Christmas in the Billionaire's Bed(7)By: Janice Maynard
The Kavanagh brothers, out of necessity, were physically and mentally tough. You didn’t grow up with six same-sex siblings and not learn how to handle yourself in a fight. But as much as Aidan loved his brothers, he had always felt a bit out of step with them. He’d wanted to travel the world. He’d been strangled by the small-town lifestyle.
Regardless of the differences in personality and temperament, though, Maeve Kavanagh had taught her sons about responsibility and honor. Perhaps because their father had been lacking in that area, the lessons had stuck. Only the worst kind of cad would leave a woman alone in a hospital with no one to look after her.
Cursing beneath his breath, Aidan gulped in a lungful of icy air. This couldn’t be happening. What terrible sins had he committed in the past that karma was so very ready now to kick his ass?
Minutes passed. All around him, people came and went. Hospital staff heading home for the night. Visitors walking toward the doors with worried faces. Aidan barely noted their presence.
Though it shamed him to admit it, he was actually terrified to go back inside. What if Emma were badly hurt? What if even now she was slipping into a coma?
As if it were yesterday he remembered pacing the halls of this very same hospital while Danielle struggled to live. It was a lifetime ago, but the agony was fresh and real. As if it were happening all over again.
He wouldn’t allow that. Not on his watch. He had no clue why Emma was in Silver Glen. It didn’t matter. He would make sure she was okay, and then he would walk away.
Just like he’d been forced to do ten years ago...
Emma moved her shoulders and moaned. “My head hurts,” she whispered. When she tried to focus her eyes, rectangular ceiling tiles above her bed marched from one side of the room to the other. For some reason, that drunken motion made her think of the intricately plastered frieze in her childhood bedroom. She remembered trying to count the individual roses on days when she was ill in bed and stuck at home.
Sadly, this generic space was not nearly as beautiful.
At some point, an unknown set of hands had replaced her clothing with a standard issue hospital gown. The warm blanket tucked up around her shoulders should have felt comforting, but instead, she found it claustrophobic.
Despite her discomfort, she shifted until both arms were free.
An older nurse with kind eyes patted her hand. “You have a concussion. Try not to upset yourself. The pain meds will be kicking in any moment now.”
“How long was I out?” She could swear she had only closed her eyes for a moment.
“Not terribly long. But enough for us to get a couple of X rays. They were concerned about your leg, but nothing is broken. You’ll have to have a few stitches on your cheek and shin, but that’s not too bad considering what might have happened.”
“Oh...good...” Someone must have pumped wonderful drugs into her IV, because even with the pain, she was floating on a cloud of worry-free lassitude. Something important nagged at the corners of her mind, but she didn’t have the clarity to summon it.
Time passed. Perhaps minutes or hours. She had no clue. She was aware of drifting in and out. Surely it must be dinnertime by now, but she had no appetite.
At one point she was startled by a loud crash in the hallway. Turning her head toward the window, she noted that it was dark. How odd. She remembered heading toward the supermarket for milk. And though the details were fuzzy, she recalled the accident.
But after that things blurred.
When she awoke the next time, her body rebelled. Turning her head, she gagged and reached for the button to summon help. The woman came instantly, offered a basin and spoke soothingly as Emma emptied the contents of her stomach.
The nurse’s scrubs were covered in Christmas trees and snowmen. “It’s normal, I’m afraid,” she said. “The medicine helps the pain, but some people don’t tolerate it very well. Try to sleep.”
She lowered the lights again and the door swished shut. Feeling dreadfully alone and miserable, Emma was no longer able to stem the flow of tears. She sobbed quietly.
A warm hand stroked her hair. “Hush, Emma. Don’t cry. Go back to sleep.”
Her eyelids felt weighted down. But she forced them open for long enough to make out the shape of a man seated in a chair beside her bed. “Aidan? I thought I dreamed you.”
His laugh sounded rusty, as if he hadn’t used it in a while. “I’m afraid not.”
“Why are you here?” The syllables slurred together. She was so very tired.
Still he stroked her hair. “It doesn’t matter. You’re going to be okay. Go to sleep.”