“Maybe we should have this conversation after you’ve had time to recover a bit more.” I don’t want to upset her and make her hurt any worse than she already does.
“Just tell me.” She raises her hand to cup my face. I feel tears in my eyes as I turn my face and press a kiss to her palm.
“Jack came to your house two mornings ago.”
Her eyes register confusion as she watches me. “Two days?”
“You’ve been asleep for a few days, letting your body heal.” I kiss her hand again. “Jack hurt you, sweetness.”
She frowns and closes her eyes, then they open quickly, wide, and she stares at me in shock. “He destroyed my office.”
I nod, waiting as it all comes back to her.
“He hit me.” Her breath catches and she winces. “He was pissed because he found out about the books. How did he find out?”
“I don’t know. I suspect he was the one who had been in the house while you were gone.”
“He was going to kill me,” she whispers, and a tear falls as the events of that morning play through her head. “He was drunk, and he had a knife.”
I feel physically ill with the need to go after him and hurt him, but suddenly, she blanches and tries to sit up, reaching for the call button. “I need a nurse.”
“I need to ask them something.”
“Lauren, stop, you’re just going to hurt yourself.” I settle her against the bed and hold her shoulders in my hands, looking deep into her injured blue eyes. “What is it?”
“I should talk to a nurse,” she repeats in a whisper.
“You still don’t trust me?” I ask incredulously.
“I do!” She takes my hand in hers and holds it up to her cheek. “It’s just—”
“Talk to me, sweetness.”
“I don’t know if he raped me.” The words are barely audible.
“He was holding the knife to my throat and was unbuckling his belt, and he said he was going to—” She can’t finish the statement. Tears roll down her cheeks and she bites her swollen lower lip.
“Hey.” I lean in and kiss her temple. “It’s okay, Lo. We’ll find out, okay?”
She nods and I press the call button, and before the nurse answers the call, Dr. Black walks through the door.
“Was Lauren found dressed?” I ask bluntly.
The older man frowns and tilts his head in thought. “I’m not positive. I’m not an emergency-room doctor, so Lauren didn’t come into my care until she was transferred up here.” He scowls at both of us and then asks Lo, “Are you worried that you were sexually assaulted?”
She nods yes. “He threatened to, but then he knocked me out, and I don’t remember anything after that.”
Dr. Black leans back against the wall and crosses his arms. “Given the severity of the assault, and the fact that there were no witnesses and you were unconscious, we performed a rape kit, Lauren.” He looks up at me with sober eyes. “There was evidence that you’d had sex.”
“We made love not twenty-four hours prior,” I confirm.
He nods. “But there was no evidence of violence or forced penetration. The rape kit was negative.”
I sigh in relief and shake the doctor’s hand in gratitude. “Thank you.”
I sit beside Lo as the doctor leaves and caress her hand.
“Thank God,” she whispers, her eyes drifting closed.
“Tired?” I ask softly.
“Can you open your pretty eyes for just a minute more?” I lean toward her so she can see me clearly. She pulls her eyes open and offers me a small smile. “I love you so much, sweetness.”
Her eyes flare in surprise and then soften and fill with tears again. I brush a drop away with my thumb and cup her face in my hand.
“I love you too,” she whispers. “I’m so sorry.”
“You have nothing to be sorry for. I just didn’t want to go another minute without telling you that I love you and you’re stuck with me. Nothing like this will ever happen again, I promise you that.”
She begins to cry in earnest, wincing in pain.
“Don’t cry, baby.”
“He could have killed me and I never would have told you that I love you,” she whimpers.
“You’re right here, right here with me.”
“He was so cruel. So evil. I was sure that I wouldn’t survive it. Thank God he didn’t—” She shakes her head in misery. “I couldn’t bear it if he’d done that.”
“You’re safe.” I kiss her softly. “Go to sleep for a while, love.”
She finally calms and slips into a deep sleep, and as each minute passes, I feel the rage building in me. Hearing how cruel he was to her, what he threatened to do to her, is the final straw in my resolve.
“Can we come in?” Jill asks softly as she opens the door and peeks around at us.
“Sure,” I whisper back. “She’s sleeping.”
All four of them file in.
“Can you stay with her?” I ask the girls, my eyes pinned to Zack.
“You’re leaving?” Jill asks, surprised.
“I have something to handle. We won’t be long.”
The girls nod and I motion for Zack and Josh to follow me out into the hallway.
“Are we going to do what I think we’re going to do?” Josh asks with anticipation.
“Fuck yes,” I reply. “Tell me Brad is on today.”
“He is.” Zack nods and leads us out the doorway to my Jeep, holds his hands out for my keys, and starts the engine. “You shouldn’t be driving.”
“How are you going to get to him, Ty? Just walk in and say, ‘I want to kick the shit out of Jack’?” Josh asks.
“There are rooms in pretty much every jailhouse where attorneys and clients can speak without any kind of recording devices or monitors.” I grin over at my friend smugly. “I’m thinking about taking Jack’s case.”
“Awesome.” Zack rubs his hands together as he parks before the police station. “Let’s go.”
The three of us walk in, and I have one thing in mind: get to the motherfucker who hurt Lauren.
Brad meets us in the foyer and shakes our hands. “How is she?”
“Hurt,” I reply. “I’d like to see Jack.”