7/28/2008

Chapter 126

Jon checked the his phone just one more time, hoping it really hadn’t been just twenty-three seconds since the last time he’d looked. He’d debated calling his family, but since he hadn’t even introduced them to Tessa yet, it seemed crazy to call. What could they do besides drill him for information about her?

And right now, he just couldn’t explain how he felt, not with the fear choking him like a WWE Wrestler on steroids. He couldn’t lose her now, not when he’d just found her. Creativity streaming through his blood as strong as a white blood cell didn’t help the list of worst case scenarios currently tumbling around his brain until he was ready to storm the surgical room.

A flash of baby blue scrubs passing the doorway had him up and sprinting down the hall. “Miss!”

The woman turned, her tired eyes darting away. “Mr. Bon Jovi we’ll get you information as soon as we can.”

“Please, just something. I…” his voice trailed off as Richie’s long-legged stride ate up the hallway. He’d never been so glad to see Richie’s mussed hair and those ridiculous trinkets dangling over his shoulders than right then. As usual, Richie was without a coat, his shirt looked like it had come off the floor and the worried frown was evident even half hidden under shades.

“As soon as I know something, we’ll try to tell you something. We really need her family here so we can talk to you.”

“I am her family,” Jon said, meeting her eyes. How did he make her understand that? “She has a sister in Europe that she doesn’t talk to, her best friend who’s currently a few hundred miles away and me. That’s it.” Jon looked down at his hands then back up to her face. “I don’t want her to be alone.”

“As soon as she comes out of surgery, I’ll make sure you can see her, but right now we’re still trying to figure out the damage.”

“It’s been hours!” he exploded. He felt Richie’s hand clamp down on his shoulder and forced himself to calm. “I’m sorry,” he rasped out.

“It’s okay.” The nurse’s face showed only comfort. “Dr. Esser’s the best in the state and we’re lucky to have her here at Riverview.” She took Jon’s clenched hand and wrapped hers around it. “Waiting’s always the hardest, and I can’t tell you anything more than there was a lot of damage because of how long she was without care. She went into something called hypovolemic shock. Because of that, we have to be careful.”

Frustration and fear roared in his head. He blew out a slow breath. “What does that mean?”

“Her heart didn’t have enough blood to get through to all the organs in her body. We did some transfusions, but she also has a rather rare blood type, pair that with her other complications…It’s just taking longer to keep everything under control and do what we need to do at the same time. We’re doing everything we can." She repeated in a voice that told Jon she said it too many times a day to count. "I have to go now. We’ll tell you everything we can when she’s out of surgery.”

Her hand slipped away and with it, the little bit of sanity he was holding onto. He should've been there. He should have been there.

Richie nodded to the nurse, speaking in that secret, silent language that loved ones of the destroyed could, and she hurried off. He pushed his sunglasses up, his dark eyes swirling with emotion. “Don’t,” he said with a clear, strong voice. There was no teasing glint there, none of the Richie charm that made him the best of them. Instead there was just a sureness that Jon needed to hold onto. “Do not blame yourself. I can see it in your eyes. This isn’t your fault, man.”

“But she—“

“The what if’s will eat you alive. Believe me, I’ve been there.” Richie turned him until they were eye to eye. Putting a hand on each shoulder he shook him. “She needs you when she comes out of whatever this is. Do you know what happened?”

Jon shook his head. “I found her.” He stared at the oddly bare neck and chest of his best friend, then back up to his face. “There could be a baby,” he whispered suddenly. It was the first time he allowed himself the thought out loud.

Richie’s breath wooshed out. “How?” When he just arched a brow, Richie gave him a disgusted face. “You know what I mean.”

“We weren’t the most careful of couples lately. She’d mentioned birth control a few times so I just assumed.” He eased away and resumed pacing. That night at the party a few nights ago, he’d had to get inventive for the first time in their relationship. “Hell, it wasn’t even a thought…In fact we just, uh—“

Richie dropped into one of the ugly orange chairs and held up a hand. “Gotcha.”

Thankful that the guy code definitely covered the TMI’s, he sighed. “There was no reason to even think she was pregnant based on that one night a few days ago. It could be something else, even. The only thing they did know was there was internal bleeding and she wasn’t…” Jon sucked back a shaky breath. “She wasn’t moving when I found her.”

