Again, the nurse uses her patient-don’t-fuss-with-me smile. “And I do not want to see you back in here, Mr. Baylor. Allow yourself time to become accustomed to your crutches before you go it alone.”
Drew flushes darker, his hands curling to tight fists. His teeth flash in a grimace. I’ve seen that look before. Just before he blew up at me. I step in. “I’ll be taking care of Drew.”
His glare cuts to me like a swinging scythe. “No.”
It echoes through the air, hard and ugly. And my back grows so tense it feels as though my spine is a steel rod. “Yes, I am.”
Drew’s nostrils flare. “I do not want your pity.” If words were nails, I’d have been punctured.
I affect a long sigh. “All right. Gray, cross ‘pity Drew’ off my To-Do list, would you?”
Gray chokes off on a smothered laugh, and Coach Smith has a sudden interest in his shoes. Drew’s eyes narrow into slits and, for a long moment, I’m sure he’s going to yell, but his mouth starts twitching.
“I told you she was a smart ass,” he says to Gray.
“Huh,” Gray scratches the back of his head, “I could have sworn you said ‘pain in the ass.’”
The nurse picks the moment to cut in. “Are we all set then?”
“I’ll bring the car around,” I say. Bad enough that Drew has to be wheeled out. My watching will not sit well with him.
I cut Drew off before he can resume his anti-pity objections. “If it were me,” I say, “would you do the same?”
Everyone goes quiet. If I thought things were awkward before, I was severely underestimating the concept. Because what if he says no? What if he doesn’t want to be with me anymore? Does he feel anything for me?
“Yes.” He says it so softly yet with such force that my breath hitches. His darks eyes stare into mine. “Yes.”
And suddenly everything else fades. It’s just us in the room.
“And if I needed help but didn’t want to ask for it?” I ask.
His chest lifts on a breath as he looks at me. “I would never leave you.”
It hurts to swallow, and my voice comes out rougher than it should. “Then don’t ask it of me.”
When he nods, he doesn’t meet my eyes, but I know it’s because there are too many people in the room. “Get the car.”
COMING HOME HAS never felt so good. Not since before my parents died have I experienced such relief when entering my house. It’s warm, quiet, and the scent of leather and general cleanliness surround me as I hobble into the living room, my crutches thudding against the polished wood floor. I halt and look around before turning to Anna, who has taken an extreme interest in a remote spot on the wall.
“You cleaned.” The whole house gleams.
She shrugs. “Who likes returning to a messy house?”
“Anna, you didn’t have to—”
“If you tell me I don’t have to help you one more time, I’ll…” Her cute nose wrinkles as she trails off at a loss.
“You’ll what?” I tease. “Punch me? Knee me in the balls?”
An auburn brow rises, as she looks me over, her gaze stopping at my chest. “Give you a purple nurple.”
I snort, but my chest grows hot. Christ, the idea of Anna pinching my nipple is getting me off. “As long as I get to return the favor, Jones.”
Just as I’d hoped, she blushes. “Perv.”
“I prefer egalitarian lecher.” I thump further into the room and set aside my crutches before plopping on the couch. The padded leather gives around me, a familiar comfort that I sink into. I expected Anna to follow; she’s been hovering over me like she was afraid I’d topple. But she’s still standing by the door and looking at me with a strange expression, her mouth titled on a nervous half-smile.
“What?” I shift a bit in my seat, hauling up my injured leg to rest it on the chaise. Now that we’re alone and not distracted by things like hospital monitors, nurses coming and going, and my intense pain, there’s a certain amount of awkwardness between us. She’s broken my heart, and I vowed to stay clear of her. A statement that crumbled like dry sand the second she walked into my hospital room and looked at me as if I was the most important thing in her life. I’ve been waiting months for that look. But it doesn’t erase everything.
“Nothing,” she says, still watching me. “I just missed your humor.”
I’ve missed a lot more from her. “Most people don’t really get my humor,” I say instead.
And then she smiles full out. “I’d believe that.”
Finally, she comes into the house, closing the door behind her. It’s then I notice the small bag in her hand. She flushes when I spot it. “I thought maybe I’d…” Her flush washes down her neck. “Well, maybe you’d like some company for a while.”
So she’s unsure as well. I should ask her right now what she expects from me. If she wants what we had before, it will kill me. I can’t go back to that. But she has to know that. And she’s stayed by my side in the hospital, when before she would have run in the other direction.
The moment stretches, and she shifts from one foot to the other, her expression going pinched and pale as if she’s scared I’ll tell her no, tell her to leave now. Not happening.
“I want you, Anna,” I say in a low voice. “I always have. If you want to stay, you have to know I’d want that too.”