”
“I’ll massage you, you massage me.” He wiggled his brows.
Sara blew Trey a kiss as she left the room. She had a bounce in her step as she strolled into the elevator. At least Trey’s personality wasn’t affected by his injuries.
We start right off in the action, with Trey getting ready to ride a bull that no cowboy has ever managed to stay on for 8 seconds. If he manages to ride the bull, he’ll win the Championship and take home a purse of $200,000 – a great start to his life with Sara – with their wedding only a few months away. Trey does manage to ride the bull, but when he has trouble dismounting and getting hurt, he wakes up in the hospital – three months later, and paralyzed from the waist down. Depressed that he can’t be the man that Sara needs, he pushes her away. But Sara won’t back down so easily.
This is a novella length, and it felt a bit rushed and I would have loved to have had a bit longer of a book, because the characters are easy to like and I think they could have been explored even further. Even though this is book five in a series and I had not read the other books, I had no problem at all – it read perfectly fine as a standalone. As for the characters, there were times I felt empathy for Trey, and other times I felt like kicking him myself – and then cheering him on as he moved in the right direction. I would like to have read more about Sara, as it seemed she was on a back-burner for part of the story. I really enjoyed the epilogue and I’m looking forward to more from this author.
Reviewed by Cyrene