Nick O’Flaherty and Kelly Abbott had their happy ending in sight when a friend’s call for help almost ended with them losing it to the blade of a knife. Now, in the aftermath of near-disaster, both men are trying to heal and move on.
Moving on together, though, is harder than either of them realized it would be. Kelly struggles with simply being a lover instead of the Doc, while Nick is mired in his recovery. The distance between them inches along in stilted silence.
Desperately seeking solace, Nick finally gathers the courage to sort through the possessions his dear friend and fellow Sidewinder teammate Elias Sanchez left him when he died. Instead of comforting memories, Nick and Kelly find a stack of letters and strict instructions from Eli that prompt them to send out a call for assistance. With Eli’s letters in hand, Sidewinder sets out on one last mission together, seeking peace and absolution from beyond the grave—and from each other.
~ Riptide Pub
Lights flashed. People screamed in the distance. Nick’s back hit the ground, and it was all blue sky and smoke. His body was cold when it should have been hot, going colder by the second. The sounds faded, and then the light, and there was peace for a while. Just sweet peace.
When Nick woke, pain flooded him like he’d never felt before. He jerked, fighting for breath, clawing at whatever was burning inside his right arm.
“Hold him down!” someone yelled. “Jesus Christ! Hold him!”
“Irish,” someone breathed close to his ear. A smooth voice, one that meant safety and home. “Irish, it’s Six. You got to be calm, bud.”
Nick immediately tried to still himself. If Ty was telling him to calm, it meant his panicking was a threat to someone. Where were they? Were they still out in the field? Were they prisoners again? Pain burned through him. He gritted his teeth and fumbled around for Ty’s hand, desperate for something—anything—to ground him.
“Six.” Nick gasped, barely recognizing his own voice.
Ty’s fingers were hot in Nick’s hands, but Ty’s grip was unwavering. “We’ve got you.”
“Who the fuck let this bag run out?” someone else shouted. Nick belatedly recognized Kelly’s voice, and damn, he sounded pissed. “Get out of the fucking way! You can’t do your job, I’ll do it for you!”
Ty’s face swam into Nick’s flickering field of view. He had Nick’s hand in both of his, holding Nick’s fingers close to his face the way they’d held each other every night in captivity. Nick clung to him, breathing hard, trying not to beg for help.
“You’re okay. Hold on, Irish.”
Nick stared into his eyes, clutching at him until cold began to soak into his arm. It climbed through his veins, cloying, cloudy, seeping into every part of him and pushing out the heat and pain.
“That’s it, bud,” Ty whispered. He petted Nick’s face, thumb resting against Nick’s cheekbone. “You’re okay. It’s all okay.”
Nick closed his eyes, trusting Ty to be telling him the truth.
When he woke again, it was to a much more pleasant world. The pain was just a distant whisper at the edges of his being, and the panic had left him with Ty’s assurances. He turned his head, squinting against the bright lights. He could hear someone sweeping, accompanied by the tinkle of broken glass and the rustle of plastic. And of course the beeps and whirring of monitors that he knew all too well.
“O’Flaherty?” Kelly said carefully. His voice was a whisper, as if he wasn’t sure that Nick was really conscious and didn’t want to wake him if he wasn’t.
Nick turned his head to find Kelly sitting on the other side of his bed, a tentative smile on his face. “Hey, Doc.”
Kelly set aside the book he’d been reading and scooted his chair closer. He rested one elbow on the edge of the bed, giving Nick a small smile. “Welcome back, Staff Sergeant.”
“All okay. You were the only casualty.”
“What’d I lose?”
“Your pride,” another voice answered. It took Nick far too long to focus on the man who’d come up behind Kelly. Elias Sanchez bent closer, as if he realized Nick couldn’t see him. “Not only did you get yourself shot, but you also lost our bet.”
“Bullshit,” Nick grunted, closing his eyes again.
Eli and Kelly both chuckled at him. Eli tapped Kelly on the shoulder. “Six needs you for his report. I got this.”
Kelly gave Eli his chair, offering Nick a gentle pat on the chest. “I’ll come check on you when we’re done.” He pointed at the machinery, shooting Eli a look he probably didn’t think Nick would notice. “Watch his pain. If it tops again, he’ll do even more damage to himself.”
The sweeping sound stopped for a moment. “If he’s going to fucking trash my MedBay again, we’ll tie him down.”
