Episode Fifteen: Better
I blinked my eyes until they focused in the darkness of Trenton’s hospital room. Dad was lying still and breathing deep in a cot in the corner. I’d dozed off in a chair next to Trenton’s bed. The IV pump seemed to suck in another breath, the PA system outside called for a nurse to come to the nurse’s station, and—since I’d been there—someone had come in to take Trenton’s blood, and a nurse had come in to take vitals and check Trenton’s tubing every hour. I wondered how anyone got any rest while recovering in a hospital. I wasn’t even a patient and I was starting to feel exhausted and sick.
My phone buzzed, and I noticed I had several missed messages.
“Shit,” I hissed, sitting up to check my phone. Only one message from Abby, telling me good night. I smiled, refraining from replying. God, I missed her. It was the first night we’d spent apart since Vegas, and it sucked. A lot. The other messages were from Thomas and the twins. I read over the messages and answered back.
No new news.
I’ll call if anything changes.
Dr. Walsh slipped in quietly, holding two Styrofoam cups of coffee with lids, looking like she’d just woken from nap. “Hey.”
“Hey,” I whispered, rubbing my eyes. “Is that for me?”
She handed one of the cups to me, and then sipped hers, watching Trenton sleep. “His color’s back. His vitals are good.”
“How can you tell?” I asked.
She nodded toward he door. “Monitors at the nurses’ station.”
“You’ve been here keeping an eye on him?”
“On all my patients, but yes. Trenton in particular.”
Her answer worried me. “Did any of the tests come back?”
Dr. Walsh scanned Trenton from head to feet. “Yes. His white blood cell count is significantly elevated to fifteen-thousand. We’d like for his band cell count to be around one or two. Trenton’s count was twelve.”
I frowned. I’d never heard of that before. “What are band cells? What does that mean?”
“Band cells are immature neutrophils leaving the bone marrow. An elevated count means he has a bone marrow infection, likely contracted sometime after his injury. We’ll treat with intravenous antibiotics and he should be good to go in a day or two.”
“Oh,” I said, blinking. “Thank you.”
She smiled, a red curl falling into her face. “He was pretty dehydrated. That could have contributed to his body’s inability to fight off the infection. Does he have help at home?”
“Yeah. Yeah, his girlfriend is devoted. He’s just stubborn.”
“Where is she?”
“I…” I had to think for a second before answering. “I sent her home. She has to work in the morning. She’sthe only income right now and—”
“Let her know it’s time to be more stubborn than Trenton is.”
Dr. Walsh exited as quietly as she came in. The blinds were drawn, but the sky was still pouring through the cracks. It was a different kind of dark. The not-so-black just before the sun began to rise was creating faint shadows on the white-wash walls.
Dad’s mouth was hanging open as if it had unhinged sometime in the night. His light, sort-of snore was straight out of my childhood, and I found it relaxing. I vaguely remembered when he’d fall asleep next to Mom in her at-home hospital bed, a tough memory that I had to hold on to. I looked at Trenton in his bed, reminding myself that he was going to be okay. A year ago, the alternative would’ve been impossible to wrap my head around, but after so many close calls, that fear had become real. Trenton had been restless earlier, like he was having a nightmare, but as the antibiotics worked through his system, he fell into a deeper sleep. His head had fallen to the side, his body sunken into the cheap hospital mattress. I hoped this was the last time I’d ever see one of my brothers lying in a hospital bed. At least this time Trenton and Dad would wake up to good news. Thomas and the twins were on Pacific and Mountain time—one and two hours behind—so I’d give them a few more hours to sleep before calling.
A vibration from the small tray that sat atop an upside-down L-shaped stand next to Trenton’s bed prompted me to put down my coffee and pick up my cell phone. My boss Brandon’s name lit up the display.
I need you to pick up four hours today. I have a couple of clients I need you to cover.
I tapped out a reply. My brother’s in the hospital. Ask Ray.
Then ask someone else. That reply was as diplomatic as I could be. Knowing Brandon, he was meeting some chick at a hotel so his pregnant girlfriend wouldn’t find out he was cheating… again. I wasn’t going to leave Trenton and Dad alone so he could get laid, but my job was finally paying all the bills. Keeping it meant walking a fine line with Brandon.
How about I ask your wife?
It took me five full minutes to cool down before even thinking of a reply. Brandon learned early on talking about Abby was a sore spot for me, and he loved poking the bear. I needed the job almost as much as I needed to beat his ass. Brandon was the only person on earth who could mention Abby in any way other than respectful and get away with it, but so far he was hanging out just behind the line I’d mentally drawn for him.
How about I murder you in your sleep? There. That was just sarcastic enough that he’d think I was joking.
LOL. Fine. I’ll ask Luke.
I put the phone down and covered my face with my hands, my elbows digging into Trenton’s mattress.
“Hey,” Trenton whispered, touching the top of my head. “What is it? Was the doc here?”
His brows pulled together, the worry creating a deep line between them. I took his hand off my head and held it on the mattress, patting once. “Yeah. She had good news.”
Trenton looked up at the ceiling and sighed. “Thank Christ.” After a few seconds, he punched the pillow with his good hand until it supported his head enough for him to sit up. “Did the tests come back?”
