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Rated: 13+ · Novel · Romance/Love · #2204376
Amanda goes to the work retreat.
The Hammer and the Anvil
Book One of Forging the Bond


Summary: Amanda Pelletier is goaded into attending a work retreat... in the woods of all places. Once there she discovers she should have listened to everyone who told her not to go. Her strength is tested, and her will to continue working for her boss, to whom she is extremely loyal, but a girl can only take so much.

Note: Recently changed from first to third person, so any advice on making it sound more cohesive would be greatly appreciated.

Chapter One
Don't Have An Adventure


"This cannot be happening," Amanda moaned, staring at the paper in her hands. She glared at Toby, her boss of three years, and waved the paper in his face. "You can't be serious!" Her mind rang with nightmare scenarios of bugs in her hair, tripping over fallen branches, and getting caught in the rain.

"I am serious," he answered, still smiling, though it looked a bit forced now. "It will be good for all of us. We need to become a team." He ran his fingers through his, slightly overlong, thick brown hair and gave her a pleading look. His chocolate brown eyes begged silently. "We all need to do this."

"Why not the Bahamas! Or even the beaches here! You can't expect us to traipse through the woods! Please don't make me go. Please!" she was begging now, and she didn't care how desperate it made her look. This was a matter of life and death. Waving her left arm, which was still in a sling after her latest mishap, she hoped to get him to see reason.

"Amanda," Toby sat in the chair across from her desk, his smile gone now as he tried to explain. "We've lost four employees now. Four. Those head-hunters from Boston are snatching them up for our competition. If this keeps going I'll be out of business in a year, which means you will no longer have a job, and no one else will either. Think about it. Please?"

Letting out a frustrated huff, Amanda stared at her boss for a long minute. "Fine, I'll go," she answered, "but if I get hurt you're getting me all the chocolate I can eat for a month."

A laugh answered her. "Deal," he announced, standing and reaching across the desk to shake her hand before she could back out. "Give it a chance. This place is supposed to be pretty great, and the cost isn't bad. They have everything we want and nothing we don't."

She shook her head, letting out an aggrieved sigh to let him know that, though he had won, she wasn't happy. "The last place I ever imagined I would willingly go is into the woods."

Toby laughed and left her office to tell the others. Amanda watched through the large glass window that served as one wall of her office. When he approached the others most of them smiled and looked excited. Several glanced toward her office however, skeptical looks on their faces. She had to sigh again. Although she was among the best web designers in the company, or according to Toby, in all of New England, she had other problems.

Amanda was the world's biggest klutz. It helped to live in a city with a large hospital. Portland, Maine had a hospital. One that had seen her often. She had lost count of all the injuries she'd had over the years, most of them incredibly stupid.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Her coworkers weren't the only ones that made a fuss about her vulnerablility. As soon as she walked into her mother's house that evening, her mother caught sight of the brochure and snatched it from her hands. "Amanda Pellitier!" she screeched, "tell me you aren't going!" Her voice was higher than Amanda had heard it in years.

"I have to go mom," she said. "But I promise to be careful."

"Hmph!" was the only response as her mother scannned the brochure. She tossed it down onto the kitchen table as she dragged Amanda into the room, and forced her to sit down. "Seven!"

"What?" Amanda asked, confused.

"Seven. Seven broken bones. Four concussions." Cynthia Pellitier threw her hands into the air, swinging them wildly. "Once," she continued, sounding nearly hysterical, "you almost put out your eye with a pencil! You aren't meant to be out in the woods, or anywhere near a lake!"

"Mom-," Amanda tried to cut in, but when Cynthia was on a tear, there was no stopping her.

"Amanda, you have to get out of this," her mother demanded. "Take some vaction time. Take another job. Quit! Just do something to get yourself out of this!"

It had taken nearly an hour to calm her mother down, but the arguments didn't stop there. Her father had gone as far as calling her boss to demand he change the location of the work retreat. Several friends had suggested she quit her job, and her cousin Tara had pulled out a measuring tape and started talking about the size of coffins. After that, Amanda had taken her phone off the hook, soaked in a long bath, and had blatantly ignored anyone and everyone who tried to talk her out of going.

She might hate the woods, and she was sure to gripe and grumble about the trip, but she was loyal to Toby, who had given her a chance right out of school. She was only twenty-three and had been working for him for three years. She wouldn't abandon him now.

