Title: Eye Contact
Author: Stacey Grice
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: June 21, 2018
Dr. Andie Fine lives, eats, and breathes her job as a trauma surgeon. Another day, another surgery, another life saved. That is, until the night a certain car accident victim lands on her operating room table. The strange connection she feels with this particular patient impacts her in every way.
Vaughn Bennett is a brilliant artist whose life has been defined by a specific pair of eyes for over twenty-years. The only piece of a girl he could remember from an experience he could never forget. Countless sketches and thousands of hours trying to capture her likeness have haunted him. Waking up from a coma in a hospital room is not how he thought he’d finally find her. With one look, he knew.
Andie is a career-focused, medical professional. Falling for a patient is out of the question, but Vaughn is determined to win her over. He elicits something in her that she’s never realized she was missing. No matter how hard she tries to fight it, he won’t stop until she’s his.
Until fate has a way of complicating things.
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It’s got to be at least ninety five degrees out here, I thought as the beads of sweat across my forehead started to become full enough to drip down my face. My mind raced as I walked home from school. Two miles or so in the hottest time of day was a small price to pay.
Ms. Hattie’s not going to be happy when Mr. Leake calls to tell her I was missing from his fifth period class. Screw him. He can call her if he wants. Whatever punishment she’ll dole out can’t possibly be as bad as dealing with Stephan and his punk friends.
They had been itching to pound my face in for days.
How was I supposed to know that bench in the courtyard was off limits?
When I was pushed in the hallway earlier, knocking my books out of my hands and scattering my folders and papers all over the halls for everyone to step on, I knew who had done it before even looking up. When the reflection of light gleaming off of the pocket knife peeking out caught my eye, I knew I was done for.
Of course they’d pick on me. I was the new kid and only in sixth grade. I hadn’t even been there for three weeks yet and already I’d found trouble.
I swear, I just can’t win.
I thought I’d finally gotten out of hell. I had known my previous foster parents were creepy. They never did anything but smack me, curse, yell, occasionally spit at me—the usual bullshit—but when I was taken away a few weeks ago and placed in Ms. Hattie’s care, I didn’t argue. I ended up overhearing that the husband had been caught “inappropriately touching” one of the girls or some such crap. What a slime ball. She was only like six years old.
Ms. Hattie seemed kind, and my new foster brother, though a little older than me, had been pretty cool so far. I should’ve told him about Stephan, but I didn’t want him to think I was a wuss. I should’ve just let the idiot cheat off my paper.
In woodshop the previous week, I’d noticed him trying to look over at my quiz paper for answers and quickly covered my sheet, shielding it from his view. After later learning that it was his second year in eighth grade after not passing the year before, I regretted trying him like that. He was bigger than me with a nasty face that always looked like he was gritting his teeth. Now he’d found a new weakling to pick on. A few days later, I got pushed and cussed at for talking to a cute cheerleader named Molly in my gym class. I learned I wasn’t allowed to talk to her when all three of them cornered me in the boy’s bathroom and threw my backpack into the urinal after one of them pissed in it.
Maybe I need to show him I’m not a pushover. Maybe I need to knock his ass out and prove I’m not one to get messed with, prove I can hold my own.
No. I need to just bide my time. Stay safe and don’t rock the boat. I have a lot to figure out in this new school and this new house before making waves.
This is definitely a nicer neighborhood than my last one, I thought as I looked around, admiring the Leave-It-To-Beaver style, a stark contrast with just the month before when I had to walk home from the bus stop in the ghetto while making sure I didn’t give the wrong look to the dealers on the corner as I passed them. In Ms. Hattie’s neighborhood, everyone had a nice yard and a garage for two cars.
I never even saw them, never heard a thing. One second I was looking forward and thanking my lucky stars for the pretty neighborhood then WHACK. It felt like a two-by-four had just been swung across my back. I fell to the ground, squirming and gasping to try to catch my breath, and a shadowed figure came into my vision, the glare from the sun up above making it impossible to see who it was. Then he spoke.
“I don’t know who you think you are, maggot, but you messed with the wrong guy.”
