Authors: Allyson Young
“I can do it. My purse is in the bottom desk drawer. Can you call a cab?” Lacey couldn’t talk anymore. Darkness beckoned as the cramping increased.
“I’ll drive you myself, Lacey, if you won’t let me call an ambulance. Wait here.”
Like she would be going anywhere else, Lacey mused, vaguely aware that she was probably going to go into shock. It had to be blood leaving her body in such a rush of heat. So much pain, the bad kind. Gladys came back with both her purse and Lacey’s, and by then Lacey had manufactured a crude pad and wedged it in place with her underwear and slacks, holding onto the tissue dispenser in order to stay upright and not obey her body’s desire to curl into a fetal position on the floor. She somehow made it down the hall with Gladys’s arm around her waist, without seeing anyone they knew, and out to Gladys’s car. Lacey leaned on the much larger older woman, grateful she was so competent and caring. It had only been a short distance but had taken every bit of strength Lacey still possessed, and she could feel the additional copious amount of moisture between her legs. She closed her eyes against what she knew to be true. It was too late.
“Thank goodness I got such a close parking spot this morning, Lacey. No, don’t worry about the seat. Here, I’ll just set this newspaper on it. In you go. Buckle up. Here, I’ll help you, dear.” Gladys’s chatter served to keep Lacey focused long enough to get into the passenger seat.
She had no memory of the drive to emergency or even how she got inside the hospital, but did remember signing the forms for a D and C and absolving the hospital of blame for any loss of her belongings. She had lost the love of her life months ago, and now the baby they had made together was gone, but she couldn’t find the energy to acknowledge the irony. Then the cold of the operating room briefly brought her back to the present before the large bore needle and its heavenly ingredients took her away from her pain.
Greg pressed the button in the elevator for what he sincerely hoped was the final fucking time. He was sick to death of coming to this hospital every day to see the most miserable woman on the face of the earth, but he had done so, because it had felt like it was at least partly his fault she had come to this place. Hell, in the beginning he had assumed all of the blame. He knew KarLynn was a waste of skin and hardly the stuff detectives were made of but hadn’t made a fuss when the captain had partnered them up. Someone had to take her on, and he was probably the best choice. The other guys would have killed her by now. Greg winced at his choice of words. KarLynn had nearly
killed and had been paralyzed. Had been. Those were the operative words, the ones he was hanging onto with all of his senses.
It now appeared that KarLynn would once again be able to spew her venom onto members of the outside world, face to face. The intense physiotherapy and other treatments had created some definite feeling in her extremities, and she was being moved to a rehab center where she could capitalize on them. Greg finally felt as though he had paid one of his dues and more importantly had recognized that it really hadn’t been his to pay. He couldn’t bring the little child back though, and that still weighed heavily on him, although the biweekly sessions with the psychotherapist were helping. He was coming to see the heavy price he had paid by initially refusing therapy, choosing instead to isolate himself, pushing away those who cared for him, loved him, and trying work himself to death in an effort to avoid thinking while making reparation to someone who didn’t deserve it. Not to mention the price he had made those others pay, Lacey, in particular.
He had come home to an empty house the evening after she had told him she was going, and she really had been gone. It had been the impetus he needed to seek professional help, once he had been left totally alone. He owed Lacey, too, but couldn’t begin to think how he would ever repay that debt. He hadn’t seen her in two months, and except for a brief voice mail in response to his call asking her where certain legal documents were stored, hadn’t heard from her either. He had saved that message. He knew all the spoken words and her tone by heart. It felt like it was all that he had left of her, although her ghost seemed to permeate every corner of the home they once shared. It had been the voice of a consummate professional stranger. He shook that thought out of his head like a dog dislodging a pesky fly. He had to get totally well before he could deal with his feelings about Lacey. Deal with
. He missed her with an intensity that made him feel hollow at times. It surely was another sign that he was getting better, because he was actually beginning to feel things again after over three months of being a freaking zombie.
