The Artifact (Book 2, Time Series)

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Chapter Sixteen: First Aid for the Faint of Heart

July 2023
Morgan’s Home
Richmond City, Virginia

}}}-----> MORGAN <-----{{{

“God, I’m a mess!” Morgan mutters under her breath after closing the bathroom door on Wahya and stepping onto the hardwood floor of her master bedroom. And she didn’t necessarily mean that she looked a mess, all half soggy from her attempt to give Wahya a lesson in operating her beautiful, but stupidly placed controls for the shower.

“I know the man isn’t dumb, but I’m just all over myself trying to make sure he understands everything - and then I just keep babbling! He probably thinks I’m crazy, and I already know that I talk way too much! But he’s kinda hard to read,” she thinks, pulling off her wet socks, not sure why she’d left them on in the first place when she climbed into the shower. “Sometimes I can tell what he’s thinking, then other times, not so much.”

She waits until she hears him get into the shower before changing out of her wet clothes just in case he decided he did need something. Opting for another comfortable outfit, since the plan is to go over to James and Samantha’s for pizza to discuss the plan of action for Wahya, Morgan changes quickly and takes her wet clothes to the laundry room to dry.

“Did he figure out how to get the water warm?” She’d heard him yelp once after he’d been running the water for a moment, and she figures it was either too cold or too hot. Her experience with the slow-changing temperature of the water in this house provided her with firsthand knowledge of just how long it took for the shower to heat up. And when it got hot, it went all the way!

“Did he know how much shampoo to use?” She throws her discarded clothes in the dryer at the end of the hall. “Duh... If he didn’t use enough, he’ll figure out he needs more! But he has all that hair...”

Starting the dryer, she leans against the machine, pondering what else she should have showed him before leaving him on his own in her modern bathroom. “God, you sound like a mom with a toddler! At least you didn’t tell him to scrub between his toes and behind his ears!” She admonishes herself aloud.

Speaking of his anatomy, her mind flickers to the rest of him and she sighs romantically. She can’t help but daydream, the image of him standing nearly naked in the lab burned into her memory forever! Oh, those perfectly muscular pecks - his long, black hair flowing under the water, smoothing down across his chiseled shoulders and back. And those rock-solid abs, leading downward, where those nice little indents are, going right down past the waistline. Water running in rivulets, even further south...

“Whew!” Morgan shakes her head, “Better stop while you’re ahead! You’re liable to get yourself all worked up, and he probably isn’t even thinking about you like that.”

She moves to the living room, going through the shopping bags and picking out a pair of jeans, boxers, and socks to take into the bedroom and lay out for Wahya. She takes the entire bag of shirts, planning to let him pick what he wants to wear. Getting her small pair of scissors, she proceeds to cut off all the tags, leaving the clothes laid out on the bed, hopefully obvious that they’re for him to wear.

Remembering all his scrapes and bruises, Morgan figures she should patch up his wounds once they’re clean and before they go. Some of the larger ones looked like they had the potential to get infected, and all he needed was to get sick now. But, as her medical kit is in the master bathroom, she decides to figure out the sleeping arrangement instead.

The two-bedroom house was perfect for Morgan when she bought it as her starter home last summer. But she had made the second bedroom her office, and her bed is the only one. Being only a few hours away from her parent’s in Nellie Bay, holidays are usually spent with them at their large beach home on the Eastern Shore. Last Christmas, the one she’d spent babysitting the nephews, was the year Dad and Mom went to Hawaii on a second honeymoon, while her sister, Jessica, was going through her big divorce. Jessica and the boys, thankfully, stayed at a hotel! Otherwise, she had no other out-of-town friends or family for visits and hadn’t needed a second bed.

“Do I put him up on the couch? Or, being my guest, should he take the bed?” Ultimately, she decides on giving him the couch in the living room. Even though it doesn’t have a hide-a-bed, it is pretty cushy, she decides, and there’s the half-bath just off the living room for him to use during the night.

