Authors: LAURA IDING
“I’ll feel better once we get a CT scan of your head and abdomen,” Simon said, his expression grim. “There was another trauma who was already in the CT scanner so we decided to go with regular X-rays first.”
For a moment the panic at being alone hovered, but she thrust it away with steely determination. Enough already. She was not going to expose Simon to any more radiation. Somehow she’d deal with the CT scan, and whatever other tests and treatments she needed, alone.
Or she could ask Simon to find Rachel. Surely Rachel wouldn’t mind coming down to sit with her for a while. Although she’d no doubt give Hailey a piece of her mind for riding her bike to work in a thunderstorm.
Her bike. Heavens, how was she going to ride her bike with a broken leg? For that matter, how was she going to work with a broken leg?
She took a deep breath and tried to keep calm. There was no point in worrying over things she couldn’t change. She needed to pull herself together, starting right now.
Two transporters arrived to push her gurney back to the ED, while Simon walked alongside.
“Thank you,” she said finally, prising her fingers from his hand. She forced a smile she was far from feeling. “I’ll be fine. I’m sorry I got so worked up over nothing.” She wondered if her face was as red as it felt. She couldn’t imagine what he thought of her. First the awkwardness last night and now this. Talk about adding insult to injury. “Honestly, I’m usually not so pathetic in a crisis.”
“Don’t,” Simon said in a low, rough tone. She’d let go of his hand but he’d kept his fingers lightly wrapped around hers, refusing to relinquish the skin-to-skin contact. “You have nothing to apologise for, Hailey. I’m the one who needs to apologise to you.”
For a moment she was confused. “For what?”
“Don’t you remember?” His face wore an incredulous expression. “I’m the driver of the car that hit you. I could have killed you, Hailey.”
stared up at Simon earnestly, hating the shadow of self-loathing in his eyes. She needed to make him understand. “It was my fault, not yours. I couldn’t see anything in the rain. I never saw your car.”
“Don’t bother trying to let me off the hook,” Simon said grimly, in a low tone. “It’s always the driver’s fault when losing control of the vehicle.” He shook his head impatiently. “Why am I arguing with a concussed woman?”
She scowled. “I don’t have a concussion. I was wearing my helmet.”
“You were confused at the scene,” he said firmly. “I’m reserving judgement until we see the results of your scans.”
She didn’t remember being confused at the scene, except for the flashback. Had she said something weird to Simon? She didn’t have time to ask because the transporters wheeled her into the CT scan.
“Hi, there,” the tech greeted her cheerfully. “We’re going to move you onto this table here, okay?” The radiology assistant paused and then asked, “You’re not pregnant, are you?”
“No, I’m not pregnant.” She could feel her face flushing again with embarrassment. It was a legitimate question, but that didn’t mean she had to like it. There was an odd expression on Simon’s face when she tugged on her hand, the one he still held captive. “You can let go now. I’m fine.”
The enigmatic look in his eyes was a bit confusing, but eventually something in her gaze must have reassured him because he released her hand slowly, before stepping back. She looked over at the radiology tech. “I’m ready.”
“Be careful of her right leg,” Simon warned as the radiology tech and the two transporters began to slide her from the gurney over to the CT table. They managed to get the task accomplished without jostling her leg too much, although she couldn’t help wincing a bit as the throbbing in her right leg made itself known.
How she’d ignored the pain up until now was a miracle. Must have been the effect of holding onto Simon’s hand.
She closed her eyes, pushing away the ridiculous thought as the machine whirled and the table began to slowly move her through the opening. First they took pictures of her head and then of her chest and abdomen. Overall the entire process took a good twenty minutes, and she fully expected Simon would be gone once the scan was finished.
But he surprised her by staying. Hovering at her side again, as the staff slid her back onto the gurney.
No doubt he’d stuck around out of guilt. And because she’d clung to him like a limpet. She was such a wimp.
“We need the radiologist to review the scans for the official read,” Simon informed her. “But I didn’t see anything major. No bleeding in your head, chest or abdomen.”
She forced a smile. “Good. See? I told you I was fine.”
He scowled, but didn’t say anything else as the two transporters took her back to the emergency department. Based on the nature of her seemingly minor injuries, they took her into one of the rooms in the arena, rather than back to the trauma room. Simon took a few minutes to make a phone call out in the hall, before following her into the room.
“Thanks for staying, Simon,” she said finally. “But you must have much better things to do than to hang around here. I’m sure you’re probably working tonight.” Actually, she knew he was working second shift because she’d checked the schedule before going home last evening.
But how could she tell Simon she’d been preoccupied with thoughts of working with him again, when she should have been paying attention to her surroundings on the slick roads?