Richie leaned forward, elbows on knees. “I managed to get a hold of Adam.”

Thankful to focus on something else, he stopped pacing. “And?”

“They were just about an hour outside of Vermont by the time I got through. They were driving through the mountains without reception.”

“They’re on their way?”

“Adam was turning around even before I could ask. He said they’d be here within a few hours,” he rattled off a phone number. "It's Nic's cell."

Jon flipped open his phone for a purpose for the first time in hours. “Thanks.”

“Go take a walk, give Nic an update before she drives Adam off the road with her questions.”

“I don’t want to leave—“

“I’ll stay here and wait,” Richie interrupted.

He turned to the doorway, then back to his friend, his feet like lead. “I don’t know if I can.” Standing here in the waiting room at least let him feel like he was doing something. It wasn’t much, but at least he was there for her as much as he could be.

Richie stood. “Jonny, you know this is one of the best hospitals. They’re going to take care of her. If anyone comes out to talk to you, I’ll call your cell, okay?”

Grinding his molars together he simply nodded.

Richie held out his hand, Jon reached for the shake before he could even think about it. A small smile kicked up the corner of his mouth as Richie slapped a pack of Marb lights into his palm. “Go.” He sat back down and laced his fingers over his belly. “I won’t move.”

The trip down in the elevator was eternal, but finally he was striding through the lobby dialing before he made it through the main hallway. Ignoring the disapproving looks from the hospital staff he punched the exit bar on the heavy metal doors.

“Hello?”

Cupping his hands around a cigarette Jon hightailed it around the corner down to the public area that allowed smoking, dragging in the soothing nicotine. “Hey Nic, it’s me.”

“Oh thank God, I’ve been freaking out in the car. I swear Adam’s going to strap me to the hood in a minute.”

Forcing a smile into his voice he gave her the laugh she needed. He could hear the hysteria bubbling there below the false cheer in her voice. “It seems that something happened at the store before she left.”

“No,” she whispered. “No, she said she was right behind me,” Nic said brokenly.

“I’m sure she was,” Jon said automatically.

“Was it a robbery? Was she…”

“No, no.” He stopped, bumped by hospital staff and other visitors that were walking down the steep path to the only smoking area designated on the grounds. Get it together, Jon. He headed toward the pine picnic tables under a tree. “It wasn’t a robbery. The doctor’s won’t tell me much yet.”

“Oh God, I never should have left her. I didn’t want to, I swear it Jon! You know how she gets.”

“I know,” he soothed. He wouldn’t heap on the blame. Not when it was truly him to blame. He should have noticed how late it was, that she wasn’t there. No, he had to hammer his way through that fucking song last night. If he—

“What happened,” she sniffed, breaking through his internal battle.

Shoving the guilt down for the moment he sighed. “I found her early this morning. I’d been working all night in the studio…” he collapsed onto one of the benches watching his cigarette burn. “Anyway, something ruptured and she was bleeding internally. She’s still in surgery. Something’s wrong…” he didn’t want to worry her more, but hell, how did you explain what you don’t know?

“Appendix?” Nic guessed.

“It could be. All the doctors would say is that she went into shock so surgery is taking longer.”

“Oh, God.”

“Yeah, she’s been in for a few hours now. Do you have any way of contacting her sister? I don’t know how we’re going to get any information out of the doctors.”

“I have power of attorney and a healthcare proxy because of the store…you know, just in case.”

Jon swallowed against the idea of just in case. He was the backup thinker guy. He was the one that looked for every eventuality, all of them except this. He couldn’t even wrap his mind around this. He cleared his throat. “Smart thinking.”

“She and her sister barely speak. No fighting or anything,” she quickly explained. “Just two separate lives after her folks died. I don’t think there’s much she can do from…gosh I think she’s in Germany now. Her husband’s in the Air Force and they move around a lot.”

Why didn’t he know this? Stabbing out the butt on the sole of his shoe he pitched the cigarette out as he headed back for the hospital. Just how much didn’t he know about her? “Maybe we should hold off on that call until we know more.”

“I agree.” Silence stretched between them. “Adam’s going as fast as he can. We’ll be there soon, Jon.”

