I confess, this was an extremely hard chapter for me to write. Why? I've never been in a hospital for anything other than the birth of my child (until the recent motorcycle accident with my hubby, but I wouldn't wish that hospital on anyone). I had no experience with it other than what I've seen from a military hospital point of view, which I'm told is a totally different animal from civilian ones. Nulli had to smack me upside my head several times and tell me 'it doesn't work like that in the real world.' lol So, here it is, the aftermath of the accident.
Brian pressed the call button for the sixth time in ten minutes. “Why isn’t she here yet?” He growled as he sat up and pressed the button again. “If they can’t get her here safely, I’ll just go get her myself. It sure as hell can’t be any slower.”
His mother poured water into a Styrofoam cup from a small plastic pitcher and handed it to him. “Brian, calm down. I’m sure they’re going as safely as they can. Nulli wouldn’t want you breaking your other arm trying to get out of bed.”
“County General isn’t that far away.” He took a drink. The cool water soothed his parched throat, but not his worry. “She should have been here by now. What if PSI Tech. stopped the ambulance? What if they took her before she could get transferred?”
“And what if they’re going slowly so the bumps in the road don’t knock her around?”
The door opened, admitting a nurse who looked to be at the end of her tether. “If you press that button one more time, Brian Arcady, you’re going to regret it.” The underlying rumble of the wolf shifter’s growl made the small hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. “Your mate is en route to the hospital, but unlike the dream world you live in, we don’t have teleporters. She’ll be here soon. Now settle down or I’m knocking you out for an hour or two.”
“Damn bossy wolves.” He adjusted the bed so he could sit up and glare at the door. After delivering her threat, the nurse had returned to her rounds. “They want me to be patient. Fuck patience. If those ghouls from PSI Tech. have done anything more than draw blood, I swear I’m hunting down every last one of them and hanging them by their entrails. I’m sick of these butchers hunting shifters. Let them see how it feels to be hunted for a change.” His voice deepened with each word until it was little more than a growl. The claws of his uninjured hand dug into the mattress, piercing the thin bedding as he fought the urge to shift.
“Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, son. She’ll be here, you know that. Weren’t you just trying to convince me about how strong she is?” His mother picked up his cup and refilled it. “Tell me more about her.”
“She’s strong, but she’s also vulnerable right now.” He drained the cup and leaned his head back with a sigh. “She’s a fitness instructor. I think I told you that, right? Fast, agile, strong, and so beautiful it hurts to look at her. Her smile can light up a room, make everything seem better in an instant. The first time I heard her purr. God, Mom, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I was so happy but so humbled that she agreed to mate with me. She is... well, she’s my Nulli, and I’m so damned scared right now because she’s out there somewhere and I don’t know where she is or if she’s okay.”
The tears broke free of his tight control. He covered his eyes with his hand, trying to stem their flow, trying to be strong. Now was not the time to fall apart. The warmth of his mother’s arms wrapped around his shoulders, bracing him, soothing him, and effectively bringing him back to a more calm place. How many times had she held him like this? She didn’t speak, but her love poured over him like a fountain.
“Thanks, Mom.” He wiped his eyes and cheeks, then stared at the stark white ceiling. “She’s got these curls. They’re so soft and springy. The first time I met her, I just wanted to bury my nose in those curls and live off her scent. I still do. She has to be okay, Mom.” He dragged his eyes to his mother’s. “If she’s not, if they’ve hurt her, I will do everything in my power to see that they pay.”
She wiped a tear on her sleeve and sniffled, her small nose turning red. “You’ll need to get better first. Right? One step at a time.”
“Yeah. One step at a time.” He reached for her hand and gave it a squeeze. “Thanks for listening. You’re the best.”
The door opened again, followed by a large shifter wheeling in a still figure on a hospital gurney. Tubes surrounded her, she was covered in bandages, but the scent was unmistakably Nulli. Dr. Roberts entered, clipboard in hand and a frown on her face. “Don’t even think about getting out of that bed Arcady.”
“How is she? Why is she hooked up to so many machines?” He sat up taller, trying to see Nulli’s face. “Why is she so damned far away?”
