In the five Tuesdays leading up to the release of The Farther I Fall, I’ll be sharing excerpts from the first chapter right here. I’m so excited for you to meet Gwen and Lucas and follow them on their unexpected tumble into romance.
With no further ado, here’s the start of Chapter One.
“Sergeant? Stay with me. Come on. Look at me.” More distant, urgent: “Where’s the fucking evac?”
Gwen jerked fully awake, gritting her teeth against the pain in her shoulder. Her throat burned with acrid smoke that wasn’t there, and her ears thudded with small-arms fire. The heat of flames from months ago warmed her skin. The smell of blood was so strong she checked her shoulder to make sure she wasn’t bleeding.
She sat up in an unfamiliar bed, blinking to clear her eyes. The voices of other soldiers yelling for help, for her to stay awake, still sounded in her ears.
Her breath slowed; she was in Los Angeles, in her sister, Sam’s, guest room. The images and voices faded like mist. She swung her legs around the edge of the narrow bed, scrubbing her face and looking at the time: four thirty AM. It was already afternoon in London, and her body’s clock hadn’t adjusted yet. Sleep was gone for now, but she lay back down with one arm across her forehead. Out of the corner of her eye, the Royal Army Medical Corps tattoo on her upper arm—Aesculapius’s staff with a wreath and crown with the words “In Arduis Fidelis” inked underneath—seemed to mock her. She turned her face away.
Her physical therapist said the pain would eventually go away completely. The scarring never would. When they’d first taken off the dressings, she’d asked for a mirror. Sam had been there, trying to be reassuring. Gwen had smiled and said, “Well, I won’t have to worry about bikini season for a while, anyway.” The exit wound was the worst: a red-purple starburst nearly the size of Gwen’s palm to the left of her collarbone. The nurse holding the mirror said something about the scar fading, about possible plastic surgery. Gwen looked at it and thought, I survived you, you bastard.
When she went before the Medical Board, Major Woolston had declared her unfit for duty thanks to her injuries and the results of her psych evaluation and gave her extended medical leave. He’d pulled her aside afterward.
“Take some time to recover,” he’d said. “After that, well, even if you’re discharged, we could still use you and your skills, Tennison. The TA can always use instructors of your caliber.”
“As a civilian,” she’d said. Training weekend warriors.
Woolston had nodded. “Think about it. You have my number.”
That was when she knew this leave was a precursor to a medical discharge. The Territorial Army wouldn’t be enough. Nothing would be enough. She wouldn’t even properly be part of the TA either; just another civilian working for the Crown. Thirty-four years old, and the one career she’d wanted more than anything was over.
But she was alive. Turner would still be alive too, if Gwen had moved faster. Janet, whose kids would never see their mother again, who used to try to set Gwen up with her brother-in-law. Janet had been looking forward to going home. She’d had a reason to leave the service.
Damn it. Gwen pushed herself up off the bed with more force than was strictly necessary and pulled the nearest pair of jeans and T-shirt on. Even though it was still dark outside, she couldn’t bear to lie there anymore. It would do her some good to go for a walk anyway.
And if she was really lucky, someone might try to mug her. Punching something sounded like just what the doctor ordered.
Come back next week for part two, or sign up for my newsletter for even longer excerpts.