It's my birthday, and as promised, here is a bonus chapter from Noah's POV. I'll post another one next week when I've recovered from my celebrations...
Please note: There are spoilers from Hush is this post...
I woke with the vision of Kaeli’s bloody body lying prone on the concrete beside the warehouse, staining the insides of my eyelids.
Jackknifing up in my temporary bed, my heart thundered and my breath choked me as I tried in vain to drag it in.
It wasn’t real. It wasn’t real. It wasn’t real.
I squeezed my eyes shut tight as I tried to force myself to believe the words. Fuck. It felt so fucking real!
Throwing back the sweat-soaked sheets, I flung myself out of bed and paced over to the window, my hands clasped together on the back of my head.
Nausea rolled in my stomach. I’d stopped throwing up days ago, but I still felt sick most of the time, especially when sick fucking dreams like that invaded my head.
Releasing my hands, I dragged them down over my face, cringing when I felt the slight shake in them. Fuck. It wasn’t fucking real!
Gulping down a few more quick breaths, I reached for the photo Adam had brought me earlier that day. It was a nice picture. It showed Kaeli sitting back on a lounger in the back of someone’s house, her hair loose and falling over her shoulder.
But it wasn’t quite right. Although her lips were curved up in a happy sort of way, her eyes told me another story. They made my heart ache.
But it was better than seeing her fucking bleeding…
Holding the frame in both hands, I stared at her image intently, forcing myself to believe what I was seeing. I needed to replace that fucked up bleeding image of her with this one. I needed to sear it onto the screen of my mind.
My hands shook with it, and my arms strained with the effort it was taking me to calm my fucking thoughts.
I flinched at the sudden crack of the glass under my hands.
Why the fuck had I been holding it so hard?
Staring at the crack in the glass that ran across her face, the familiar feeling of anxiety quickly started creeping back in. God. I needed her to be okay.
I swallowed against the dryness, and with my hands still shaking, I flipped the frame over and removed the backing, carefully taking the picture out before dumping the rest of the frame in the trash.
My stomach clenched. Fuck, was I sick or was it hunger? I had no fucking idea what the hell I needed anymore. I ignored it. If it was hunger, I wasn’t going to start a fucking habit of snacking in the middle of the night. I could fucking wait until morning.
Propping the photo up against the lamp on my bedside table, I pressed the button to call the nurse, still trying to get the events of reality straight in my head. Less than a minute later, there was a knock on my door before it swung open to reveal a questioning nurse.
“What can I help you with Mr. Murphy?”
“Uh…I need some fresh sheets if possible,” I said quietly.
Her gaze slipped past me to the bed before she nodded. “Certainly. I’ll just go get you some.”
Needing to keep my head busy, I ripped the damp sheets from the bed and bundled them up tightly. When I turned to take them to the door, a different nurse was already standing there with some fresh sheets in her arms.
“Oh, thanks. I’ll make it. It’s fine,” I said, not wanting her to have to clean up my shit.
She didn’t move. She just stood there, staring at me, making me feel more self-conscious than ever, then for some strange reason she blushed, before passing me the sheets and taking the damp ones off me.
I frowned. Why the fuck was she was acting so weird?
“Are you sure?” she asked, hesitating.
“Yep. I’m good. Thanks.”
Her gaze flittered everywhere but at me, then she nodded and scurried for the door.
I frowned at the door as it closed behind her before shaking my head in confusion. Was she really acting weird, or was it just me? Fuck, I didn’t know anymore. My head was so fucked up.
Shrugging it off, I quickly made the bed and climbed in, picking up the picture of Kaeli as I went. I needed to see she was okay. Healthy. Nothing else mattered. It was just her.
I wasn’t sure how long I laid there for, just staring at her image, hoping she was somewhere safe, but when the sun started peaking over the horizon and I was still lying there, staring at her picture, I knew I was fucking kidding myself. I wasn’t going to get anymore sleep.
Climbing from the bed, I carefully placed Kaeli’s picture back against the lamp and made my way to the bathroom.
The second I stepped into the hot, steamy shower, the coughing started. Big, fucking wracking coughs, with lots of disgusting phlegm. I shuddered at the sight of it, trying to hold back my gag reflex. I swear I was going to curse TJ to the end of fucking time.
