“Don’t open the door,” Noah says. “I’m going to call the police.”
“No, please don’t,” I say. “He does this sometimes, but… he’s harmless. I don’t want him to get arrested because of me.”
Noah stares at me. “You let him get away with this shit?”
“Look, I’ll just…” I stand up from the table. “I’ll get rid of him. It’s fine. Just don’t provoke him and he’ll go away.”
“Bailey!” Noah yells as I stride over to the front door. But he doesn’t know Theo. I do. He needs to be soothed and then he’ll go away. He’s never been physically violent with me—he’s never hit me. He’s not that kind of person.
I throw open the front door and Theo is standing there, his long hair and clothing disheveled. He smells like beer. Obviously he’s been drinking and it occurs to me now that he must have driven here drunk. The thought of it makes my stomach turn.
“Bailey.” He sways in my direction, and I take a step back. “We need to talk.”
“We can talk tomorrow,” I say calmly. “When you haven’t been drinking.”
“All I had is two beers,” Theo says. Ha.
“I told you,” I say. “Go get a hotel and sleep it off, and we’ll talk tomorrow. I’ll call a cab.”
I try to lead him out to the patio, but he won’t budge. “I want to talk to you now,” he insists. He takes a deep breath. “Bailey, this whole thing is fucked up. You going off to Maryland without me. Fucking some loser jock. This isn’t right.”
“Okay.” I’m still trying to keep my calm. At least Theo isn’t shouting. “I promise you, we’ll talk about all that tomorrow.”
Theo is swaying at the door, but he’s still not budging. I wrack my brain, trying to think what I can do to get him out of here when Noah wheels up to us, his blue eyes full of rage. “Listen, buddy,” he says. “Bailey’s asking you nicely to go. You need to leave.”
Theo looks down at Noah. I can see his drunken brain trying to process that the fit young guy he saw earlier is now sitting in a wheelchair. He takes in Noah’s lack of legs, his eyes slowly widening.
“Holy shit,” Theo says. “You’re that asshole from earlier who’s sleeping with my wife.” He looks up at me. “Bailey, you’re really fucking him?”
“I’m not fucking anyone,” I say, which is the painful truth. “His mother is marrying my father, and that’s why I’ve been staying here this week. So we can all get to know each other.”
“Jesus Christ…” Theo looks between the two of us for a moment, then bursts out laughing. “Oh man, I really thought that you were fucking a guy with no legs, Bailey. I was out of my mind with jealousy… over him.”
I can see Noah’s eyes darken, but he backs away from us and doesn’t say a word. I’m itching to defend Noah, but there’s no point. Theo is drunk. I can’t talk to him when he’s like this. The best thing to do is get him in a cab and send him to a cheap motel to spend the night.
“Now that we’ve got that sorted out,” I say, “I’m going to call you that cab.”
At first it seems like he might go willingly, but then Theo shakes his head. “No, Bailey. Look, this whole thing has made me realize I still have feelings for you. I’m not ready for our marriage to be over.”
“Our marriage is over,” I point out. “We’re divorced.”
Theo reaches out to take my hand, but I pull away. “Come on, Bailey. I know you still have feelings for me too. And we’ve got Lily to think about.”
He must be drunker than I thought if he really thinks I’d consider taking him back after all the shit he put me through. This is just what I want—a husband who can’t pay the bills, who gets drunk every weekend, who drives drunk, who leaves me hanging on a moment’s notice. There was a time when I might have forgiven Theo, when I might have believed he could reform, but not now. It’s far too late.
“I’m sorry, Theo,” I say. “I really need you to leave.”
This is the time when Theo usually takes off to find another girl he can hook up with, but right now, he isn’t budging. Maybe because out here, he doesn’t have his usual list of ladies lined up to take my place. Or maybe he really has had a change of heart about us. Either way, I want him out of here.
“Bailey…” He tries to take my hand again, but when I pull away, he grabs my arm instead. “Please, let’s just talk about this.”
I try to shrug him off, but he’s got a death grip. Noah’s been quiet in the background, letting me deal with this, but when he sees Theo touching me, he wheels right up to us. He keeps his fists on his wheels.
“You need to let go of her right now,” Noah growls. “And then get off my property.”