“Come near him with those restraints and I’ll fucking kill you,” Kelly snarled.
Eli squeezed Kelly’s shoulder. “Doc.”
“Nobody fucking ties him down,” Kelly growled, pointing one long finger at whoever had been given the task of cleaning up whatever mess Nick had made in his earlier rampage.
Eli waved Kelly away, and Kelly left them with one last look at Nick. Nick watched him go with a frown. He wasn’t sure why Kelly was so opposed to the restraints. Hell, last time he’d been injured Nick had asked them to restrain him because he’d almost killed the corpsman who’d been there to administer a blood test and had woken Nick too abruptly. The restraints were just to keep everyone safe, including Nick.
“Why’s he angry?” Nick asked Eli.
“You been talking in your sleep,” Eli said with a reassuring smile. It didn’t reach his eyes, though, and from the sadness in them Nick knew immediately what he must have been saying. Heat flushed across his cheeks. “None of us knew how much all that shit stuck with you and Grady. You never talk about it, so we figured you were okay. But you called out for Ty a couple times, so they had him come in here. You were . . . begging.” Eli winced and lowered his head.
Nick fought hard to swallow, forcing himself to keep looking at Eli so Eli wouldn’t know he was ashamed of it.
“Grady said he has the same dreams, told us a little about what you were probably dreaming.”
“Oh,” Nick said weakly, his eyes going unfocused because it was just too much effort otherwise.
“Doc didn’t take it too well. Hell, none of us did.”
Nick recalled the flash of anger in Kelly’s normally placid gray eyes and shivered.
“Hey Lucky, you ever need to talk that shit out, I got you. You know that, right?”
Nick met his eyes and nodded, earning himself a gentle pat on the head as Eli leaned closer. Nick stared at Eli for a few seconds, trying to remember what had happened this time after he’d been hit. It was all a haze of fire and drugs.
Eli began to grin, his dark eyes finally sparkling. “First person to get hurt this tour, that was the deal.”
“Deal’s a deal, papá.” He reached into the pocket of his uniform and withdrew a black permanent marker. “It’s for your own good.”
“Oh God,” Nick grunted, and he could only give a long-suffering sigh as Eli began a Sharpie doodle on his forearm. “If you draw a dick on me . . .”
“Would I do that?” Eli asked without looking up from his work. “I been practicing that Celtic knot stuff you showed me. This is going to be classy as shit.”
Nick couldn’t help his smile as he closed his eyes, relaxing as Eli’s familiar presence filled him with warmth and safety. “You’re classy as shit.”
1. If you were to describe your e-book/book in only one word, what would it be?
2. What would you say inspired you to write it?
Well, it’s the third in the Sidewinder series, so I didn’t get inspiration like I would have a stand-alone novel. But most of the books in the Cut & Run/Sidewinder universe have been action-packed, mystery/adventure novels. While I love that about these books, I knew Part & Parcel had to be different. This is the book that sets Nick and Kelly back on course, so it had to be about them and their past and their future, and for that reason I needed it to be slower in pace, more introspective. I take a roadtrip with friends every summer, and I’ve found it’s the best way to really find yourself if you’ve gotten lost, so I sent Sidewinder on their own roadtrip.
3. Have you ever been hit by the infamous “writer’s block”? What did you do to escape it?
Oh, yes. My creativity seems to ebb and flow with my health, which is unfortunate since I’m almost always hurt! A change of scenery will cure writer’s block for me 99% of the time. Sometimes it’s something as little as changing which chair I sit in while I’m writing or moving rooms in my house. Sometimes it takes something a little more adventurous.
4. Your all time favorite book?
The Three Musketeers
5. What made you pick that one above all others?
I read it during the summer before I went into the 6th grade, and I fell in love with that world, and more important, with Athos! IT was a time when a lot of kids are in an awkward stage, and I was no different. I was trying to find my place, trying to decide what my interests really were and just sort of foundering. That book not only fed my already present interest in history, but also sparked my love of adventure. The themes of honor and loyalty struck a deep chord with me as well, and I can honestly say that book helped me form the person I grew into.
6. What’s the longest time you’ve spent working on a project?
Oh lordy. I’ve got some works in progress that I started back in 2004, and they’re still sitting in my Cryogenic Suspension folder, waiting for me to come back to them. But for a project that I actually did finish, I think maybe 4 months from start to finish would be the longest I’ve ever toiled over something. If it takes longer than that, it usually means something’s not working, and I wind up shelving it to switch to something that will work.