Bracing my hands against the wall, I hung my head, trying to let the water wash away as much of the tension as it could.
I wasn’t sure how long I stayed there for. It was a while. Long enough to feel like I’d coughed up a lung or two.
Fuck my life.
By the end, my chest ached and my head spun, though whether it was from coughing or the steam, I wasn’t sure.
I just wanted it to all be over. I wanted to go back to my life. The one I’d left behind. The one I wanted Kaeli in.
A pang of anxiety shot through with the thought of her. Fuck, I didn’t know what I would do if she didn’t want to see me when I made it out. I wanted her so much. I wanted to hold her, to reassure her, to be there to keep every bad thing away from her.
I gasped as the anxiety started intensifying.
Leaning my hands on the sink, I forced myself to just breathe and focus. I could do this. I’d fucking make myself. The sooner I could get my shit together, the sooner I could get out and find her.
Wrapping the towel around my hips, I walked back into my room and froze when I found Adam and Eli perched on the sofa.
“Happy birthday,” Adam said with amusement.
I grunted. Yeah, it was fucking awesome so far.
Adam held up the picture of Kaeli and waved it around.
“What happened to the frame?” he asked, looking slightly amused.
“Put it down,” I barked, irritation creeping in from god knew where.
One of his eyebrows rose with surprise and he slowly placed the picture back where I’d left it.
“I need a new one,” I said, grabbing a pair of boxer briefs and dropping my towel.
I’d just put them on and was picking up my towel when the door opened and the same nurse who’d delivered the sheets the night before came in carrying a tray loaded with the most amazing smelling food I could imagine. My stomach growled.
Her steps faltered when she looked up and saw me, and then she blushed and hurried to put the tray on the table. Okay… So it wasn’t just my imagination. She really was acting fucking weird.
“Uh…just eat what you can. I’ll come get the tray later,” she stammered before rushing back out the door.
I frowned at the door again. “I have no idea what the hell is wrong with that woman. She’s been fucking weird all night.”
Eli laughed. “Did you have a shirt on when she came in last night?”
I glared at him. What was he talking about? “No. I’d been in bed. I was wearing briefs like this. What the fuck has that got to do with anything?”
Adam laughed then. “Dude, she was fucking you with her eyes. Didn’t you catch the blush?”
I raised my eyebrows and glanced back towards the door. Was that was it was all about?
Both Eli and Adam started laughing even more then.
“You seriously didn’t notice?” Eli said through the noise.
Reality came back quickly and I gave them both a deadpan look. “No, I was too busy trying to convince myself that a dream I had of Kaeli lying in a pool of her own blood, wasn’t real. Then I was trying to stop myself from hyperventilating before I had a full blown panic attack.”
The laughter stopped and their smiles fell from their faces.
“Shit,” Eli said softly. “Sorry, man.”
I shrugged, the smell of the food too good to ignore any longer. Striding over to the table, I lifted the lid and groaned when I saw the pile of bacon and eggs and toast. My stomach groaned with agreeance.
Without bothering to sit down, I picked up the fork and started shoveling it down. Fuck, I was hungry.
I was almost done when my stomach decided to be a fucker and change its mind, contracting tightly in protest.
Throwing my fork down in frustration, I grimaced. “For fuck’s sake! Make up your god damned, fucking mind!”
Holding my gut with my hand, I slumped down in the chair.
“Maybe you shouldn’t have eaten it so fast…” Adam started, before I gave him a look that told him to shut the fuck up or I was going to remove a limb from his body.
“…or not…” he finished.
Deciding to ride out the torture chamber that had taken up residence inside my stomach somewhere more comfortable, I stiffly moved over to the lounge, dropping down and curling up in a fetal position with my eyes closed.
I heard someone sit down on the coffee table and sigh. Adam.
“Do you think you’ll be right to start the laser stuff today?”
I opened my eyes so he could see my intent when I spoke. “It’s starting today. No question.”
He sighed again and nodded. “Alright then.”
Satisfied he understood I wasn’t backing down, I closed my eyes and concentrated on relaxing.
Yeah, happy fucking birthday.