~*~*~*~*~*~


Three vans were already parked there when Amanda arrived in the parking lot of her work at four o-clock in the morning. Only a week had passed since the meeting with Toby. A week in which she had avoided most of her friends and family, and had looked over her life-insurance policy, just to be safe. The sling was off her arm, though the doctor had ordered her to be careful. Now she had to do that while in the woods of all things.

With a sigh, she took a bracing sip of her coffee, which was laced with a good helping of hot chocolate. A smile formed as she thought of the way the barista always knew exactly what she wanted first thing in the morning. She munched her double-chocolate fudge-frosted doughnut while she waited for her co-workers to arrive. Toby pulled in only moments after she did and began loading his bags into the back of one of the vans.

Within fifteen minutes everyone had arrived, the bags were loaded, and she was sitting in the front seat of one of the vans next to a silent blonde man, whose hands were already on the wheel. Amanda had said hello and only received a grunt in response. The radio was on low, the station a mix of old rock and heavy metal music. It wasn't something she minded, and already a song had played she knew the words to, so the trip was off to a good start.

"You know," Josie said, leaning over the seat to talk in Amanda's ear, "I heard this place is maybe half an hour away flying, but it's almost three in a car."

Amanda shuddered. "Not good," she whispered, "but I took my anti-nausea medication already."

Josie grinned. "Good. Last thing we need is you getting sick. Did your mother call again?"

"Honestly, I don't know. I don't want to know. I've had enough of people telling me something I'm already familiar with." She held up her cell phone, which she had turned off the night before, and frowned. Her mother had been worse in the past few years. There was a level of hostility between Cynthia and her husband Andrew throughout her childhood that had stuck with her, making Amanda leery of ever falling in love herself, but lately they hadn't fought as much and her mother had turned all that anger onto everyone else around her.

Amanda slept through most of the drive, the Dramamine making her tired, but as the sun started peeking over the horizon, she opened her eyes and the world around her was like a painting. Sunlight tipped the tops of the trees, making them seem to glow. There was moss on some of the trunks, painting the world in shades of green and brown. The road cut through the thick forest, occasional areas of fresh cuttings opening little meadows littered with pieces of wood that had been left behind. New trees had already started to grow in most of them. They passed through several small towns, but she didn't take much interest in them, though she did pay some attention to the houses, most of which were old, but beautiful.

Though she was worried about what would happen on the retreat, Amanda was awed by her surroundings. Thoughts of snakes, spiders, bear, and moose were far from her mind as she caught her breath and stared at the high peaks of distant mountains and the occasional glassy blue of ponds and lakes they passed. Maine was a breathtaking wonderland for those who enjoyed the outdoors. Or, like her, those who preferred to view it from the safety of a car window.

Snuck into the bottom of Amanda's bag was her e-reader, which was filled with books she wanted to read while they were out in the wilderness and everyone else was enjoying it. She would be hiding in her bed, or sitting in a comfortable chair where it was safe. She wasn't thrilled with the idea of being surrounded by unknown wildlife.

The vans turned onto a compacted dirt road and the driver slowed down. He hadn't spoken to any of them, and Amanda silently wondered if he hated his job and the people he had to cart back and forth. Occasionally he would glance toward her, or look into the rearview mirror, but he kept his peace.

They pulled into the Lavoie Retreat just after seven in the morning, and her first view of the place was spectacular. There were three very long cabins in a line to one side, just beyond the tree line. They all faced the same way, and looked nearly identical. Amanda was reminded of the Lincoln Logs she had played with as a child. The cabins were built of logs, stacked one on another.

The main cabin faced them across a wide open space where there was a small parking area, a fountain, and what looked like a tiny race track. It was two stories tall, and much larger than the other structures. A wide porch wrapped around the entire building and on the upper floor a balcony spread out over the front with a slanted roof protecting inhabitants from the elements. Gauzy curtains swayed in the open windows, making it seem cozy and welcoming. A thin tendril of smoke rose out of the stone chimney. It looked like something she might see in a painting. Amanda couldn't help but smile.

There was another cabin hidden behind the main one, also two stories, but much longer in length. This one looked more lived in, and Amanda could hear a dog barking inside. There were boots on the porch of that cabin and the curtains were all blue. Something in Amanda sparked at the sight of the glider swing on one end of the porch, and she wanted to go up and sit there, staring out at the woods. However, the cabin didn't seem as though it was meant for guests, not hidden the way it was. And there was a low fence around it, with a wide gate, probably so the dog could stay outside on nice days. It was a home.

