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Hero Worship

By Kris T. Bethke

Published by JMS Books LLC at Smashwords

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Copyright 2018 Kris T. Bethke

ISBN 9781634865333

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Cover Design: Written Ink Designs |

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All rights reserved.

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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are solely the product of the author’s imagination and/or are used fictitiously, though reference may be made to actual historical events or existing locations. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Published in the United States of America.

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Hero Worship

By Kris T. Bethke

Chapter 1

It all started at the wedding.

My best friend Carrie was getting married, and she insisted not only that I be there but that I put on a tuxedo and be part of the wedding party. I’d tried to protest, but she wasn’t having it. And really, she was the only family I had, so I couldn’t say no.

I stood out among the rest of the tuxedo-bedecked groomsmen, and not just because I was Carrie’s man of honor. My Irish pale skin, dark-brown hair, and brown eyes were in stark contrast to the groom’s brothers, who all looked like they had stepped straight off the beach after spending the day surfing in the sun. Carrie had teared up a little, in the way brides often did, and I cupped her face in my hands.

“Don’t. You’ll ruin your makeup,” I teased, because she hardly had any on in the first place. She gave a little chuckle.

“You’re the most handsome man here,” she said with a sniffle, her eyes tender. Then she gave a mock grimace and added, “Except for my husband-to-be, of course.”

“Well, that’s the truth if I ever heard it,” I agreed emphatically because I knew it would make her laugh.

We’d met in college. Well, she’d been in college, and I’d been getting drunk in a bar and trying to pick her up. She told me I was the cutest puppy she’d ever seen. We sat in a dark corner and ended up talking the whole night. We just clicked instantly and bonded over soggy nachos and our lack of family. Carrie only had her dad, after her mother had run out on them when she was still little. I never knew my father, and my beautiful, strong, amazing mother had lost her battle with breast cancer the year before.

When the night ended and I was walking her to her car, I gave her a critical look and said, “We don’t have it, do we?”

She was right on my wavelength, the way she had been all night. “Sexual chemistry? Not even a little bit. But I’m pretty sure you’re the best friend I’ve ever had. Wanna live together?”

She’d been teasing when she said it. But the truth was, we got along very well, and over the next few months, we had gotten together a lot. When her roommate suddenly moved out and she couldn’t make the rent on her own, she’d given up her apartment and moved in with me. And we’d been basically inseparable ever since.

And that was the reason I was sweating my balls off in a double-breasted tux in the heat of summer, trying my damnedest not to look like I would kill for a little air-conditioning. Why Carrie had to have an outdoor reception in the middle of June was beyond anyone’s guess. The workings of my best friend’s mind were best left alone.


I was on my feet and running before it even registered that Carrie had screamed my nickname, the one only she called me. After ten years, I was well trained. I made it to her in record time, saw the panic and fear on her face, and automatically reached for her. But she shoved me away and pointed.

I turned fast, and adrenaline burst through my veins. The groom’s brother, sweet little Matt, was tugging at his collar, gasping for air. He was gripping the back of a chair like he was dizzy. He couldn’t stand up straight. His face was blotchy, pale patches standing out starkly against red, angry hives. I was at his side in seconds.

I was a paramedic. I knew anaphylaxis when I saw it.

“Call 9-1-1!” I barked at the crowd that was gathering even as I eased Matt to sit on the ground. I tore open the bow tie at his neck and popped the buttons on his shirt in an attempt to make it easier for him to breathe. But the wheezing was getting worse, he was gulping air like a landed fish, and his eyes were filled with panic.

“Do you have an EpiPen?” I asked, going into work mode. My voice was low, soft, and reassuring. I wanted him to calm down. But Matt couldn’t answer. He was grasping at my shoulder, and his eyes begged me to fix it.

I kept a firm hold of Matt even as I turned to his brother. “Does he have an EpiPen?” I repeated. There was no comprehension, no answer. It didn’t seem like the man even heard me. “Luke!”

The groom shook himself and gulped. “No, he’s not…He doesn’t have any allergies—”

He might have kept speaking, but I tuned him out. My focus was on my patient. I had my fingers on his neck and was counting out his pulse—it was high but not scary yet—desperately trying to figure out what I could use to intubate Matt if his throat closed up before the bus arrived. There was no way I was going to let this kid die.

Suddenly, someone shoved something into my field of vision, and I sighed with relief. Matt might not have had an EpiPen, but one of the three hundred guests obviously had severe allergies, because I was handed Matt’s relief. I eased him to the ground and, without a care to his rented tuxedo pants, jammed the needle into his thigh.

It took maybe thirty seconds for his breathing to ease. As soon as Matt realized he could get air through his constricted airway, he started breathing heavy and fast. I didn’t need him hyperventilating. I leaned over so I looked directly into his face.

“Matt,” I said gently. But he couldn’t focus on me, his eyes were wild and panicked. I grabbed his face in my hands and forced his attention on my face. “Matthew Carter! You’re going to be fine. Breathe with me, okay? In…Out…In…Out…”

It took him a few seconds, but he was able to match his breaths to mine. Some of the wildness left his eyes, and he grabbed my wrists in his hands. If I’d been on duty, I would have him loaded on a stretcher and onto the bus by now, monitoring his vitals while speeding toward the hospital. I had no idea if the dose I’d administered would be enough to counteract the allergic reaction, especially because this was his first one.

When the paramedics arrived a few minutes later, I eased back. I didn’t know either of them—they weren’t from my company—but I was still a professional. I let them take over and gave them what information I could.

“Twenty-two-year-old male. Anaphylaxis from what appears to be an insect sting,” I said calmly. I had found a large bump on his neck when I was monitoring his pulse. “First-time occurrence. Pulse 110. He’s got point 3 migs of epinephrine on board.”

The paramedic with the beefy neck nodded his thanks, asked a few questions that Luke answered, and then loaded Matt onto the stretcher, ready to wheel him away. His mother went with them, and I watched with critical eyes as they loaded him into the bus.

Suddenly, I had an armful of sobbing bride.

“Oh God, Lex. You saved him!” Carrie wailed, gripping me tight. I grinned into her veil.

“It’s what I do,” I said cockily, because she expected it and because it would make her laugh. I was rewarded with a somewhat watery chuckle. Pulling back, I looked into her eyes. “It’s all right, honey. Really. And whoever had that epinephrine is the one that saved him. He’s going to be fine.”

She shook her head. “You knew what it was, right away. He could have died while the rest of us were trying to figure out what was wrong.”

“Seriously, Alex. Thank you,” Luke’s eyes were filled with gratitude, and his heavy hand landed on my shoulder and gave it a squeeze. Luke was a good guy, and I wholeheartedly approved of him marrying my best friend. Hell, I loved his whole family, who had embraced me as their own, every last one of them realizing that Carrie and I were sort of a package deal.

“He’s going to be fine,” I repeated, uncomfortable with the praise. I wasn’t used to it. Being a paramedic was pretty thankless most of the time. But that was fine because that wasn’t why I worked the job. I was just happy to have been at the right place at the right time.

The party was a bit subdued after that. The family, including the bride and groom, wanted to leave and be at the hospital, but Matt had sent express instructions through his mother that everyone should remain and keep on celebrating. It was good to hear Matt was okay, but no one really felt like partying.

As soon as I could, I made my excuses and left. I wasn’t excited about going home to my empty house. Carrie had finished moving out last week. But I was on shift in the morning, and I had to get some sleep. She and Luke would be leaving soon anyway and heading for Florida the next day. Carrie was a diehard Harry Potter fan.

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