Every day I henpecked Arthur like the bossy woman he claimed I was. I made sure he ate, drank, took his pills, and even took to watching him at night to ensure he was dreaming and not unconscious.
I couldn’t shake the fright I’d had when he’d squished me against the couch and passed out. The sensation of having his body inside me, then feeling the withdrawal of his intelligent mind as he slipped away scarred me for life.
I meant what I said. I would hurt him if he kept anything from me again.
He’d turned me into this neurotic mess. He was responsible for putting me back together again.
I jumped at the smallest noise—fearing he’d fallen. I eavesdropped on conversations—scared that he might suddenly start slurring.
I was a wreck.
And facts were facts—Arthur was a terrible patient. He tolerated me hovering, but he finally put his foot down on the third day.
He was in his office, busy placing trades on foreign currency pairs that he’d tried to teach me about but gave up when my eyes glazed over. The way he delivered his endless wealth of knowledge was stilted—punctured with awkward pauses and hovering with quavering confusion.
The fear in his eyes belied his true thoughts and I didn’t need to ask what scared him the most.
I believed he used those teaching sessions for himself to recall what he knew—not to teach me what I didn’t. I didn’t want him overthinking that those skills were lost. I believed in Doctor Laine. He would remember.
It would just take patience.
I placed the meat lovers pizza beside his keyboard, and he looked up, jerked from whatever world he existed in while staring at the four glowing screens. Swiveling his chair to face me, he watched as I flipped open the box. “Lunch is served. As you can imagine, it was a mammoth effort to hunt and slaughter something as wily as a pizza.”
My heart fell. I willed him to crack a smile. The more hours that passed, the more he acted as if he was under house arrest. Couldn’t he see I was only trying to heal him so he could be whole once again?
Looking back at the screens, he distractedly handed me a piece of meat lovers.
Arthur might’ve killed bare-handed, controlled a Club of anarchist bikers, earned millions trading countless stock markets, but he was still the boy I knew from all those years ago. Still fixated on math—to the point of unhealthy obsession.
I eyed him while taking a bite.
The temperature in his office seemed determined to rival an Amazon rain forest, yet Arthur wore low-slung black shorts and dark grey hoody. He looked like a young college professor on a sabbatical with messy hair, five o’clock shadow, and tomato sauce smearing his lips, whereas I wore a blue maxi dress and cursed the heat.
Why was he wearing a sweater? Was feeling the cold another symptom of his concussion?
He said he felt much better, but the shadows in his eyes hinted that he was lying.
Seemed my threat in the bath three days ago wasn’t working.
I almost wished I’d gone to medical school, rather than veterinary college—then I might be better equipped at healing him. Being in his office reminded me of stitching him up, leveling a gun at him, and suffering bone-deep knowledge that he was more than just a trafficker—I’d known.
And I hadn’t given up.
Just like I won’t give up now.
Taking a seat in the extra office chair, I chewed a mouthful of pepperoni. “Perhaps we should get the doctor back? Make sure you’re okay?”
Arthur swallowed, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. “You don’t trust me?”
The air sparkled with a sudden argument. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Oh, God. I don’t want to fight.
I put my pizza down. “I just mean I don’t want you pretending you’re better when you’re not.”
“And who says I’m not?”
I looked away, hiding the fire in my soul. “Whatever, Art. It’s your head. Your pain.” Snatching up my pizza, I waggled it in his face. “But if you suddenly pass out or drop dead, I’ll curse you forever.” My voice dropped with conviction. “Your life is now mine and it’s your responsibility to make sure you look after it, because if you don’t … I’ll be …”
“You’ll be what?” His voice was heavy and soft.
My heart did a little skip as he swallowed another mouthful.
“I’ll be pissed, all right? I love you far too much to let you leave me.”
Suddenly, the pizza slice went flying and he tackled me against my chair. His mouth smashed against mine. He swept me away with a consuming kiss tasting of passion and oregano until I forgot why I was mad and gave in to his command.
My legs parted, my nipples tightened, my core melted.
Then a little bell chimed, wrenching Arthur’s mouth from mine and stealing his attention.
I hated that little bell.
“Fuck!” He shoved away the pizza box, clicking his mouse furiously as a red dot on one of the screens swooped out of its little quadrant and shot past a blue line.
“What? What happened?”
“The fucking pair bombed. Ran straight through my stop loss in a matter of seconds. Christ, how I did I screw that up so badly?”
My heart raced at the rage and fear in Arthur’s tone.
“Perhaps it’s a bad day for that currency?”
He shook his head. “My system was foolproof.” His eyes met mine, full of panic. “I just lost a hundred grand. That’s the most I’ve ever lost since I began trading the fucking markets.” Fisting his hair, he tugged hard. “Damn brain injury. Damn fucking Rubix!”