“Where is the doctor?” I pace back and forth, watching for the man to come out of the door that leads to the patient rooms. I need to see her. I need to hold her, make sure she’s whole.
I need her.
“She was breathing, but she never woke up while we were with her,” Jill adds.
“What time was this?” I ask as I pull my phone out of my pocket and text a note to Cary, asking him to take care of court for me for the afternoon.
“Around eight,” Cara responds softly.
Shit, it’s noon now! “When did he . . . ?” I’m unable to complete the thought.
“We don’t know,” Cara replies. “The blood was dried on her face when we got there, so she’d been lying there for a while.”
My heart drops to my knees. Jesus, she was lying on the ground, hurt, and I wasn’t there to stop it.
To protect her.
“Stop it, man.” Zack plants his hand on my shoulder. “This isn’t your fault.”
I shake my head and walk away, shoving my hand through my hair. “I need to see her.”
A tall gray-haired man in a long white lab coat walks into the waiting room, holding a chart. “Mr. Sullivan?”
“Yes, that’s me. Call me Ty.”
“I’m Dr. Black. Would you like to come somewhere private to discuss your fiancée’s condition?”
“No.” I shake my head. “We can talk about it with this group of people. They’re our family.”
“Okay.” He nods. “Lauren has been severely beaten, Ty. Her eyes are both swollen shut and her nose is broken.”
My hands fist at my sides and blood rushes to my head. I drop into a seat, my legs unable to continue holding me, as the doctor continues.
“She was obviously kicked in her side and back, and she is lucky to just be bruised. He didn’t break her ribs. We were worried about her kidneys, but the MRI didn’t show any bleeding.” Dr. Black sighs and sits down next to me. “The most concerning injury is her head.”
“What happened to her head?” I whisper.
“I think he must have either hit her in the back of the head with something hard, like a bat, or he could have slammed her head against the floor.” The doctor swallows hard, obviously upset by Lo’s condition. “Her skull is fractured, and her brain is swollen. That’s why she hasn’t woken up. Her body’s automatic defense mechanism kicked in and shut down, trying to recover on its own.”
“How long will she be asleep?” I hate the sound of my voice breaking.
“We don’t know for sure. We have given her medicine to keep her in the coma until the swelling on her brain eases, and after that, it’s up to her.”
We’re all quiet as we take it in. Jesus, Jack did a number on her. Cara is wrapped in Josh’s arms, slowing rocking back and forth. Jill is sitting next to Zack, leaning on his arm, hiccuping from her sobs.
“I need to see her.”
“I can take you back, but, Ty, I’m warning you, she doesn’t look like herself. She’s heavily bandaged, and bruised. Swollen. And she’s hooked up to a ventilator.”
“She’s not breathing on her own?” I ask incredulously.
“Not while she’s in the coma, no.”
I blanch, nod once, and take a deep breath as I stand. “Can they come back as well?”
“One at a time, but only people you approve.”
She nods and takes my hand as we follow the doctor to Lauren’s room. It’s quiet back here and smells of antiseptic. The lights are dim in Lo’s room. She looks so small in the bed, her head elevated and eyes closed. Bandages cover her nose and her neck.
“What happened to her neck?”
“She has a shallow cut. We suspect he held a knife to her.” Dr. Black’s voice is low.
I’m going to kill that motherfucker with my bare hands.
“She actually looks better than she did when we found her.” Jill sniffles.
I can’t move. My world is in this bed, unconscious and broken. The machines beep softly, measuring what I’m not sure, and Lo’s chest rises and lowers with each breath from the machine.
“Is she going to be okay?” I whisper.
“I believe so,” Dr. Black murmurs. “But it’s going to be a painful recovery. I need that swelling in her brain to go down, and then we need her to wake up before we’ll know for sure.” He pats me on the shoulder and backs away. “I’ll leave you with her.”
“You can touch her.” Jill squeezes my hand once. “Do you want me to leave you alone with her?”
I nod and feel Jill kiss my hand, then she leaves the room, the door shutting softly behind her. Finally, my feet move and I lower slowly into the chair at Lo’s bedside. I reach out and take her soft hand in mine, relieved to feel how warm her skin is, and it’s my undoing.
I pull her hand up to my mouth and the tears come. Why didn’t I tell her yesterday how much I love her? Why didn’t I show her more often how fucking amazing she is?
“Baby, I need you to get better for me, okay? I have stuff I need to say, sweetness, and I need you whole and strong and with me for a very long time. So you just sleep and get better.”
The tears continue to flow as I watch her still body. I sit for long minutes that stretch into hours, just watching her face. Nurses and doctors come and go, checking on her, asking me if I need anything.
I just need her well.
“Hey, man,” Josh whispers as he comes in the room, then swears under his breath when he sees Lo. “Fucking Christ.”
“I’m going to kill him.”
“I’ll help you,” Josh replies grimly. “How are you?”
“Pissed off and devastated. Imagine how you’d feel if this was Cara.”
He shakes his head and shoves his hands in his pockets. “I get it, man. I just wanted to let you know that we’re going to go get some food and some sleep. It’s already almost nine.”
“I had no idea.” There is no sense of time in here, just the measure of Lo’s heartbeat and the breaths the machines give her. “You guys should go.”
“Do you want me to bring you back anything?”
“We’re going to come stay with you in shifts. Zack and Jill are coming back after we eat, and then Cara and I will be here in the morning.”
“You don’t have to do that.” I feel tears form in my eyes as I gaze up at my best friend.