December Road

Book Two

by Brenda Ashworth Barry

Kaylob returns home after two years of imprisonment in a POW camp in Vietnam. Will he ever be back to his whole self again after what he's endured?

Beth Ann has the daunting task of dealing with his Post-Traumatic Syndrome, while engaged to Kaylob's arch enemy, Blake Tanner, a rich and powerful man who refuses to let her go.

Having survived such a painful separation, no longer the innocents they were just a few short years ago, Beth Ann and Kaylob must now see if their love can stand the test of time, and how he will handle the news of her engagement, which she plans on breaking now that Kaylob, her only true love, has returned home safely.

Will Beth Ann and Kaylob ever get their happy ever after, or will circumstances take their dreams away?


Chapter One

“Get away from me, you sonofabitch! I’ll kill you!” Kaylob hit the nurse so hard she nearly fell to the floor.

Beth Ann’s heartbeat sounded like a jackhammer inside her head as she froze near the doorway and watched Kaylob’s worst combat outburst since he’d arrived at the VA hospital. Her stomach twisted and she couldn’t seem to breathe.

Dr. Richardson pushed his way between the nurse and Kaylob and somehow managed to give him an injection.

“What the hell are you doing to me? Let me out of here!” Kaylob sounded like a wounded animal. “I’ll break your neck!”

The nurse ran out the door and returned seconds later with an orderly.

“Calm down, son,” Dr. Richardson ordered while he struggled to restrain Kaylob. “You’re not in Vietnam anymore. You’re at the VA hospital in San Francisco.”

Kaylob didn’t seem to hear the doctor’s words or notice Beth Ann. His arms flailed in every direction fighting to escape his bed.

Weak-kneed, Beth Ann turned her face toward the wall, unable to watch any longer. But scuffling sounds made her look again. Kaylob had grabbed the thin doctor around the neck and was squeezing hard. Beth Ann almost screamed when she saw the doctors face go red as he tried gasping for air. The nurse and the orderly both jumped onto the bed and tried to pry Kaylob’s hands from the doctor’s throat.

“Get him off!” yelled the nurse, tugging at Kaylob’s hands.

“He’s strong as hell,” the orderly shouted.

Beth Ann’s entire body trembled watching the orderly struggle to free Dr. Richardson from Kaylob’s grasp. Luckily, for the doctor, the sedative kicked in, and Kaylob’s eyes fluttered as he fell back on the bed.

“I’ll kill you,” he mumbled. “Bastards...” Then he fell silent.

The short, round nurse shook her head and bent over, resting her hands on her knees. “He’s one strong man,” she said, trying to catch her breath.

The orderly patted Dr. Richardson’s back. “You okay, Doc?”

The doctor nodded, his face still red.

Beth Ann’s mind was spinning from the flurry of activity around her. She was going to fall if she didn’t sit down soon. Her gut tightened at the knowledge that Kaylob hadn’t recognized her. What in God’s name happened over there that would make him act that way? The Kaylob she knew would never hit a woman or fly into a rage and try to choke a doctor—that much she knew for sure. She watched while the nurse and orderly tucked blankets around Kaylob’s sleeping body.

“He should rest comfortably for a couple hours now,” the nurse said reassuringly, looking at Beth Ann. She and the orderly started toward the door, then the nurse stopped and turned to speak to the doctor. “Do you want one of us to stay while you finish up?”

“No,” Dr. Richardson replied, smiling weakly as the color returned to his face. “I should be fine now.” He looked concerned and pushed his glasses back in place then faced Beth Ann. “You may want to rethink staying here. It’s not safe, and if he keeps this up, I’m afraid we may have to make you go.”

“No, I can’t leave him!” Beth Ann said, shaking her head. “Please don’t make me. I wasn’t here when he woke up just now—that probably upset him. I’m sure my being here will help him.”

The doctor nodded reluctantly, then he looked Beth Ann straight in the eyes and said, “I know you want to help, but we don’t want you to get hurt—and we don’t want to be held accountable if you do get injured. If you want to stay, you’ll have to sign a waiver to absolve us of all responsibility.”

“I’ll sign whatever you want me to,” Beth Ann said resolutely.

“Okay,” the doctor agreed with a sigh. “I’ll have the paperwork brought to you immediately.” He turned to look at Kaylob and shook his head. “He should be comfortable now. We just don’t know if he’ll ever be the same. I sure hope he calms down. The last thing we want to do is restrain someone who’s been in a POW camp.”

Restrain him?No, they couldn’t do that especially after everything he must have gone through. It could make things worse. Beth Ann moved beside the bed after the doctor left and gently caressed Kaylob’s forehead, running her fingers through his matted, blond hair.

She touched the dimple on his chin and whispered, “I love you, Mr. O’Brien. I’ve loved you since I was eleven years old, and that’s never going to change.”

She had just watched her gentle-natured childhood sweetheart fly into an uncontrollable rage, which must have started in his sleep after she had stepped out to use the restroom. The surprising thing was that his fury had continued after he was fully awake.

