Authors: Lillie Spencer
Tulipe Noire Press
Copyright ©2012 by Lillie Spencer
All Rights Reserved. Except as specified by U.S. Copyright Law, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or media or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system without prior written permission of the author.
Tulipe Noire Press
P.O. Box 815, Palo Alto, CA 94302
First Print Edition, May 2012
First eBook Edition, May 2012
This work represents a work of fiction. References to real people, events, establishments, organizations or locales are intended only to provide a sense of authenticity, and are used fictitiously. All other characters, and all incidents and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real.
ISBN (print): 978-0-9839797-4-6
ISBN (electronic): 978-0-9839797-5-3
“Michael, it’s your father.”
Michael couldn’t imagine why his dad would be calling him at such an ungodly hour. He would have been asleep hours ago had he not worked the graveyard shift in the E.R., hoping to earn some points with the Chief of Staff. His internship at Philadelphia General was an opportunity not to be squandered. He suspected he had received the appointment simply because he had taken his adoptive parents’ last name. Michael had vowed to prove he deserved the spot on his merit and not just because he was the prodigal son of the revered Dr. Aaron Brennan.
He threw his duffel over his shoulder and nodded a sleepy goodbye to the admissions clerk on his way out the door. He resisted rolling his eyes at the way she batted her lashes and wiggled her fingers as she waved back. Would these women never get the hint? Even the rumor going around that he was gay had done little to dissuade them.
In his exhaustion, he almost missed the urgency in Aaron’s voice.
“What’s up, Dad?” Michael tried and failed to suppress a yawn. He shivered from the intake of cold autumn air.
“Everything all right?”
“Son, she… Well, I shouldn’t even be telling you this. You know it’s a HIPAA violation, but... Well, you’re the closest thing to family she has left.” Michael cringed, knowing Nikki being orphaned was entirely his fault. “She called your brother about an hour ago, screaming that Sebastian was trying to kill her. He got to her as fast as he could. He found Nikki unconscious and bleeding in her front yard. He didn’t even think to call 911–he just threw her in the backseat and called me on the way to the hospital.”
Michael’s fatigue forgotten, he sprinted to his car, attempting to hold the phone to his ear with his shoulder as he fumbled for his keys while his father continued talking.
“She hasn’t regained consciousness yet. We’re awaiting test results to determine if there’s any head trauma or internal bleeding.” Michael’s knuckles glowed pure white as his car flew down the highway. “I have to call the police and report this as a domestic abuse case, Michael. They’re going to need to talk to her when she wakes up, and I thought she might want you here.”
“Don’t call the cops yet,” Michael growled, the tires on his Mustang squealing as he peeled out of the parking lot. “I’m on my way. Call me the moment Nikki wakes up. If I haven’t heard from you by the time I get to town, I’m going to find him.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, son. Let the police…”
“Let them what, Dad? Handle it the way they did the last time? She had a restraining order against him already, not that it did her a damn bit of good from the sounds of things. Did you know they flat out refused to assign a detail to her? They’re worthless, the whole lot of them.” Aaron started to interrupt but Michael cut him off. “Enough! This time, that lowlife is going to answer to me.”
Aaron sighed in resignation and lowered his voice. “I can give you two hours or until she wakes up, whichever comes first. That’s the best I can do, but please, don’t do anything rash. It’s not worth…”
“Don’t you DARE finish that sentence. Nikki is fucking worth it.” Michael never swore—he thought it made him sound like the sperm donor he refused to call his father—but he was dangerously close to going off on Aaron.
“You know I didn’t mean it like that. I love her too, you know I do! If she were awake, I’m sure she would be telling you the same thing. Things are finally starting to look up for you, Michael. Don’t blow everything on the likes of Sebastian Cross.”
“Call me if anything changes.” Michael hung up the phone, resisting the urge to smash it as he traversed the winding roads with precision. When he reached the Welcome to Hershey sign he slowed down, stopping at a red light and quickly texting Aaron for news, trying to decide which way to turn.
Aaron responded within seconds.
Still unconscious, but stabilized. No internal bleeding. 2 cracked ribs, severely bruised and lacerated knuckles on right hand, 15 stitches to gash above left eye and temple.
The tires screamed as he hit the gas and headed for Sebastian’s house. The shortest route would take him down Plymouth Street, and consequently past Nikki’s house. God, how he wished she’d have listened to him and moved further away from that bastard. As he approached, he spotted Sebastian’s BMW parked in her driveway. Michael parked his car on the side of the street in front of her house. A television’s light flickered through the window. The son of a bitch was waiting for her to come home. Michael took in the rest of the front yard, noticing the bloodied grass as the streetlamp cast an ominous spotlight on the lawn. Nikki’s blood. For a moment, he visualized his mother bleeding in the grass, but that was another time and place. He may not have been able to save her, but he was damn sure going to save Nikki.
With a steel resolve, Michael leaned over to open the glove compartment and pull out a handgun which had been sitting untouched for years. His best friend Christian had given it to him when they were teenagers. Michael got out of his car, threw his coat on the passenger seat, shoved the gun in his pants behind his back and headed across the street to the house, rolling up his sleeves as he went.
