“Nope.” She grins. “You’re a big girl. But promise that if you need them, you’ll take them.”
“I will.” I yawn widely and then chuckle. “Ironically, I think I will go nap until Ty gets here. I’m sorry I’m such a horrible hostess.”
“I’m used to fending for myself. You go nap. I’ll be down here answering e-mail and setting up appointments.”
I nod and wave as I trudge up the steps to my bedroom. Jesus, I’m exhausted just from climbing this flight of stairs. My ribs are singing and my head is pounding as I strip out of my clothes and lie on the soft bed.
I’ll just nap for a few minutes, until the headache goes away.
“Wake up, my love.”
Ty is kissing my forehead gently and brushing his fingers down my cheek. This is the best part of the day, waking up next to him, feeling him beside me.
“You’re home,” I whisper without opening my eyes.
“Mmm.” He kisses me again. “And I need you to wake up. I have some things to show you.”
“Would rather just feel you,” I mumble.
Suddenly, I hear something purr and I open my eyes to find a tiny, orange kitten curled up in the crook of Ty’s elbow. “Who is this?”
“This is your new friend.” Ty grins. “I figure he can hang out with you while you work and be a companion for you when I’m not here.”
“He’s not much of a watchdog.” I scoop him out of Ty’s arm and snuggle him down against my neck. “He’s so soft!”
“You don’t need a watchdog. You just need someone to brainstorm story ideas with.” Ty’s lips twitch as he watches me with the kitten.
“What’s his name?”
“Why?” I chuckle.
“Because he’s fuzzy.”
“Hmm, maybe he should have a more sophisticated name, like Sir Lancelot.” I rub my nose against his soft head. “Do you like that name, little guy?”
“There’s nothing wrong with Fuzz.” Ty frowns.
“How about Sir Fuzz?” I grin at my sweet man. “Thank you.”
He leans in and kisses me gently, backing away when I try to deepen the kiss. I growl in frustration.
“You are not healthy enough for me to kiss you the way I want to, sweetness. Once I start, I won’t want to stop. I’m desperate for you, but I can wait until you’re well so I don’t hurt you.”
“You won’t hurt me.”
My eyes roam over his long, lean body. He’s changed from his work clothes into his jeans and a T-shirt and has a bandage over the inner biceps of his right arm.
“What happened to your arm?” I ask, alarmed.
“I had a tattoo added today.” He smiles nervously.
“I want to see.” I struggle to sit up, hissing in a breath at the pull on my ribs, then settle back against the headboard.
“Are you okay?”
“Yes. Show me. Can you take the bandage off yet?”
“Yeah, I was waiting to show you.” He peels off the bandage.
My eyes grow wide and find his. “What does it mean?”
His eyes fall to his arm and he smiles widely. “I decided on the rose of Sharon because it means something special to you, and for me because I’ll never go another day in my life without thinking of you when I see these flowers. And it’s blue because it’s the color of your eyes.”
“You tattooed me on your arm.”
“Of course I did, sweetness. I love you.” He raises his hand and brushes his thumb down my cheek.
“I love you too,” I whisper. “Thank you for that, and for Sir Fuzz.” I nuzzle the kitten against me. He purrs and settles in with a wide yawn to take a nap.
“I think you both need a nap,” Ty murmurs against my hair as he gently pulls me against his chest.
“I slept all day,” I protest.
“The only way you’re going to get better is if you rest and let your body heal, Lauren.”
“Have I mentioned that I’m not a patient person?”
“Once or twice.” He chuckles. “Emily is gone?”
“Yeah, she left this afternoon. I love her to death, but honestly, I was ready for it to just be us again. I want to get back to normal.”
“I do too, but I don’t like the idea of you being alone during the day yet.”
“Now you sound just like her. I’ll be fine. I’m just sore now, Ty.”
“I’ll work half days for one more week.”
“You can’t keep taking time off of work!”
“Yes, I can.” He kisses my head and reaches over to pet the sleeping kitten. “You come first, Lo. Always.”
I grin happily and let the sound of the kitten purring and Ty’s even breathing lull me to sleep.
“You’re nothing but a fucking whore!” Jack backhands me across the face. “I’m going to kill you this time.”
He slaps me again, sending me back against a guardrail. How did we get outside? We’re up on the second floor now, on the balcony.
“Ty!” I yell, but Jack just laughs.
“He’s not here, bitch. He can’t save you. He’ll never save you.” Jack laughs long and hard, delighted with himself. “Should I beat you to death, or just throw you over this balcony?”
I begin to cry. How can this be happening again? Where is Ty? I look over to the window and see him beating on the glass, trying to get to me, but he can’t reach me.
“Ty!” I yell again, but he doesn’t come. There is only Jack and his maniacal laugh. He keeps pushing me against the cement railing, over and over. It hurts my sore ribs. “Please stop,” I cry.
“You deserve to die, you selfish whore.” Jack grips my shoulders in his hands and pushes me over the side of the balcony. I fall and fall and fall in slow motion, my arms and legs flailing.
I gasp and then cry out as the pain in my ribs shoots through me. Ty wakes me, calling my name and gently pushing his fingers into my hair. I’m sweating, my eyes are wide, and I’m panting uncontrollably.
“You’re here.” My eyes search the room, looking for Jack.
“Of course I’m here.” Ty takes my hand in his, but I pull away and cower from him. “Baby, you had a nightmare.”
“Jack was hurting me.” I look around the room once more and then begin to cry as Ty pulls me back into his strong arms, rocking me gently.