I’m in that lovely space between consciousness and sleep. I feel no pain thanks to the morphine pump and I can almost believe that the muscles, tendons and skin of my left arm have knitted themselves back together, leaving my skin smooth and pale. My curly brown hair once again falls softly down my back, my favorite earrings dangle from my ears and I can lift both sides of my mouth in a wide smile without much pain at the thought of my children. Yes, drugs are a wonderful thing. But the problem is that while the carefully prescribed and doled-out narcotics by the nurses wonderfully dull the edges of this nightmare, I know that soon enough this woozy, pleasant feeling will fall away and all that I will be left with is pain and the knowledge that Augie and P.J. are thousands of miles away from me. Sent away to the place where I grew up, the town I swore I would never return to, the house I swore I would never again step into, to the man I never wanted them to meet.
The tinny melody of the ringtone that Augie, my thirteen year-old daughter, programmed into my cell phone is pulling me from my sleep. I open one eye, the one that isn’t covered with a thick ointment and crusted shut, and call out for my mother, who must have stepped out of the room. I reach for the phone that is sitting on the tray table at the side of my bed and the nerve endings in my bandaged left arm scream in protest at the movement. I carefully shift my body to pick up the phone with my good hand and press the phone to my remaining ear.
“Hello.” The word comes out half-formed, breathless and scratchy, as if my lungs were still filled with smoke.
“Mom?” Augie’s voice is quavery, unsure. Not sounding like my daughter at all. Augie is confident, smart, a take-charge, no one is ever going to walk all over me kind of girl.
“Augie? What’s the matter?” I try to blink the fuzziness of the morphine away; my tongue is dry and sticks to the roof of my mouth. I want to take a sip of water from the glass sitting on my tray, but my one working hand holds the phone. The other lies useless at my side. “Are you okay? Where are you?”
There are a few seconds of quiet and then Augie continues. “I love you, Mom,” she says in a whisper that ends in quiet sobs.
I sit up straight in my bed, wide awake now. Pain shoots through my bandaged arm and up the side of my neck and face. “Augie, what’s the matter?”
“I’m at school.” She is crying in that way she has when she is doing her damnedest not to. I can picture her, head down, her long brown hair falling around her face, her eyes squeezed shut in determination to keep the tears from falling, her breath filling my ear with short, shallow puffs. “He has a gun. He has P.J. and he has a gun.”
“Who has P.J.?” Terror clutches at my chest. “Tell me, Augie, where are you? Who has a gun?”
“I’m in a closet. He put me in a closet.” My mind is spinning. Who could be doing this? Who would do this to my children? “Hang up,” I tell her. “Hang up and call 9-1-1 right now, Augie. Then call me back. Can you do that?” I hear her sniffles. “Augie,” I say again, more sharply. “Can you do that?”
“Yeah,” she finally says. “I love you, Mom,” she says softly.
“I love you, too.” My eyes fill with tears and I can feel the moisture pool beneath the bandages that cover my injured eye. I wait for Augie to disconnect when I hear three quick shots, followed by two more and Augie’s piercing screams.
Copyright © 2012 by Heather Gudenkauf
In Heather Gudenkauf’s gripping novel, One Breath Away, a Code Red Lockdown is issued in the town of Broken Branch after an unknown gunman walks into an elementary school classroom…
Officer Meg Barrett feels the weight of responsibility as much as Will Thwaite, a tormented man caring for his two grandkids since his estranged daughter’s hospitalization. Trapped in her classroom, Evelyn Oliver watches for an opportunity to rescue her young charges. But 13-year-old Augie Baker, already struggling with the aftermath of her mother’s terrible accident, will risk her life to protect her little brother as mounting tensions bring out the hidden fears and grudges of a small town desperate to know who is holding their children hostage.
Hardcover Book : 400 pages
Publisher: Harlequin Books S.A. ( June 26, 2012 )
Item #: 13-582342
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.25 x 0.86inches
Product Weight: 14.0 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
Reviewer: chuck b
what a great story, well written and hard to put down. Just enough suspense to put you on the edge of your seat, but being a wimp, not too much. I feel like I know all of the characters as it was so well written. Would love to have a sequel.
I really liked this book. It is engrossing to the point of keeping you awake at night in more ways than one. I found myself having nightmares about the fire and a gunman the night I started reading this book. In a no-non sense style, Heather Gudenkauf reveals the ways big and small that victims of violence and their relatives are impacted.
I confess that I first tried to read this book last month, but the plot was so grim, so utterly realistic and terribly close to some events unfolded not long ago, that I found myself putting this book aside in favor of the somewhat lighter The Night Circus. I don't regret having read One Breath Away though; it is not a light reading, but it is an eye opener, a worthwhile one. For the four days I was reading this book I felt that both my mind and heart were going to explode with so much emotion bottled up. One Breath Away is as intense and scary as a bad dream.
I could guess the identity of the gunman way before it was revealed, but that didn't diminish the impact of the ending.
One Breath Away is not to be missed! One of the best books I've read this year.
This is an excellent story! The plot is intriguing and very realistic. The format of five different vantage points lets you get to know and care about each of the main characters and keeps the story moving. Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable novel. I am looking forward to more from this author.