Unexpected Consequences, page 3
“I’m sorry, sir, visiting hours are long over,” she says sweetly. Her shoes squeak as she moves around the room. “You can come back tomorrow morning.”
“I don’t think so,” I huff, planting my ass on the feeble excuse for a chair. I’ve had just about enough of people telling me what to do tonight. This is the first I’ve gotten to spend time with Mary and I’ll be damned if this woman, or anyone else, is going to tell me I can’t stay. “Call security if you’d like, but she’s not going to be alone when she wakes up.”
Maybe challenging the grumpy old nurse isn’t the best idea I’ve had today. She seems to be sizing me up, likely deciding whether she needs security or if she’ll be able to toss me out on my ass without assistance.
“Sir, while I appreciate that you want to be here for her, the hospital does have rules which have to be obeyed,” she says, her tone considerably cooler and slightly condescending. “If you would like, I’ll take your phone number and call you when she wakes up, but you’re going to have to leave her to sleep.”
“Ma’am, is there a problem?” Jeff walks into the room and takes charge of the situation. This time, it doesn’t piss me off because I’m quickly realizing that I’m not going to get anywhere with the nurse. I cross my right leg over my left knee, sitting back to watch the smooth talker in action. This old bat seems resolute enough that even Jeff may not be able to sway her.
The nurse looks back at me and then to Jeff. If I’m not mistaken, she’s suddenly less sure of the situation when faced with both of us. “Um, yes. As I was telling your friend, it’s well past visiting hours. Our patients need their rest, so you will have to come back in the morning.”
Reaching into his back pocket, Jeff pulls a business card out of his wallet. “While I understand your predicament, surely you can allow us to sit with her for a while,” he says in a tone that can only be described as seductive. He hands her the card before continuing. “If you would prefer, I can contact admissions in the morning and ask that Mary be transferred to a floor where it won’t be a disruption for her to have visitors.”
After reading the card, likely Jeff’s with the same logo as is on her uniform, she hands it back to him. “I’m sorry, Doctor Armstrong. Of course you can sit with your…” she trails off, unsure of the relationship between each of us.
“My girlfriend,” he finishes for her, looking to the white board hanging at the foot of the bed. “Thank you, Nita. And I assume it won’t be a problem for Mister Reed to stay as well?”
“Sir, I’m already bending the rules, I’m not sure…” I’m starting to feel bad for the poor woman. She’s no match for the charisma oozing from Jeff’s pores. With one more look into Jeff’s crystal blue eyes, she lets out a loud sigh. “Just keep your voices down. If any of the patients complain, I’ll have to ask you to leave.”
I bite down on my lips as Nurse Nita finishes what she needs to do, muttering to herself the entire time about pompous doctors thinking they run the place. Jeff’s display has nothing to do with his profession, he just seems to have a way of getting what he wants.
Welcome to my world, Toots.
Jeff follows her to the door, slowly closing it as she leaves. He motions for me to turn on the bedside light before dimming the lights overhead. I watch as he makes his way across the room, the low lighting casting shadows that seem to accentuate line of his body.
“I’m going to have to go to Tommy’s in a bit,” he informs me. He doesn’t continue at first and I won’t pry. I know Jeff is no longer actively her therapist, but it seems as if this is something between them and I don’t want to breach the trust she has developed. When he does speak again, I sit back in my chair, attentive to what he’s willing to share. “She’s been crying since he got her in the car and won’t talk to him. Will you be okay up here?”
Holly has made so much progress in the past six months it’s easy to forget that her hitting rock bottom is the reason I’m sitting across from the man who made me face my desires for the first time in my life. It’s seems wrong to be thankful for someone sinking to those murky depths, but I will forever be grateful. Hearing him describe how hard Holly is being on herself right now worries me. I’m not sure she or my cousin will be able to survive another tailspin like the one she was in when she met Jeff.
“Yeah, you go help them. God knows I’m not equipped for that mess. Tell Tommy to call me while you’re talking to Holly.” I can’t blame him for not checking on Mary, seeing as he’s likely still trying to convince Holly that the accident wasn’t her fault, that she’s not the kiss of death to everyone around her. At the same time, I need to talk to him and make sure he is doing okay with everything that’s going on.
Beyond that, I need to make sure he realizes that we weren’t trying to attack him tonight. I truly thought he would have gotten used to Liam being around by now, but it seems that the longer Dylan’s brother is in town, the further Tommy crawls into a hole. He won’t talk to anyone about it, but from what Holly told me, the nightmares that plagued him after Maria died have returned and she’s found Tommy sitting on their bedroom floor, more than once, sifting through old photographs and mementos of his oldest sister’s short life.
With one quick jerk of his head, I find myself standing to walk around the end of the bed to Jeff’s side. Once I’m next to him, he circles his arms around my waist, resting his head against my stomach. “I’m sorry for pushing you away tonight,” he says, running his hands along the curves of my ass until they’re resting on the inside of my thighs.
“It’s okay,” I lie. There’s no point in rehashing what he could have been done differently. When he looks up at me, it looks like his eyes are glistening with pent up emotion.
