Friday, September 15, 2017

Working Fire by Emily Bleeker ~ Excerpt & Giveaway


Wall Street Journal bestselling author Emily Bleeker skillfully weaves suspense and mystery into an unfolding family drama, culminating in a tangle of decades-old lies that leave characters (and her readers) reeling, in her forthcoming novel, WORKING FIRE (Lake Union; August 29, 2017).




From the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of When I’m Gonecomes a compelling novel of a bond between sisters, tested by tragedy…

Ellie Brown thought she’d finally escaped her stifling hometown of Broadlands, Illinois; med school was supposed to be her ticket out. But when her father has a stroke, she must return home to share his care with her older sister, Amelia, who’s busy with her own family. Working as a paramedic, Ellie’s days are monotonous, driving an ambulance through streets she’d hoped never to see again.

Until a 911 dispatch changes everything. The address: her sister’s house. Rushing to the scene, Ellie discovers that Amelia and her husband, Steve, have been shot in a home invasion. After Amelia is rushed to the hospital, Ellie tries to make sense of the tragedy. But what really happened inside her sister’s house becomes less and less clear. As Amelia hangs on in critical condition, Ellie uncovers dark revelations about her family’s past that challenge her beliefs about those closest to her…and force her to question where her devotions truly lie.





About the Author

Emily Bleeker is a former educator who learned to love writing while teaching a writer's workshop.  After surviving a battle with a rare form of cancer, she finally found the courage to share her stories, starting with her debut novel, Wreckage, followed by the Wall Street Journal bestseller When I'm Gone.  Emily currently lives with her family in suburban Chicago.  Connect with her or request a Skype visit with your book club at www.emilybleeker.com.




CHAPTER ONE

Ellie

Tuesday, May 10

9: 45 a.m.