Pulling down an extra pillow and some blankets from the hall closet, Morgan goes to prepare the couch for Wahya. Finishing that, she begins to make a mental list of things she needs to do, including finding her stash of extra toothbrushes and checking on her stock of groceries to feed two - her guest having a large appetite, if lunch was anything to go by.

At that moment, Morgan enters the kitchen, and the bedroom door opens just down the hall. She turns around to find a very different-looking man entering the room and she has to admit, though he was something to ogle over before, now... Well, he’d put magazine models to shame.

Freshly showered, his whole aura exudes an air of refreshed spirit and even from several feet away, she can smell the dizzying difference. He obviously figured out what to do with the shampoo and conditioner, as his still somewhat-damp hair glistens in the sunlight from the window. Inhaling sharply, while attempting to maintain some sensibility, Morgan blurts, “Whoa! I mean... you look... clean!”

“God, it’s a good thing he doesn’t speak English!” She murmurs inside her mind as she takes in his well-fitting jeans ridding on his narrow hips, leading up his t-shirt-clothed torso, barely hinting at the ripped muscles underneath. Trying to pretend she wasn’t just ogling him, she takes a deep breath, putting her mind to task.

“I’m sorry, but we need to clean up your wounds.” She steps forward, motioning to the visible cuts on his arms, which he looks at in return. Though many of the wounds already look better without dirt packed in them, she still wants to look at the worst, and clears her throat before brushing past him to guide them back to the bathroom.

Closing the lid of the toilet, Morgan instructs Wahya to take his shirt off, then sit while she digs out the bottle of rubbing alcohol, along with cotton balls, antibacterial ointment, band-aids and gauze patches.

The worst of his wounds is a jagged cut approximately five inches long just under his left shoulder blade. Leaving that one for later, she instead decides to start with a smaller wound, putting on her glasses so she can see the closeup work better.

So that he can see what she’s doing, she points out a small, but deep cut on his bicep, “I’m going to clean it, then put medicine on it, okay?”

Pouring the antiseptic onto a cotton ball, Morgan gently dabs the deep cut, and Wahya winces with the initial shock, though quiets quickly through gritted teeth, obviously not wanting to show too much weakness.

“I’m sorry!” She blows gently on the wound to dry the alcohol, glancing up at his face trying to read his expression to see if the wound is still painful. The pained look in his eyes is unmistakable and Morgan can’t help but giggle.

She didn’t mean to. Part of it was her nerves in the tense, uncommunicative situation, and the rest is the fact that she’d chosen this particular wound as starters, because it was so small, and should be relatively less painful. She just expected him to be much more insensitive to pain, being a man of the rough, tough American wilderness and all.

He glares at her in return and Morgan instantly forces the smile from her face, biting her lower lip to remind herself to behave.

“They’re all going to hurt like this,” she tries to warn him.

Dabbing the ointment on the cut, then putting a superhero band-aid over the top, she says, “There! One down and a bunch more to go!”

Wahya analyzes the multicolored patch, decorated with a cartoon figure in a flowing blue cape, and Morgan laughs. “My nephews left these. Superheroes.”

“Super?” He asks in reply.

Getting the cotton ball ready for the next wound, she nods her head. “Superhero.”

“Super. Hero,” Wahya repeats.

“Yeah. Good guys who fight bad guys and save people.”

“Oowww!”

Morgan thought distracting him with talk would help as she stoops in concentration, but he still jerks, surprised by the shock of the antiseptic on cut number two further down his forearm. Granted it was on the sensitive inside just below the bend in his arm. She smirks again, before blowing softly across his skin to ease the burn, like her mother used to do when her and Jessica were kids.

Smoothing a band-aid over the medicated ointment, she looks over the remaining skin on this arm, dabbing the alcohol on minor scratches and rubbing ointment into them, while leaving them to heal openly. His other arm isn’t nearly as scraped, but he willingly shifts his body so she can easily access the few cuts here.

Once done with his upper limbs, Morgan swallows heavily, “That was the easy part... Now we’re going to get a little more personal!”

