by LuAnn Nies
Abigail Pendergrass's dreams are destroyed when an automobile accident claims the life of her best friend and leaves her emotionally and physically paralyzed. Her hopes of a college education, career and family of her own dies in the accident.
Beauregard Winkelman, her new physical therapist, is a tall, sexy, Texan whose career is on the rocks due to his scandalous past and indiscretions. Beau is faced with a challenge when he meets Abigail who refuses to cooperate. She's his last chance for a real career, and he's her last chance for a real life. Beau vows to convince Abigail she's still desirable, and could still have all the things she longs for. He revives her hopes and rejuvenates her competitive spirit, but sparks fly when passionate arrogance bashes headlong into frustrated stubbornness.
Dr. William Voight reveals Beau's past which threatens his career and Abigail's recovery. He's determined to prevent Abigail from recovering and fulfilling her dreams. He has vindictive ambitions that include Abigail and the financial security that comes with her.
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Pacific Coast Highway
South of San Francisco
Abigail Pendergrass braced her hand against the dashboard and glared at Carolyn who reached over and turned up the radio, cutting off any of her further pleas. Drawing in a deep breath, Abby gazed out the window.
She enjoyed the drive up to San Francisco in Carolyn’s new red Corvette and the day of shopping, but the drive back to Big Sur was starting to resemble a roller coaster ride. The speeding sports car cut around sharp curves three hundred feet above the jagged rocks lining the shores below.
Abby leaned toward the middle of the car and swallowed hard as the guardrail flew by in a blur. She didn’t like arguing with Carolyn, but Abby was upset. Carolyn planned to transfer to Michigan State to be closer to her new boyfriend Josh. Abby felt betrayed. Since the age of thirteen Abby and Carolyn made a plan. They would graduate, spend a couple years exploring Europe and go to the same college. Then they would marry brothers and become real sisters.
But Carolyn had changed since she met Josh.
“Carolyn, please slow down. There could be rocks on the road. You know Devil’s Slide is notorious for landslides.”
She tried again to get Carolyn to stop. “Let’s stop in Half Moon Bay at that little open-air café. We haven’t eaten for hours. What do you say?”
“No, I want to get back as soon as I can.”
“It won’t take long.”
“No!” The tires squealed as they rounded another curve.
“What’s the big hurry anyway?”
“I want to spend time with Josh tonight. I didn’t think we were going to be gone so long.”
“You hardly know this guy. I can’t believe you’re going to throw away all the plans we’ve made.”
Carolyn tossed her sunglasses on the dash, her blue eyes bright with irritation. “I don’t expect you to understand right now, but someday you’ll meet someone, and you’ll want to spend every minute with him. Then you’ll know how I feel about Josh.”
Abby doubted it. They entered the village of Half Moon Bay, and she relaxed back into the seat as the car slowed. They coasted through town, but it wasn’t long before they were speeding again along the steep rocky terrain of the San Mateo coastline.
“I don’t understand,” Abby said. “How can you just pick up and leave? You don’t even know anyone in Michigan.”
Carolyn didn’t respond. Abby crossed her arms and glared straight ahead. It wasn’t long before the rocky reef that flanked the Pigeon Point Lighthouse came into view.
They approached another sharp curve. Pinned to the door by the car’s momentum Abby instinctively searched for the passenger side brake pedal. “Slow down! It won’t kill him to wait a few extra minutes.”
“I’m not going that fast,” Carolyn said, turning toward Abby. The back wheels of the Corvette caught gravel. Carolyn cranked the wheel, sending the car into a spin and smashing through the guardrail. Dirt, grass and gravel flew into the air. Airbags ballooned from the dash.
The engine roared as the car bounced and rolled. The sound of crunching metal was deafening. Shopping bags, purses, dirt and debris riddled the air. Pain shot through Abby’s head as it shattered the side window. The car slid on its roof for several feet before coming to a stop.
Trapped in her seat belt, Abby hung like a fly in a web. Terrified, she called out to Carolyn, but the only sounds she could hear were the spinning of the tires and the pounding of her own heart.
