“Wait.” Her voice came out scratchy and her mouth felt as if it was filled with cotton balls, making her wonder how long she’d been out. Mara could still hear Harrison shouting at someone in the hall. “Harrison’s okay?”
Belle nodded, her expression softening. “He’s pissed at a certain detective who’s been insisting on seeing you, but he’s fine. You gave us all quite a scare.” The petite Greek woman placed her hands on her hips and Mara noticed she now wore a big, shiny solitaire engagement ring. Looked as if her brother-in-law had found the courage to propose after all.
“What about Perdue?” She thought she’d shot him, but didn’t know if her memory was accurate.
Belle stepped toward the bed and placed a gentle hand on Mara’s forehead as she smoothed her hair back. “He’s dead and you have nothing to worry about. Now let me get Harrison and the nurse on duty. I’m on break and thought I’d pop in to check on you and give Harrison a break. He hasn’t left your side the past day.”
Mara vaguely remembered that Belle worked in the maternity ward so of course she wouldn’t be her nurse. All that mattered was that Harrison was okay and Perdue was dead. She needed to find out about Pamela too, but couldn’t find the energy to stop Belle before she’d hurried from the room. Her limbs were heavy with fatigue, as if her entire body was weighted down.
The yelling stopped immediately then seconds later, Harrison strode in and was by her side. His white shirt was rumpled and bloody and his face looked drawn and almost haggard. He clasped one of her hands as he pulled up one of the plastic chairs next to the bed. Drawing her hand to his mouth, he kissed it gently and she felt the shudder go through him. “I thought I’d lost you,” he whispered, his eyes tortured.
“Is Pamela okay?” The words were a struggle. Yeah, she really needed water.
“She’s going to be fine.” His dark gaze narrowed on her for a split second before he jumped up and poured her a glass from an insulated pitcher. The water cooled and wet her parched throat. When she finished the entire thing, she handed it back to him with a thank you.
He set it on the small rolling tray next to the pitcher before resuming his seat next to her. “How—”
Before he could finish a nurse wearing scrubs a shade darker than Belle’s strode in. Her blond hair was pulled back into a sharp ponytail, but her expression was soft. “Mrs. Caldwell, I’m glad to see you’re awake.”
“Call me Mara,” she murmured, reaching out for Harrison’s hand, needing his strength. In the back of her mind she wondered if she’d even be ‘Mrs. Caldwell’ much longer, but shoved that thought away as soon as it sprouted. Her throat tightened and she was feeling way too raw to even consider what would happen between her and Harrison now. She still couldn’t believe Perdue was dead and that she and Pamela had been wounded. So many questions ran through her mind. She wanted to know the extent of her and Pamela’s injuries, what their prognoses were, what type of treatment or surgery she’d undergone. Everything. Actually voicing those questions was difficult when it was a struggle to keep her eyes open.
The nurse nodded. “And I’m Wanda. The doctor is on her way in to see you, but I wanted to check on you now that you’re conscious.”
An hour and a half later, after she’d been seen by two doctors, two nurses, both Harrison’s brothers, Lizzy, and even Richard—Harrison’s father had flown in from only God knew where—it was just her and Harrison alone again. One of his brothers had given him a clean shirt, but he didn’t look much better.
The second the door closed behind the last family member she reached out a hand for Harrison. He took it instantly. “You’re sure you’re fine?”
His mouth pulled into a thin line. “I should be asking you that. I’m sorry for letting them all in, they just wanted to make sure you were okay. Grant and Porter feel terrible.”
They had explained to her that there was new construction on one of the other parking lots—their point of entry—that they hadn’t known about. It had stolen precious minutes of their time and delayed their backup. “They shouldn’t. I’m just grateful they were able to help at all.”
He frowned and ran a thumb across her bottom lip, his touch gentle. “You’re family. They’ll do anything to protect you.”
Family. But for how long? “Harrison, we need to talk about us.”
Before she’d even finished her sentence, he was shaking his head and kissing her on the forehead. “You need to rest. The new meds should be kicking in and you need sleep to heal.”
She’d been shot in the shoulder, not the chest as she’d originally thought. It was a miracle it had gone all the way through without hitting anything major. Right now she didn’t have full range of motion and there was a possibility she’d have permanent nerve damage. But that was something only the future would tell. The doctor had told her she’d be going home in two days if there weren’t any complications.
