Subway Stops releases tomorrow!! YAY! We're so excited for you to read Cole's story.
It's okay if you didn't read Paper Planes, you can still enjoy Subway Stops. (Though you really should go read Brett and Ruby's story, it's super sweet! Plus, some plot point will be spoiled from PP if you read SS first.)
You can preorder #SubwayStops now so it'll be on your reading device the moment you're ready to read next . . .
For your reading pleasure . . . (These are both from Cole's POV)
FOUND OUT ABOUT YOU
FLIGHT 397 MEMORIAL—JUNE 17, 1993
One year ago, metal and debris washed upon this shore, littering the sand with bits and pieces. Lingering smoke marred the peaceful blue of the early summer sky where a plane fell in a ball of fire.
One year ago, phone calls were made. Loved ones were lost. Lives were changed. Families were shattered. And new ones built.
I search out Brett and Amber. I barely knew them a year ago. Today they’re my family. My brother and sister. Brett’s standing near the water, pensive as he gazes out at the horizon. He’s the opposite of Amber, who’s heading my way in a hurry. She appears tense and angry, even from this far away.
The briny tang of the ocean rides past on a warm breeze. I close my eyes, imagining the scene from a year ago as I say goodbye to the nightmare of the crash. I open my eyes again when screams of high-pitched, childish laughter reach me. Children chasing the rolling tide superimpose my vision of loss. My lips twitch. Joy is preferable to grief.
Sand clings stubbornly to the soles of my dress shoes as I leave the beach. I stomp on the boardwalk as I shake my pant legs. Pants at the beach in June. I’m dying here.
A blur of black appears in my peripheral vision. Amber. Her blonde head tilts toward the ground as she makes her way across the sand and steps onto the boardwalk.
“Hey.” My voice is barely audible. A funeral voice.
She ignores me.
Her head shakes hastily. Her hand lifts, waving me off as she hurries by, the floral scent of her mother’s perfume mixing with that of the beach.
“Wait, what’s wrong?” My shoes tap noisily on the wooden boardwalk as I pursue her.
“I’m fine. I need a minute.” Her words come out broken. Strained.
“Amber? Talk to me about it.”
She runs headlong into a couple, her hand covering her mouth as she shakes her head once again.
“Amber?” Curious glances turn my way from the lingering memorial attendees and a few beachgoers who didn’t know today’s memorial would take over their vacation spot.
What happened? Where’s Brett? What am I supposed to do with her? She ducks into the women’s restroom. What is she doing? Now what? Sweat beads across my forehead. Do I leave her alone? Stay here? What’s the protocol for handling over-emotional teenage girls? Why didn’t we cover this in med school?
“Is she okay? Can I help you in some way?” I turn toward the voice to find a gorgeous brunette standing behind me.
“Can you tell me how to lure a teenage girl out of the restroom?” The brunette’s eyes go wide, the greenish-gray bolts of shock threatening to strike me down. What the . . .
“Oh, no! No, no, no.” My head won’t shake fast enough. “She’s my sister, I swear. We’re—” I shove my fingers through my hair, barely controlling the urge to tear the strands out. “Her parents died in the crash. Flight 397.” I point toward the memorial in case she has no clue what I’m talking about. That’s dumb, everyone here knows about 397. “She’s upset. I don’t know—” Where is Brett when I need him?
“Okay, okay.” Her fingertips carefully graze my arm. “Let me go in there and check on her for you.” She vanishes through the doorway, leaving me gaping.
She doesn’t believe me. That was a patented ‘okay, creeper’ response if I ever heard one. She’s probably preparing herself to grab Amber and run.
I search for Brett once again, my eyes scanning past the dunes to the shore beyond. He’s finally heading my way.
“Brett.” I wave him over. “Something upset Amber and she hightailed it into the girls’ room and won’t come out.”
“She what?” He picks up his pace, panic morphing his facial expression.
I catch his elbow as tries to plow by. “Hey, you can’t go in there. I got help. Hang on.” Should that have been my response? There’s no mistaking his worry for his—no, our sister. I still suck at this sibling concept.
I shrug his question off with a shake of my head. I haven’t a clue what’s going on.
“Here she is.” The brunette appears in the doorway with Amber beside her. She wasn’t preparing for a grab and run after all. Thank goodness for small miracles.
Brett moves forward, immediately wrapping an arm over Amber’s shoulders. “Am?”
Take notes, Cole.
Amber’s swollen eyes flick my way. “I’m okay. I’m fine,” she sniffles as she leans into Brett’s side.
