The following is an exclusive excerpt from An Appointment.

Available March 12th. Only on Amazon.

CHAPTER 1

SAVANNAH

My day began in a panic.

As soon as the alarm went off, I hurried my way through the morning. Getting Trey up and feeding him breakfast. Taking a shower. Putting on clothes and makeup. Running out the door to drop him off at school. Then beat traffic to make it to the office on time.

Only, Trey had an asthma attack before we could make it to the door.

I ran to the kitchen, because he’d drained his inhaler. Searching drawers did nothing. I’d flung the contents on the tile floor. But I couldn’t find his back-up inhaler. Nothing seemed to help his wheezing.

“Baby, it’s okay.” I pulled him into my lap. “Breathe.” I stroked his honey blond locks.

He looked into my eyes as he struggled, squeezing my arm.

I burst into tears when I thought it was the end. By some miracle, he made it through the 911 call, the ambulance ride, and the pointless trip to the hospital. Sometimes, doctors were really pitiful when you needed them. Because the flaky woman who attended to my son told me nothing was wrong.

“I know my son,” I said. “He has asthma. It runs in my family.”

“Well.” She looked down her sharp nose at me. “I suggest you find a new one.”

Beyond frustrated, I collected my son and drove him home. No school today. No work either.

Instead, I sat with him on the couch and researched everything I could on his condition. My father had infrequent asthma attacks. But Trey’s were getting worse. And they always seemed to occur after a weekend spent with his father, my long-time love turned ex-husband.

The last thing I wanted to do was call Kevin. He would put the blame on me. He always had.

When Trey went to bed that night, I poured a glass of wine and had myself a good cry. Since the divorce, my life had gone up in flames. During our marriage, Kevin had gone behind my back and put us in so much debt that I’d never hold my head above water again. If I thought about it too often, I’d go crazy. That’s why I reserved these private moments when Trey was asleep to mourn.

I met Kevin when I was nineteen. He held the door open for me on my way to class. It was snowing—the second semester of my sophomore year of college. And he’d run to keep the door from slamming in my face. Saying he’d made a good first impression would be an understatement.

Three months later, we were engaged. By that summer, we were married.

Everyone said I was moving too fast. But I’d never had a serious boyfriend before. It felt so good to be chased. Especially by a man as gorgeous as Kevin. In the beginning, I’d thought he was an angel.

He looked like one. Blond hair. Blue eyes. Tempting lips. A heavenly smile.

But I’d been tricked by the devil. Too bad it took me seven years of marriage to figure it out.

When I filed for divorce, he’d sworn he would take Trey away from me. The eight-year-old son I’d given him after seventy-two hours of the most excruciating labor known to woman. I remembered how it felt to realize I’d married the wrong man. Everyone had been right. They’d tried to warn me.

But I really loved Kevin. I’d given him every part of me. Now that we were apart, I couldn’t see myself in the girl I’d once been. I was mad at her for being so blind. Why couldn’t I have listened?

My mother met my father when she was eighteen. He was twenty-three at the time.

I was happy that they were still together after all these years. But it made me feel like a failure. Here, my parents had this amazing marriage. Their forty year wedding anniversary was approaching. And I’d failed on my first shot out of the gate. I’d never be whole again.

Once the divorce was final, Kevin had graciously agreed on joint custody. As long as I let him see Trey when he wanted. It wasn’t a terrible arrangement. But deep down, I felt weak.

He was the attorney. His father was a judge. He held all the cards.

At twenty-eight, all he’d left me with was a hundred thousand dollars in debt and a broken heart.

Regardless, I couldn’t view my life with Kevin as a mistake. Because then I’d never have Trey.

When I checked on him, Trey asked me to stay in his room until he fell asleep. So I lay beside him and stroked his hair, singing his favorite lullaby. He’d been such a good baby, hardly ever crying.

Kevin had been worthless when it came to raising a child. He never changed one diaper.

The kind, caring man I’d married turned into a selfish dictator overnight. Slowly, I watched the happiness fade away from my life. Trey was the only thing that mattered. That’s why I’d structured my whole world around him. Maybe I didn’t have a husband now. But I had my son. That was all that mattered.

As Trey drifted off, I lay in his bed and cried. Last weekend, we were playing in the park when Kevin appeared with a stunning brunette. She looked young. Very young. The way I’d once been.

It tore through my heart like a dull knife—seeing him with someone new. He moved on so fast once we were separated. Like the life we’d shared together had meant nothing. I’d never been so depressed.

If my failed marriage had taught me anything, it was that trust has to be earned. With Kevin, I’d been so blind. Loving him had taken everything out of me. Losing him had tarnished whatever was left.

That’s why Trey was the only man in my life now.

I would never love again.

And there was no man on earth who could make me change my mind.

