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Passionate Rivals

By Radclyffe

Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2018 Radclyffe

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Passionate Rivals

Onetime lovers, unexpected rivals...


Emmett McCabe never expected to see Sydney Stevens—a woman with whom she'd shared a brief, incendiary connection before it all went up in flames—again. Luckily, ascending the cutthroat ladder of a high-pressure surgery residency to reach the top spot makes it easy to ignore what's missing in her life. Then Sydney reappears after nearly five years. Emmett is barely over her shock when she discovers Sydney is her new competition for the coveted chief's position everyone, including Emmett, expects will be hers.


Professional rivalry and long-simmering passions create a combustible combination when the two are forced to work together, especially when past attractions won't stay buried.

Acclaim for Radclyffe’s Fiction

Dangerous Waters is a bumpy ride through a devastating time with powerful events and resolute characters. Radclyffe gives us the strong, dedicated women we love to read in a story that keeps us turning pages until the end.”—Lambda Literary Review


“Radclyffe’s Dangerous Waters has the feel of a tense television drama, as the narrative interchanges between hurricane trackers and first responders. Sawyer and Dara butt heads in the beginning as each moves for some level of control during the storm’s approach, and the interference of a lovely television reporter adds an engaging love triangle threat to the sexual tension brewing between them.”—RT Book Reviews


Love After Hours, the fourth in Radclyffe’s Rivers Community series, evokes the sense of a continuing drama as Gina and Carrie’s slow-burning romance intertwines with details of other Rivers residents. They become part of a greater picture where friends and family support each other in personal and recreational endeavors. Vivid settings and characters draw in the reader…”—RT Book Reviews


Secret Hearts “delivers exactly what it says on the tin: poignant story, sweet romance, great characters, chemistry and hot sex scenes. Radclyffe knows how to pen a good lesbian romance.”—LezReviewBooks Blog


Wild Shores “will hook you early. Radclyffe weaves a chance encounter into all-out steamy romance. These strong, dynamic women have great conversations, and fantastic chemistry.”—The Romantic Reader Blog


In 2016 RWA / OCC Book Buyers Best award winner for suspense and mystery with romantic elements Price of Honor “Radclyffe is master of the action-thriller series…The old familiar characters are there, but enough new blood is introduced to give it a fresh feel and open new avenues for intrigue.”—Curve Magazine


In Prescription for Love “Radclyffe populates her small town with colorful characters, among the most memorable being Flann’s little sister, Margie, and Abby’s 15-year-old trans son, Blake…This romantic drama has plenty of heart and soul.”—Publishers Weekly


2013 RWA / New England Bean Pot award winner for contemporary romance Crossroads “will draw the reader in and make her heart ache, willing the two main characters to find love and a life together. It’s a story that lingers long after coming to ‘the end.’”—Lambda Literary


In 2012 RWA / FTHRW Lories and RWA HODRW Aspen Gold award winner Firestorm “Radclyffe brings another hot lesbian romance for her readers.”—The Lesbrary


Foreword Review Book of the Year finalist and IPPY silver medalist Trauma Alert “is hard to put down and it will sizzle in the reader’s hands. The characters are hot, the sex scenes explicit and explosive, and the book is moved along by an interesting plot with well drawn secondary characters. The real star of this show is the attraction between the two characters, both of whom resist and then fall head over heels.”—Lambda Literary Reviews


Lambda Literary Award Finalist Best Lesbian Romance 2010 features “stories [that] are diverse in tone, style, and subject, making for more variety than in many, similar anthologies…well written, each containing a satisfying, surprising twist. Best Lesbian Romance series editor Radclyffe has assembled a respectable crop of 17 authors for this year’s offering.”—Curve Magazine


2010 Prism award winner and ForeWord Review Book of the Year Award finalist Secrets in the Stone is “so powerfully [written] that the worlds of these three women shimmer between reality and dreams…A strong, must read novel that will linger in the minds of readers long after the last page is turned.”—Just About Write


In Benjamin Franklin Award finalist Desire by Starlight “Radclyffe writes romance with such heart and her down-to-earth characters not only come to life but leap off the page until you feel like you know them. What Jenna and Gard feel for each other is not only a spark but an inferno and, as a reader, you will be washed away in this tumultuous romance until you can do nothing but succumb to it.”—Queer Magazine Online


Lambda Literary Award winner Stolen Moments “is a collection of steamy stories about women who just couldn’t wait. It’s sex when desire overrides reason, and it’s incredibly hot!”—On Our Backs


Lambda Literary Award winner Distant Shores, Silent Thunder “weaves an intricate tapestry about passion and commitment between lovers. The story explores the fragile nature of trust and the sanctuary provided by loving relationships.”—Sapphic Reader


Lambda Literary Award Finalist Justice Served delivers a “crisply written, fast-paced story with twists and turns and keeps us guessing until the final explosive ending.”—Independent Gay Writer


Lambda Literary Award finalist Turn Back Time “is filled with wonderful love scenes, which are both tender and hot.”—MegaScene

Applause for L.L. Raand’s Midnight Hunters Series

The Midnight Hunt

RWA 2012 VCRW Laurel Wreath winner Blood Hunt

Night Hunt

The Lone Hunt



“Raand has built a complex world inhabited by werewolves, vampires, and other paranormal beings…Raand has given her readers a complex plot filled with wonderful characters as well as insight into the hierarchy of Sylvan’s pack and vampire clans. There are many plot twists and turns, as well as erotic sex scenes in this riveting novel that keep the pages flying until its satisfying conclusion.”—Just About Write


“Once again, I am amazed at the storytelling ability of L.L. Raand aka Radclyffe. In Blood Hunt, she mixes high levels of sheer eroticism that will leave you squirming in your seat with an impeccable multi-character storyline all streaming together to form one great read.”—Queer Magazine Online


The Midnight Hunt has a gripping story to tell, and while there are also some truly erotic sex scenes, the story always takes precedence. This is a great read which is not easily put down nor easily forgotten.”—Just About Write


“Are you sick of the same old hetero vampire  /  werewolf story plastered in every bookstore and at every movie theater? Well, I’ve got the cure to your werewolf fever. The Midnight Hunt is first in, what I hope is, a long-running series of fantasy erotica for L.L. Raand (aka Radclyffe).”—Queer Magazine Online


“Any reader familiar with Radclyffe’s writing will recognize the author’s style within The Midnight Hunt, yet at the same time it is most definitely a new direction. The author delivers an excellent story here, one that is engrossing from the very beginning. Raand has pieced together an intricate world, and provided just enough details for the reader to become enmeshed in the new world. The action moves quickly throughout the book and it’s hard to put down.”—Three Dollar Bill Reviews

Passionate Rivals

© 2018 By Radclyffe. All Rights Reserved.


