“Never,” I vow, which seems to give her enough peace to close her eyes and drift off. I hear my aunt dismissing the security guards. She walks over to me, looking down at Lia with concerned eyes.

“She’s out now, Luc. Lay her down so we can work on getting her lines reattached.” Grudgingly, I stand with her in my arms. Dropping a kiss on her forehead, I slowly lower her to the bed and step back to let my aunt and the other nurses do their work. Aidan walks up beside me looking unnerved.

“Is she going to be okay?” he asks doubtfully. I know this is torture for him, and he’d rather be most anywhere else. Nevertheless, he is loyal to a fault and doesn’t want to leave until he knows I no longer need him.

“She’ll be fine,” I say with more confidence than I feel right now. “I know you must have a million things to take care of today, so why don’t you take off. I’ve got everything handled here for now.” I see the relief that flashes across his face for just a split second before he disguises it. It’s a testament to the strength of our friendship that he would stay here for as long as needed even though this hospital is filled with painful memories for both of us.

“All right.” He briefly clasps my shoulder. “Keep me updated, and let me know if you need anything.” With those words, he is gone and relax slightly. Having my friends and family study Lia and myself so intently is exhausting. I’m tired of trying to explain our relationship when even I have no clue as to what it is. All I do know is that she is mine and I am hers. The particulars of that statement are too complex to ponder, so I don’t even attempt to try.

I walk back toward my aunt who is talking with her co-workers. “Do you have any idea what caused her to get so upset?” I ask, needing to know what happened in the short time I was gone.

The nurse who had been holding Lia spoke up, looking at me warily. “We were taking her vitals when she started to thrash around in her bed. Her eyes were closed, so I assumed she was having a bad dream. We tried to calm her, but it only seemed to upset her more. She had gotten out of the bed before she opened her eyes. I knew she was hurting herself by trying to walk with her injuries, but the more I tried to reason with her, the more upset she became.” Pointing to the other nurse, she said, “So, Lettie ran to the nurses’ station to get a sedative, and we were attempting to give it to her when you walked in.”

His aunt stepped forward after checking Lia’s IV line one last time. “It’s not unusual for someone who was the victim of a violent attack to cycle between dreams and reality. More than likely, she was still asleep when she jumped from the bed but woke up at some point. She recognized you, Luc, and responded to your reassurances. Moving around in the manner she was would have caused her pain which is likely what finally woke her.” His aunt dismissed the other nurses and took a seat next to the one I had pulled up at Lia’s bedside. “Even though she wasn’t raped, Luc, she’s still going to need therapy when she is stronger. Lia has been traumatized in ways we probably can’t even imagine.”

“I’ll get her all the help she needs,” I say, feeling sick at the reminder of what was done to her. Her stepfather has gone completely off the grid, and no one has been able to find a trace of the bastard. The police have questioned her mother several times, but if she knows anything, she isn’t talking. What a freaking waste of space it is for those two to even exist. Something I’d love to remedy. There are too many people looking for Jim Dawson for him to stay hidden forever. Before I can finish my conversation with my aunt, the door opens again and a woman and man who I’ve never seen before stand there staring across the room at Lia in horror. I know instantly that this is Lia’s friend Debra and her boyfriend Martin. I had expected them a few days ago, but their car had broken down on their way home, delaying their arrival. Debra had kept me updated over the phone several times a day as she called to check on Lia.

My aunt’s pager goes off, and with a smile of apology, she hurries from the room. Debra rushes forward, stopping when she reaches Lia’s bedside. Martin trails slowly behind her. “Oh, my poor baby,” Debra whispers brokenly, looking as if she’s trying desperately to keep from breaking down. Martin puts a supporting arm around her shoulders, looking just as unsteady. It’s readily apparent that they both care deeply for the woman lying so still and pale in the bed. Debra turns, surprising me when she pulls me into a firm hug. “You must be Lucian.” When she finally pulls back, Martin and I shake hands and then we all turn back to Lia. “How is she today?” Debra asks as she gently strokes Lia’s hand.

“She was awake earlier but had to be sedated again,” I answer honestly. At Debra’s questioning look, I add, “She was upset and trying to leave the room. She pulled her IVs out. I was finally able to calm her enough for them to sedate her.”

“What a fucking mess,” Debra sighs, echoing my thoughts exactly. “I don’t guess the police have found Jim yet, have they?” When I shake my head no, she grits her teeth, looking angry. “My little girl has been nothing but a punching bag for both of those animals all her life. I’d love to go pull Maria out of her house by her hair and show her how it feels.”

“Calm down, honey.” Martin rubs Debra’s back, trying to settle her down. “We just need to be here for Lia in any way we can. Jim and Maria will get theirs in the end.”

I resist the urge to comment on how soon I hope that end is. Instead, I lean back against the wall and let Debra and Martin spend a few moments with her until they turn their attention back to me. After being grilled for twenty minutes, I’m more than happy to see them leave. The love they feel for Lia is obvious, but they are also very protective and spent quite a bit of time questioning my place in her life. In the end, though, I think it was clear that I’m not going anywhere, regardless of whether they are comfortable with it or not. I have little doubt that I’ll be under a microscope from them for a while, and instead of being annoyed, it comforts me to know that Lia has people in her life who care that deeply for her.

The rest of the day passes uneventfully. The nurses and doctors make periodic checks, and I see no one else until Cindy and Sam arrive with a surprise dinner for me. A greasy cheeseburger isn’t something I indulge in often, but it’s sheer Heaven after a few days of hospital food. Cindy sniffs me as she steps closer, causing me to cock a brow in question. “Have you been smoking?” she asks while wrinkling her nose.


Tags: Sydney Landon Lucian & Lia Billionaire Romance
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