Brett nods, steering her away. Just like that? He made it seem so easy. My eyes follow them for a few steps. Amber’s back straightens as she swipes at her face. Brett lowers his head, whispering something as they walk away. At work I can console strangers when they lose a loved one, but I can’t handle my own sister? I shove my hands into my pockets. Today has been a day.
“Thank you for helping my sister,” I sigh heavily, turning my head for a better look at my bathroom hero’s profile. Not a bad sight at all.
“It was no problem. I’m really glad you weren’t lying.” The corner of her mouth pulls up slightly.
Those curiously colored eyes look back at me, and for a moment, time stands silently still. Remember, Cole, joy is preferable to grief. I turn and face her fully. “Yeah? What would you have done if I were?”
“I probably would’ve sought the help of all the other ladies in the restroom to gang up on you while we made a run for it.”
I draw a deep breath, standing taller and flexing my chest muscles. Schwarzenegger I am not. “I’m unsure whether I should be offended that you think I look like the type of guy who preys on teenage girls or grateful you felt the need to enlist the help of others to get past me.”
“Definitely the latter,” she laughs. It comes in waves, muffled behind her hand, then loud and throaty as she throws her head back.
Her laughter is contagious, and I easily join in. “Thanks for attempting to make me feel better. I had a moment of helplessness there. I’m not good at handling teenage girls.” Foot in mouth, dude. “I mean, I’m normally not so bad with my bedside manner.”
Her laughter softens to small chuckles beneath her breath. “Bedside manner, huh?”
“Doctor. I’m a doctor. I’m not bragging about my bedside bedside manner. I should shut up now.” Holy cow, I’m unnerved. The urge to slap my hand over my mouth is strong. If only it wouldn’t make me look like a bigger idiot.
She chews on her bottom lip, curbing a smile. “In my experience with teenage girls, it’s best to stay quiet and let them ride out their emotional roller coaster.”
“Stay quiet? I think I can do that. Any other advice?”
“She’s always right.”
“She is, is she? Now, is that advice pertaining to Amber specifically? Or all women in general?”
“All women.” Her raspy laughter sets my pulse racing.
“I’ll file that away for later use.” I push the sleeves of my dress shirt up my forearms, deliberately flexing my muscles with each movement. Her eyes follow me, and I sneak a peek at the time to hide the obviousness of my little show. It’s getting late. Afternoon shadows from the rapidly setting sun cover the bathhouse. “I should probably go check on them.” My gaze drifts back to this woman. A chunk of her dark hair rests in the V of her dress at her chest. I struggle to pry my eyes away.
“Oh, yeah. Of course.” Her hand spreads over where my gaze rested, her fingers nervously playing with the neckline of her dress. She sweeps her long hair over one shoulder, covering herself. She absolutely caught me staring. “Your family needs you.”
“Thank you again, honestly.” I lower my head, confiding with a wink. “I don’t know if you
noticed, but I was panicking before you came along.”
“I now see that’s what it was.” Her smile wavers as her eyes flit around the memorial before she looks at me again. “I’m glad I was the one to stumble onto you, doctor.”
“Me, too.” I tap two fingers to my temple, lifting my brows. “I’ll lock your advice away for safekeeping until I need it.”
I step backward. I don’t see beautiful women like her often, and I don’t want to walk away too quickly. I should get her name. See if she’s local. My lips part, but I swallow the words. We’re at a memorial site. She probably lost someone. She is dressed in black. It wouldn’t be appropriate. Shoving my hands into my pants pockets, I turn away with a nod and a smile, forcing the little voice telling me to ‘do something’ back into its box.
Get her name, Cole. I roll my eyes; the voice won’t stay locked away. He’s—I’m—completely nuts. Halfway down the boardwalk, I give in and turn around.
A heaviness settles in my chest as my gaze scans over the area. There’s no one around. The
pavilion is vacant. The beach and boardwalk are nearly empty, too. Dwelling on it won’t help. Amber and Brett are making their way up the beach toward me as their Gram heads my way from the memorial site. I drop my search for my mystery hero.
What kind of guy picks up a girl at a memorial service anyway? I grin. If I could rewind the moment, the answer would be me.
My lips twitch. I’m just that kind of guy.
HARD WORKIN’ MAN
SMITH’S GYRO CART—JULY 26, 1993
Ten minutes. I have ten minutes to grab a breath of fresh air, find a bite to eat, and haul tail back to the hospital, or Dr. Evil will stick me on bedpan duty for the remainder of my shift. Such is the life of a first-year resident. The eclectic aromas of Manhattan in the summer assault me as I cross over 1st Avenue. The scent of trash, urine, and gasoline is marginally better than the stench of the blood and antiseptic I’ve been inhaling for the last six hours. Admiring the scents of New York streets and hospitals, that’s not sad at all. I’ve got to get out more often.