ISBN 13:978-1-63555-232-4


This Electronic Book is published by

Bold Strokes Books, Inc.

P.O. Box 249

Valley Falls, NY 12185


First Edition: September 2018


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.


This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.



Editors: Ruth Sternglantz and Stacia Seaman

Production Design: Stacia Seaman

Cover Design By Sheri (

By Radclyffe


Innocent Hearts

Promising Hearts

Love’s Melody Lost

Love’s Tender Warriors

Tomorrow’s Promise

Love’s Masquerade


Passion’s Bright Fury

Fated Love

Turn Back Time

When Dreams Tremble

The Lonely Hearts Club

Night Call

Secrets in the Stone

Desire by Starlight



The Color of Love

Secret Hearts

Passionate Rivals



The Provincetown Tales

Safe Harbor

Beyond the Breakwater

Distant Shores, Silent Thunder

Storms of Change

Winds of Fortune

Returning Tides

Sheltering Dunes



Honor Series

Above All, Honor

Honor Bound

Love & Honor

Honor Guards

Honor Reclaimed

Honor Under Siege

Word of Honor

Code of Honor

Price of Honor



Justice Series

A Matter of Trust (prequel)

Shield of Justice

In Pursuit of Justice

Justice in the Shadows

Justice Served

Justice For All



Rivers Community Novels

Against Doctor’s Orders

Prescription for Love

Love on Call

Love After Hours



First Responders Novels

Trauma Alert


Oath of Honor

Taking Fire

Wild Shores

Heart Stop

Dangerous Waters



Short Fiction

Collected Stories by Radclyffe

Erotic Interludes: Change of Pace

Radical Encounters


Edited by Radclyffe:

Best Lesbian Romance 2009-2014


Stacia Seaman and Radclyffe, eds.

Erotic Interludes 2: Stolen Moments

Erotic Interludes 3: Lessons in Love

Erotic Interludes 4: Extreme Passions

Erotic Interludes 5: Road Games

Romantic Interludes 1: Discovery

Romantic Interludes 2: Secrets

Breathless: Tales of Celebration

Women of the Dark Streets

Amore and More: Love Everafter

Myth & Magic: Queer Fairy Tales



By L.L. Raand

Midnight Hunters

The Midnight Hunt

Blood Hunt

Night Hunt

The Lone Hunt

The Magic Hunt

Shadow Hunt


Revisiting a series after a few years is challenging and a bit like coming home (or maybe coming home after an absence is always a challenge). Time changes memories and life moves on and so must our fiction, as much as we want the characters and their stories to continue exactly as we remember them. What I’ve decided to do with the stories of Quinn and Honor and friends begun distantly in Passion’s Bright Fury (timewise) and then written in full in Fated Love, Night Call, and Crossroads is to begin a new series arc set in their world with a new cast of characters who can interact with the already established ones. My plan is to write a new series based on Quinn and Honor’s universe (and yes, they will be here), but this could also be a starting point for readers who haven’t read the first books. New characters mean new life for everyone (including me). I hope you enjoy this next generation and the role our earlier characters play in these new stories.


Many thanks go to senior editor Sandy Lowe for her guidance and support of the BSB authors (me included) and her excellent publishing expertise in support of BSB’s operations, editor Ruth Sternglantz for giving these stories such care and attention, editor Stacia Seaman for never failing to find the bits and pieces that need fixing, and my first readers Paula and Eva for taking time out of their busy lives to send invaluable feedback.


And as always, thanks to Lee for everything. Amo te.


Radclyffe 2018

To Lee, always

Chapter One

Philadelphia Medical Center Hospital, Germantown

4:45 a.m.


Emmett kissed the smooth skin behind Zoey’s ear and murmured, “Rise and shine, princess.”

Zoey dragged the sheet over her face and groaned. “Leave me alone.”

“This is your personalized wake-up call.”

“Go wake up someone else.” Zoey curled into a ball. “Sadie was on last night. Find her.”

Chuckling, Emmett slid her hand under the rumpled sheet and over the naked course of Zoey’s abdomen, pressing close against her back as she cupped Zoey’s breast. “Sadie isn’t speaking to me.”

“That’s because you broke her heart.”

Emmett didn’t bother defending herself—Zoey knew her better than anyone, even Hank, especially Hank, considering he was her little brother. Her sex life was off-limits. Zoey knew she never pretended to be looking for anything other than casual. Anyone in her situation looking for more than that was kidding themselves. Every resident she knew who’d been married or even seriously hooked up had failed to make it work. Divorce, breakups, and broken hearts were the order of the day. Not for her. The only thing she wanted was a full OR schedule and a warm, willing woman with whom to burn off the adrenaline at the end of the day. “Not my fault Sadie read more into—”

“Shut up. Shut up, shut up, shut up!”

“We’ve got half an hour to shower and change before morning report. Plenty of time, and you’ll feel better. Nothing like a satisfy—”

“Not interested.” Zoey buried her face in the pillow. “I’ve only been asleep an hour. I’m dead below the neck.”

“I don’t think so.” Emmett rubbed her cheek against Zoey’s shoulder and nudged away the long strands of tousled blond waves. She kissed Zoey’s neck, played her fingertips over Zoey’s hardening nipple. Zoey’s butt tensed against the curve of Emmett’s hips. “Mmm. See? Somebody’s awake.”

Zoey clutched her pillow more firmly over her face. “I hate you.”

Suppressing a laugh, Emmett turned Zoey onto her back, pulled the pillow away, and kissed her. “No, you don’t.”

Zoey peered at her through slitted lids, her deep blue eyes bleary in the faint light coming in through the small frosted window in the on-call room door. “Did you really sleep all night?”

“Nope. I finished removing a ruptured spleen about two thirty.” She kissed her again. “Plenty of time to sleep after that.”

“It’s five fucking a.m.,” Zoey said. “I am so sick of never getting enough sleep.”

