Tied Up, Tied Down

By: Lorelei James

Prologue


Skylar Ellison hated being naked in public.

Not that she was positioned on a bridge waving her hoo-hoos and va-jay-jay at passersby, but damn, wearing just her birthday suit made her oh-so conscious of the flaws in that aging suit. The paper covering the patient’s exam table crinkled beneath her sweaty thighs. A cold breeze from the air duct wafted across her bare butt exactly where the itsy bitsy cloth gown gapped.

That wasn’t as bad as having her lower half completely exposed, her knees spread wide, her feet in metal stirrups as she stared at the “Hang In There, Baby” poster plastered to the ceiling.

Skylar dreaded pelvic exams, pap smears, shots, and teeth cleanings—anything resembling a medical procedure. So far she’d been poked, prodded and they’d taken a sample of damn near every bodily fluid imaginable; blood, urine, saliva, a throat culture, earwax, toe-jam—not so much the last two, but it’d sure seemed like it.

She’d been cooling her heels in this sterile room for thirty minutes. Which gave her plenty of time to wonder: what the hell was wrong with her?

For the last month she’d experienced constant nausea. Not enough to make her barf, but wooziness, usually worse at night. She didn’t feel like eating, yet, according to the doctor’s scale, she’d managed to pack on five pounds since the last time she’d weighed herself at home.


She could attribute her physical changes to stress. Owning her own business was nerve-racking, even when her all-natural, made-in-Wyoming beauty products contained aromatherapy properties. Construction delays caused her extra anxiety, but she’d finally opened the retail store of Sky Blue in Sundance. The manufacturing plant outside of Moorcroft was in full swing filling holiday orders.

Still, stress wouldn’t make her skin hurt to the touch. Tension might push her to the edge of exhaustion, causing her to sleep for twelve hours straight. She’d missed two or three periods—who kept track? She’d always been irregular. But that didn’t explain the weird vaginal discharge. Plus, she was moody. She couldn’t regulate her body temp; she was either too hot or too cold. It was all so eerily familiar. She recognized the signs, though never on herself.

Cancer.

Skylar closed her eyes. Please. Not cancer. She couldn’t have cancer. The universe couldn’t be that damn cruel. Eight years ago her mother had been diagnosed with uterine cancer. Her mom believed she’d hit menopause. She’d exhibited all the signs—signs Skylar recognized because she’d been experiencing them herself recently.

A cancer diagnosis would decimate her sister, India. Ironically enough, their father had been a victim of prostate cancer eleven years ago. Sky’s thoughts flashed to the rounds of chemo and radiation. The endless trips to the hospital. If anything would send India back to the shady world of booze, drugs and random sexual encounters, it’d be dealing with another cancer-stricken family member.

The door made a metallic snick and Skylar’s stomach lurched. She peeled her eyes open to look at the doctor, a striking petite redhead.

“The tests are back,” Doctor Monroe said.

“And? Do I have cancer?”

Doctor Monroe frowned and studied the pages inside the file folder. “Why on earth would you think…oh, I see. A family history of cancer. Huh. A lot of cancer. But no. It’s not cancer.”

6


Skylar stifled the urge to weep with relief. “Then what on earth is wrong with me? Is it a bug or something I picked up someplace? Is it contagious?” For some reason the impulsive event from a few months back clicked front and center in her mind.

Contagious.

Kade McKay. That rat bastard. He’d given her the clap.

“I have to say, Skylar, I’m not particularly surprised.”

Skylar’s mouth dropped open. “Not surprised that I have an STD? I have unprotected sex one time, one freakin’ time in all the years I’ve been sexually active and you’re not surprised that the jerk I slept with gave me crotch crud?”

Doctor Monroe smiled—grinned actually. “Oh, he didn’t give you an STD. He gave you a baby.”

“WHAT?” Skylar shrieked. “I’m…I’m… Omigod. I’m pregnant?”

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