“Are you sure you want me to leave you here, Jon?” Richie turned to him. “You’ve been here on a constant basis since she was hurt. She might need some time to think.”
Jon eased his aching hand onto his belly and leaned back on the headrest. “Part of me wants to give her space, but I’m scared Rich.” He closed his eyes but again that image of her twisted on the floor flashed. Fuck. He stared straight out into the waning grey light of the afternoon instead.
Richie sat in his usual Richie silence. Letting him work out the words before he spoke. When the hell was he going to get some of his patience? “She’s shutting down on me.”
“You know this is going to be hard, man. I know patience isn’t your thing, but for once you’re going to have to sit on your hands and let things play out.”
Jon didn’t need to turn and look at Richie. He knew he’d see understanding and a little sadness in his eyes. Loss was something they were all getting used to this year. It fucking sucked. Finally he turned, held up his good hand and Richie’s spidery fingers wrapped around it. “Thanks, man.”
Richie leaned back in his car and shifted his foot to the clutch. “Call me when you’re ready.”
Jon nodded and climbed out. He stood there as Richie pulled away. Watched the surrounding bustle of hospital staff, visitors and maintenance buzz in and out of the doors. He needed to see her. Needed to hold her more than he could even explain. He hated the weakness, but could admit to himself that her scent and the weight of her in his arms was what he needed more than anything.
The brush of a jacket and a muttered, “sorry,” drew him out of his stupor. Jon nodded to the stranger that bumped him and winced when he heard the shriek and furious whispers. Rushing for the door now, he waved politely at the trio of nurses who recognized him. He saw one step forward, then her friends haul her back. Thankful that the taller blonde of the women recognized him from Tessa’s floor he booked it to the stairs. He really couldn’t deal with people right now. Not when the only person he needed was up those stairs and yet farther away than a few sets of stairs could travel.
Her room was close to the exit, private…shaded. He frowned as he stood at her door. Was she alone? The machines had been hauled away, and now only a few tubes were attached to her hand. She slept, her fingers still clutching her belly.
Thank God. Jon turned to the voice. “Hey, Nic. I’m sorry it took so—“
“What happened?” she said softly, her fingertips brushing the cast. He looked down at her tired eyes. She was hurting just as much as he was. Was Tessa shutting everyone out?
“Nothing, I just…” he shook his head. “It doesn’t matter.”
“Yes it does,” she said quietly. “I know you’re hurting too, Jon. Tessa knows that. She just can’t seem to get out of her own way yet, that’s all.” She gently wrapped her fingers around his arm above the cast. “Everyone deals with loss differently.”
Jon nodded. He knew that in his head, but in his heart he just wanted a little something from her. A little reaction. Something that said she was with him in the pain. She was with him.
He brushed a kiss over her cheek. “Thanks for being there for her. She’s going to need you. If she keeps shutting me out like this, she’ll need something and I would rather it be you.”
He waved it away. “I’m not going anywhere, I promise. I know it’s going to be a long road.” He moved away from Nic into the cool shade of Tessa’s room and pulled up a chair. “Hey beautiful,” he said quietly. He leaned in, the sterile overlay of the hospital had the tiniest wisp of her left. He drew in the pears, easing his thumb over her silky brow. “I’m here.”
The next few days were a repeat of the same. Jon spent the day with her, Nic the afternoon. He used those hours to sleep and see his kids. Recording had been officially been put on hold indefinitely. Richie stayed at the house, cheering him up when he could. Sitting to watch a movie when he couldn’t get a word out of him. Jon didn’t remember any of the movies, but he welcomed the few hours that would pass until he could go back.
She still hadn’t talked to him. It was killing him by degrees. He knew it. Hell, Richie knew it. Even his kids could see it. His temper was starting to boil over. Frustration from learning how to do everything one handed had bled into the constant silence he dealt with. She still hadn’t spoken to him. Anyone really. Her wounds were knitting together on the outside and the hospital had whispered of a different sort of clinic to deal with her emotional healing.
Determined to get something out of her today, he hit the stairs to her room for the fourth day in row. He nodded to the nurses he recognized, smiled at the older lady that was her neighbor, up on her feet…walking the halls to get stronger. “Hi, Mrs. Haden.”
Her frail hands slid around his good hand. “Jon, sweet boy, how is my neighbor today?”
Jon smiled, unable to growl at such a kind soul. She asked every day about Tessa and every day he answered, “She’s healing.”
“You kiss her with those pretty lips of yours.” She lifted a veined hand to his cheeks. “Girls like scruff.”
He laughed. “Good thing, since I can’t seem to shave my face left handed. Even with the electric.”
She motioned him down and pressed a soft kiss on his bearded chin. She was well under five feet with osteoporosis shrinking in on her. “It worked for me.”
He cupped her face with his left hand and kissed her square on the mouth. “That’s better.”
Her faded blue eyes sparkled. “I’ll say! Wait until I tell my granddaughter! She’ll be so jealous.”
Jon laughed and waved goodbye. He rounded the corner to Tessa’s room and stopped dead in the doorway, the smile slipping away in panic. Her bed was empty. A half eaten tray discarded and the room still dark. He rushed in, looking to the floor to make sure she hadn’t fallen. “Tessa?”
He turned around, his heart stopped as the blood roared in his head. She stood at the far window, the slats open as she stared out at the spring buds clinging to the trees. Her arms crossed tight to her body. Even in the muted light of nightfall, her copper hair shone. One of the nurses must have helped her clean up.
“Tessa?” he asked again as he stepped toward her. She didn’t seem to hear him, or she was ignoring him. He tucked a lock of hair around her ear. “Baby, please.”
She blinked, the blank sheen of her eyes faded. “Hi,” she whispered. A frown knit her brows as her hand lifted to cup his cheek. He lifted his right hand automatically and stopped when she caught a look at the cast. Her fingertips lowered to the bits of fading bruises that peeked over the board jammed into the cast. His fingers burned where she touched him. “What happened?”
He waved the reasons away. “It doesn’t matter.”
Her green eyes met his. The first flicker of life there as her frown deepened. “It does matter.”
“I…” he trailed off. God, it sounded so stupid and petty now. The anger that had been so very overwhelming, the anger that was still bubbling in his gut…none of that mattered. Not now. “I went a little crazy when you got hurt. When I found—“ he swallowed hard. “When I found you at the store.”
“This happened at the store?” Confusion swirled. “I don’t remember anything.” Her fingertips traced the white line of the edges of his cast then along the green shell. “I remember the pain,” her breath hitched and evened out. “I remember waking up here. Then just the doctors.”
Her face closed off and he reached out to her. He cupped her jaw, his thumb tracing her cheek, forcing her to look at him. “All that matters is you right now.”
“I want to go home, Jon.” Her hand came up to fiddle with the zipper on his leather jacket. “I need to go home.”
He gathered her in, thankful when she came right to him. She hissed as he pulled her in closer. “I’m sorry.”
She shook her head. “No. It was just my shoulder. I-“ She swallowed and pressed her cheek to his shoulder. “I guess I dislocated it. It’s just a bruise now. Hold me, Jon. Just hold me.”
Pears and Tessa wound around him. He nosed into her neck and held her there against him. Her silky hair tickled his nose, and tears jammed into his throat. When her hands slid into his jacket and around his waist he sighed. “Just try and stop me.”