“Let me examine her and I’ll answer your questions.” Dr. Roberts didn’t look at him. She directed the two shifters and the nurses who entered, watching as they plugged the various lines into machines in the room.
He growled low, kept his eyes on his mate, but made no move to leave his bed. She looked pale. The right side of her face looked swollen and bruised. Her hair was matted with dried blood. Under all that, she was still the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. Her scent calmed him, even if her appearance worried him. She didn’t smell sick. She simply smelled like his mate.
“Would you tell me what you find? The not-knowing is driving me crazy.”
“In a minute, Brian.” The doctor placed a stethoscope to Nulli’s chest and listened. “We’re going to need more propofol.” The nurse nodded and left the room.
He chewed his lip and scratched at the edge of the cast on his arm with a claw. “What the hell is propofol? Is that good or bad? At least tell me if she’s going to be okay.”
“Let me do my job, cat.” Dr. Roberts continued listening. “We’re going to need more cortisone for the inflammation.”
He strained to look past the team surrounding his mate. What he saw made him want to claw that PSI Tech. woman into confetti. Cuts and bruises crisscrossed Nulli’s right side in various stages of healing. The superficial ones, mostly on her face, had already faded. Minor cuts along her neck and shoulder had turned pink. There were too many of the deeper cuts along her right arm, ones that needed stitches, for his peace of mind. He gripped the metal railing on the bed until it bent. Dammit, is it so hard to just tell me how she is? His growls rose in volume the longer they remained silent. He shredded the end of his cast to keep from shredding one of the nurses. Why won’t they tell me anything?
His mother pulled his hand away from his cast and held it in an iron grip. “Let them do their work, Brian. Interrupting them will only make their jobs harder.”
One of the machines connected to Nulli beeped loudly. Another nurse rushed into the room a moment later carrying two small vials.
“Give them to me, quick!” Dr. Roberts loaded the syringes that were passed to her and injected the medicines one after the other. “She knows you’re here, Brian. Ask her to calm down for us, okay?”
“Nulli? I’m here, kitten. It’s okay.” He took several deep breaths to calm down and stop growling. Though it took effort, he started a gentle purr. “You’re going to be all right, sweetheart. I’m not going anywhere. I told you, you’re stuck with me now.”
The beeps slowed and the medical staff in the room visibly relaxed. A faint hissing of air sounded from one of the machines, matching the rise and fall of her chest. “That a girl, Nulli.” Dr. Roberts whispered to his mate and moved to the other side of the bed. “Help me push this over.”
One nurse grabbed the IV stand while the other secured the ventilator and the display. Each helped the doctor roll the bed across the room until it rested against Brian’s. With the rails down, he could finally touch his mate. He stroked her cheek with the tips of his fingers. She looked like one giant bruise. He was scared to touch her too much for fear of hurting her. “Why does she need that?” He pointed to the tube in her throat. “Is she hurt so badly she needs help to breathe?”
“After she inhaled the accelerant in the air bags, she got a lot of swelling in her lungs. When she was exposed to the latex, it worsened. She’s on the ventilator to help her breathe while her lungs heal. That’s also why we have to keep her sedated for now. If she woke up, the discomfort from the burns, the broken ribs, and the inflammation would make it painful and difficult for her. She’d probably hyperventilate.” Dr. Roberts smiled and took a seat. “But, she didn’t seem to care when she caught your scent. She was ready to wake up.”
“We haven’t been mated long, not fully, so we’re still working on her control. We never thought we’d have to worry about something like this.” He took one of her hands and kissed her palm. He purred against her skin as he inhaled her scent. Above the sterile chemical smells lay her heady mix of earth, flowers, and warm musk. He kissed her again. “We’ve only recently returned to work. These people have to be stopped. They can’t keep hurting people like this without something being done.”
Dr. Roberts’ expression hardened and she leaned forward in her chair. “We’ll take care of them. Don’t you worry about that.”
“But what about the next ones? And the next?” He frowned, nuzzling into Nulli’s palm. “Isn’t there any way to stop these places permanently? What if we just came out, revealed to the world that we exist? Wouldn’t that help?”