Climbing out of the van, Amanda groaned and held the small of her back, trying to stretch muscles that hadn't moved nearly enough during the three-hour trip. The air smelled fresh and pure. She detected pine and something else she couldn't name. It was all beautiful, though she wished she could have her adventure in a safer way, through a book.

"That took forever," Josie complained, arching her back the same way Amanda had moments before. A long time friend, Josie tended to point out the obvious, but she was kind and caring, though she could be abrasive when she was angry.

"It could have been longer," Amanda said, trying to be charitable, then noticed Toby approaching and added a touch of heat to her voice, "of course we could have gone to the Bahamas."

Josie laughed. "Nice try," she whispered when Toby only rolled his eyes and started tugging luggage out of the first van. Amanda and Josie moved to do the same in the second one, which they had ridden in.

The blonde haired man walked to the back of the van. "Go on in," he said, his voice soft and mellow. He seemed to be the stoic, unruffled sort. "We can bring all these in. Just take your purses with you for now. My sister will show you around."

"Okay. Thanks," Amanda said. "And uh, thanks for driving us." She was slightly surprised to hear him speaking. She had assumed he wouldn't talk to them at all. Maybe she should have thought to bring him a coffee. Grinning, she tugged on Josie's hand and led her to the main building. "Let's go."

When the door opened, Josie gasped in wonder. Mentally, Amanda was doing cartwheels. It was incredibly beautiful. One half of the upper floor was wide open with large windows that brought in sunlight, which sparkled on a chandelier set above. The walls were unfinished logs. Stone hearths covered large portions of the room on either side, wide windows around them in the main area. Doors opened up in the back and they were led into a long hallway. On one side of the hall was a modern industrial kitchen and a long dining room with a dozen round tables. On the other there were two conference rooms, large bathrooms, and a small medical station with a bed on one side, a small green couch situated next to it.

Josie nudged Amanda with her elbow and pointed to the bed. "At least you know where you'll be spending most of your time," she teased.

Amanda laughed. It was no secret she was a klutz and she wasn't sensitive about it. "What do you want to bet I take someone down with me?" she asked, wondering if she could make money on her worst trait.

The woman who was showing them around introduced herself as Jennifer Lavoie, and explained that all meals were cooked on site, that their beds had already been assigned in one of the three cabins, and that there was a continental-type breakfast available for all of them, which included the coffee she was currently brewing. "My brothers should both be here in a minute. They're just unloading the vans now. It was a long drive, so they might need a bit of time."

Amanda helped herself to a cup and found the hot chocolate mix. Within a few minutes she had a steaming cup in front of her on the conference table in the larger room, where there were couches on three sides and a large white screen on the fourth. Soon the others had filed in and they began a series of meetings that lasted most of the day. During the last portion they were shown some of the events that would begin the following morning, and Amanda had to groan when she saw them. Trust exercises were dangerous, even for someone who wasn't accident prone. She threw a glare at Toby, frowning when he pretended not to see.

Dinner was set up in the dining room they had seen that morning during the tour. Amanda sat between Josie and Peter. While Josie was light and airy, with ivory skin, pale blonde hair, and soft blue eyes, Peter was dark, with swarthy skin, chestnut hair, and eyes the color of amber. Both were wearing jeans and t-shirts, but she knew they could dress to impress for a night out.

Josie was another designer like her, but Peter was some sort of programming wizard who set up security for web sites. He had done some work for rather large corporations, preventing hackers from stealing the identities of potential employees, amongst other things. He was a good friend, and the three of them often went out together.

On this night however, Peter seemed to be depressed and wasn't his natural flamboyant self. He let out a heavy sigh as he settled into his seat and instead of eating his pork chops, he fiddled with his fork. Amanda felt bad for him. His boyfriend of nearly four years had recently admitted to cheating. It had only happened once, the other man claimed, and he had been drunk at the time.

Amanda thought she would probably break up with a guy if he cheated on her, but Peter was desperately in love with Anthony and wasn't sure what he wanted to do. While Josie and Peter spent the meal discussing the pros and cons of dating, Amanda turned her focus onto her food. She wasn't all that interested in dating. Too many girls had the image of a knight on a white horse running in to rescue them. She wasn't interested in being rescued, or being in a relationship. Too many years of watching her parent's nearly silent battles had killed the idea of happily ever after.

