Stuck in the Middle - (Book 1 of the Marvelous 3 Saga)

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Summary

Love. Money. Success. Gabrielle Johansson has just attained all three as one of Los Angeles's most hard-working and successful young, black professionals who has just gotten her residential, is on her way to becoming one of LA's best surgeons and is engaged to world-renowned artist Damian DuPont. All that seems to change when she gets a phone call that Steve Richardson, beloved friend of the family and father of her childhood best friends, Chris and Charlie, passed away. She takes time off from her job to help the Richardsons prepare the funeral arrangements. Upon her return back to rural Pennsylvania she is overwhelmed with memories of her childhood, family and friends. In an attempt to rekindle old friendships, Gabrielle is forced to face old buried feelings for the Richardson brothers and finds herself constantly succumbing to repressed desires. But what are her childhood best friends really hiding? She soon finds herself in the cross-hairs of a toxic feud involving intense violence, dishonesty, love, and unthinkable betrayal.

Genre:
Erotica / Thriller
Author:
Smauggy
Status:
Complete
Chapters:
5
Rating:
4.7 7 reviews
Age Rating:
18+

1 - Needed Back Home

“Ryan, can you shift the light 45 degrees to the right? Emma, I need a 10-blade scalpel. I need a reading on those vitals!”

Emma rushed to Gabrielle’s side presenting her with a sharp scalpel.

“Blood pressure is slightly elevated, but breathing is steady,” Eric responded.

“Thanks, Emma. Ryan, could you angle the camera another 15 degrees towards the left? I need to get in this crevice.”

“Yes, Doctor.”

Ryan shifted the camera slightly to the left.

“Aaaaand stop! Right there! Hold it...” Gabrielle said as her hands moved firmly with keen precision. She pulled one of the bullet fragments from the first layer of flesh of the patient’s lung.

“You got it!” Emma squealed.

“Don’t celebrate just yet. I have to get the other half,” Gabrielle said with her eyes still focused on the task at hand. She placed the first half of the bullet fragment on the plate Emma was holding and turned back to the patient.

“This will be a little tricky. Ryan, come on this side and angle upward by 45 degrees.”

Ryan moved to Gabrielle’s left, angling the camera light.

“I just need... One. More. Push...”

She cut slightly deeper into the lung, reaching the other half of the bullet. Blood began to gush as she scooped it out. .

*BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!*

“Vitals are dropping!” Eric shouted.

“Quick! Pass me the sealant!” Gabrielle said with urgency.. Emma quickly passed the liquid which Gabrielle took, squirting it onto the wound.

She then called out for a needle, for which Emma passed over. Gabrielle then began to sew up the wound before dabbing it with a clean cloth.

“Vitals are stabilizing,” Eric sighed heavily.

Relieved, Gabrielle wiped her sweaty forehead with the back of her gloved hand. “Alright, let’s patch him up,” Gabrielle smiled as she backed away from the patient.

“I can’t believe you got that out. The bullet was so deep- it looked impossible,” Emma Emma looked on in astonishment.

“Well... that’s what we’re here for, Ems. To make the impossible… possible,” Gabrielle smiled. She headed towards the door, pulling down her mask and taking off her gloves. With a hop in her step, she exited the operating room. Walking through the hallway, she headed towards the private waiting room.

“Hey! Gabby!” Ryan called out, jogging after her.

Gabrielle turned around. “Great work in there Ryan!” she grinned with pride..

“I was going to say the same to you! I don’t know how you do it!” he chuckled.

“Just gotta have a little faith, Ry. Now for my favorite part. Wanna join?” Gabrielle smiled from ear to ear, turning to face the waiting room. Her eyes searched the waiting room, before landing on a family. An elderly woman with two small children, waited anxiously in the corner of the room. She motioned for Ryan to follow her as she walked over to the family.

“Ms. Ellison?” Gabrielle called, walking up to them.

“Oh! Dr. Johansson! Please! Please, God, tell me he is okay! Please!” the elderly woman pleaded.

“Ms. Ellison, your son is going to be perfectly fine. We were able to remove both bullet fragments. He’s going into recovery now. You should be able to see him soon,” Gabrielle beamed at the family.

“Oh, thank God!! Thank you, Dr. Johansson! Children, did you hear? Your father is going to be okay!” the elderly woman cried out as she embraced her grandchildren.

Gabrielle smiled fondly, watching the small family shower each other with comforting affection.

“Thank you so much, Dr. Johansson!” the woman said suddenly embracing Gabrielle. “And you! Thank you too!” she said turning to Ryan and hugging him as well.