“Harri…” Her voice trailed off as her thoughts became sluggish. For a moment she fought her body’s reaction, struggling to stay awake, but then gave up. It was useless and he was right, she needed rest. The only thing that mattered anyway was that Harrison was okay. He was here, right beside her, and it looked like he was going to stay. That meant everything to her.
* * * * *
Mara pushed the rolling tray away from her bed. She’d eaten half her food mainly because she was starving, not because it was good. Now that the doctor had taken her catheter and IV out she was able to walk around on her own and she’d been able to take an actual shower—while keeping her shoulder dry. She was tired of lying in bed. They should have released her two hours ago, but apparently her doctor had gotten tied up with something. And she was going stir crazy.
When the door opened she turned, expecting to see Harrison who’d gone to check with one of the nurses about getting her discharged, but it was Pamela. Mara immediately hurried to the door and pulled it completely open so her friend could wheel herself in. “What are you doing here? I didn’t think you were supposed to be out of bed yet.” She frowned as Pamela steered her wheelchair inside. She wore a standard hospital gown with a blanket draped over her legs, probably because of how cold it was in this place.
Her friend shrugged, her grin real despite everything she’d been through. “What are they going to do, kick me out? I was going a little crazy in my room and thought I’d come say hi.”
Mara sat on the built-in bench by one of the windows instead of the bed. The cushion let out a whoosh of air as she collapsed on it. Even with the tint over the windows she could still feel the sun’s warmth on her face. She might not like lying in bed but she was a little woozy from the blood loss and found she couldn’t move very far without getting tired. “I’m so sorry for everything,” she murmured, feeling a compulsion to say the words again.
“I swear if you say you’re sorry one more time, I’ll scream.” Pamela wheeled herself toward the other window, soaking up the same warmth.
Mara tried to force a smile, but it was hard. The guilt that had taken root inside her over her friend’s kidnapping wasn’t going away anytime soon.
“The news is saying that the man you killed escaped from prison in London and authorities believe he moved to Miami because he wanted to start fresh here. Apparently he was involved in some big sex slave rings years ago in Europe. I’m sure there’s some truth in there, but why was he after you?” Finally, Pamela asked the question Mara had been dreading.
She’d been to Pamela’s room more than a few times in the past two days, but they’d mainly talked about her recovery, how long Pamela would be in physical therapy and what they planned to do about the shelter. Right now Heidi was holding everything together and Lizzy and Belle had been by when they could. And Grant said he knew and trusted a woman he used to work with who might be able to take over until Pamela was completely healed.
Thank God Pamela still had the ability to walk. She’d probably have to undergo another surgery—and Mara and Harrison were paying for anything Pamela’s insurance didn’t—but she should fully recover even if she would have pins in her leg. Considering what she’d been through, Mara wanted to tell her friend the truth but she just couldn’t. Telling Harrison was one thing. He was her husband and understood security clearance better than anyone. “I could make something up, but I’d rather not lie to you. I’m sorry, but I can’t tell you any details.”
Pamela’s lips curved into a small smile as she brushed some errant curls out of her face. “I figured as much.”
They were silent for a long moment and finally Mara had to ask, “Are you sure he didn’t hurt you any—”
“Jeez, Mara. If you keep up the questions about that too I’ll scream even louder. He roughed me up a little, as you heard on the phone, but he was pretty focused on getting to you. He asked questions about why you came to see me so often—he assumed it was my house thankfully—and I told him we were both wealthy bored women, which he seemed to buy. I don’t think he really cared. He just wanted to make sure I meant something to you because he was crazed about kidnapping you and ‘making you pay’ as he told me a dozen times.”
Making her pay. Mara almost snorted in disgust, but held back a response. “I’m just glad you’re going to be okay and that you don’t hate me.” She had every right to.
“I don’t think I could ever hate you. Being shot sucks, but I’ve been through worse.” Pamela didn’t expand and Mara didn’t push, no matter how much she wanted to know what her friend meant with that cryptic statement.
There was a reason the other woman ran a shelter for abused women, though Mara had never asked her for details. Everyone was allowed to keep their secrets. “Well, I hope you never go through anything like this again.”