They all trooped out to the cabins when dinner was done. Each of the cabins had four rooms. Two rooms were set up for couples, with queen sized beds, but those were closed off to keep everything fair. The other rooms were outfitted with bunk beds. On the doors of those, bed assignments had been posted.

Josie reached the door to their room first. "Uh uhn!" she cried out. "Not happening!" She took a red sharpie out of her purse and crossed Amanda's name off the top of one of the bunks and switched it with her own. "Nope, nope, nope. There. Problem solved."

Amanda laughed. Josie always had her back. She wasn't a fan of trips to the emergency room and went out of her way to help Amanda avoid them. Falling out of a top bunk would definitely have been cause for such a trip.

There wasn't much conversation as Amanda and her coworkers climbed into bed. All four bunks were full, but they were tired. Fresh air, a long day, and extremely good food had done their work and the women were too exhausted to chatter. There would be more than enough time over the next few days.

It took a long time for Amanda to fall asleep, in spite of her drowsiness. She had never been so far from the city and, to her ears, all the noises were wrong. Instead of the familiar sirens, traffic noises, and chatter of people going to clubs, she heard the chirping of crickets, croaking of frogs, and something that made a long, loud humming noise. She tossed and turned for nearly an hour before sleep took her.

~*~*~*~*~*~


The next morning, after showering and getting dressed in the large communal bathrooms at the end of the hallway, the group in their cabin trooped toward the main building for breakfast. Amanda mixed hot chocolate with her morning coffee, grumbling under her breath about the futility of trust exercises as she wondered if she would survive the day.

Josie was the sort you couldn't talk to until her third cup of coffee, and Peter wasn't much better that morning, so she sat at the table closest to the window and stared out, wondering if she might see any wildlife. She had never been close to deer or moose or any of the other wild things that lived in the forest, and wasn't that keen to be anywhere near them. Seeing them through a window didn't sound too dangerous though, so she kept her eyes peeled as she picked at her food and sipped her drink.

Toby stood at the front of the room and waited for their attention. "Finish your breakfast and then we are all going outside to start the trust exercises."

"Trust should be earned, not given away," Amanda groused as they formed a loose circle twenty minutes later.

The first exercise of the day was simple. Just fall backwards into the arms of coworkers. For Amanda it wasn't too scary, simply because she lived in a northern state, which meant ice in the winter. Ice meant falls, and lots of them. She could handle that much if they dropped her.

Before she knew it, she was done. Two of her coworkers caught her, then she helped catch two others, and partially dropped a third before they all moved on to an obstacle course. Groans could be heard from nearly all of them. Amanda peered over at Toby, who looked a little green as he stared over the course, then peeked back at her.

"Alright," the blonde man who had driven us the day before called out. Amanda thought she'd heard one of the others call him James. He hadn't left their sides since they'd headed out of the main cabin that morning. "You've all been paired up. I have to go help a neighbor, but my brother, Mark, will be out in just a minute. You have your assignments. Stick to the path. The blindfolds and hand-grips are in this box. Just grab them and get ready. Wait for Mark to get here before you start," he added, then waved and walked away.

Toby had the list of groupings. Amanda let out a soft sigh as he pointed to her and a young man named Edgar approached. She didn't know him very well, and what she did know didn't bode well for this sort of exercise. He handed her a blindfold and a hunk of rope that had two loose round ends. It wouldn't tighten, which meant if she started to fall she could catch herself. Still, the thought of having anyone lead her through an obstacle course was scary, and it being Edgar of all people was worse.

Not that he was a bad guy. He was just a vague sort who seemed to forget what he was doing half the time. He wore large coke-bottle glasses which certainly didn't inspire confidence. Amanda wasn't sure exactly what his job was. Some sort of coding for security purposes, she thought. He didn't talk to many people however, and she couldn't recall actually having a conversation with him. Even as she took the proffered items he didn't say a word. A minute later she had the blindfold over her eyes and her hands clung to the outer edges of the ropes.

Edgar took her by the arm and started leading her through the woods. It was less than ten steps before their first mishap. Edgar led her right under a tree and she smacked her forehead into a low-hanging branch. Cursing under her breath she sent a frown in his general direction. His mumbled apologies didn't dampen her frustration.