“Come on. I’ll take you to his room now where you can wait for him,” Gabrielle said almost as happy as the elderly woman. One of the children eagerly ran to grab Gabrielle’s hand. She looked down at the small child and smiled, picking her up into her arms as the little girl squealed with glee. As they walked down the hall together, Gabrielle heard her name being called.

“Dr. Johansson! There’s a call for you on line 4!” called the nurse.

“Can it wait? I’m tending to a family,” Gabrielle said tickling the laughing child she held in her arms.

“It’s your mother... she said it’s important,” the nurse called out.

Gabrielle furrowed her brow and frowned as she turned to Ryan.

“Go talk to your mom. I’ll take them,” Ryan said, plucking the child from her arms.

“Are you sure?” she asked with concern, giving the child up to him reluctantly.

“Yea, go!”

“Ok... Ms. Ellison, Dr. Goldsberg will take care of you and see that you get to see your son. I have to go, but I’ll see you soon to check up on you all, okay?” she said, turning to the elderly woman.

“Yes, yes. Thank you,” the elderly woman said grasping Gabrielle’s hands tightly and smiling gratefully.

Gabrielle could feel the cold wrinkle of her skin against hers and smiled somberly at the elderly woman. She said her last farewell and headed towards the reception desk to pick up the phone.

“Hey Mom, is everything okay?”

“Gabby? Baby? Oh, I’m so glad to hear your voice,” came her mother’s voice from the other end.

“It’s good to hear from you too, Mom. Are you alright?”

“I-I know you’re working, baby girl, but... but...” Gabrielle heard her mother begin to choke up before a sob escaped her lips.

“Mom? Mom! What’s wrong? What happened?” Gabrielle asked anxiously.

“It’s Steve. Steve Richardson. He… he passed away in the hospital earlier this afternoon from a heart attack. Can you come home, baby? The fam-”

Gabrielle immediately zoned out from her mother’s words. Tears brimmed in her eyes, widened from shock as Papa Steve’s face popped into her mind. The thin lines on his weary, kind face perfectly sculpted the image of a man who had been nothing but a father to her, especially since her own father had passed away when she was just a toddler.

She could still see his warm smile and feel his heavy hand on her shoulder as he told her how proud he was of her for graduating college and getting accepted into medical school. The tears rapidly gushed down her face as the phone faltered in her hands.

“Papa Steve...” she breathed out, choking on her own shock.

“Gabby? Gabrielle!” came her mother’s voice again.

“Yes! Mom... I’m sorry I just... I-… I can’t believe it,” Gabrielle sobbed, heavily fighting back her tears as she leaned on the edge of the nurse’s desk to hold herself up.

The nurse looked at her worriedly, craning her neck to see if the doctor was okay. Gabrielle merely nodded as she lowered her head.

“I know, baby, I’m sorry. Can you come home? We really need your help here. His family is an emotional wreck... They need all the help they can get.”

Gabrielle thought back to Charlie and Chris, Papa Steve’s two sons and her childhood best friends. She couldn’t imagine what they were going through. They were both so close to their father. And Mrs. Sally... her heart must be so broken.

“Yea, Mom. I’ll um... I’ll book a flight tonight,” Gabrielle said making eye contact with the worried nurse who picked up another phone to make a call.

“Thank you, baby. I’ll see you soon. I love you.”

“I love you too, Mom.”

Gabrielle hung up the phone and headed to her office to pack her things to leave.

~*~

Back at her apartment, Gabrielle began to pack her clothes when her fiancé, Damian, strolled into the room and leaned against the doorpost, watching her.

“Going somewhere?” He eyed her suspiciously from the corner of the room with his arms folded across his chest.

Gabrielle jumped slightly startled and looked back to see her fiancé. Wearing a thin white shirt that contrasted nicely with his caramel-toned skin, Damian’s ever-chill demeanor paired well with his typically classy appearance.

“Damian! Hey, baby. I tried to reach you earlier. I know this is really sudden, but I have to fly back home to Pennsylvania. You won’t believe it, but Mr. Steve Richardson just passed away,” she said, stuffing her clothes into her bag. She could feel the tears starting to well up again but quickly wiped her eyes to keep them at bay.

“Damn... I’m sorry to hear that, my love. You okay?” he asked her, stuffing his hands into his pockets.

“Yea... I don’t know... It’s hard for me to process everything. This was so sudden and unexpected. I haven’t been home in years...” she sighed heavily and turned to him clutching a sweater in her hands.

“Well, you don’t have to go... Stay here until your mom provides more details on the funeral arrangements,” he said walking up to her and gently removing the sweater from her clutches. He swiftly grabbed her by the waist, pulling her body against his and looked into her deep brown eyes with his charming hazel ones.

“... I can’t, babe… She actually needs my help with the funeral arrangements. I’m guessing Mrs. Sally is a little too broken up to take care of it right now,” Gabrielle furrowed her brow. She looked up at him as an idea clicked.

