“I swear to God, Bitty.” My voice thundered inside her sterile hospital room. Angry. At the sound, Maya paused mid-step with her hand shakily holding onto the IV machine. She faced the bathroom—only a few feet away from her final goal, stubborn fucking woman. “Get back in that bed—right now.”
The hospital gown she’d been forced to wear opened a bit with the trembling of her exhausted limbs. Purple, discolored flesh stared back at me, and my ire grew. I knew she was miserable—hated the fact that she, for an undetermined amount of time, depended on her family and friends for the most mundane of things. Tough shit.
“Now!” Her slender body shook, shoulders sagging while she gripped the IV machine tighter. Her knuckles turned white as she leaned a bit of her weight on her left leg. “You have three minutes to get your ass back in that bed before I make you.”
Turning her tired face toward me, her eyes met mine. Those lips I loved to kiss trembled. “Help me.”
My feet carried me toward her before the last syllable passed her lips. Wrapping my arms around her waist, I pulled most of her weight on me. The relief was palpable as she sagged against me.
“What were you thinking, Bitty? You could’ve hurt yourself.” Kissing the top of her head, I breathed her in and once again reminded myself that she was okay and in my arms. Safe. “Why didn’t you call the nurse?”
A tired sigh passed through her pursed lips. “All I wanted was a fucking shower. I feel utterly disgusting, Talan.” Maya took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “And no one that works here came to help.”
With utmost care, I pulled her against me. Closer. Holding her. Trying to give her just a tiny bit of the comfort my girl needed. After a few seconds and a gentle kiss on her lips, I helped her toward the bed and sat her down on the edge. Slowly, keeping in mind that her ribs were very bruised and the gentlest of bumps could bring her enormous amounts of pain, I let her go and stood over her.
With all the love I possessed for this tiny woman, I caged her face in my hands and opened my mouth to rip her a new one. Her watery eyes met mine—my mouth opened and closed several time, but nothing came out.
How could I admonish her with the amount of pure sadness and frustration that seeped out of her every pore? This, her being here, was Janice’s fault and she should be the only person to receive my ire.
“I know I shouldn’t have, but...” A lone tear fell from her eye and she looked away—turned her face toward the wall to my left. My heart broke for her. “All I wanted to do was to clean up. Get some of that night’s smell off me.”
Maya was very independent. Prided herself on being able to take care of herself, and before me, she did it all by herself. But now...
“Hey,” I called out softly, tipping those sad grey eyes back toward my own. “I get it. I’m not mad, baby; I just wish you would’ve called the nurse in to help. You could have been hurt. The doctor told you you’d feel a little dizziness—”
Another tired sigh, but this time her posture turned stiff. Her frustration was mounting. “Did that, but she told me I had to wait until tonight. ‘Doctor’s orders,’” she hissed from between clenched teeth. “Not even a wet rag to wipe my face!”
“Why do you have to wait?” Maya had been awake for two days now. Her last scan had come back clean, just some minor swelling at the site, which was to be expected. She was awake and had responded well to all the testing they’d put her through. This bullshit made no sense.
“Don’t know. Nothing’s being explained to me anymore. Fuck the patient.” Ah. Her anger. Since she’d awoken, it had been a roller coaster ride of emotion: sadness, fear, frustration, and then extreme anger.
“Maya, it’s not like that.”
Her eyes narrowed and her lips thinned out. “Then how the hell is it? Explain it to me?”
“Bitty, I’m sorry…” And just like that, those hard eyes lost their edge and the woman who stood before me crumbled.
“Fuck, baby.” Pulling her into my body, I cradled her shaking form and gave her what she needed. Understanding. Love. Answers.
“When Janice,” I began, only to stop. Saying her filthy fucking name created a reaction within us that was anything but beneficial to her well-being and my mental state. Maya burrowed her head into my neck, hiding from me.
It didn’t work; I heard her sniffle. Felt the small ripple of fear that coursed through her battered body. Everything she was living through broke me in two; we were one. Her pain was my own.
“I love you,” I cooed into her hair before placing a tiny kiss at the crown. More than anything, she needed to know that we would get through this. “Look at me, Bitty.” She shook her head. “Please.”
Pulling back enough so I could see her face, I waited patiently for her to gather herself. Just a few minutes at the most before I touched her again. Before I tried to finish having the conversation we needed to have.
With the tip of my finger, I caressed her cheek before tipping her sad face toward mine. “Please don’t hide from me.” Leaning forward, I rested my forehead against hers—breathed in her every exhale. “I love you,” I repeated once again, this time against her lips. Lips that now pressed themselves against my own with fervor.
“Love you too,” she mumbled, mouth tightly pressed against mine.
“Yeah.” Another kiss. “I’m better, I promise.”
With a brow raised, I stared her down. “Don’t bullshit me.”
This time I got an eye roll and an annoyed huff. At the very least, her sass was still there. “Promise, I am. Now, quit being a pain in my injured ass and talk.”
Women. I bit her lip for the smart-ass remark before talking.
