“He has to be, Ma,” she said, crying on her mother’s shoulder.

“There, there, baby. Come on, let’s go.” She rubbed her back to soothe her sobs.

The older man motioned for everyone to follow him as he walked toward the door.

I turned at looked at Michael, pleading for him to stay with my eyes.

“I’ll meet you guys in a second, I need to talk to the doctor,” Michael said to his father after everyone else cleared the room.

Chapter 12

“Don’t be too long,” Pop said, watching us with his head tilted, rubbing his lip.

Holding up my hand to him I said, “Five minutes tops.”

Nodding, he walked out, leaving us alone.

Mia threw herself in my arms with such force she almost knocked the wind out of me.

Wrapping her legs around my waist and her arms around my neck she said, “Oh my god, Michael. I was so scared it was you in that room.” Her voice broke as the words came out quick. “I wasn’t happy it was your brother, but I was relieved it wasn’t you.”

Leaning back, I put my finger against her lips, stopping her from going any further. She blinked, the corners of her mouth turning up.

“I’m fine, Doc. How’s my brother, really? Not the bullshit stuff you tell all the families, lay it on me.”

“Sorry,” she said wiping her eyes and swallowing. “It’s hard to say right now. He’s unconscious so it’s hard to determine the extent of his injuries until he’s been fully evaluated, Michael. Thank god he wore a helmet.” She slid down my body, resting her hands on my chest.

Holding her cheek in my palm, I caressed the soft skin. “Is he going to live?”

She leaned into my touch, closing her eyes. “I can’t answer that with certainty.” She didn’t open them as she spoke. “I know they will do everything they can, Michael.”

I inhaled and held my breath trying to not break down into tears.

Joe and I had a bond. He was my rock and my best friend. We busted each other’s balls for as long as I could remember. I couldn’t even begin to think about a day without him in my life.

I wouldn’t think about it.

I rested my forehead against hers. “Just keep me posted, Mia. If you hear anything or if you get any information before us, please don’t keep it from me. The waiting is driving me fucking crazy.”

She cupped my cheeks and whispered against my lips, “I will, Michael. I’m so sorry.”

We stood there for a moment, not moving, touching each other before I kissed her and let her go. “I better go before someone comes looking for me. I need to be there with them.”

“I wish I had met them under different circumstances.” She frowned, wiping the corner of her eye.

Tipping back her chin, I kissed her lips softly and smiled. “They won’t remember. It’ll be a blur after all is said and done.” I rubbed my nose against. “Message me when you get any information.”

“I will,” she said, before we walked in opposite directions.

After pacing for an hour and staring at the monitor that stated: Joseph Gallo – Surgery in Progress, my phone vibrated in my pocket.

Mia: They’re starting now. No internal injuries and he woke up before surgery.

I exhaled the breath I held in as I pulled out my phone. The sick feeling in my stomach and the lump in my throat subsided as I read her message.

I hated hospitals and wouldn’t feel at ease until he walked out of the front door.

Me: That’s good news, no?

Looking around the room at my family, I couldn’t keep the news to myself. They looked as shitty as I felt.

“I have news,” I said, as I stopped in the middle of the room.

Everyone looked in my direction with hope in their eyes.

“How?” Isabella asked, scooting forward in her seat. “Doesn’t matter,” she said shaking her head. “What is it?”

“My friend who works here said Joe has no internal injuries and that he woke up before surgery. They’re working on his leg and hand now.”

“Oh, thank god,” my ma said, as her body visibly relaxed in my father’s arms.

“He’s going to be okay?” Suzy asked, as she jumped from her seat and approached me.

“Yes, Suzy, babe. He’s going to be okay,” I said, wrapping her in my arms. I rubbed her back until my phone started to vibrate. I looked over her shoulder to read the message.

Mia: It’s great news. Still going to be a long recovery, but he’ll survive.

Suzy clung to me, her silent sobs of joy dampening my shirt. Needing the comfort as much as she did, I rested my head against her hair and held her.

“I was so damn scared, Mike,” she said, fisting my shirt in her hands.