7. Would you say becoming an author has changed you? In what way?
Most definitely. I was an athlete, and a pretty good one. I had intended for that to be my way of life; I was going to play until I no longer could, and then I was going to coach until it was time to retire. I wanted to be an archaeologist and work in the field, and combining the two careers at a school somewhere was my goal. But by the time I turned 20 years old, my shoulder had been totally wrecked and put me out of volleyball and softball for good, and my knee was in such shape that being a field archaeologist was going to be an extremely painful endeavor. I realized that everything I had spent my teen years working toward has gone up in smoke, and it was scary. I didn’t have a fall back plan. I had transferred my major to history with the intention of teaching, but by the time I graduated the program requirements had changed on me, and to get certified would have cost me three more years of college. I hated college, so I bailed with the degrees I had already earned. By the time I turned 27, I was no longer even able to coach because physically it was just too much for my injuries. I wasn’t able to give 100% to the girls who deserved it, so I retired my whistle for good. I was left with no job, no marketable skills, a baby girl, and a costly divorce. But I was lucky in that I sort of stumbled into writing as something to entertain myself during college courses that were so boring I wanted to cry. And then I stumbled again into fandom, and that eventually led to being published when I was 25 or so. By the time I realized that my future was in telling stories, I was already a few years into the career and earning enough royalties to make a living on it. So I guess you could say my lifestyle changed and made me become a writer, rather than writing changing my lifestyle. Either way, I’m so grateful every day that I can do something I love and live off it. It’s exactly what I had intended growing up, with a teeny tiny little diversion in the path.
8. Was there ever a time, during your work on the e-book/book, when you felt like giving up? What made you change your mind?
Just about every day. This is a different kind of book from what I usually write, and now and then I would convince myself that it just wasn’t working. And then I would wonder, ‘Am I too sick to be telling a story right now? Am I too sick to finish it?’ I don’t typically struggle with those sorts of issues while writing, so the very fact that I was suffering through doubts was new and scary for me. But I attribute almost all of those moments to how sick I was for the last few months. Nothing can mess with a creative process like pain, and I was lucky to have support from friends and Riptide to keep reminding me of that.
9. What does your day-to-day life consist of? What else do you do, aside from writing?
Not a lot, right now. I had my rotator cuff repaired in November, and then an emergency surgery to remove my gall bladder at the beginning of December, so right now my life consists of getting out of bed, taking a pain pill, sitting in my recliner with an ice pack and my evil kitty, Tango, and playing a lot of Spider Solitaire while I wait for the Panthers to play football on Sunday. Now, my normal day-to-day when I’m not recuperating, I do a lot more with my daughter, who turned 7 in October. I do a lot of traveling and exploring. I get antsy when I sit for too long, so I’ve typically got a few things going on at once. Writing is my job, and I do it from home. I’m afraid I’m not really all that exciting . . . unless you like football.
10. How do you deal with bad reviews or acid criticism? What would you advise other authors to that effect?
It’s not easy. Bad reviews are part of the job, and as long as they stick to the source material I really have no issue with them. You can’t please every person with every book, and to try is the path to madness! Critical reviews can give an author a chance to learn and hone their craft, if you have the mental toughness to read them. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. I’ve seen some reviews where it seemed like the reviewer took the book as a personal affront, and so their review becomes a personal attack. But those instances are rare and an author just has to brush them off and move on, as difficult as that is. The real issue with that acid criticism, as you put it (I like that term btw) is that a lot of times if someone is saying nasty things, they’re doing it to hurt an author and they make sure that author sees their words in some way. For whatever reasons, I get my share of hate. Everything from being lazy and ungrateful, to using a team of writers because I don’t care, to betraying my readers by having a certain character take up 18% of a book, to ‘no wonder her husband left her’ and ‘I’m glad you almost died during surgery, I hope next time it sticks’. It’s a horrible side-effect of being able to do what I love, and it’s incredibly hurtful, because it’s rooted in my creative choices but it sprouts into personal attacks. It’s easy to forget that people don’t actually know me, and that the personal hatred is unfounded even though the weight of those opinions builds up and becomes something incredibly heavy on my mind. As an author, or any creative professional really, if you pay too much attention to what people are saying, it will drive you into a deep depression, and depression is no good for creating. So if I see two or more instances where someone has said something needlessly nasty or personal, I’ll block my ability to see more of that person. I’ve gotten some flack from people for doing that – I was just giving my honest opinion and Abi blocked me, what a crazy diva! – but I’ve begun to operate under the rule that my mental health comes first. And since there’s really no roadmap for that kind of thing, that’s the only advice I can give to other authors when dealing with hurtful things; do what is best for your mental health.