***

Work was good. Not only did it take my mind off my personal life, it gave me a way to earn a living of my own. After having Trey, I’d taken a year off school with the intention of going back. But Kevin planted seeds of doubt. I was a mother now. I had a responsibility. So I’d never finished college.

I knew my parents were disappointed. Especially since, before I fell head over heels, I’d been at the top of my class. One look from a beautiful man, and I’d thrown it all away. How could I be so stupid?

Now I worked as an administrative assistant for a judge. Kevin had gotten me the job. And that was only because his father was friends with my boss. But I was thankful anyway. Someone was going to have to pay off all this debt. That’s the thing about marriage that sucks. You can be conservative with your money, pay every bill on time, save for the future. But when your spouse makes financial decisions behind your back, in the eyes of the law, you’re just as guilty.

That’s one of the many reasons why I was never getting married again.

Judge Nelson was a sweet man. It had been a privilege to work for him.

But when I was called into his office that morning, I didn’t expect to find his thirty-year-old son instead.

“Hi.” He stood up to shake my hand. “Ms. Taylor is it?”

“Yes.” I blushed because he was very handsome. He wore his dark hair slicked back with gel.

“I’m Sam Nelson. You’ve been working for my father for the past year or so?”

“Yes.” I looked for his father. “Is everything okay?”

“Have a seat, Ms. Taylor.”

Swallowing, I sat down in the chair across from his desk. My palms broke out in a sweat, because something didn’t feel right. I already had the sense that whatever had happened, it wasn’t good.

“Last night, my father had a stroke.”

“Oh no.” I held my hand to my chest. “Is he going to be all right?”

“He’s been admitted to the hospital. And they are taking very good care of him.”

“Well, if there’s anything I can do, please let me know.”

He winced and folded his hands on his father’s desk, looking me straight on.

“I’m afraid that my father may never return to work.”

Searching for the right words, I held my mouth gaping open. “Oh.”

“For years, my father has been grooming me for this position. It’s very likely that I’ll be stepping in soon.”

I narrowed my eyes, but didn’t pick at his statement. Nepotism much?

“Oh, I see.” My mind raced with thoughts of how the court system worked. Weren’t judges appointed by someone in political office? Or maybe that was justices? I guess I missed that class in college.

“I’ve been looking over your resumé.” He had a black pen in his hand. “And I see that you never attended college.”

“No, I do have some college,” I said in the nicest way possible. “I just never finished.”

“What was the reason for dropping out?” He marked something on my resumé.

“I became pregnant with my son.”

He looked for a ring on my hand.

“I was married at the time,” I clarified. “But I’m not anymore.”

He nodded, but his expression was apathetic. “You’re not exactly qualified for the type of work we do here. You have no work experience nor education in this field. So how did you get the job?”

“My ex-husband’s father is a judge.”

“Who is your ex-husband?” he asked.

“Kevin Thorne.”

“And yet, your last name is Taylor?”

“I changed it back to my maiden name after the divorce.”

He put my resumé in a file. I knew whatever came next wasn’t going to be good.

“I’m afraid that with the new direction we’re headed in, we don’t really have a place for you.”

I blinked, because I must have misheard him. “Excuse me? I don’t think I understand.”

“We’ll be replacing you with someone more qualified. College educated,” he said.

“How long do I have?”

“You can go ahead and collect your things.”

All of the blood drained from my face. A young man walked in with a briefcase. He looked about twenty-two, fresh out of college. He was wearing a vacant expression and a sharp suit and tie.

“Mr. Nelson.” I stood up, hovering over his desk. “I really need this job. I have a son.”

“You have an ex-husband. Surely, child support will take care of that.”

I wanted to say so many things. But what did it matter? He’d already gotten rid of me.

“Fine,” I said. “I’ll let myself out.”

I’d never even had an office. So I tossed my things in a box and headed out the door. To be honest, I was so angry with life that I couldn’t even cry. Everything had been going wrong for far too long. If one more thing happened, I was going to snap. And it wasn’t going to be pretty.

Trey had a doctor’s appointment midmorning. I’d intended to bring it up in Judge Nelson’s office. But now that his son had fired me, I didn’t exactly have to worry about asking for an early lunch. Did I?

As we sat in the waiting room, I bit my nails down to the quick. I had no idea what I was going to do. The world was so unjust. It felt like I’d lost everything, and yet I was also the only one left holding the bag. While Kevin got to run off with single women and ignore responsibility at every turn. But he still had a job.

“Trey Thorne.” A nurse stood in the doorway with a clipboard.

I plastered on a smile and took his hand. We walked into the examination room together. But Trey sat in my lap and put his head on my chest. The nurse couldn’t get him to move. I leaned my head back and took a deep breath, wondering why he had to be so difficult today.

“I’m sorry,” I said, rubbing his back. “He can be shy.”

“I’ll just leave it to Dr. Cole.” She gave Trey a sweet smile and left the room.

