“Kate?” Mr. Rudolph is standing in the doorway, frowning. “Are you okay? Your face looks swollen.”
I shake my head and pull my purse out of my drawer, looking for my EPI pen, but I don’t have it. “Peanuts.”
But my mouth is so swollen, it sounds like veanuth.
“Ate peanuts,” I repeat and point to the bowl. “Ambulance.”
I’m struggling for breath now. My eyes are swelling shut.
I’m going to die. The bitch killed me!
“I need an ambulance,” I hear Mr. Rudolph say. “She has an allergy and can’t breathe.”
And suddenly, everything goes black.
Someone is yelling at me. I try to open my eyes, but can’t. Everything is dark. My throat hurts.
“Kate, did you eat peanuts?” The same voice keeps shouting at me. I can only nod.
“It’s a nut allergy,” I hear another person say, as I’m being wheeled in a bed. “Gave her an EPI shot, and got her airway open.”
“What’s her name?”
“Kate O’Shaughnessy,” someone says. I don’t recognize any of the voices. Where is Eli? I want Eli. I can’t see. I touch my face, and it feels totally foreign. “Here’s her ID and insurance card.”
Someone has been going through my purse.
“Okay, guys, wheel her back to room nine.”
I’m shuffled about, lifted onto a new bed, changed from my clothes to a gown. All blind. My tongue is too big for my mouth. I itch everywhere.
“You can’t talk to me, can you, Kate?”
I shake my head.
“I’m Dr. Coggin,” the kind man says. “Just nod yes or no, okay?”
I nod yes.
“I hear you have an allergy to peanuts, and ate some?”
“Do you know how much?”
I shake my head no.
“Are you itchy? Warm?”
I nod vigorously.
“Still having problems breathing?”
I hold my hand up and tilt it, as if to say so-so.
“Okay, we are going to give you some Benadryl and steroids in an IV, and it’s going to make you sleepy, but it should calm all of this down. If you have visitors, can they come back to see you?”
I nod and lie back, frustrated that I can’t talk or swallow. I’m quite sure I’m a drooling mess.
I want to cry, but my eyes are so swollen, my tear ducts don’t work.
There’s a prick in the back of my hand. “I’m putting in your IV, Kate. I’m your nurse, Mona.”
“Because this Benadryl is going directly into your bloodstream, you’ll get sleepy pretty fast.”
Good. Maybe I’ll wake up half-way normal.
My head turns at the sound of Savannah’s voice. She takes my free hand in hers.
“Oh, my God, Katie, are you awake?”
I nod and squeeze her fingers, but the medicine is already making me tired. I need to tell her that it’s all because of Hilary, but I still can’t talk around my tongue, and now my body is feeling heavy from the drugs.
“Sleep, Kate,” Van says. “You’ll feel better when you wake up.”
“Where’s Eli?” I hear Beau ask Van as he also comes into my room.
“I don’t know,” Van responds. “We can’t find him.”
What does she mean they can’t find him?
I moan, frustrated, but can’t fight sleep as it slips over me.
“Look, it’s just government bureaucracy,” Sal, the shipyard foreman, says in frustration. “It’s their job to find these kinds of things.”
“It’s OSHA, Sal,” I reply coldly. “I don’t give a fuck if what you say is true, the bottom line is, you either fix that hydraulic system to their specifications, or they will shut down that whole line.”
He shakes his head and paces his office in frustration.
“There’s nothing wrong with it,” he insists. “It’s perfectly safe.”
I raise an eyebrow. “Sal, you’ve been with us since I was a kid. I respect your opinion, and I’m not saying that it’s unsafe. I am saying that it didn’t pass the OSHA inspection, and it has to be fixed. I don’t want to be called back down here for another ass-chewing by that inspector. You know the regulations. We operate within them, one hundred percent of the time. If you don’t want to work that way, I’ll find someone else who does.”
“Are you threatening me?” He scowls and props his hands on his hips.
“No. I’m explaining what I expect to happen. Get it done. You have twenty-four hours.”
I walk out without another word, frustrated that I was brought in on this in the first place. I’ve just spent three hours away from the office, where I have to fire a man who I’ve known almost half of my life.
Fuck. And have charges brought against him.
But not before I sit down with him, man-to-man, to ask him just exactly what in the ever loving fuck he was thinking.
Not to mention, now that the case is closed, Kate will be leaving.
And why does the thought of that make me want to punch a wall? I’ve known since the day I met her this was temporary. We’ve had fun. I’ve enjoyed her.
I’ll enjoy women after her.
I stop next to my car and shake my head before opening the door and lowering myself inside.
The thought of other women does nothing for me except turn my stomach.
I pull my phone out of my pocket and frown when I realize the sound had been off. Four missed calls from Beau, all over two hours ago.
He can be damn annoying.
I punch the button for voice mail and pull out of the shipyard.
“Eli, Savannah and I are on the way to the hospital. Something’s happened to Kate.” My heart stills, then trips over. “I’m not sure what’s happening. Where are you?”
The next message fifteen minutes later: “I’m almost to the hospital. Answer your fucking phone.”
I floor the accelerator and try to call Beau, but it goes straight to voice mail, as does Savannah’s phone.
What the fuck has happened to Kate? Panic sweeps through me, picturing her broken and hurt in a hospital bed. Sweet, loving Kate is the last person on this Earth that deserves to be hurt. She’s so damn good.
Living in a world without her is incomprehensible, even if she’s not mine.
And she can’t ever be mine.