11. Is this title part of a series? Without giving us spoilers, of course, what can we expect from the next e-books/books in the series?
Oh, yes. While the Sidewinder Series is related to the world of Cut & Run, it’s going to be different in that the Sidewinder books aren’t going to focus on the relationship arc of one couple like Cut & Run did with Ty and Zane. So far the Sidewinder books have followed Nick and Kelly and their struggle for happiness. But the fourth book, which doesn’t have a title yet, will focus on Owen Johns, a fellow Sidewinder team member and one of Nick and Kelly’s best friends. It won’t be romance, necessarily, and any romantic elements in the books will still linger with Nick and Kelly’s story, and sometimes even Ty and Zane! But each member of Sidewinder will get their moment(s) in the sun, and I’m so excited for readers to be able to get to know these men better.
12. What do you have stored for us in the future? What are you working on/planning on next, aside this title/series?
In the past I’ve been burned a couple times by sharing details of future projects in public, but I’m so grateful to be able to continue writing at all now that I’m on the mend, I can’t help but share some of these. I’ve got so many stories in waiting right now that it’s bordering on frustrating since I’ve been too sick to write them. Most of them are contemporary romances too, which is a little out of the ordinary for me, so I’m kind of excited to try my hand at them to see how people like them. Some other projects I’ve got up my sleeve include two untitled baseball novels that only have bits and pieces of plot so far, so they’re pretty far off. A football novel that is fully formed and ready to be put on digital paper that I’m super excited about but it’s bad luck to write about football during football season, so it will have to wait until late February to get started and that’s all I’m saying about that one! And then there’s a melancholy, sort of haunting western I’ve been calling Mad Dog & Ransom that follows a bounty hunter and his escaped prisoner who he happens to have fallen in love with. And this one is sort of way out of my comfort zone (probably because I came up with the idea while heavily stoned on pain meds) but I’m in love with the idea that the main character meets his soulmate on the same day that he dies, he reincarnates, meets his soulmate again, dies, and so on and so on. But through some glitch in the cosmic system, he can remember every life he’s lived. And with each life this guy is just getting more and more frustrated with his soulmate for not recognizing him, and with himself for freaking dying in such stupid ways every single time! He becomes convinced that if he can just find his soulmate and live through the day, that they’ll be able to live happily ever after, and after, and after, and that he’ll stop remembering the lives before. The only problem I have with this plethora of things to work on next, is trying to decide what to work on next!
1. If you could wish for any one thing, and it would immediately come true, what would you wish for? I’d wish for no pain.
2. If you were stranded on an isolated island, what’s the one book you’d absolutely wish to have with you? I know you probably mean which book I’d want to read for the rest of my life, but let’s be real here, I’d want a survival for dummies kind of book on that island with me!
3. Name your favorite fruit. Peaches, which I discovered purely by accident during the writing of Part & Parcel are actually drupes. And there’s no word that’s more fun to say than drupes and drupelets.
4. Coffee or tea? Neither, the smell of both make me sort of nauseous.
5. Favorite season? Fall, with its crisp air and beautiful colors and heavy nostalgia.
6. How about fav time of 24 hours? I like 2 am. It’s the darkest time of night, and there’s a stillness that’s utterly peaceful . . . right before my cat goes tearing through the house like his tail is on fire.
7. Were you a boyscout/girlscout? I was! For like three years between 1st and 3rd or 4th grade. I hated it with a fiery passion.
8. Favorite food for breakfast? Fried eggs with a tiny bit of salt and pepper.
9. Latest book you’ve bought and read? Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Quirky book.
10. Do you collect things like stamps, or key chains, or shoes? I collect stickers, patches, and Christmas ornaments from every place I travel to. Patches are sometimes hard to find, but I have a bag that’s almost completely covered with them.