“Some of them. Looks like you have a bone marrow infection from the break. She’ll be back in later and explain, but you’ll be out in a day or two.”
Trenton grinned, and then covered his face. “Fuck, I’m so relieved.”
“Did you think you were gonna die, pussy?” I teased.
“I wasn’t sure,” Trenton said. His expression made my smile fade. “I’ve had some shit luck this year.”
“At least the bill is covered,” I said, sitting back and crossing my arms against my chest.
“No shit,” Trenton said, raising his brows once. “So, what’s wrong?”
“Oh, that was my boss on the phone wanting me to come in. He made a crack about Abby. I’m trying not to plan his disappearance.”
Trenton’s bed crackled as he moved to get comfortable. “Brandon’s been rumored to have a death wish. You know he slept with John Brigham’s wife last year?”
“Yep. The one who was suspended for beating a cuffed dude. Brandon heard about it, then ran out and bagged his wife.”
I frowned. “Abby I trust, but I need this job, and it wouldn’t take much for me to attack that piece of shit.”
“Just keep her away from him so he’ll keep his hands off her. You’re getting better at keeping your cool, but if he touches her… God help him.”
I nodded. That was the plan. I’d have to explain better to Abby. This was one miscommunication I couldn’t afford to have.
“Go home,” Trenton said. “Get some rest. Take Dad with you.”
I shook my head. “You know he won’t leave until you do.”
“I don’t need both of you here. Get out, fuck nugget. No one wants you here, anyway.”
I flipped him off, standing to grab my keys, wallet, and phone, and then leaned over to touch my cheek to his temple. I pecked his forehead, and then waved good-bye.
The drive home in the back of a cab was quiet and long. I was glad the driver was too tired for conversation, because I had plenty going on in my head. I knew I’d get to crawl into bed with Abby for less than an hour before she would wake up to start her day. As the sun peeked through the clouds, I directed the driver to park next to the Camry, and then I handed him a ten. Before he could bother to make change, I was already climbing up the steps to my front door, sliding the key into the bolt lock.
The apartment was dark, tiny nails tapping against the floor and the AC flowing through the vents were the only sound. I leaned over to pet Toto, and then grabbed his leash, walking him back down the stairs to the patch of grass below. Toto sniffed every planter, every light pole and pedestal his leash would allow him to reach, and then finally, when he was satisfied, hiked his leg. He kicked back grass nowhere near where he’d just pissed like he’d just conquered a Viking army, and I scooped him up, jogging up the steps so I could lay next to my wife.
I lowered Toto to his feet, unclipped his leash, and then reached back, pulling off my T-shirt as I made my way to the bedroom. When I opened the door, it creaked, and I could see Abby’s silhouette stir. I kicked off my boots, unbuttoned my jeans, and yanked them down over my hips, stepping out of them before crawling under the covers.
Abby hummed as I wrapped my arms around her, backing her ass up to my lap and moving her hips from side to side. I was hard within ten seconds, but that only made her rub up against me more.
“Did you finally decide to come home?” she asked.
I pulled her back against my torso, feeling her warm skin against mine. She smelled like citrus shampoo and her favorite lotion. I was in heaven. I touched my forehead to the nape of her neck, and she froze.
“Is Trent okay?”
“Yes,” I said, kissing her soft skin. “He’s going to be fine. He’ll stay another night or two and then they said he can go home.”
She relaxed. “Good. Did they say what was wrong?”
“Bone marrow infection,” I said, burying my face in her back. My entire body ached for her.
She turned to face me. “A bone marrow infection? What is that?”
“I know, right? I’d never heard of it, either. Only Trent.” I kissed her neck, making my way up to her ear.
She sucked in a breath through her nose. “I should take Toto out.”
“Already done,” I said.
“Have I told you you’re my favorite husband?” she asked, smiling as she stretched.
“That’s because I’m your only husband,” I said, pressing my lips against hers.
She pressed me back against the mattress until I was looking up at the ceiling. Her mouth was on my neck, tasting, alternating between kisses and flicks with her tongue. She hummed as she traced a line to my collar bone, and then she disappeared beneath the covers, licking her way down my chest and abdomen until she reached into my boxer briefs with a single, soft hand.
“Holy God, Pidge,” I moaned, reacting to the feeling of her hot, wet mouth around my dick. I covered my face with my hands, wondering what I’d done to deserve the woman I’d married. Ten minutes before, I couldn’t wait just to hold her. Now she was between my legs, gripping my hardness in her hand, showing me exactly how happy she was that I was home.
She peeled back the covers and looked up at me, her gray eyes sleepy and seductive. I lifted my head to look down at her, running my thumb down her cheek, shaking my head in awe. Every day I thought I couldn’t love her more, but I did. I always did. Sometimes thinking about how strong my feelings would be a year in the future, or ten years, was scary as hell, and I wasn’t afraid of anything.
“Who’s the best wife?” she asked, lowering her head while her gaze met mine.
“You are,” I said, letting my head relax back. “You’re better than best. No contest.”
Her head dipped again, and my eyes rolled back in my head, forgetting everything else but her.