“Drive safe,” he said and clipped his phone shut, willing himself to even out before he did something crazy, like lose it in the middle of the hospital. Needing something to do that could break down some of the nervous energy churning in his gut, he took the stairs, two at a time.

Leaning his forehead on the cool metal door for the third floor he took a few deep breaths and slipped inside. The double doors that led down to surgery slammed opened with a team of nurses and doctors rolling a bed through the hallway. Backing up to give them space, his world shut down in that instant.

Cords, tubes, machines beeping, a cacophony of voices ratting off medical speak that meant nothing to him, it was a blur. In the center of the oversized gurney she lay there, so small…so quiet. His Tessa.

Her usually bright hair, was pushed back making her face appear gaunt. A fluid IV swung lazily from one corner, while blood hung from the other.

“…back, sir!”

The voice pushed through the cotton batting surrounding him as he was pushed aside. The same dark haired nurse nodded to the doctor and stayed behind. The gurney, steady and slow, moved down the hallway to the ICU unit.

“Mr. Bon Jovi.”

He heard her…barely. All he could focus on was that gurney taking her away from him again.

“Jonny,” Richie’s low voice finally reeled him in.

“I—“ he drew all the fear back into himself and tried desperately to hold onto it. He couldn’t do anything for her if he wasn’t listening, wasn’t there enough to soak in whatever the nurse was going to say to him. He looked at Richie, his unwavering patience and quiet strength helped him put the beast, currently trying to crawl out of his throat, back in its cage. “How’s she doing?”

“I can’t tell you all that much, except she’s touch and go right now. We’ve got her stable and we’ll be watching her for the next twenty-four hours for any…complications.”

“What happened?”

“We needed to do an exploratory surgery called a laporatomy to find exactly what happened and we were able to repair most of...” she trailed off, “the damage. I’m sorry that I can’t go into more detail, but it’s for the patient’s protection.”

Frustration drove his fists into his pocket instead of around the nurse’s neck. She was only doing her job. The privacy act was created for people like him, so that sensitive information didn’t get out to just anyone. But right now, the not knowing was almost as bad as watching them roll her away from him again. “Can I see her?”

“She’s lost a lot of blood, Mr. Bon Jovi. We just have to wait this out and see what happens in the next day or so. The doctor feels that she’ll know more within the next twelve hours.”

“Twelve hours!” Jon’s knees went to water and Richie grabbed that back of his jacket keeping him on his feet.

“I’ll see what I can do about getting you in to see her for a few minutes when they set her up in the ICU.” The nurse clasped her hands together in front of her. “I know it’s hard, but rest is the best thing for her right now. I need to go see to Ms. Donovan. I’ll be back when I can.”

Helpless, Jon watched her walk away. “Nurse?”

She sighed and turned, “Yes?”

“Her best friend will be coming, she has a health proxy. Will you be able to tell us any more with that?”

“Under the circumstances, yes.” The nurse turned and hurried down the hall to the ICU wing.

Jon scrubbed his hands over his face. “More fucking waiting.”

Richie smoothed his hand over his back and gripped his shoulder, hard. “If anyone can do this, Tessa can.”

“She has to, Rich.” He watched the ICU door flutter slowly then still…closing him off from her.

7/23/2008

Chapter 125

The hospital was, in a word, chaos. He’d never seen the likes of it in all his years living in Red Bank. Riverview was the place he’d brought Jesse when he’d broken his wrist skateboarding, it was also the place he brought Romeo in for ear infections. It wasn’t the place he’d ever associated with trauma.

Nurses in scrubs, flapping lab coats and shouted orders was his first glimpse into a real ER. He’d pushed his way behind the paramedics. A few of the shouts had been for him to stay back, but there was no way he was leaving her alone again. He backed against the wall as three nurses crowded in and listened to the lightning fast stats the blonde from the ambulance rattled off.

A tall, young doctor was called over, but as soon as he got a look at the situation and her pressure he shouted for a call to surgery. “You!” the man-boy pointed at Jon. “Tell me!”