Emmett grinned. “Like I said, I can help with that.”

“Do you ever think of anything besides sex?”

“Sure I do. I think about gunshot wounds and motorcycle accidents and broken bones and closed head injuries and—”

“All right, all right, I’m awake.” Zoey glared, the sheet bunched in her fist at chest level. “Just because you can work around the clock, super-stud trauma-surgeon-in-the-making, some of us actually require sleep. Also unlike you, my first thought upon awakening is not getting laid.”

“How about your second thought, then?” Emmett moved lower on the narrow single bed, taking the sheet with her. She shifted slowly, kissing her way between Zoey’s curvaceous breasts and down the center of her sleek abdomen until she rested between her thighs, her cheek pillowed on Zoey’s abdomen. When she glanced up, she caught the softening of desire tugging at Zoey’s full lips. “You just lie there and I’ll see what I can do to start your day off right.”

“Shut up,” Zoey said breathlessly as she threaded her fingers through Emmett’s hair and urged her a little lower. “You’ve got about two minutes. Mmm. That’s nice. Remember the special meeting with Maguire this morning at seven?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Emmett murmured, tracing the satiny smooth skin at the apex of Zoey’s inner thigh with the tip of her tongue. “Probably just some more administrative rules we’re all going to ignore anyhow.”

Zoey caught her breath as Emmett’s mouth moved over her. Her hips bucked and she gasped. “Maybe they’ll…announce…chief resident this morning.”

Emmett didn’t move her mouth, at least not to talk. She closed her eyes, one hand on Zoey’s abdomen, and immersed herself in Zoey’s body—the tension in her hips, the tremor in her limbs, the soft murmurs and surprised cries of excitement. Zoey came quickly, the way she always did, hard and with abandon. Emmett loved that about her, how free she was, how demanding she was of pleasure, and what a pleasure it was to satisfy her. People always bragged about having friends with benefits, but she doubted most of them really knew how good it could be. Zoey’d been her best friend since Emmett had been assigned as a second year to mentor the newbie during those first tumultuous months. They’d clicked right away—bright, vivacious, sorority girl Zoey and dark, intense Emmett from the coal mining town of Bethlehem, PA. The rich girl and the bad girl. By the end of the year they were sharing a run-down Victorian on the wrong side of the tracks a quick walk from the hospital. And sharing a bed when one or the other wasn’t in the hospital or with someone else.

They’d known right away they were destined to be friends, first and foremost. The sex was just a natural extension of their connection—effortless and free and without conditions. Zoey tended to keep her lovers around until the heat cooled, and somehow she usually managed to keep them as friends when it was over. Emmett was different. She kept things simple from the start—a few nights, maybe even a few weeks, but never long enough to create problems when she moved on. And she always did. She had more important things to focus on. Like getting every drop of experience she possibly could so she’d come out on top. The top was where she wanted to be—in charge, in control, untouchable.

Emmett raised herself on an elbow when Zoey, muttering, “Enough already,” pushed her none too gently away.

“Sure?” Emmett teased.

“You know you killed me.” Zoey lifted her head, squinting at Emmett. “Bet you five bucks the hospital meeting’s about next year.”

“Nah. There’s no way Maguire is going to make an early announcement. You know the tradition. The program director announces the chief resident the last week of the fourth year.”

“So maybe they’re early this year.” Zoey snorted. “Like everyone doesn’t know who it’s going to be anyhow. It’s been yours since the first year.”

Emmett sat up on the side of the bed, searching for her scrub shirt in the tangle of covers. She was a surgeon, and surgeons were superstitious to a one. She never took anything for granted, never counted on anything until she had it firmly in her grasp. The minute you got comfortable, life kicked you in the teeth. The lesson had nearly broken her in the learning, but learn she had. The only people she counted on were Zoey and Hank. And the only success she believed in was a successful surgery. “You never know how it’s going to go. Maguire isn’t the only one making the decision. Look at who they picked last year.”

“Okay.” Zoey grinned. “Amy Baker is an airhead. But come on, Maguire loves you. You’re practically her clone. You want trauma, you’ve got great hands, and you’re fearless. Just like her. Hell, you even look like her.” Zoey made swoony eyes and pressed her hands to her breast. Her really, really beautiful breast. “Dark and broody and intense. Yummy. All you’re missing is your very own Honor Blake.”

“As if.” Emmett laughed, thinking about the trauma chief’s wife. The simmering arousal in her belly flared a little before she quickly doused it with a mental bucket of ice water. Jeez. Maguire’s wife, for crap’s sake. Okay, so maybe she harbored a slight crush on the beautiful, brilliant Honor Blake like half the hospital, but she wasn’t about to admit to it. “Maguire doesn’t play favorites.”

“Doesn’t mean it’s not you.” Zoey ran her fingers down Emmett’s spine, her touch familiar and as natural as the sense of rightness Emmett experienced every time she walked into the OR. “Maguire wouldn’t be playing favorites where you’re concerned. You’re the best, and everyone knows it.” Zoey kissed Emmett’s back between her shoulder blades and threaded both arms around her waist, resting her cheek against Emmett’s shoulder. “Give me thirty seconds and—”

Emmett’s pager beeped and she pulled it off the chair next to the bed. “It’s Hank. He’s in the cafeteria for rounds.”

“Your brother has impeccable timing,” Zoey said.

“Come on—let’s grab a shower. Hank can wait a few minutes.” Emmett twisted around and kissed Zoey. “I’m good. Maybe I’ll see you at home tonight, and we can pick this up then.”

“If Anderson doesn’t have me here checking post-ops until midnight again.” Zoey shook her head. “I really think he hates me.”

“Anderson hates all residents. He doesn’t play favorites either.”

Zoey laughed as Emmett stood and pulled on her scrub pants.

“If we hurry, we can finish rounds before the meeting,” Emmett said. “I’m scheduled for an ex lap at eight, and I want to review the labs again before the patient goes down.”

“Of course you do, you shark,” Zoey said.

“I prefer to think of it as being prepared.”

Zoey made gagging noises as she dressed.

Smiling, Emmett filled her pockets with her phone, pen, and wallet, then clipped her ID to her pocket and her pager to her waistband. “Can’t wait to see what you’re like next year when you’re in the race for chief, Ms. Perky I-Love-My-Job-and-All-the-World-Is-Beautiful.”

