Chapter 25: And boom! goes the dynamite
Everything hurt. I couldn’t open my eyes, it was like I was in a mental fog. I could hear things, feel things, but they weren’t real to me. It was like I was listening to a radio in the next room, only able to pick up words and phrases. The rest was all noise as I drifted in and out.
“Stay with me, Rose,” a voice said. I could feel movement, my head was in pain from the loud noise. Helicopter, I figured out. I started to struggle, uselessly, my body not obeying me. “Stay still, we’ve got you,” the female voice said.
“Cha… Charlotte,” I said, the sound like I was underwater. She said something, but the waves were taking me away. I felt my stomach roil, suddenly vomit filled my throat. My gut spasmed, I couldn’t breathe. I felt my whole body being rotated, a finger pushing into my mouth, clearing it so I could breathe again.
“GO GO GO,” someone yelled over the sound of the blades. I was put on my back again, bouncing as I went. Every move caused my head to spin, and the waves took me until it all went black again.
The fog started to clear and I could hear again, the helicopter noise was loud and constant. “Female, late thirties, head injury from explosion. BP one sixty over one hundred, pulse ninety, resp twenty five. Pupils unequal, right not reactive. Probably skull fracture above left ear, broken arm, multiple glass lacerations. Unconscious, aspirated prior to transport.” I tried to open my eyes, I got one cracked open but the light hurt it and I closed it again. I could hear the monitor starting to race, that got his attention. “Ma’am, relax, you’re being airlifted to a hospital, we’ll take good care of you.”
I tried to answer, but just then the helicopter tilted and I started feeling the waves washing over me again. He was talking, but I couldn’t understand. My head throbbed, I tried to scream but nothing came out and then the blessed darkness took me again.
“Rose, how could you do this to us?” My Mom sank back in the chair, tears falling down her face.
“I’m sorry,” I said, looking down at the pregnancy test she had found in my garbage can. I didn’t know what else to say. “He said he loved me!”
“Does he know?”
I nodded. “I talked to him at school. He laughed, said it wasn’t mine and told me not to tell him again.”
“Well? Is it his?”
I couldn’t even look at her. “I’m pretty sure…”
“OH LORD HELP ME, MY DAUGHTER IS A WHORE,” she wailed as she put her head on the kitchen table and sobbed.
“Rosalie Ellen, how did any daughter of mine become such a wanton slut she can’t even name the father?” Dad was shaking, his anger was boiling over and that was never good. I looked up, my Mom was moving towards me, her face red with anger. I didn’t figure it out in time, her hand swung to meet the left side of my face. The blow had me seeing stars, and I slid off the chair onto the floor. I scuttled away from them, pulling my legs to my chest and covering my face with my arms as my father approached. “Tomorrow I will take you to the clinic in Madison. You’ll abort this bastard child and we will never speak of this again.”
“NO! I can’t do that to my baby!” I was sobbing uncontrollably now, my hand moving to my still-flat belly.
“You will, or you are no longer our daughter,” he said. “Now go to your room, I’ll wake you up early.”
“It’s us or that thing, Rose,” Mom said softly.
“Mommy? Something is wrong with Grandma.”
My Char was standing by my side of the bed, still in her jammies. I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and looked at the clock. Seven seventeen. I sighed, three hours would be all the sleep I got tonight after night classes and studying half the night. “I’m coming, baby.”
“Her nails are blue, Mom, and she isn’t waking up.” Oh God, give me strength. “Charlotte, I want you to stay in here, watch television while I check on her, all right?” She nodded and jumped up on the bed, taking over the warm spot I’d just left. I turned on the television and handed her the remote. “Stay here until I call you, baby.”
I walked out of my small bedroom, across to the larger one my Grandmother shared with Charlotte. The apartment was tiny, but we couldn’t afford much. She got rental assistance, Social Security and her pension, and without her I’d never be in law school. She watched Char while I went to school at night, and I owed her everything, because she kept my dreams alive.
I turned the light on and my heart sank. She was gone.
I drove up to the suburban Alexandria house, parking on the driveway of the large home. I looked at the clock, it was well past midnight, but I was used to late night calls. I got out of my car, grabbing my briefcase, and looked toward the door.
A man stood there in the light of the front porch, but not just any man, this was a man straight out of my naughty dreams. Tall, heavily muscled with broad shoulders and a narrow waist, a tight-fitting shirt that seemed to be glued to his shifting muscles. I moved my eyes back up to his face; he had short dark hair and a matching beard, a strong jaw, but what caught me was those EYES. They were boring into mine in a good way, it was like a connection had been snapped into place and I was at a loss. I just stood there like an idiot.
So did he.
It seemed like forever before we could close our mouths and move again. I started walking towards him, I was almost shaking. “Hi… I’m Rose. Rose Conspiell, Government Crimes Division of the FBI.” I reached my hand out to his, tingles raced from my hand up my arm as we touched. I started to pull back, but his big hand gripped me tighter.
He smiled, causing me to swoon. “I’m Rico Rodriguez, but everyone calls me Gunny.” I looked down at our hands, trying to figure out the tingles, and why they were now making their way into my chest and down to my sex. He was looking at me like he wanted to throw me over his shoulder and carry me off to his cave, and part of me was hoping he would do that.
