“No. Like, what are you doing here?”
“Am I not living here anymore?” I put a hand to my forehead. I was fairly certain the pounding I was feeling up there wasn’t a good sign. Neither was sleeping in the sun all afternoon long because Stone picked me up from the hospital at three. It was dark out. Looking over my shoulder, the lights were on in the house. I frowned. No one had seen me out here? “What time is it?”
“It’s ten-thirty. Everybody’s coming here from the Quail.” That was Mia’s flat response, like I’d irritated her that she even had to respond to a question.
“I had a job interview there. Oh no.”
“Helllooooo. What are you doing here?” Savannah waved her hand in front of my face to get my attention. There was a bit more edge to her voice, and I couldn’t blame her either. I’d be frustrated with myself.
I was repeating my thoughts.
That really wasn’t good.
“I don’t have my phone or my keys, or anything. I couldn’t get in the house.” And they hadn’t answered my question. “Did you guys kick me out?”
They shared a look, a dumbfounded expression, and I could just tell. Their mouths were hanging open. Their eyes were saying, ‘wtf?’ And their eyebrows were all the way up into their foreheads.
I was a keen observer of the human body.
That and I heard Mia whisper, “W-T-F?”
“You’re…” Savannah had to stop, shake her head, clear her thoughts. “You were in an accident.”
Noted. I knew that.
They shared another look.
I tried again. “So, the room? Is it still mine?”
And Savannah was trying to get me to understand again, too. “You totaled your car. A truck took you out.”
“Girl,” Mia snapped. “You were in a coma all week.”
Yes. And yes.
But why were they not answering my question?
“So… I don’t still have the room? Or do I?”
“OH MY GOD!” Mia burst out. “No! All your shit was picked up by Stone Fucking Reeves. You KNOW STONE FUCKING REEVES! Why are you HERE and not with HIM?!”
I flinched, frowning. “You don’t need to yell at me. I have a splitting headache.”
Savannah’s face flashed to horror. “You do? You should be in the hospital. You shouldn’t be here. What are you doing here? Sleeping outside?”
I was really trying to focus here. I was, but the headache was increasing by the minute, and Mia’s shouting only made it worse. I literally had nothing to my name right now except the clothes on my back and I just needed to know where to go.
“Will you please just tell me?” My voice was dipping low, hoarse, and to an alarming sound that I knew was concerning, but I was losing normal thought function as to why I should be alarmed about how I was sounding. “Doahhafdaroomstll?”
“You’re slurring your words.” Savannah pointed out.
“She’s slurring her words.” Mia was always the smartest.
A disgusted sigh from her again, “Fucking hell.”
“What are you doing?” That was Savannah again.
My eyes had closed.
I was getting so sleepy again.
I just had a long nap. I shouldn’t be so tired so soon after, right? Right?
Mia snapped in a huff, “I’m calling 911 again. This bitch’s death is not going to be on our hands.”
I just thought this picnic table was so comfortable. Why’d I ever use a bed? That was my last, somewhat coherent thought until splendid peace.
The doctor was much more stern the next time.
The ambulance came again.
I was taken to the ER again.
I was treated for the same concussion as before. Again. This time I was told to make sure I stayed hydrated, and if I fell asleep, to do it indoors and out of the sun.
And Stone was called, once again.
But this time, I was being released that same night, and as he stalked into the room, murder in his eyes, he refused to say a word. The doc was doing it all for him.
“You are only being released into the care of Mr. Reeves.”
I was the petulant child, and my doctor was the aggravated second-grade teacher. He was close to his wit’s end, but not quite there. I knew the type well. And Stone, he was the pissed-off older brother who hated his little sister, but the parents were dead so…
I swallowed hard. I’d just thought that, hadn’t I?
Stone would never look at me like we had a brother/sister relationship. One of us would’ve murdered the other long ago.