Theo blinks at Noah as if he’d forgotten he was there. “Excuse me, but this is my wife, and I’ll do whatever I want.”
“Ex-wife,” I correct him as I successfully twist my arm out of his grasp.
Noah wheels closer, right up to Theo. “Get out. Now.”
My heart is thudding in my chest. I can’t believe this is happening. I’m sure if Theo were sober or Noah had his prosthetics on, Theo would be doing the logical thing and making himself scarce. But he’s still not budging.
“Fuck off,” Theo spits at Noah. “This is none of your business, man.”
“It’s happening in my house, so it’s my business,” Noah retorts.
“Don’t make me hit a guy in a wheelchair,” Theo says. “Because you’re being an asshole right now.”
Noah snorts. “Yeah, like you’d have any chance of taking me down.”
I’ve never seen Theo throw a punch before, but there have been a couple of times he’s come home bruised and bloody after a fight broke out at a bar. Somewhere he’d been playing a set or maybe somewhere he’d been hanging out. I never saw the other guy, but Theo always looked bad. I got the sense he wasn’t excited about starting fights.
But he must have had more to drink than I thought, because Theo’s fist flies through the air, aimed at Noah. Noah doesn’t seem the least bit surprised, and he’s ready for it. He catches Theo’s fist easily in his left hand, pulls him forward, and buries his fist in Theo’s gut. Theo doubles over, gasping for air. I remember Noah hit that guy Derek the same way, but it looks like he hit Theo a lot harder. Theo actually crumbles to the ground, clutching his belly.
“If you get out of here now,” Noah says, “I’ll spare you the humiliation of getting your ass kicked in front of Bailey.”
Theo looks up at Noah with watery eyes. He looks back at me, as if in appeal, but I just shake my head. I watch as he literally crawls back out the front door. He limps out to his car and climbs inside, and that’s when Noah slams the front door shut.
“I’m calling the cops,” he says. “He’s drunk and I don’t want him driving around here.”
There’s no point in pleading Theo’s case. I don’t want Theo driving around drunk either.
Noah makes the call while I go sit on the sofa, trying to process what just happened. My hands won’t stop shaking. I look at my arm where Theo was grabbing me, and I could see red marks he left behind.
“I wanted to fucking kill him.” Noah wheels up in front of me. I can still see the anger in his eyes. “It took a lot of self-restraint to let him walk out of here.”
I lift my own eyes to look at Noah. “Thanks for helping me.”
“No problem,” he says. “I always do, don’t I?”
We stare at each other. It’s like the moment earlier today in the water, but now we’re alone, with nobody watching us. I’m not sure who leans forward first, but a second later, my lips are pressed against Noah’s, and his arms are around me pulling me closer to him. It’s been ten years since I kissed Noah Walsh, but it almost feels like not even a day has passed. It’s like coming home.
“I missed you so much,” I whisper when we separate briefly for air.
Noah doesn’t say he missed me too. He just kisses me again, which is also nice. In the ten years since we broke up, I’ve never met a guy who could kiss like Noah. Not even Theo could compare.
“Hang on,” Noah says as we separate again. “Let me get on the couch.”
He puts his fist on the couch, and transfers his body over in one quick movement. He smooths out his shorts over his stumps then we go back to kissing again. My fingers slide under his T-shirt, feeling the smooth skin on his back, and I can feel him fumbling with the hook on my bra. This is getting steamy really fast.
As Noah shifts, I feel the stump of his leg poke me in my own leg. It startles me, and I pull away from him. I look down at his leg that just poked me.
“What’s wrong?” he says.
“Nothing,” I say quickly.
But he figures out what just happened. He looks down at the remains of his legs, then back up at my face. “You don’t have to do this, Bailey. I know you’re grateful but…”
“I want to do this,” I say. I try to take his hand in mine, but he pulls away.
“We both know how you really feel,” he reminds me. “You made it really clear ten years ago, didn’t you? So… let’s just… pretend this didn’t happen.”
I grit my teeth. “Noah, please stop it. I wouldn’t be kissing you if I didn’t want to.”
“You can see why I find that hard to believe.”
“I don’t, actually.” I frown at him. “Everything that happened… that was… well, you know… that was a long time ago. I was still in shock. You said yourself that most women are… okay with it.”