Jon moved to the gurney, his shaking fingers needing to touch her. Looking down at her face he locked his knees, she was so translucent he could see the delicate veins under her eyes. He smoothed a knuckle down her coppery hair. “I found her…“ he forced himself to look away and into the doctor’s eyes. He glanced down at his name tag then back up. Clearing his throat he held onto her shoulder. “The last I’d heard from her was a text message around…” Jon dug his phone out and flipped it open. “It was at 12:14am. She was working and said she’d be home by 2am.”

“And you got there?” he pointed at the paramedic.

She flipped through her log. “We rolled in at 5:18am.”

“Okay people,” he reached for the vitals from a nurse. “I don’t like her blood pressure, there are four hours or more that she could have been unconscious.” He felt around Tessa’s abdomen and frowned, moving lower toward her middle then back. Lifting the tattered edges of her skirt he frowned. “Vicky, page Dr. Esser and have her meet me up in—“ he turned to another nurse. “What room did we get?”

“Room six,” the woman in pink scrubs called out from a wall phone on the far side of the room.

“All right, let’s get her moving.”

“Dr. Croft?” Jon asked.

The man-boy doctor turned, distracted but at least willing to look at him. And for God’s sakes talk to him. “We’re going to do everything we can for her. If it’s what I think it is, I don’t have time to waste. Let me do my job, Mr. Bon Jovi.”

Nodding, Jon stepped back to let the doctor and two nurses move ahead to the elevators, reassured and terrified at how fast they were moving. Why wouldn’t they give him any details? Did they even know what was wrong with her?

Was she pregnant?

Was she losing his baby?

Was he losing her?

Was it something worse?

He caught the blonde paramedic as she stopped to fill out paperwork. “Miss?”

“Maggie,” she answered and stopped.

He could see the way her face had closed off again. His belly tightened, leaving his heart to shove its way up his throat, fighting with the lump already there. “Please, why did you ask if she was pregnant?”

“Look, sir, the doctors are doing everything they can for her. She’s in good hands. Dr. Croft is one of the best trauma surgeons I’ve seen here at Riverview.”

“Maggie, please.” He didn’t want placating words, didn’t want some yes-woman to tell him everything was going to be all right. He needed her to tell him the hard truth. “You’ve been doing this for how long?”

“Eight years,” she answered still not completely looking him in the eye.

“What is it?”

“I—“ she gave him a reassuring squeeze on his arm. “I can’t say what it is. I’d only be guessing. It wouldn’t be fair to freak you out for no reason.”

He raked his fingers into his hair. “I’m freaking out because I don’t know what’s going on. Who’s Dr. Esser?”

Maggie’s eyes shuttered. “Call your family, just—“

“Dammit, who is she?” Her face went stony and he changed tact. Anger wasn’t going to help him here. He caught her hand in his. “This woman is…” He looked down and caught his breath. You can do this, Jon. “This is my girl, you know? I can’t—“ he swallowed down the fear and a rush of helplessness that threatened to drown him.

Maggie’s other hand clutched his. “She’s a gynecologist, sir. It could be bad. We have no idea how long she was down and what’s going on inside of her. That’s why they are moving so fast.” She slowly let him go.

“Sir, we need some help with some paperwork.”

Jon looked over at a pleasant faced man running the admissions desk and sighed. “Yes, I’ll be right there.” He turned back and the blonde paramedic was striding back to her partner. “Dammit!”

“Sir-“

“Yes, I’m coming.”

~


Two hours later he still didn’t have any answers and a stack of insurance forms on his lap that proved just how helpless he was. He was lucky he could fill in every fourth line.

In some ways he knew every inch of Tessa, but here, in the simplest of terms he felt like he didn’t know a damn thing. He stood in the cramped waiting room off the surgical floor, pacing it for the fourth time in as many minutes. He and Tessa weren’t married, so the nurses were proving impossible to deal with.

He knew she had a sister overseas, but that was about it. He didn’t have Nichole’s cell phone number and her home phone was going straight to answering machine with the number of calls he’d made. Flipping open his cell he tried Richie again.

“C’mon, man.”

“’Lo,” Richie mumbled.

Relief burned like acid through his belly. “Rich…man wake up.”

“Jonny, do you realize it’s not even eight o’clock? Even you don’t make me come into that God forsaken studio this fuckin’ early.”

“It’s Tessa.”

