December 12th 2016
Teal pursed her lips and smacked his chest. Ducking out from under him, she said, “Finish up those dishes. You promised to take me out for dinner tonight.”
Trent went back to finishing up the dishes. “When did this happen?”
“You didn’t think I was going to come all the way down here and allow you to hold me hostage in bed, did you?” She turned and strutted away, her thick ass swaying. “I want to go to that carnival thing in the next town over.” She walked into the laundry room and reached in the dryer. “The one over in . . .” She leaned up and looked to him. Her brow furrowed as she tried to make sense of the word she saying. “Muth-uss-sas?”
“Mathoussa,” he corrected. Turning away, he scrubbed a dish, paying close attention to the bacon grease that still lingered. He listened as Teal went on about her love of carnivals. Her dulcet voice lulled him into a false calm, damned near making him forget his issues with crowded and loud places. Trent could deal with them for an hour or so, but even then, the sick feeling in his stomach and his headaches would start.
His heart raced at the idea of spending more than a second in a crowded, noisy-ass place with complete strangers. He could see how easily anyone could use such a crowded place for their agenda. Hell, the Boston Marathon bombings, the subways in New York, and—
A soft hand gripped his shoulder. “Baby?”
He recognized Teal’s soothing voice as soon as she’d spoken.
“Shit, wait here. Let me get a towel.” Before he could say a word, she’d disappeared into the bathroom.
Trent’s surroundings came back into focus and his gaze moved to the sink. The dish water had a red hue swirling into the sudsy water. What the fuck had Teal made? He didn’t remember any pasta sauce.
The sound of Teal’s feet pounding back to him pulled his gaze up. The fear in her eyes had him pulling her into his arms. “Shit, what’s—”
Teal pulled from his arms just as fast as he’d grabbed her. “Careful!”
He glanced down at her to see blood smeared on her arm. His eyes widened, but she gave him no time to react. Yanking his hand from her, she showed him what she’d gone crazy over. Teal shoved his hand up to his face and Trent saw a large gash from the middle of his palm to his wrist. His eyes widened at the sight.
Trent pulled his hand from Teal. “What the fuck?” He looked to her as if she had the answer.
She swallowed hard before she spoke. “I was talking and I looked up at you. Your shoulders were tense and you weren’t responding to me, so I came over and you’d broken a dish, or a cup or something.”
Shame heated Trent’s face at the look of concern in her eyes. Trent looked away, disgusted by the pity in her gaze; he could take that shit from strangers, but not from Teal. Pushing past her, he headed to the bathroom. He ignored her as she called after him, slamming the door in her face as she attempted to follow him in the bathroom.
Her shocked gasp and thump on the door reminded him of just who was on the other side. She’d raise hell if he left her out there, but Trent just couldn’t bring himself to open the fucking door. Instead, he opened the First Aid kit on the side of his tub and pulled out his supplies.
“Lord have mercy, just open the damn door,” came Teal’s muffled voice.
Trent rinsed the cut under the faucet and assessed his wound. While it was deep, he could get away with using skin glue instead of heading to the nearest Urgent Care center for stitches.
“Hey!” She knocked harder on the door. “You think I’ll be squeamish at the sight of blood?
Trent tried to ignore her voice, but her concern ate at him. After trying several times to work with one hand, he finally opened the door.
Teal stood, leaning against the wall, still holding the towel she’d ran to get for him. “Oh, now you want my help?” Her hand made it to her hip, just as he made to slam the door again.
Teal caught the door with her palm. “Hey, hey, hey.” She entered the bathroom. “Let me see.”
He grunted and held up his hand, wincing when she grimaced. “Aw hell, Teal. It ain’t that bad.” He viewed the wound again, then motioned to the First Aid kit. “Take out that glue there.”
“Glue? Hell no. That nasty shit needs stitches.” Dropping the towel, she took his wounded hand in hers. Moving it from side to side to gauge the depth of the cut. “Maybe not. The bleeding is just a slow trickle.”
Trent watched as she flipped the glue box over several times, reading the instructions. He smiled as her lips moved, but no sound escaped them. Finally, she pulled the pen from the box and removed the cap.
“This may sting a little,” she said, but Trent sensed she was speaking more to herself than to him. Her quiet tone turned to a whisper as she berated the pen for not working as she’d expected it to. “This fucking thing,” she muttered.
Trent used his unharmed hand to gently pull the pen from Teal’s fingers. Flipping it over in his hand, he pressed the release button at the top. “Sometimes it sticks.”
She took the pen back and placed it on the counter beside them. Trent opened his hand and displayed it for her. She took the towel and dabbed the wound clean. He felt nothing but her soft warm fingers moving over his skin.
She sanitized his hand, glued the wound shut, and wrapped it in gauze. Her delicate touch soothed him so much that her next words didn’t register. Releasing his hand she asked again, “Does it hurt?”
At her question, he stopped staring at her beautiful face and blinked. Clearing his throat, he glanced down at her handiwork. A throbbing pain pulsed through his hand and up his arm. Why hadn't he felt the pain until now? Looking back at her, he shook his head.
Cocking a brow, Teal placed a hand on her hip. “Okay, now that we got that taken care of, what the fuck is going on?” Eyeing him observantly she added, “You had that same glazed look in your eyes the day of my crash. Like you weren’t fully there.” She crossed her hand over her chest and sighed.
Trent knew he needed to tell her the truth about his episodes, but that was easier said than done. He’d mentioned his PTSD before, but hadn't gone in detail about his triggers. He avoided her gaze by moving around, cleaning the bloodied towels. “Glazed look?”
“Yeah, it was as if you weren’t there, Trent. What happened? Was it the carnival?”
Trent turned to her when she went silent. “Ever since my experience overseas, I—” He shrugged, not able to say the words. The last thing he wanted was to talk about PTSD with her again. As if the mandatory meetings all those years back hadn't been enough, now he’d have to wade through the mess with Teal. He trusted her more than anyone else in his life, but that didn’t make speaking about the illness any less traumatic. He was ashamed and embarrassed.