“I’ll be a perky shark.” Zoey opened the door and almost walked into Sadie Matthews, who stood with her hand raised to knock. “Oh, hey, Sadie. What’s up?”

Sadie looked past Zoey to Emmett and glared. “Not a thing.”

Sighing inwardly, Emmett followed them down the hall. Great start to the day. Eight o’clock and the first case couldn’t come soon enough.


* * *


Franklin Health Center Hospital, Northeast Philadelphia

5:45 a.m.


Sydney Stevens double-checked her locker, sliding her hand along the top shelf into both far back corners where she couldn’t see, then running her fingertip along the seams to make sure nothing had dropped into the shallow channel between the metal shelf and the side walls of the tall, narrow gray cubby. Anyone watching her would probably think she was being paranoid, but she knew better. In junior high, she’d lost a gold ring with a tiny row of diamonds her mother had given her on her thirteenth birthday. The ring had been her grandmother’s, and she’d been so excited to be the oldest of her sisters and the first one to get a special family gift. When she’d discovered it missing, she didn’t tell anyone she’d lost it, and the guilt and grief plagued her every day for months. The day she’d found it stuck in the back corner of her locker while searching for loose change, the relief had made her dizzy. The light-headed, heart-pounding sensation came back to her now just thinking about it.

Who knew what she might have lost in this locker. She’d lived out of this locker for four years. This locker was more central to her life than the room in an apartment she shared with two other people. This locker was the place where she kept her most important possessions—her white coat, her extra scrubs, her stethoscope and Merck Manual, her shower supplies and secret stash of candy for emergencies. Locker number 74. Her locker validated her place in the hospital and symbolized a marker on her road to success. Cleaning it out felt a little like death—and a lot like failure.

She wasn’t supposed to be leaving yet. None of them were. Her job wasn’t finished, her goal unachieved. Her moorings had been cut, and she was at sea without a life jacket. All around her other surgical residents mimicked her motions. The atmosphere was funereal, their expressions reflecting the confusion and helplessness and fear they all shared. No one spoke. What was there to say? They had no choice in what had happened to them less then twenty-four hours before or what would happen to them in the next days and weeks. Some of them she probably would never see again. Over half had been her interns and junior residents, her students and colleagues and competitors. Closer than her sibling had ever been. Her family, this family, was fracturing—again. By eight a.m. they’d all be gone, and while their absence would be felt for a while, the relentless forward momentum of hospital life would soon outpace their memories. Medical students and PAs would step in to fill the empty spaces at Franklin Hospital, and eventually no one would remember what it’d been like before. Before what felt like the end of one life and the beginning of another she hadn’t planned. She thought she’d never be at this crossroads again—displaced, buffeted by forces she hadn’t expected and couldn’t change, and unsure of the way forward. But here she was, with her life veering off path into a future she couldn’t see.

“You ready?” Jerry Katz said, straddling the narrow bench that ran in front of the wall of lockers, his possessions in a backpack slung over his shoulder. He still wore green Franklin Hospital scrubs with the faded initials FHC on the pocket.

“Yes, just about. Where’s Dani?” Syd said.

Four years ago, the three of them had arrived at FHC along with six others on the first of July for the start of their surgical internship. She hadn’t known anyone and had grabbed the nearest empty seat in the small auditorium next to an African American guy in a faded Eagles jersey and the build of a serious jock. He looked familiar, and a minute later she’d made the connection.

“Aren’t you the Eagles running back—or something?”

Jerry had smiled ruefully, his dark eyes gazing at something only he could see. “Past tense—wide receiver. Retired. I put my surgical training on hold for a while, but now…well, my blown knee sent the message it’s time.”

“Sorry, I didn’t realize—” Feeling awkward, she’d broken off.

“That I was a doc and not just a hot body?”

She’d laughed. “Sorry, not much of a sports fan.”

“You’re forgiven, seeing how it’s our first day and all.” He’d laughed too and the awkwardness had disappeared.

The chief of surgery had walked in and everyone stopped like they were playing a game of statue—frozen in midmotion, barely breathing.

His voice rang out, emotionless and merciless. “Look to your right and look to your left. Remember their faces, because by the end of this year one of them will be gone. In five years, there’s a fifty percent chance both will be.”

Syd stared at Jerry, whose jaw tightened as his gaze met hers. She’d turned to her left and the seat was empty—until Dani Chan dropped into it, a grin on her face and defiance in her eyes.

“What did I miss?” Dani asked, looking from Syd to Jerry.

Syd smiled. “Not much. Just that most of us won’t make it through the program.”

“Yeah? Heard that before. You guys buying it?”

“No,” Syd said, her fear turning to resolution. She wouldn’t be beaten. She’d already lost too much time.

“Hell no,” Jerry said.

“Me neither.” Small, lithe, and perpetually on the verge of being engulfed in a whirlwind of energy and emotion, Dani made up the last of their triumvirate. The Three Musketeers—roommates, cheering squad, and inseparable friends. And putting a lie to the chief’s projections, they were three of the five in their residency year to make it all the way to the end. Or they would have been, after their fifth and final year of training. The year they’d all been chasing after and that had been right around the corner.

“D’s waiting for us in the lobby.” Jerry looked around and winced as the locker room, usually filled with chatter and clanging metal doors, slowly emptied. “It’s really happening, isn’t it?”

“I think so.”

He shook his head, his expression vacillating between angry and resigned. “I can’t believe they didn’t tell us before this.”

Syd laughed mirthlessly. “Not as if we’d have any say in it.”

“It’s our careers on the line,” he said.

“I know.” Syd suppressed her anger. Jerry was right, but no point tilting at windmills. This battle was lost. They had a long day to get through, and she needed all her energy to face it.

“At least we have jobs, for now,” he muttered.

“Yes.” She closed her locker carefully, making sure the latch caught, as if something of value still remained inside. Behind her, a few stragglers slammed theirs and walked out. She zipped her duffel and turned her back on number 74.

Another chapter in her life, ending not as she had planned it, not as she had imagined it, but with a cold, lost feeling in the pit of her stomach. A feeling she had to bury along with the others.

Syd squared her shoulders. “Let’s go, then.”


* * *


“I can take Jack to daycare this morning,” Honor said as she slid toast in front of Arly, another slice in front of Quinn, and finally grabbed her own coffee off the counter.