Greg jabbed the button again. This was an old hospital, and the elevators were slow and did triple duty, ferrying visitors, staff and patients alike. He was exhausted from spending the obligatory hour with his former partner on top of the night shift he had pulled to help another officer out when his kid had tumbled from his bike and required a whole bunch of stitches. Greg loved kids and had hoped that he and Lacey would have had a family someday. His gut tightened again when he thought about her. She had been perfect. She
perfect. Perfect for
He didn’t remember much about the days before she had left him, but he burned with shame over his parting words to her. Those he did remember. They had come out in such a way that he’d made things her fault, and he knew that couldn’t have been farther from the truth. He just hadn’t known how to retrieve them when they had fallen to lie between Lacey and himself, taking root in the fertile soil of avoidance and denial. His therapist had explained it to him, using terms he had easily grasped, helping him to understand that essentially he had been living in a twilight state, dampened by sleeping medication Dr. Martin insisted he throw out, his overburdened head causing him to function like a robot just to survive.
Lacey’s stolid, unobtrusive, patient, and accepting presence had actually fostered Greg’s state of mind, and the alpha part of him he thought had been lost forever had apparently been working behind the scenes to make a change. That part had worked at cross purposes to push Lacey away and force him to move out of his protective, if idiotic trance. She had enabled him, although he knew it hadn’t been her intent. He had previously asked that behavior of her, no, he had expected it. But his alpha side had wanted to save him, and there hadn’t been enough of the old Greg resurrected to do that and give to Lacey, too. But he knew he must have really hurt her to make her leave, and his regret was huge.
Well, now that he was a functioning human being again, now that KarLynn would be someone else’s problem and he was getting the help he needed, Lacey might be willing to talk with him. She might be willing to listen to an explanation and accept his apology. Greg suddenly drew himself up and felt his alpha mantle flow up out of his psyche and drop down over his shoulders in an almost literal sense. Fuck this shit, this gentlemanly hearts-and-flowers crap. Lacey had been his woman and would be again. He would start working on that challenge immediately with the resources of his profession. He could find her again. He thumped the button this time and was startled when the doors obligingly slid open. It seemed like a good omen. He stepped inside and nodded to the attendant, who struggled to keep the gurney he was manhandling straight in order to give Greg room to stand alongside.
“You want me to wait for the next car?” he asked the guy, hoping he didn’t have to do so.
“Nah, that’s okay,” the orderly said, “I’m taking this one off at the next floor. There wasn’t enough room in Recovery for the required stay, and she got to the hospital before too much bad stuff happened I guess, so they’ll put her by the nurses’ station where they can keep an eye on her.”
Greg nodded and tried not to wonder what had happened to the woman. “Too much bad stuff” could mean anything. Drugs. A stabbing.
Shit, don’t even go there.
Remember what Dr. Martin said about triggers and how to stay in the present.
He struggled to keep his eyes front, but they kept drifting toward the head of the gurney. Then he focused on the patient, really saw her.
Holy shit! Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! It couldn’t be! It was
Her slight form barely made any movement under the sheet, and her dark hair streamed as if lifeless across the pillow, but it was her waxen face and pale lips that really frightened Greg. She had an IV in the back of one hand, the pole it was attached to an unwieldy accompaniment to the gurney.
He shouted at the orderly, his bellow reverberating in the metal box, “What the fuck happened to her?”
The other man shrank back and raised a hand. “I don’t know, man! She just came from surgery a little while ago. I don’t know.”
Greg took a breath and fumbled the badge from his pocket. “Sorry, man. I know her.”
With a relieved sigh, the orderly said, “Well, I don’t think it was something the cops would be interested in. You can ask the nurse.”
The elevator clanked to a stop, and Greg held the open button down until Lacey was wheeled off and the IV organized, the chrome pole following under the orderly’s guiding hand like an obedient dog. He followed close behind, protectively, like another kind of canine. If someone had hurt his woman, there would be hell to pay.
“Here’s that patient they called up about.” The orderly passed the paperwork to the woman in the green uniform at the station. “Lacey Munroe.”