Guilt threatened to choke her again. She really needed to learn to concentrate while traveling.
“I was scheduled to work but Jadon is going to stick around for a couple of hours until Seth can get here to cover my shift.”
For long moments she stared at him. Was he still feeling guilty about hitting her? “I told you, I’m fine, Simon. I don’t want you to rearrange your schedule just for me.”
“Trust me, I’m doing this for myself as much as I’m doing it for you,” he corrected in a low voice. He pushed his fingers through his hair. “It’s not every day I hit a cyclist.”
She suppressed another sigh. “You’re going to make me feel bad if you keep up that attitude,” she warned. “I highly doubt you were expecting to find anyone riding in the storm in the first place, right?”
She saw the flash of acknowledgment in his gaze before a knock at her door interrupted them. An older gentleman poked his head inside the door. “Hello. May I come in?”
“Sure.” She stared at him, thinking he looked familiar, but she couldn’t quite remember his name.
“I’m Dr. Maxwell,” he said kindly, coming inside and dragging a plaster cart behind him. He reached over to take her hand. “I’m here to examine and cast your right leg.”
Oh, yes, Dr. Maxwell was the orthopedic surgeon, she remembered now. Simon eased back, obviously willing to give her some privacy. “I’ll check back with you in a little while,” he assured her.
“Thanks,” she murmured. There was no need for Simon to check back with her, but she suspected nothing she could say was going to convince him of that.
Guilt. Wasn’t she all too familiar with the emotion?
“So I hear you had a run-in with a car?” The older doctor gently smoothed his hands over her right leg and she couldn’t hide a wince. “Luckily for you, this is a clean fracture and shouldn’t put you out of commission for too long.”
She bit her lip anxiously, mentally calculating how much money she had in her savings account. Not nearly enough to be off work for any length of time. She needed to talk to her boss, Theresa, as soon as possible. “How long?” she asked, bracing herself for the news.
“Well, I’d like you to stay off it completely for two weeks. You’ll need to follow up with me in the clinic and if the bone is healing well, we should be able to switch over to a walking cast.”
Two weeks? She tried not to let her dismay show. Two weeks would seem like for ever, sitting around at home. There was no way in the world she was going to be able to ride her bike with a cast. “But I can get around on crutches, right?”
“Absolutely,” he assured her. “We’re going to put a cast on this leg, from your knee down to your foot.” He turned toward the cart and pulled out a stocking. “How are you doing as far as pain medication?”
“I’m fine,” she said, lying through her teeth. She wasn’t exactly fine, but she didn’t want to take anything that would make her groggy. Or loopy. She was afraid the flashbacks would return.
Besides, narcotics made her itch.
The orthopedic doctor chatted while he applied the cast, probably trying to divert her attention from the task at hand. The pain quadrupled when he lifted her leg off the bed to wrap the wet cast material around it. She gritted her teeth, feeling faint as waves of pain washed over her.
She was immensely relieved when he gently eased her leg back down on the pillow. He checked the circulation in her toes and the pulse behind her knee one last time before declaring he was finished.
“Remember, come back to see me in two weeks, sooner if you’re having any problems, all right?”
“I won’t forget,” she promised weakly, wiping the sheen of perspiration from her upper lip. Maybe she’d have to break down and take some pain medication after all, because the throbbing had only become horrendously worse instead of better.
Dr. Maxwell left and she closed her eyes, breathing deeply in an effort to get a grip on the pain.
“Hailey!” Her eyes flew open at the sound of her name. Rachel rushed into the room, with Simon following behind her. “My God, Hailey, what happened?”
“I ran into Simon on my bike,” she said quickly pre-empting his response. “I couldn’t see a thing. My goggles were totally fogged up.”
“You rode to work in a thunderstorm?” Rachel said, her tone rising incredulously. “A car crash was the least of your worries. What if you’d been struck by lightning? Why on earth didn’t you call me? I would have driven you to work even on my day off.”
In hindsight, that would have been a smarter thing to do. But she’d already dodged Rachel’s questions regarding her decision to ride her bike everywhere. She hadn’t wanted to outright lie to her friend.
She’d come to Cedar Bluff to forget the past. Not be reminded of it on a daily basis. Yet here she was, reliving it anyway.
“I should have called,” she acknowledged, glancing at Simon. “See? This really was my fault. Even Rachel thinks I’m stupid.”
“Why were you riding your bike in the thunderstorm?” Simon asked, his intense gaze unwavering. “Did your car break down?”
She hesitated, not sure how to answer that one. But she needn’t have worried.
Rachel rolled her eyes. “Car? What car? Hailey doesn’t
a car. She rides everywhere on that bike of hers. And I mean everywhere!”
