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Jennifer Youngblood

Yours By Christmas

Yours By Christmas

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📚Read an Excerpt

As Beckett sat down in his seat, his eye caught on the woman bowling next to them. His heart skipped a beat. To say she was beautiful was as much of an understatement as saying Park City had snow in winter. The woman was stunning. Medium height, she was thin but shapely in tight-fitting jeans and a denim button-down shirt. Her long, honey-blonde hair bounced lightly against her slender shoulders as she moved. He knew he shouldn’t stare, but he couldn’t seem to take his eyes off her. She retrieved a ball from the return and walked to her lane, holding the ball to her chest. When she let go, the ball bounced noisily on the wood floor before toppling into the gutter.

Her shoulders dropped a fraction in disappointment as she went back to get her ball. She appeared to be alone. Interesting. It wasn’t often that people bowled alone. He watched as she tried again. Like the first time, the ball went straight into the gutter.

As she walked regally back to get her ball, she must’ve felt Beckett watching her because she looked in his direction. Electricity jolted through him like a live wire when their eyes met. A stupid grin washed over his face, and he felt like he was sixteen again.

She smiled. It was a glorious, full-mouth smile that crinkled her eyes. Beckett couldn’t tell from this distance what color her eyes were, but he was dying to know. 

“Did you see that? Another strike! Two in a row,” Jazzie announced, her voice singing with excitement. 

The woman looked down as she reached for her ball, breaking eye contact.

“You didn’t even see it, did you?” 

“Huh?” He shook his head, coming out of the daze as he focused on Jazzie whose brows were scrunched, her face squished with irritation. She waved a hand in front of his face. “Earth to Dad. I just bowled another strike.”

He forced his mind back to Jazzie. “Wow! Two in a row. You’re on a roll.”

Yeah.” She shot her fist in the air.

As Beckett stood, he couldn’t help but steal another glance at the woman. This go-around, she managed to knock over three pins. Jazzie followed his eyes. A second later, her face lit up like a Christmas tree as she smiled broadly. “Ah, I see why you were preoccupied... because of her.”

Heat blasted Beckett as he rubbed a hand over his neck. “No, that’s not why. I got a text and was reading it,” he fudged.

Jazzie folded her arms over her chest. “Liar, liar pants on fire.” She looked at the woman, frowning. “One thing’s for sure, she’s a lousy bowler.”

“Shh,” Beckett warned. “She’ll hear you.”

Jazzie’s eyes swirled with amusement. “You like her.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Beckett scoffed, reaching for his ball, “I don’t even know her.”

A mischievous light flickered in Jazzie’s dark eyes. “Well, let’s see if we can do something about that.”

Before Beckett could stop her, she jumped up and went over to the blonde.

A recovering alcoholic turned firefighter, a mysterious woman with a secret, and the Christmas miracle that just might save them both.

Beckett Bradshaw knows what it’s like to be on top of the world and then to come crashing down to the lowest form of human existence, living on the streets. It has taken a huge amount of hard work and self control to get where he is today. He’s content with his job as a firefighter and so incredibly grateful for the miraculous recovery of his young daughter.

When a mysterious old lady shows up at the fire station and makes a prophecy that Beckett will find love by Christmas, he doesn’t believe it. Beckett doesn’t dare pray for the desires of his heart for fear that he’s used up all of his miracles.

Then, Beckett meets the beautiful and vivacious Ava Lawrence and starts to hope that maybe he really can find love. Beckett is hesitant to tell Ava about his checkered past for fear that she won’t want him. However, Ava has a few secrets of her own that could destroy everything Beckett has built.

Will a Christmas miracle be enough to bind two lonely hearts together or will the scars of the past prevent Beckett and Ava from finding the lasting love they most desire?

Read the First Chapter

It was the kind of cold that would freeze a person’s toes and fingers off. In another time and place, Beckett wouldn’t have spent more than thirty minutes outside. Tonight, however, he was grateful for the cold. It sank through the holes of his worn shoes, moving up his legs and torso like morphine, numbing his aching heart. The cold snuffed out the fire raging in his head—the voice that screamed of his failures and how any path to redemption was forever barred.

He trudged through the snow, oblivious to the trash littering the sidewalk or the bars covering the windows of the aging buildings. The sights and stench of the streets would’ve horrified him before, when he was donning two-thousand-dollar suits and driving a Lexus to his high-rise office in the center of downtown Salt Lake City. Now, it was as commonplace as breathing.

