“Could you hand me a tissue?” she sneezed, trying not to empty her nose down her face again. Would the snot ever end?
Jon tipped the box. “I think we’re out again.” He said mournfully.
The flu had hit relentlessly two days after her visit and somehow she’d landed in his bed. Lottie had taken one look at her when she’d checked in on Jon that morning and ordered her upstairs to bed with her other patient. And one thing was for certain, she’d never been a good patient.
Jon was on day four of his convalescence and seemed to be just as bad as she was. She didn’t know if it was because he was male and just naturally a baby, or if he was seriously still that sick. She sneezed again and hoped it was just him being a baby. God, this sucked.
A coughing fit hit him out of the blue and he patted along the blankets. “Where’d my cough drops go?”
She dropped back against the pillow as another sneeze rocked her brain and scattered all thought. She rolled over; her head felt like it was going to explode any second. He felt around on the bed until she was ready to chew off his hand. Well beyond her need for niceties she felt a wrapped lozenge beneath her arm and whizzed it at his head. “Try a drink of water,” she said and rolled from the bed to hunt something down to empty her stupid head into.
Lottie hustled into the room with a new box of tissue, another carafe of juice with a medicine chest scattered on the pretty cherries that made up the acrylic tray she carried. “Back in bed, Missy,” she said and blocked her path.
Resisting the urge to stomp her feet and say no, she dropped back on the bed. “He’s a bed hog,” she whined, snagging the Kleenex off the tray with a muttered, “Thank you.”
“Yeah well she steals cough drops,” he said through a thick haze of post nasal drip and a hoarse cough.
“I’ve had five year olds behave better than you two.” She snapped the sheet down and nudged Tessa into a prone position before she flicked the bedclothes back and offered her a few loose pills. She huffed, but snagged two Nyquils and a couple of aspirin for the aches before she curled into her pillow.
“Did Nichole call back?” she asked trying not to moan when her entire body seemed to throb in the same rhythm as her head.
“Yes, she said to rest and she’d take care of everything for the next few days.”
“I’ll go in tomorrow.”
Jon gave a snort of a laugh and winced. “Tomorrow you’ll be begging for the world to stop spinning. I guarantee you’ll still be flat on your back.”
“Bet?” she said and dragged the pillow over her face. The world was already rocking, she didn’t think it was a big stretch to spinning. Shit.
“Oh yeah, I’ll take a sucker bet,” he said while he tugged at the covers. “Would you stop hogging all the covers?”
“Go sleep somewhere else,” she mumbled through the pillow.
“Fine,” he said and sat up.
“Alright, children enough.” Lottie set the tray down and gathered the empty tissue box and refilled juice glasses on each side of the bed. “Get some rest, you two,” she said and left.
She pushed the pillow aside and grabbed for his hand. “Don’t go,” she sighed and curled into him, putting her head on his shoulder. “I’m sorry. I’m too miserable; I should just go home so we don’t kill each other.”
He brushed his fingers through the matted bangs at her forehead. “You’re not going anywhere,” he said and settled back into the pillows and wiggled down until they were red nose to red nose. “Might as well be miserable together.”
She sniffed at the eternal line of fluid that wanted to drip out of her nose. “I’m so not at my best here.”
“I don’t care; at least we get to sleep in the same bed.”
“Sleep is a nice thought,” she said and sniffled again and let out a strangled breath. The Nyquil began to work as she started to drift. And as with any cold medicine she dropped off like a stone and didn’t stir until the sun blazed through his curtains the next morning.
She rolled over to find the bed empty and the room indeed was spinning as he’d prophesized. “Dammit,” she said and flopped onto her back. When the tilt-a-whirl was too much she stood and lurched her way to the bathroom. Praying that the nausea would subside she leaned over the sink and gave a horrified gasp at her reflection.
“Man alive, not even a mother could love me right now.” She wanted to drop down on the floor and crawl her way to the shower, but made herself stay upright. She could do this. It was only five steps. Each step was excruciatingly slow, but she managed to get there and flip the curtain aside to reach for the taps.
Lukewarm water trickled from the showerhead as she struggled out of her sweaty clothes. She wasn’t sure what the shower would do for her and the fever she still had, but she needed to do something. Disgusting was only one of the words that suited her at that moment.
She rested her forehead on the tile and let the water pour over her. Too weak to even reach up and wash her hair she just stood there.
She grunted from the shower and hoped he would hear her, or at least the water.
He pushed aside the curtain until she could see him. His features were still pinched and drawn, but the fever had subsided on his end. “There is hope,” she mumbled through the water.
“Oh baby,” he laughed and shucked out of his own clothing. “You look like you could use some help,” he turned her into him.
She let her forehead roll over the line of his chest. “Everything hurts,” she said with a muffled groan. “Just had to have the flu didn’t you?”
