Roman (Raleigh Raptors 2) - Page 65

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You can make it.

Another hit of energy burst through my system with the thought, carrying me even faster.

Just get past the safety.

Their rapidly-approaching safety was a heartbeat away from Baker.

Rick stumbled, tripping at my left and going down hard.

No!

I didn’t have time to make it to the sideline—

He hit me like a freight train at full speed, hurling me sideways. I heard the crunch. I saw…black.

* * *

“I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”

The words belonged to Teagan, but why did she sound so damned sad? So far away? I fought through the layers of fog clouding my brain and battled my own body into consciousness, prying open my eyes by sheer force of will.

The overhead lighting may as well have been a sleeve full of daggers stabbing into my eyes. Pain blared through my body like an alarm, radiating from my head and spreading down my side. I closed my eyes, and it lessened, but not by much.

I knew the sterile smell of a hospital all-too-well, and it filled my nose with every breath I managed to drag through the vise on my chest.

“So sorry. I should have listened,” Teagan whispered, and I felt her hand on mine, absently stroking my palm.

“Baby, there’s nothing to be sorry about,” I croaked, managing to drag my dry tongue across my parched lips.

“He’s awake!” She shouted.

Okay, she could be sorry about the shouting, because that shit hurt.

I braved the knives of fire in my eyes and forced my lids open in time to see her hasty retreat to the wall, making room for the team of doctors above me.

“There we go. Mr. Padilla, you are at Duke University Hospital. Can you tell me your first name?” The doctor shined a flashlight across my eyes.

“It’s Roman, and if you shine that thing in my eyes again, we’re going to have problems, doc.” I forced my hands to stay at my sides and not shove him across the room.

“Light sensitive,” he noted to a hovering nurse.

“Where’s Doc Overton?” I asked.

“Right here.”

Our team doc appeared at my left side, giving me the I’m-not-going-to-tell-you-but-you’re-fucked smile.

As his face came into focus, my stomach turned over, and my mouth watered. “I’m going to be sick.”

A blue tub appeared, and I jolted to a sitting position as my stomach heaved up what was left of my breakfast.

Light sensitive. Nausea. Fuck me. I had a concussion.

“How long was I out?” I managed to ask as they carted the tub away.

“A little under an hour,” Doc Overton answered. “We’re waiting on your CT scans.”

Jesus, I’d slept through that, too? Must have been some hit. As if acknowledging what put me here in the first place had switched on my nerve endings, my side erupted in acute agony. I hissed, automatically reaching for my ribs.

Doc Overton stopped me, blocking me with his arm. “Those are bruised.”

“Fuck.” No wonder it hurt to breathe.

Teagan sniffled, and I reached for her hand. She was pale, red-eyed, and mascara streaked as she stepped to my side, taking the space on the right side of my head.

“I’m fine, baby,” I assured her. “You’ve seen me take worse.”

She forced a weak-ass smile as an answer.

“Question of the day. What was the score?” I asked Doc Overton.

He laughed. “Twenty-seven to twenty-one. You held on to the ball, Padilla, and Malone caught a nice one off the next play.”

“Thank God.” I let my head fall back against my bed, which had been raised to accommodate my sitting position.

A tear slipped down Teagan’s cheek.

“Hey, no crying. We’re headed to the playoffs.” I squeezed her hand and stroked my thumb over her engagement ring.

“You are headed for some rest,” the Duke doctor challenged.

“At least until you clear concussion protocol,” Doc Overton amended.

“I figured.” Two weeks. I’d miss next week’s game but could make it back for the first round if I healed up quickly. I didn’t give a shit about my ribs. I’d played hurt before—the adrenaline usually masked the pain. But I knew enough about CTE to even argue about getting back out there before my brain healed up.

“We’d like to keep you overnight,” the Duke Doc announced.

I sighed.

“It’s already pretty late, and we just want to get a good look at your scans,” Doc Overton added in. “We’re not taking any chances with you.”

“Or my millions-of-dollars-legs?” I quipped sarcastically.

“It’s your brain we’re mostly worried about, smart ass,” he retorted with a grin. “At least your sense of humor didn’t get knocked out of you.”

“Yeah, yeah. I got it. Overnight stay. Look at my scans. You want me to hydrate, answer questions about current events, and prove I didn’t get a screw loosened on that field. Been here, done this.” I gave a thumbs-up, cringing as pain shot down my side.

“You got it. We’ll give you guys a few minutes,” Doc Overton said softly, his gaze darting to Teagan. “After that, you’re up for a full course of poking and prodding.”


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