He heard the squeak of springs and the snick of a lighter as Richie came abruptly awake. “Is it serious?” Richie said on an exhale of smoke.

“I’m at Rivierview.”

“Shit, I’ll be right there. What floor?”

The lump he couldn’t seem to get down his throat since he’d seen Tessa sprawled out on her store floor, grew larger. “Thanks, man. I uh—“ he swallowed as his eyes misted. “I appreciate it. Can you stop at Chapter’s first and see if you can find Tessa’s purse. I don’t think it made it onto the ambulance with us.”

“What the fuck happened, Jon?” Richie’s voice was laced with concern.

“I wish I knew. I’m holding my ass at the hospital waiting for her to come out of surgery. They won’t fuckin’ tell me a thing because I’m not fuckin’ family.”

“Okay, okay. Calm down, Jonny.”

“I can’t get a hold of Nichole. She’s the only one I can think of that will be able to get any info out of these doctors. I can’t just sit here--”

“I have Adam’s cell number from the party.” Richie interrupted. “We were swapping info so I could do something at the college.”

Relief had him sagging into one of the burnt orange vinyl chairs. “Oh thank God, can you call Adam?

“Sure, I’ll take care of it,” Richie paused. “She’s gonna be okay. Our Tessa’s a tough cookie.”

He leaned back in the chair, watching the fluorescent light flicker next to a broken ceiling tile. He felt tears leak along his temples and didn’t care. “I can’t lose her, Rich.”

“I’ll be right there, okay? What floor?”

“Third,” he managed. Clearing his throat he tried to jam the lump back down his throat one more time. “Thanks.”

7/19/2008

Chapter 124

“Jesus Christ! Finally!” Jon sat back in his chair. John Shanks rubbed tired eyes beside him but a sly smile was there. They’d found it. The rest of the band had headed home or into the house for some rest, but he’d known that the fucker was sitting in his head just waiting to come out.

“You nailed it. It only took ten hours and fifteen rewrites.”

A jaw popping yawn was Jon’s reply before he laughed. “Yeah well, good thing Des was willing to spend half his day on a call with us.”

“I really think we’ve found the center of that one. Sometimes you drive me nuts Jon, but then I get something like this out of you and…well, fuck. I’m glad we decided to work together again.”

Jon stood, squeezing Shanks’ shoulder as he walked to the window. Lighting a cigarette he dragged in the smoke letting it burn through him. Staring at the cherry bright end he lifted it to his lips again. For once the chain smoking stress had been a good thing. The raspy whispering flavor of the song had been just what it needed. And the simple lyrics had been stronger for it.

He watched the sun peek out of the darkness as twilight mixed with dawn’s first light. Pulling an all nighter in the studio hurt a little more than he remembered. Reaching his hands above his head he stretched. “Why don’t we take a few days away from this fuckin’ pit? I’m done in. I think I’d like to go hide in a bed for a few days.” He turned to his producer with a grin. “Maybe even convince Tessa to do the same.”

Shanks leaned back in his chair letting it squeak as his solid bulk tested the merits of the craftsmanship of metal and leather. “I like her. She’s inquisitive without being that shrill duh, I’m-only-asking-to-appear-interested kind of thing.”

Snorting out a plume of smoke Jon snubbed out the butt. “Not my Tessa. She’s a music fanatic without a lick of knowledge.” Dropping into an overstuffed leather chair by the door he crossed an ankle over his knee. “She’s more like the dangerous kind that can corner you for hours and make you feel like you’re a genius as she soaks in your darkest secrets.”

Barking out a laugh Shanks crossed his arms over his chest. “Is that how she nabbed you? She just doesn’t seem to be your type Jonny boy.”

“You name me a man that wouldn’t make her his type.”

“A gay one.”

It was Jon’s turn to laugh. “Nah, she’d probably convert a few of those too. I think I’m gonna marry her.” He hadn’t realized the words were there, but as they tumbled out he wasn’t sorry he’d said them.

His eyebrows hiked up under his ballcap. “Well fuck, your single status didn’t last long, now did it?”

He stood. “I practically knew it the moment I laid eyes on her. How can you not fall in love with a woman in a pirate’s outfit, carrying a real sword?”

“Not to mention the ass on her.”