The frigid wind picked up. He pulled his thin coat tighter around him as he tucked his chin into his neck and plodded forward. 

Normally, Beckett’s senses were dulled to the point where he hardly remembered the life he lived before. Alcohol was the great cure-all. If he drank enough of it, he could hardly remember his own name. Today, however, was different. Today was Jasmine’s birthday. She was turning seven today. Beckett didn’t want to think about Jasmine with her happy, rosy cheeks and cocoa-colored ringlets. The trusting look in her deep brown eyes. The lilt in her voice when she called him daddy. Jasmine wanted a pink Barbie cake with sparkles. Tears pressed against his eyes as he swallowed. Unbidden scenes from the accident flashed before his eyes, the guilt knotting his gut. 

It had been a normal day. Pressures at the office were increasing. Beckett was always behind. Nothing he did was enough to satisfy his bulldog boss. Before darting out of his office to pick up Jasmine from her dance class, he’d taken a few swigs out of the flask he kept hidden beneath a stack of files in his bottom desk drawer. One minute he was driving, the road a blur, Jasmine chattering about a new dance she’d learned. The next minute, everything changed. Beckett felt the blunt force of the crash the same instant he heard the sickening sound of crunching metal. Then came the worst—Jasmine’s terrified screams that gave way to intermittent whimpers. He’d called 911, screaming into the phone. It seemed to take forever before the wail of the sirens pierced the night air. 

A few hours later, in a sterile hospital waiting room, a grim-faced doctor would deliver the blow. Jasmine’s ankle had been crushed. It would require multiple surgeries, and there was a chance she’d never walk again. Melinda’s face had crumpled, tears streaming down her cheeks. As Beckett went to hug her, she pushed him away, condemnation burning in her eyes. “This is all your fault!” she spat. 

“Please, Melinda.” His voice had cracked with desperation. “I—I’m sorry. I never meant—” He reached for her again. 

She got up in his face. “I can smell the alcohol on your breath.” For an instant, Beckett saw something in her eyes—a sliver of the love they’d once shared. Before he could blink, however, her eyes went flatter than dull pennies as she turned her back to him and walked away.

It was then that he’d known, he was dead to her. He loosened his silk tie and threw it into the garbage on his way out of the hospital. 

That was six months ago. 

He wet his dry lips, the thirst for a drink rising in him like a greedy vulture demanding to be satisfied. He paused and leaned against the side of a building, removing the bottle from inside his coat. Beckett took a long swig, appreciating how the liquid burned down his throat. Another couple of drinks helped ease the pain. The snow was falling harder, large blobs coating everything in white. Cars moved along the streets like cautious snails, trying to avoid contact. The world felt still, like he was in one of those snow globes Jasmine loved. Beckett’s breath pushed out a warm mist against the air as he continued to his destination.

Fifteen minutes later, he went in through the backdoor of a shelter. A middle-aged, portly man with a tapered salt and pepper beard was sitting behind a metal desk, chewing on a pencil as he stared at the screen of his laptop. When he saw Beckett, he waved in recognition as he stood, pulling his pants over his belly. “Hey, Blanket Man. I wondered what time you’d show up here.” He went to a nearby counter and picked up a stack of blankets, depositing them in Beckett’s arms. “It’s a cold one tonight. The temperature’s falling into the single digits.” 


“I’m sure there’ll be plenty of people who can use these blankets. Some ladies from a local church dropped them off today. It’s mighty kind of you to deliver them. After you get done passing these out, there are plenty more.”

Beckett nodded. This was how the conversation always went, with Scotty making small talk and Beckett throwing in a few short answers and nods. Scotty didn’t seem to mind that Beckett didn’t want to talk. He was always pleasant, and he looked Beckett in the eye when he spoke to him. Most people didn’t. The homeless moved through the city like faceless ghosts, scavenging what they could to survive.

“Oh, by the way, I reserved you a spot at the shelter tonight. It’s too cold to be outside.”

“Thank you.” Beckett’s hands ached from the cold. He’d had a pair of gloves once, but they were long gone. 

“Tell everyone you see that they need to get indoors.” Scotty’s mouth turned down in a frown as he pulled at his beard. “This is the kind of weather that kills people.”