Deciding to get the worst of the wounds out of the way next, she turns him again so she can access his back. Grimacing slightly at the deep gash, she apologizes, “This one’s going to hurt for sure. I’m sorry!”

She figures he must understand that “sorry” means pain by now, as he looks at her with suspicion. Patting him on the shoulder, she says “Sorry...” one more time before dabbing the saturated cotton ball over the red and tender looking cut.

“OOWWW! Morgan!” He jerks out of her grasp in exclamation.

“Sorry, sorry! It’s going to get infected if you don’t let me doctor it!”

He growls in pain, looking back at her with scowling eyes. Her nerves get the best of her as she tries hard to not laugh, hoping he doesn’t think she’s maniacal, trying to cause him discomfort on purpose.

At first, she doesn’t think he’s going to let her continue, and she teases in a mocking tone - more for her own amusement than knowing he’d understand her, “Ohhh, come on now. I thought Wahya meant ‘wolf,’ not scaredy cat!”

Her tone must convey enough meaning as Wahya narrows his eyes, and she suddenly feels like someone under the predatory watch of a wolf in the wild. Not one to back down easily, she retorts, “Come on, Wahya. Prove you’re a tough guy and can take a little pain!”

Then, it suddenly occurs to her that he probably really is in pain, and not just from the astringent. With all these scratches and cuts, his body probably feels bruised and sore, too - though she’s never seen him complain or act sore. “Has he really been toughing it out all day?!”

She digs through a drawer under the vanity, finding her over-the-counter pain killers. Telling him to wait, she fills a cup with water from the kitchen and gives him two small pills, showing him that he should use the water to swallow - not chew - the pills.

He successfully downs the pain killers, and she more soberly turns him again so she can administer to his back, feeling slightly guilty for not thinking of his pain sooner. This time he rests his elbows on his jean-covered thighs, putting his head in his hands, and Morgan can see the strain of his muscles twitching with the pain of the astringent on the bad wound. She knows it’s way too soon for the pain killers to work, but he doesn’t utter a single sound, holding his breath against the burn, and Morgan feels bad for teasing him at all and wondering what had happened to him to cause all this damage.

Finishing with the alcohol, she blows lightly over the wound, and he bucks slightly at the initial contact of her breath. Putting her hand tenderly on his opposite shoulder, she whispers sincerely, before blowing again to completely dry the area, “It’s okay. I’m sorry it hurts.”

After completely covering the wound with ointment and taping a large medical pad over the top, she pats his shoulder again, “All done.”

He sits up straighter, and looks at her, eyes glazed over slightly, and Morgan assumes that the pain must have been pretty bad. He studies her momentarily, then to her surprise raises his arm over his head, elbow bent, and with his opposite hand, shows her another wound she hadn’t noticed before on his upper rib, close to his side. Running vertical, the long scratch hadn’t been noticeable before, covered mostly by his massive arm, and though it isn’t deep, it is red. Happy to know that he trusts her, she gets a fresh cotton ball and kneels next to him to begin the healing process.

This time though, the close proximity of the more vulnerable front-side of his body does it’s own number on her as she habitually blows across the wet astringent, and goosebumps flesh out across his skin. She can feel his intense gaze on her this time, and for some reason her actions feel much more intimate than they did before.

As if in a trance, Morgan finishes this wound and follows his finger as he traces out another scrape higher on his opposite pectoral muscle. As she goes through the motions, she becomes lost in the sound of her blood rushing through her body, loud in her ears as the silence between them seems deafening. The feel of his skin under her fingertips is addictive and she doesn’t remember standing to stoop over him, moving up to the next two scrapes he points out along his collarbone.

Her heart pounds relentlessly, as he tilts his head back for her, and even more when his body seems to almost shutter at her breath and touch on his sensitive skin. Finally, when she thinks there’s no more to do, Wahya turns his body to face her so she stands between his legs, his eyes reeling her in as he gazes up into her soul. Moving her own gaze, then her fingers to his cheekbone, where the tiniest of cuts lie, Morgan wills herself to breathe and continue her medical attention on this already healing wound.