“Baby, when you were brought in, it was bad. We didn’t know anything, just that you were attacked and had lost a lot of blood at the scene.” I had to pause there and rein in my emotions. The resentment I held for the bitch and the piece of shit rich kid that helped her. Irritation with the lack of answers at that point—the fear I dealt with nearly bowled me over.
Maya didn’t need to see that.
Running the tips of my fingers through her loose curls, I found my center again. “It was bad, baby,” I whispered, voice thick with emotion. “You received a hairline fracture on the temporal bone after being hit repeatedly with a wooden—”
“Baseball bat,” she finished for me. “I remember that. I’d been at my car, on my phone with a friend when…”
Nodding, I reached up and, with the gentlest of touches, caressed her bandages. “Seeing you lying in that bed, unconscious, was one of the worst moments of my life. Pure fucking torture, not knowing when you’d wake up or what shape you’d be in. Head trauma, no matter how tiny, is dangerous. And you…fuck, Bitty.”
“Hey,” Maya breathed, wrapping her arms around my neck. The movement caused her to let out a low hiss, but before I could pull her off and check her out, she spoke. “I’m okay.”
It had the opposite effect. I hated those words with a passion.
“Stop. Don’t fucking placate me.”
“I’m not, Talan. Look at me.” Our eyes connected for a few seconds before I looked away and over toward the opposite wall. “I’m not broken. Hurt, yes, but not broken.”
Ignoring her words, I continued to talk as if on auto pilot. “Then, when you opened those beautiful grey eyes and with fear told me it was Janice, I...I want her blood on my hands for what she’s done to you.”
“That’s not a past-tense threat.”
“For as long as my heart beats inside my chest, I will protect you with every single breath I take.”
“I’ve never doubted that, but please, let the cops handle it. She’s not worth you dirtying your hands, baby.” While her pleading broke down my resolve for the briefest of seconds, looking at our surroundings brought it back. I wanted those two assholes dead. “I can see it on your face...no, Talan. Let them handle it.”
“I do.” For now.
“I know,” I replied cockily. “Now…” She let out a tiny giggle when I leaned in close and nipped her chin. “How about that shower?”
“Are we interrupting something?” A tall man dressed in a stained dress shirt addressed us. Next to him stood another man, dressed just the same, but this one had a badge around his neck. No emotions on their face. Stoic. Almost looked bored.
Beside me, Maya fisted my shirt and held on. “Who are they?” she whispered low enough so only I heard. With a subtle shake of my head, I answered her before turning my attention back to the two silent observers in the room.
After laying a kiss on my girl’s forehead, I stood to my full height and appraised them. “Who the hell are you? And why are you in this room?”
“Sorry,” the Hispanic male began, only to be cut off by his partner’s huff.
“Does he have an issue?” Two against one wouldn’t be hard to handle. Fuck that. They were both older than I was, and I had at least a foot on the white male.
Buddy didn’t like my tone and took another step into the room. “Watch the tone.” He glared, but I was unaffected by his type. Yeah, they were cops. Detectives, if I wasn’t wrong. And while I’ve never had an issue with Miami’s finest before, I took offense to his lack of professionalism.
“Baby, please get them out.” At her whispered plea, I turned to look at her. Her face was ashen. The hands fisted in my shirt were trembling and her knuckles white under the exertion.
With one hand, I ran my fingertips through her long hair, caressing her scalp. This kind of bullshit wasn’t healthy for her. What kind of asshole shows up at the victim’s hospital room and scares them?
They eyed our interaction, one with understanding while the other fumed.
“Get the fuck out, and don’t come back until your partner has learned some fucking manners.”
“Sir, let’s try this again. I’m Detective Martinez, and this…” he pointed toward his unhappy friend “…is my partner Detective Gulver. I—”
“We spoke the day of my girlfriend’s attack.” While he hadn’t been a dick to me or us, I wasn’t about to pull out the welcome wagon for either of the two. “Now, mind explaining why the two of you barged in, no knock on the door? Were less than empathetic to what she’s suffered, and how uncomfortable she might feel around people she doesn’t know?”
“Talan, right?” I nodded at Martinez. “We never meant to make the victim uncomfortable. What she’s been through is something every woman fears, and the last thing I want is to hinder her in any way. All we wanted to do is talk to her about the night in question.”
Kneeling down, I became eye level with Bitty. “You up to talking, babe? Or would you rather shower, eat, and then deal with those two? Up to you.”
“That’s not how this works,” Gulver snapped, making my girl squeak.
“Get the fuck out.”
“Talan, Ms. Owens…please, forgive my partner. It’s been a very long day—”
“Get him out.” This time it was Maya that spoke, her voice strong and unwavering. “You, Detective Martinez, are welcomed to come back, but not him. In fact, get someone else to work with you, because I refuse to deal with his kind.”
An annoyed Martinez ran a hand through his short black hair. “Ms. Owens, it isn’t that simple, ma’am. We aren’t the enemy.”
“Yet, you come into my room without permission, and he,” she spat while pointing a dainty finger at a now uncomfortable-looking Gulver, “acts as if we are the criminals. And don’t for a moment think that I haven’t noticed the way he looks at my boyfriend.” At the end of her rant, Bitty was clutching her side, her face showing the distress she was in.