Forty-seven minutes later, Michael ran into the emergency room, searching for Nikki, nervously tugging his shirtsleeves over his red hands as he ran. His father spotted him from down the hall. Aaron moved quickly, his eyes flickering around the room at a dizzying pace, and dragged Michael into the scrub room, throwing the water on as hot as he could before shoving Michael’s hands underneath. Upon closer inspection, Aaron could see that under the jacket and long sleeves, Michael’s forearms and hands were covered in blood, drying and coagulating in some spots, still glistening wet in others. There were dark, wet patches on the knees of his dress slacks. The implications made his stomach churn with dread.
“I don’t have time for this, Dad. Where’s Nikki?” Michael’s voice was frantic, his mind working a mile a minute.
“Like hell you don’t,” Aaron hissed. “Nikki’s awake, but she’s in a fragile state. No way am I letting her or anyone else see you until you have gotten every drop of blood off you. Seriously, Michael? What the hell were you thinking? I don’t know what you were trying to accomplish, but I assure you that while beating the crap out of Sebastian might have felt damn good for a second or two, the consequences will be far reaching. I’m not sure that’s something you took into consideration.”
“Where’s Nikki?” he repeated, drying his now clean arms off as he glared at Aaron, completely ignoring anything not related to the room number he sought. He was just about to go on a mad dash through the E.R., opening doors and throwing back curtains until he found her.
“Exam Room 9,” Aaron whispered.
“Nikki!” Michael half-screamed, half-sighed as he walked in the room. On the hospital bed lay a vision of beauty, despite being gaunt from either a lack of food or sleep and covered in cuts and bruises, her entire torso wrapped up in gauze and tape.
“Who are you?” the girl asked, looking skittish.
“It’s me, Michael.”
She tilted her head and scrunched her eyebrows, the way she always did when she was trying to understand something that confused her.
Michael’s heart broke at the realization; she was suffering from amnesia. He shook his head to refocus on the task at hand and began searching through supply drawers for her clothes. Finding none, it occurred to him that they had probably been bagged as evidence. He quickly unbuttoned his dress shirt, which was far from clean but would have to do, leaving himself in just his white undershirt, and returned to the bed.
“No time to explain. I’ve got to get you out of here.” Without another word, he removed her IV, took her hospital gown off without a thought for her modesty and pushed her arms through the sleeves of his shirt as delicately as he could.
The injured girl tried to fight back, but didn’t scream. He took her face between his hands and pleaded with her.
“Nicole, I realize you have no idea who I am, and you don’t understand anything that is happening to you, but please believe me when I tell you that we need to get out of here. Right. Now. Please, trust me?”
She hesitated for only a moment before nodding slowly.
“Can you walk?” Not waiting for an answer, he lowered the railings on the side of the bed and helped her swing her legs over.
“I don’t think so.” She winced in pain as she tried to stand.
Michael strategically buttoned the middle two buttons on his shirt, lifted her into his arms bridal style, and ran for the door. Nicole hissed when the cords from her heart monitor ripped from the sensors on her chest as he ran, sounding the alarm. Only moments remained before they were discovered. Luckily for him, he had spent a lot of time at this hospital. Taking a quick right, they ducked into the service elevator, which led straight to the loading dock and dumpster area behind the building. His car was parked right outside the dock, unlocked and waiting.
Quickly and carefully, he loaded Nikki into the car, disconnecting the shoulder strap to spare her further pain. The next moment, he hopped in the driver’s seat and peeled out, the parking lot disappearing in the rear view mirror. Michael caught a glimpse of the security guard running out the service door as he stopped and pulled out his walkie-talkie. He also saw his father standing in the middle of the road.
How were they going to get away? He couldn’t use his credit cards. Too easily traced. He regretted the fact he never carried cash, not thinking he needed to. Every place he went accepted debit cards. The safe in his apartment had a few hundred dollars in case of emergencies. Although this most definitely qualified, he couldn’t chance going back there. Even if he had the cash, they couldn’t use the airlines or the trains as a getaway route; they needed to travel anonymously. That left driving as their only viable mode of transportation, but his car would be easily spotted and he only had half a tank of gas. That wouldn’t get them very far.
With a sudden stroke of genius, Michael thought of the one person who could help him. There was no one, besides Nikki, Michael trusted more.
Michael’s family had a lot of names for Christian Jefferson: Shady, Swindler, Con artist. Truth be told, Christian matched all those descriptions, and quite a few more colorful ones to boot. However, Michael and Nikki knew many far more important adjectives which applied to Christian, words like loyal, good-hearted, and generous to a fault.
Or at least, Nikki used to know that. Now she was holding on to the armrest with white knuckles and looking out the window with a crazed stare. Michael couldn’t tell if it was because she didn’t remember him or because of the way they left the hospital, not to mention the amount of pain she must be in and all the meds they had her on. He wished he’d thought to grab her chart. He let her sit in silence. The thought occurred to him he should try to spark her memory, but he couldn’t decide if he wanted her to remember or not. There were things in Nikki’s life he was quite certain she would rather forget. Hell, he had a whole list of things he would rather they both forgot, but now was not the time to dwell. There were bigger fish to fry.