If only Beckett could be so lucky. Death was preferable to his miserable existence. Several times, he’d looked up at the tops of the buildings, thinking how easy it would be to just jump and end it all. He didn’t know what was keeping him here. Maybe it was cowardice. Even now, he craved life and the bottle. Maybe it was Jasmine. His heart clutched as he pushed the thoughts away. He no longer had a wife or daughter. He was a nobody. 

With the blankets in hand, Beckett went out the door. After the warmth of the shelter, the night felt colder. He suppressed a shiver, forcing himself to embrace the cold as his feet worked through the snow. His first stop was a group of four men at a nearby park. They were sitting on the ground, huddled close together, their backs resting against a waist-high concrete wall. 

“It’s Blanket Man,” an older man named Beaker exclaimed in a hoarse voice. No one went by their real names on the streets. They used names that fit the person’s personality or features. Beaker had a large, pitted nose. He held up a gnarly hand. “Join the party,” he said glibly. “It’s a little cold, but what can ya do?” He laughed at his own joke. 

Slim Jim, sitting next to him, barked out a raspy smoker laugh, his thin shoulders shaking. “Yep, we’re having us a party.” He raised a hopeful eye to Beckett. “Got anything to drink?”

“Or a cigarette?” a young man with greasy hair and glassy eyes asked.

A pang shot through Beckett. The kid was a newcomer. He couldn’t be more than eighteen or nineteen years old. His face was gaunt, his eyes ringed in hollow circles. It seemed such a shame for him to be here, strung out on drugs. Even as the thought ran through his mind, Beckett laughed inwardly. He, of all people, had no room to judge. No one on the streets would ever imagine that he used to be an executive at one of the most prestigious financial advisory firms in Salt Lake. Out here, he was a scruffy drunk who delivered blankets to those who didn’t have the presence of mind to seek shelter when the temperatures plummeted. He didn’t really know why he felt compelled to go out night after night, delivering blankets. Maybe it was a form of atonement for his past sins. All he knew was that he couldn’t seem to rest until the blankets were handed out.

“Nope, sorry. I’m all out of both,” Beckett lied, “but I do come bearing gifts.” No way was he sharing his booze. He’d spent a full day cleaning trash out of a yard to earn the money to buy this bottle. He handed them each a blanket. “It’s supposed to be down in the single digits tonight,” he said, repeating Scotty’s words. “It might be wise to get to a shelter.” The cold seeped into his bones, making him feel sluggish. 

Beaker waved a hand. “Nah, too crowded. We’ll be all right.”

The young man started singing a song about them being all right. 

“Suit yourselves.” Beckett moved on to the next stop, passing out more blankets. He suspected that a few of the people were so far gone in their minds that they didn’t even realize they were cold. One man was holding an animated conversation with an imaginary person, laughing one second and shouting curses the next. Maybe Beckett would end up that way—not having a clue who he even was. When the blankets were gone he returned to the shelter, intent on making one more round before hunkering down for the night. 

“Hey,” Scotty said, “you’re back.”

Beckett gave a curt nod of acknowledgement and went to the counter, picking up an armful of blankets.

Scotty touched his beard. “Uh, Beckett, before you head back out, there’s someone here to see you.”

Beckett frowned, hearing his own name. Not once, in all the times he’d come to this shelter to pick up blankets, had Scotty called him by his real name. Up until now, Beckett hadn’t even realized that Scotty knew his name. Suspicion stirred inside him. “Who is it?” he demanded. It had better not be his former boss! Jack Bisson had come lurking around once, about a month after Beckett had thrown in the towel. He urged Beckett to check himself into a rehab center, saying he’d even pay for the treatment. “Think of your wife and daughter,” Jack had said. “With Jasmine’s ankle in such bad shape, she needs you now more than ever.” Beckett laughed in his face, telling the pompous man in no uncertain terms exactly what he thought of him.

Had Jack shown him an ounce of compassion when Beckett was working, instead of riding his case 24/7, Beckett might not have turned to alcohol. Then, he never would’ve been drinking the night he picked Jasmine up from her dance class, and he wouldn’t have had the car accident that shattered her ankle. Beckett balled his fist, squeezing the blankets. He’d refrained from punching Jack Bisson in the face the last time he showed up. This time, Bisson wouldn’t be so lucky. “Where’s Bisson?” he growled.

Scotty frowned. “I’m not sure who that is.” He scooted back his chair and stood, his eyes resting on the blankets in Beckett’s arms. “Maybe you should put those down and follow me.”