“No,” he says sternly. “It’s not okay. Once this is all over, we all need to sit down and have a long talk. Tonight can never happen again.”
My hands drop to Jeff’s back, taking a moment to do nothing other than feel him with me. I hope that I’m not misunderstanding his words, that this isn’t the beginning of the end.
If I had my way, I would stay in this room all night, surrounded by the people who’ve come to mean more to me than anyone has in a long time. While I have no doubt Mary’s in capable hands with the nurses and Zeke won’t allow anything to happen to her, I would feel better being with them. But I can’t. Right now, Holly and Tommy need me. If my bosses knew that I’m going to a former patient’s house in the middle of the night to calm her down, I’m sure I’d be placed on administrative leave or worse, but I don’t care at this point. This tight-knit group of people have become my family and I will do whatever is needed to take care of all of them.
I don’t let go of Zeke as I stand, needing that connection to him for as long as possible. Any notion that this is still something casual between the three of us has flown out the window over the past few hours. Before I can attempt to convince Mary and Zeke to take a step to solidify what we have as a real relationship, I need to figure out if I can open myself up to the potential to hurt. As much as I admire those who look at life and see the goodness and love, I’ve been seeing the bottom of the barrel since I was twelve years old.
We stand with our arms wrapped around one another, looking at Mary lying peacefully in her bed. I’m not sure what the future holds, but tonight has taught me that what I thought I wanted isn’t enough anymore. I’ve buried myself researching the psychology of addiction, trying to figure out why a chemical can overpower someone to the point they’re incapable of seeing the hurt they cause. I’ve convinced myself that having something meaningful in my own life will take the focus off of what has driven me for so many years. That the people I might help are far more important than my own gratification.
I run my fingers down the length of her arm, silently vowing to do whatever I can to make sure nothing like this happens again. I’m not talking about the accident. As much as I will go out of my way to protect her, I know things happen in life and it’s impossible to plan for every scenario
“I’ll be back as soon as I can,” I whisper into her ear. “Zeke’s going to stay with you. If you wake up and need anything, tell him.” She may not consciously hear me, but I hope my words register with her on some level. I brush the hair away from her forehead, resting my lips there for a moment before turning to leave.
Zeke falls in line behind me as I move toward the door, his fingers laced with mine. “Hurry back,” he says, tilting his head up to kiss me. I lean against the door, effectively barring anyone from entering.
I tug at his t-shirt so I can run my hands along the firm ridges of his abs. Zeke moans when I flick his nipple ring. If we had more time and I had more energy, I’d do the same with my tongue, freeing my hands for further exploration, preferably inside his jeans. There are so many other things I need to be focused on, but Zeke is the one person capable of giving me the physical release that will serve as a reminder to not get carried away with my own thoughts.
Zeke grips the edges of my button-down shirt, pressing his body against mine. I can feel the ridge of his cock sliding against my hip as he straddles my leg, biting my neck. Hands releasing my shirt, moving up the planes of my chest, fisting at the short blond hair at the nape of my neck. The tender way his lips meet with mine is a stark contrast to the intense need that I know he’s fighting as hard as I am. Never before have I met a man I would consider submitting to, but here in this moment, Zeke is in control and I couldn’t be happier to give that to him. He knows what I need and he’s all too happy to comply.
“You need to go,” he says, his lips still pressed to mine. I feel him smile when I deepen the kiss rather than try to push him away. My tongue forces its way between his lips, demanding entrance, claiming his mouth. For a split second, it’s possible to forget where we are, forget the anguish we’ve both been feeling since Dylan’s phone rang earlier tonight.
A knock on the door causes Zeke to pull away from me. I move away from the door, allowing the nurse to enter. “Sorry, Nita,” I say, trying to hold back my smug grin. I glance over at Zeke, noticing his swollen lips and the gleam in his eye when our gazes meet. I reach up to my face, still able to feel his stubble against my cheek and I can’t help but smile.
She shakes her head as she maneuvers around the bed, checking the monitors. When her tired eyes shift between us, I know we’ve been caught. “You boys think that’s appropriate in here?” she asks disapprovingly.
I can’t believe we let ourselves get carried away like that, but realizing that the nurse has figured out what was going on behind closed doors has me on edge. She would be well within her rights to tell administration about my little stunt trying to bully her into breaking the rules, and now I’ve given her an added incentive. Shit.
“Sorry, ma’am,” Zeke apologizes. “It’s been a long day and the good doctor has some work to attend to. He was just asking me to make sure Mary is taken care of until he gets back.”
While I’m the one who is calm and collected when things are rough, Zeke’s the one we can rely on to get us out of trouble. From what I’ve learned about him in the past few months, that’s because he’s spent most of his life getting into or out of something. Hearing the way he’s now working over the nurse has me laughing, a highly inappropriate response given where we’re standing.
“Mm-hmm,” she says, shaking her head again. “Don’t bother me none, but you might want to cool it a bit before the lady here wakes up and sees what you two have going on. Can’t say I’d be pleased to see my boyfriend making out with another man if I was in her state.”