I verify the time—nine minutes left. The tapping of my feet on the pavement gets a little quicker as I pick up my pace. Why can I find a hot dog vendor on every corner when I don’t want one, but they’re nowhere to be found when my butt is on the line? Ahh, food truck umbrellas! Thank God it’s only one block away. Seven and a half minutes left; I can’t be picky today.
The aroma of meat and peppers sizzling on a grill replaces the less appetizing scents of the city as I reach 1st and Mt. Carmel. Smith’s Gyros. Not my favorite, but it’ll have to do because I’m starving and out of time.
I join the short line of suits waiting to order. Two third-year residents ahead of me nod a greeting as they wait for their food. Does my face have the same sallow, exhausted expression as theirs? I bounce in place, rubbing my palms over my eyes and shoving my fingers through my hair in an effort to liven myself up a bit. I’m third in line, mentally finalizing my order, soaking in the sunshine, and checking out the park and playground on my left when my eyes land on the brunette in line behind me.
Wait . . .
My head snaps back for a second look. Is that? I skim over the lean frame dressed in workout clothing behind me. There’s something so familiar about her. Something about the way she stands. She slips her black sunglasses on top of her head and I see her face. Holy crap, it is her!
She’s run through my mind more than once in the last month. The girl in the black dress with the smoky voice who made my pulse race. What are the chances I’d see her again?
Her hands lift, adjusting the dark ponytail at the top of her head; and her eyes, those amazingly colored greenish-gray eyes, meet mine. There’s a glint of uncertainty, a spark of ‘Do I know you?’ mixed with ‘Why are you staring at me, you freak?’
I’m probably creeping her out with the way I’m ogling and smiling.
“Hey,” I say once I can muster the words. “You’re . . . I mean, we met on Long Island last month.”
Her hands drop from her hair as recognition dawns. “Oh, right. Doctor—”
“Cole.” I turn, facing her fully.
“Dr. Cole. It’s nice to see you again.” She extends her hand. No rings, but she’s in workout clothing, so that might mean nothing.
I chuckle, “No, it’s Dr. Rossner. You can call me Cole, though.” My hand closes around hers as my eyes rove back over her body. My wandering eyes can’t be helped; she’s dressed in tight spandex, after all.
She tugs her hand from mine and tucks a stray hair behind her ear with a polite smile. “I’m Samantha. You can call me Sam.”
“Sam,” I repeat under my breath. “I have to tell you, I kicked myself for not getting your name that day at the beach. You were a life-saver.”
Her lip twitches, not quite a full smile, but more of a knowing smirk. Like she thinks she has me figured out. “How is your sister?”
“She’s—” She’s Amber. In the two weeks since she was in the city with Brett and me, I’ve barely slept, let alone had time to check in on my teenage sister. Brett says she’s okay, and I’m working on trusting his judgment of his twin. He knows her better than I do. “She’s dealing with a lot, but she’s coping.”
Sam nods slowly. She understands the pain the crash left behind. She was at the memorial, too.
A suit nods behind her, pointing out the moving line, so I turn back to the cart.
“Here,” I step aside, extending my arm and waving Sam up. “Go before me.”
“You really don’t have to do that. It’s okay. You were here first.”
Sam hesitates before ducking her head as she brushes past me. “Thanks.”
“No problem. Do you live around here?” I ask, checking out her backside in her workout gear.
“Umm . . .” She hesitates long enough for the vendor to cut her off.
Beep, beep, beep.
My beeper goes off now? Figures. My hand moves to my waist, and a sigh falls from my lips as I read the numbers. 911. Crap.
“Well, Sam, duty calls,” I say to the back of her head as I check my watch again. I had three minutes left. Dang it.
I’m already backing away when she looks down at my beeper. “Oh, no! You didn’t get to eat lunch. If you wait a second, you can have mine.”
“I’m a first-year resident; not eating goes with the title.” I shrug, my stomach growling in protest as I take off toward Bellevue. Something tugs at me and I turn, calling over my shoulder, “It was really good seeing you again.”
“You, too.” Her voice is all but lost on the wind as I jog away.
I curse all the way back to the hospital and right up until I’m running through the ER doors and elbows deep in blood. I have her first name, but I’m no closer to knowing who she is than I was the first time we met. What are the odds I’ll bump into her a third time?