Reluctantly, Beckett complied. When they entered the large common room, Beckett scanned the crowd of people, packed like sardines into every available inch of floor space. When he saw them across the room, his breath froze in his throat. He couldn’t do it! His eyes narrowed as he spun around to Scotty. “What is this?”

Scotty held up a hand. “Your wife and daughter have gone to great lengths to find you. The least you can do is hear them out.” He lowered his voice. “I know your history, Beckett. That you’re a good man. You had a career, a wonderful family. That man is still in there. You just have to find him.”

Beckett let out a harsh laugh. “If I were a good man, my daughter wouldn’t be in a wheelchair.” Tears rose in his eyes as he cleared his throat and swallowed. He’d lost count of the number of times he’d dreamed of seeing Jasmine over the past few months. A hot anger coursed through his veins. Melinda had no right to bring Jasmine here. Maybe she wanted Jasmine to see firsthand how far her dad had fallen. Everything in him wanted to turn around and flee as far from here as he could get. 

“Daddy!” Jasmine’s face lit up as she waved. 

Too late to run. Beckett sighed in resignation as he forced his feet to move forward. When he reached them, he stood there awkwardly, at a loss for words. Melinda’s pinched face said it all—that he was an embarrassment. Melinda had always been concerned about social status and the image they portrayed to the world. He could only imagine what she must think of his ragged clothes, scraggly beard, grimy fingernails, his unwashed stench. He was a walking skeleton, a shadow of his former self.

Jasmine was beaming. She seemed oblivious to the change in him. “I’ve missed you so much.” She held out her hands for him to hug her. Beckett’s feet stayed rooted to the floor. He wanted to hug her, but life on the streets had hardened him to the point where personal contact seemed foreign. Finally, he patted her hand instead. She was soft, untouched by the ugliness of the streets. 

“Good to see you, pretty girl.” His eyes settled on the cast, visible beneath her sweat pants. He hated himself in that moment, wished he could disappear into nothing. How dare Melinda bring Jasmine here! He wanted Jasmine to remember him as he was before. Not now, consumed by his vice. He glared at Melinda. “What’re you doing here?” Melinda looked thinner than he remembered, her face drawn and pale. It seemed like it had been another life when he’d loved her. 

Melinda lifted her chin, a protective hand going over Jasmine’s shoulder. “I came here because of Jazzie,” she said stiffly. “It was her birthday wish.”

Jasmine gave him a searching look. “Come home with us, Daddy.” Her voice cracked. “Please.”

“For her sake,” Melinda added. “You need help.” Her jaw tightened. “It’s bad enough that Jasmine’s going through all the pain and suffering of her ankle. Must she lose her father too?” The words came out in short, angry bursts. She gave him a hard, resentful look. “You’re being selfish.”

Tears bubbled in Jasmine’s eyes, her lower lip trembling. “Please, Daddy, come home. We miss you.”

Selfish! Loser! Drunk! Beckett’s head felt like it was splitting in two. Oh, how he wished he could relive that dreadful night of the accident, that he could go back and nip the drinking in the bud before it turned into a hideous monster. He thought of the bottle beneath his coat, the need for a drink overwhelming. He hated this—loathed his weakness. Tears pooled in his eyes. Beckett Bradshaw was an illusion. There was nothing left of that man except pain and regret. “I’m sorry,” he uttered as he fled. 

The last thing he heard before he darted out the door into the cold was Jazzie’s anguished cry. “Daddy!” 

* * *

Beckett’s mind was a blur as he wandered aimlessly in the snow. After he’d drained the bottle of booze, he found himself at the train station downtown. When the train stopped, he got on and slumped down in a seat. As the train moved forward, he forced his mind to go blank, drifting in the pleasant stupor of his drunken state. He didn’t know how long he’d traveled before a transit officer got on, checking tickets. It would only be a matter of minutes before the officer got to him. He’d be thrown off the train, possibly spend a night in jail. He hoped for the latter where at least it’d be warm. Earlier, he’d not minded the cold, but now that he was warm, he wanted to stay that way a while longer. He tensed as the officer stood beside the woman sitting in front of Beckett. She was also homeless. Beckett could tell from her shabby clothes, stooped posture, and the broken aura the woman exuded. He knew all of this because he was the same. 

“May I see your ticket, ma’am?” the officer asked.

The woman only grunted.

When the officer asked again, she just sat there, her posture stiff, belligerent. 