Simon couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Hailey didn’t own a car? Because she couldn’t afford one? Had to be. He couldn’t imagine anyone not wanting the ease of car transportation.
“Thanks for blabbing, Rach,” Hailey muttered.
Simon lifted a brow, but let the comment go. “I’ll drive you home,” he announced.
Hailey’s eyes widened. “That’s not necessary,” she started to say.
But Rachel cut her off. “Yes, it is necessary. I’m covering your shift, so I can’t drive you home. And I don’t care what you say, there’s no way on earth you’re going to be able to crutch-walk three miles to your apartment.”
Simon bit back a curse at the image. What was wrong with her? Why was Hailey being so stubborn? “I’m driving you home,” he said again, in a steely tone that left no room for argument.
Rachel flashed an odd glance at him, but then nodded. “Good. So that’s settled.” She turned back to Hailey. “I have to go take care of my patients, but call me later, okay?”
“Okay,” Hailey agreed, resigned acceptance in her tone.
When Rachel left, a heavy silence hung over the room. Simon scrubbed his hand over his jaw, searching for something to say.
She shifted her weight on the cart, sucking in a quick breath when she moved her right leg. Her face was whiter than the hospital bed sheets and when he looked closely, he saw a faint sheen of sweat covering her brow.
“Have you taken anything for the pain?” he asked. She looked awful. Worse than awful.
“No.” She worried her lower lip between her teeth in a habit he shouldn’t have found endearing but did. “I was thinking of asking for some ibuprofen but I don’t want to take it on an empty stomach.”
Ibuprofen? For a broken leg? “Do you have something against narcotics?” he asked warily.
She gave a small shrug. “They make me itch.”
Since itching could be an early sign of an allergic reaction, he sighed and nodded. “Okay, there is non-narcotic pain medication too, you know. I’ll talk to Jadon, see what he’s ordered.”
“I’d really rather wait until I get home,” she said, when he moved toward the door.
“Getting in and out of a car and then from the car into your apartment is going to hurt,” he told her bluntly. “I suggest you have something now.”
He took it as a good sign that she didn’t argue. Taking control of the situation, Simon arranged for her to get a dose of the medication now and a prescription filled by the outpatient pharmacy here at the hospital. Jadon was happy to write her discharge orders after getting the official all-clear on her CT scans from the radiologist.
Simon still couldn’t believe Hailey didn’t own a car, but didn’t ask about it as he pushed her wheelchair out to the ED surface parking lot, where the towing company had left his vehicle. The tow-truck operator had told him there wasn’t a scratch on his car. That made him feel even more guilty.
Of course Hailey and her bike had sustained the brunt of the damage.
The torrential rain had tapered off to an annoying drizzle. Hailey was wearing a pair of scrubs Rachel had dug out of her locker and a borrowed windbreaker to help keep her warm.
After setting the brakes on the wheelchair, he went over to open the passenger door. Hailey didn’t wait for his help, though. She pushed herself up on her good leg, balancing precariously as she reached around for her crutches.
He muttered an oath under his breath and tucked his arm around her waist. “I’ve got you,” he murmured. “Don’t worry about the crutches for now. All you need to do is to pivot around and I’ll get you into the car.”
Her breath was warm and moist against his neck as he held her close, supporting the bulk of her weight so she wouldn’t have to do anything.
Hailey reached up to wrap her arm more firmly around his shoulder, bringing her body even closer to his. He could feel every sensual curve pressed against him, and he froze, alarm bells clamoring in the back of his mind.
Holding her close like this felt good. Sinfully good. For a moment he was tempted to breathe deeply, basking in her fresh scent.
He yanked his mind away from that train of thought. Hailey would not appreciate knowing he was thinking along these lines when she was in terrible pain from a broken leg he’d caused, no matter what she’d claimed about who had been to blame.
Grimly, he concentrated on the task at hand. Somehow he managed to swing her around so that she was close to the passenger door. He ignored his physical response to her nearness, tucking one hand behind her thigh to support her casted leg and the other around her shoulders as she lowered herself into the passenger seat.
“Thanks, I have it now,” she murmured breathlessly. He could see she was breathing rapidly, as if she’d run a marathon instead of simply getting settled in the car. The way she avoided his gaze made him think she was embarrassed.
Hell, if anyone should be embarrassed, it should be him. For thinking with the lower part of his anatomy instead of his brain. Hadn’t he learned his lesson the hard way?
He tucked the crutches into the backseat. After closing the door, he walked around to the driver’s side, momentarily turning his face up to the rain, welcoming the coolness.
He needed to stay in control. No matter how his body managed to betray him, he would not act on his feelings.