Abby woke with a gasp; sweat covered her body, the nightmare
fresh in her mind. Will I ever have a night of peace! She stared at the colorless ceiling. Swallowing, she blinked several times as a tear slid down her cheek. How many tears could a body make?
At the sound of chirping birds, she turned her attention to the open window. Their carefree songs floated in with the early morning breeze and rustled her bedroom curtains. She sighed and turned her face away from the window.
I’m only twenty-three, and my life is over. I’m a prisoner of my body with no chance for parole.
Why did I debate—no, argue—about something as insignificant as which school Carolyn wanted to attend? It wouldn’t have mattered if she wanted to move to China. She would still be alive, and we would still be friends.
A sob tore from Abby’s lungs. Carolyn’s death was her fault, and that guilt held her hostage. Unable to speak and paralyzed for the rest of her life was her penance.
* * * *
George Pendergrass paced to the wall of windows overlooking the Pacific Ocean. His head pounded. His mind reeled with frustration. His sister Lily stood in the doorway.
“I can’t help her if she won’t help herself,” he said as he came to a halt in front of the windows.
“George,” Lily said, wringing her hand. “You can’t give up on your daughter!”
“Don’t you think I know that? What am I supposed to do? Abby just lies there and stares at the ceiling. We’ve tried everything the doctors advised. She’s been to the finest institutions money could buy, and still there’s no improvement.”
Closing his eyes, he massaged his temples and heaved a heavy sigh. The accident never strayed far from his mind. His baby, his only child, had been left paralyzed. “She hasn’t spoken for months,” he murmured under his breath. “What if she’s done permanent damage to her vocal cords?” He turned to see his fears reflected in his sister’s eyes. “What if she never speaks again?”
“Don’t do this to yourself.” Lily rushed to his side and placed her hand on his arm. “You’ve done everything humanly possible.”
“My baby’s shut me out completely.” He collapsed into a chair, dropping his head into his hands. “I just don’t know what else to do.”
Lily squatted next to him and placed a hand over his. “We’ll just have to keep looking. Someone has the answers.” She squeezed his hand. “Don’t give up yet.”
Raising his head, he said, “What would I do without you, Lily?” Years of wisdom and faith shone in her loving blue eyes.
“Well, I’m afraid you’ll never find out. You’re stuck with me,” she said with a forced reassuring smile. “We’ll figure this out. I promise.”
The specialists had informed George that Abigail had a good chance of making a significant recovery. Yet after months of therapy her behavior suggested that she had given up. Her surface injuries had healed, however, George feared her mind and spirit never would.
“I really thought once we brought her home she would at least try to make an effort,” George muttered, shaking his head. “Was it a mistake to bring her back here?”
“You had no way of knowing she would shut down.”
Only a miracle would bring his little girl back to him. His gaze traveled around the great room, which had been decorated with expensive artifacts from his travels to the Far East and covered the seven and a half foot long Steinway. He sighed. Even with all his money he couldn’t buy back his daughter’s health or peace of mind.
* * * *
Abby heard her aunt’s soft footsteps on the hall carpet long before the woman approached the room.
“Good morning, dear!” Lily entered and placed a breakfast tray on the bedside stand.
“How are you this morning?” Adjusting the bed, she raised Abby to a sitting position. While she fed Abby, like every other day for the past few months, she shared the daily news and any juicy gossip she had heard from the television or the tabloids.
“Guess what I heard? Your cousin Patty is going to have a baby. Isn’t that wonderful?”
A baby? Abby’s stomach twisted in to a knot of jealousy.
“The weatherman says it’s going to be eighty-two today. Maybe Doctor Voight will stop by for a visit. He has Fridays off, doesn’t he?” Lily’s head tilted slightly, her nose twitched, and her eyes sparkled with mischief. “He could carry you downstairs. We could sit on the patio and have some iced tea. A little change in scenery would do you good. You would enjoy that, wouldn’t you, dear?”
Abby replied with a sigh. Her aunt continued to chatter. Her words blended together as usual, and Abby tuned her out. Her life had consisted of the same routine every day for the past several months. Her aunt climbed the stairs and fed Abby her meals. She would clean her up and then administer a couple minutes of therapy followed by a rub down.