Hedging her bets, Amanda peeked out from under the blindfold several times. She certainly didn't trust Edgar to get her through safely. Twigs and small branches tripped her every few steps, and she scraped her arm on another branch Edgar missed. 'Seriously bad move,' she thought to herself, 'letting Edgar the Blind lead the biggest klutz in history.' She let out a heavy sigh and continued to peek.

The pair climbed over a small stone bridge, around a massive rock, and under several tall trees. Amanda was growing more frustrated by the minute, her sighs audible to Edgar, who winced every time she bumped or scraped against something. Still, he continued to lead her on.

"Are we nearly done yet?" Amanda asked, her irritation making her voice waspish in spite of knowing it wasn't Edgar's fault he had been chosen to be her guide.

"I don't -" Edgar's reply was cut off by Amanda's scream as she suddenly plummeted into a large hole in the ground.

The hole was nearly seven feet deep, but to Amanda, who was falling blindly, the trip down seemed to take a hundred years. She let go of the cord she'd been holding behind her back, and reached out with both hands, grasping blindly at anything that could halt her downward momentum. Dirt and weeds met her clutching fingertips, and then she hit the ground with a thud and felt her leg snap.

For a long moment shock prevented the pain from reaching her, and then Amanda began to scream. She took a breath and let out another scream, her mind filled with pain and panic. She was hurting, alone, and couldn't see. For just a moment she thought she'd gone blind, until she remembered the blindfold and tore it off her face, scratching her cheeks in the process.

When she looked up, Amanda could see Edgar leaning over the edge of the sinkhole, his hands outstretched as though he had intended to catch her. His hair was wild, his glasses askew, and it looked as though he was only seconds away from crying his eyes out. Within moments most of her coworkers had joined him at the edges of the hole, staring down at her with looks of shock and sympathy, but none of them seemed ready or able to help her out of the pit.

"Do something!" she yelled, panic and pain making her voice hoarse. "Get me out of here!"

Still they did nothing. The group stood there, looking at each other, then down at her. It was as though each of them was waiting for someone else to make the first move. No one did. Mentally she was screaming for help, and in pain, but she simply stared back up at them, waiting for one of them to break free of the stupor they were in and help her.

"Help me," she whimpered, the pain growing stronger as time passed.

Amanda sat there, pain making her sweat, tears streaming down her face, and the wet earth dampening her jeans, wondering what would happen if no one ever got her out. Would she be in the hole forever? The ground was damp and smelled musty and pungent. Worms were crawling around on the floor and walls of the sinkhole and she knew there had to be other bugs as well. It was colder in the pit than above and she shivered wildly.

"Come and get me!" she yelled.

Still, no one moved. It was as though they were all paralyzed with shock and fear. Meanwhile it seemed as though a thousand years had passed while she waited in the bottom of the hole. And she was worried about shock. Looking around, Amanda came to the conclusion that she couldn't climb out on her own. The walls were muddy and there were no thick roots to grab onto, even if she had two good legs.

'Please,' she thought desperately, 'please someone help me.'

"Get out of the way damnit!" she heard someone yell from a distance. Several people were yanked backward away from the hole.

The man who appeared then looked like a god to Amanda, who was damp, muddy, and covered in blood, sweat, and tears. She sniffled once as she stared up at him. He had blonde hair, messy and a bit overlong. His shoulders were broad and heavily muscled, and he had the slightly crooked nose of a man who'd been forced to fight once or twice. Amanda let out a sigh, half relief, half longing. Even in pain her body responded to him, which was unusual, even for her.

"Are you alright?" he asked, his voice calm, though his eyes had a wild look of someone on the edge of dangerous action.

"I don't know," Amanda admitted, unsure what else to say. She was sure her leg was broken, though she studiously avoided looking. The last thing she needed was to add vomiting to her already messy look.

"Is anything broken?" he asked, concern etching his voice. She wished he had started with another inquiry. Anything was better than looking down.

"My leg. I heard it snap and it feels broken." Still she refused to look. She was sure it was, but it felt different than the few other times she had broken bones. She was trapped in the bottom of a pit, feeling helpless, and she wasn't sure how bad the break was. All the others were clustered together around the sinkhole, still staring down at her, as though they had nothing better to do that gawk at her. She wanted to be out of the pit before she assessed the damage.