“Hey now!” Jon admonished. “Don’t be lookin’ at my woman’s ass.” He smirked and remembered the tight little pair of worn jeans she’d worn that day. He had to admit, Tessa and her body image were never going to be a problem. They both had a healthy respect for keeping fit without getting obsessive about it and he’d never known a woman that was so at ease with herself around him.

“Yeah well, I’m an ass man. I can’t help it. I’ll just force myself not to—“ John stopped at Jon’s hot look and laughed. “Yeah, you’ve got it bad, my friend. It’s good to see you among the fallen again. Though I do get the better material out of your misery.”

Jon rolled his eyes. “I’ll remember that when I come back for the next session. Maybe she’ll kick me in the nuts for you.”

“Wouldn’t put it past her.”

Laughing, Jon stood. “You got her pegged early, my man.” He nabbed his writing pad from the board. “I’m done looking at your scruffy mug. Get the fuck outta my studio.”

Shanks nodded, “No shit, man. I’m so done looking at your pretty face.”

“Fuck off.”

“I plan on going home to do just that.”

Jon grinned. “I think I’m going to do the exact same thing.” He walked John to his car and waved. Frowning when he didn’t see Tessa’s car in the drive he glanced down at his watch. It was a little after 5am. “Where the hell are you, babe?” Digging his cell out of his pocket he paused. It was late or early, depending on how you looked at it, maybe she’d headed to her own house to get some shut eye. Flipping it open, he saw the little icon for a text message and punched a few buttons.

I should be home by 2am. Not that you’ll probably surface by then anyway, perfectionist boy. Cya later. Looking forward to a little late night naked sports. And yes, wake me. *muah*

Frowning, he called the store. When the afterhours message came on, he redialed her cell. “C’mon, answer.” The tinny recording of her voicemail came over the line. She was dedicated, but man, they were just books. Jogging back to the house he went inside for his keys, returning for the ‘Vette.

A few weeks ago, he’d have passed it off as her going home to her own bed, but it was a rare thing for them not to sleep side by side these days. Deciding he’d rather feel stupid than wonder if something had happened to her he roared out the drive and headed for the store. Maybe she’d just fallen asleep. She’d certainly been pushing herself like crazy lately. The inventory thing was the center of her focus, with reams of paperwork following her home most nights. Slamming the ‘Vette into fourth he blazed through a yellow light as Chapter’s masthead came into view.

Her wreaths had been replaced by St. Pat’s flags whipping cheerily in the pre-dawn haze. Lights still blazed in the front of the store and he spotted her car on the side of the building. Shaking his head he parked and got out. “Tessa, I’m gonna—“ stuffing his keys in his leather jacket he slammed the door. It wasn’t like he could yell at her. He'd been working well into the night himself.

His steps slowed to a stop when the wheeled leg of something metal came into view. “Tessa…” He ran across the small parking lot to the sidewalk catching the copper shine of her hair fanned out across the carpet with her head turned away. A ladder was upturned and her arm wasn’t right. It was—“Tessa!” He slapped at the window. “Tessa!” he yelled.

She didn’t move. God, how long had she been like that? Where the hell was Nic? He tried the door, but the locks held firm. “Fuck!” Turning around he looked out at the deserted street.

With shaking hands he flipped open his cell and dialed 911, looking around for some way to get through her door.

“911 what’s your emergency?”

“Yes, I—there’s an emergency at Chapter’s Bookstore on Main Street in Red Bank.”

“What’s the nature of your emergency, sir?” asked the calm voice.

“I don’t know—she…there’s...Fuck!!” Panic clawed at his throat. How long had she been alone?

“Calm down sir, what’s the physical address?”

Pressing a hand to his roiling belly, Jon looked around the buildings and tried to see a number. “I can’t see a number. I don’t know—she’s, she’s unconscious.” He turned back and the angle of her shoulder…the way her head was tilted, “Tessa!” He stepped forward and slapped at the window again. “Tessa, please baby wake up!”

“Okay, sir, you need to calm down.”

Jon tried to concentrate on what she was saying, but all he could see was the awful angles. God, was she breathing?

“I can’t help her if you don’t help me. Is there a number across the street?”