She scrutinized the forms, then nodded. “Park her right here. Her room’s ready, and her friend’s waiting for her, but she should have had at least another hour in Recovery. I want to be able to keep an eye on her. It’s getting so that space in this hospital is nearly at the same premium as staff. Thanks, Luke.”
Greg stepped up to the desk, keeping as close to Lacey as she could. He hadn’t missed the fact that she had a friend waiting, and he wondered if Lacey had another man in her life. He would deal with that issue if necessary. He stared at the woman’s name tag, attached to her uniform just above her right breast. Sheila. There was no noted designation, no title, and he wondered how one would know if a hospital staff was a clerk, a nurse, or a janitor.
“Excuse me,” he said.
Sheila the maybe nurse squinted at him. Her features looked tired, and he realized the comment about the lack of staff held real significance for her. He hoped she wouldn’t be miserable like some of the ones on KarLynn’s floor. Of course, KarLynn had alienated everyone there, too.
Greg nodded toward Lacey. “What’s wrong with her? Is she going to be okay?”
“Who are you?”
Greg heard the acerbic query and rejected an explanation. He hauled his badge out again and flashed it. Sheila’s shoulders relaxed a little, but she said, “What would a cop be doing investigating a miscarriage? It’s not like she tried to terminate illegally.”
Greg heard her words register through a sudden roaring in his ears. He must have done something really bad in another lifetime to deserve this shit that had buried him deep over the past while and just kept right on coming. His legs didn’t feel like they would support him, and he managed to stumble to the little chair sitting right at the corner of the desk. He put his head between his knees like some simpering Southern belle and pulled great gulps of oxygen into his lungs. He vaguely heard paper rustling and then a brown lunch-size paper bag was shoved into his face. He put it over his mouth and breathed until the hyperventilating ceased. When he was finally able to raise his head, Sheila was staring at him with confusion and anger creasing her brow.
“This isn’t about any police thing,” she snapped. “What’s going on?”
Greg choked and managed to answer. “Lacey and I were together. I didn’t know she was pregnant.”
A new voice added itself to the mix. A familiar one. The interruption gave him time to marshal his thoughts.
“Hey, Greg. What’s up? Are you okay? What are you doing on this floor? I thought you were just up seeing the b…uh, KarLynn.” Jocelyn’s cheery tone pulled Greg from his stupor. He heard her updating Sheila, and it gave him a little more time. Sheila visibly settled and spoke to him again.
“We heard about that thing. Too bad for the cop, but I hear she’s going to be okay. You’ve been pretty decent about being there for her.”
Jocelyn laughed. “You don’t know the half of it. You haven’t met KarLynn.” She abruptly stopped talking, clearly realizing that she wasn’t being particularly professional. As KarLynn’s physiotherapist, Jocelyn had taken much of the spew. Greg stood up and gave her a wry smile and then gestured toward Lacey, who was still obviously unconscious, although he thought her color was a bit better.
“She’ll be okay, at least physically,” Sheila said. “She apparently lost a lot of blood, but they stopped the hemorrhaging, and transfused her, and she won’t be in here for too long I wouldn’t think. I’m sorry for your loss.”
Greg stared at the nurse, feeling the tremors of shock again. Lacey had been pregnant, and now she wasn’t. He didn’t know if it was his baby, although it probably was, and it was another goddamn loss regardless. Not to mention what Lacey had gone through all alone and now had to cope with. He shook his head. He probably shouldn’t stay and put more pressure on her.
Damn it, he was retreating again. Enough! Sheila and Jocelyn were now behind the desk, conferring over another patient, out of earshot. He cautiously reached out and touched Lacey’s cheek. She felt so cold. He smoothed her hair and found it to be as soft and silky as it always had been, when he would wrap it around his hands and hold her to him. Greg mentally berated himself for his sexual thoughts but was also a bit elated to realize that they hadn’t died along with everything else, no matter how inappropriate the place or the timing. He well remembered how his body and soul reacted to this woman. He wanted to press his lips to Lacey’s but contented himself with kissing her forehead.