But she’d sure as fuck better be okay.
I find parking, run into the hospital and ask for Kate’s room number, rushing away as soon as the numbers are out of the receptionist’s mouth.
It seems to take forever to find Kate’s room, and just as I walk through the door, I see Kate reach up to Beau standing next to her, place her hand on the back of his neck, and pull his ear down to her lips.
“Hey, wrong brother—”
Beau puts a finger up, stopping me. Savannah and Lila are listening closely.
“Go ahead, Kate. What is it?” he says softly.
“Hilary,” we all hear her rasp. “Not Mr. Rudolph. She stole the money, gave me peanuts. I have proof.”
We all gather around her. I grip her leg, thankful that she’s alive, but fucking pissed at how swollen her beautiful face is. She looks like she went ten rounds with the devil himself.
“Enough for me to go have her arrested now?” Beau asks anxiously. Kate nods, and Beau kisses her forehead and leaves immediately, pulling his phone out of his pocket as he hurries out.
“What’s happened?” I ask Savannah and Lila, as I take Beau’s place next to Kate. Her hand is small and warm in mine. “Are you okay, cher?”
“Wanted you,” she says.
“Don’t talk,” Lila says soothingly. “Someone, Hilary, slipped her peanuts. She’s very allergic.”
“We told Hilary that at girls’ night out,” Savannah adds with mutiny in her eyes. “That little bitch knew exactly what she was doing.”
“Lunch,” Kate adds.
“She brought you lunch?” Lila asks and Kate nods. I brush her hair off her forehead and cheeks, kissing her lightly. I can’t stop touching her, reassuring myself that she’s okay.
“Thank God for Mr. Rudolph,” Savannah adds. “He walked in just as the reaction happened. Her airway closed up. He called the EMT’s and they brought her here. She’s been sleeping since I arrived, and her tongue is just now small enough for her to talk.”
“I knew I didn’t like that woman,” Lila adds.
“Sleepy,” Kate says.
“Sleep, baby,” I whisper in her ear. She tightens her grip on my hand. “I’m right here. I’m not leaving. I’ll be here when you wake up.”
She nods and slips into sleep.
“I’m going to make that woman’s life a living hell,” I announce calmly.
“Good,” Lila says. “I’m going to go call Rhys and her parents. I’ll be back.”
Lila leaves and Savannah leans back in her chair and watches me quietly for a long minute.
“You’re in love with her.”
“I love her so much I can’t breathe,” I admit, surprised. “I think I just figured that out.”
“But you’re still going to let her leave.” It’s not a question. I glance up and hold my sister’s gaze for a moment, then look back at the sweet woman lying in this bed.
“I am,” I reply quietly.
“It’s the way it should be. She deserves so much more than me, Van. I am a toxic, broken asshole.”
“Well, the asshole part is true enough, but the rest? No, you’re not, Eli. You’re one of the best people I know.”
I shake my head and kiss Kate’s hand. “No, I’m not. I’m your brother. You’re supposed to think that.”
“No, you’re wrong there,” she replies. “But I’m not going to fight you on this today. It’ll keep.”
We sit in silence, watching Kate sleep. She’s so still. Lila returns, and not long after, Declan. He looks as distraught as I feel when he lays his lips on her forehead and kisses her softly, whispering how sorry he is, how we all love her, that she’s going to be okay.
Words I should have said.
“Love you too,” she whispers to Dec and opens her eyes.
“You’re awake?” Dec asks.
“Hard to sleep with you hanging on me,” she says, making Dec laugh.
“May I please come in?” Mr. Rudolph is at the door, looking shy and uncomfortable. I stand and shake his hand.
“Thank you. For everything.”
He nods and approaches the bed, smiling kindly at Kate. “I see that you’re feeling better.”
Jesus, how bad did she look when they brought her in?
“Getting there,” she says. “Tongue is smaller.” Her eyes fill with tears. “Owe you ‘pology.”
“No,” he says, and covers her hand with his. “Beau filled me in. It never occurred to me to tell you about Serena. She’s been sick a long time, and everyone in the office knows. I would have suspected me too.”
“Thanks,” Kate says, and closes her eyes, tired again.
“Get well quickly, sweet girl,” he says, and stands to leave. “I need to get over to see Serena. Take care of Kate.”
“How long are they keeping her?” I ask after Mr. Rudolph leaves.
“Just until tomorrow. They’d let her go today, but she had so many breathing problems, they want to continue the IV steroids to make sure she’s in the clear.” Lila’s gaze never leaves Kate as she relays the information to me. “She scared the shit out of me.”
“All of us,” Declan says. “Is it true that she wasn’t breathing when the paramedics got there?” he asks Van.
She simply nods.
Hilary is going to wish she never stepped foot in Bayou Enterprises.
It’s late. The hospital is surprisingly quiet, with just the occasional sound of footsteps walking past Kate’s door. She’s been in and out of sleep all day, and I haven’t moved.
I know she’s going to be okay, but I can’t make myself leave her side. I sent Savannah, Declan, and Lila home hours ago, promising them that I’d stay, and call if there was any change.
Now I just want her to wake up, which is utterly selfish because she needs to sleep and get well.
The swelling in her face has gone down. Now, just her lips are a little puffy, and her eyes look a little bruised. Every once in a while during sleep, she’ll scratch her arm or her neck.
She’s still itchy.
She has one hell of an allergy.
I lean in and whisper, so as not to wake her, but I have to say this out loud, while I still can.
“You are so special, Kate. So beautiful. I’m going to miss you every day. You made the man who’s incapable of love fall in love with you.” My throat tightens, and I stop talking. I simply bury my face in her neck and breathe her in, already missing what she brings to my life. The light. The laughter.