She locks the computer and pats me on the back as she leaves the room. “You’re a lucky man, doctor. Seems to me you hit the jackpot a couple times over. Now you’d just better hope it doesn’t all explode in your face.” As the door closes behind her, I realize how very right she is and make a mental note to heed my own advice about not jumping to conclusions. Maybe the world is more ready for us than we are for the world.
“Hey you,” I say as Zeke pokes his head into my room. I hate that he looks so tired and sullen this morning. Seeing that I’m already awake, he makes his way closer, leaning down to kiss me gently. While I’m not up for a hot and sweaty make out session just yet, it would be nice if both he and Jeff would quit acting like I’m fragile. I’m not used to the tenderness both of them are showing me. Then again, I suppose I should count my blessings that both of them are here every day. Given that we’re all friends with benefits, it’s more than I could have hoped for. “Come to spring me out of here?”
The attending physician for the morning just left and, after once again telling me how lucky I am that I only have three broken ribs, a broken leg and a concussion, he said that I should be able to go home today. Not a moment too soon, if you ask me. They’ve been poking and prodding me for four days, making sure there’s no bleeding or swelling where there shouldn’t be. I can’t wait to get home so I can actually sleep. For as much as the emphasize the importance of resting to the healing process, the nurses certainly don’t have any issues waking me up every time I get settled in and nod off.
A knot forms in my stomach as I think about going home. Because of the damage to my ribs, the doctor doesn’t think I’ll be able to use crutches, which means going to my apartment is pretty much out of the question. Even if I wasn’t going to be confined to a wheelchair for a while, there’s no way I could do three flights of steps every time I have to go somewhere. I don’t want to assume that Zeke will want to take on the burden of being my caretaker, but I allow a glimmer of hope that I will be going home with him. His condo is more of a home to me than my own cramped space at this point.
I take a moment to admire the view as Zeke pulls a chair over to me. His eyes are framed with dark circles, no doubt caused by sleepless nights, and he hasn’t gotten anywhere near a razor in the past few days, but none of that does anything to tamp the raw attraction I feel to him.
His plain white t-shirt stretches across his broad shoulders, barely concealing the tattoos that I have memorized over hours spent lying in bed using him as my pillow. If not for the black leather vest, I know I would be able to see every ridge of muscle and the outline of his nipple rings pressing against the cotton. It’s a bit depressing to know it will be a while before I’ll feel up to exploring his body again.
Zeke hovers over me, brushing the light red hair away from my forehead. He does this every morning, as if he’s assessing each of my injuries to make sure the doctors haven’t missed something. This morning, I watch his gaze settle on my face, worrying his lip before he speaks. “Yeah, about that…”
This can’t be good. Normally, Zeke is the one we can’t get to shut up, and here he is struggling to come up with something to say. With the nervous look in my eye, the knot in my stomach grows tighter. He’s avoiding telling me something, and the only thing I can think of is that I was a fool to hope. I refuse to ask him to let me stay, to tell him exactly how comfortable I am in his space. Like so many other things between us, we fell into a routine where I have spent most of my nights at his place for the past few months. I can’t imagine having that stripped away from me now, simply because I’m hurt. If anything, I need him more now than ever before, and that in itself is a scary revelation.
“Zeke, talk to me,” I plead, reaching for his hand, needing to feel a connection to him. “You’re freaking me out here and that can’t be good for me right now.”
I cringe when he cracks his neck to each side. The sound of bones popping has always been like nails on a chalkboard to me. “Babe, it’s nothing to worry about, it’s just that we’re going to have company for a while when you go home.”
Home. That one word settles something within me. He’s staring down at me with those mocha eyes, still swirling with concern, which makes no sense to me. A
Before I can draw the rest of the story out of him, I hear Jeff’s baritone voice in the hall. Knowing that I’ll have both of my guys here when I’m discharged causes me to smile. They’re my best friends, the ones who have proven that they give a damn about me. It’s not the pain of my bruised face that wipes the grin away, but the raspy voice responding to him.
“My mother?” I ask, jerking up on the bed, smoothing my hair, broken ribs be damned. No way in hell will Loretta Brunner approve of seeing her daughter looking so disheveled. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the first things she does when she walks in is criticize me for being in the presence of a man without my makeup done. “Who brought her here?”
“I’m sorry,” Zeke sighs as the voices in the hall grow louder. “We had to call her the night of the accident in case…” he doesn’t finish the sentence. He doesn’t have to. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been reminded how lucky I am to be alive right now, much less ready to get out of the hospital.
“Nice to see she hurried to get here,” I sigh, realizing that, once again, I’m not the priority in her life. She probably had a luncheon she couldn’t cancel or something equally mundane when compared to the life of her oldest child. Never mind the fact that I don’t really want her here, it would be nice if I wasn’t so used to feeling this way.
The side of the bed sags as Zeke sits next to me, reaching for my hairbrush. The feeling of the bristles dragging through my light red tresses is almost as soothing as the knowledge that he’s doing this for me. Once my hair is contained in a low, loose ponytail, he helps me apply some lip balm to my chapped lips.
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