Although Lily helped with the housework, she insisted on taking care of Abby personally. Abby loved her for that. She didn’t want strange people touching her. She just couldn’t understand why everyone didn’t realize that the therapy was a waste of time.
She glanced over at the antique hutch and its curved glass door, which held her porcelain doll collection. She couldn’t see them all, but she knew their names, how they were arranged and the occasions on which she’d received them. They were her most prized possessions. And just knowing they were there gave her comfort since she had returned from the hospital.
The walls in her room were painted a light creamy yellow, which brought out the honey tones of her rattan wicker bedroom set—except her beautiful queen-sized bed had been replaced with a hospital bed. Her gaze swept across the room to the shelves that displayed her tennis and swimming trophies. She had worked hard to win those trophies. Now it hurt to look at them.
They’re just another reminder of what I’ve lost.
* * * *
Lily entered her own room and collapsed into a chair. She pulled a tissue from her pocket and wiped her tears. She loved her niece, and she loved feeling needed, yet it was tearing her apart to watch Abigail lay there day after day without any improvement. Before her accident, she had been so full of life. Now the girl lay dormant some place far below the surface.
Abby’s skin had once been healthy, tanned to a golden brown from hours spent outdoors. Now she looked pale and gaunt. Dark circles shadowed her beautiful blue eyes. Her long brown hair had been cut short, and the shine had faded away along with the girl’s spirit.
Lily tucked the tissue away in her pocket and sighed. Each morning their routine stayed the same, and each day her niece refused to participate or respond. She would let Lily move her arms and legs but refused to follow any directions.
She’s a paraplegic, not a vegetable. But if she doesn’t start helping herself she soon will be. If only she would speak again she could continue her sessions with the psychologist.
Lily and George weren’t qualified to perform her physical therapy or to deal with her emotional issues. She needed professional help. She needed to fight to get her life back.
Lily dragged herself to her feet and crossed to the double doors,which opened on to the terrace. “What a beautiful day.” She stared into the bright blue sky. Her faith was all she had left to offer. “Lord, I know I’ve used up all my favors in my sixty-eight years,” she prayed “But I’m not asking for me. I’m asking for George and Abby. You know she’s not getting any better. And George, well, he’s almost at the end of his rope. I’ve lived a long full and happy life. You’ve been more than generous to me. You’ve given me three wonderful husbands and many years of happiness. I only ask that you give Abigail the same chance for happiness. I’ll accept anyone you send. We’ve done everything we can. Now it’s up to you.” The potted palm at her side swayed in the morning breeze. “Oh, one more thing, Lord. Please hurry.”
* * * *
Beauregard Winkelman awoke and struggled to pry open one eye. Excruciating pain shot through his skull, and he winced. “Hmmm.” Someone had filled his eyes with sand and his mouth with cotton. Mentally hitting rewind, his mind replayed the sketchy events from another wild night at the Brass Rail. Just the thought of the loud music and alcohol intensified the pounding in his head. If I keep up at this rate, I’ll be dead in a couple of months. He pinched the bridge of his nose, but the pain didn’t subside. “Hmmm.”
“Hmmm! You awake, Sugar?” A warm naked body snuggled up against Beau’s side. A mass of red hair washed over him as soft kisses were placed across his chest. His eyes shot open, and he scanned the room, trying to get his bearings.
“Your apartment is so much nicer than mine,” she said, propping her chin on his chest. “You hungry? I’m starved.”
“Oh! Ginger ... Morning.” The thought of food churned the acid in his stomach. “No! Don’t move,” he said before she had a chance to rock the bed.
She cuddled closer and purred, “Whatever you say, Sugar.”
Beau closed his eyes and tried to relax. Something has to change in my life. The money he was making as an apartment superintendent wasn’t adding up quick enough for the down payment needed to start his injured athletes physical therapy clinic. He would be fifty years old before he had enough money saved up to print business cards. And he could pretty much toss the idea of owning his own house in the trash with all of his other dreams. One way or another he had failed at everything he had done. He was a has-been college football player and then almost lost his physical therapy license. Face it, Winkelman, this is your life. Gram would be proud.