“You’ve met him, right? I can’t tell him anything when it comes to you.”
She laughs slightly, sniffing at the end of her subdued chuckle. “Yeah. Just have him call me when he’s leaving. I guess I’ll meet him somewhere.”
I walk toward the entrance to the hospital, having worked my way along the side during our conversation. “Alright. I love you.”
“I love you too.”
I end the call and pull up the voicemail, crying again when I hear her voice. And then she says it, “Tell him I love him, Tessa.” And I stop the message. This isn’t for me. It’s for him.
* * *
I keep my eyes on Nolan as he fumbles with the TV remote. I need a distraction and he’s the only thing keeping me from jumping out of this bed and not giving a shit about my stitches. Every time I watch this nurse work the needle in and out of my skin, she seems to slow down. So I don’t look. Because I need to get the fuck out of here.
I wasn’t with her when she needed me.
It kills me to think that she couldn’t get a hold of me. And worse than that, that there was a moment I considered not putting on my vest before that raid. Something could’ve happened. One of those bullets could’ve been fatal and I’d never hold her again. I’d never see her face light up with her smile or the playful glint in her eye that teetered on seductive. My chest is on fire where the welts are forming, but the pain I’m feeling right now, being without her, is excruciating. I feel like a part of my soul is missing. She’s the best part of me, my entire future, and as soon as I see her, I’m saying it.
Tessa walks into the room, wiping underneath her eyes before giving me a nod. “I talked to her. She knows you’re okay. And she seems okay now. Her mom wasn’t in any pain when she died. She’s on her way here.”
Fuck. I wasn’t there for her. Her mom died and I wasn’t there.
The pressure forming in my chest intensifies and I scoff at the nurse who seems to be taking her good old fucking time on my arm.
Tessa walks over to the bed, holding out her phone. “Here. You need to listen to this.”
I take it from her with apprehension. “What is it?” She doesn’t answer me as she walks over toward Nolan and I place the phone up to my ear. Within seconds, my angel’s voice fills me.
“I’m on my way. Oh my God, please call me back and tell me he’s okay. Tell him I love him, Tessa. Tell him I’m going to say that to him every second for the rest of his life. He’ll never go another day without hearing those words from me.” I hear her quivering breath before she pleads, “Please don’t take him away from me.”
The desperation in her voice nearly guts me. But those words, the words I’ve held off saying, have my heart slamming so hard against my sternum I’m certain it’ll snap it in half. But I don’t care if it does. I never want it to stop beating like this. I’d do fucking anything to keep feeling this way.
I need her. Now.
I start to move off the bed when the nurse slams her hand on my shoulder. “I have one more stitch. And then you’ll have to wait to see if the doctor will release you. You have a lot of bruises from those bullets and you’ll be in a lot of pain. You might want to think about going home with some medication.”
I turn my head and make sure she is looking right into my eyes. I don’t want to have to repeat myself. “I don’t care about the pain. I’ll endure anything to get to the woman I fucking breathe for. She needs me and as soon as you’re finished with that last stitch, I’m going to her.”
Her eyes widen slightly and she steadies the needle against my shoulder. “But the doctor will want—”
“Tell him that I’m not waiting to get discharged. Say I went against orders. I don’t give a shit.” I look at my shoulder and then back at her. “It doesn’t need to be pretty. Just finish it so I can get out of here.” She gets to it and I hold Tessa’s phone out to her.
She waves me off with her hand. “No. Take it. You’ll need to call her so you two don’t pass each other on the highway.” She looks down at Nolan and smiles before looking back at me with a saddened expression. “Her message kind of killed me.”
I rest my head back on the bed. “Yeah. It kind of killed me too.”
The nurse stands and pulls off her gloves after placing a bandage over my stitches. “All finished. I’ll go grab the paperwork you need to sign.” I’m out of bed before she leaves the room and my speed startles her. “Uh, you’re not going to stick around and sign anything, are you?”
“Nope.” I turn to Tessa who is scooping up Nolan as the nurse utters something under her breath while leaving the room. “You got him?”
“Yup. Go to her. But please be careful. I’ve suffered enough stress today.”
I give Nolan a kiss before I sprint out of the room and down the long hallway to the stairwell. I’m out the door and running toward my truck that thankfully, Luke had made sure would be here for me when I was released. But it didn’t matter. I’d fucking steal a car at this point to get to her. As soon as the bars register on Tessa’s phone, indicating the reception, I dial Mia’s number.
“Hey, I’m still like an hour and a half out. This traffic is ridiculous! Does nobody work anymore?”
I start up my truck and pull away from the hospital, the sound of her voice sending an ache throughout my entire body. “Baby,” I whisper, my voice a strained plea. I hear her soft gasp and then her staggered breathing fills my ear.
“Ben,” she says through a soft cry. My name on her lips blankets the pain I’m feeling right now. The pain that I’ve felt for the past several hours. Hope and pure need flood my senses and I push my foot down on the gas pedal until it touches the floor. “Oh God, babe. I’m so happy to hear your voice. I was so worried.”
“Angel, where are you? I’m getting on 215 right now.”
“I’m on Route 7. Why don’t you just wait there for me? We might pass each other.”
I laugh slightly, my first laugh since yesterday. “There’s no way I’ll let you pass me, baby. Just keep driving to me and I’ll find you.”
She pauses for a beat and I can almost see her fidgeting through the phone. “Ben, I have to say it. I can’t go another second without saying it to you.”
Christ, I needed to say it too. But not like this. Not fucking yet. “Don’t say it, Mia. I want to be looking into your eyes when I say it to you. And then you can say it back. Okay? Just hang on for me.”
She sniffles several times. “Okay. But you better say it the second you see me or I’m saying it first. I’ve waited long enough for you, Benjamin Kelly. Don’t make me wait anymore.”
I shake my free hand out of the fist that is beginning to permanently set in. Knowing Mia is this close to me feels like having an itch I can’t scratch. “No more waiting, baby. I promise you that.”
“Good.” She pauses and a muted grunt fills the phone. “Shit, babe. My phone’s about to die. I should get off here in case we completely miss each other and I need to call you. I’m actually betting on that happening.”