“So you speak for all shifters now?” Dr. Roberts shook her head and dropped her fangs. “That’s not an option right now. You know what humanity is like. You’ve seen how they react to things they don’t understand. Hell, they’ve catalogued every animal on the planet, doesn’t stop them from experimenting on them like crazy. Mankind doesn’t even know what’s good for itself. How do you think they’ll treat us?”
His mother chimed in over the rumbles in her chest. “She’s right, Brian. They love to wage their wars. They’d consider us a threat that needs to be eliminated. We’d be hunted on all sides. There’s no such thing as safety under those circumstances.”
His shoulders slumped and he sighed. “I know. Of course I know. Hell, the way some humans give us shit just for being a couple is enough make me wonder how they evolved to be the primary species on this planet. In some humans’ narrow minds, I shouldn’t love her just because my skin is paler than hers. Bunch of fucking horseshit, right there. I mean, look at her! Who wouldn’t love her?” He rested her hand on the mattress to brush some of her curls from her face. “I just want her to be safe. That’s all. Why is that so much to ask?”
“Is anyone, shifter or human, truly safe in this world, cat? We’re trying our best to change that. Humanity needs to do their part too.” Dr. Roberts frowned and turned her gaze to Nulli. “I’ll need to keep her asleep for at least a day. Hopefully, her new shifter metabolism and healing ability will help speed her recovery.” Her thin lips spread into a smile. “Nulli’s a shifter. I always thought she’d end up with a wolf though. No offense.”
“None taken.” He flashed her a smile. “It’s the purring. She’s nuts over it.” He combed his fingers through Nulli’s hair, removing bits of glass as well as some matted blood. “What if she shifts in her sleep?”
“She won’t. The medicine I gave her paralyzes her.”
“It does what? Is that even safe? That doesn’t sound safe at all.” He looked at her hand then back to the doctor. “Can she feel me touching her?”
“Yes it’s safe, and no she can’t feel you, but I know she knows you’re here.” Dr. Roberts adjusted the flow of Nulli’s IV and fiddled with the knobs on one of the machines. “We’ll have staff coming in to check on her every two hours. Do me a favor, keep the growling down. Not all of them are shifters.”
“I will. She’s going to be okay, right? No bullshit, no keeping my hopes up, just straight truth.”
“She’s been through a lot, I won’t sugar coat that. I need to see her x-rays and get a CAT scan here to know more. The next twenty-four hours are the most important. Just keep that watchful eye on her like you’re doing, and we’ll do our part.”
He swallowed and nodded. It was hard to hear, but he didn’t want false hopes. He wiggled closer to his mate. Leaning on his good arm, he nuzzled her soft curls and inhaled her scent. “I love you, kitten,” he whispered in her ear, his lips brushing her skin. “Hang in there. I’ll be here when you wake up. You can’t get rid of me that easily.” He kissed her neck and retreated to his small bed. He lowered the angle so he could lay on his side and watch her sleep. Within minutes, he joined her.
Brian woke to the sound of yet another nurse entering the room to read the machines attached to him and his mate. He watched the rise and fall of Nulli’s chest, aided by the ventilator, and inched forward to catch her scent. Her unique aroma lay just beneath the antiseptic and creams without the acidic tang of infection or illness. Sighing with relief, he stretched and elevated his bed. An older couple talked quietly to his right. He offered them a wan smile as he poured a glass of water.
“Mr. and Mrs. Ora. I’m glad they were able to reach you.”
Her father was the first to speak. He stood, showcasing all 6’2” of his height. His hazel eyes were bloodshot, but he offered a small smile. “We were at the first hospital. We followed the ambulance here, but we had to check in before they’d let us up. How are you feeling?”
“Like I’ve been hit by a truck.” Brian drained the cup and poured another. “Have they said anything about when they’ll bring her out of this? The last thing I remember was laying beside her after they finally brought her in and then nothing.”
