Clones – Book One
By Laurann Dohner
Why am I in a hospital? Gemma tried to catch the doctor’s gaze but he refused to look at her. He seemed too interested in reading her chart. When he finally closed it and stepped away from her bed, he looked at everything except her.
Dread pitted in her stomach.
The machines beeped and the sound of voices came from the hallway. It was difficult to move her head but she managed to raise her arm. It was completely swathed in white, bulky bandages, including her hand.
The doctor finally looked at her. His grim expression assured her she must be in bad shape.
“What happened?” Her words came out raspy and harsh.
“A gas line ruptured inside the hotel restaurant where you were, and it caused an explosion. There are still investigators on the scene, but that’s what we know so far.”
She remembered then. She’d gone to have lunch with one of her oldest and dearest friends, who’d flown into Los Angeles. They met every February. She’d just stepped up to the hostess stand when a loud noise sounded. Something hit her hard, then there had been a lot of heat. She’d passed out…until just now, when she woke in the hospital.
“Did anyone die?”
He glanced away but then back. “A lot of people did.”
The very idea was horrific. “Do you know anything about my friend, Tina Miller? She was staying at the hotel,” she got out, tears forming.
“I don’t have a list of survivors or fatalities. I’m sorry. You suffered severe burns over eighty percent of your body, Gemma. That is you, correct? You’re Gemma Grady?”
Eighty percent. Oh god. That isn’t good. “Yes.”
“You managed to keep hold of your purse. It was with you when you were discovered. They brought it in, but I needed to confirm your identity. Your family has been contacted.” He glanced at the chart again. “Both of your sons and your ex-husband are on their way.”
They had even called her ex. That was significant. “Am I dying?”
The doctor held her gaze, and she saw a flash of regret. He hesitated for far too long before he spoke. “We’re doing everything we can for you.” He withdrew something from his pocket and moved out of her line of sight. “I had to wake you to verify your identity. The nurse is going to up your meds to keep you comfortable. Your family should be here soon. I’m sorry this happened to you, Ms. Grady.”
He fled, and Gemma had no doubt from his behavior that her fate was grim.
It’s not fair.
She stared up at the ceiling, struggling to take it all in. It helped knowing that, overall, she’d had a good life. Fifty-six years weren’t nearly enough, though.
Images of her two sons flashed through her mind and her tears spilled over. She needed to hang on until they reached her side, to tell them one more time that they were loved. She’d regret never seeing either one of them getting married, or never holding a grandbaby.
Thoughts of her friend Tina came next. Gemma had arrived a few minutes early for their lunch. She knew her friend’s room had been on the sixth floor of the hotel, and Tina always tended to run a bit late. It was a running joke between them. There was a chance that Tina hadn’t been caught in the explosion.
Her best friend had six kids, three young grandchildren, and was adored by her high school sweetheart husband.
Gemma decided in that moment to be grateful she didn’t know one way or another. It meant she could pretend Tina hadn’t been hurt…or worse.
A nurse entered the room and leaned over her. “You’re awake.” Sympathy softened her features. “Are you in pain?”
“We’re going to keep it that way.”
“I love my sons,” she blurted.
“I’m certain they know that. Are you having any trouble breathing?”
“My face feels strange.”
“It’s the bandages.”
My face is burned. How bad?
It doesn’t matter. I’m dying.
The nurse peered at the door. “I think your meds are here— Wait! Get out!” The nurse rushed toward the door, and Gemma managed to turn her head.
A man in his late twenties snapped pictures with a large camera. The nurse grabbed at it and shoved him into the hallway. She then reentered, closing the door behind her.
“I’m so sorry about that. Some of those vultures from the tabloids are sneaking past security to take pictures.”
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