Chasing Forever - Sneak Peek

 

Chapter One

Willa

 

Just a few more hours of this workday until I’m finished for this week. Rarely do I get an entire weekend off, and I’m looking forward to this one.

“Hey, girl! Have any big plans for your weekend off?” Stacey, one of the other nurses on my floor, asks. She’s married with a toddler and a baby on the way. Her social life consists of living vicariously through us single girls. It isn’t as if I don’t want a man in my life, I do. The problem is no one worth the effort passes my one and only rule—never date a cop.

“Tabi convinced me I need to check out the new brewery, Barley and Hops. Other than our dinner there, I plan to relax.”

Tabi has been my bestie since grammar school. She has been with me through thick, thin, and everything in between. Her parents folded me into their family as if they were my parents too. Despite attending different colleges, we’re still the best of friends. Not many people can say they still hang with their childhood bestie well after college.

“Good luck with the relaxing part. I heard the brewery has great food and decent beer. Go figure.”

“Thanks, Stace.”

My patient buzzes for assistance, effectively getting me out of further conversation about why I don’t have a date on my first full weekend off in six months. Then again, I haven’t been on a date in more than ten months. 

“You rang, Mr. Peterson.” Mr. Peterson has been here for the last few days. His family is deciding whether to move him to hospice or home-based care on the doctor’s recommendations.

“Nurse Willa, I would like you to meet my grandson, Jameson.”

I shift my gaze to the tall, lanky kid alongside the bed. That’s the best way to describe him. He’s clearly younger than me by a decent margin. Jameson nods politely despite his clear embarrassment by his grandfather’s subtext to this introduction.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Jameson.”

“You as well, Willa.”

“Do you need anything, Mr. Peterson?” I lift his chart and recheck the information I added during my last visit to his room. His condition is terminal, so there truly isn’t anything for me to do other than make sure he’s comfortable.

“No, I’m good. I simply wanted to introduce you two young people.”

Perfect. I paste on as genuine a smile as I can muster. Simply another well-intentioned patient trying to set me up with their family member. I appreciate my patients like me and believe I’m wife material, but seriously, a girl wants to pick her own man.

I set the chart back in its place. “Jameson, can we chat outside for a moment?”

He nods and follows me out the door. Before I have a chance, he starts speaking. “I appreciate what you’re trying to do here, but I’m in a relationship and have been for the last three years. Papa confuses me with my twin brother, Jason, who is single. Truth be told, my brother isn’t interested in women. I’ll tell him we’re meeting for coffee, and that’ll be the end of him trying to set us up.”

“Thank you. I appreciate your assistance.” Shaking my head, I walk away from the door and wrap up writing my notes for the day.

Slinging my bag over my shoulder, I leave the locker room and head for my car. The scent of the budding flowers surrounding the parking lot grabs my attention. We’re rapidly approaching my favorite season, when the village bustles with locals, seasonal residents, and vacationers. I moved to this cute seaside town four years ago from Boston. The city was too much for me, especially after….

I bought my house and haven’t been back to the city since. Unfortunately I’m slated to go for the first time in a few months. It isn’t an invitation I can politely decline either.

After deactivating my alarm system, I drop my work stuff at the door and let my dog out of his crate.

“Hi, boy! Let’s go out back.”

Newman sits by the French doors, waiting for me to open it. After letting him out, I head straight for the wine rack. The moment the cork is free, my phone chimes with Tabi’s dedicated notification. It’s as if she has good wine radar.

Tabi: Hey there! Are you home yet?

Me: Yeah, just finished pulling the cork. Why?

Tabi: Care for some company for your movie night?

Me: Besties are always welcome.

Tabi: Be there in twenty.

After a heavy gulp of my wine, I retrieve my work bag and trudge to my bedroom. This house wasn’t first on my list of choices. I thought it was too cheerful. It’s the exact opposite of my modern condo in Boston right near the hospital where I worked. Now it’s perfect. It’s the last house on a dead-end street. The rear of my house abuts a wooded park. It’s peaceful. The kitchen was remodeled right before I purchased it. The cabinetry is white with a deep blue island with matching arabesque subway tile backsplash. The countertops are white Carrara marble with blue veins. The living room has a cozy fireplace and a comfy sofa. The walls are bright yellow. My focus was getting out of Boston rather than where I laid my head each night. Looking back, I made the perfect choice.

After I strip out of my scrubs and throw on some lounge clothes, I head back toward the main living area and let Newman in. In the kitchen, I scoop out his food, top off my glass, fill one for Tabi, and pull out the menus. Minutes later, she walks through the front door. She’s here so often, Newman doesn’t even acknowledge her presence.

“Time to get this party started!”

I roll my eyes and hug her tight. “Is everything okay? I thought we were going out tomorrow.”

“We are going out tomorrow, but Shelby is cooking for her date tonight. I would prefer to return after he leaves or in the morning. You don’t mind the company, do you?”

Shelby is Tabi’s roommate, a friend of a friend who needed a place to stay. Tabi had an extra room. I’m confident she regrets offering the room up now.

“Tabi, you’re welcome here whenever you wish. You know that. Chinese or pizza?”

“Pizza,” we say, then giggle in unison. Settling on the couch, we choose Breakfast at Tiffany’s as our entertainment for Friday-night cinema. Our love for the classics dates back to when we first watched Casablanca when we were ten.  

Hours later, after much laughter, too much pizza, and even more wine, Tabi heads home and I fall into my bed until morning.

 

Chapter Two

Luca

Spring starts the beginning of the crazy in this area. I don’t miss the city anymore. I’ve been back home for four years, and the move was worth it. Today’s shift has been going smoothly. The only issue is the nervousness pinging in my chest. Rarely does anything shake me. It’s one of the reasons I applied for a new job.