“Are you kidding me?” His voice raises several notches and I’m starting to worry that Gwen and my father might hear him. “You think most women are okay with me not having legs? I was exaggerating. Most women flip their shit when they find out.”
“Well, what about that woman you went out with last night?” I say.
He shakes his head at me. “Yeah, that was great. An awkward dinner, then she wouldn’t even kiss me good night. I drove around for two hours after, feeling like shit—that’s why I got home so late.”
“Noah…” I reach out to touch his shoulder but he swats me away.
“Please,” he says. “The last thing I want is your pity.” He rakes a hand through his short, dark blond hair. “Look, it’s not your fault. I’m not mad at you anymore. This is just… the situation.”
He leans over to transfer back into his wheelchair. I watch the muscles in his chest and arms tighten as he lifts his entire body, and my whole body tingles. God, he’s freaking sexy. How could he accuse me of not wanting him?
Well, aside from the fact that I snuck out of his apartment ten years ago, leaving behind my engagement ring. But that’s not fair. I was still in shock about the whole thing then, and I was dealing with my mother’s illness. And I was a kid. It was a lot for me to deal with. If it happened now, I never would have behaved that way.
“I swear to you, Noah,” I say. “I’m not faking anything.”
He shakes his head at me. “Stop. Please. I mean it.”
He pushes his palms against the wheels of his chair until he’s left the room. I want to burst into tears with frustration. As much as I want him, there’s nothing I can say to convince him of that.
Things are quiet today, like we were all drinking too much and now we’ve got a collective hangover. I stay in the bedroom as long as possible, and when I come out, Lily is playing on the floor of the living room. I glance out the window and see Noah is sitting on the patio in his wheelchair, reading a book.
“Did Noah say anything to you before he went out?” I ask Lily.
She shrugs. “I told him I wanted to go explore, but he said that I should ask you. He said he was too tired.”
Too tired. Noah has had boundless energy during this trip, but suddenly he’s tired.
“Okay,” I say. “Go put on your sneakers and we’ll go explore together.”
We both put on unintentionally matching outfits of blue jean shorts and light purple shirts. Now I’ve become one of those women who dresses her kid just like herself. I hate women like that.
When Noah sees how the two of us are dressed, a flicker of amusement flitters across his face, but it quickly fades. He goes back to the book he’s reading, which isn’t even a real book. It’s something medical.
“We’re going for a walk,” I tell him.
He puts the book down on his lap and hesitates, his hands on the wheels of his chair, like he’s thinking about going with us. “Don’t go too far down the right bank of the river. There’s poison ivy down there.”
Poison ivy? What the hell? I didn’t know that was a possibility around here.
“Um, okay, we’ll just go to the left,” I say, scratching subconsciously at my calf.
His brow furrows. “You know what poison ivy looks like, right?”
I stare at him blankly. What in our history would lead him to believe I know what poison ivy looks like?
Noah sighs. “They’re usually green this time of year and they look a lot like oak leaves.” Whatever those look like. “They usually have three broad leaves.”
“Leaves of three, let it be!” Lily bursts out.
I laugh. “Where did you learn that?”
“Noah taught me the other day,” she says in a way that makes me feel silly for having asked, as if there was any other way she could obtain information. “Noah, are you coming with us?”
It looks like she’s over the trauma of seeing him without his prosthetics on. She doesn’t seem at all bothered by the sight of his abbreviated thighs underneath his shorts.
“Uh, I think I’m going to pass,” Noah says.
“But if you come, then if I get tired, you can give me a ride on your chair,” she points out.
That comment makes Noah smile. “I think your mom is going to have to carry you.”
Yeah, right. Lily weighs over fifty pounds—I can barely lift her, much less carry her any meaningful distance. He must think I’m somebody who swims five miles three times a week. And God knows what else he does the rest of the week.
I head off with Lily in the direction of the lake. I figure if we follow the bank, then we’re less likely to be lost forever. I head to the left (he said left, right?) so that we avoid the poison ivy. I’m hoping Lily doesn’t ask me to identify any insects or plants or anything natural. If she does, I’ll have to make it up. Most bugs are beetles anyway, right?
When we get to the lake, I pick up a flat stone. “You know, you can skim stones along the water.”
“What’s skimming stones?” Lily asks.