Caleb & Amelia 4 Ever

Still here. Ellie ran her fingers over the blackened scratches that made up the poorly executed graffiti. The laminate in the Piggly Wiggly restroom was already ancient when Amelia forced six-year-old Ellie to act as lookout so she could carve those words into the counter. The fact that they were still here sixteen years later was either reassuring or disgusting. Back then, you weren’t an official couple in Broadlands, Illinois, until you defaced property to prove it. Usually the requirement included school property, but Amelia decided she’d rather face Mr. Slattery, owner and manager of the Piggly Wiggly in Waynesville, than have the principal at Broadlands High call her father.
Unlike the declaration of their love, Amelia and Caleb only made it to the end of high school. Mr. Slattery’s call and Amelia’s subsequent grounding probably didn’t help the budding romance much. But the evidence was etched in stone.
Or crappy old laminate countertop, Ellie thought as she slipped her phone out of her pocket and snapped a quick picture to share at next Monday’s dinner. Amelia’s husband, Steve, probably wouldn’t find it funny, but Amelia’s girls would love it. Chief Brown would make a comment about Caleb not being good enough for his daughter.
No. A year ago, her father would’ve made a comment about Caleb. Now they were lucky if he remembered that their mom was dead and that Ellie was twenty-two instead of six years old.
Ellie put her phone back in the hip pocket of her cargos. She’d never worn a pair of pants with more pockets, all of them full of supplies that could make or break an emergency call. It’d take a while to get used to the extra weight, like the first time Amelia made her wear a bra and it felt like it was cutting off her oxygen.
Thinking about her father was a good way for Ellie to get her mind off her partner, Chet, and the fully equipped ambulance sitting in the parking lot of the Waynesville supermarket. Her father had made this “lifesaving” thing seem far more exciting than anything she’d actually experienced in Broadlands the past six and a half months.
Then again, Chief Brown must’ve loved his job, because it wasn’t like anything ever happened in Broadlands. In her senior year, Ellie was supposed to make a poster for the Broadlands Founders Day parade that would be displayed around town to advertise the event. Her father was the parade marshal and Ellie was the most successful student as well as Mr. Larue’s favorite art student, so she got the job without even asking for it. But when she turned in a beautifully drawn poster of Main Street with the title Broadlands: The Home of Narrow Minds and Narrow Opportunities, Ellie was promptly banned from the parade committee, and Chief Brown grounded her for a week.
Oh great. Tears pushed at the back of Ellie’s eyes, burning like slowly crawling lava. She yanked three flimsy paper towels from the dispenser and dabbed at the moisture. The last thing she needed was someone from town seeing Ellie Brown having a pity party in the supermarket restroom. Everyone else pitied her enough— poor little Ellie, her dad stroked out on the job, and she dropped out of med school to come home and help her sister take care of him. Couldn’t pass the physical agility test to become a full-fledged firefighter, so she was riding in the ambulance with grouchy old Chet.
With one last wipe, Ellie blinked at herself in the mirror. The whites of her eyes were surprisingly clear, any trace amounts of red only making the few highlights of gold in her dark brown eyes stand out. Thankfully, she’d put on waterproof mascara that morning. When she worked as an EMT back in Champaign, she never wore makeup, but in Broadlands she had to keep up appearances, since half the town had known her since she was in pigtails.
Ellie smoothed back a flyaway strand of hair from her face and tightened her high ponytail. In her dark blue uniform and silver paramedic badge, she looked almost competent. If her father could see her now, really see her, he’d be proud. It had been on his advice that she even went through the paramedic training in addition to her undergrad coursework at the University of Illinois. He’d convinced her it’d be good experience before med school. He had been right, and she hated to admit that she loved the rush of the job, keeping a cool head in chaos, being in control while everyone else was losing it. Maybe she had more in common with her old man than she ever realized.
Ellie wiped her nose and put on her best fake smile. Too many teeth and it didn’t touch her eyes, but it should be good enough to fool old Chet. Pausing to aim, she tossed the crumpled towels into the trash can by the door and pumped her fist when they made it on the first try. Yes, she was going to pull it together and get through another twenty-four-hour shift.
First things first: she and Chet had better get back to the station with the groceries. There were eight hungry guys waiting there, and today was her day to feed them. They ranged in age from twenty-two to fifty, but Ellie still called them “the boys” in her head just like her father always did. Chief Brown always said the reason God never gave him sons was that he already had a firehouse full of them.
A knock sounded, and the door opened a crack.
“Hey, Ellie, you in there? The ice cream is melting; we should probably get back.”
Ice cream. Yeah, she’d promised to make her mom’s dump cake for dessert tonight. Dump cake was never any good without a big scoop of ice cream on top. Maybe she could convince Chet to use the siren to get them back to Broadlands before the ice cream was nothing more than mush.
“Sorry! I’m coming!” Ellie squeezed in one more glance at the mirror and then opened the heavy maroon door. Chet stood on the other side, nearly a foot taller than Ellie, his once-black hair now silver. She had to pull back when she nearly collided into his chest.
“You feeling okay, L?” Chet pulled out the old nickname her father had always used for her as a child. L for Ellie and M for Amelia. He used to joke that the reason he and Ellie’s mom stopped having kids after two was because Frances Brown refused to name additional children N, O, and P.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Sorry. Uh, thanks for checking out. I’ve got the dishes tonight.”
“Huh, I’ll trade dishes for flirting with Tracey Donovan any day.” Chet’s overgrown eyebrows wiggled at the fifty-year-old woman wearing electric-blue eye shadow and glued-on eyelashes behind register number one.
“Just ask her out already, Chet. Girls like a firefighter.” Ellie wrapped her hands around the cracked plastic on the shopping cart handle and guided the full basket toward the automatic doors at the front of the store.
“Well, I was quite the ladies’ man back in the day. Your dad can attest to that.” Chet brushed his mustache down with one finger and gave a wink to Tracey as they passed her lane.
“Ew, I’d rather not know, thank you very much.” She faked a gag and walked out the front doors into the early-spring sun. It was warm during the days, but cold enough in the evenings that Ellie had to keep a coat in the rig. The sun was low in the sky, a few storm clouds inching in and threatening to turn the day frigid. Her stomach grumbled. She’d skipped breakfast like most mornings, still trying to drop a few pounds before she gave the agility test another go. Ellie was starting to think of that grumble as a sign she was burning calories.
As Chet rambled on about his days as a ladies’ man, a voice crackled over the radio. Sally from dispatch. Both Ellie and Chet stopped in their tracks.
Ambulance Twenty-One delta response, [crackle] Lane, Broadlands. Possible shooting [crackle] AS-One. Police responding. Have not arrived.
Chet picked up the radio clipped to his lapel. “Dispatch, Ambulance Twenty-One responding. Please repeat.”
“Shooting?” Ellie mouthed to Chet, who was holding the radio up to his ear. It had to be a mistake. There’d never been a shooting in Broadlands, not that she remembered anyway. Maybe it was a hunting accident. Maybe a kid found his dad’s gun. Maybe … The possible scenarios flashed through Ellie’s mind. Chet grabbed the cart and pointed to the rig.
“I’ll have Tracey hold this. You check the CAD. Reception’s a little spotty today.” Chet might have a hundred years’ more experience than Ellie, but the computer in the ambulance still confused him. Nerves standing on end, especially since the idea of a pediatric emergency crossed her mind, Ellie dashed to the rig.
She unlocked the passenger-side door and hefted herself into the seat, then swiveled the computer-aided dispatch screen to face her. When she hit the Responding button, a map and lines of information stared back at her. She read through the sentences on the screen, eyes flitting from one line to the next. Description of the call. A few codes she was pretty sure meant serious business. Then the address, just two miles away from her dad’s house:
2318 Lark Lane, Broadlands
No.
She read the address again, and again. She didn’t even need to check the map on the left side of the screen. She’d been to 2318 Lark Lane countless times, eaten dinner there, held new babies, swum in the backyard pool, cried into a soft shoulder when it became clear her father would never recover.
It can’t be. It can’t be. It can’t be.
But it was.
2318 Lark Lane was her sister’s house.





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2 comments:

  1. Well that's how you write a book blurb! Its not even my kind of book and I'm like *grabby hands*

    ReplyDelete
  2. no, but I am really look forward to it!

    ReplyDelete