Conscience - Cecilia London

Chapter One

The Hospital

Caroline Gerard hated hospitals. In a seriously paranoid, irrational way. The labor and delivery section, generally a safe haven even when surrounded by sickness and death, was no exception. When she was in labor with both of her children, she freaked out the first time she took a moment to realize where she was. Drugs helped. Breathing exercises helped. Pacing around the room seemed to help, even after she had an emergency C-section with her second daughter Sophie and suffered through excruciating pain for days.

Calm down. Panic gets you nowhere.

There was no pacing to be done in this hospital room. She was handcuffed to the bedrail. Trapped like an animal. It defied reason that someone would magically appear and give her something palliative and soothing to ease her troubles. She’d been provided any number of wonderfully amazing drugs the last time she was in a hospital. That wasn’t going to happen now. And this sure as hell wasn’t a maternity ward.

Stop freaking out.

Caroline tried to adjust herself in the bed. The handcuff on her right arm dug into her wrist. She grunted in pain. Her anxiety tended to creep up at inopportune times as most worries did, and she willed herself not to have an attack as the handcuff continued to chafe her skin.

This is bad. This is really, really bad.

There were no windows in the hospital room, nothing to give her a clue as to where she was or who was with her. It was inexplicably quiet save for the hiss of the machines near the bed. She closed her eyes, trying not to cry. Her tears would do her no good now.

Caroline yanked at the cuff again, hoping for a miracle. As if she would have been able to do something if she managed to break free. She took a deep, painful breath and felt the bandages wrapped around her ribs. Broken, or merely fractured? The distinction seemed relative. She had a small bandage over the bullet wound on her leg. That part of her body didn’t ache, so the injury had apparently been minor. Unless they really weren’t all that concerned about giving her proper medical treatment.

Calm. The. Fuck. Down.

She touched the splint on her nose, which still hurt the most. Those soldiers had beaten the shit out of her. Her eye swelling had receded but her still tender nose was bandaged in place. Her left cheek didn’t feel so hot either. How long had she been unconscious? She didn’t have to move around much to figure out that her back and legs had plenty of bruises from the brutal assault.

Panic gave way to planning. Her mind moved as rapidly as it could, slowed by fatigue and the aftereffects of sedation. She tried to figure out any possible way out of the situation and couldn’t come up with a single one that would end well. She and Jack hadn’t really thought things out when they rushed to the car when the soldiers arrived. Hadn’t really talked about it either. They simply panicked, running on adrenaline. Jack had been too overly protective, too afraid to ask the hard questions, with Caroline too terrified to think rationally.

Their limited planning proved pointless as the soldiers shot their way through the governor’s remaining security staff. All young. All unattached. Most of whom had stuck around because they knew the danger and were determined to keep Jack and Caroline safe. She couldn’t even remember all their names now. All she could do was make out the sound of gunfire, the screams and shouts, the thuds as brave men hit the floor. She could smell the cordite. Felt the blood running down her leg as she and Jack stumbled through the house.

A fairly horrid memory, too vividly unsettling for her taste.

She and Jack had squeaked out the back door, then barreled through the front gate in their SUV. She still couldn’t figure out how they’d done it. By then they were marked, needing to shake up routes and leave anything distinctive behind. The first time they switched vehicles they left a small arsenal behind in the trunk. What Caroline would give for just one of those guns right now, even if it was unloaded. At least then she’d have something to pretend to defend herself with.

How much time had passed since that night in the woods? Days? Weeks? It couldn’t have been months. She pressed her fingers to her ribs. She could feel them poking out, just barely. That had never happened