BLOOD AND WATER, DRAFT 1, CHAPTER 11 (EXCERPT)
It felt like it took Jay a century to make it down the stairs. He kept a firm grip on the railing as he went, making sure to take the stairs one at a time. He was incredibly dizzy. His stomach twisted with each movement, thick with dread. Whatever was happening downstairs, it wasn't anything good. The way the loft was set up, the wall along the stairs kept him from seeing anything. He had to stop halfway down to catch his breath. What was going on in the kitchen? Would he be able to help once he got down there? Why couldn't he hear Melanie's voice?
"Jay," Maia called at the top of the stairs, "come back up here. You're going to exhaust yourself."
He wanted to tell her that he was already exhausted. He had been exhausted for such a long time already. Besides, if something had happened to Melanie, he needed to know right away. He felt responsible for her somehow - if she got sick, he would only have himself to blame. His mind flitted back to the memory of their kiss. Guilt seized his gut. Why had he told her to kiss him? They both knew that it was a terrible idea. The virus was highly contagious. What had they been thinking? Had they been thinking at all?
Jay started down the rest of the stairs and tripped. His body jerked forward, and he tightened his grip on the railing. His arm shouted in protest as it held his weight back.
"Jay," Maia said again.
"I'm okay," he said. Why was she still standing at the top of the stairs? Was she determined to watch him go all the way down? She should have bee resting. "Go back to bed, Maia."
After a minute, he started his descent again. It was slow going the rest of the way - his chest felt tight, and he kept having to pause to catch his breath. His throat burned. He needed to cough, but he didn't want to waste any time getting down there. Sean was yelling at Dr. Devereaux. She talked back to him in soothing tones, but he refused to be comforted. Whatever was happening down there was enough to put Sean in an emotional tailspin. He wasn't the most levelheaded person to begin with, but Jay could hear the serious panic in his voice. He was terrified.
And now, so was Jay. By the time he got to the bottom of the stairs, he had to stop himself from breaking off into a sprint. His body most definitely could not handle that exertion. It felt like he was moving in a dream as he plodded through the living room and into the kitchen. Dr. Devereaux was hunched over Melanie, who was laid out on the cold floor, flat on her back. Melanie's reddish-brown hair covered her face, which was turned toward Jay. He couldn't see her expression. Dr. Devereaux pressed a slim hand to Melanie's neck, checking for a pulse. Sean was leaning against the gurney. A tray of medical instruments had been overturned somehow - stainless steel scalpels were scattered on the floor around Melanie. Jay guessed that was the source of the bang that they'd heard.