During my junior year of college, Noah drove us out to a lake for a picnic and that’s where he showed me how to skim a stone. “I can’t believe you’re twenty years old and you’ve never done this before,” he said.
“So teach me,” I said.
“The trick is to pick the perfect stone. It should be as flat, smooth, and circular as possible.”
We searched on the shore to find the perfect stone. He rejected three of my choices as “ridiculous” before approving the fourth stone.
“Now you want your throw to be low—as close to parallel with the water as you can get without actually being parallel,” he said. He demonstrated as he tossed his stone at the water and it bounced five times before sinking. “And you’ve got to have spin on it.”
Getting a stone to skip along the water ended up being even harder than picking the perfect stone. I tried stone after stone, but each of them hit the water and sank. When I finally got one to skim the water, I was jumping around and yelling like an idiot. Noah laughed and kissed me until I forgot all about those stupid stones. Until today.
“So you’ve got to pick a stone that’s flat and round,” I tell Lily, as Noah told me.
“Like this?” She holds up a giant rock.
“No,” I say patiently. I sift along the stones by the water until I find one that looks appropriate. “Flat and round and not too big. Like this.”
I bend down to be level with the water and toss the stone. It sinks immediately. Damn it.
“What’s it supposed to do?” Lily asks.
“It’s supposed to bounce.”
“It didn’t do that.”
“Yes, I know.”
I try again with another half dozen stones until Lily gets bored. “You’re really bad at this, Mommy,” she says. Thanks, sweetie.
We walk along the water and point out the boats going by. Lily is skipping along the water, swinging her arms next to her. “I hope we get to go out on the boat again,” she comments.
“Me too,” I say, “but I’m not sure we will.”
I think of the look on Noah’s face last night when I jerked away from him. Why did I do that? I was just startled—it was an automatic reaction. “I don’t know. We have to go back home soon.”
Lily frowns in disappointment, but goes back to skipping. I wish I could live in the moment the way she does. That’s the best thing about kids. They can be devastated about something in one minute, then forget all about it the next. Adults can’t do that. I can’t stop thinking about how Noah feels about me. I can’t just enjoy this beautiful day with my daughter, even though I’m trying.
Lily is skipping along when I see her foot catch on a rock. She quickly goes sprawling across the sand. Of course, she’s still small enough that she can fall without significant injury. But she’s on the floor wailing like somebody just stabbed her.
“It huuuuuurrrrrrts, Mommy!” she sobs as she clutches her leg.
“It’s okay.” I give her a hug, but then I notice that my hand comes away dark red. That’s when I noticed the dark red rivulets dripping down my daughter’s shin. Oh my God, Lily is bleeding. A lot. “You scraped yourself?”
“That rock cut me!” Lily glares at the offending rock.
Lily is clutching her injured knee protectively. I know that I should take a look at it, but she won’t let me, and the truth is, it’s probably for the best. I’m just as squeamish as I ever was. I need to keep my wits about me to get the two of us home.
Thankfully, we haven’t gone far. I can still see the cabin from where we’re crouched on the ground. But I have a bad feeling Lily can’t walk. I’m going to have to carry her.
“All right.” I brace myself. “Lily, grab onto my neck.”
She holds onto my neck and I heave her butt into the air. She’s clinging to me, so that’s making it easier to carry her. I just need to try not to think about all the blood dripping down her leg and likely staining my jean shorts.
The first two minutes of carrying Lily aren’t so bad. The next two minutes are uncomfortable. The rest of the way is complete agony. I am so out of shape. By the time I get to the cabin, Lily might as well weigh a thousand pounds. My arms are rubber.
I see Noah has put his prosthetics on and he’s climbing into his car. If he drives away, I’m toast. “Noah!” I yell.
He hears me, thank God. I let Lily slip out of my arms just as he’s walking over. I see his eyes widen at the sight of her bleeding right leg.
“That was quite a nature walk,” he comments.
Lily bursts into tears all over again. “It hurts so much!” she wails.
Noah looks like he’s contemplating picking her up but decides against it. He reaches out his hand to hers and she takes it. “Let’s get in the house,” he says. “I’ve got my first aid kit and I’ll get you patched up.”
Noah and his first aid kits. They do come in handy an awful lot, though.