“Ma’am, I need you to come with me.” The officer went to grab her hand, but she hurled out a few insults and took a swing that caught the officer square in the face. To be so old and shriveled, the woman was feisty. A scuffle ensued, which lasted about five seconds, until the transit officer had the woman in cuffs, hauling her to her feet. She turned to Beckett and winked like they shared some secret joke. She was probably crazy, imagining he was someone else. At the next stop, the officer pulled the woman off.

Beckett breathed a sigh of relief as the train moved forward. He glanced outside at the swirling snow. There was at least a foot of accumulation on the ground. He pulled his coat around him. It felt good to be warm. His mind got lost in the movement of the train. Beckett was barely cognizant of his motions when his eyelids grew heavy, his chin falling into his chest. The next thing he knew, someone was standing over him, shaking his arm.

He jerked, sitting up.

It’s time to get off the train,” a woman in a uniform said irritably. “It’s the end of the line.”

He looked around, realizing the train was empty except for him and the woman. She must’ve been driving the train. 

“Thanks,” he mumbled as he stood and got off. He winced, shrinking into himself, when a cold blast of wind hit him in the face, nearly taking his breath away. Snowflakes flew into his mouth. He spit them out, tucking his face into his neck. The snow was coming down so hard he could barely see. He wasn’t even sure where he was. Maybe it didn’t matter. 

As he walked, his mind seemed to take flight. He thought of the day Jasmine was born, the thrill he felt when he held her for the first time. Then his mind flitted to the day he got hired at W. Shields Financial Corp. The new job came with all the bells and whistles. By all accounts, he and Melinda had made it. Two short months later, they moved into a new house in an exclusive Draper neighborhood. 

His hands shoved in his pockets, Beckett left the lights of the station, welcoming the darkness of the rural road. With every step, he got the feeling of being alone on an alien planet. It was just him, not another soul in sight. The snow had stopped. The thin glow from the moon and stars was his only light. His feet and hands were numb with cold as he trudged on, losing all track of time and space.

Two lights up ahead shined through the darkness. He walked toward the lights. When he got closer, he realized they were off to the side of the road. A jolt went through him. The lights were from an overturned car. Curiosity prompted him to take a closer look. 

The accident looked bad, the top of the car crushed like a tin can. Hearing a cry, he looked to his right realizing there was a person lying in the snow. His stomach roiled. Someone had been thrown out of the car.

“Help!” a feeble voice said. 

He edged closer. A woman lifted her hand. “Help me, please.”

He tensed, then a roar started in his head. Time rolled back, and he was at his accident. He felt the force of the impact. The woman’s cries became Jasmine’s cries. “No!” he shouted, his hands going over his ears. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.” A sob broke through his throat. “Please forgive me, Jazzie!” He moved to walk away.

“Don’t leave me here,” the woman begged. “Help me. I think my leg is broken. My head’s bleeding. I’m hurting.” Her voice sounded small and childlike. 

Tears coursed down his face, reality coming back to him. The woman was hurt. He needed to help. He glanced around. “Was anyone else in the car?”

“No, just me,” she croaked, then coughed to clear her throat. 

“Do you have a phone?”

The woman laughed futilely. “Yeah, somewhere in my car.” 

Beckett’s eyes rested on the mangled car. No way would be able to get inside to find the phone. 

“I’m so c—cold,” the woman said, her teeth chattering.

She could die of hypothermia. Beckett knelt beside her, taking an assessment. The woman was older, in her mid or late sixties. A wave of nausea rolled over him when he realized her leg was turned at an awkward angle. No way could he move her. He thought of the blankets at the shelter, wishing he had one now. He removed his coat and placed it over her. He hugged his arms, fighting off a shiver as the wind cut through his shirt.

Not knowing what else to do, he sat down behind her. As carefully as he could, he lifted her head and scooted in so her head could rest against his chest. She grunted in pain at the movement. “I’m sorry. I’m just moving close to you so our body heat can work in our favor.” He felt the stickiness of her blood, looked down at her matted hair. Would she bleed out before help arrived? 

“You don’t have a phone?” the woman asked, her voice coated with desperation. 

“No.” He hated dashing her hopes. 

“Maybe you should get back in your car and go get help.”

“I don’t have a car. I was out walking when I saw your car.” 

The woman started crying. “I’m going to die out here, aren’t I?”

“No,” he reassured her. “I can go get help.” He tried to think. How far had he walked from the train station?

She clutched his arm. “Don’t leave me alone.” Her voice broke. “You can’t leave me.”

