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Hello Hell
by Sheila M. Good

When circumstances force Claire Nelson to return to her hometown, after sixteen years of estrangement, She must leave the life she’s built for herself behind, face the painful secrets of the pasts, while confronting a truth she never expected to find.

Chapter One
Chance Encounter

Claire’s feet made soft lite taps on the pavement. A swirl of multicolored leaves fluttered across her path like confetti as she rounded the last curve. Grateful Blossom Street Bridge was in sight, she slowed to a walk, pushed stop on the iPhone strap...





Chapter Two
If It Ain't Broke

At five-fifteen Claire hit the send button, turned off her computer, and stretched, proud of herself. The overhead light brightened automatically as the sun slipped behind the tall buildings. Situated on the twelfth floor of the hospital, Claire’s office, with its full corner windows, offe...





Chapter Three
Luck of the Draw

Gabe couldn’t believe his luck. What were the odds of running into a woman named Claire Nelson on his first day? Of course, she might not be the right Claire. With little information to go on, proving it was gonna be a challenge. He pulled a notepad from his p...





Chapter Four
Lying Was Always Easier

Sam’s words, you have an obligation, played over in Claire’s head like a broken record. She couldn’t believe Sam tried to pull that Sunday School shit on her; he knew better. Honor your Mother and Father, that your days shall ...





Chapter Five
Blindsided

What the fuck? Stephen slammed his fist against the steering wheel, put the car into gear and backed out of Claire’s drive, made a left at the end of the street, and headed in the direction of the lake. What the hell just happened? He felt blindsided. It was as if he&rsquo...





Chapter Six
Blackness

It was ten-thirty by the time she arrived at the kennel and Sadie was neither happy nor cooperative. Claire tugged on her leash, "Come on, girl. Don’t be difficult.”

The teenybopper covering the night shift greeted them from behind the counter. &ld...





Chapter Seven
The Road Home

The Inn’s driver held up a sign with her name on it. He looked like one of the locals she remembered. Dressed in a flannel shirt and jeans, he could have been the father of any of her old friends. When he saw her head in his direction, he broke into a warm smi...





Chapter Eight
Main Street Bed & Breakfast

Shimmers of soft light danced across the dark walnut floors of the entranceway from one of the largest crystal chandeliers she’d ever seen in a foyer.

A woman rounded the corner, wiping her hands on the apron she wore over her calf-length skirt and class...





Chapter Nine
Nothing Ventured

Gabe examined himself in the mirror and adjusted his tie. Better, but still felt like a damn noose around his neck. The last time he’d worn a tie was in parochial school as a kid. It had taken himself the night to come up with enough facts for a cover...





Chapter Ten
Cold Reality

The bedside clock read just past six AM when Claire awoke from a fitful night's sleep. The aroma of fresh baked bread and coffee drifted up the stairway. She thought, briefly, about burying herself under the goose down covers for the next week, but then the cold rea...





Chapter Eleven
Old Acquaintances

Claire wished she could talk to Stephen. She understood his anger, especially after she made a promise, melted under his touch, and lead him to believe he had a chance of her saying yes. Blowing him and the weekend off after that performance, he probably would never...





Chapter Twelve
Post-Op Conference

“Ms. Nelson?”

Claire stood and laid the tattered magazine aside as the doctor approached. 

“Yes?”

“I’m Dr. Matthews. “Your mother’s surgery went well. There were no complications. She's stable an...





Chapter Thirteen
The First of Many

Claire paced the length of the hall trying to figure out what to do next. She needed to talk to Sam and her boss. Arrangements had to made for her mother, and even with Sam’s help, Claire didn't think anything would get done over the next twenty-four hours. Sh...





Chapter Fourteen
Information Airways

Gabe spent his Sunday afternoon in his now favorite bistro taking advantage of the free WIFI scanning pictures of every social event he could locate connected to Mass General. He’d already discovered the hospital hosted an annual fundraiser at Christmas to ben...





Chapter Fifteen
Junior High Again

As planned her mother had been transferred the following day to room 505 on the orthopedic floor. Claire spoke to the nurse in ICU earlier and received a full report. Her mother was awake but still confused at times. 

 It was seven-thirty by the time...





Chapter Sixteen
A Meeting With Sam

 They had finally gotten a break; for the last forty-eight hours, Dorothy had remained lucid and Dr. Norman agreed to go ahead with his evaluation.  fClaire took the opportunity to schedule a meeting with Sam. He’d been after her for days. Luckily, his mid-day appointment canceled...





Chapter Seventeen
The Evaluation

Claire was the first one in the dining room after a fitful night's sleep. She needed to get in, grab her coffee, and get out; today promised to be another long day. 

Dorothy was coming along nicely in physical therapy, but today Dr. Norman would begin his...





Chapter Eighteen
Reviving Old Scars

Claire left the cafe unnerved. Memories were coming at her like flying shrapnel and the desire to run, was almost overwhelming. How did she manage to let Sam bring her here? 

In light of her hectic and stressful week, Claire had looked forward to reconnec...





Chapter Nineteen
Pressure Mounts

Time was racing by Claire in a blur. In the last few days, her visits with Dorothy had been brief; the shorter, the better for now. The rest of the time she'd spent observing Dorothy’s rehabilitation, meeting with caseworkers, or investigating other options. I...





Chapter Twenty
Trouble

Claire didn’t bother going back to the hospital, and she didn't call to check on Dorothy either. By the time she left the house, Claire had nothing left to give. 

 The hospital staff could take care of Dorothy tonight. She’d do just fine ...





Chapter Twenty One
The Going Rate

Claire barely slept a wink. Tossing and turning, kicking covers like a four-year-old. She finally got up about three and took a long soaking bath which helped relax her a bit, but now she was exhausted from lack of sleep. She felt like a school girl when she thought...





Chapter Twenty-Two
One Step Closer

Gabe stuck his briefcase between his feet and the phone on his shoulder as he removed the top from the scalding hot coffee and brew on it. The ringing continued on the other end of the line. He set his cup aside at the sound of a click and gruff hello.&ldqu...





Chapter Twenty-Three
A Crack in the Veneer

Finally, Claire felt as if all the stars were beginning to align. She had her sitter, Fanny was getting the house clean and ready, Sadie was happy as a lark with Stephen, and he was at least still talking to her, even though they argued. Claire would check on her mo...





Chapter Twenty-Four
Unexpected Guests

The way her moods were shifting, especially today, it’s a wonder someone didn’t accuse her of being off her meds. Amazing how one little accomplishment could make you feel as if you had a red cape draped over your shoulders. Claire laughed at the thought of her in a red cape and turn...





Chapter Twenty-Five
Safe Harbor

Sadie hopped up on the bed as soon as Claire closed the door to the room. She wasn’t prepared for all the surprises from tonight, but Sadie was a welcome and comforting sight. Claire sat on the side of the bed and reached for her favorite companion. Sadie didn...





Chapter Twenty-Six
The Late Hour

Although the hour was late when Claire finally crawled beneath the covers, she slept like a baby cuddled next to Sadie. She’d always been a believer in the soothing power of man’s best friend, but never as much as when her eyes fluttered open with Sadie ...










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