Stephan pulled me up off the ground by my shirt and spit in my face before the first punch struck my jaw. Almost immediately, I couldn’t see anything. Fists rained down onto my face, jaw, and nose, plowing into my stomach until I couldn’t stand up anymore. Then the kicks came, the voices of the two friends who followed him around like puppies taunting and egging him on in the background. I faintly heard laughing, felt more spit hit my cheek, and thought it was over, but then he topped it off with more pain by reaching down to grab my head with both of his hands and slamming it back down into the concrete.
Everything went black for a moment—I really didn’t know how long—and then I heard her. A girl was talking to me with a calm singsong voice, muddled and far away, but I could feel her touch like she was right there next to me.
“Don’t move anything. I saw them hitting you and they slammed your head down pretty hard,” she said with a breathy voice. I tried to get control of my breathing but couldn’t inhale without coughing, which made my head feel like it was going to explode.
“I called 911. They’re coming to help you. Do you live here? Close to here? What’s your name?”
I could barely keep my eyes open anymore. Everything was fading in and out and the room was swirling, but I wasn’t in a room—I was outside. I couldn’t focus on anything.
“Look at me. Please try to open your eyes,” she pleaded.
I looked up and saw the prettiest girl I had ever seen hunched over me. Her wispy blonde hair was blowing around her face and her eyes were light…maybe some shade of blue, bluish with little specs of… I closed my eyes just for a second; the light was too bright.
“No, please keep your eyes open. You can’t pass out.”
I tried my hardest to keep them open, not wanting to disappoint her. She looked like a kid, maybe even younger than me. The harder I tried, the heavier my lids got, and things were fading to black again.
“Keep eye contact with me. Just keep looking right here,” she urged, bringing her face closer to mine. The sun was completely behind her head and I could see her better. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. “Keep eye contact.” She lightly touched the side of my head, her fingers slightly in my hair to keep me still. “Keep looking. Keep eye contact. They’re almost here. I can hear the sirens.”
Her breath smelled like chocolate chip cookies and her skin was like a porcelain doll. She had to be an angel, which meant I was dying. Those jerks had beaten me to death—actual death. I’m going to be in so much trouble.
“Keep eye contact. That’s good. Just keep looking right at me.” Ms. Hattie was going to kill me if they hadn’t already. The sirens were loud and growing louder the closer they got. I tried to focus on her face. I watched her lips moving. “Keep eye contact. Keep eye contact.” She kept saying it over and over, almost like she was trying to remind herself as much as me. Her eyes were mesmerizing, even with as much pain as I was in. I was staring up at her, maintaining eye contact just as she instructed, then suddenly she was gone.
Where did she go?
I felt hands on me and heard male voices, grown-up voices, and then I heard her again. I couldn’t see her anymore but I could hear her.
“Three boys…hit him with a baseball bat…punched his face…kicked him over and over…ran away…bleeding…passed out…tried to keep him awake…I don’t know his name…”
My name is Vaughn.
I wanted to tell her. I wanted to know her name too, but the words wouldn’t come out. The men put a mask on my face, covering my mouth and nose, and rolled my body onto my right side, the sharp pain in my ribs igniting a fire in my chest. They rolled me back over onto some sort of board, and then they lifted me up and carried me away…away from her, away from my angel.
Stacey Grice writes contemporary romance novels that will surely take you on an emotional roller coaster. Known for her dynamic characters, you’ll get a tale that’s raw and unapologetic. There will most always be angst mixed with sweet, humor balanced with grit, and a whole lot of REAL. She likes to take each reader on a journey of courtship with challenges, triumph, inspiration, and a few laughs as well.
She lives in Northeast Florida her husband and daughter and works full time as a Labor and Delivery nurse. When she’s not nursing and/or crafting stories, she can be found spending time with friends and family, people watching, enjoying great food, and reading or relaxing at her happy place—the beach.
Stacey absolutely LOVES to hear from her readers so be sure to follow her on social media and join her Facebook fan/readers’ group.
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/786265194776720
There is a giveaway for a $25 Amazon gift card (open internationally), 3 signed paperbacks of Eye Contact (US only), and 10 eBook copies of Eye Contact (14 winners total)