Home > Beautifully Cruel(8)

Beautifully Cruel(8)
Author: J.T. Geissinger

I have no idea what’s happening.

Pain pokes vaguely at the edges of my awareness, but it’s being held in check by whatever wonderful mix of meds are flowing through my veins, courtesy of the needle. It’s attached by a line to a clear plastic bag of liquid hanging from a metal stand. A beeping machine nearby displays a variety of nonsensical readings in cheerful yellow numbers.

Snatches of memory drift by like clouds: Sirens. Rainfall. The ride to the hospital in an ambulance going much too fast, judging by all the uncontrolled swerving.

The wolf on the seat opposite my cot, gazing at me in stone-faced silence.

His hand gripping mine.

I must’ve gone in and out of consciousness, because I have no recollection of how I came to be in this room or this bed. I have impressions of people as they leaned over me, faces blurry, lips moving without sound, and of being wheeled to different rooms, the seams of the ceiling tiles passing by overhead like lines on a freeway. There must have been tests, X-rays or such, but I don’t remember those, either.

What I remember most clearly is believing I was about to die—horribly, painfully—but I didn’t.

My big bad wolf saved me.

It’s a testament to just how hopped up I am on pain medication that the thought makes me smile.

“You’re awake.”

The low voice comes from my right. When I turn my head in that direction, the wolf rises from a chair next to my bed. Tall and imposing, he stands looking down at me, his eyes dark and unreadable, his black suit and tie unwrinkled, not a hair out of place.

The only evidence of last night’s carnage is the single telltale spot of red on his starched white dress shirt collar and the bruising on the knuckles of his right hand.

When I moisten my lips, he grabs a cup from the nightstand beside the chair and holds the bent straw to my mouth so I can drink. I sip, cool water sliding over my tongue and down my throat, gazing up at him as I swallow.

He watches me with perfect focus. The slightest tension tightens the corners of his mouth.

Finished with the water, I relax back against the pillows and blink lazily at him, trying to determine if my lack of fear for this dangerous man looking at me with such grave intensity is courage or stupidity.

I decide it’s stupidity. My hormones have taken control of my brain. If he looked like a troll, I’d already be screaming for security.

I say, “I bet that helps in your line of work.”

His dark brows draw together. “What’s that?”

“Being so hot and inscrutable. It distracts people. Catches them off guard. Are you going to tell me your name now that you’ve saved my life, or should I just assume The Batman is real and you’re some billionaire with a fetish for latex suits and macho technology who roams the streets at night fighting crime?”

He stares at me in silence.

I sigh. “Okay. Bruce Wayne it is. Though I gotta tell you, you don’t look much like a Bruce to me. I would’ve pegged you more as an Apollo or something.”

“Apollo is a Greek name.”

“Oh. Right. Not exactly Irish.”

He adds, “It means ‘destroyer.’”

“So there you go! Is there an Irish name for destroyer? What does Connor mean? I always thought that sounded like a hot badass name. Are you an assassin?”

He gazes at me pensively for a moment, then touches my forehead with the backs of his fingers.

“I’m not delirious,” I say, enjoying the feel of him touching me way too much. “I’m a little loopy from whatever they’re pumping into me from that bag, but my brain is mostly working. Like ninety percent. Okay, probably more like fifty percent, but my point is that I’d really like to know your name and also what you do for a living because I’m thinking both of those are important details for this relationship going forward.”

He turns his hand over and trails his fingertips slowly down my temple and over my cheekbone, pausing to caress my jaw with his thumb.

His voice thoughtful, he says, “We’re not going to have a relationship.”

I smile at him. “You’re silly.”

His expression is a combination of frustration, irritation, and helpless intrigue. I’m charming him, and he doesn’t like it.

“I told you I don’t do relationships.”

“Yes, and you also sat in my section for almost a year staring at me, and tried to tell me goodbye but then saved my life, and admitted your favorite ice cream flavor was pistachio, too, after I said that really embarrassing thing about how if it was, it was a sign that we were meant to be together forever. So I feel like all that sort of voided your ban on relationships. Tell me I’m wrong.”

His lashes lower. He stares at me with heated eyes and a clenched jaw, slowly exhaling through flared nostrils.

Hot damn, the man knows how to smolder.

Two policemen in uniform enter the room. They see the wolf standing at my beside, stop short, and glance at each other. The older one looks back at the wolf and nods respectfully, clearing his throat.



“I didn’t realize, uh…” The cop looks at me.

“Yes,” says the wolf, who’s name apparently is Liam.

Liam. Lee-YUM. Wow, this pain medication is powerful.

Nodding again, the older cop says, “Gotcha. Well. We’ll be outside if you need us.”

“Thank you, John.”

They retreat, leaving my brain pinwheeling. Who is this guy?

Before I can ask any more questions, a doctor sweeps in, nose in the air, all self-important and snooty in his blue scrubs and white coat. He stops short like the cops did, looking Liam up and down suspiciously.

He says, “Are you family?”

“I’m Liam Black.”

The doctor’s lips part. His eyes widen. He clasps the clipboard he’s carrying to his chest like a shield and swallows, hard.

“What’s the prognosis?” says Liam.

It sounds like It better be good news or you’re dead.

When the doctor pales, I giggle. Liam rests his hand on my shoulder and gently squeezes. I fight the urge to nuzzle it and look at the doctor instead.

He’s nervously licking his lips. “Yes. The prognosis. Ah…” He consults the clipboard. “There’s no GI bleeding or other internal injury. The CT scan showed no bleeding on the brain. Her ribs are bruised, but not broken, and the cartilage is intact.”

He looks up, ignoring me, and speaks directly to Liam. “A few days of bed rest, a week or so of limited activity, then she’ll be as good as new. She’s a very lucky girl.”

“And the swelling?”

“Swelling?” I repeat, anxiety pricking through my cottony bubble.

The doctor finally realizes I’m in the room. He gives me a cursory once over, then turns his attention back to Liam. “It should resolve in a week to ten days. The bruising, too. Ice will speed the healing process.”

“When will she be discharged?”

“I’ll get the paperwork ready now. Should be less than twenty minutes.”

“I think she should be kept another night for observation.”

Too intimidated to argue, the doctor nods. “Yes. She should be kept another night for observation.”

“When she is discharged, we’ll need some pain medication to take home.”

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