Distant Shores, Silent Thunder
For Doctor K.T. O’Bannon, a near-fatal tragedy derails a career and disrupts everything she thought she knew about herself and her future. Battered and nearly broken, she turns for solace to the one woman who knows her best, her ex-lover Doctor Tory King. Their unexpected reunion in Provincetown uncovers old wounds, forges new bonds, and awakens long-buried passions. While Tory’s lover Sheriff Reese Conlon struggles to uncover a deadly drug ring and Officer Bri Parker navigates the torturous path between friendship and desire, Tory and K.T.—and those who love them—are forced to examine the boundaries of love, friendship, and the ties that transcend time.
Early August, 2002, Boston, Massachusetts
Trauma alert STAT…trauma admitting. Trauma alert STAT…trauma admitting. Trauma alert STAT…
Dr. KT O’Bannon sprinted down the crowded hall toward the trauma bay at Boston Hospital, dodging stretchers, visitors, and hospital personnel with the agility that had made her an All-American hurdler in college, one hand pressing the stethoscope draped around her neck against her chest to prevent it from flying off. The emergency call being broadcast through the overhead speakers was the sixth trauma alert of the day. That often happened on weekends in the summer, especially when the weather was as hot as it was this particular Saturday evening. Drivers were short-tempered and drove too quickly on roads that were too congested for even the normal speed limit. People partied too hard and too often in backyards and bars, becoming victims of accidents and assaults. And of course, there were always those individuals who chose to settle their disputes with knives and guns rather than fists. Regardless of the mechanism of injury vehicular, blunt, or penetrating KT handled them all. And she loved it. Loved the excitement of never knowing what challenge the next crisis might present, the rush of being on the firing line of being the one making the life-and-death calls and the incredible high of beating the odds one more time and snatching another life from the jaws of death.
Security STAT…trauma admitting. Security STAT…trauma admitting. Security STAT…trauma admitting.
KT hesitated for only a second, wondering at the unusual request, before she shouldered through the double doors of the trauma admitting area. Unlike the emergency room proper, which was partitioned into multiple curtained cubicles for the treatment of patients with minor injuries or medical problems of all types, the trauma area was designed as a fully functioning operating room. As such, it consisted of a single forty-by-forty-foot room with several adjustable padded operating tables aligned in the middle of the space beneath huge circular overhead halogen lights. Every available inch along the walls was occupied by bins of supplies, including full surgical packs containing all the instruments required to perform any type of invasive surgery. There was even a power drill to perform a craniotomy the removal of a section of the skull in the event that it was necessary to relieve acute pressure on the brain.
Even though KT did not know what life-threatening problem awaited her, the basic routine, repeated thousands of times over the past fifteen years, was so familiar that the natural surge of anxiety evoked by the disembodied voice over the hospital intercom system was softened to a distant thunder in the background of her consciousness. She did know with absolute certainty that the nurses, residents, EMTs, and trauma techs would already have the resuscitation well underway, functioning efficiently without her direction. Establishing the ABCs of resuscitation airway, breathing, and circulation was second nature to even rank beginners after a few days in the trauma unit. In all likelihood, an endotracheal tube would already have been placed into the trachea to deliver oxygen, IVs started to augment blood volume and support circulation, and drainage tubes inserted into the bladder and stomach to monitor output and control secretions. Her greatest contribution was going to be organizing and prioritizing treatment, including managing the often complicated drug therapy, and performing whatever urgent surgical intervention might be needed to control hemorrhage or maintain an airway.
Mentally gearing herself for battle, KT swept the room with a confident gaze and a split second later realized that something was terribly wrong. A patient did lie on the table in the center of the room a middle-aged Asian male whose short-sleeved, checked shirt was soaked with blood but the usual milling mass of individuals who made up the trauma team and who should have been surrounding him was absent. Instead, three women and two men huddled in a semicircle on the far side of the room facing the door that KT had just barreled through, and they all appeared to be staring at another man, who jittered from foot to foot at the base of the patient’s bed, his back to KT.
