Dedicated to my favorite avid reader, Rachel.
ANNA STOOD IN THE doorway for a moment, staring in disbelief at the bruises on Megan's face. "I'm so sorry, Meg. This is all my fault."
Meg tried to smile, but the pain made it next to impossible. "You're not to blame."
She grabbed the arm of the green chair and pulled it closer to the bed, then sat down. "If it weren't for me and my big mouth, you never would've rushed out of the party like that."
Megan reached for her hand. "You've been good to me, Anna. You should be mad at me."
Anna sat forward. "Why on earth would I be mad at you?"
"Because of me, the beautiful gown is ruined. They cut it off me with scissors. I begged them not to, but they insisted," Meg moaned, tears filling her eyes.
"I don't care about that. The dress is replaceable, you're not!" Anna stated.
The women fell silent. Megan closed her eyes.
"Are you all right?" Anna asked.
Megan turned toward Anna. "Have you seen Corey?"
Anna smiled. "He's here. So are the girls, Nolan, Karen, Dex and Sara and Kevin. Dex is waiting to see you."
Megan swallowed hard. "He most likely wants to forbid me from ever getting behind the wheel of a car again."
Anna laughed. "I doubt it. He's really worried about you."
As if on cue, Dex stood in the doorway, his brown eyes wide.
"Well, try and get some rest. I'll be by in the morning to check on you." Anna hugged her awkwardly and strode to the door. She stopped in front of Dex and placed her hand on his forearm squeezing it. "Call me if you need anything."
Dex moved over to the now empty chair and stood looking down at her. "How are you feeling?"
"Like I hit a telephone pole," Meg joked.
Dex rolled his eyes. "Very funny. Since when did you become a comedian?"
Megan shrugged, and pain shot across her chest and shoulders, her face contorted, and a moan escaped her lips.
"What's wrong?" Dex asked his voice cracking.
"Just sore hurts to move around. Nothing's broken so that's good." It was the first time she remembered hearing the worry in his voice.
He sighed, and then sat down hard. "Why did you leave the party?"
Megan felt nauseous and her head throbbed. She didn't want to think about it or talk about it. Just the thought of Corey sleeping with Grace brought tears to her eyes. "I wasn't feeling well," she lied, hoping he'd believe it.
Dex watched her like a hawk, forcing her to turn away from him. "Does this have something to do with Corey?"
Closing her eyes, wishing she could just drift off to sleep wouldn’t make any of it go away. How many more people are going to come into my room and bother me? She had no answers and didn't want to hear one more question about anything.
"I told Corey that I wouldn't stand in your way. If you two want to be together, that's fine," Dex admitted, grasping her hand. "Meggie, look at me."
Her lashes fluttered open in shock. "When did this happen?"
Dex smiled. "Not long ago at the launch. Everything is fine between us, so you don't have to hate me anymore, or ignore me,” he said, his voiced etched with sincerity. “Listen, Meg, I really would love it if you'd give me another chance. I've been gone for five years, and I know that you've grown up, changed even from the little girl I remember, but you are my only sister, and I want us to be a family."
Megan smiled through the pain, her cheekbones throbbing. She remembered this brother—the boy who always made her smile, who took care of her and even made her laugh. Dex wasn’t thrilled to learn Corey took an interest in her, and he’d been an ass to both since he found out, making off-handed remarks every chance he got. It was getting so bad she was afraid if she and Corey really got together that their long friendship would be over. "I'd like that, Dex."
"Well, I'm going to get out of here and relieve the babysitter. If you need anything, call the house. Otherwise, I'll be back in the morning to take you home." Dex stood, planted a soft kiss on her head, and then walked out of the room, taking one last look before turning the corner.
Stunned by the brief admission, Megan didn’t know what to think. When Dex came home things were tense between them, the whole world seemed to be spinning out of control. She even considered moving out of the house because their relationship had altered, and Megan was no longer comfortable around her brother, but tonight, everything changed. Dex had the will to try to mend the rift and seemed sincere when he said that he wanted them to be a family again. Megan needed family in her life, was so tired of being alone, with no one to lean on when times became rough. If only her relationship with Corey could be uncomplicated. She never understood it, and probably never would. She closed her eyes, remembering the words he used at the accident. He'd called her honey and baby, he'd stroked her face and back, comforting her until the ambulance arrived. He'd been so worried and concerned for her, that once again she had hope.
NOLAN PULLED ANNA INTO his arms and held her tight. "Do you want to go home?"
"No place I’d rather be." She glanced over at Corey and smiled. "She asked about you."
He put his hands into his pockets. "I want to see her, but the Doc said just you and Dex."
Sara and Kevin joined them, as Dex came down the hall and went into his wife's arms. "I'm sure they will make an exception for her fiancé," Sara said smiling.
"Yes," Anna agreed.
"We're leaving, let me know if you need anything, buddy," Kevin said, reached his left hand out and squeezed Corey's shoulder.
"You got it."
Nolan turned to his brother. "What are you going to do?"
Corey shrugged. "I'm not leaving here until I see her."
"You know where to find us," he said, reaching for Anna's hand. The pair headed to the door and out into the night, Nolan’s cell phone pressed against his ear before making it out the double doors.
"Are you heading home?" Corey asked as Dex and Karen approached.
"Nothing else we can do," Dex replied quietly. He looked at Corey, his eyes searching. "Do you know why she took off from the party?"
Corey shifted his eyes to the white tiled floor. "She overheard Anna and me talking. I’ll take care of it." Just saying those words gave him a sharp pain in his chest.
“Do I need to know about it?” Dex asked.
Corey shook his head. “My past is catching up with me. I’ll fix this.”
"Make a right at the end of the hall. Room 125," Dex said. He grabbed Karen's hand and led her out of the hospital.