The word help seemed to click in his brain. Get it together you fuck. “I—“ he sucked in a breath and turned to look at the building across from hers. “Uh…238 Main Street. She’s directly across the street from the Red Bank Deli.”

“Good, now I’m going to stay on the line with you. Is she unconscious?”

The woman’s soothing voice was grating. He couldn’t stay out here, not with her like that. “Yes, but I’m going to try to get inside. I can’t just stay out here.”
“Sir, we’ve got the police and an ambulance coming. Why don’t you—“

Jon snapped the phone closed and lifted the small trash can beside the bench dumping the cigarette ashes and garbage so he had full use of the metal canister. He slammed it against the window, leaving only a superficial dent in the shatterproof glass. “Goddammit!” Whaling away at it again the force sang down his arms but still he’d only managed to bang off a chip.

The shrill whine of her security system went off. He screamed her name again, dropping the dented can. “Fucking think!” Kicking his booted foot against the glass he turned around. “Crowbar,” he muttered and rushed back to his car. Popping the trunk he grabbed the heavy t-bar iron and stalked to the building.

He heard sirens in the distance, but didn’t wait. He swung at the glass; finally a spidery dent broke through. Tucking his fingers into his jacket he pushed and pulled, using all of his strength until he could push leather covered fingers through the hole and pull. How long had she been alone?

“Please baby, please,” he chanted as he tore open a big enough hole in the plastic coated glass to climb inside. He barely felt the slice of glass through his thigh before he was crawling his way to her.

“Tessa, baby please. Tessa!” With trembling fingers he smoothed back her hair. He wanted to drag her in close but the twisted angle of her arm and hip told him that it probably wouldn’t be smart. Stepping over her, he knelt next to her. “Oh God.” Her face was ashen.

Looking up he heard the sirens and the cars screeching to a halt outside. Focusing on her once more he leaned in. “Please,” he begged over his own ragged breathing. “Please be breathing.”

“Sir! Please step away, sir!” A fireman with an axe cut his way through the rest of the door as two paramedics rushed in. “Step back!” A burly black man said.

“I…you—“

“We can’t take care of her if you don’t step back.”

Jon scrambled back as the man and petite blonde woman went to work on Tessa. They shouted out vitals and medical terms that didn’t mean anything to him. What he could read was the grim lines across the man’s forehead and the flat tone to the blonde’s voice.

The man called for a collar and a board as the fireman pushed it through the gaping shards of glass. The blonde hopped up and handled the large orange board.

“We’ve got a bleeder!” The man said suddenly as he turned her over.

Jon gasped, the carpet and the khaki color of her skirt was stained a dark red. The quick rip of material had Jon’s heart in his throat.

“Her heart rate is way too low, she could be bleeding internally.”

“Is she pregnant?” the black man asked.

“What? No! Not that…” Jon swallowed against the fear that gripped him. “I—not that we know of,” he finally finished in a rush.

The two paramedics strapped her to the board and cinched her neck up with a brace. “Does she have any family?” The blonde asked.

“No, she’s just...I’m her family.” Jon finished. Fuck, he’d never been this indecisive and out of control in his life.

The woman took Tessa’s left arm and rolled it. “Murphy, we need to get this back into the socket before we do any more damage in the bus.”

Nodding, the man named Murphy hopped up to help. The sickening crunch of bone against bone left Jon staggering back a step. All he could see was the blood and her poor shoulder. She hadn’t made a move. The level of pain should have been enormous, but she didn’t murmur or make a sound.

“Tell me she’s okay,” Jon said hoarsely.

“We need to get to the hospital, sir. You can follow or—“

“Fuck that, I’m riding.” The blonde looked at Jon for the first time and he lifted his chin. “No way, I’m leaving her again.”

Nodding she turned back to Murphy. “One-two-three!” And they lifted Tessa’s slight body. Following her, Jon was stopped by the cop at the door.

“Sir, we have questions.”

Jon climbed into the ambulance. “You can ask me anything you want at the hospital.” He looked at the blonde. “Which hospital?”

“Riverview.”

“Catch that, officer?” Jon asked. The officer nodded with a sigh and Jon melted back into the ambulance. Trying to stay out of the woman’s way he watched Tessa. So still and so grey. So eerily still.

Following HOME