Lily limps into the house and sits down on the sofa. She’s still got her hand covering her right knee protectively. Noah sits down on the couch beside her with his box of supplies.
“Lily,” he says gently. “I know it’s hurting a lot, but I’ve got to see it. I promise I’ll get the whole thing bandaged up and it won’t hurt anymore.”
Her lower lip trembles, but she very, very slowly removes her hand from her right knee. And oh my God, it looks bad. I knew it was bleeding a lot, but I didn’t expect a gash like that. It’s so big and bloody and…
“Oh shit!” I hear Noah yell. I feel his arms catching me seconds before I hit the floor. I don’t entirely pass out, but my legs feel as rubbery as my arms and I can’t see because of all the spots in front of my eyes. He lowers me carefully onto the couch beside him and I lean my head against the pillows. After a second, my vision seems to clear but I still feel dizzy.
Noah looks between the two of us. “I don’t know who to treat first.”
“I’m fine,” I say, feeling extremely foolish. “Help Lily.”
I listen to him talking to her gently as he patches up her knee. They must love him in the ER—he’s so kind and patient with her. I hear him telling her that she doesn’t need stitches (thank God) and assuring her that the bleeding is already stopping. He applies some antiseptic ointment and then puts on a bandage.
“All better!” Noah declares.
I manage to sit up enough to see Lily beaming at him. She hops off the couch and skips off to her room, apparently entirely healed. That’s what I’m talking about—living in the moment.
Noah turns to look at me. “And how’s Mommy doing?”
“I’ll be fine.”
He raises his eyebrows at me. “I thought you’d have outgrown that by now.”
I glare at him. “Well, I haven’t.”
“Well,” he says, “it sure brought back memories.”
We look at each other. I start to lean forward as if to kiss him, but he shakes his head and pulls away.
I bite my lip. “Thank you for your help with Lily.”
He nods. “It’s fine.” He glances at the door. “I’m going out for a while.”
“I’ll see you later.” He rises to his feet, no longer looking at me. “I’ll get more ice cream, okay?”
“Okay,” I say in a small voice.
And then he’s gone.
I wake up in the middle of the night in agony.
Lily’s feet are in my face, so there’s that. But also, a muscle in my neck has gone into horrible spasm. I literally cannot turn my head to the right without pain so bad that I see stars. It’s knife-through-the-skin kind of pain.
I look at my watch. Three in the morning. Great.
I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced pain this horrible before. Yes, I’ve experienced childbirth, but to be honest, that wasn’t that bad. I had a C-section and couldn’t feel my lower body the whole time.
I sit up in bed, hoping if I reposition, I might feel better. I don’t. My neck is still extremely painful. It’s so bad, I want to throw up.
I get out of bed and walk around the cabin. I can’t see any way I’ll be able to sleep with this going on. Maybe I need to go to the hospital.
When I’m by the door to Noah’s bedroom, I pause. It’s three in the morning and it would be really rude to wake him up. He was friendly to me today, but subdued. There was no flirting or teasing like there had been before our kiss. But every time I’ve ever been hurting or in pain, Noah has helped me. And he is a doctor.
Before I can stop myself, I’m knocking on his door.
After a few seconds, I hear him call, “Yeah?”
“It’s Bailey. Can I come in?”
When he answers in the affirmative, I enter his room. I see him fumbling with the lamp next to his bed, and when it turns on and I can see him more clearly, it’s a rush of déjà vu. I’ve seen Noah hundreds of times in the middle of the night looking just like this—eyes bleary with sleep, hair tousled, wearing an old, wrinkled T-shirt. But just like in the hospital, I can see that the blankets now end abruptly where his legs were cut off.
“What’s wrong?” Noah asks, pushing himself up into a sitting position. “Everything okay with Lily?”
“No, it’s…” I wince with pain. “My neck. It’s killing me.”
“Well, you did carry a fifty-pound kid all the way from the lake,” he points out. “And you’re not really in shape.”
I glare at him. “Gee, thanks.”
I rub at my sore neck. “It really hurts, Noah. Like, a lot. I can’t even move my head.”
“Okay.” He pulls the covers off and I can see that he’s wearing just his boxers below the belt. He scoots to the edge of the bed. “Let Dr. Walsh have a look.”
