Denny seemed to notice for the first time that he’d beaten me to a bloody pulp. He stared at me, then looked at his hands. “Jesus…what did I do…?”
I let out a calming breath. I needed to keep my cool if I was going to get him to leave. “You didn’t do anything. You weren’t even here. You understand me?” I raised my eyebrows. It hurt. Everything hurt. Carefully reaching into my back pocket with my good hand, I grabbed my wallet and tossed it at Denny. He seemed confused by that, so I quickly explained as I returned my hand to Kiera’s makeshift compress. “Run. I’ll tell them we got mugged and things turned nasty. I’ll tell them Kiera tried to protect me…and…and she…” I sighed, then implored, “Get out of here, Denny, before it’s too late!”
His gaze never leaving Kiera, Denny slowly stood up. “You’ll get her help…you’ll stay with her?”
I nodded, then indicated the road. “Yes. Now, please…leave…before someone comes out here.”
Denny looked back at me. He seemed torn, like he wanted to go, but he also wanted to stay and confess. Fuck that. I wasn’t letting him throw his life away because I had pushed him to the breaking point. This was my fault, not his. “Kiera would want you to go,” I said, my voice firm. “She wouldn’t want you punished for this. Not like that.” My voice softened. “We punished you enough.”
Denny glanced back down at Kiera on my lap, then nodded. Tears running down his cheeks, he looked up at me and whispered, “I’m sorry. Tell her I’m sorry.” With one final pained expression, he ran off.
Relieved that he wouldn’t be tied up in some legal mess because of this, I closed my eyes. Then I gathered my strength and yelled, “Somebody help me!” I kept screaming it, until finally a group of people opened the gate to the beer garden and peeked their heads out to see what all the fuss was about. When they spotted my bloody, beat-up ass and Kiera’s stone-still body, they sprang into action. A half dozen men and women ran toward me, three of them pulling out cell phones as they did. I nearly sobbed with relief. They would help her. They would fix her. They had to.
“What happened?” was the first thing they asked when they reached me.
The lie rolled effortlessly off my tongue. Someone brought a wet towel for her head, and I removed my ruined shirt from her scalp. Someone else asked me if I was all right. I heard myself murmuring that I thought my arm was broken, but I felt numb inside. Hollow. What if she didn’t make it? What if she didn’t survive this? I couldn’t…No…it couldn’t end this way. It just couldn’t.
When the ambulances arrived, a group of paramedics descended on us. They tried to remove Kiera from my arms and I stubbornly held on to her. She is alive right now. If I let her go…who knows what could happen?
An older man with a kind face knelt beside me. “Sir, you need to let go of her so we can help her. We’re here to help her.”
Woodenly, I nodded. Yes, help her. “Will she be okay?” I asked, knowing they couldn’t possibly know the answer.
A younger man started looking over my wounds while Kiera was pulled away. “She’s in good hands. Let’s just see how you’re doing.”
Kiera was put on a stretcher, and a mask was put over her mouth. I watched the mask fog with her breath. Thank God…she’s still alive. She was shoved into an ambulance, and the doors were slammed shut behind her. I tried to stand. “Wait, I want to go with her. Let me go with her.”
A firm hand held me down. “Stay still, sir. You’re injured too. We’re going to get you on a stretcher and put you in the other ambulance. But you’ll be right behind her, I promise.”
I suddenly felt extremely tired. I nodded, but there was no strength behind it, just a dead sort of flopping up and down. Dropping my heavy head, I stared at the smeared pool of blood Kiera had left behind. Lying near the edge of it was the necklace I had given her as a goodbye. It was touching the blood, and the pool was starting to creep around the sides of the pendant, surrounding it. With my good hand, I weakly scraped my fingers against the rough concrete.
The silver strand holding the guitar caught on my chilled fingers, and I grabbed the cool metal. When it was in my palm, I stared at the guitar tinged with Kiera’s blood. The diamond in the center had once reminded me of my undying love for her, but now all I saw was a crystallized tear.
Please don’t let her die.
