One of the women tries to move my leg and my screaming reaches an octave I had no idea my voice was capable of.

“Get the stretcher,” one of the medics says. She’s calling for an ambulance. “This isn’t something we can treat here.”

And those words tell me everything I need to know about how bad things really are.

In the ambulance they give me something for the pain but it only takes the edge off and makes my vision a little fuzzy. My knee feels swollen, the skin tight enough to burst open. The pressure is excruciating. The icepacks don’t seem to be helping at all. I feel dizzy and taste bile rising in my throat.

“He’s going into shock,” one of the EMTs announces.

I feel myself fading. I grab the arm of my team rep who rode with me in the ambulance before I black out completely. “Claire,” I tell him. “Get Claire.”

The ambulance hits a bump. The pain is paralyzing. My mouth opens yet again to scream, and then suddenly everything goes black.I don’t know now long I’ve been out by the time I finally wake up. Looking around, I know I’m at the Hope Center. I blink groggily as several doctors stand over me, talking amongst themselves. Claire is with them, nodding as they suggest ways to approach things regarding my care. I’m too foggy-headed to understand exactly what they’re saying. Claire glances at me and gives me the most angelic smile I’ve ever seen. God, she’s beautiful. The light shines around her like a halo. My groggy brain keeps saying, ‘I love you’, over and over. It’s a good thing my lips are too dry and cracked to open.

She takes my hand and squeezes. “Everything is going to be okay,” she says. I love her voice too. “All of these doctors are going to take care you.”

I peel my lips apart. Everything hurts. “You’ll watch over me?”

She smooths my hair, her fingers caressing my cheek. “Of course I will.”

That’s all the reassurance I need. I trust her. As I slip under once again, I’m left with the feel of her skin as she intertwines her fingers with mine.11ClaireThe problem with AJ’s leg is beyond my area of expertise. As much as I’d like to take control over his care, that’s not what’s best for him. I’m just grateful the doctors on board allow me to sit in on everything. I trust them. With everything going on and the chaos surrounding it, I find being in the operating room too much. I’m in the way and I’m not thinking clearly. I need to take a step back and let the experts do their jobs without my nervous tension mucking up the vibe in the room.

I go out to the waiting room where Carson sits, his leg bobbing maniacally. He stands up when he sees me. I wave my hands in a sitting motion. “He’s still in surgery, but everything is fine. He’s in the best hands possible,” I say and explain to him what most likely happened to his leg.

“How long will it take him to recover?” Carson asks.

“I can’t answer that with certainty, but in all likelihood, he’s probably looking at several months.”

Carson nods his head, looking gutted over the news. I know his relationship with AJ goes beyond agent and athlete. They’ve become friends and I see genuine worry there.

He sighs and looks at me with a defeated smile. “I just want to warn you that you may feel some pressure to do certain things now, but AJ made it clear to me before all of this happened that you are your own person and you’re not to be forced into anything.”

I can tell he’s being purposefully cryptic. I have a feeling he means I’m going to be thrust into the public eye after this and will probably be asked to make statements to the press and fans about AJ’s injury and recovery. There are HIPAA compliances against talking about patients’ medical records, but AJ is transparent with his fans, and because I’m his fiancée and not his primary, the public will be looking to me for answers.

“I understand. I’m AJ’s fiancée now. I will stay that way until the two of us decide otherwise.”

Carson smiles and reaches over to squeeze my hand.

Now I’m wondering if I’m really up to dancing with the wolves outside. AJ has barely been at the Hope Center for an hour and already they have the building surrounded. We had to usher the fans into the corner of the parking lot because they were blocking the ambulance entrance. All of the cards and flowers and stuffed animals will end up being taken to the pediatric ward or will eventually fill up the dumpsters. A word or two from his fiancée, who just also happens to be the doctor running the hospital where he’s being treated, will go a long way in placating the horde. But can I handle all of that right now with everything going on?


Tags: Penny Wylder Romance
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