I sit down next to him on the bed, partially turned to face him. He places his fingers gently on the place where my neck meets my shoulder and I practically scream with pain. He raises his eyebrows. “I guess I don’t have to ask if that’s tender.”
My eyes are tearing up. “God, it hurts so much.”
“Can you rotate your head?” he asks.
He demonstrates the normal way a person should be able to move their head forward, backward and to the sides. All the directions hurt a little, but when I try to turn my head to the right, it literally feels like I’m being stabbed with a thousand knives.
“What’s wrong with me?” I wipe my eyes, which are now actively watering from pain.
“Your upper trapezius is in spasm,” he explains. “Muscle spasms can be extremely painful and debilitating.”
“So what do I do?”
He hesitates. “I’ve got a muscle relaxant you can take. It’s… mine. And I’ve got some ibuprofen in the bathroom.”
Noah digs around in the dresser next to his bed and pulls out a small bottle of pills. He shakes one out and hands it to me.
“Just one?” I ask.
He shakes the bottle. “You’ve never had this before. One is going to knock you out, okay? We don’t need to put you in a coma.” He jerks his head in the direction of the bathroom. “There’s ibuprofen in the medicine cabinet. They’re regular strength, so take four of them.”
“Four?” I say. “Isn’t that a lot?”
Noah gives me a look. “Are you intentionally trying to question everything I tell you to do? Who’s the doctor here who sees twenty-thousand people with neck and back pain every year?”
Fair enough. I go to the bathroom, where I swallow the muscle relaxant, along with four tablets from his bottle of ibuprofen, even though the instructions say very clearly not to take more than two at a time. While in the bathroom, I notice that my hair is sticking up everywhere in an excellent impression of the Bride of Frankenstein. Oh well. I don’t even care anymore—I just want the pain to go away.
I come back to Noah’s room. He’s sitting up in bed, waiting for me. I sit down beside him. “It still hurts,” I report.
“Well, what do you expect? You swallowed those pills one minute ago. It’s not like I injected them directly into your vein.”
“This sucks,” I mumble. “It just hurts so much.”
Noah looks at me for a minute. Finally, he says, “Turn around.”
I turn to the side so that my back is facing him. After a moment, I feel his fingers on my shoulders. He’s not applying any real pressure, but gently rubbing the area. At first it’s uncomfortable, but as he slowly and patiently works his way deeper, my muscles start to melt.
“Wow, this really helps,” I comment. “Is this what you do for patients?”
“Patients?” He laughs. “No, not patients. Not if I want to keep my medical license.”
I don’t know if it’s the medications or the massage, but the pain has eased up considerably. Enough that I can pull away and turn back to face him again. “Thank you for that,” I say. I reach over and put my hand on top of his.
Noah gives me a wary look. I smile at him, but suddenly, I feel incredibly sleepy. I mean, really sleepy. So tired that I lie down on Noah’s bed, resting my head on his pillow, without even asking if it’s okay.
“Um,” Noah says. “What do you think you’re doing?”
God, I’m tired. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this tired before.
“Well,” he says, “maybe you should go back to your bedroom.”
I should. I definitely should. But damn, am I tired.
I shut my eyes for just a second, enjoying the softness of Noah’s bed. His bed is so soft and comfy. It’s like five times more comfy than my bed. Maybe ten times more.
“Bailey.” I feel him shaking my shoulder. “I think the muscle relaxant I gave you is knocking you out. I probably shouldn’t have given you the whole pill.”
“I love the whole pill.”
He rolls his eyes. “I’m sure you do. Listen, you’ve got to go back to your room.”
Back to my room! He’s crazy! How can I go back to my room when I can’t even lift my head? And I’m not kidding. I literally cannot lift my head. It must weigh a thousand pounds. How do people walk around all day with their heads on their shoulders when heads are so heavy? The head should be on the feet. That would make so much more sense.
“Too tired,” I mumble into the pillow.
“I know you’re tired, but you can’t spend the night in my bed.”
Noah looks frustrated. He’s got that pouty look on his face that he always gets when he’s frustrated. He’s so freaking cute right now. How did I ever let go of someone this cute?
“Our parents wake up really early,” he reminds me. “If you spend the night here, they’re going to know it. And Lily will probably wake up and be freaked out that you’re gone.”
“Don’t care,” I tell the pillow.