And yep, I was content with keeping the snarky jokes to myself. I didn’t think anyone else would appreciate my sense of comedy, though I was rolling in it myself.
“I had a job interview at the Quail.”
The awkward silence that filled the room told me something had happened. I’d done something. Then the doctor closed his mouth and I clued in. I’d completely interrupted him and that was a no-no.
Stone moved to rest his shoulder against the doorframe, his arms still folded over his chest. “That bar on your campus?”
“Yes.” Eureka. He knew what I was talking about.
The doctor and nurse shared a look over my head. I didn’t want to look. I was pretty sure it wasn’t favorable to my recovery.
“They hired me. I think.” I frowned. How would I know if I’d been hired or not? My phone. I focused on Stone. “Do you have my phone?”
He nodded, resigned to whatever was going to happen. It wasn’t a happy look of resignation, but you know, the actual definition of resignation. A reluctant acceptance of what shit show was to come. I was the shit show, and he knew it.
He added, “I have all your shit at my place.”
“You already asked that.”
The doctor moved forward, bending to peer in my eyes again. “How many fingers do you see?” He was holding up three.
I said, “Four.”
I was lying.
Instant concern filled his gaze.
A deep, aggravated sigh left Stone again. “She’s fucking with you. She used to do the same thing when she skinned her knee as a kid. Her mom played along and it drove her dad nuts.”
I felt punched at the mention.
Stone shoved off from the doorway and strode forward, getting in front of the doctor and bent down to peer at me, face to face. “Stop fucking around. Stop hiding. Stop lying to yourself. All your shit’s at my place. I know you. We have ties. Come to my house. I will help you through this. I promise.” He wasn’t being gentle as he was saying all this. It was being delivered in a matter-of-fact way, but then he faltered, and he lightened his tone. “I never went to your mom’s funeral and I’ve always regretted it. She’d want me to help you, and I can right now. Stop fighting me.”
He didn’t get it.
I was already crumbling, though.
I felt it happening.
But I still whispered out, “I fight you, I fight them.”
He got it immediately. Understanding dawned, and he nodded. His eyes clouding a second, then he straightened, but his hand came out to touch my face. Fingertips tucked a strand of hair behind my ear, and his words undid me.
“Let’s go to my house. You can yell at me all you want there.”
I was falling. Slipping. Tumbling.
The tears were coming, but my God, no. I didn’t cry in public.
He saw them, and he chided softly, almost mocking me, “Pull yourself together, Phillips.”
I sucked them in but nodded to the doctor. “I’ll go home with Stone.”
This time it was late, after midnight when he rolled me out in the wheelchair. His truck was there, and I didn’t fight. Standing, climbing into the front seat of his truck this time. Before he could, I did my own seatbelt saying quietly, “I got it.”
He nodded, stepping back.
A few guys were outside, waiting, because I was realizing this was Stone’s life. He put the wheelchair away, then paused to sign autographs. A few pictures were taken. He waved them goodbye before climbing behind the wheel.
“The pharmacy?” There was a list of meds they wanted me on.
“I already filled them.” He was pulling out onto the interstate soon after. “You hungry?”
“I can eat?”
“Unless something’s wrong with your stomach, and in that case, I’m turning right back to the ER, but yeah. They didn’t say you couldn’t.”
I pondered it. I felt my stomach growling, but I shook my head. “I’m not hungry.”
“You sure? You haven’t eaten since they pulled the feeding tube out of you yesterday.”
Yesterday. Was it wrong to wish I could go back to that coma? No? Well, then. I might keep that one to myself.
“No,” I said faintly, watching the city lights flashing by me. “I’m not hungry.”
Then I remembered something about Stone. “Shouldn’t you be in bed? When do you have to be at the stadium tomorrow?”
“I have time.”
Oh, yeah. That was right.
I settled back, beginning to feel my eyelids growing heavy, but I didn’t fight it. At this point, I was hungry for any amount of sleep I could get. It was my only escape from this new reality.