“Why don’t you come with me?” she perked up.

“You know that’s not possible... I have the art gala I have to prepare for next week,” he said softly nuzzling her neck.

“Shoot... I almost forgot,” she said smacking her forehead.

“It’s okay... You’ll be back by then,” he said placing small light kisses on her neck.

“Um... yea, for sure I’ll try to be back by then,” she said, closing her eyes against his tender, fleeting pecks.

“You’ll try?” he asked abruptly as he stopped kissing her to look her in the eye.

“Uh... y-yea. I mean I just don’t know what to expect: when the funeral will be or how long things will take-”

“Well, you’ll have a week to figure it out. I expect to see you at the art gala,” he said, gripping her a bit more firmly by her waist and tightening his grasp around her wrist. He looked at her with such intensity, a very stern look on his face as his eyes went dark. “I’ve been preparing for this art gala for months. I expect my fiancé to be there.”

“R-right... of course, Damian,” Gabrielle said anxiously.

He eyed her for a tense moment before he softened his gaze.

“Good girl,” he said, going back to his kind demeanor. He loosened his death grip from her wrist and gently placed a light kiss on her forehead.

“Make sure you wear the red dress I bought you. You look best in red,” he said walking towards the door. “Let me know when you’re leaving.”

Gabrielle swallowed thickly as she watched him walk out of the bedroom.

“…Okay...”

~*~

“You sure you’ll be okay? I can come with you!”

“No, no... Thank you, Ems. I’ll let you know when I land,” Gabrielle said to her friend and fellow colleague over the phone.

“Immediately! I know which flight you’re on!” Emma threatened.

“I know, I know. I promise,” Gabrielle chuckled. “I’ll talk to you later.”

Gabrielle hung up the phone and sunk into her seat as she waited for the plane to take off. She glanced down at her wrists and rubbed them softly, still sore from when Damian grabbed her.

She thought about Chris and Charlie and how much fun they had together growing up as kids… going to middle school together… then conquering high school together. Charlie and Chris were like her brothers. And despite their very different backgrounds, they knew her well and she knew them well. But not as well as they knew each other. They were only 2 years apart and always so in sync.

Oftentimes, it seemed as if they knew what the other was feeling. They were constantly connected. And simply... inseparable.

For a while, people thought they were twins, until Chris’s hair darkened and Charlie’s eyes became greener.

She closed her eyes and saw her brother Eli, Papa Steve, Charlie, and Chris. She remembered when Steve took the 4 of them to see Spider-man when it first premiered in theaters. She partially blamed Steve for her love of comic books and superheroes and had always been regarded as a bit of a tomboy growing up in PA. But ever since she started attending med school and became engaged to Damian DuPont, she trained herself to shed her traditional ways and conduct herself like a modern professional woman.

They had become LA’s newest power couple, after all… and she had to keep up their image.

She looked down at the beautiful, large 3-carat diamond ring that Damian had proposed to her with at the most expensive and well-known restaurant in LA less than 4 months ago. She remembered being taken completely by surprise. She and Damian had never discussed getting married. But how could she possibly say no to that ring... to him?

She and Damian had been through so much together. There were things about her that only he knew and through that trust their relationship grew.

But to Gabrielle it always felt… binding.

The Future Mrs. Damian DuPont: Most highly esteemed surgeon and wife of Mr. Damian DuPont, the most talented and well-known artist in LA.

This is what she always wanted.

Right?

She took off her engagement ring and tucked it into her jean pocket. She hadn’t told her family and friends yet.

She would when the time was right…

When her flight landed, Gabrielle breathed in the fresh crisp air of good ol’ Pennsylvania. It had been 4 years since she last stepped foot in her hometown and 8 since she had last seen her friends after graduating from college. Medical school and residency had taken up so much of her life. She eagerly searched the crowd until she landed on a familiar face.

“Eli!” she squealed running towards her brother. With a grin, Eli opened his arms wide and braced himself as he caught her in his arms and spun her around. His bright white smile contrasted beautifully with his rich dark mocha skin ever so similar to his sister.

They chuckled in each other’s arms savoring the warmth of their embrace and letting their sibling love rekindle. Gabrielle gawked at Eli as he set her back down on the ground.

“Damn, Eli! You been working out, boy?” Gabrielle teased as she pinched his arm.

“Ay, shaddup!” Eli laughed, playfully pushing her. “It’s been 4 years, baby sis. That’s no bueno.”

Gabrielle twisted her mouth awkwardly. “Yea, I know... I’ve been so caught up with school and work... I mean I visited for Christmas…”

“You came and left the same day, Gabby. You didn’t even get to see the Richardsons,” he crossed his arms looking at her judgmentally.