“I know, Suzy. We all were. You know Joe. He’s not going out that easy. He loves you too much to go out that way.”

Instead of consoling her, she cried harder into my chest, breaking out into a sob.

“He’s never going back on that god damn bike. Over my dead body,” she muttered into my shirt.

I bit my lip, trying to hold in my laughter. “Good luck with that, Suz. But if anyone can keep him off that bike, it’s you.”

She patted my stomach as she backed away.

He was so head over heels in love with her that he’d do just about anything to make her happy, but his bike might be a bone of contention.

I knew why my brother loved her so much. Suzy was a special kind of girl – the needle in the haystack. Why he hadn’t married the girl was one thing I didn’t understand.

They had recently begun building a home on his property in the middle of nowhere. They called it ‘love shack’, but it was more like a grand palace. My mother was giddy when she learned they would have five bedrooms. She started planning for her future grandchildren immediately like a woman possessed, hence the baby blankets.

I tossed my phone on the side table, as I collapsed in the chair and rested my head against the wall. I couldn’t relax even though my eyes burned and my body felt heavy.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the phone dancing across the Time magazine and I scooped it up. I rubbed my eyes as looked at the screen.

Mia: I’m in the hallway, come out.

Looking around, I saw her standing in the corner as she motioned for me. My heart sunk until I noticed the smile on her face, but I couldn’t shake my paranoia about the entire situation.

“I’ll be right back,” I said, as I stood and walked out.

“Hey,” she said, walking to me.

“Everything alright? Something wrong with Joe?” Reaching out, I grabbed her hand and squeezed.

“Nah, he’s doing great and your family will be able to see him soon.” Peeking over my shoulder she looked in the waiting room. “I wanted to make sure you’re okay. I needed to check on you.”

I smiled, brushing my thumb across the back of her hand. “Aw, you got a soft spot for me, Doc?”

She punched me in the shoulder. “You ass. I was being nice and thoughtful but you’re smug as always, I see.” She laughed, the joy touching her eyes.

“I’m doing okay. Everyone is relieved and waiting to see him.”

“His surgeon will be in soon to talk and give you the details.” She smiled and closed her eyes, exhaling. “I’m glad he made it, Michael.” She blinked slowly as her face softened, the smile gone.

“Me too, Mia.” I slid my hand up and down her arm before grasping her hand again. “When’s your shift end?”

“I don’t get off work until tomorrow,” she said, moving closer.

“I’m sure I’ll see you around tonight and in the morning. I’ll be in and out, but can I see you after work tomorrow? Away from all this.” I waved my hand in the air.

“I’ll be exhausted and useless, but if you want to… I’m yours.” Her large hazel sparkled as she smiled.

Warmth spread through my body, from my core it radiated outward to my limbs. “Text me when you’re done

if I don’t see you before then.” Touching her cheek, I wanted to lean forward and kiss her, but I stopped myself.

It took everything in me not to give in to my craving.

“I have to go,” she said, touching my hand.

The electricity between us felt as strong as the first time we touched.

“I’ll text you when I’m done,” she said, and pecked me on the lips.

“Don’t forget me,” I whispered, swiping my finger against her soft cheek.

“One thing you aren’t is forgettable, Michael.”

She smiled before walking away and glanced back before turning the corner, disappearing.

Looking at the floor with a stupid grin on my face, I walked toward the waiting room and was met with a pair of black leather boots.

“Who’s the girl?” Izzy asked with a shitty grin and her arms across her chest.

My big mouth sister should be the undercover cop. She never let anything get past her.

Looking at her with my mouth set in a straight line, I responded, “My friend.”

Grinning at me, she turned her head to the side, essentially calling bullshit. “Uh huh,” she muttered, before moving to the side, letting me pass.

Her stiletto boots click-clacked against the floor as she followed me. She stopped in front of our ma as my ass hit the chair.

“Ma, Michael’s friend is a female doctor at the hospital. They looked to be a little more than friends, too.” Izzy smirked as my mother looked at me and then back to her.

“Isabella, leave your brother alone,” my ma said in a stern voice as Izzy sat next to my father and rested her head on his shoulder glaring at me.

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