While we waited, I tried not to think about the fact that my life was imploding. Without my job, how would I pay for health insurance? Trey was covered under his father’s. But now that I’d been fired, there was no way I could maintain our lifestyle with unemployment. I might have to sell the house.

The door opened, but I didn’t look up.

“Hello, there,” a man said. A man who sounded nothing like my son’s seventy-year-old pediatrician.

I narrowed my eyes at his tall stature, trim figure and good looking face. His dark hair was thick and a bit wavy. He had brown eyes to match and a decent beard. So clearly, there must have been some mistake.

“I’m Dr. Cole.” He stuck out his hand. I looked at it and then raised my eyes to him.

“No, you’re not,” I said.

“Excuse me?” he smiled, surprised I’d been so bold.

“Dr. Cole is a seventy-year-old man with gray hair and glasses. He was my pediatrician for years.”

He nodded, leaning against the counter with his arms crossed. “That would be my father.”

“Oh.” Great. Another young man had kicked his much nicer predecessor to the curb.

“But I can get him if you’d like,” he said. “He’ll be retiring soon, so I’ve started taking on some of his patients.”

I shut my eyes and sighed, feeling the tension in Trey’s body. He was nervous.

“No.” I shook my head. “That won’t be necessary.”

He washed his hands at the sink and dried them off with a paper towel. After he threw the towel away, Dr. Cole looked at his clipboard. He made some kind of note and then turned his attention to my son.

“Is this your son, Trey?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“And he’s not feeling well today?”

I explained Trey’s recent attack and the history of asthma in my family.

Dr. Cole knelt down in front of my chair. “Hi, Trey. I’m Dr. Cole. It’s nice to meet you.”

Trey peeked at him and then shot me a hesitant glance.

“It’s okay,” I said. “This is the doctor. He’s here to help you.”

Dr. Cole looked at me. “Could you set him on the examination table?”

“Sure.” I stood with him in my arms and propped him up on the table. “How’s that?” I smiled at Trey.

Dr. Cole ran through a basic check-up. I stayed close by, watching how gentle and patient he was with my son. He had a good bedside manner. But I needed to figure out a solution to help my son.

“Take a deep breath.” Dr. Cole used a stethoscope to listen to his lungs. “One more.”

I felt nervous, because I kept thinking about what we were going to do once the appointment was over. I’d have to find another job, sell the house, turn to Kevin for our son’s sake. I hated that.

“Okay now, one more deep breath, Trey.” Dr. Cole listened. “Good job.”

“Can I sit with my Mom now?” Trey asked.

“Not just yet,” he said. “I need to check one more thing.”

Dr. Cole felt my son’s back and chest. “I may need to open his shirt, Mrs. Thorne. Would that be okay?”

He thought I was married to Trey’s father, but I didn’t correct him. I just wanted to know what was wrong with my son. “Yes, go ahead.”

Dr. Cole unfastened a few buttons and stared at Trey’s chest. Then he turned to me with a glare.

“What is it?” I asked.

“Can you explain this?” He unbuttoned the rest of Trey’s shirt.

“Explain what?” I came close enough to see.

“Explain these bruises on his body.”

I gasped when I saw them, covering my mouth.

Dr. Cole removed the shirt and turned Trey to the side. There were more bruises on his back.

Bursting into tears, I ran to my son but Dr. Cole stepped between us. “Just a moment, ma’am.”

“Trey, what happened?” I cried. “Why do you have bruises?”

Trey looked at me with nervous green eyes.

Dr. Cole picked up my son. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Thorne. But I have to take your son to the back.”

“What?” I shrieked. “What do you mean? You don’t think I did that to him? Do you?

Dr. Cole opened the door with my son in his arms.

“Wait!” I yelled. “Where are you going? He’s my son!”

Dr. Cole handed Trey off to a nurse. My little boy looked scared. “Mommy!”

Dr. Cole grabbed my arm so I couldn’t follow them. “You can’t be back there.”

“What do you mean I can’t be back there?” I spun around. “He’s my son!”

When I ran down the hall, Dr. Cole wrapped his arm around my stomach, holding me back. I tried to fight him, but he was too strong. As soon as Trey disappeared from view, he let me go.

“How dare you!” I pushed my hands into his chest. “You don’t have the right to separate us!”

“Shh.” Dr. Cole put his hands on my shoulders. “Just calm down. We can discuss this in private.”

Before I could protest, he led me around the corner to his office and shut the door. “Please, take a seat.”

“I’d rather stand.” I glared at him like a lioness, ready to attack.

“Do you have to be so defiant?” He sat down at his desk. “Please, Mrs.—”

“First of all, it’s not Mrs. And secondly, where is my son?” I plopped down in a seat across from him.

“It’s not Mrs.?” He gazed into my eyes.

“No,” I said. “Not anymore.”

Something in his dark eyes softened.

“Now, where is my son?”

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