Seven Little Words
Australian romance writer Cathy Carruthers has been avoiding men in the wake of a painful break-up, but when she meets award-winning literary novelist David Hillier, neither can resist their powerful mutual desire. But her ex is hunting her down, and her grandmother's serious accident means Cathy is landed with a slew of responsibilities, including the care of a tiny and courageous chihuahua, Pixel.
Meanwhile, David has his own problems: writer's block, the challenge of finding acceptable housing for his father, and the care of his father's elderly yet devoted guide dog. Pressures build on the couple. How can they possibly build a life together?
Cathy wasn’t answering her phone. What a relief it would be to see her in person. Her lovely face and calm manner filled his senses with yearning. He didn’t need this flashy life. Cathy understood the simple things of life. She wasn’t into the high life or the trappings of success. The week apart had done him good; he realized he wanted her in his life, permanently. Together they would sort out the problems that faced them both. They would find a way through.
He slept fitfully. Banquo was particularly restless. His whines and pacing woke David several times, until he was tempted to get up and lock the dog in the car for the few remaining hours of the night.
He was just dozing off again when his phone rang. Unable to believe his bad luck, he snatched it up, ready to abuse the prankster or drunk who was dialing him by mistake. Brian’s voice came through, concerned.
“Mate? That home your father’s in? Listen, I’m driving past, and there’s a hell of a commotion going on. Fire engines, ambulances. Looks like a major fire.”
“I’m on it. Thanks.” Leaping out of bed, David dragged on jeans and joggers, grabbed the dog, and raced out to the car. His mind filled with flashes of his father, almost blind, stumbling through smoke and flames. He drove wildly through the deserted suburbs, seeing a sinister red-orange glow in the sky as he approached the home. How incredibly lucky Brian had been in the area.
It was impossible to get any parking on the grounds. Several fire trucks were already hosing water jets toward the blaze, while ambulances received smoke-blackened patients being carried on stretchers from the building. Somehow the news had reached other families who were milling around in frantic groups, trying to intercept anyone with news about their relatives. Firemen were holding guard at the doors, refusing entry, while their colleagues inside crawled or stumbled through the dense smoke, trying to rescue those still trapped inside. Those who could walk were helped out into the grounds, others were carried, one way or another, while rumors spread that many had not escaped.
Banquo was frantic. As David opened the boot to leash him, the dog took a flying leap to freedom and raced straight past the guards, disappearing inside the building. David tried to chase him but was pulled up by an adamant fireman.
“You can’t go in. Sorry, mate. Stand out of the way, please.”
David began to search the car park, hoping to see Gregory somewhere. Small groups of miserable, shocked patients were gathered at checkpoints, awaiting transport to other facilities. A few were bedridden, still with IV drips and disconnected oxygen masks dangling around their smutty forms. Those who had suffered burns were in the worst pain, crying helplessly in confusion. David remembered the talk that others were still inside. He felt sick. What a terrible way to die. Was his father one of those? He would never forgive himself, if so. He had chosen this place, and look at this outcome. He was bereft.
Perhaps there was another entrance? Pushing through the preoccupied crowd, he ran down a narrow side path to an asphalt yard that served the commercial waste collection bins, laundry, and delivery supplies. So far, the fire hadn’t taken hold of this area. Infiltrating smoke poured from open doors, but the sheds and outhouses were relatively secure. Desperately he began to search, calling his father’s name.