Corey watched them leave, his mind racing. Will Megan be upset if I go to see her? Giving her more distress was the last thing in the world he wanted to do, but he needed to see her with his own eyes, make sure that she really was all right. Images of her bloody face, her body hunched over the steering wheel were all he saw.
He walked down the hall acting as if he knew where he was going, passing a nurse’s station where two women sat talking and laughing. He didn't make eye contact as he passed them by. When he reached the end of the hall, he turned right and looked at the room numbers next to the first two doors. Room 125 was the first door on the left.
Corey stood to the side of the door, his heart thumping in his chest and drumming in his ears. She was inside that door, and he didn't know if he should continue, or turn and leave. As much as he wanted to see her, to comfort her and make everything better, he was afraid. Fear of seeing hatred in her hazel eyes or hearing bitterness in her voice when she spoke to him held him back, unable to move forward.
"Can I help you with something? Visiting hours are over," a petite redheaded nurse said.
"I know, but I haven't seen her since the ambulance left the crash site."
"You're a relative?" she asked.
Corey shook his head. "Not exactly, she's my fiancée."
"Then you should be in there with her. I won't tell." The reassuring smiles the nurse beamed gave him hope. "Go on, before someone else sees you."
Corey returned the smile. "Thank you."
He moved to the doorway and stepped inside. Megan slept, the covers pulled up over her chest, her arms resting at her sides on top of the blanket. She had an IV in her arm, but no other machinery hooked up. A large bruise covered the left side of her face. Her nose also had an ugly bruise and a bandage covered the cut on her forehead. Walking to the bed, watching her chest rise and fall as her breathing remained strong and steady he saw a peacefulness in her. He had such a strong urge to reach out and touch her, but he didn't want to wake her or disturb that serene slumber. He sat down in the green chair that sat beside the bed and continued to watch her, his eyes moving over her from head to toe.
She'd always been beautiful. He loved her black hair that always reminded him of a thick mane on a horse, the mane of his favorite horse. Although Cinnamon was a dark brown, she had a black, silky mane, just as Megan had. He reached a hand up, his fingers grabbing a thick strand of her hair and wound it around his finger, loving the feel of it in his hand. Satin couldn't feel any silkier than her tresses. Corey reached for her motionless hand, pulled it to his mouth and brushed a light kiss over her knuckles.
"I'm so sorry," he whispered, then laid his head on her lap.
"MEGAN, YOU NEED TO wake up," a soft voice coaxed.
She struggled to open her eyes, her head pounded like a jackhammer and her face throbbed. The bright lights made her squint, and there was pressure on her lower body that hadn't been there before. The nurse with red hair came into focus, and within an instant, Megan remembered where she was, and why she was there.
"Do you know what day it is?"
"Friday." She couldn't forget that tidbit of information even if she wanted to.
"Good." The nurse shut the light off over the bed and smiled. "I found him outside your room trying to figure out if he should come in or not. Guess your fiancé was just as exhausted as you were."
Megan gasped, and her eyes widened upon studying the woman. What did I miss? She looked down to discover the unexplained pressure was Corey, who had a firm grip on her hand, while his head rested on her lap and his free arm stretched across her legs.
"I suppose so," Megan said, her mind whirling with wild thoughts. It was obvious that Corey lied just to get into the room to see her. What she didn’t understand was if he went to all that trouble, why hadn't he bothered to wake her up? As much as Megan liked the term fiancée, deep down the words didn't mean anything, even if she wanted it to with all her heart.
His drinking bothered her. Witnessing his actions because of an innocent dance with Kurt and learning that he had a habit of drinking and sleeping around made her stomach churn. She’d had enough with the drinking and destructive behavior with her father, so much so that she couldn’t do it again with anyone, refused to go through it, not even for Corey Brady.
With her free hand, she let her fingers slide into his sandy brown hair, delighting in the feel of it. Megan loved the way the back of his hair would start to curl up when it got too long, or on a humid day. The curls gave him his boyish charm, not that he needed more. His black eyes were so dark and vivid; sometimes it was impossible to look away from them. When
Megan looked into Corey's eyes, she was mesmerized, wanted to dive into the darkness and be lost forever in the depths of passion. Corey stirred such intense feelings in her, making it so extremely hard to resist him, and for the most part, she didn't want to.
Corey began to rouse, and Meg snatched her hand out of his hair. She still couldn't believe he was here, at her bedside claiming to be her fiancé. Strange to think that when she awakened it surprised her to find him there, but now that surprise, being in his presence turned to comfort.
He sat up and gave her a groggy smile. "Did I wake you?"
Megan shook her head, but a piercing pain shot through her head from the movement. "No, the nurse came in to wake me up. They have to do that every few hours."
"Oh." He sat back in the chair, his eyes on her. Megan wanted to get lost in the depths of his eyes, but she knew that looking at him would be her undoing.
"How are you feeling?"
"Like someone took a hammer and hit me in the head with it. My face is sore, but I'll be all right."
Corey sat forward and took her soft hand into his rough one. "I'm sorry for everything that happened tonight."
The warmth from his hand sent heat racing up her arm. Megan couldn’t put two coherent thoughts together as her mind raced with what if’s. She moved her eyes to his, those black pools big and full of something she'd never seen there before. What is it exactly? Is it pity? Is that what he sees when he looks at me now?
"It wasn't your fault," she uttered, pulling her hand out of his. Megan steeled her emotions against the tender moment. She couldn’t let her heart get ahead of her head, not again. Megan inhaled a deep fortifying breath, hoping it would be enough to keep her from handing Corey her heart, and anything else he may want from her. At this point, she was teetering right at the brink of surrendering all that she was to this man.