The Stone Giver
When a stone is thrown…ripples are created...
A woman who has lost her way. A man crippled by war. What brings them together also pulls them apart.
Zara Peede’s growing feelings for her patient, soldier Jack Quinlan, scare the Walter Reed Medical Center nurse. Jack, a double amputee, is as wounded in spirit as he is in body.
Jack’s pain reflects her own grief for her lost brother, a fellow soldier who died in Afghanistan. Does she truly care for Jack, or are both of them just searching for someone to hold onto through their pain?
To find out—and in search of her purpose—Zara flees, leaving Jack with only a note and a gift she doesn’t fully understand herself. A stone.
When Zara and Jack reconnect at an event in New York, they discover that some ripples last a lifetime. Will theirs?
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Jack looked down at his legs. They were gone. A river of blood formed under him. He writhed in agony as the searing pain coursed through his broken body. Bloodcurdling screams boiled around him.
Where was his best friend? He struggled to lift his head and looked to the right. He spotted Nate a few feet away, his body mangled and twisted into a bloody heap. Nate was dead.
Jack’s body shook and sweat soaked his hospital sheets as the reoccurring nightmare choked him. He felt slender arms around him. Her arms cradling him, and he grabbed her soft shoulders and sobbed into her chest. She was his life raft, and he clung to her, gasping for air as he relived the desert hell. The blinding flashes. The screams. The smell of death.
“Breathe, Jack,” Zara said. “Breathe. You’re safe. With me. It’s okay. You’re okay. Just breathe.”
Zara rocked him in her arms as if he were a baby that needed comfort and love. “That’s it. Just breathe. Nice and easy. Everything’s going to be okay. You’re here with me.”
Tears pooled in Zara’s green eyes, and she once again caught herself before crossing the line she knew would be the end of her career. She almost—almost—kissed Jack on the head as she whispered soothing thoughts, trying to rescue him from the darkness in which he drowned.
Jack’s breathing slowed, and his sobs lessened. Zara eased him back down on the mattress. The heartless beast that stole Jack’s nights was gone for now, but they both knew he’d be back. And Zara knew she had to leave. She needed to save herself as much as she needed to save Jack, and she couldn’t do both.
She reached into her pocket and pulled out the heart-shaped stone she’d spotted while sitting on the park bench the night before, when she’d been deep in thought. She’d looked down at her feet, and there it was, the most perfect heart-shaped rock she’d ever seen. Tan with specks of black.
Her chin wobbled, and she mashed her lips together. The rock reminded her of Johnny. Her brother had collected rocks. Once, they were at the river picking up rocks and throwing them into the water to see whose went farther.
“Look what I’ve found,” Johnny had yelled. “A heart-shaped rock!” He’d stuffed the smooth, black rock into his shorts pocket, and Zara never saw it again.