A buzzing noise consumed Trent’s ears. The more he tried to wake himself from his dark state, the more a burning sensation flared in his chest. Unfamiliar voices rose and fell, his name called over and over. Trent searched for one sound, one name, one person, but instead found darkness.
On his second attempt to rise, Trent caught the familiar scent of blood. A light touch on his arm, and a soft, unfamiliar voice, coaxed him to open his eyes. This time, it was much easier. Bright lights blurred his vision, and the burning sensation came back in full force.
“There you are,” a soft voice sounded from the left.
Trent slowly turned his head to gaze into the eyes of a pale woman. Her tender smile and bright gaze filled his vision, blocking the bright light that’d nearly blinded him before.
“Nice to finally see those beautiful eyes of yours.”
Trent heard a beeping sound, and realized it was a heart monitor.
“What’s your pain level?” the woman asked as she lifted the sheets covering him.
Trent looked down as best he could, then tried to lift the arm that didn’t burn to touch the one that felt as if it’d been set on fire. He tried to speak, but the sounds his mouth made were far from words. A gruff grunt, then a coughing whine fell from his lips.
“Okay, I’ll take that as an eight?” The woman covered him up and picked up a white object. A thin tube ran from the white object in her hand to the bag on a pole beside him. Trent knew what it was called, he knew what was about to happen, but his brain wouldn’t let him form the right words to object. He didn’t want to sleep again. He wanted Teal.
The woman clicked the button, and Trent went flying. The warm sensation started in his arm and made its way throughout his whole body. He fought to stay awake, as he struggled to remember what’d happened. He opened his mouth to speak, to ask the woman to find Teal, but the black depths took him before he had a chance.
The third time Trent woke, his mind quickly filled him in—Shayla, Jake, Teal . . . and a gunshot. In seconds, Trent remembered everything. Eyes still closed, he replayed the memory of that night. The wild look in Jake’s eyes, and the horror in Teal’s as he fell to the ground.
His eyes opened as soft skin met his, moving comfortingly back and forth across his arm. Once again blinded by the light, Trent spoke the first thing his brain thought to say.
A gasp sounded before his baby’s dark eyes and beautiful face filled his vision. Teal covered his mouth with her lips, stifling a sob. “Oh my God, baby?”
He winced when he tried to move. “Where?”
“Do you need meds?” She lifted up the white object that’d put him out before.
“No,” he gasped out through pain. He didn’t want to sleep again. He only wanted to hear her voice and know that she was okay.
Her wailing sobs grew so loud that Trent barely heard the door fly open. Seconds later, Logan stood above him. He took Teal in his arms and held her. Trent’s eyes furrowed at the idea of Logan soothing her.
“Mother fucker. You scared the piss out of us.” Logan pulled Teal closer as her wailing grew louder. Trent loved his best friend, but he should be the one comforting his woman. The pain in his arm and chest was nothing compared to the ache shredding his heart.
“Ple—please, baby,” Trent could barely think through the pain, “come here.”
Teal slowly turned to meet his eyes, the pain in her gaze breaking him. Her eyes narrowed as she observed him. “You lied. You do hurt.” She left Logan’s embrace and picked up a white object and pressed the button.
This time, Trent didn’t fall into a blissful sleep, but his pain did ebb, and his mind sharpened a bit.
“Feel better?” Her words sounded louder now that the buzzing in his head was gone.
He tapped the spot beside him and waited as Teal cautiously, minding his tubes and wires, sat beside him. Logan moved closer as well, his stress-muddled face a sight for sore eyes.
Glancing around the bed, Teal adjusted herself. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
“I don’t give a fuck. Get over here.” He had to touch her, to feel her skin against his. Though he was wrapped in bandages and covered from shoulder to feet in a thin hospital blanket, Trent felt the moment her warm body made contact with his.
Through the haze of drugs and the confusion saddling his brain, Trent pulled his woman close. His left arm was so swollen and heavy it wouldn’t move, but he managed to grip her with his right arm. He took in her scent, noting the mild hospital soap and his laundry detergent. How long had he been here that she had time to shower and come back?
Trent searched for Logan in the room, his questioning gaze was all his friend needed.
“You slipped into a coma after you first arrived,” he explained.
