Frayed Page 85

He clasps my shoulder again. ’’I don\ know what you were doing there, but I can\ thank you enough.’’

My eyes find his before I respond. ’’You don\ have to thank me.’’

’’I will make sure Wyatt knows I\m aware of what went down. You can be sure of that.’’

’’I hope he gets what he deserves one way or another.’’

He bobs his chin toward the room. ’’Come on, let\s get back in there before Charlotte has a breakdown. The doctors ordered a CT to rule out a concussion.’’

’’Did they do one?’’

’’They took her down when I was waiting for you.’’

My pulse pounds as concern courses through me. She\s sitting up drinking a small container of apple juice, making a slurping noise, when we enter the room. I feel slightly uneven as I slow and take the last steps toward her bed, but when she smiles at me around her straw, it eases my worry.

’’What did the doctors say?’’ My voice comes out hoarse.

She sets her drink down, but Charlotte answers, ’’They said there were no signs of a concussion, but they want her to stay awake for at least the next six hours and ’’

’’Mom, I got all the instructions. You don\ have to repeat each one,’’ Bell says.

My palms are sweaty and I wipe them on my pants.

’’You should come home with us tonight,’’ Charlotte says.

’’I can make sure she gets home,’’ I blurt out, not wanting to be away from her.

S\elle\s eyes dart to mine.

’’If she\d rather be home, I mean,’’ I add, not certain what she\s thinking.

’’Oh, we appreciate that, but I think she needs to be with us.’’

’’Charlotte, why don\ we go make sure the front desk has the correct insurance information?’’ Jack takes her hand.

’’Oh yes, of course.’’ Charlotte picks her purse up off the table.

They both leave and I sit beside S\elle on the bed.

S\elle\s eyes search mine. ’’You don\ have to stay with me. I\ll be fine.’’

I take her hand. ’’I want to stay with you.’’

’’What if I\m not sure I want you to?’’

’’S\elle, why do you always to have to fight me?’’

’’Why did you run into the arms of another woman the night I told you about the baby?’’

I blink at her in confusion. ’’I didn\ . I haven\ been with anyone since you.’’

’’Tate told me he saw you at Beck\s that night.’’

’’I did get really drunk and some chick talked to me, but Beck and Ruby brought me home. I swear.’’

’’So you were going to sleep with her?’’

I shake my head as definitively as I can.

She searches my eyes. ’’Why did you come tonight?’’

I draw in a ragged breath. ’’I wanted to talk to you. No, I wanted to tell you I was sorry, S\elle, sorry for the way I acted when you told me. I was an ass**le. And you were right I do seem to always think of myself, but I promise . . .’’

Her eyes drop to the white sheet on the bed. ’’Ben . . . we can\ do this. Just go.’’

’’I\m not leaving without you.’’

’’Just go home!’’

’’I can\ do that.’’

Her gaze lifts to mine. ’’Why?’’

The question makes me laugh a little, under my breath. I have to think for a moment how to explain my feelings. I lift her chin in my hand. ’’Some part of me is drawn to you. No matter how long we\ e apart, I can\ stop thinking about you. I know you feel it too. And I\m not walking away.’’

Silence sweeps the sterile space around us.

She reaches out her neck and kisses me softly on the lips and the gesture feels like a new kind of kiss, a new beginning.

I smile at her. ’’So I\m coming home with you.’’ It\s not a question.

She nods. ’’Yeah, I guess you are.’’

A strange feeling runs through me as I take her hand. I\m not sure what it is, but I feel the connection I always feel when I\m near her grow stronger than it\s ever been.

She pushes some hair from my eyes, and the feel of her fingers on me makes my body burn.

’’You have blood all over your shirt,’’ she says.

I shrug and lean closer to her. ’’I\m just glad you\ e all right.’’

She takes my face in her hands and pulls me even closer.

’’Okay, honey, that\s all set. We can go now,’’ Charlotte says, walking into the room.

I quickly jump to my feet.

Jack clears his throat.

’’Mom, Ben will take me home.’’

’’Are you sure?’’

’’Charlotte, Bell is old enough to make her own decisions. She\ll be fine,’’ Jack reassures her.

Charlotte turns toward me and hands me a bottle. ’’She\s to take two of these antibiotics a day, plus Tylenol every four hours, she\s not to fall asleep for six hours, and if she feels nauseated she\s to go to the hospital.’’

’’I\ll take care of her, Mrs. Tyler,’’ I promise.

She seems surprised. ’’Charlotte.’’

’’Charlotte,’’ I acquiesce.

She steps closer and gives me a little hug, whispering, ’’Thank you,’’ in my ear.

I catch her eyes and nod. I see her throat working to hold back the tears. Obviously Jack filled her in.

Jack takes my hand and covers it with his. ’’You call us if anything happens.’’

’’I will,’’ I assure him.

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