Excerpt from All the Pretty Bones by Camela Thompson
Sean was standing in his kitchen making a stack of nachos to rival the eight-layer cake he demolished in college on a dare. He was lucky Tammy let him hit the gym as much as he did. With his appetite, he was going to turn into a fat bastard the day he stopped working out. He smiled as he dumped a can of olive slices over the top, his big hands dwarfing the little container. Tammy had taken the kids to her mom's place for the day, so he'd not only worked out, but was looking forward to nearly five hours watching football.
He winced when his cell phone buzzed in his pocket and prayed that it wasn't Tammy letting him know she was on her way home with a sick kid. He loved his family, but his job as a homicide detective didn't give him enough downtime. A Sunday off rotation paired with uninterrupted, unfiltered access to the television was the Holy Grail.
He frowned at the 253 area code without caller ID and shrugged before answering the phone. "This is Sean Howard."
"Hi, Sean. How's the family?"
Sean would recognize that voice anywhere, even with the static crashing across the line like waves battering the shore. "Olivia? I didn't recognize the number. Man, you need to switch providers. That is one helluva connection." He strained against the phone, hoping her voice would come through clearer. It was a little husky and still sexy as hell.
"Yeah, I changed the number recently."
Sean shut his eyes, struggling to push the image of her face out of his mind before responding. "The kids are good. Growing all the time. Tammy is pregnant with our third."
"Congratulations! That's great, Sean." She sounded sincere, which was surprising considering they broke up because she didn't want to settle down or mess with kids of her own.
"Yeah, thanks. Kids are such a joy. It's really the best thing I've done with my life." Shit. He shouldn't have put it like that. He didn't want her to think he was rubbing her nose in an ancient fight. "How're you doing?"
"Oh, fine." She sighed into the phone before she blurted, "Sean, I kind of need a favor."
He hadn't heard from her in four years, but Sean was loyal to a fault. "Sure. What's up?"
"Do you know of any discreet suppliers of self-defense equipment?"
Sean let the air fill with static as his cop instincts screamed. The words "discreet" and "self-defense" were an infamous combination and usually led to his specialty: homicide. And usually it was the woman trying to protect herself who ended up dead. "What do you need exactly?"
A surge of heat burst along Sean's spine and flared out, warming his chest. He suddenly knew what was plaguing Olivia, and he stood gripping the countertop until the wood creaked. He fought the urge to find her and protect her. "Is that bastard still bothering you?"
More About Sean
Sean Howard is a homicide detective for the Seattle Police Department. Suspects underestimate his intelligence because of his brute size, but he has an uncanny ability to find a weak link in a story and capitalize on it during interviews. Despite his intimidating physique, he is a family man and a good father to his two sons. Some cases are harder than others, but he does his best to leave work at the door. Time with his boys helps ground him.
Prior to settling down with Tammy, Sean was in an intense relationship with Olivia Kardos. It took months to get over her, and if he's honest with himself, she's the one who got away. Sean wants to make the right decisions for his family, but this phone call is just the first in a series of events that drag him into a struggle between being a good husband and saving the woman he loved with a frightening intensity.
The first two chapters of All the Pretty Bones are being sent to my mailing list tonight!
by Camela Thompson
I remember being young and thinking that once I was old and could make all of my own decisions, my life would be made. If that little kid had known what I do now, she would have hid in her bedroom and never emerged. There are days when I wish someone would swoop in - someone as knowledgeable as I perceived adults to be at the time - and make the right decision for me. My intelligence hasn't diminished, I've just realized how little knowledge I've been able to glean in the vast scheme of things. That know-it-all kid has learned again and again that things are not simple. Getting ill really drove that home - not only when I struggled with decisions about my own health care, but when people felt compelled to inform me what I should be doing differently.
What is Systemic Lupus Erythematosus?
Systemic lupus is an autoimmune disease and is often referred to as an "invisible disease." Some of us get what is known as a malar rash across the bridge of our nose, but most of us show very few external physical symptoms. The majority of the symptoms are internal, even though they may be painful.
To oversimplify the disease, systemic lupus is a dysfunction of the immune system that causes immune cells to see the body's own cells as invasive enemies that must be destroyed. This means that at any given time, the body may be triggered into turning on itself. Sometimes this destructive behavior is targeted toward a nervous system, joints, or organs. It's a difficult disease to diagnose because no two patients present the same way and the disease can mimic many other diseases. No one seems to understand what causes it (it's thought to be a combination of environmental factors and genetics because there are some genetic trends, but identical twins may not both have an active form of the disease). There isn't a simple blood test - lupus patients have a positive ANA, but so does a percentage of the healthy population. The other tests (APLs, Anti-Sma, Anti-dsDNA, etc.) may hep diagnose the condition, but only a small percentage of lupus patients have positive results for any of those tests. A combination of blood work and symptom history are used by experienced rheumatoligists, and in my experience, general practitioners may still question the diagnosis on any given day (which is when I refer them back to my rhuematologist).
My first lupus flare up was frightening. The symptoms sucked, but not knowing what was happening? For a control freak, perfectionist such as myself, I had to wonder if some higher power was punishing me for actions taken in a past life. Because lupus is hard to diagnose, I wondered if it was in my head. So did other people. My first reaction at diagnosis wasn't the typical panic. I felt vindicated. "I told you something was wrong!" Even after being diagnosed by two experts (rheumatologists), I've had a general practitioner question me along with friends, coworkers, and strangers. I've been told that I have Lyme disease (which is an awful disease, but I've been tested multiple times for it) along with a myriad of other alternatives.
There have been some lessons driven home through experience. One of the first symptoms that comes with a flare up is unexplained and dramatic weight loss. I've been followed into the bathroom by well meaning coworkers who suspected bulimia after watching me pack down a huge meal, and lectured by well meaning survivors of eating disorders. I used to jump to the same conclusions when someone is painfully thin. Now I ask more questions or try to reserve judgment.
I used to assume that good living and natural means of health care could cure anything. I've since learned that life choices make a big difference, but people can do everything right and still be sick. The medications have horrible side effects, but sometimes it is worth improving quality of life. If I get to the point where I can't even rest a sheet on my abdomen because of the pain, I'm taking prednisone again (sorry, Lance - I know the mood swings are horrible).
The biggest lessons I have learned are to not question someone's diagnosis and to never question their healthcare decisions. If they decide they need to take the latest medication, more power to them. If they want to sit in a smoke hut in Albuquerque, I hope it works. If they want to turn to prayer and fasting, I just hope their doctor gives them sound advice and they listen to the impacts something like that can have on a stressed body - but I hope it helps. If a friend has decided that they no longer want treatment and it's time to let go, I will sit by their side if they let me. On the inside I might be frustrated or angry because I'm selfish and want them in my life longer, but I understand that it is their choice and they didn't come to the decision lightly.
What have you learned through illness? Have there been times when an assumption was disproved? What has frustrated you when you were ill?
Freelance writer and Dark urban fantasy author featuring vampires with bite.