Dowsing another cotton ball, she runs her fingertips softly over Wahya’s eyes, closing his lids for the alcohol fumes, and settling her hand on his shoulder. He puts all his faith in her touch, relaxing into her, and she lightly brushes the cotton over his already fading scratch.

She finds herself breathing him in, the fragrance of the body wash and shampoo mingling with his own sensual scent, overpowering her senses. Her focus moves to down from his cheek, landing helplessly on his deliciously full lips, slightly parted and so inviting. Morgan draws closer with each breath as though she were a moth and Wahya the light. The connection between them more intense than any she’s felt for anyone in her entire life.

She can feel his breath on her face as she comes within inches of tasting his lips. The tiny voice of reason inside telling her that she shouldn’t, but...

Suddenly, jolted back to reality, Morgan’s sister’s familiar ringtone blares loudly in the echoing bathroom, and her head snaps up, her hypnotic moment over. Wahya’s hands are somehow firmly planted on either of her hips, and she realizes from his expression, that he had been just as enraptured as she.

Backing out of his easily released grasp, Morgan nervously mutters as she takes the phone out of her pocket, “Uh... I’m so sorry. I didn’t... I have to take this!”

Stepping back further, she taps the screen to answer the call, trying to sound as normal as possible, “Jess! What’s up?”

Morgan smiles tentatively at Wahya, half afraid to look him in the eye. Walking into the bedroom she tries to determine what exactly she was doing with Wahya and where she would have ended up going had her sister not called at this very moment.

“Morgan, I thought you were going to call me after work today!? Remember, we’re planning Dad’s birthday party for next weekend?” Her older sister chides through the phone.

“Ohhh! Yeah...” Morgan runs her hand through her hair.

“And what’d you find out?” Jessica prompts.

“Find out...? About what?”

“Morgan!” Her sister’s frustration is apparent, “About the club house?! Are you busy right now?”

“Uh, no! I’m here. Sorry, I’m just...”

But Jessica interrupts, “Are you even home?”

“Yeah, I’ve been home for a while. Why?” Morgan asks nonchalantly, as she paces.

“Who’s there?”

Jessica’s question makes Morgan’s stomach clench, “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she quickly lies.

“Morgan, you don’t have a guy at your place, do you?!” Jessica asks, before gasping, “Oooh, you do! Who is it?!”

Glancing towards the bathroom door, Morgan cringes. If her overly insightful sister can pick it up over the phone, then she knows she has it bad for him! Jessica was always right about these things, knowing who Morgan liked even before she did ever since they were girls in school.

Her mind wanders back to the moment she just had, and she can’t figure out what it is about Wahya that made her even think about kissing him like that! “I met him less than twelve hours ago and I’m all over him! What the hell!?”

“Look, Jess, I’m a little busy right now. I have a dinner meeting I’ve got to go to and things at work just got really busy today.”

Much to her relief, and before her sister can reply, a small voice pipes up in the background, “Hi Aunt Morgan!”

Morgan smiles, hearing Andy, the eldest of her two nephews before his younger brother, Curtis chimes in, “I wanna talk to Auntie Morgan, too!”

“Boys! Not so loud!” Jessica warns, and Morgan imagines the youngsters clamoring around wherever their mother is sitting.

“Hey buddies!” Morgan greets them before continuing, “Jess, I’ve got to go. Let me talk to you later, okay?”

Jessica laughs lightly, “Okay, whatever you say baby sister! I hope he’s cute and is good to you!”

“Ugh!” Morgan rolls her eyes, hoping her sister would have forgotten about her suspicions already, “I love you, too, Jess! Love to the boys!”

She hangs up before Jessica can say anything else, pocketing her phone again. It’s time to leave for James’ and Samantha’s anyways, and right now she needs to buck up and apologize to Wahya for her rash and completely unbecoming behavior!

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