Today we are sharing an exclusive excerpt for The Darkest Sunrise by Aly Martinez. It is the first book in a contemporary romance duet, and is it available to read for FREE on KindleUnlimited.
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The Darkest Sunrise (The Darkest Sunrise Duet, #1)
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Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me.
Whoever coined that phrase is a bald-faced liar. Words are often the sharpest weapon of all, triggering some of the most powerful emotions a human can experience.
“It’s a boy.”
“Your son needs a heart transplant.”
Syllables and letters may not be tangible, but they can still destroy your entire life faster than a bullet from a gun.
Two words—that was all it took to extinguish the sun from my sky.
For ten years, the darkness consumed me.
In the end, it was four deep, gravelly words that gave me hope of another sunrise.
“Hi. I’m Porter Reese.”
“Shhh,” I cooed, reaching over the stroller handle to push the pacifier hanging from a blue-and-white-polka-dot ribbon, monogrammed with his name, back into his mouth.
He’d been in a mood all night. It seemed being six months old was an impossible job. I couldn’t imagine the pure torture of an all-you-can-eat milk buffet and a team of people responding to your every whim—including when said whims were nothing more than to puke or pee on aforementioned people.
It was the first morning of fall, but the sweltering Atlanta summer still lingered in the air. Between clinicals and Lucas’s nonexistent sleep schedule, I was barely clinging to consciousness.
My boy loved being outside, and I loved the way it made him drowsy regardless of how hard he fought. So, with hopes that we’d both be able to sneak in a morning nap, I’d strapped him into the obnoxiously expensive stroller Brady’s mother had bought me for my baby shower and taken him for a walk through the local park.
That quaint playground less than half a mile from our house was one of my favorite places in the world and exactly why I commuted the extra fifteen minutes to school every day. I enjoyed watching the children play while imagining what it would be like when Lucas was that age. Images of him racing across the monkey bars to escape a horde of giggling little girls paraded through my mind, making me smile. Would he be social like me? Quiet and reserved like Brady? Or sick, stuck in a hospital, waiting on a heart that might never come? I pushed those thoughts out of my head when a desperate shriek from a woman stopped me in my tracks.
I stepped on the brake of the stroller and whirled to face her, my throat constricting as she lifted a limp toddler off the ground.
A blast of adrenaline shot through my system, and on instinct, I sprinted the few yards over to her.
“He’s not breathing!” she cried, frantically transferring her lifeless child into my open arms.
“Call nine-one-one,” I ordered. My pulse quickened as I laid his small body on the top of a picnic table, years of training flooding my mind in a jumbled mess. “What happened?” I asked, tipping his head back to check his airway and finding it open, but no breath was flowing through it.
“I…I don’t know,” she stammered. “He just fell… Oh God! He’s not breathing!”
“Calm down,” I barked. Though I wasn’t completely sure which one of us I was talking to. It was my first emergency situation, and while I was a hell of a lot better than anyone else in that park, if I’d been in her situation, I would have wanted someone more qualified to be standing over Lucas.
But, as a group of moms congregated around us, not a single one stepping forward to offer help, I was all she had. So, with my heart in my throat, I went to work, praying that I was enough.
Within a matter of minutes, a weak cry streamed from the boy’s blue lips.
His mother’s sob of relief was a sound I would never forget. Deep, as though it had originated in her soul and merely exited through her mouth.
“Oh God!” she screamed, her hands shaking as she bent over his stirring body to tuck his face against her neck.
As his cries grew louder, I inched away to give him some space. I couldn’t tear my gaze away from the miracle of this child who had, minutes earlier, been nothing more than a vacant body. Now, he was clinging to the neck of his mother.
With a quivering chin and tears pricking the backs of my eyes, I smiled to myself. I’d been struggling. Balancing the rigors of med school and the self-doubt of being a single mother was hard enough, but combined with twelve-hour days only to come home and study for six more, I was fading fast. I’d gone so far as to contemplate taking a few years off until Lucas got a little older.
As the paramedics arrived, I basked in the knowledge that all of my hard work and sacrifice had bought a little boy a second chance at life. In that moment, all the reasons why I’d wanted to become a doctor in the first place came flooding back.
Pablo Picasso once said, “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”
I’d known from the tender age of seven when my next-door neighbor had skinned her knee and I’d splinted her leg before going to get her mom that medicine was my gift.
It was time for me to give that gift away to others who needed it.
“Thank you,” the frazzled mother called out to me as I backed away, a newfound resolve invigorating me.
I simply nodded and placed my hand over my racing heart, feeling as though I should be the one thanking her.
When I lost sight of her behind the wall of first responders and Nosy-Nellies, I turned on a toe and headed back to Lucas’s stroller.
Only to come to a screeching halt less than a second later.
He wasn’t there.
I scanned the area, assuming I’d gotten turned around during the chaos. But, after a few seconds, it hit me. Something was wrong.
Terribly, earth-shatteringly wrong.
“Lucas,” I called as if my six-month-old were going to answer me.
In fact, no one did.
The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end, and my pulse skyrocketed. The world moved in slow motion around me as I spun in a circle. My mind reeled with possibilities of where he could be. But, even in that moment of terror, I knew with an absolute certainty that I’d left him right there, buckled safely into his stroller, only a few yards away.
“Lucas!” I yelled, my anxiety soaring to immeasurable heights.
With frantic movements, I jogged over to the slowly dispersing crowd.
I caught a woman’s arm before she could pass me. “Have you seen my son?”
Her eyes startled, but she shook her head.
I scrambled to the next woman. “Have you seen my son?”
She too shook her head, so I kept going, grabbing people and begging they would finally nod.
“Green stroller. Navy Trim?”
My vision tunneled and my throat burned, but I never stopped moving.
He was there. Somewhere. He had to be.
My heart slammed into my ribs as yet another rush of adrenaline—and what I feared was reality—ravaged my body.
“Lucas!” I screamed.
My thoughts became jumbled, and I lost all sense of rationality. I raced to the first stroller I saw. It was pink with white polka dots, but he could have been inside.
“Hey!” a woman yelled as I snatched the blanket off her baby.
Her baby. Not mine.
Bile burned a trail of fire up my throat. With every passing second, my terror amplified. I raked a hand into my hair as the paralyzing helplessness dug its claws into me and threatened to drag me down to my knees. I forced myself to stay on my feet.
For him, I’d do anything.
“Lucas!” I choked one last time, a wave of trembles rolling through me.
It had worked for her. That other woman. When she had been desperate and at risk of losing her son, I’d given him back to her.
Someone would do that for me.
They had to.
“Help!” I screamed at the top of my lungs.
And then my entire world went dark.
The Brightest Sunset (The Darkest Sunrise Duet, #2)
Coming July 27th
Pre-order it Now
You won’t want to miss this amazing series!
Originally from Savannah, Georgia, USA Today bestselling author Aly Martinez now lives in South Carolina with her four young children.
Never one to take herself too seriously, she enjoys cheap wine, mystery leggings, and baked feta. It should be known, however, that she hates pizza and ice cream, almost as much as writing her bio in the third person.
She passes what little free time she has reading anything and everything she can get her hands on, preferably with a super-sized tumbler of wine by her side.
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