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Authors: A.M. Madden

Stone Walls (34 page)

BOOK: Stone Walls
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“Ben.” His name comes out as a croak. I’m so dry. I feel like I drank sand.

I clear my throat and try again. “Ben.” He still doesn’t stir.

The room is bright, daylight streaming through the window. I can’t remember where I am. Ben’s head rests on the mattress beside my leg. His hand is wrapped around my ankle. From what I can see, that’s the only patch of skin visible on my leg. It’s heavily bandaged and feels like it’s weighted down. I can’t reach him with my hand. I try to shift closer, and excruciating pain shoots through my left leg, radiating in every direction. My cry out in agony is what finally wakes him up.

“Ella.” He bolts out of his chair and is at my side instantly. While searching for the sign of my anguish, he asks, “What’s wrong? Do you want me to get the nurse?”

“My leg. It just hurts so much.” I try to hide the discomfort I’m feeling, but fail miserably. The throbbing is so intense that it feels like someone is digging into my flesh. Slowly my memory returns in cloudy, unfocused images. I’ve been lucid on and off, each time remembering a bit more. I now remember being moved quickly. The ceiling lights in the panels above my head flying by in a blur.

“Something happened. I remember everyone panicking.”

“You had a clot. They needed to stabilize you.”

“Where are we?”

“Right after your first surgery on Monday, you were transported. Do you remember them moving you to
Jersey Shore
?”

“I think so.”

“Ella, do you remember why?”

I reach for his hand, and he slips his fingers in between mine. We play this little game every time I wake. He tests my memory. If I remember, he nods. If I don’t, he doesn’t disclose any details. I know there is a lot he isn’t telling me. When I asked about Politto, he said we’d talk about it when I was feeling better. I didn’t push. I was too exhausted. I’m positive he’s keeping things from me to protect me, but that doesn’t change things. He can’t protect me from the truth.

Closing my eyes, I lean back against my pillow to try and conjure up these memories that are buried in the back of my mind. “I remember Farley talking to me about a press conference?” My eyes dart around the room as it becomes clearer. “Gabriella. His statement to the press that Gabriella Volante died from her injuries.”

“Right, baby.” With utmost care, he lifts my hand to his lips and plants a kiss on my palm.

With the clarity that comes with my memory, panic also hits me instantly. “What about me, Ella Parker? What if he finds me?” My monitors start complaining as my heart rate races.

“No, Ella. Please, relax. I need you to relax.” Ben shakes his head adding, “Babe, he doesn’t know Ella Parker exists. Thanks to Razzo, your membership was under your employer’s name. Razzo made sure to keep your personal details off all files for the memberships he gifted to your PR firm.”

Relief courses through me and I settle back against my pillow.

“What day is it?”

“Friday.”

“Damn.” I can barely remember the four days that have obviously flown by. He looks so tired. “Ben, you’ve been here the whole time?”

“Of course I have. I’m not leaving, Ella.”

“I’m worried about you. You look so pale, so exhausted.”

“I’m not going anywhere. The last time I did, all this happened. I’m not going anywhere.” Guilt and unshed tears make his eyes a stormy color.

“It wasn’t your fault.” Another bolt of pain causes me to wince, and his pained expression worsens.

“Let me get the nurse.”

“Water. I need something to drink.”

He nods as he leaves my room. A few seconds later, he returns with a nurse. “You in pain, dear?” I nod slowly, afraid to move a muscle. That awful pain seems to come from nowhere. “All you have to do is push this button, love. It’s your pain meds.”

“I’m so thirsty.”

She nods and pours a cup of water, holding a straw to my lips. “Tiny sips, not too much.”

Tiny sips are a tease. I want to gulp the whole thing down. After the fourth tiny sip, she pulls it away, leaving me no better than I was earlier. “Does your head hurt? The anesthesia can cause headaches. The meds should take care of that as well.”

“A little, not much. It’s my leg. The pain is unbearable.”

“You had two surgeries in two days. The next few days will be the worst. Once you start therapy, it should improve.”

Ben stands awkwardly behind her. His hands shoved into his pockets, discomfort written all over his face. After she busies herself with my monitors and my IV, she leaves announcing she’ll be back with a light lunch.

“Come closer?” I ask. He slides the chair as close to me as he can. His hands feel so warm, so comforting as he wraps them around my hand. “What are you hiding?”

He defensively shakes his head. “Nothing.”

“Ben, tell me.”

He glances at my leg. “There was a lot of damage to your bone and your muscle. Therapy is going to be torture. I worry about that.”

“Baby, I’m Spidey, remember? I can handle it.”

“My Spidey.” He gives me a small smile. “I love you so much. I wish I could take all this away. I wish it were me instead of you.”

