Well, I guess it’s a good thing I put on a nice outfit before getting the call from Carson.

I take in a deep breath and put on my best doctor face. “Let’s do this,” I tell Carson. I’m going to need his strength and guidance. I’m not exactly sure how any of this works. I’ve never been in front of cameras before. The hospital always had PR specialists for that sort of thing. Now it’s up to me. Not as his doctor, but as his fiancée.

The moment I step outside, I’m being bombarded by the cavalcade of microphones, recorders, and cameras shoved in my face. Carson is great at getting people to back off, assuring they will each get their turn when it comes to questions and answers. Eventually they back off enough for me to breathe.

While making it clear that I’m uncertain of the extent of the injury, I assure them that AJ is in the best care possible, and that I am in constant communication with his doctors and they are keeping me in the loop on his progress.

One particularly eager reporter shoves his way to the front of the pack and stabs his microphone at my face. The whole thing reminds me of a bunch of zombies with their arms outstretched, thirsty for blood and brains. They’re relentless.

“Will AJ’s injury effect your long-term relationship plans?” he asks.

I’m confused at first, not sure how his injury could possibly affect anything that has to do with our relationship. Then I get it, and my confusion turns to anger. When I realize he’s implying that I might leave AJ now that he’s hurt, the professional façade slips off my face and my fangs come out. The reporter withers from my icy stare, shrinking back just a little.

“You don’t know me,” I snap at the man. “But AJ does. He’s known me most of our adult lives. And even with all the fame and glory, out of all the women in the world, he chose me. You don’t walk away from that kind of love because of an injury. Till death do us part, those are the vows I’ll be taking, but those apply long before a the ‘I do’s’ happen. So back off.”

Carson looks as shocked by the words as I am. But the craziest part of it, is when I said those words, I meant them. I felt them with the entirety of my being.

The press conference ends abruptly as I turn my back on the cameras and walk back into the hospital. I hear them calling out questions about the final date of the wedding, where the honeymoon will take place, and if there are any plans for children in the near future. The questions about his medical status take second seat to our relationship.

As I enter the hospital’s waiting room and look up at the multitude of TV screens surrounding me, I see the tail-end of the conference on delay.

Carson sighs triumphantly and pats me on the shoulder with a wide smile. “Welcome to the team.”12AJMy eyes are still closed, but I can smell her, that light, warm scent of clean linens, lemon, honey, sugar, vanilla. All of the good things in life. The scent is faint, overlaid by antiseptic, and that sort of Band-Aid scent all hospitals seem to have, but she’s here. I know it. I can hear her too, now, her low, beautiful voice sounding serious and technical. She’s going to take care of me. She’s going to keep me safe. That sense of security lulls me back into a deep sleep.When I wake up again I’m not sure if it’s been minutes or hours. I can feel her this time. A hand is resting on mine. I squeeze it. She says something in that beautiful, soothing voice of hers, but I’m not sure what she says. I’m already slipping under again. My mind only seems to have the strength to wake for a moment, long enough to know that Claire is still with me. That familiar darkness surrounds me again.Again, I’m not sure how long it’s been when I wake. A day, maybe? The light is different. It comes through the window in a solid, blinding sheet. The kind of brightness that only comes from morning. My eyes are bleary, caked with sleep. Forcing them to fully open, I look around until I find her. Claire is curled up with a white hospital sheet. There’s a dog-eared romance novel on a side table and a can of diet root beer beside it. Her shoes are off, the toes of her striped socks stick out from the blanket. Her light snores are music to my ears.

I try to say her name but the sound is nothing more than a dry puff of air. My tongue is like a piece of overbaked bread. I don’t think I’ve ever been this thirsty in all my life. I try to call to her again. This time a rasp of sound barely croaks out.


Tags: Penny Wylder Romance
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