Page 80 of We Were Once

The monitor spikes, so I take a deep breath before I cause Dolly to check in on me. As I close my eyes, an image of Chloe lying in my arms back home in New Haven helps me sleep.

* * *

“Wake up, Mr. Evans?” A muffled voice drags me kicking and screaming from my dreams.

The harsh return to reality has me trying to push up, the IV stabbing internally. Motherfuck. “What are you doing here?” I ask, my voice harsher than intended when I see the man beside me. “Is Chloe all right?”

Norman Fox is in his white coat with a stethoscope around his neck. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he was here to check on me. His tone tells me otherwise. “You put my daughter in a coma, so no, she’s not all right.”

Putting what my mom told me aside, this man is my link back to Chloe. “Is she stable? How long will she remain in a coma?”

“Her heartbeat is steady, and her brain function appears to be how it should.”

I ease back on the bed. “Thank God.”

“No, thank me. I’ve been overseeing her recovery.” He moves to set a medical file down on the tray and then returns to the end of the bed. “Let me get to the point. You stole her car, forced her to go God knows where, and then tried to kill her.”

“No, she—”

“Quiet.” He begins to pace with his hands clasped behind his back as if he intends to stay a while. “There was a struggle by the way the seat belt cut into the skin of her collarbone. Was she fighting to escape?”

“There was no struggle . . .” A vision of buckling her back in flashes. “I didn’t kidnap her—”

“She didn’t stand a chance against your recklessness.” As he glares at me, hatred lines his bloodshot eyes, but the words lack emotion and truth. His voice is steady like his hands. Maybe that’s what happens to someone when they gain knowledge but lose their soul.

“I would never hurt her. You know that.”

“I don’t know that. I only know the facts that the evidence supports, and there’s enough of that to put you behind bars. So, I’m thinking we can come to an agreement, Mr. Evans.”

Fuck. I take a breath, keeping it restrained to hide the panic twisted in fury hidden from him. “And that is?”

“I’m giving you an opportunity, a future to make your mother proud, your father content with his bastard son, and to give yourself a way out of the life you’re living.”

My spine bristles from the mention of my father, reawakening the pain from surgery.

“Let me get to the point, Joshua.” Finally. “I won’t risk all we’ve invested, the time and effort my daughter has put into creating her future. She’s inheriting a practice I’ve spent thirty years building. Chloe is brilliant. She’s momentarily sidetracked by you. Yes. I grant you that, but the best thing a parent can do for their child is to get them back on the right path.”

“The threat doesn’t have to be spoken to be heard.”

“Chloe said you were clever, and you don’t disappoint.”

“Don’t fuck with me.”

“That sounds distinctly like a threat.”

“It is. You can sugarcoat yours, but I’m not doing this dance.”

He walks around to the side of the bed, smart enough to keep some distance. “I’ve tried to tell Chloe who you really are, but she’s young and impressionable, blossoming into an outstanding woman. I think we’d agree on that.”

“She’s also an adult and can make her own decisions. I thought you were getting to the point?”

“Ah, yes. I should. You’re going to be discharged in the morning and will return to Connecticut.”

Crossing my arms over my chest, I ask, “Who says?”

“I do. In the meantime, my daughter should make a full recovery once we bring her out of the coma.”

“What do you mean bring her out?”

Can he not see the pain he’s instilled in me while my heart fights for its life somewhere else in this damn hospital? Or does he not care that I love her with every fiber of my being? As he peeks behind the bent blinds, I’m once again disgusted by the lack of compassion. It’s a real disservice to his patients. He says, “A medically induced coma was the best path to decrease the swelling in her brain.”

His head tilts down, a long exhale following. When he rubs his temple, it’s the first time I see a break in his steadfast demeanor.

As much as I hate this man, he’s a brain surgeon, and the best advocate Chloe could have, so I won’t argue with her care. I drop my guard to get as much information as I can from him. “Is she going to be okay?”

He seems to have found some empathy in the quiet room and tosses me a bone. “It will take time. She won’t be returning to school this semester. That’s what you’ve done. She was so far ahead and now she’ll have this setback to overcome.”

Tags: S.L. Scott Romance