11. Favorite color, you know you want to tell us! Panther Blue, baby!
12. Have a fav quote or personal motto? “Not all those who wander are lost,” from Tolkien.
13. Cats or dogs? I do enjoy dogs, but cats have always been my favorite.
14. Dinner by candlelight or a night out clubbing? I have never liked clubbing. I don’t like to be touched, so going to a club where strangers are milling around me with flashing lights that distort everyone and music too loud to hear if someone’s coming up behind you, it all just makes me want to bolt.
15. What song have you listened to most recently? I’ve got iTunes playing right now, and the song currently on is ‘Rattling Bone’ by Iron & Wine.
16. What first came to mind after reading question no. 1 of the Fun Facts section? I mean that thing that you reconsidered after giving it more thought 😛 My answer stands. After almost twenty solid years of living with chronic pain due to some heinous sports-related injuries, the thought of waking up one day and nothing hurting is just . . . it would change my life, and my daughter’s. It would be a life-saver.
1. Your top secret, uber guilty pleasure is... Eh, I’m not sure I have guilty pleasures. I really can’t think of one; all the pleasures I take in life are sort of normal. Football and baseball, constructing a story that comes together beautifully, witnessing new things in life through my daughter’s eyes.
2. If you could choose to be someone else for just one day, it would be… Cam Newton. I’ve never seen anyone enjoy life more than that sweet man-puppy does!
3. Your oldest memory is… I was on my parent’s bed taking a nap, and I woke up to the radio playing the country song from the 80’s, ‘Baby’s Got Her Blue Jeans On’ by Mel McDaniel, and I remember thinking, ‘I’m a baby! And I have blue jeans!’ That’s it, that’s the memory. I must have been between 2 ½ to 3 years old because that song came out in October of 1984.
4. If everyone would receive a prize for being best at something, you’d be no. 1 at… Oh lord. Well, I have quite a few MVP plaques from my volleyball days, and I have quite a few awards from book contests . . . but I think I need to take the 5th on that one.
5. The one thing you’d do anything to avoid/get out of is… Calling someone on the phone. I hate it so much.
6. Your favorite part of a date is… When it’s over! I was married at 20, and have only gone on a handful of dates since I was divorced, so I haven’t truly been on the dating scene since I was 17. And in the past few years I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m somewhere on the spectrum between demisexual and asexual, and that dating in general is just not for me. I’m happy being single and able to skip off into the sunset with my friends whenever I choose, with my Little Roux as the center of my world.
7. You were/are a hardcore fan of… Baseball. Football. I’ve been leaning toward football the last few years, and this year, since my Panthers are having one hell of a great and surprising season, the football fever is super strong.
8. The one thing you could/can never get over is… Betrayal, in all its forms.
9. If you could have any one superpower, it would be… I’ll stick with the theme here and say healing powers.
10. The one thing that always brightens your day is… My Little Roux. She’s smart as a whip, has a surprising sense of humor, and is just the most lovely little person I’ve ever known.
11. The most awkward moment in your life happened when… I was almost arrested once when some drunk lady crashed her car through my front fence, across my yard and into the lower ditch of my property, and I slept through it because I had taken a double dose of Nyquil before bed. When the patrol officers knocked on my door to ask what had happened and if the lady had come to the door for help, I was clueless. So the cops thought I was lying to them to cover for someone and threatened to take me to jail on obstruction of justice charges.
12. The awesomest thing in your life is… ME! Kidding . . . no I’m totally not, it’s me.
To celebrate the release of Part & Parcel, we are selecting TWO giveaway winners! One will receive the last four Cut & Run books in audio, and the other will receive the full Sidewinder series in audio. Your first comment at each stop on this tour enters you in the drawing. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on December 26, 2015. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. Entries. Follow the tour for more opportunities to enter the giveaway, and don’t forget to leave your email or method of contact so Riptide can reach you if you win!
About the Author & Links:
Abigail Roux was born and raised in North Carolina. A past volleyball star who specializes in sarcasm and painful historical accuracy, she currently spends her time coaching high school volleyball and investigating the mysteries of single motherhood. Any spare time is spent living and dying with every Atlanta Braves and Carolina Panthers game of the year.
Abigail has a daughter, Little Roux, who is the light of her life, a boxer, four rescued cats who play an ongoing live-action variation of Call of Duty throughout the house, a certifiable extended family down the road, and a cast of thousands in her head.