Be professional, I told myself as he finally let me go. I had a job to do, and I don’t mix work and pleasure.
He opened the door and I brushed past him. I could swear my body was becoming flushed and excited by his touch, his look. God, this is going to be a long night. Sit where you can’t see him, focus on your work, just get through it.
We walked into the room, and Mr. Walking Sex God took a seat off to the side. I breathed a little easier as the introductions were made, but it was going to be a long night.
“Wake up, love, it’s almost time to check out of this place.”
I opened one eye, blinking against the bright sunlight streaming into the hotel room. His eyes were looking at me with adoration, total acceptance, and it scared the hell out of me. It had been one night and a part of me already wanted to have his babies.
Babies. Shit. “Oh God,” I moaned as I buried my face in the pillow. “We didn’t use protection.” I was beating myself up, wondering how I could conveniently “forget” again. I got up and ran into the bathroom, wincing in pain as my lady parts complained about the sudden moves. I looked in the mirror; I looked like I felt, like I had been loved hard and long by something that was, well, hard and long.
“You’re fine, you’re not in the fertile part of your cycle,” Gunny said from the other room.
“How can you be sure?”
“The nose knows,” he said. “I’m a panther shifter, remember? When you are in the fertile part of your cycle, I won’t want you to leave my bed.”
I shook my head as I looked at the bags under my eyes. “Gunny, you didn’t let me leave the bed most of the night.” A good thing, too. It had been the most amazing sexual experience of my life. I finished up, he was already dressed. “I have to go, I already have to face the walk of shame with my daughter. I’m sure she’s waiting up for me, wondering what is going on.”
“She’s fine, I talked to her an hour ago. She said to tell you to take your time, she’s got a ride to swim practice; I told her we would pick her up and we could all go to lunch.”
I stared at him, not sure whether to kiss or kill him. Who the hell did he think he was, talking to my daughter while I was asleep? He saw my look and held his hands up. “I’m sorry, you were sleeping so soundly, and she texted you asking where you were. I thought it was better to let you sleep. Charlotte’s a wonderful girl, and she doesn’t mind if you get a life too. That’s a quote.”
“I need a shower.” I needed more than that, so he joined me.
Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.
The noise somehow penetrated the fog of my brain. I tried to focus on it, it gave me something to anchor to. I could hear it, as well as a machine that sounded like breathing. In. Out. It was my breathing.
I tried to move, but nothing worked. I couldn’t feel my hands, my arms at all. I focused on my eyes, trying to get them to open. “Get the Doctor, she’s waking up,” I heard someone say.
I finally got my eyes open, but the light was too strong. “Sorry,” the woman said as the lights were dimmed. “Try it now.” I opened my eyes and blinked several times as things came back into focus. “You’re in the intensive care unit, you sustained a serious head injury. Do you understand me?”
I tried to answer, but I couldn’t. I could feel a tube in my mouth, I tried to move it but my tongue didn’t work. “That tube was to help you breathe, we’ll remove it shortly. If you understand, close your eyes and open them. I did. “Good, the doctor is on her way. I’m Cheri, I’m your nurse. Are you in pain? Blink twice if you are.”
I thought about it, I couldn’t feel much of my body but I had a headache on an epic scale. I blinked twice. “All right, we’ll help with that as soon as the doctor finishes her exam.” She brought up the room lights a little just as the door opened.
A balding, short man came in, dressed in a lab coat. “Hello Rose, I’m Doctor Cartwright, I’m the attending neurosurgeon. I was the one who performed the surgery when you arrived.”
My eyes got wide. “Now, since you are awake we can remove this tube. I want you to cough as I remove it, that will help, all right? Nod if you’re ready.” I concentrated, moving my head slightly. I wanted that thing OUT.
It felt like he was pulling my trachea out, I coughed but it still hurt. I took a few deep breaths when it was out, then I looked around. Cheri put a straw in my mouth, and I took a few sips of cold water, that helped. “Weeeeeaaa”
“Just whisper, Rose. Your throat will be sore for a few days from the intubation tube,” the Doc said.
“Where is Charlotte?” I nodded. Cheri looked away, then back to me. “I’ll bring someone to talk to you, she’s been waiting days for you to wake up.”
“Gun… Gun-ny where is Gun-ny.”
“I will bring her in as soon as the doctor is finished, ICU rules allow only one visitor at a time for short periods,” Cheri said.
Doc did a quick exam, pointing a light in my eyes, checking the side of my head as they changed the bandage, and checking my movement. I had woken up enough that I could move and feel again, and he was happy there didn’t seem to be any permanent damage to my motor functions. Then he started on other functions. “Can you tell me your full name?”
“Rose Con… Conspiell.”
“Rose, do you remember how you were injured?”
I thought back, the package, Gunny’s yell of ‘BOMB’ and being pulled out of the house. “Package bomb.” He finished a few more thing, then turned to the nurse. “She can have one visitor, ten minutes, make sure she doesn’t get overly excited.” Yeah right, I thought. Where’s my Gunny, my Char? Why won’t they tell me?
Tears were falling from my eyes as they walked out. I wanted Gunny, I needed my Charlotte here.
My heart dropped in my stomach when Ella walked in. She looked at me and started to cry. I closed my eyes and the tears really started. Why would she be here… unless something really bad had happened!