Her mother wiped at her tears and clutched a wad of tissues. “We’re waiting for her lungs to be strong enough. Dr. Roberts says she wants to get her off the ventilator as soon as she can. It gets harder to wean a person off the vent when they’ve been on it for awhile.”
Mr. Ora walked over and ran his fingers up Nulli’s arm. “She said she wasn’t sure how long it would take so she’s being careful. The x-rays showed the broken ribs and a fracture in her arm, but she won’t need a cast. Apparently, she was really lucky. The force of that impact was--” His last words cracked before he silenced himself. After a deep breath, he took Nulli’s hand. “We’re all lucky.”
“Looking at her, seeing her lying like that.” Brian drew in a shaky breath as tears formed in his eyes again. “I wish she had been driving. I hate seeing her look so damn helpless. I’m so sorry, Mr. Ora, Mrs. Ora. I…” He shook his head. He knew it wasn’t his fault, not directly, but he still felt responsible. His mate was hurt. It felt like he was to blame.
Her father rubbed his thumb over her knuckles, pausing near her engagement ring. “She told us about this. At first I was a little upset that you hadn’t talked to me about it. But I let it go. You’re a nice guy, Brian. She loves you, so we do too. She wouldn’t want you to blame yourself. I can hear her saying, ‘stop being crazy and take care of your own stuff first.’” He shook his head and released a small chuckle. “Always trying to fix people.”
“Yeah, about the ring.” Brian rubbed the back of his neck with his hand, wincing as it reminded him of his own bruises. “I wasn’t sure she’d take it. I can be an idiot at times. Not everyone wants to put up with that for a lifetime, you know?” Heat crept into his face and he chortled. “I should have talked to you, but I’m still amazed. Every time I see it on her finger, I wonder who got so lucky as to have a woman like her. It amazes me every damn time that it’s me.”
Mrs. Ora laughed and sniffed. “She was right. You have no filter.”
He wondered if his face was glowing, it felt so warm. “Yes, ma’am. I keep swearing I’ll work on that. Hasn’t happened yet.” He brushed her curls from her shoulder. He needed to touch her. “I don’t think I fully understood how horrible an allergy could be until now. Shouldn’t she wear one of those medical bracelets or something? Do I need to look into that when we finally get out of here?”
Mr. Ora rolled his eyes. “Good luck. I’ve tried to get her to wear one of those things. She tried it once, the damned metal broke her out. If they have a quality stainless steel version, that should work. I haven’t found one yet, and she hasn’t been looking for them.”
“How about surgical steel? Would that work?”
“Maybe. This girl is allergic to so many things. They’re small things, but they always end up being vital.” Her father held her hand to his cheek and closed his eyes.
“Hmm.” Brian traced small swirls on Nulli’s shoulder. The light reflected off her ring and he tilted his head. “Her ring. It hasn’t given her any trouble that I’ve seen. The band is platinum. Perhaps her bracelet should be as well? Then we just staple the damn thing to her wrist to make her wear it.”
Her mother’s eyes almost bulged out of her head. “You want to get her a platinum medical alert bracelet? Do you know how expensive that will be?”
“If I can find a way, I would consider it money well spent. I don’t want to see her like this again. Not if I can help it. This is tearing me up inside.”
Her father rested her hand on the mattress. “You’re going to give yourself a heart attack if you don’t calm down, son.”
“I know.” He sighed, twirling a curl around his finger. Later, when they reached the point where they could laugh about this, if they ever reached that point, he was going to have to tease her about her father. He sounded just like her, or she sounded just like him. “She’s so vibrant, so full of energy. Seeing her like this just feels wrong. It is wrong. I’d simply like to avoid anything like it in the future.” A smile teased his lips. “Perhaps I can keep her wrapped in bubble wrap. Think she’d go for it?”
Mrs. Ora laughed loudly and dabbed at the corner of her eye. “You must be a grandmaster at a discipline she’s never studied if you think you can get her wrapped in anything she doesn’t want to be in.”
“Nah, she’d kick my a...um rear, but it might be fun to try. If nothing else, we could spend the day watching TV and popping bubbles.”
Her father raised an eyebrow and stared at Brian like he was an alien. “Nulli watches television now? What have you done to our baby?”