Trent could feel Teal shaking in his arms. He rubbed her back as best he could, as her tears soaked his hospital gown. He closed his eyes, hot tears scalding his eyelids, fighting for escape.
“You lost a lot of blood, and they weren’t sure if you’d keep your arm below your elbow.”
Trent couldn’t see what Logan was talking about, but he could feel it. The burning sensation was gone, but Trent couldn’t move any part of it. He couldn’t even wiggle his fingers. Panic welled in his chest, as he thought about what his life would amount to if he couldn’t use his dominant hand.
“Calm, brother,” Logan soothed. “They fixed you right up. You’ll just have to hit up some physical therapy and shit.” He stepped forward and reached out. Placing a hand on Teal’s back, he rubbed, surprising the fuck out of Trent.
Logan then knelt down in front of her and gently pulled her chin up. “You promised me when he woke up you would eat.”
Trent had never heard his friend’s voice take on such a tender tone with anyone but Katie and the babies.
Teal lifted her head, her gaze fully on Trent. “I’m not leaving you.”
“You made me a deal after I lied for you, Teal.” Logan’s tone was firm, but still held a soothing quality.
Teal rested her forehead on Trent’s chest. Her fatigue and stress so evident, Trent ached for her. He glanced around the room in search of a cot. Instead, he found a meal had been brought into the room while he was out cold.
“Baby,” he mumbled, hating how reedy and thin his voice sounded. “Go eat that food over there.” He didn’t want to let her go, but if Logan was insisting, it was because Teal had been denying herself.
Logan pulled the tray around and placed it in front of the bed. Neither man spoke until Teal had opened the tray and taken her first bite.
Trent tried to get comfortable by moving, but pain stayed his body. “Shit, where’s Katie?”
Logan groaned and rubbed a hand down his face and Teal answered.
“He wouldn’t let her come.”
“Not right away,” Logan jumped in, looking ashamed when Trent glared at him. “Fuck, man. I get a call in the middle of the night. Teal is screaming and crying about you getting shot and Jake trying to rape her.” Logan thrust his hands through his hair. His skin had gone milk white, and his eyes held such sorrow, Trent had to look away. “Man, you don’t know what it felt like to get that call, yet be so damn far away. I couldn’t help, and I just knew if anything happened to her, your ass wouldn’t survive it. I couldn’t bring Katie into that.”
Trent watched Teal as her fork froze in mid-air.
“And then when I got here, I couldn’t get her to eat or drink for two days. She passed out twice and had to be hooked up to get fluids in her.”
He growled. “ Teal.” Her name was all he needed to say.
She glanced sheepishly back at him as she shoved chocolate pudding into her mouth. Trent reached up and placed a hand on her side. She leaned into his touch before pulling back and continuing to eat.
“So, why isn’t she here now?” Trent asked.
Logan released a long breath. “She’s on the way. Jan-Erik has the girls.” Logan made his way to Trent’s tray and picked up the water pitcher. “I couldn’t have her here. Not until I was able to figure out what was happening.” Filling a plastic cup, he brought it to Trent.
“What is this lie you told for her?”
Logan placed the cup to his lips, and sniggered. “That this is Mrs. Teal Lofton-Reed.”
Trent nearly choked on his water, causing Teal to eye him warily.
A thought slapped him in the face a second later. “Where are my pants?”
Teal’s gaze narrowed. “Screw the pants. Why did being my husband make you choke on water?”
Logan’s soft laughter had Trent wanting to bust his lip open. “Nothing, baby, but why’d you have to lie?” He eyed Logan as he made his way to a pile of clothes on a chair in the corner.
“They wouldn’t let me in.” Taking a sip of her water, she turned to face him. “When I first got here, I was so out of it I was having a hard time speaking.”
“She was in shock,” Logan added, coming back after pocketing the ring box.
“They wouldn’t let me near you, and kept asking about next of kin. Logan was still on the phone with me, telling me to hand the phone off to a doctor.” Teal rubbed her face, a lethargic glaze filling her eyes. “He told them we’d just gotten married and that I was to make all the decisions for your health if I were able.”
“But she wasn’t,” Logan muttered.
“No, so Logan did. He was the one who made the call for the surgery to save your arm, and he also got in touch with a plastic surgeon to make sure your dick hand stayed pretty.”
Trent and Logan both burst into laughter at the inside joke Logan had revealed to Teal.
