Cruel & Beautiful

By: A.M.Hargrove & Terri E.Laine


Acknowledgements



There is a group of people who deserve our thanks, namely our beta readers. Their patience with us during our first project together is deeply appreciated. When we started this, we didn’t dream it would end up here and without their input, it never would’ve happened. So here’s our biggest bestest thank you to the following people: Jill Patten, Adriane Leigh, Michelle Leighton, Liz Crowe, Andrea Stafford, and Kat Grimes.

We’d also like to thank Sara Eirew for putting up with us in all the changes we asked her to make in the cover. We can’t begin to name them. (Runs and hides in shame!) Thank you, Sara!

A hearty thanks goes out to Anne Chaconas at Bad Ass Marketing for, well, her Bad Ass Marketing!

And a big thanks to Julie, Kris, Rick, and Amy at Red Coat PR for all their help, too!





A RASPY VOICE WAKES me up. That’s not quite true because I don’t really sleep anymore. My body hovers in that place that’s not exactly sleep and not exactly awareness. After the last year, I’m not sure if I’ll ever get a solid night’s sleep again.

“Cate?”

“Yeah? What is it?” I’m instantly on high alert.

“I think it’s time. I want to go to the hospital.”

The words I’ve dreaded for weeks punch me in the gut. But I refuse to let him see it. “Yeah, okay. Let me get dressed.”

“Cate? I think you need to call 911. I’m pretty sure I can’t get up to walk.” He inhales and it’s then I hear the faint rattle deep in his chest. Oh, god, how will I ever get through this?

“Drew?” I lean over him and press my cheek against his. What used to be firm flesh is now nothing but skin wrapped around bone. My hands latch onto to his shoulders and it’s much the same. All the mass has vanished, stolen by the disease that ravages his beautiful body and soul.

“It’s going to be fine, Cate, I promise. Things will be good. Just call 911.” He struggles to clear his throat.

Always the positive one. I want to yell and scream, stomp my feet and smash things. But I do none of that. I look into his cloudy blue eyes that were once so clear and stunning and only nod. I pick up the bedside phone and make the call, asking the voice on the other end to tell the paramedics not to use the sirens or flashers and explain why. When they arrive at our house, I lead them to Drew, and then follow the ambulance to the hospital. On the way, I make the dreaded family calls.

Hollow. That’s what I am as I watch them wheel Drew in on the gurney. Everything has been ripped out of me—my guts, my heart, my soul. I bite my knuckle as I stand there. He knows what’s happening. He’s a doctor. He’s charted everything out and explained it all to me, though I’ve refused to believe half of it. Why did he have to be right? My mind only wants to accept certain things. And this isn’t one of them.

When we finally get to a room, he sleeps. The deep purple smudges beneath his eyes are a stark contrast to his pale skin. It reminds me of a time when he used to be so tanned. And his hair, which is downy fuzz grown back from the last and final round of failed chemo, is so different now from the thick mass of messy waves that were always sun streaked, even in winter. In this state, little more than a skeleton, he’s still my perfect Drew. And I ask myself again, for the thousandth time, how am I going to deal with this?

Later in the day, when Drew wakes up, he beckons me to his bedside.

“Cate, you know when I first saw you at that party, I knew you were my one. My it girl. And then you put up such damn resistance to me, I didn’t think I’d ever get you out on a date. But I did.”

I suck on my lower lip, trying not to outright sob as I remember.

The left corner of his upper lip curls, his little trademark that I love so much. It plows into me like a damn tank and I want to crawl into the bed next to him and cling to him forever.

“I knew if I could get you out on a date, I could win you over. Thank god I did. You’ve been my life, Cate, my reason for being. I’m only sorry it all turned out like this. This,” and he motions with his hand up and down his body, “wasn’t part of my plan for you. I wanted the whole deal—marriage, and we got that, but I wanted kids, an SUV, a big house, and grandkids, too. I’m so sorry I fucked it all up, babe. But listen, I love you more than my life. And hear me out now. I want you to go home.”

I nod and suck back my tears. “Okay. I’m going to go home and shower, because I’m kind of rank. I love you too, Drew. More than I can say.”

“Cate, stop. That’s not what I meant. I want you to promise me something, okay? Swear to me right now.” His voice is firm, much stronger than it has been in days.

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