“Stop. We’re here together. It could have been so much worse.” Trying to lighten the mood, I smile and admit, “I had the best dream about you.”

“You did? Tell me about it.”

“Well, you were in your uniform. Did I ever tell you the sight of you in uniform is the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen?”

He laughs spontaneously. “Hmm, sexier than me in nothing? Not sure that’s a good thing.”

“Superman, you’d be sexy in a tutu.”

His smile quickly fades.

“What’s wrong?”

“Superman failed you,” he admits with so much pain evident in his eyes.

“Ben, you didn’t fail me. You will always be my Superman.”

He contemplates my words with a frown and stands so he can come closer to kiss my forehead softly. “I was so worried. Thank God my Ella is back.”

“I’m back. I’m not leaving, you’re stuck with me.”

He releases my hand to hold my head and rubs his nose along mine. “And you’re stuck with me, baby.” He moves to kiss me, and I quickly turn my head. “Hey.”

“Eww, Ben. I have yak breath.”

“I don’t care.” His warm, firm lips cover mine. He kisses me without abandon, and if it weren’t for the throbbing in my leg, I would be dragging him onto my body to rub shamelessly against him.

When he breaks the kiss, leaving me completely winded, I admit, “That was part of my dream.”

“Oh yeah. Finish telling me about this dream you had.”

“I’d rather show you, but I’m not sure you’d allow me to molest you at the moment.”

His eyes darken as they focus on mine, and his nostrils flare ever so slightly. “Not happening. Not today, not for a very long time.” He looks away, and then back at me, and then away again. “Nope, forget it.”

He’s trying to convince himself. He can’t fool me.

“We’ll see,” I raise my brows in a challenge. Of course, I’m trying to tease him. The pain in my leg is promptly extinguishing any desire he stirred within me with that kiss.

“No, we won’t see.” He folds his arms, rising up to his full height. “I know you are just trying to push my buttons right now. You have one thing to focus on, and it’s your leg.”

“We’ll see,” I repeat.

We finally convinced Ben to go back to the hotel to shower, shave, and change. Rob and Andrea have a room nearby for the weekend. He put up a good fight, but Andrea said we had a lot of wedding planning to do. That sent him running.

Andrea has been filling me in on work gossip. Razzo’s legal issues have put a hold on his marketing plans. Work has slowed tremendously, and Andrea worries about job stability. “You need to get better so we can open our own business.”

“Oh? What business would that be?”

“I have no clue.”

I laugh at her ambitious plans.

“Are you ready to get out of here?” She asks as she flips through a bridal magazine.

“Yes. I’m not sure when. I start therapy tomorrow. I’m scared.”

She looks up with a frown. “Why?”

I haven’t voiced this to Ben, and I won’t. He’ll tell me I’m being stupid, but it’s a dread I can’t shake. What if I can’t walk again? What if…

“Hey.” She snaps her fingers before my eyes. “I said why?”

“There’s a possibility I won’t have use of my leg, Andrea.”

“Slim.”

“No, it’s not slim. It’s definitely possible.”

“And?”

I push the button on my meds to try and get some relief…or maybe it’s to numb myself. “That changes things.”

The look on her face is one of total impatience. “What things?”

“With me and Ben.”

She throws the magazine on the bed between my legs. “You’re serious? You think if you couldn’t walk that would change how he feels about you?” Hearing her say it makes me sound shallow and insecure. “Do you?” When I don’t respond, she noses my IV bag and adds, “You’re high. Frankly, I’m very disappointed in you.”

“Frankly?”

“Suck it. I can’t believe you would think that.” She folds her arms, and now I know I’m in trouble. “Ella.” Here comes the speech. “You need to know one thing about Ben. He’s been distraught these past few days. I’ve never seen him like that, and neither has Rob. That man adores every stupid bone in your body. There isn’t a thing that would change that.”

“I know he loves me, but feelings change when someone becomes a burden.”

“Ella Parker. Knock this shit off, or I’m going to break your other leg.”

“Over my dead body.”

We both flip our heads toward the door, where the deep voice originated.

“Back so soon?” Andrea asks, with a mocking smile. Ben and Rob come through the door carrying a tray laden with coffee cups, a bakery box, and an overnight bag.

“He practically broke the sound barrier the way he drove.” Rob shakes his head. “We would have been here ten minutes ago if it hadn’t been for the fourteen red lights we caught. Ask me how I know there were fourteen.” He glares at Ben, who ignores him completely. His eyes are trained on my face.

“Why are you threatening my girlfriend?” he turns to ask Andrea.

Andrea glances my way to see my pleading expression.

BOOK: Stone Walls
10.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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