A nurse walked in just as Trent yawned. She gave a disapproving glare at Teal on the bed. Fuck that, Trent thought. He tangled his hand in hers and held her tight.
“Mr. Reed, look at you, wide awake.” Her chipper voice sounded familiar, but Trent was having a hard time placing it; and the longer he fought to grab the memory, the foggier his head became.
Clearing his throat several times, Trent waited until the nurse was no longer fussing with the machines. “How long have I been here?”
“I am about to call the doctor in.” The nurse offered Teal what he thought was a warm smile. “May I?” She gestured to Trent’s side, where Teal sat. “I need to check his IV.”
Teal released Trent’s hand and shifted from the bed. The nurse picked up Trent’s hand and inspected the line leading to the IV drip.
“You’ve been here for three days,” Teal answered. “After your first surgery, you didn’t wake up for a while, and then you had a seizure.” Her thin and solemn voice caused his heart to quake in his chest.
“That is normal, and the doctor warned them it could happen.” The nurse placed Trent’s hand back down on the bed. “You also woke up rather fast after surgery. And you spoke one name and one name only.” The nurse’s gaze turned to Teal. “I find it quite amazing the way a love for a person can make a person fight through pain and fear to come out of it calling for their loved one.” She straightened Trent’s covers. “I’ve seen it quite a few times, and I’m still astonished at the fact that sometimes love cures faster than modern medicine.”
Trent watched as Teal’s eyes watered, and she held onto Logan as if he’d been her lifeline while Trent was unable. She leaned into his friend, her shallow breathing and glazed eyes revealing the fact she was about to have a panic attack.
“Baby, come to me.” His voice still sounded weak, but Trent knew all too well the signs of an attack.
Logan led her to the bed and placed her hand in his right. He yanked her down and rocked her as best he could, murmuring loving words in her ear. He waited until her shaking subsided and breathing evened out before he spoke. “Give me the box.”
Reaching into his back pocket, Logan pulled out the velvet box. He leaned forward and handed it over. “Here you go.”
Trent took it in his hand. “Teal, baby, lift up.” She didn’t make any moves to sit up.
The nurse’s eyes widened when she saw the box. “I’m going to grab Dr. Pyzalski and bring him in to see you.” She headed out of the room quickly, no doubt knowing where the conversation was headed.
“Lift up, baby.”
Slowly, Teal lifted her fatigued eyes. She needed sleep, food, and Trent by her side.
Trent tapped her back with the box and waited as she turned around. When she froze in his arms, Trent knew she understood what was happening. “I thought I was going to wait and let you get settled in . . .”
Teal’s head whipped around so fast, Trent had to reach out to steady her. “Are you serious right now?” She turned back and took the box from his hand.
Trent wished he could open it and get on one knee, but his ass was going to be glued to the bed for a few more days.
As if reading his mind, Logan came around and pulled the box from her hand. Getting on one knee, he opened the box, presented it to her and waited. The sight was hilarious, as his best friend was on bended knee with Trent’s ring in hand.
“Teal,” Trent called. Her bright eyes filled with tears as she looked to him. “I thought to wait. But why?” He lifted his hand until it made contact with her soft face. “Will you fucking marry me?”
She burst into tears. She’d been through so much over the past few days. Trent wanted to make sure she knew this had been his plan long before today. It wasn’t his fear of death that had him proposing, but his love for her. “What is the point in waiting when you already know the only person you’ve ever truly loved is right in front of you?”
“Yes.” Her single word stopped all of his thoughts from spiraling. “Yes, I will fucking marry you.”
Logan stood and pulled the ring from the box. Trent watched as his friend pushed the ring onto her finger. He couldn’t have asked for a better friend.
“I was told you were already his wife.” A tall, slender man in a white coat entered the room. With a stern smile on his lips, he lifted Trent’s chart and spoke about blood clots, comas, and all things unimportant to Trent.
All he could do was stare into his fiancée’s eyes; her beautiful face plastered with a sappy smile.
“Teal Lofton-Reed,” she spoke in a joking tone.
Trent wanted to slap her big ass bottom, but only had one hand free. He wrapped his fingers in her hair and yanked her down. “Fuck that, woman. Just Reed—Teal motherfuckin’ Reed,” he said just before he kissed her deeply.