“Okay. I’ll stay right here. You’re gonna be okay.” An incredulous laugh built in Beckett’s throat. He couldn’t guarantee the woman anything, yet there was no sense in causing her more alarm. His mind spun. Man, he needed a drink. He swallowed hard, pushing away the thirst. He needed to focus. This woman’s life was at risk. Blood seeped into his shirt. He had to stop the bleeding. “Hang tight.” He shifted slightly and pulled out the bottom of his plaid shirt, tearing off a large section. Carefully, he wound it around her head and tied it. From what Beckett could tell, the makeshift bandage was helping. He felt a fraction of relief when heat from her seeped into him, and he knew it was doing the same for her. He’d keep her warm until help arrived. 

“What’s your name?” the woman asked.

Silence lapsed between them as he looked up at the twinkling stars.

“Thank you for staying with me.” The words drifted up, getting lost in the still of the night.

“Of course. What’s your name?”


He looked at the car. “What happened?”

“I hit a patch of ice, and the car skidded out of control. I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. When I came to, I was out here, hurting all over.” Her voice caught. “I’ve been out here for a while, praying for help. Then, you showed up.”

The idea of him being an answer to someone’s prayer evoked conflicting emotions inside him. 

“Why are you out here on a night like this?”

He chuckled. “It’s a long story.”

“I seem to have plenty of time,” she said morosely. “Listening to you will help me take my mind off the pain.” She winced. “I need something to focus on.”

“All right.” He smiled thinly. “You’d never know it by looking at me now, but at one time I was somebody.” The words tumbled out almost faster than he could speak them, as if his heart needed to empty everything out. He told Sadie about his hopes and insatiable ambition, how his desire to chase down the dream took a wrong turn when he buckled under the stress of being a hedge fund manager and lost a substantial amount of his clients’ money. He spoke of Melinda and how they slowly drifted apart until there was nothing left to build on. Tears rolled from his eyes when he spoke of the accident and Jasmine. How today was her birthday and she’d come to the shelter.

“After everything I’ve done, Jazzie looked at me with such love, begging me to come home. I wanted to so badly.” His voice shook. “I just don’t know how.” As his admission flowed into the night air, he felt the futileness of his words.

Sadie grasped his arm, and he was surprised by her strength. “I’ll make you a deal.”

He’d gotten so caught up in telling his story, that for an instant, he’d forgotten he was here with this woman who was valiantly clinging to life. “Okay,” he said warily.

“You get your life cleaned up, and I’ll survive this.”

He laughed. “Trust me, I would if I could.”

“Prayer helps.”

God seemed as distant from Beckett as the lonely stars above. Where was God when he had the accident that crushed Jasmine’s ankle? Where was God when he gave up all hope and succumbed to his demons? “Yeah, it’s a nice notion, but I dunno.”

“It’s more than a notion.” Conviction rang in her voice. “God sent you here to help me tonight. If you pray for help and trust in Him, He’ll help you.”

Something stirred within his heart, as an unexpected warmth seeped over him. Was it possible? Could he really change? 

“What do you say, Beckett? Do we have a deal?” Her voice broke. “Please, I need this to make it through.”

“All right,” he finally said to placate her. “Tell me about you,” he prompted to change the subject.

She let out a low chuckle. “Oh, you don’t wanna hear about me.” Her breathing was labored and shallow. She grunted in pain, then whimpered. A feeling of helplessness came over Beckett. He didn’t want Sadie to die. He looked up at the sky and did something he thought he’d never do again. Please, God, let her live, he prayed. 

“Yes, I do want to hear about you.” Maybe it would help to keep her talking. Beckett realized he did want to know about Sadie, which came as a shock. On the streets, he kept his distance from other people. Handing out blankets was as close as he came to sharing genuine human connections. There was something significant about this event, however. Beckett got the feeling that Sadie was right about their meeting not being by chance. Had the woman in front of him not gotten belligerent with the transit officer, Beckett would surely have been thrown off the train. He’d wandered here, showing up to come to Sadie’s aid.

His pulse increased when he saw headlights in the distance. “Someone’s coming!” As carefully as he could, he extricated himself and placed her head gently on the ground. He ran over to the side of the road, waving his arms wildly. “Stop!” he yelled. His heart dropped when the car passed without stopping. However, when it got a few paces away, it came to a halt. He jogged over to the car where a man haltingly rolled down his window an inch.

“There’s been an accident. A woman’s hurt. Call 911!”

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