“Never do anything by half measure, Tessa.” He silently soaped up her hair, his fingers kneading into her scalp and neck as the suds slid down her back and foamed around her butt. “Lean back,” he said softly and gently rinsed her hair. Using a large soap filled washcloth he quickly rubbed her down and let her stand under the spray. “Feel a little better?”
“Not quite human, but at least I don’t feel like dog shit anymore,” she said with a tired smile.
Laughing he propped her up on the side of the tiled tub and rinsed off. She watched him through veiled lashes. His moves were economical and graceful in that way only athletes seemed to have. If she didn’t feel like the world was shifting under her feet, she would have leaned in to help herself to a rinsed slice of skin or two.
He stepped out and dried off, leaning in to gather her into a huge fluffy bath sheet. Letting someone take care of her was a novel thing. Part of her was uncomfortable with the fact that she just couldn’t do anything for herself right then and there and the other was impossibly moved.
She reached up and finger combed his overgrown hair, letting her nails scrape gently to his scalp and around the curve of his ear. “Thank you,” she said simply and let him tend to her. She still felt awful, but there was a layer of clean on top of it at least.
She leaned forward and dragged in his clean scent, “For taking care of me.”
He wrapped his arms around her and trapped her hands and arms between them. “Well that was purely for my benefit. I haven’t seen you naked in days.”
Laughing, she let her head tip back as she looked up at him. “The fever makes my…um, eyes sparkle, is it?”
“Exactly,” he said and slid his arm around her waist to walk her into the bedroom. “Lottie wants to come up and strip the bed, think you’re up to going downstairs for a little food?”
Looking longingly at her bed she blushed as her stomach gave an animal-like growl. “Looks like food wins,” she said.
He went to his bureau and flipped hangers until a few of her t-shirts and cotton pants came into view. He flicked them off the hangers and handed them to her, went back into the bathroom and came out with a pair of jogging pants low on his hips.
“You have my clothes in your closet?” she said with a bit of wonder.
He tugged his t-shirt over his head and fluffed his hair out from the collar. “A few times you left a shirt or a pair of pants behind. That’s okay, right?’ His blue eyes were soft and teasing. “Moving you right in, slowly but surely.”
Laughing, she took the clothes, stepping into them with only a stumble and a heavy hand on the bed she managed to dress herself. Even if her forehead was soaked in sweat and her legs were putty, she’d managed to dress herself, dammit. With one more glance over her shoulder she saw a few more shirts hanging next to his and decided not to think about that right now.
She took the steps slowly and smiled bravely when he turned back to make sure she was okay, as vertigo made her want to pitch forward. Thankful to hit the bottom stair she faltered once and rolled her eyes when he caught her against his chest.
“I think I like you a little helpless,” he said with a leer.
“Don’t get used to it,” she said and stood up straight in false bravado, but when she sunk into the kitchen chair she nearly put her head down on the table to take a nap. God, she was exhausted.
“What do you want to eat?”
“Just a scrambled egg is about all I think I can manage.”
“Even I can do that,” he said and took out a small frying pan.
She propped her head on her hand, much like he’d done a few days ago when she’d found him. “So you must be feeling better.”
“Well with my allergies, I’m used to getting knocked on my ass for a day maybe two with an out of the blue cold, but this,” he shook his head and broke a few eggs into a bowl. “This was definitely the flu. I feel a lot better today though.”
“How many days was that?”
“Shit,” she said and let her forehead drop onto the table. “I’m only on day three.”
He finished cooking and split the eggs between them. “How handy that I’m here to take care of you.”
“You mean Lottie is,’ she said and sat up with effort.
He slid into the chair next to her. “Hey, I cooked eggs!”
She lifted the fork he handed her. “Remind me to pick up a blue ribbon the next time I’m at the craft store.”
“I prefer a gold star,” he said and scooped up a mouthful.
“Yeah?” she grinned. “And where does the star go?”
He leaned across the table and laughed when she batted his hand away. “I can think of a few places.”
The doorbell rang and Jon sat back in his seat. “You still down here Lottie?”
“I got it,” she said from the front room.
He went back to his eggs and Tessa looked over his shoulder. “Expecting someone?”
“No, it’s probably the mailman, he usually has some sort of parcel a few times a week.”
She heard hushed voices from the front of the house and blinked sleepily. She picked at her eggs and sighed. “I don’t think I can eat anymore.”
He stood and took her plate. “It’s okay, baby. We’ll get you back upstairs and into bed,”
She sat back in her chair and let her head fall toward her shoulder. “How pathetic am I?”
He leaned into her and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “Not at all,” he said softly and traced a thumb over her cheek.
She wasn’t sure what made her look over Jon’s shoulder, but she couldn’t miss the shock or the bright slash of temper that rode high on the woman’s cheeks that stood behind him.
Lottie rushed into the room. “Mr. Jon…I-“
“It’s okay, Lottie,” came the clipped tone of voice that was unmistakably