Do I care? My father finding out I just slept with his fiancée’s son seems like something I would care about. Except I really don’t. All I care about is never moving from this glorious bed. I want to live here. Lily will have to have her wedding in this room because I will never leave this bed. This is the best bed there ever was. And I am sooooo tired.
“Bailey…” Noah drops his head down to the pillow so he can look me in the eyes. He has such gosh-darn nice blue eyes. So nice. God, I miss him. “Please get up. Come on.”
How could I have walked out on him? What was I thinking? There’s nobody out there like Noah. Nobody. I could look a million years and he’d be the only one.
How could he have though I didn’t find him sexy? He’s just as sexy now as he ever was. And I’m going to prove to him I think so.
My right arm feels like it weighs close to as much as my head, although maybe only five-hundred pounds. It feels like I’m moving through molasses but I manage to get my right hand on the bare end of one of Noah’s stumps. I place my palm firmly on top of it, and then I knead my fingers into the loose skin.
“Whoa!” Now it’s Noah who jerks away from me. Ha, what a hypocrite! He struggles to sit up in bed, then does his best to cover the ends of his stumps with his boxers, even though they’re not quite long enough. “What are you doing?”
I giggle sleepily. “What? I’m proving to you that I think you’re sexy.”
He shakes his head at me. “You really don’t have to do that.”
“But I do,” I murmur. “I do. I do think you’re sexy. So sexy. I really, really, really do. Really, really….”
What was I saying again?
“You need to go back to your room,” he announces. He grabs his wheelchair by the side of the bed and transfers into it. He smooths out his boxers again, then picks up a pillow from the bed. He lies the pillow down across his legs. “Come on, I’ll give you a ride.”
“No,” I say. “Stay here.”
Noah frowns. “This is not cute anymore, Bailey.”
God, he’s hot when he’s pissed off.
He leans over me and I grab him around the neck. He holds onto his wheelchair with one hand and uses the other arm to lift me onto his lap. Wow, he’s strong. He’s so, so strong.
I keep my arms around his neck even when I’m on his lap. I stare into his blue eyes and he stares back. I can see him swallow hard.
“I still want to stay here with you,” I say.
“It… it’s not a good idea.”
“I want you, Noah. I want you so, so bad. Please…”
Our lips are already only six inches apart. We’re so close. I can feel his hot breath. God, I want him. I want him even more than I want sleep. I want him and sleep. Those are the two things that I want more than anything, in that order.
And now he’s kissing me. I can feel his soft lips on mine, his tongue making my body tingle, the stubble of his five o’clock shadow grazing my chin. My hands slide into his hair, to the back of his neck, pulling his face as close to mine as it can get. I don’t just want to kiss him. I want to devour him.
Want. Want. Want.
“I can’t say no to you, I guess,” he says when our lips separate. But he’s smiling this time.
I cling to his neck, my body pressed against his chest. “I…” I feel my head swimming, but there’s something I need to tell him. Something important. “I think I still love you, Noah.”
Noah stiffens. He doesn’t say anything for long enough that I forget exactly what I said to him and why I’m waiting so eagerly for a response. Finally, he says, “Let’s get you back to your room.”
I’m too tired to fight with him anymore.
I lean my head against his shoulder and he wheels the two of us out of his bedroom, and into mine. He wheels us right up to the bed, where Lily is still passed out cold. I feel the chair bounce slightly off the side of the bed, then Noah locks the wheels of the chair.
“Okay, this is your stop,” he says.
My body still feels like it weighs two tons, but it’s considerably less painful to make it from Noah’s chair to my bed than it would have been to travel all the way from his bed to mine. His bed to mine? That was really far. No way was I making it. Why not make me run a marathon while you’re at it?
It’s nice to be back in my own bed. This one is really comfy too. Even better because Noah isn’t nagging me to get up. I can stay here forever if I like. That would be nice.
“Good night, Bailey,” he says softly.
“Good night, Noah.” I take one last look up at his blue eyes. I wish he were climbing into bed with me. I wish I could feel his body pressed against mine, his strong arms encircling my body. I really wish that.
Except Noah doesn’t move. He remains there, sitting with me as I drift off. And the last thing I hear him say, which I may very well have imagined is, “I think I still love you too, Bailey.”