“What’s going on?” KT said abruptly as she started forward. She didn’t even have time to flinch away when the man pivoted sharply and slashed her right cheek with a long, thin-bladed knife. Shocked more by the absurdity of the act than the pain, KT jerked to a halt. “What”
Out of the corner of her eye she saw the knife arcing back a glinting slice of deadly silver, and this time it was headed for her throat. She did the only thing she could. She blocked the weapon with her open hand. The blade, honed to a razor’s edge, sliced with terrible efficiency across her palm. Someone screamed in the distance.
KT’s vision wavered as blood splattered her face and chest. Her legs were suddenly so weak that she dropped to her knees. The sudden change in position probably saved her life, because the next thrust of the knife passed high over her left shoulder without touching her. Then as she hunched forward, cradling her injured hand against her chest in an attempt to stop the bleeding, the room exploded into pandemonium. Three security guards burst through the doors amidst chaotic shouts and the clatter of instrument trays being knocked to the floor. Kneeling in the center of the room, surrounded by the glittering stainless steel instruments and swatches of blood, KT was unaware of her assailant being subdued and dragged away, oblivious to the blood streaming steadily down her face, soaking into her scrub shirt, and pooling on the floor between her legs, unconscious of the frantic voices calling her name. Her attention was riveted to her hand. Her befuddled mind couldn’t make sense of what she saw in the depths of the wound, but in the core of her being, she knew.
“Oh God,” she whispered. “Oh God, oh God…I can’t move my fingers.”
Four Weeks Later, Provincetown, Massachusetts
“Love? Come here and look at this,” Reese Conlon said with a note of wonder. “She’s following my finger.”
Tory King placed a hand on her lover’s back and looked over Reese’s shoulder at the baby cradled in her arms. Reese, seated in a rocking chair in front of the double glass doors that led out to the deck overlooking Provincetown Harbor, was feeding their infant daughter from a plastic bottle filled with the breast milk that Tory had pumped that morning. Regina’s deep blue eyes were open, and occasionally she blinked as she sucked on the soft plastic nipple in her mouth. Intermittently, Reese held her index finger in the air a few inches above the baby’s face and waved it, “See that? Just then.”
The excitement in Reese’s voice was so endearing that Tory had to catch her bottom lip between her teeth to stifle a laugh, “It’s still a little soon for her to be focusing, honey. It’ll probably be another month or so.”
“Well, she does everything early.” Reese’s tone was only slightly aggrieved. “She showed up almost two months early, then she was ready to come home from the hospital three weeks sooner than the pediatricians predicted, and she already sleeps through the night. Well, most nights. At the rate she’s going, she’ll probably be walking by the time she’s six months old.” Reese turned her head and glanced up at Tory, her generous mouth quirked into a grin that deepened the dimple low on her right cheek. “You have to admit she’s amazing.”
It was hard for Tory to decide which of the two was the more beautiful: Reese with her coal black hair, deep blue eyes, and heart-stoppingly handsome features, or the baby whose eyes were as blue as Reese’s, but whose dark brown hair held hints of red and gold like her own. Together, they stilled the breath in her chest. Afraid that Reese would see the tears that quickly rose to tremble dangerously on her lashes, Tory pressed her cheek to the top of Reese’s head and wrapped both arms around her shoulders from behind. “I love you.”
Reese tilted her head back again and kissed the side of Tory’s neck. “You just love me because I got up at four o’clock the last two nights.”
“Mmm, there is that, I suppose.” Tory’s tone was teasing, but she felt a twinge of guilt knowing that she’d been only dimly aware of the baby fussing and of Reese getting up to see to her. It was hard to admit that she was just recently beginning to regain her strength after the tumultuous emergency Cesarean section that had been necessary when she’d gone into labor prematurely. Precipitous labor and emergency surgery took a toll on anyone, but she was nearing forty, and her recovery had been slower than she would have liked. Although Reese would never complain, Tory knew that her lover had been shouldering more than her share of the household chores as well as the child care while still fulfilling her obligations as Provincetown’s deputy sheriff. “Things should get easier next week when the tourist season is over and the activity quiets down in town. Then you won’t be working quite so hard.”