Excerpt: The Paramedic
Maggie swore as the knife sliced cleanly through the underside of her forearm, deep enough that the cut didn’t even bleed right away. Her heart beat faster as the blood started flowing and she grabbed a towel off the hook above her sink to press it tightly over the wound. Sliding to the floor, she tried to stay calm, but the questions swarmed relentlessly through her mind.
What if I cut something important?
What if I pass out, and no one finds me?
What if I get gangrene and have to amputate my arm?
The last one made her mentally roll her eyes. “Dramatic much, Mags? Breathe,” she reminded herself quietly, forcing herself to take a breath, then let it out slow. Closing her eyes, she focused on her air intake, but the suffocating feeling in her chest wouldn’t go away. Carefully pulling the towel away, she looked at the cut, knowing she needed to at least rinse it out. Another deep breath and she pushed to her feet and started the faucet, holding her arm under the water for several seconds. After a mental debate on whether to use soap or not, she opted to skip it. As she wrapped her arm in a clean towel, she debated going to the hospital for stitches. Trembling as she leaned against the counter, she knew she needed to calm down or she’d go into a full-blown panic attack. Just the thought of sitting on the floor gasping for air had her grabbing her keys and purse and running for the door.
Not this time, she thought as she went down the first flight of stairs. The elevator was broken more than it worked, and just the thought of being stuck there for any length of time made her shiver. I won’t panic. I won’t.
A faint voice in her head warned her that it was too late. She was already panicking, and driving was not a good idea. But she wasn’t going to call the paramedics again. That was a humiliating experience she never wanted to go through again, even though the men had been kind and stayed until she was able to function again.
Gasping for air, she stopped on the second floor, leaning against the wall to catch her breath. All too aware that she was wheezing air in gulps and shaking harder by the second, she slid down the wall to the floor, pulse racing and face hot as she prayed no one would come by. She never should have left her apartment. Bringing her knees up, she hugged them with her arms, squeezing her eyes shut as she tried again to control her breathing.
A door opened, then shut, and she shrank back tight against the wall, hoping whoever it was wouldn’t see her.
“Shhh…it’s okay,” a mellow, soothing voice spoke close to her ear. “I’m a paramedic. I can help you.”
Maggie shook her head. “Go away. I’ll be fine. Just…I just need to calm down. I didn’t mean to disturb anyone.” She opened her eyes and turned toward the man, her pulse ratcheting up another notch at the sight of his bare, perfectly sculpted torso. Her own issues forgotten for a moment, she stared, mesmerized. How long had it been since she’d seen a man that enticing outside of a magazine? “You…ah…you’re not…you’re a paramedic?”
He cocked his head, looking confused for a minute, then glanced at his chest. Flashing her a grin, he chuckled. “I might have to start going to work without a shirt, if that’s the kind of reaction I get.”
Embarrassed, Maggie looked away, chagrined to realize that her breathing was almost back to normal. If she’d known all she needed was a half-naked man to shock her out of her own head, she’d have subscribed to Playgirl (TM) a long time ago.
“I’ll be fine,” she repeated, taking a deep breath, and letting it out on a sigh. “I just…I cut myself, and I wasn’t sure what to do, and I needed to just…calm down.”
“Well, I am a paramedic,” he said, leaning closer. “Let’s take a look at that cut.”
She held her arm out, still avoiding his gaze. “I rinsed it out in the sink, but I wasn’t sure if it needed stitches or not, and…well, that’s it.” She decided against telling him about her fears regarding gangrene, which sounded more silly in her head with each passing moment.
His touch did fun, tingly things to her skin as he gently unwrapped her arm and turned it this way and that for a better view. Finally he looked at her, his hazel eyes warm and sympathetic. “I don’t think you need stitches, but a few butterfly bandages will help keep the scarring down. Do you have some at home?”
She shook her head. “I’m not even sure what those are. Are they expensive?”
He smiled, the expression doing funny things to her stomach. “Not at all. Come on, I have some in my apartment. We’ll get you all fixed up, okay?”
Reluctantly she accepted his hand and let him pull her to her feet. Trailing him to the second door on the right, she wondered if she should wait outside, but when he opened the door, he simply reached inside and brought out a navy bag with a red cross on it. He pulled the cut together with some skinny white adhesive strips, then handed her the box.
“You should probably just leave that alone for awhile,” he said, putting his bag back inside his door. “But if they come off, just pull it together again. It should heal in a week or two.”
“Thank you,” Maggie said, hesitating a moment. “And thanks for…before too. It’s just so stupid, but I’m such a worrywart and I think too much and it just gets way out of hand sometimes, especially when I’m by myself. Which is most of the time.” She laughed, a weak, self-deprecating sound even to her own ears. God, he must think she was pathetic. “Anyways, thank you. I’ll…um..see you around. Maybe.”
“What’s your name?” he asked, holding out his right hand. “I’m Kyle. Kyle Trieber.”
She placed her hand lightly in his, warmth suffusing her body yet again. “Maggie Norris.”
He shook her hand, then held one finger up. “Wait just a second, Maggie. I’ll be right back.” He disappeared into the apartment, leaving the door ajar. She peeked through the opening long enough to see a massage table set up in the living room, with a pile of black rope on top. Ducking quickly back from the door, she wasn’t sure whether she should be worried or intrigued.
Kyle reappeared, holding out a black card with raised red lettering and a blood red ribbon motif swirling through the front. “Here’s my number. Next time you feel an attack coming on, call me. I’m a relaxation therapist when I’m not on duty. I can help.”
She nodded, flashing him a smile as she tucked the card in her pocket. “Thanks. I appreciate that. I’ll head back upstairs now. Thanks again for everything.”
“My pleasure,” he said, that voice doing trippy things to her pulse again.
Maggie walked back to the stairs and started the climb up, not daring to look back though she could swear she felt his eyes on her. When she got to her apartment, she locked herself in and collapsed on the couch, pulling the card out of her pocket. Relaxation therapist indeed. She shook her head and tossed the card on her coffee table. No way would she ever have the courage to call. She lay back against the cushions and closed her eyes, drifting off to dream about what might happen if she ever did end up on his massage table.
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