Brian leaned forward as if he were revealing a state secret. “I’ve found her weakness: anime. She loves it. Makes me watch it with her. I think we could pop many a bubble during a marathon of her favorite series.”
“She does love those cartoons. We liked the one with the blonde boy alchemist and his brother.” Her mother winked and stood from her chair. “Come on honey. The girls are going to tunnel in here if we don’t let them have a chance to see their sister.”
“Again, I know it was an accident, but I’m real sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Ora. I love your daughter with everything I am and have. I’d much rather be where she is right now if it kept her safe and whole.”
Her parents held hands and moved to his side of the bed. Her father extended his hand and shook Brian’s uninjured one. “We know it’s not your fault, and we’d rather not see either of you in this situation.”
Her mother leaned down and embraced him. “Hang in there. She told me how strong you were. You’ll get through this together and if you need anything, just call.”
“Thank you. I’ll let you know if anything changes if the doc doesn’t beat me to it.”
He leaned against the thin pillow with a sigh when they walked out of the room. Nulli’s parents were a lovely couple, but their short visit had sapped what little strength he had. He wasn’t sure he was up to a visit from her sisters. He felt a flash of relief followed by a twinge of guilt when the door opened to reveal Dr. Roberts instead of more family.
“Don’t growl at me, cat, but I have to take your mate for x-rays. She will be fine. She will return. Stay in the bed and rest.”
“At least tell me if this is normal.”
“It is.” She secured the ventilator and the IV stand to the bed so they would roll as one unit. “We need to get her off the ventilator as soon as possible. Hopefully the x-rays will give us good news. I really am trying to help her, Brian.”
He swallowed his growl when a pair of orderlies entered to wheel his mate from the room. “Dr. Roberts? I know I haven’t said it, but thanks for everything.”
The doctor patted his shoulder on the way out of the room. “You’re welcome. She’ll be back soon.”
Brian leaned back against the pillow with a sigh. He counted the ceiling tiles, called his boss and freelance clients, unraveled three inches of his hospital gown, and shredded a bit more of his cast. He itched to run, or at least pace. He growled low and lowered the bed’s rail. He had to get up and walk or go mad.
Nausea swept through him when he stood, clogging his throat and sending a cold chill down his spine. He swallowed as the room spun and spots swam in his vision. Still, he refused to lie down. He held onto the furniture as he walked to the bathroom. I’ll be damned if I’m pissing in a pan! By the time he staggered from the room, sweat coated his brow and his legs shook.
“I never thought you were particularly bright, Arcady, but you don’t have to prove it.” Killian’s rumbling chuckle pulled his attention from his path and almost sent him tumbling to the floor. The large man caught him easily.
“Screw you, Killian.” Brian hissed but sagged against the man’s chest. His legs refused to cooperate. “You try to piss in a pan and see if you won’t get up at the first opportunity.”
“If it kept me from falling down like a mentally ill slinky, I damn sure would.” The bear sat him on the edge of the bed and crossed his arms over his impressive chest. “The only reason I don’t smack you upside your stupid head is because your very sweet, and rather attractive, mother is waiting outside. I don’t think she’d appreciate it.”
“Tell me you’re not hitting on my mother, Killian! For fuck’s sake, bear, keep it in your pants for once.”
“Lovely woman. Good head on her shoulders. Reminds me of my Melody except her boobs aren’t as big and beautiful.”
“We are not talking about my mother’s breasts. I will call the nurses in to have you thrown out, I swear to God.”
Killian shrugged. “What? She’s single, isn’t she?”
“I will hurt you, bear. I mean it.” Brian growled as his fangs pressed against his lip. “I will hunt you down and eviscerate you in your sleep. I will slice off that porno dick of yours and shove it up your ass. Leave my mother alone.”
Killian threw his head back and laughed. “Feel better, don’tcha?”
“I hate you sometimes.” He leaned against the pillow with a huff. “And yes, I do. You’re still an asshole.”
“Whatever.” The bear shifter sniffed the air and frowned. “Where’s that bendy mate of yours?”
