“My friend Orli’s visiting me. Want to meet him?”
“Sure. If he doesn’t mind that I’m druggy on painkillers and not feeling very sociable.”
“I think he’ll be okay with it. See you soon, love.”
“Thank you, Dom,” she whispered, and they both hung up. Dominic tapped his phone against his chin a moment, then noticed Orlando was watching him, an eyebrow raised.
“The good news is,” Dominic said as he gathered his things and stuffed them into his bag, “my girlfriend is in L.A. The bad news is she’s in hospital and wants to rest at my place for a couple days.”
“Do you want me to clear out? NBC offered to put me up in the Beverly Hills Hilton.”
“No, stay,” Dominic said. “I can’t imagine you’ll bother her much. If it were Elwood–“
Orlando nodded, standing and picking up his gym bag. “Even when he’s trying to be quiet, he’s loud.”
They headed out of the gym and to the parking garage. “So I get to meet the mystery girlfriend,” Orlando said as they got onto the elevator.
“It’s not a big deal. Do I look all right?” He tried to finger-comb his hair, wishing they’d taken the time to shower after class. Of course, if they’d been showering he would have missed the call.
“You look fine, Dommie,” Orlando said. He touched Dominic’s chin. “But you’re getting a spot right there–“
“I told you to lay off milk. It makes you break out.”
“I know,” Dominic said with increasing irritation, and Orlando tweaked his chin.
“I bet she loves you, spots and all.”
Dominic grunted and thought, You’d be alone in that assumption, mate, with a small sigh.
There was a line of cars in front of the patient check-out entrance. Dominic put his car into neutral and scanned the waiting patients, but none had Dana’s distinctive red hair.
Orlando looked too, the Thomas guide open on his knees, and said, “Little and red-haired?”
“I think she’ll be in a wheelchair. Seems to be the way they’re doing it.” His leg was jittering. He hadn’t seen her for a week–hadn’t even talked to her for three days. She’d emailed him that she would be away to do some field work but had not told him where.
Was this why? So he wouldn’t worry?
He still worried. Whenever he couldn’t talk to her every day, he worried.
He saw a familiar face and said, “There’s her partner,” as he turned off the engine and took off his seatbelt. Orlando unbuckled his seatbelt too and followed him up the walk.
There she was: his Dana, looking wan and exhausted as a nurse wheeled her out of the building. Still, she pushed herself to her feet when Dominic approached and put her arms around him. He winced at the bruises on her face but kissed her lips, and loosened his embrace when she inhaled with a hiss. “Sorry, love.” He kissed her again. “Hi.”
“Hi.” She laid her head on his shoulder.
Agent Doggett’s face was like thunderheads, but still he shook Dominic’s hand and Orlando’s too when Dom said, “This is my friend Orli. This is Agent Doggett.”
Doggett said, “I have the prescription she’s supposed to take. She’s supposed to rest,” he said with emphasis, and in Dominic’s arms Dana sighed. “Her flight home is Monday morning but I can bring William out here if she needs to stay longer.”
“Where is William?” Dominic said.
“With her brother Charlie’s family. He’s been visiting them for a week and her mother thought it would be easier on him to just extend the visit than to shuttle him around more.” He stroked Dana’s hair for a moment. “It would upset him to see her hurt.”
It upsets me, too, Dominic thought, and kissed her bruised cheek.
Dana gave him a brief smile and said to Doggett, “Stop talking about me as if I can’t hear you. I’ll be fine. I’ll be home on Monday.”
“Do you want to come to my place too, for a few hours?” Dominic asked him. “Until your flight leaves?”
“No. I’ve got reports to file. Thanks, though.” He gave Dominic a plastic bag with a bottle of pills and a page of printed instructions, and the handle of her rolling suitcase. He kissed Dana’s forehead. “Call me if you need me.”
“I always do.”
“Take care of her,” he said to Dominic.
“I will. Let’s get you into the car, eh?”
She nodded wearily, and allowed Dominic to guide her to the car and help her into the front seat. Orlando lifted her suitcase into the trunk and climbed into the back seat.
Doggett stopped Dominic as he was getting into the driver’s seat. “She’s not a good patient,” he said quietly. “It’s a doctor thing, I think. Try to convince her to rest. She’ll tell you she doesn’t need the pills but she’ll want them later. And, Mr. Monaghan,” he said even more seriously, “go easy on her. Let her *rest*.”
It took a moment for Dominic to understand what he was saying, and began indignantly, “I’m not going to force her into anything, for God’s sake.”
Doggett leaned even closer to him and said, “I was your age once and I remember exactly what it’s like. But she has a cracked rib and is not up to *anything*. Get me?”
“I get you,” Dominic said.
For a moment he thought Doggett was waiting for him to flinch, but Doggett leaned into the car enough to say, “Call me,” to Dana again, turned and walked away.
Dominic climbed into the driver’s seat, torn between fury at Doggett’s assumptions and knowing why he made them. He felt Dana’s hand on his, and looked at her to see her smile. He smiled back, leaned over to kiss her and started the car.
Orlando scooted forward as they pulled out of the parking lot. “If you ever play a government agent, I say he’s your model.”
“Not if it would mean spending more time with him,” Dominic said.
Dominic had cleaned the house before Orlando came—borrowing Mackenzie’s cleaning service for the worst bits—and the sheets on his bed were only three days old. Dana lay down as soon as he released her arm, tucking her legs up and resting her head on her arm. “Do you need anything, Dana?” Dominic said, sitting beside her.
“No.” She took his hand and squeezed his fingers. “Thank you for taking me in.”
“You know it’s no trouble. What happened? How’d you fall?”
“A suspect pushed me down some stairs. I’m okay, though, really. Just tired.”
“Bastard,” Dominic said quietly.
“He’s in custody. He’ll get time for assaulting an officer if we can’t make the murder accusation stick.” She’d been stroking his hand and wrist, and said in a hopeful tone, “Spoon me?”
“Agent Doggett said you have a cracked rib.”
“It’s nothing, Dom.”
“Nothing that’s preventing you from flying home and that they gave you painkillers for.” He put the bottle of pills on the nightstand. “And look at these instructions: may cause nausea, do not use while operating heavy machinery, do not take with alcohol—“
“They’re just to help me sleep. Please hold me a while. I’ve missed you.”
“I’m sweaty,” he warned her, but lay down behind her, his arm carefully over her waist. “Is this good?”
“Mm.” She fitted her body back against his, and Dominic closed his eyes, trying to keep his breathing even. “You smell good. Don’t ever shower again.”
“That would interfere with my social life a bit.” He slid his hand to her stomach. “Shall we change your clothes? Get you into something more comfortable?” Dana hummed again and he decided that was a Yes: he carefully undid the buttons on her jacket and blouse, and eased her onto her back.
The sight of her torso stopped him. Her normally creamy skin was purple and green, extending far beyond the elastic bandage around her ribs. She looked like she’d been kicked by someone in jackboots. He lifted his horrified gaze from her ribs to her face, where she was watching him, her expression calm.
“Holy God,” he said when he could speak.
“It looks worse than it feels.”