Quinn corralled a slice of toast with one hand and directed Jack’s spoon back toward his oatmeal and not his left eye. His eye-hand coordination was exceptional for a two-and-a-half-year-old—he took after his mother, after all—but he had his own brand of exuberance that sometimes derailed his efforts.

“I’ve got time before the department meeting,” Quinn said between bites. “As long as he doesn’t need a bath first.”

“Then you’d better watch that spoon.”

“On it.”

Honor snagged the last piece of toast and sipped her coffee. “How do you think it’s going to go?”

Quinn shook her head. “It’ll be bumpy for a while. Surgeons aren’t known for sharing cases.”

Honor sighed. “You can’t blame them.”

“No. But the agreements are in place, and we’ll all have to make the best of it.” She glanced at Arly, who was absorbed in something on her iPad. “Why are you up so early?”

“No reason.”

“You ready for tonight?”

“Yep,” Arly said without looking up.

Quinn shot Honor a silent query, and she shrugged. At almost thirteen, Arly might just be displaying the inevitable teen disinterest in sharing feelings with her parents, but Arly had never been typical and today was not an ordinary day.

Quinn said, “You comfortable with the seventh form?”


“I’ve cleared my schedule,” Quinn said, “and I can be home by six. We can run through it—”

Arly set her iPad down and studied Quinn, her dark brown eyes so like Honor’s Quinn was surprised every time. Calm, thoughtful, and so damn strong. Arly grinned, and then she was thirteen again—a little cocky, a little amused.

“What?” Quinn said.

“You’re nervous,” Arly said.

“No, I’m not.”

Arly smirked. “Yes, you are.”

“Arly test,” Jack proclaimed.

Honor laughed and managed to save his shirt from a helping of oatmeal as he waved his spoon in the air.

“Yes, she is taking a test,” Honor said, “and she’s going to do great. And so is Quinn.”

“Yay,” Jack said with another flourish of his spoon.

“I’m not nervous,” Quinn said. “I just thought—”

“I know,” Arly said with a wise expression. “You’re worried I’ll feel bad if I don’t pass tonight. But I won’t feel bad.”

“Okay.” Quinn sat back. Maybe she was a little nervous. She just wished she could save Arly from disappointment, keep her from ever being hurt. An impossible task, but she couldn’t help it. She could hide it, though, in fairness to Arly. “If you change your mind, let me know.”

Arly nodded. “Here’s what I think. If I don’t pass, it’s because I’m not ready. But I am.”

“You’re right. You are.”

“Besides, you’ll be there, right?”


Honor hugged Arly and kissed the top of her head. “We’ll both be there.”

“Okay then.” Arly went back to her iPad, the issue clearly settled.

Quinn sighed. Time to get to the hospital and deliver the news that would put all her residents to the test they had no idea was coming. But if they wanted to be surgeons, they’d have to get used to that.

Chapter Two

Northeast Philadelphia, 5:50 a.m.


“So how do you think they decided the split?” Dani leaned on the horn as she threaded her ancient Volkswagen Bug through Broad Street traffic, heading south into the heart of Philadelphia and the expressway west. “Come on, buddy, the light’s yellow! You don’t stop on a yellow!”

“Us, you mean?” Jerry braced one arm on the dash to avoid face-planting into the windshield.

“Well, yeah, duh,” Dani said.

“Maybe they drew straws,” Syd said. “Do you think you could ease up on the stop-and-go a little bit? I’m about to dislocate something back here.”

“Bite me,” Dani said.

“Right. No thanks.” Syd’d taken one for the team and let Jerry have the front seat where at least his knees didn’t quite reach to his chin. She was almost as tall as him, although with his build he looked taller than six feet, and she had to scrunch sideways in the minuscule cramped rear seat. Every few seconds the Bug went from sixty to zero, and she was almost thrown onto the floor. At least it wasn’t winter. Somehow Dani never seemed to notice the little red car had no heat. Maybe compared to Buffalo, nothing the Philadelphia winters threw at her registered.

“Could be a lottery,” Jerry said, “or some other kind of random draw.”

“Like names in a hat,” Syd said. The idea was absurd, but so was heading off to a new hospital with less than twenty-four hours’ notice. So was being essentially homeless from one day to the next. “This…”

“Sucks?” Dani snarled.

“Yes.” Syd sighed. “Does it matter at this point, how they decided between the three other programs in the city?”

Dani made a snorting sound. “It might. It can’t be a coincidence the three of us are together.”

“True,” Jerry said. “We’ve always been—you know—top of the pile. Right?…I mean, I’m just saying…”

Syd knew it. At this point in their training, everyone had a pretty good idea how they ranked, and false modesty was not a surgeon’s trait. After four years together, everyone recognized each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Everyone knew how the pack had sorted itself out. True to the chief’s predictions, a quarter of the interns in their group had switched to other specialties before the first year was over. Pathology and anesthesia were two of the most popular choices when a surgical intern decided surgery wasn’t really for them—that the hours and the stress and the punishing training weren’t what they’d signed up for. At least in anesthesia they were still working in the OR, frequently in the heat of emergencies, but unlike in surgery, at the end of the day they could go home and not think about the patients any longer. They wouldn’t be on call every second or third night for five years and a few more of fellowship training and wouldn’t be called in from home at all hours for the rest of their lives. They could manage families and take vacation and maybe even stay married for more than a few years. Pathology was a little more removed from surgery, but the challenge of ferreting out the nature of disease and helping to make decisions about treatment remained. And the lifestyle was one of the best in medicine considering the patients were either already dead or at least missing organs on someone else’s watch.

Half were gone by the end of the second year, either by choice or because they hadn’t made the cut. Their ranks diminished even further over the next two years through natural selection, and the five who remained were the alphas of their year. The Three Musketeers were the top dogs. Exactly which of them—Syd, Jerry, or Dani—was at the pinnacle was still a question, though. They each had their special skills.

Dani was the brainiac, her memory like a steel trap. When attendings asked for the potential causes of a patient’s symptoms on rounds, her list was always the longest. Most of the time that kind of encyclopedic knowledge wasn’t critical, but every now and then, some patient would present with strange, exotic symptoms and Dani would be the one to nail it. Her cool intellect was balanced by her hot temper, both of which would suit her well in oncologic surgery, where the battle with cancer required a fire in the blood. Jerry was fearless and quick to act, the kind of decisive personality you’d want to have in the midst of a chaotic scene, unflappable and seemingly impenetrable to the possibility of failure. Of course he was trauma all the way, even though he knew he’d be disadvantaged in the race for a fellowship, coming from a program that didn’t have a level one trauma rating.