I only have one official call when I acted as a negotiator. The sole reason I received the opportunity is because it was a holiday and there wasn’t an available negotiator for at least a few hours, despite the situation escalating rapidly.

I recall the details vividly. Along with Gugliotti and Smithson, I was entering a restaurant for a drink after the high school football game. We never even got to a table, let alone ordered drinks. The frantic text from my sister was cryptic enough not to alarm her husband, Derrick. I would like to say it was the first time Derrick terrified my sister, but it would be a lie. Derrick isn’t a good man and has hit my sister, Lina, before. We raced to our cars and met at my sister’s house.

When my fellow officers and I arrived, my brother-in-law fired shots out the front window. We fell back behind our cars, and Smithson called for backup. Officer Washington arrived first, along with Captain Ramirez. Unfortunately for him, Lt. Billings was out of state for the holiday. I gave the captain a rundown of what I knew and Derrick was armed.

Immediately he called for the crisis-negotiation team. After learning it would be a while before a trained negotiator arrived, my commanding officer reluctantly agreed to allow me to try to talk him out. While I had Derrick’s attention, my sister barricaded herself and her kids into an office in the rear of the house. She lowered my niece, Emilia, and my nephew, Antonio, out the window to waiting officers. I learned later Derrick had cameras in the house and watched Lina release the kids. With his leverage rapidly disappearing, Derrick threw open the front door and stepped onto the porch with a weapon in his hand. I continued to talk to him, demanding he drop the weapon and lay down on the ground. I explained his options while talking him down, including ways he could decrease the severity of his charges if he surrendered immediately. When it appeared Derrick would surrender himself, he set his weapon on the porch and pushed it away. As he lowered himself to the deck, he produced a second weapon, firing two shots toward officers. As bad luck would have it, the only person he hit was me. Washington pulled me away while the others subdued him, which earned him some minor lacerations. Thankfully, my niece and nephew were unharmed. My sister’s injuries were enough to press charges, and she agreed to testify against him, along with shooting me.

After surgery and physical therapy, I wallowed in my injuries for a bit too long. Then I decided to learn more about crisis negotiation. I learned there are fifteen in the state. However, they work for the state police, not local departments. I felt more education was necessary to be adequately prepared for the position. I enrolled in a master’s degree program in criminal justice with a minor in psychology. I’ll finish my degree in a few months.

“Cappelli, come in,” Captain Ramirez calls from his desk, his direction pulling me back to the present.

“Afternoon, Captain.” I sit on the edge of the chair, my nervousness ticking up even more.

“What’s on your mind? You don’t make office calls. In fact, the last one was your first shift back after your injury.”

“I wanted to give you a heads-up. There’s an opening with the crisis-negotiation team with the state police. I applied about a week ago.”

“You have been thinking about this since your injury over two years ago?”

“Yes. Once I finished being angry at Derrick, I decided to put the same energy elsewhere.”

“Good for you, Cappelli. We’ll miss you here when you get selected.” Captain Ramirez rises from his chair and extends his hand to me.

I take it and exhale sharply. “I would appreciate keeping this between us until I know for sure.”

“Of course. Have a nice evening.”

“You too.”

I hurry from his office to my desk and rush out the front door. I need to work off some of this anxiety. Rounding my car, a fellow officer calls me.

“What’s up, Smithson?”

“Where’s the fire?” He nears the hood of my car.

“I need to hit the gym and run off some of this excess energy.” I don’t intend to share its nervous energy and anxiety about the job, at least not yet.

“Skip it and come to the new brewery with Gugliotti, Davis, and me.”

I consider his offer. The reviews I’ve heard have been fantastic. “What time?”

“We’re meeting at my place before heading there at seven, but you live on the opposite side of town.”

“I’ll meet you there.”

“Okay. Later.” Smithson trots over to his vehicle and peels out of the parking lot.

I consider attempting a short run, but instead I make a quick snack and change. Right before seven, I pull into the lot of the new brewery. The place is hopping. The chance Smithson thought to call ahead is miniscule. As I survey the lot for the guys, I see my lotus flower.

Willa is walking across the parking lot with a blonde-haired woman wearing sky-high heels. I see her as the way I learned to dig deeper after my injury and figure out what I genuinely want out of life. A lotus emerges from muddy water to bloom and retreats each night. I met her the moment I realized I’m meant to be a negotiator, not a cop. Now I need to convince her we are a good idea.

Willa is smart and funny. She has piercing blue eyes and curves that make my mouth water. Tonight she’s wearing fitted jeans, a navy sweater with a deep V-neck, and high-heeled boots. She looks hot! She was my nurse after my injury. My days recovering would have been much worse without her. I asked her out the day I was discharged, and she declined, stating she couldn’t date a patient. Fine, I understand, but I wasn’t her patient when I asked again a few months later when I ran into her at the hospital. Still, she declined.

There has to be a reason she refuses to at least go for coffee with me. While I may not be as good looking as Liam Hemsworth or Shemar Moore, I can hold my own. Honestly, Willa has seen me at my absolute worst, and she never treated me any differently. I was an awful patient.

A knock on my window makes me jump. I’m so deep in thought about Willa, I forgot where I was. I can only imagine how the world would fall away if given the opportunity to kiss her.

“Yo, Cappelli. You comin’, man?” Gugliotti shouts.

Nodding, I open the door and follow them inside. As predicted, it’s packed. Thankfully I’m wrong and Smithson did call ahead. We’re seated in a booth near the back corner of the restaurant. Willa and her blonde friend are seated at the opposite end. She’s directly in my line of sight. On one hand, it’s a blessing; it’ll be less obvious if I gaze in her direction. On the other hand, it’ll torture me until we leave, simply because I don’t see a logical reason why she won’t give me a chance.