Chapter One: Regret
It was raining when Joshua Holloway awoke. He could hear the pitter patter of rain against the window as he lay there in the foggy silence of his bedroom. The white gauzy curtains were bellowing in the breeze as it brushed over his searing hot skin. The sheen of sweat coated his near naked body, causing the sheets to cling to his muscular flesh as he struggled to kick the twisted linen away from his aching leg.
The pain was excruciating, Josh could feel the agony pulsating through his skin as he altered his pillows, propping himself up against the polished, mahogany headboard. He tilted his head back grinding his teeth against the constant throbbing. Some days the torment felt worse than the actual accident that had led to his disability. His trembling fingers delved underneath the sheets that pooled around his waist. He placed his hand upon his thigh, his fingers digging into the flesh in an attempt to massage the cramping muscles.
Cold weather always affected him this way. The temperatures had dropped as of late as summer had given way to fall. His heart was racing, Joshua could feel it pounding against his ribcage as the sound of his own rampant panting filled the air. The tightening in his chest was beginning to ease off allowing the bursts of pure oxygen to enter his lungs. The panic was still lancing through him, ricochetting around his skull as he struggled to get a grasp upon his rampaging emotions.
His mind was an entanglement of images and sounds that he struggled constantly to keep under control. The sound of screeching metal was echoing in his ears as he closed his vivid blue eyes against the darkness that was seeping through his soul. It was inside of him the same way it had always had been since the accident. In the early days it had been oppressive but now he thanked God that it was becoming more manageable.
During the day Joshua could control his thoughts, he could bury the memories and the heartache in the throes of work. It took immense mental restraint to live his life the way he did, his disability had the potential to be debilitating if he allowed it. There were days when he would have given anything to have changed his mind on joining the Marines in order to gain the financing for medical school but now he knew that was pointless. There was nothing he could change about his situation so what was the point in contemplating a different future.
His friends agreed with that line of thinking. He had spent such a long time trying to push those people away but they were resilient and strong. They had refused to back off when he insisted and in the end he had come to appreciate their pushiness. Without his surrogate family he would have crashed and burned a long time ago.
Hell, the nights alone were bad enough. It had been a long time since there had been a partner in his life and it wasn't that he didn't wish there was someone solid to hold onto it was just that it was unfair for the other person. Ella had been right when she had walked out, asking someone to engage in a relationship with him was selfish. There was too much trauma in his soul to share with anybody else, she had called him broken and he thought she was correct. How could he expect anyone to love someone who couldn't be whole a person anymore?
The nightmares were still bad but they were getting better. He thought that he had made good headway with setting some stable foundations. He had created a home here in the Village, he had a job and he had a support network of people he cared about. Things were steady in his life. The routine helped him get through the worst days but there was still something missing. He could feel it's absence like the faintest of ghosts residing in the very depths of his soul.
That was just one of the things that haunted Joshua, he had let something so precious slip between his fingers not so long ago and now it was gone. He had lost another shard of himself at that point because he hadn't had the guts to push himself to tell the truth to someone he loved.
Josh reached up, brushing the golden blond hair that was plastered to his forehead away from his eyes with his fingertips. His heart rate was beginning to return to normal now. He could feel the steady thrum of his pulse beginning to regulate as he allowed himself to take a long, deep breath in an attempt to steady his nerves.
His large hand came to rest upon the cool linen sheets on the right side of his bed, he found himself staring at the empty pillow, his heart heavy once more. He was being ridiculous, he was aware of that but it still hurt like a bitch when he looked at the vacant space. It was just another failure on his part, one that was maybe for the best.
There was a shuffling on the opposite side of the room and Joshua found himself smiling for the first time that night before he flicked on the cream coloured lamp that was resting upon the matching mahogany night stand.
Bertie was already trotting across the rich coloured laminate floor from the baby blue dog basket that was situated in the corner of the room. The sound of his nails clicking against the wood as he approached the bed echoed through the medium sized area. The beagle's white tail was already wagging as he sat alongside the night stand, tilting his head up at his owner, his dark soulful eyes looking woefully at the empty side of the bed.
“I know bud, I miss her too.” Joshua said in his husky, tired voice as he picked up the young dog and placed it in the devoid space.
Bertie lay down upon his stomach, his little tail still wagging from side to side as he let out a wide doggie yawn before placing his head between his small paws. Joshua scratched the space between Bertie's ears.
The beagle had been a savour from the very beginning of their relationship. The moment his paws had been set down on the laminate before he launched himself at Joshua's shins yipping in greeting.
The puppy had become a focus that he hadn't had in his life at the time and Joshua had spent months training the puppy how to act in the house. After that he hadn't been spending any time alone. Bertie was always there when he needed the comfort that he wasn't able to ask for from another human being.
Bertie was snuggled up against Joshua's hip now, the dog's chin came to rest upon his right knee as his warm body generated the soothing sensation that he longed for. It also helped that the dog didn't mind that sometimes Josh Holloway had to sleep with the light on.