Syd knew her strengths—and she could barely take credit for them. She was blessed with good hands, the one thing that couldn’t be taught. She had more operating experience than anyone in her year and probably more than some fifth years, because she’d been able to do from the onset what more senior residents couldn’t. She had a feel for the instruments, for the tissue, for the rhythm of the blade and scissors and needles passing through flesh. She was fast and she was good, the perfect combination for a surgeon. She planned on being a pediatric surgeon, and when every single organ that she’d be operating on was a tenth or even a hundredth of the size of the adult counterpart, good hands were an absolute essential.

She also refused to admit defeat. She didn’t believe in giving up, not until everything she could think of had been tried, and maybe some things she’d never tried before. That kind of fortitude was key when dealing with the nearly hopeless cases that premature infants and sick newborns and kids with chronic diseases presented. She had the other essential skill too—the hardest skill to acquire. She knew when to stop. She’d learned that lesson a long time ago.

“You think we’ve got any chance at this place?” Jerry said, the undercurrent of anger vibrating in his voice.

“Oh, sure,” Dani said dismissively. “They’re going to just let us walk right in like we’ve been there the whole time. Good luck with that.”

“We’ll just have to prove ourselves,” Syd said quietly.

“Yeah? How?” Dani leaned on the horn again, the Bug’s nose an inch from the ass end of a cement mixer. “Frickin’ hell, we’re going to be late at this point. Terrific.”

Jerry said, “Told you to take the back route over to Germantown Ave.”

“Bite me,” Dani snapped.

“Down, Tiger. Save it for the competition.” Jerry had coined Dani’s nickname the first day they’d all claimed lockers and excitedly changed into their green scrubs, as if the ritual would really make them doctors and not scared rookies right out of med school. Dani had a huge tiger on her shoulder that she later explained was a symbol of her birth year. She might have been third generation, but her family still kept its Chinese roots alive.

“Besides,” Dani said, ignoring him, “it’s going to be worse for Syd than the rest of us.”

“True,” Jerry said before Syd could protest, “since everybody knows Syd was set to be chief.”

“We don’t know that,” Syd said.

Sure, she wanted it, hoped for it, but who would be named chief resident in their last year was far from certain. The chief’s spot was bestowed on the one resident each year whom the staff felt had progressed to the point where they could treat patients with minimal supervision and operate independently. The chief resident determined which of the other residents scrubbed where, had the first choice of cases, and almost always had their pick of fellowships or staff positions at the end of the final year. Along with the perks came the pressures of attending responsibilities, but every resident craved the time when they could reign in their own OR. Syd had had a good shot—maybe the best shot—to be chief, but now…in a new place where no one knew her, coming from a program without a high-powered reputation, there was no chance that was going to happen. She’d be lucky if she could get a fellowship at all.

She’d be lucky, they’d all be lucky, if they made it through the next year with much of anything to show for all their efforts.

“Turn right on Spring Street,” Syd said suddenly.

“What?” Dani said. “Why.”

“Trust me. Just do it. You can cut around Vine Street, which is going to be a parking lot, and take River Drive in to Mt. Airy that way.”

Dani pulled into the bus lane and careened around the corner. “Fuck—we are so going to be late.”

“No, we’re not,” Syd said, the cold calm she always felt when facing an emergency settling in her stomach. She’d faced much worse than this before. Much worse.

Ten minutes later the Bug hurtled down a wide tree-lined avenue toward the medical center. With a little luck…

“What the hell,” Dani said. “There’s no fricking parking around here.”

“There’s a sign at the next corner that says Visitor Parking,” Jerry said.

“Probably a mile away.” Dani pulled into the ER lot, swerved into a fire lane, and slammed on the brakes.

“They’ll ticket you if you leave it here,” Syd said.

“Like I care.” Dani pushed her door open. “Come on. We still have to find the place.”

Dani and Jerry jumped out, and Syd followed on the run. They were in this together, after all.


* * *


PMC Hospital

6:15 a.m.


“It’s about time,” Hank groused when Emmett, Zoey, and Sadie arrived.

Emmett settled at the round table in the center of the cafeteria with her team and regarded her younger brother impassively. “Did you finish making rounds?”

“I saw everyone in the unit,” Hank said. “Sadie has the floors.”

Emmett gave him a look, and he cringed. “You know that.”

“Yes, Hank. I know that.” As the senior on trauma, Emmett was in charge of the residents assigned to the service, and she knew exactly who was responsible for which patients. She’d waited all year for this month, when she’d get the chance to have more responsibility, when she’d be directly reporting to the trauma attendings, just like a trauma fellow, and when she’d have a chance to show she had what it took to be chief resident in July. With no chief resident on the trauma unit this month, she had the chance to perform as if she was one. She assigned her team to their daily assignments, oversaw all the floor work, and scrubbed on the cases that the trauma fellows didn’t scoop up first. There was a limit to her power, but she wasn’t complaining.

Zoey, a year behind her, was her second in command. Sadie, a second year, had advanced to the point where she was ready to start doing some of the complicated cases with supervision, but still caught her share of scut work. Hank, a fourth year medical student, got the majority of scut and, if he managed to keep things running smoothly and worked quickly, he’d have time to stand at the far end of the OR table where he could see and maybe hold a retractor. A med student’s life was one of service.

Emmett took a big bite of her chocolate glazed doughnut, brought up her patient list on her tablet, and pointed at him. “Run it.”

Hank reviewed the most recent blood work, X-ray findings, fluid balance, pending labs or procedures, and game plan for the day of each of the eleven patients in the trauma intensive care unit, while Emmett and the others updated their information. If an attending or one of the fellows called them for a status report, any of them could answer.

When he finished, Emmett said, “Fairfax’s chest tube should be ready to come out. He’s been twenty-four hours with no air leak. As soon as you see this morning’s portable X-ray, if the lung is up and there’s no sign of air leak in the Pleur-evac, get the tube out and send him to step-down.”

“Can I pull the tube?” Hank said.

“You can help Sadie. Make sure you get a film three hours after the tube is out and then get him out of there. It’s Friday, which means a full house by morning.”


