“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.”
“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.
“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?”
“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.