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Authors: Marie Force

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Treading Water

BOOK: Treading Water
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Treading Water

By: Marie Force


Marie Force

Copyright 2011 by Marie



Cover by Kristina


This ebook is licensed for
your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or
given away to other people. If you would like to share this book
with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each
person. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it
was not purchased for your use only, then please return it and
purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of
this author.
To obtain permission to
excerpt portions of the text, please contact the author at
[email protected].


All characters in this book are fiction and
figments of the author’s imagination.



For my dear friends Julie Cupp, Chris Camara
and Lisa Ridder, who loved this book from the beginning and never
let me give up on it. And for Jack Harrington and the house we’ve
built together—you were the first and the best.


Author’s Note

A mother isn’t supposed to
have favorites among her children, right? Neither should an author,
but I bet we all have one. This is mine—my first book, the ultimate
book of my heart and the first character to live inside my mind as
a real, live person. It is also the only book of mine that my late
mother was able to read, albeit a much earlier and rougher version.
This book has taken me on a nearly eight-year journey from
inception to publication. I’m delighted to now bring
Treading Water
, and its
two sequels—
Marking Time
—to my readers.

A special thank you to the
many friends who read this book, loved this book, believed in this
book—and asked for the story that became
Marking Time
, which then led
Starting Over
Thank you also to my agent, Kevan Lyon, and her partner, Jill
Marsal, who helped to make it a much better book. Read more about
“The House That Jack Built” on my website at

As always, I love to hear from readers, so
please let me know what you think of Jack’s story. You can reach me
at [email protected].



Part I

Treading Water: Using the feet and hands to
keep the head above water.

Chapter 1

Jack gauged the impossible
twelve-foot putt.

Jamie Booth, his best
friend and business partner, sighed with exasperation.
no way
Jack, so just putt, will you?”

Stop rushing me.” Jack
took a deep calming breath and aligned his putter as a warm spring
breeze blew in off Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay. He tapped the
ball, watched in amazement as it dropped into the hole, and pumped
his arm like a professional golfer.

While their clients
congratulated Jack, Jamie moaned and groaned. “I’ll be hearing
about this for

and learn, my friend,” Jack said with a grin.


His cell phone vibrated in his pocket as the
foursome moved to the fifteenth tee. Jack checked the caller ID and
saw it was his wife, Clare. After the terrible fight they’d had
that morning, he was relieved to hear from her.


The frantic tone of his oldest daughter’s
voice stopped his heart. “What’s the matter?”

It’s Mom.”

What, Jill?

She was hit by a car.”
Jill was crying so hard, he had trouble understanding her. “They’re
taking her to Newport Hospital.”

Her words sent a jolt of icy fear straight
through him. “I’m coming, honey,” he managed to say. “I’ll be right

Abandoning his clubs and his clients, he
took off running across the golf course.

In the parking lot, Jamie pried Jack’s keys
out of his hand. “What’s wrong, Jack?”

It’s Clare.” Jack told him
the news in a flat, shocked tone as they peeled out of the parking

Oh my God,” Jamie

During the brief ride, a
series of images flashed through Jack’s mind, spanning the nearly
twenty years he’d spent with Clare. His stomach ached when he
remembered their angry words that morning.
She has to be all right. She has to be

Talk to me,” Jamie

We fought.” Jack felt
detached from the moment, as if he was watching a movie of someone
else’s life.


This morning.”

I didn’t think you guys
ever fought.”

We never used to, but
lately…Seems to be all we do.” Jack hadn’t even realized it until
that moment, until it was possible he could lose her.

What happened this

She…pushed me away. In
bed. Again. I can’t remember the last time she
push me away. It’s been

You never said anything
was wrong.”

I was afraid to say it out
until I heard she might be hurt.” He
ached with worry and fear over what he’d find at the hospital. “Or
worse.” Forcing himself to breathe, he said, “God, what if she’s
dead? What if the last thing I said to her was ‘if you want out of
this marriage, just let me know?’”

You’ll work it out. You
two are solid, man. Whatever’s wrong, you’ll get through

Provided she isn’t
, Jack thought.
Please don’t let her be dead


They pulled up to the emergency entrance,
and Jack leaped from the car. Inside he found his daughters in the
care of a nurse and a police officer. Jill, Kate, and Maggie were
crying as they flew into Jack’s arms.

Jack held them for a long time, his heart
racing as their gut-wrenching sobs ramped up his already
out-of-control anxiety. “Can you tell me what happened?”

Jamie put an arm around Maggie and led her
away so her older sisters could talk to their father.

We were leaving the mall,”
Jill said, swiping at tears. “And this car came right at us. We
jumped out of the way, but she just stood there, and the car hit
her.” A sob hiccupped through her. “She went right over the top and
landed on the pavement.”