“Sadie,” Emmett said. “You finish on the floors?”

“Of course,” Sadie said curtly, not making eye contact. Her wide, usually sensual mouth was pressed into a hard line.

Inwardly, Emmett sighed. Okay, so she’d made a mistake going home with Sadie a few weeks ago. She’d just come off thirty-six hours on call and a bunch of them had been unwinding at the Catfish, a bar a few blocks away from the hospital. She’d had a beer or two, but she clearly remembered Sadie had been the one to put out the first signals, and they’d ended up in bed. Once should’ve been the end of it, but once had turned into three times before she realized Sadie was going out of her way to catch her alone when they were on call, and the signs of getting serious had all been there. Sadie was looking for something a lot more long-term than Emmett. As soon as she clued to that, she’d shut things down, and now Sadie was pissed. Bad read on her part, but they still had to work together and the work was what mattered.

“Okay, Sadie, let’s hear it.”

Sadie reeled off a stripped-down version of all the information Hank had provided on the stable patients who had been moved to regular care floors. Many were ready to go home.

“I’ll confirm the list of discharges for you,” Emmett said when Sadie finished, “and you can take care of that first thing this morning.”

Sadie stiffened. “I thought I was doing the triple tubes with Dr. Maguire.”

“Zoey will cover that. I need you free to cover trauma admitting while the two of us are in the OR.”

“Great,” Sadie muttered.

“Hank, Sadie, get started on wound checks and dressing changes.” Emmett finished her coffee and rose. She wanted to eyeball the patient she was operating on that morning herself, just to be sure everything was in order. “And don’t forget the meeting this morning. It’s mandatory.”

Wordlessly, Sadie scraped back her chair and charged away, Hank hustling along in her wake.

“Nice work, hotshot,” Zoey said. “You know what they say about not crapping where you—”

“Yeah, I know.” Emmett tossed her cup in the trash. “I screwed up, but she’ll get over it.”

“Yeah, and in the meantime, the rest of us have to put up with her mood.”

“I said I screwed that one up.”

“Maybe if you screwed a little less—”

Emmett’s trauma beeper went off and Zoey’s followed. “Speaking of crap.”

“Hey,” Zoey gasped as they ran, “better than sitting through a boring staff meeting about some new HIPAA regulation or other bullshit.”

“True.” Emmett skidded around the corner to the ER, ran smack into a wall, and fell on her ass. The wall fell on top of her. A really nice smelling wall with unfortunately sharp elbows, one of which landed in her solar plexus.

Someone cried, “Oh, hey, I’m sorry,” but Emmett was too busy trying to suck air into her aching lungs to answer.

Chapter Three

“Hey,” Syd said again. She pushed herself up on one arm and, feeling like a human pretzel, tried to disentangle her legs from the person on the floor. Her right knee throbbed and the palm of her left hand stung—probably scraped—but she was basically in one piece. The person she’d run into had cushioned her fall. She couldn’t even remember seeing anyone in her path before she crashed. “I’m really sorry. Are you okay?”

The face a few inches away from hers twisted into a grimace and cobalt blue eyes widened, the pupils dilating in pain…or maybe anger. Beneath her, firm breasts pressed into hers and the erratic, desperate thud of a heartbeat pounded against her chest. Features swam into focus and Syd’s breath caught. It couldn’t be…but it was. Some faces were impossible to forget. Some moments were impossible to forget, even when you told yourself you had. And at the moment, all that mattered was the panic etched across the handsome face. Syd finally got her legs free and shifted to one knee to give the woman beneath her some space to breathe. Only she wasn’t breathing—her diaphragm was paralyzed from the blow to her solar plexus. She must feel like she was suffocating. “Don’t try to breathe. Your body will know what to do. Just relax. Don’t fight it, relax.”

Emmett thrashed in full fight-or-flight mode. The absence of air, the tightness in her chest, and the rush of blood thundering in her ears triggered every primitive survival instinct she had. Her brain screamed to lash out but she couldn’t move. She couldn’t…breathe.

“Look at me,” Syd said, cupping Emmett’s chin. “Look at me. You’re all right. Wait. Don’t fight.”

Something about the soothing voice, the cool firm fingers on her jaw, cut through Emmett’s panic. She latched on to the coral green eyes that were all she could see and struggled to make sense of the calming sounds. Words took shape. Relax. Don’t try so hard. Foreign words. Relax. Don’t fight. Wait. Anathema to everything she was. She gripped the wrist close to her face, held on to the firm, unyielding arm. Held on to the strange refuge offered by the steady, sure gaze. A stream of air flowed into her chest. Filled her.

“Okay,” Emmett gasped. “I…am…okay.”

Syd eased back and let go of Emmett’s chin, placing her palm instead on a flat, hard midsection. No sign of pain registered in Emmett’s face, but she’d taken a pretty good hit. She’d be sore later. “Are you hurt?”

Emmett took a deep breath. Breathing had never felt so good. “No.” She held up a hand. “Give me a minute.” She turned her head, found Zoey among the people standing around her and staring. “Answer the alert. I’ll be…right there.”

Zoey leaned down. “You sure? Nothing’s broken?”

“I’m good. Go.”

Zoey sprinted off, and Emmett pushed herself to a sitting position. “Sorry about that.”

She squinted at the other faces peering at her, settled on the blonde who’d floored her. The sculpted face, the shoulder-length golden hair, the piercing, amazing, unforgettable eyes snapped into sharp view. Emmett almost gasped again. She knew her. Some women you never forgot, even when there was no reason to remember them and every reason not to want to. She knew Syd recognized her too. Under her scrutiny, Syd’s lips parted soundlessly and her cheeks flushed. She looked older and more tired, but then, didn’t they all.

“Syd, we gotta go,” a guy she didn’t recognize said. “We’re gonna be late and we—”

“In a minute, Jerry,” Syd said.

Emmett took in the big guy who was trying hard not to look amused and the impatient, smaller woman with jet-black hair pulled back into a careless, short ponytail, and wary brown eyes. Actually, suspicious, sharp eyes.

Dismissing them, Emmett turned back to Sydney. “Syd? What the hell?”

“Emmett,” Syd said flatly and climbed to her feet. She hadn’t expected the past to follow her here, but then, didn’t it always. “Are you sure you’re not hurt?”