“X-rays. They’re hoping to take her off the ventilator soon. God, Killian, seeing her all bruised and cut, with tubes and shit coming out of her? It’s tearing me up. Tell me you’ve got good news?”
“Maybe. Will depend on how quickly the Feds act on it. Found evidence that they failed to report two-thirds of their donated income to the IRS. I routed it to a gorgeous little mink shifter on the investigation team who really doesn’t like these outfits. She’ll freeze their accounts just for existing, then shut them down once the evidence is confirmed.” Killian grabbed his laptop from the chair and powered it up. He looked over the top and waggled his brows. “Now, you want to talk slinky, sexy, and too much fun? Date a weasel shifter. Hot damn, they can move.”
“I’ll pass. Has Terry gotten any new information?”
“He’s playing a sneaky game. Keeps renegotiating the contract they’re offering so that he remains on site without being subject to their NDAs. I told him to get out, but he thinks he can get a list of subsidiary branches if he remains just a bit longer. Damn fool.”
“Terry’ll be okay. I mean, shit floats, right?” Brian shook his head then winced. Dammit. “Speaking of shit, I wonder when this place plans to feed me. I’m ready to eat this Styrofoam cup.”
“Ask the nurses. That one at the desk was really cute. Legs that go alllll the way up, if you know what I mean. Nurses like that fuel a man’s fantasies.”
“You don’t need any help, bear. Try thinking with the big head for once.” He pressed the nurse’s call button. “Please behave. She’s already threatened to make me bleed once today.”
“This is the big head, remember?” Killian winked and sat forward in his chair. “She? What’s she look like?”
“Now I understand why my mate thinks you are completely out of control.”
“She adores me, and you know it. You’re just jealous.”
The nurse entered and crossed her arms. “You again. Listen, Arcady, Doc Roberts said you had calmed down. Do I need to request a sedative?”
“No! Please, I’m sorry about earlier. I just want something to eat. That’s all. Even Jell-O is better than nothing.”
Killian perked up and smoothed his hair back. “Well hello. Pay no attention to the whiny cat. I’m Killian, close friend of Nulli’s. And you are?”
She lifted her nose and smirked. “Really? You’re going to pull that shit here? Listen, bear, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed the difference, but this is a hospital, not a single’s bar. Arcady, I’ll order you a tray.” She left the room, muttering about men and her job.
“Nulli’s close friend?” Brian bounced the Styrofoam cup off Killian’s head. “She kicked your ass the first and last time you met, you stupid bear.”
“That’s more full contact than most get. Admit it. Your mate wants me.” Killian dodged the pitcher when it flew at him and lifted his hands. “Shit, calm down. What’s taking so long with her anyway? Can we call someone?”
“I don’t know. I’m not sure how many x-rays they planned to take, but it does seem like it’s been too long. That nurse isn’t exactly the nicest person, as you’ve seen, nor the chattiest.”
“You just need to stroke her the right way. Call her back in here. I’ll ask if you’re too scared of the big bad wolf to do so.”
Brian groaned and pressed the call button. The nurse was going to poison his food. The door banged against the wall. “What?”
“I just wanted to know what was taking Dr. Roberts so long to do a few x-rays on my mate.”
“I just want your number, sexy.” Killian held up his cell phone with a smile.
“If you promise to stop hitting that button every ten minutes, I’ll tell you what I know. We do have more patients on this floor than just you, Arcady.” Brian nodded. She stepped into the room and closed the door. “The x-rays looked good so Dr. Roberts is taking your mate off the ventilator and pulling out her breathing tube. She knew you’d go apeshit crazy if she did it in here. Nulli will be wheeled back in soon. Be patient for once.” She turned to Killian. “As for you and your overgrown sense of self importance. Go fuck a knothole, bear. You’ll have better luck with that than with me.” With a low growl, she stormed from the room.
Killian leaned back in his chair with a smug smile. “She wants me.”
Brian ignored his silly friend and focused on the nurse’s explanation. “The x-rays looked good. She’s going to be okay.” A long sigh of relief escaped his lips a moment before his heart leapt in his chest. The sound of wheels moving down the hall found him whipping his focus to the door, and he couldn’t decide between standing to get a better look, or holding his place just in case it was another patient.