Okay, honey,” he said,
comforting his daughter while he tried to process what she’d said.
As he imagined the scene, his chest tightened. “Maybe she just
couldn’t get out of the way in time.”

Kate shook her head. “She didn’t move. It
was like she wanted the car to hit her or something.”

I’m sure it was so scary,
but you must’ve seen it wrong,” Jack insisted. “Mom would never do

A young doctor came through swinging doors
to the waiting room. “Mr. Harrington? I’m Dr. Rooney.” He led Jack
away from the girls.

Jamie left Maggie in the care of her sisters
and walked over to hear what the doctor had to say.

Your wife is in extremely
critical condition with a significant head injury,” Dr. Rooney
said. “She also has multiple fractures and a lacerated liver. When
we get her stabilized, we’ll be taking her up to surgery to remove
her spleen and repair her liver.”

Shocked, Jack said, “But she’ll be all
right, won’t she?”

The head injury is a big
concern. We’re inducing a coma to allow the swelling in her brain
to subside. The next twenty-four to forty-eight hours will be

Jack’s hands were trembling, so he jammed
them into his pockets. “How long will you keep her in the

Hopefully, only a few
days,” Dr. Rooney said. “We’ll have to wait and see what happens
when we take her off the sedation.”

What could happen?” Jack
had never experienced such raw fear. “She’ll wake up then,

I can’t say for certain.
The head injury is severe. I wish I could tell you more, but it’s a
wait-and-see thing at this point. I’m sorry.”

I want to be with

I’ll come and find you
when we get her settled after surgery,” the doctor said as he
walked away.

A coma,” Jack said,

Jamie squeezed Jack’s shoulder. “Why don’t
you call your mother and ask her to come help with the girls?”

I just can’t believe this.
She’s never been sick a day in her life. Remember how she was after
having the girls?”

I remember. She’s
superwoman, so there’s nothing to worry about. I’m sure she’ll be
asking for you in no time.”

Yeah,” Jack said.


The surgeons removed Clare’s spleen, mended
her liver, and set her badly broken arm and leg. After a week, her
doctors were relieved that she was able to breathe on her own when
they took her off the respirator. Encouraged, they also weaned her
from the sedation. Jack, the girls, his sister, Clare’s mother,
brother, and sister kept up a round-the-clock vigil by her bedside.
They sang to her, played her favorite music, cried, begged, and
pleaded until they were hoarse, but she didn’t regain

At the end of the third week, Dr. Blake, the
neurologist, asked to speak with Jack. Worried about what he might
hear, Jack asked his sister, Frannie, to come, too.

I’m afraid there’s nothing
more we can do for your wife. The blow to her head was tremendous,
and we believe her coma is irreversible.”

Jack and Frannie gasped as the doctor
snatched away their last shred of hope.

So what does that mean?”
Jack asked. “What’re you saying?”

You have choices.
Difficult choices.”

Such as?”

Since she has no advanced
directive, you can make decisions for her as her next of

Are you suggesting I end
her life?”

It’s an option you may
need to consider at some point down the road.”

I want to hear the others,
because that’s not on the table.”

Mr. Harrington, she’s
forty-three years old. She could live in this condition for

Jack held up his hand to stop the doctor.
“Is she brain dead?”


Then I don’t want to hear
another word about ending her life. As long as there’s activity in
her brain I want her treated as if she’s going to

We don’t believe she

As long as there’s any
chance at all—”

There’s less than a one
percent chance.”

That’s not zero,” Jack
said with a look that all but dared the doctor to argue with

The doctor seemed to realize the
conversation was pointless. “We’ll discharge her in a few days. I
suggest you investigate long-term care for her. I can get you the
names of some places, if that would help.”

Left alone with his sister, Jack tried to
absorb what the doctor had told him.

I’ll move here, Jack,”
Frannie said decisively. She lived in New York, where she worked as
an artist, and had recently ended a brief second marriage. “I’ll
help with the girls and whatever else you need.”

I can’t ask you to do

You didn’t ask. I want
to.” She gripped his hand as her hazel eyes heated with emotion.
“What’s more important than making sure the girls are well cared
for right now?”

Nothing,” Jack said,
resigned to the fact that he needed what his sister was offering.
Besides, he was too drained to argue with her. “Thanks,

When Frannie left to pick up Maggie at a
friend’s house, Jack went back to Clare’s room, where he’d spent
most of the last three weeks. Despite the feeding tube, yellowing
bruises, and casts on her arm and leg, she looked so much like
herself that he ached with yearning to have her back, to have her
turn those brilliant blue eyes his way and flash that special smile
she used to save just for him, back when things were right between

BOOK: Treading Water
9.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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