Good God, what had they done to him in that horrible place? It must be worse than anything she’d imagined.

Minutes later she heard footsteps enter the room and turned to see the tall nurse motioning for her to step outside. What now? As soon as Beth Ann stepped into the hallway, the nurse handed her a piece of paper.

“This guy has called twice and you told us to hold all calls,” the nurse said. “He says you need to call him now. He also said if he didn’t hear from you today, he’d be seeing you tomorrow.”

The nurse left and Beth Ann didn’t even need to look at the paper in her hand to know that it was Blake’s number. He couldn’t come to the hospital. What the hell was he thinking? She had to call him—and right away. She found a payphone and dialed Blake’s number, but Dana answered.

“Hi, Dana, this is Beth Ann. Is Blake there?” Dana was Blake’s housekeeper and almost like a little sister to him.

“Hi, Beth Ann. No, he’s not here.” Dana paused then added, “I’ll be sure to tell him you called though. He said he’s coming to see you if you didn’t call him. He’s awfully angry.”

“I’ve tried to call before, but he’s never home. Could you please tell him I’ll try again in the morning before he leaves for work?”

“I will,” Dana said.

“I’m so sorry to put you in the middle of all this.”

“It’s okay. I miss you, Beth Ann.”

“I miss you too.” Beth Ann felt tears welling up.

After she hung up, Beth Ann felt her stomach tighten, not only because she could hear the hurt in Dana’s voice, but also because of the possibility that Blake might show up.

When she got back to Kaylob’s room, she sat next to the bed and dozed off until a sound woke her. She looked up to see Jackie touching her shoulder. Beth Ann glanced at the clock on the wall and realized she had been asleep for over two hours.

“How is he?” Jackie asked softly.

“He had a rough morning, so they gave him a sedative,” Beth Ann replied. “But he seems to be okay now.”

“I’m glad.” Jackie leaned over and kissed her son’s forehead. “What happened?”

“He thought he was back in the jungle being tortured. He didn’t seem to recognize me at all.” A tear rolled down Beth Ann’s cheek.

Jackie gently wiped the tear away, then she bent down and gave Beth Ann a hug. “Don’t worry, honey. He’s going to get better.” She straightened and took Beth Ann’s hand. “We need to talk in private. Let’s go out in the hall.”

Beth Ann followed her out of the room. The worry lines she saw on Jackie’s round face told her something was wrong.

Jackie kept her voice low. “Your mom called me this morning and said Blake has been calling the house and going on about how you need to get back home. You might want to get in touch with him.” After a pause she added, “He also said something about coming here.”

“I know,” Beth Ann said. “I tried to call him about two hours ago, but he wasn’t home.”

With Blake’s celebrity status, she wondered if he would be able to get by security and hoped they wouldn’t let him in. It was scary to think about how something like that would affect Kaylob. Even scarier was the thought of how Blake would act if he did show up. He had always been a hothead and a lot more jealous than Kaylob.

Jackie looked down at Beth Ann’s left hand. “I’m afraid Kaylob will see this ring and find out that you’re engaged to another man.”

Beth Ann gasped. “Oh my gosh! I forgot about the ring. I need to take it off. While I’m at it, I also need to get cleaned up and change my clothes.”

Jackie studied Beth Ann’s face. “So you’ve decided to stay with Kaylob? I hope you know I’m not trying to pressure you. I just thought I should point it out.”

Beth Ann shook her head. There was really nothing to decide. “Kaylob’s back, and he’s always been the love of my life. Of course I’m staying with him.”

Relief flooded Jackie’s face, and she reached out and hugged Beth Ann again. “I’m so glad. Now you go do whatever you need to do, and get something to eat while you’re at it. I’ll stay here with Kaylob.”

Beth Ann grabbed her bag and hurried down the hall to the ladies room. The cleaning staff had apparently just cleaned the room, because the smell of Pine-Sol was very strong. As she pulled the engagement ring from her finger, she felt a sharp pain in her heart. She hated the thought of hurting Blake. He hadn’t been just her fiancĂ©, he had been her confidant, her friend, and her shoulder to lean on. She put her hands over her face and cried—for Blake, for what Kaylob had been through, and for the thing she was about to do.

Her mind raced trying to think of a way to make Blake understand. She had already toldhim to cancel the wedding. Wasn’t that a clear enough sign that she wanted to break it off? She knew better, not with Blake, and in truth it wasn’t fair to him. She would simply have to lay it all on the line—but doing that without hurting him would be impossible. How would he react? Would he flip out? She’d never gone through anything like this before, and there was no how-to book for this situation.

She stuffed the ring into her makeup bag and wiped the tears from her cheeks. Glancing in the mirror, she could see she was a mess. Her face showed obvious signs of stress and exhaustion, and her brown eyes were swollen and red. She turned on the water and splashed her face, then brushed her teeth and decided to put her hair in a French braid.

"December Road" by Brenda Ashworth Barry


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Historical Romance
Women's Fiction
? Heat Level: 3