“Enough!” I growled, body partially covering hers from their line of sight. “You’ve upset her.”
“How do you know he isn’t involved? I’ve seen what his type can do,” Gulver mumbled low, just not low enough to not be heard by the two of us.
“How do I know you aren’t a crooked cop?” Maya retorted while trying to stand up. This shit was getting out of hand, and quick.
“Detective Martinez,” I called his name, drawing away his attention from my glaring girlfriend. “Come back in an hour. She needs to shower and eat. Once she is settled, I will call you at whatever number you leave with me.”
“No.” Martinez was taken aback by the animosity in my tone. Enough of this bullshit. “He isn’t allowed back until he learns a modicum of professionalism. What he is doing is called both antagonizing and profiling…I know my rights.” Nodding, Martinez walked up to me and handed me a small card with his information on it.
Then, he turned toward my Bitty and smiled down at her. “I’m truly sorry that this is how our first meeting went. I know that I speak for both my partner and myself when I say we are very happy to see you awake and doing well.”
“I’ll call you once she is done.”
Nodding, he turned toward his partner and waved him forward. Just as Gulver had put his hand on the handle, it was pushed open by Maya’s flustered daytime nurse, Miranda. She’d been amazing in her care for my girl. Easily in her fifties and with a bit of grey hair, she was a little plump and sassy—funny and a hard-ass at once. Perfect to handle my Bitty.
“What’s going on in here?” Her eyes traveled from my girl’s angry red face, to mine, and then finally toward the cops who stood to her left. Angry, and with her hand on her hip, she spoke again. “Why’s my patient’s blood pressure through the roof?” The question was directed toward them.
“They were just leaving.”
Miranda eyed them with annoyance clear on her face. “I believe I told you that she wouldn’t be ready to speak with you until after she was given the all clear. What part of ‘head trauma’ and ‘is under strict orders to not be upset in any way,’ did you not understand?”
Gulver stepped forward, palms up, while he spoke to her. “It’s important that we speak to the victim of the crime as soon as they are conscious. So much information is still fresh—”
“Knock it off, Detective. You and I both know the procedure…not my first merry-go-round. If the doctor or I say that you need to wait, you wait until the patient is physically and mentally prepared to do so. Their well-being should be top priority.”
“We understand, but she has—”
“She,” Maya sneered at them, hand clutching mine in a tight grip, “is right here, and would appreciate it if you would stop speaking about her as if she has no say in the matter.” The machine beside her beeped, and all eyes inside the room shifted. Her blood pressure was rising, and rapidly.
Fuck this. “We will speak to you after I get her cleaned up and she has eaten, and not a second sooner. Janice and Brian won’t disappear while she takes care of her needs.”
“So you know who attacked her? How?” Again, Gulver with his shit. He’s more than lucky to have that badge protecting him.
“For fuck’s sake,” Maya growled out in warning, pushing against the hand I had on her shoulder keeping her in place. “I told him the second I woke up…now get out!”
“Ms. Owens—” This time Martinez stepped forward. Done. They’d pushed my girl too far and I was ready to deck the motherfucker, consequences be damned. His eyes met mine and widened, my ire growing with each second that passed.
Before I could move or say another word, Maya’s nurse stepped in. “Leave, or I will report you for harassing my patient and her fiancé.”
“We’re just trying to do our jobs.”
“I’m sorry,” Martinez interjected, voice contrite. “We never meant for this to escalate or upset Ms. Owens. Talan,” he called out, and I nodded, “please call me when she’s ready. Let’s go.” With that, he turned and pulled a now quiet Gulver toward the door. Without another word the two exited the room, leaving us alone with her nurse.
“Assholes couldn’t wait a few hours,” Miranda mumbled and I laughed, breaking a bit of the tension inside the hospital room. Craziness followed me everywhere.
“Agreed.” Turning toward my girl, I leaned down until we were at eye level. This was the perfect example of a moment where my anger had to be tamed and her needs put first. “Can you try and calm down for me? Breathe in and out. I’m here, and I’m not leaving.” Bitty gifted me one of her pretty smiles. “Good girl.” And then I got an eye roll and a weak slap on the arm.
“Honey, you are screwed,” came from Miranda over by the two monitors next to the bed, watching as the numbers of Maya’s blood pressure began to drop. My own anxiousness seemed to evaporate as Maya calmed down.
“Who’s ‘honey’?” I had to ask. Curiosity was a bitch.
“Applies to the both of you.” She snickered and continued to write her reading on Maya’s chart. Women.
“Hey, Miranda?” Maya called out after a few minutes of silence, gaining her attention. “Can you unplug me from the machines? I want to get cleaned up.”
“Maya, I told you—”
“I won’t let anything happen to her.” At my interjection she huffed, but after a few speculative minutes, she nodded.
“Get me fired, and you’ll be maintaining me for the rest of my life.”
I waved her on. “Duly noted.”
“You two are adorable yet sickeningly sweet. How’s that even possible?”
“Thank you, Miranda…now unplug me, woman.” Bitty ignored her, choosing instead to focus her attention toward the matter at hand.
“You heard the patient.” Had to add my two cents.
“Impatient little… You both better behave.”