Emmett shook her head, rubbed her midsection, and smothered a wince. She was going to have a bruise the size of California. “I’m okay. Sorry about that. What are you do—”

“My fault,” Syd said quietly, aware of Jerry and Dani right behind her. She could practically feel their probing gazes on the back of her head. “Uh, we were looking for the Strom conference room…auditorium, rather. Is that around here?”

“A minute’s walk.” Emmett rose, tucked in her scrub shirt, and pulled together her shreds of cool. Knocked on her ass, by Sydney Stevens of all people. Four years disappeared in a millisecond and she was sitting back in that conference room with twenty other nervous med students, waiting for the interview that might determine her future. And then this blonde in scrubs had flown in, announcing she was there to take them all on a tour of the hospital. She’d tried to hide her annoyance, but she’d clearly wanted to be somewhere else. Like the OR.

She looked a little like that right now, like she wanted to be somewhere else. Emmett shook the memories away. “Take this hall all the way to the end, turn left, and you’ll see a sign by a set of double doors about halfway down the next hall.”

“Thanks.” Syd backpedaled. “Well…sorry again.”

“Don’t mention it.” Emmett frowned. All three of the visitors looked jumpy. Weird. “Look, I’ve got to get to the trauma unit, or I’d show you—”

“No!” Syd grabbed her friends and shuffled them all back another few steps. “We’re good. Go.”

“Right. Okay. Well—”

Syd and her friends disappeared around the corner, and Emmett wondered if she’d imagined the whole thing. The unexpected appearance of a woman she’d never expected to see again but, unlike so many other women in her life, had been unable to forget occupied her mind for an instant until she remembered who she was and where she was going. She hustled down the hall, slapped the wall button for the automatic doors, and sprinted through into the trauma admitting area.

Treatment tables illuminated by overhead lights lined one side of the long room. Everything needed for resuscitation and emergent surgical intervention—oxygen lines, EKG machines and defibrillators, portable ultrasounds, instrument packs, and ventilators—flanked the stainless steel beds with their flat black vinyl mattresses. Pale blue curtains that could be pulled around the beds to isolate the patients when necessary hung from tracks in the ceiling. Those were almost never closed since the patients who ended up in trauma receiving rather than the regular ER were rarely aware of their surroundings and usually didn’t stay long. Most were fast-tracked to the OR, if they survived long enough.

Only a few beds were occupied right now. A surgical resident sutured multiple lacerations on a guy with a cervical collar in one bay, an ortho resident immobilized an open tib-fib fracture in the bed next to that, and a trio of interns surrounded a third patient, busily drawing bloods, inserting catheters, and dressing what looked like superficial burns. In the midst of scanning the patients, Emmett caught a glimpse of bright sunshine and a swath of clear blue sky through the automatic doors leading into trauma receiving from the parking lot outside. The disconnect caught her by surprise. It was morning. Springtime. She hadn’t been out of the hospital since before dawn the day before. She’d forgotten there was a world out there.

And she was off her game. First ambushed by Sydney and memories from so long ago they belonged in a museum, and now getting seduced by thoughts of running in the brisk morning air with warm spring sunshine slowly lulling her mind and muscles into contented relaxation. Enough. She was a surgeon and she had work to do.

Honor Blake, Zoey, and two ER residents clustered around bed one at the far end of the trauma bay. Emmett hurried over. “What have we got?”

“How’s your ass?” Zoey muttered. “Nice reflexes, by the way.”

Emmett shot her a look.

“Morning, Dr. McCabe.” Honor straightened and raised a brow. “Dr. Cohen said you’d had a bit of an accident. Everything okay?”

“Nothing serious, Chief,” Emmett said, catching Zoey’s grin out of the corner of her eye. She’d have to kill her later for trying to steal this case out from under her. “Just…got held up.”

“Oh. Good.” Honor nodded toward the patient. “Bicyclist versus car. Alert in the field, obvious extremity fractures, and head trauma with facial injuries.”

Emmett pulled on gloves and moved to the head of the table. A young guy who looked about twenty was strapped to a backboard, his cervical spine immobilized in a stiff collar, a temporary splint on his right lower extremity, and an impressive laceration extending from his eyebrow into his right temporal hairline. He was breathing on his own, a good sign. Vital signs displayed on the monitor beside the bed, all in normal range. He was awake but appeared sedated. His pupils were equal and normally reactive. Brain was okay. She listened to his chest, confirmed he had good breath sounds on both sides, and quickly palpated his abdomen. Soft and nontender. Heart, lungs, and major organs looked good so far. Extremity injuries were obvious but non-life-threatening. He wasn’t in any immediate trouble, so they could work him up to rule out any less obvious trauma with scans.

“Zoey,” Emmett said, “let’s get him to CAT scan—”

“I’m on it.” Zoey flashed her a smile. “I’ll take care of the laceration—”

“You two need to be in Maguire’s meeting,” Honor said, glancing at her watch, “five minutes ago. We’ve got this. There’s nothing urgent surgically.”

Emmett said, “We still have to rule out chest and abdominal—”

“We’ve got this,” Honor repeated, indicating her ER residents. “Phillips, Armand, get an ortho consult. Order head, chest, abdominal CTs. Then one of you close up the laceration.”

“Hey,” Zoey said brightly, “I don’t mind hanging around to close that up. In case you get busy.”

“Not necessary.” Armand, a small wiry guy, carefully but determinedly edged in front of Zoey. The ER residents were every bit as aggressive about catching cases as the surgical residents. “You don’t want to miss your meeting.”

Zoey glared.

“Come on,” Emmett said before Zoey decided to arm wrestle the ER resident with the ER chief standing right there. The ER chief who happened to be married to Quinn Maguire, the trauma chief and the director of their surgical training program. Not a great idea. Sometimes it was better to play nice.

“Fine,” Zoey muttered.

Emmett pointed at Armand, who didn’t even bother to hide his smirk. “But if there’s anything on the CT, he goes to trauma.”

“Fine,” Armand said.

Honor grinned. “We know the drill, Dr. McCabe.”

Emmett shrugged. “Worth a try.”

Honor made shooing motions. “Don’t be late for your meeting, now.”

Knowing when she’d lost, Emmett nodded. Once they were out of earshot, she motioned to Zoey and said, “An accident? You told Blake I had an accident?”

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