"I think my arm's broken," she said, sucking in a breath before she continued, "and a few ribs might be bruised."
"Well, then try not to move," he said lamely, feeling like an idiot.
"Yeah, I'll get right on that," she said dryly as she noticeably cringed.
Her smartass remark helped ease some of his worry, but that only made way for the anger that had been simmering in the background. Now he couldn't hold it back any longer. She'd scared the shit out of him when she disappeared through the floor. Then when she didn't answer him and he couldn't get to her fast enough he'd feared the worse.
"What the hell were you doing down here by yourself in the first place?" he demanded as he continued to look her over, ignoring the way his hands shook at the memory of her falling through the floor.
"My job," she said tightly as she sucked in another deep breath.
"You had no business being down here, Rory," he said, noting the way she shivered. He pulled his long sleeve shirt off and laid it over her, leaving him in a white tee shirt.
"McGill called up and asked me to look into making the wine storage room bigger," she explained with a tremor in her voice as she did her best to hold it together.
"Then you should have waited for me, Rory," he snapped, feeling like an ass**le yelling at an injured woman, but he couldn't help it. He knew he was taking it out on her, but god help him, he really just couldn't help it. He'd never been so frightened in his life.
"You were kind of tied up at the moment," she said, smiling weakly.
"And if you weren't interfering with my job, Rory, I would have been here!"
"Stop yelling at me, you insensitive bastard! You had it coming and you damn well know it," she said, forcing her eyes open to glare at him, then immediately winced and closed them right back up again as she assumed her grimace of pain.
"All I know is that better be the last time you pull a stunt like that, Rory. Whether you like it or not, this is my project and if you want to stick around then you're going to start doing things my way and that includes not taking bullshit chances," he bit through clenched teeth as he fought against the urge to pull the infuriating woman into his arms and comfort her.
"Doing my job is not taking chances and this is my project as well so you need to get the hell over-ow!" she cried out, turning her face towards the dirt floor as if she were trying to hide from the pain.
"Rory?" Brian yelled down the hole.
"She's fine!" Connor yelled back, never taking his eyes off her. Not knowing what else to do at the moment, he reached out and took her good hand into his and held it. He was surprised when she didn't try to pull her hand away, but instead gave his hand a squeeze.
"This is my project too, Connor, and if you can't accept that then we're going to have some serious problems," she said evenly after a minute as she continued to clasp onto his hand like a lifeline.
He sighed heavily. She was right of course. They were going to have problems.
* * * *
"I'm going to kick his ass," Craig said, earning approving nods from the rest of her brothers who were lounging around her bedroom.
"I told you," she said, sucking in a breath as sharp pain shot up her left arm and raced around her ribs as she slowly made her way from the bathroom to her bed, "he didn't do this."
Her brothers grumbled something, but quickly they let it go, which she would forever appreciate. Her head was pounding, her side hurt, she was starving and her arm was killing her. She couldn't wait to get into bed and take a few of the painkillers the doctor had given her.
As soon as she made it to the bed she let out a sigh of relief and proceeded to take her pills. She considered asking her brothers to get her something to eat, but that would mean having them stick around longer. Unfortunately for her, her brothers weren't exactly known for their domestic skills or their ability to be quiet and right now peace and quiet were the things that she craved more than anything.
Carefully, she laid down and closed her eyes, releasing another sigh of relief. Sleep, she just needed a little sleep and she'd be fine, she decided as she felt the first tendrils of sleep pull at her.
"Who's staying the night?" Sean asked, yanking her right back to reality, but since she was comfortable she decided not to bother with opening her eyes as she said, "No one is staying. Now get the hell out so that I can sleep," she mumbled around a loud yawn.
Her brothers weren't the coddling type and took her at her word. Craig took Bunny home with him for the night and they promised to give Dad an update so that he wouldn't worry. Not that he would. If it wasn't serious enough to warrant a night in the hospital then it wasn't serious enough to worry about, was her father's motto. He'd checked up on her at the ER, spoke with the doctor and when she told him that she was fine, he took her at her word.
Her brothers weren't so easily dissuaded, but giving her a ride home was pretty much the extent of their nursing abilities. They made her promise to call them if she needed anything, but other than that they left her to get a good night's sleep. That was all she needed, she thought as she drifted off.
It was pitch black when she woke up, biting back a cry of pain. Why did it hurt so much? It hadn’t hurt this badly when it broke and that had definitely been a memorable occasion. Her head pounded and with every breath she took, her ribs screamed in protest
Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to send her brothers away, she realized as she turned slightly to bury her face against her pillow and let out a scream of agony. She needed her pills or at the very least have someone knock her out so that she didn't have to experience this much pain.
She barely heard the whisper or registered the large strong hands on her shoulders as she was turned over onto her back and pills were pressed against her lips. Once she accepted them into her mouth, the rim of a water bottle quickly followed. She swallowed her pills as she struggled not to scream out against the pain.
This was too much. She couldn't handle this, couldn't do this, she realized, panicking at the thought that there would be no escaping from this pain. She would have to-
"Shhhh, I've got you," the deep familiar voice said soothingly as she was carefully shifted until she was lying on her right side with her injured arm resting across a firm stomach. Her face was pressed against a warm shoulder as a strong arm came up behind her and pulled her closer.
"Connor?" she whispered softly, but apparently not softly enough since the sound tore through her already throbbing head.
"Go to sleep, Rory," he whispered against the top of her head.
If Connor was taking care of her, it could only mean one thing.......
"How long do I have?" she asked, squeezing her eyes shut against the pain.
She felt him go still beneath her. "How long do you have for what?"
She scoffed even as she adjusted herself so that she was lying tightly against him, accepting the comfort he offered during her last hours on this earth.
"Before I kick the bucket. What the hell do you think I'm talking about?" she snapped, immediately regretting the action when it sent sharp pain through her skull.
"That really depends on how much you piss me off," he sighed as he pulled her impossibly closer as if he needed the comfort as much as she did.
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