Leap of Faith
Waking in the hospital, I jolt upright in bed. It’s only Liam’s presence there that keeps me from boiling over into full blown panic.
“Hey,” he soothes, laying a hand on my leg, “Haven, it’s alright. I’ve got you.”
“Is Tommy alright?” I ask, clearing away the last of the fog from my mind. My shoulder is on fire, my throat sore, and voice ragged.
“Tommy’s fine,” he says. “He ran into the royal guard when they were already on the way to the estate. Once we realized you were both gone, I knew she had to be behind it. We were already headed to rescue you.”
Swallowing, I wince. Motioning toward a pink plastic cup, I ask, “Can you help me?”
He takes the water cup and gently sets the straw in my mouth, holding it as I drink. My left arm is in a sling, thought it takes me another moment to remember why.
“Kato shot me,” I grumble.
“And so you decided to do a swan dive off the building?” his tone is sharp, his face flushed. “I watched you fall, Haven. I heard a gunshot and I looked up and you were falling with your eyes closed. I thought you were dead. Then you hit the water—and you didn’t come up.”
“You jumped in after me,” I say, suppressing a smile. “You saved my life. I was drowning.”
“You did drown. When I pulled you out, you weren’t breathing. I’ve never been so afraid in my entire life. If I’d lost you,” his expression changes, his eyes bloodshot and red with dark circles below. “Haven,” he whispers my name, his lips pressing into a thin line, as if fighting to say more but his lips won’t allow it.
Beside me, one of the machines beeps, and I look over, seeing it attached to my IV pump.
“What’s that?” I ask, warmth flooding through my veins.
“They put your pain meds on a timer,” he says, shaking his head. “Saved by the bell.”
I frown, not understanding. “You’ve been here the whole time?”
He nods. Reaching down I take his hand in mine.
“I heard you,” I say. “Under the water. I heard you telling me to swim, not to give up.”
“It’s just the meds talking,” he says, giving my hand a squeeze.
“No,” I protest. “I heard you. Like you were right beside me. You told me to fight, to breathe. You wouldn’t let me go.”
He closed the distance between us, his hand still in mine as he lowers himself over me, kissing me gently on the forehead. “Thank you for listening, thank you for coming back to me.”
“Will you stay?” I ask, already the sides of my vision grow hazy.
I want to say more, I want to ask what happened to Kato and Genevieve, I want to know if Aiden is alright, if he knows I’m safe. But the words won’t come. I don’t fall asleep, not really, I just sort of hover on the edge of consciousness, refusing to surrender to the rest I know I need.
Liam stays, never letting go of my hand. Eventually Aiden comes. I want to shake free of the fog, I want to throw myself into his arms, but I can’t. I can only lay there, unmoving as the drugs hold me under.
“How is she?” Aiden asks, coming to my side. I feel him run his hand along the side of my face gently, as if he’s afraid I might break.
“She’s in and out, mostly out. They gave her a lot of pain medicine.” Liam finally releases me and I try to reach for him again but still can’t.
“That’s good, at least. I hate the thought of her being in pain,” Aiden whispers.
“She’ll be fine, she’s tough. I spoke to the surgeon who removed the bullet. He says she got really lucky and the damage is mostly superficial, except for the soft tissue and a nick off her clavicle where it went through, it will barely even leave a scar.”
Aiden sighs, “One more scar she shouldn’t have to carry. And this one is my fault.”
Liam’s tone changes, now he’s angry, “Unless you pulled the trigger, there’s no way this is your fault.”
“I brought her here,” he says. “I put her in harm’s way. I may as well have painted a target on her back.”
“Point of fact, I brought her here. So, if anyone is to blame for that, it’s me.”
Now Aiden’s voice is the one tinged with barely contained rage, “What good is being a King if I can’t protect her? If I can’t keep the one person who means more to me than anything else in the world safe?”
“She’s safe,” Liam says. “Look at her, she’s fine.”
“She’s in a hospital with a hole in her shoulder. That’s far from fine.”
“I think she would disagree.”
I struggle harder, trying to swim to the surface of consciousness. I want to speak, want to let them know how I feel. But it’s just out of reach.
“She’d have been better off if she’d stayed in New York. I’ve caused her so much pain. I’m afraid,” his voice drops to a whisper. “I have to let her go, Liam. But I don’t know how.”
No! I scream inside, beating against the inside of my own head until I finally find the strength to blink, turning my head to look at Aiden, who is watching me with concern etched in his features. Licking my lips, I swallow a dry lump in my throat.
“Don’t you dare,” I manage hoarsely.
Aiden’s expression softens. “I thought you were sleeping.”
I frown, “Who can sleep with you two yammering on in my room?”
“We’ll take it outside, I’m sorry,” Aiden says, kissing me again.
“No,” I say again, this time out loud. “You don’t get to do that. You don’t get to push me away, Aiden. Don’t even try it.”
He takes my hands, “I almost lost you today.”
“Yeah, and guess what, that’s life. Now quit being stupid and come lay with me so I can sleep.”
“Haven,” Aiden begins.
“Don’t fight with me on this. I got shot today and I’m sore and tired and cranky.”
“Told you,” Liam says, crossing his arms over his chest.
With a resigned sigh, he nods. I scoot to the edge of the bed, patting it for him to join me.
“Just hold me,” I order. “Just don’t let me go.”
“As you wish,” he says, settling in beside me and taking me gently in his arms.
“I’ll leave you to it,” Liam says.
“Hey Liam,” I call after him. “Thanks for not letting me die.”
“Anytime,” he says. “Not really, though. Don’t ever do that again.”
“I mean, I’ll do my best.”
Once he’s gone, I settle into the warmth of Aiden’s embrace. I practically whimper. “Please don’t send me away.”
He kisses my lips tenderly, “I couldn’t live without you if I wanted to.”
I want to believe him, but there’s a sadness in his voice that worries me, A resigned tone that threatens to break my heart.
“Rest now,” he orders. “I’m not going to let anyone hurt you ever again.”