“I know. I’m sorry... Work has just been so demanding... but...there’s no excuse to not see family. I hope you can forgive me,” she frowned, looking up at him with her big brown eyes giving him puppy eyes.

He smirked at her as he leaned off of his car and pulled her in for a long embrace.

“Man, I can’t be mad at you, sis. You’re doing big things. I’m proud of you,” he said resting his cheek on the top of her head.

She smiled up at him and noticed the sudden change in his expression.

“I just wish you were here on better terms,” he said sadly. He looked down at her and saw the tears start to brim.

“Aww, damn... c’mere, sis.”

He pulled her in for another long embrace.

“I just... I can’t believe he’s gone,” she said softly as her tears dripped onto his shirt and she buried her face into his chest.

“I know... Me neither... Come on let’s get you home. Ma has been talking about you all day,” he motioned for her to get in the car. They pulled out of the parking lot and headed to their mother’s house.

~*~

Gabrielle glanced out of the window as they drove into the more rural parts of Pennsylvania. She felt a warmness blanket her, as she took in the multi-color leaves of the trees.

She loved PA in the fall.

They pulled up to their mother’s house, and before Eli had finished parking, their mother came running out of the house and down the stairs of the patio. Gabrielle rushed out of the car and met her mother halfway as they lovingly collided into a warm embrace.

“Mama,” Gabrielle said contentedly as she took in her mother’s familiar perfume. She hadn’t realized just how much she missed her mother until she felt her in her arms.

Clara pulled back to look at her daughter, her cheeks puffing up into a smile as she took in her daughter’s matured appearance.

“My baby girl. It’s been too long,” Clara said heartily, holding her daughter by the shoulders and taking a minute to look her over. “Have you been eating enough?”

“I missed you too, Mama,” Gabrielle said, rolling her eyes and hugging her mother again.

“Come in the house. I just got through making dinner,” Clara said grabbing her daughter by the hand and leading her inside.

Gabrielle walked into her old home and was immediately hit with a wave of nostalgia as she breathed in the familiar smell of her childhood mixed with her mother’s delicious cooking.

Fried chicken. Mac and cheese. Cornbread. Collard greens. Sweet potato pie.

“Did you do all this for me?” Gabrielle asked with a huge smile on her face as she walked into the kitchen to see her mother pulling out containers.

“Of course! Who knows when the last time was you had a decent meal!” Clara said as she started piling some of the food into containers.

“Uh... Mom... You know I’m not leaving for a while,” Gabrielle informed her.

“Well good, but this ain’t for you. I’ve been cooking some meals for the Richardsons as they go through this hard time. I know dear Sally can barely keep it together, let alone make food for her family, the poor woman,” Clara said sadly.

“The boys are still living with her?” Gabrielle asked, surprised.

“Child, please. Them boys moved out as soon as they got the money for it. No, Sally being the loving soul she is has taken in a few kids temporarily from the church who lost their parents until the end of the week before they move on to their adopting families. Lord knows their house is large enough to house the entire town.”

“Oh, that’s sweet of her,” Gabrielle said thoughtfully. “I haven’t seen the boys in a while. How are they?”

“Charles and Christopher? Oh... those poor boys... you know how much they loved their father. They’re holding up as best they could. You’ll find out for yourself. I need you to take this food over to Sally. She’ll be delighted to see you,” Clara said, closing the last container.

“Sure, okay,” Gabrielle said nervously. It had been a while since she had seen any of the Richardsons.

“Hey Gabby, come check this out,” called Eli from the living room. Gabrielle walked into the living room to find Eli going through a large box in the middle of the floor. “Moms has been cleaning out the attic and found this old treasure,” he grinned, looking through the box.

“Oh wow!” she breathed excited. In the box was an old X-men action figure of Storm. She picked it up. “I forgot about my X-Men collection. You used to pop the heads off of all of my female X-Men figures. Papa Steve tried to put them back on, but the heads were square-shaped,” she shook her head.

Eli laughed loudly as he reminisced. “You would get so pissed, you wouldn’t talk to me for a week. Good times.”

She rolled her as she continued to rummage through the box. Her eyes widened in surprise as she spotted something else. It was a Dragonball-Z themed football. She picked it up.

“Oh my goodness! Remember this?” she turned to Eli, tossing the ball to him.

He held out his hand, catching the ball. He gently squeezed the ball. “Oh yea, we used to play all the time with this. Can’t believe it’s not flat,” Eli replied with a smile.

“Gabrielle, come eat this food! You need to head out to Mrs. Sally’s before it gets too late!” Clara called out.

“Okay mama!” she shouted as she tucked the football under her arm, heading to the kitchen.

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