Her scent reached his nose before the door opened. His claws dug into the thin mattress as a nurse entered the room. An orderly followed, rolling the bed into place before leaving. Dr. Roberts entered as the nurse hooked Nulli to the monitors and the muted beeps filled the room. He stepped onto the floor and shrugged off Killian’s restraining hand. He had to see her. His cat demanded it.
“Just leave us room, Brian.” Dr. Roberts checked the monitors and noted the readings on a chart.
He moved to the end of her bed. His claws tapped a nervous rhythm on the metal rail. “How is she?”
“The X-rays looked good. We’ll be done here in a minute.” She never looked up from the clipboard.
A low growl rumbled in his chest. The nurse checked the IV, glanced at the doctor, and stepped from the room. “I know the x-rays looked good. What I don’t know is how she is. You’ve dodged that question since she got here. I just want a straight answer for once.” He spoke to the doctor, but his gaze was fixed on Nulli’s sleeping face.
His mate remained unmoving. Just as Dr. Roberts began her sentence, Nulli’s eyes popped open and she looked at him as if he wasn’t real. “Brian?” Her voice was barely a whisper, and she seemed to struggle to produce the small sound. When she extended her hand toward him, he nearly leapt over the bed to be by her side.
“Shh, sweetheart. I’m right here.” He enfolded her hand in his and showered it with soft kisses. “Try not to talk. You’ve had a bit of a rough ride but it’s all going to be okay.” He glanced up at the doctor. “Isn’t it?”
“Things are looking good. I’ll keep an eye on you both to make sure that continues to be the case.” Dr. Roberts leaned over and whispered in Nulli’s ear. “Good to have you back. Do me a favor, don’t scare me like that again.” She stood up straight and jotted a few more notes. “I’ll let your families know you’ll need a few minutes. That means you too, bear. Let’s go.”
Brian waited until the door closed behind them to pull his bed over to hers. He kissed her hand, moved to set the beds flush together, then climbed onto his with a sigh. He hated not having enough strength to stand at his mate’s side, but he would do what he could until he regained it.
“I was out of mind with worry when I heard you weren’t here. I made a total fool of myself.” He chuckled and kissed her hand again. “Like that’s news to anyone. I’m so glad you’re in here, mate, and so sorry you got hurt.”
“Your arm.” She frowned and looked him over. “Are you okay?” Her voice was still raspy and airy, but she didn’t seem to care. Her full attention returned to his cast.
“Broken. Good thing my signature already stinks, huh?”
“Broken? Oh my God, Brian.”
“Yeah, I’m told it’s not wise to try to stop a truck with your hand. It’ll heal.” He shrugged but a frown wrinkled his brows. “Want me to call for some water or ice chips? Your throat sounds sore.”
“It is sore. Hurts to swallow. No thanks on more swallowing.”
“Oh. Okay.” He chewed his lip. “I just want to make it better. I feel so helpless just watching you lie there and knowing there’s nothing I can do to help. Also, we are about to be invaded by your family and mine. Are you ready for that, Nulli?”
“Can’t we just hide for a little longer? I’m tired.” She nuzzled into his neck and sniffed. “I’m glad you’re okay. I don’t like this broken arm business, but I’ll teach you how to write with your left hand.”
He kissed her head and inhaled her scent. His fear and anxiety mellowed just having her near. “I don’t much care for it either, but it’s mild in comparison to what happened to you or what could have happened to us both if the truck had missed our axle. I almost lost you, kitten. Again. You’re shaving away all of my remaining lives.” He chuckled but knew tears weren’t far from the surface. “I’d give them all up to keep you safe. I hope you know that.”
“Don’t say things like that, Brian. I’m still here, you’re still here, let’s focus on that.”
“If it makes you happy, sweetheart, I’ll try. Having you with me definitely helps.” He settled her head on his shoulder and kissed her. Try to get some rest before the familial invasion, and never forget how much. I love you.”
“I love you too, kitty.”