The man, who she immediately dubbed Mr. Hunk, urged the others away from the sinkhole with a series of gestures, swear words, and the sheer force of his nature. He turned away for a long minute. Amanda felt bereft without his eyes on her. She let out a choked sob, but he immediately turned back and threw one end of a rope down to her.

"Tie this around your waist and under both of your legs," Mr. Hunk ordered, his tone firm and calm.

Amanda grabbed the rope like the lifeline it was, and followed his instructions, trying it in a loop around her legs and then her waist. Her trembling fingers messed up the operation several times, but eventually the deed was done. While Amanda's leg throbbed like a sore tooth, her mind was filled with images of the strong man above her, who looked like a god in her current situation.

Finally the rope was secure and the man began hauling her up, without the aid of any of the others, who stood still as statues, faces pale and ashen. One hand over the other, the gorgeous man lifted her out of the hole and straight into his arms. She grunted in pain several times, and the man winced in sympathy, but kept his face calm.

Amanda felt like swooning the moment he was holding her. The pain as his arm came under both her legs was intense, but she focused on not vomiting all over him, using his chiseled cheek bones and the delightful cleft in his chin as a focal point. He smelled divine, perspiration mixed with a woody aftershave. Amanda was strangely content to be hauled around by him.

Staring up at the man while he moved quickly out of the crowd of her coworkers, Amanda could tell he was completely focused on the task at hand. He didn't seem to even notice the presence of the others. A strange urge to pull him down for a kiss tugged at Amanda, but she ignored it, secretly wishing she had a little less willpower. He was hot.

She hardly noticed the opening of the cabin door, or the change in light. When the man settled her onto the couch however, she nearly screamed at the pain of it. The pain hit her like a ton of bricks, the helpful fog disappearing in an instant. Tears streamed down her cheeks, and hoarse sobs forced out of her, shaking her entire body in the process. Frustrated that she was an ungly crier, she sniffled miserably as Mr. Hunk handed her a wad of tissues. The woman, Amanda couldn't remember her name, who ran the front desk and the food preparation, was on the phone, speaking rapidly.

"We have an injured guest," she said softly. "Definitely a broken leg, but I don't think it's a compound fracture. Seems to be going into shock. She's shaking and crying."

Amanda shivered in response to her words and was surprised when a thick woolen blanket was wrapped around her shoulders. The gorgeous man tugged it close under her neck and fiddled with it for a moment, his glacier blue eyes never leaving her. He grabbed a pair of scissors and cut a line up the side of her leg, pulling the denim of her jeans away so he could take a look at the visibly broken bones.

Amanda shuddered and turned away from the sight. She felt spacy and cold, like she was standing inside a refrigerator, and her thoughts wandered away from what was happening to and around her, into the territory of what she might design for a web page for a place such as the one where she was currently trapped. Even the soft couch seemed to reach up and suck her in, making her feel like she was sinking into a cocoon.

Time seemed to fracture. Before Amanda could figure out what was happening there were the thwap, thwap, thwap sounds of heavy rotors. A helicopter had landed and in moments two men had entered the cabin. She was bundled up and the gorgeous man who had rescued her carried her out to a helicopter where a woman was readying to leave the moment she was loaded.

Surprise filled her when Amanda realized the gorgeous man had climbed into the helicopter with her. Something told her she should know who he was, but her mind wouldn't connect. She felt detached and cold. Mr. Hunk settled her into the chopper and then he had her hands and was rubbing them while one of the men prepared a needle and a thick plastic bag filled with clear liquid. She hardly flinched when the needle went into her arm, her eyes seemingly caught in the icy blue depths of her rescuer as he still chaffed the fingers of her free hand.

Feeling very silly, as she was still blubbering like a baby, Amanda sniffled, but couldn't look away. She wasn't sure exactly what was happening, which wasn't normal for her. She was always in control. It wasn't as though she hadn't broken bones before. Why this felt so different she couldn't understand.

Settling her entire focus on her hero, Amanda let the others take control. It wasn't something she did very often, and it felt strange, but the odd lassitude that had overcome her didn't dissipate. She let herself gaze into the comforting eyes of the man who still hadn't let go of her hand, and her mind drifted away, time flying as fast as the chopper. Before she knew it, Amanda was being unloaded and wheeled into the hospital.
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