I was moved to a stretcher, shoved into an ambulance, hooked up to complicated equipment, and driven away. My mind faded into oblivion at some point, and only bits and pieces of my “rescue” broke through my awareness. I recalled arriving at the hospital, remembered the jarring sensation of being removed from the van, heard some person tell a nurse all the things they’d found wrong with me so far, and heard myself asking about Kiera. My questions weren’t answered, and my consciousness slipped away.
When I woke up, I was in a hospital bed, wearing a hospital gown. My arm was in a cast, my ribs were wrapped, and I had bandages on my face. A dull ache permeated my senses, and my head felt slow, like I was waking from delirium. Looking over to my good arm, I saw where an IV was attached to me, dripping clear liquid into my body. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I knew it was probably the reason I wasn’t in overwhelming pain right now.
I heard whispering across the room, and I looked over to see three nurses in the doorway, talking to one another. Two of them were giggling. “Excuse me.” They all looked my way. One of them turned beet red in a way that reminded me of Kiera. How long had I been out? Was she okay? “I was brought in with a girl. Is she all right?”
A bubbly blonde walked my way. “The head injury? She’s still in recovery. Her fiancé is with her now.”
My words caught in my throat. Fiancé? I knew she meant Denny. He must have cleaned up and driven out here. Of course he would. I would have too. Nodding, I removed the sheet covering me. Just doing that was a challenge; I was so weak. All three nurses immediately headed my way, palms raised like they were going to restrain me. “No, no, no. You need to rest.”
“I need to see her.”
The blonde put a hand on my shoulder, while the other two tucked me back into bed. “She’s not going anywhere. And she’s not awake yet. You can see her in the morning, and she won’t know the difference.”
I’ll know the difference.
They all had jobs to do, and wouldn’t be able to watch me twenty-four/seven, so I lay back and prepared myself to wait. I was getting out of this bed. I was going to see Kiera. I wouldn’t be able to rest until I saw with my own eyes that she was okay. If the nurses knew anything about me, then they would have realized that my recovery depended on hers.
Once they did finally leave, I struggled to my feet. My arm burned, my chest ached, and every movement made something hurt, but I kept going. It took me an achingly long time, but I managed to dress myself. Once I looked semi-normal again, I made my way to the door and peered into the hallway. Feeling like I was sneaking out of prison, I waited until the coast was clear, then walked as quickly as my shuffling feet would take me.
When I was away from my area, I found a nurses’ station and asked for Kiera. The guy on duty looked at me funny, but told me what room to find her in. The lights were off and her door was ajar when I found the room where she was recovering. I felt like I had run a marathon just getting this far, but anxious to see her, I hurried inside. When I saw her lying on the bed, her body softly lit by a nightlight across the room, I almost wished I hadn’t come. She looked like a little girl in the massive bed, but with her head wrapped in thick bandages, and a sickly black-and-blue bruise along the right side of her face from her eyebrow to her cheekbone, she seemed like a very, very sick little girl.
While tears clouded my vision, a soft voice said, “What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be lying down somewhere?”
Steadying myself on a rolling tray near the foot of Kiera’s bed, I looked over at Denny, sitting in a chair near the window. “I had to know she was okay. Is she?” My throat closed up. If she wasn’t…I didn’t know what I would do.
Denny frowned. “I don’t…I don’t know. They’ve got her on drugs to reduce the swelling, but if that doesn’t work, they’ll have to…operate.”
I felt my legs start to give out, and Denny shot to his feet. With quick steps, he hurried over to me and helped me stay on my feet. His dark eyes took in all of my injuries. Well, the ones he could see, anyway. “Are you…okay?” he asked.
Staring at Kiera, her fate still unknown, and feeling the pins and needles of pain racing around my body, I shrugged him off me. He did this to us. “No…I’m not. My arm’s broken, my ribs are broken, my insides are black and blue, and I feel like living shit.”
Denny frowned as he backed away. “I’m sorry. I never meant…” His fists clenched and he closed his eyes. “You slept with my girlfriend, Kellan.” His eyes reopened and heat crept into his voice. “You slept with her.”
Scared that Kiera wouldn’t make it, I unintentionally bit out, “No, actually, we didn’t do much sleeping.”