Zack groaned, his eyes fluttering open. Make that one eye fluttered open for the other was swollen shut. His entire body ached and had trouble taking deep breaths. The florescent lightening was blinding. The stench of antiseptic and sounds of beeping machines invaded his other senses. He was in a hospital. He was alive.
Unfortunately, Zack remembered most of what had happened. Once Rob slit his arm, spilling his blood, that’s where his memory grew fuzzy, then he’d blacked out.
Movement caught his attention. By his thigh was a mop of long blond hair. He’d know that hair anywhere. Maria. His rock. Confidant. Agent. His best friend.
He went to lift his left arm but found it encased in a splint, wrapped from fingertips to elbow in bandages. His right hand, he noticed, had an IV in it. Not good at all. Especially the way his ribs felt, the tight wrap pressing on them as well.
Biting back a groan of discomfort, Zack reached over and ran the fingers of his right hand through Maria’s hair. She raised her head, eyes bleary before widening.
“You’re awake.” Tears filled her eyes and he could hear relief in her voice. She sat up and her hand cupped his unbruised cheek.
“How…” Zack’s voice was harsh sounding. He tried to swallow, but found his mouth too dry causing him to cough. The action brought tears to his eyes and a groan of pain.
Maria grabbed a cup from the hospital table and filled it with water from the pitcher. She added a straw and offered it to Zack. He sipped it slowly, thankful for its coolness coating his raw throat.
“Thank you,” he managed to say after she put the cup back on the table. His voice was still scratchy and it hurt to speak, but not as bad as his body ached.
Maria reached out with her hand and brushed the hair from his forehead.
“What day is it?”
“It’s Thursday. This is your third day here.” She sat back in the chair beside the bed and took his undamaged hand in her hands. “You were hurt pretty bad. They’ve had you heavily drugged. You’ve been in and out of consciousness.”
Zack closed his eyes and took a shaky breath. The nightmares and flashes of memories threatened to invade his head. He pushed them back. Tears flooded his eyes, but he refused to let them go. He would not cry. He was alive. That’s all that mattered.
“How bad?” he asked, his eyes still closed. He didn’t want to see the pity in Maria’s eyes. He knew he was in bad shape. Even the drugs couldn’t mask the pain flowing through his tortured body.
“A black eye, of course. The doctor said you were lucky the socket wasn’t fractured. It’s already looking better.” She paused making him open his eye and look at her.
As he thought, her sympathy was very visible in the way she looked at him. He hated this. He never dreamed he’d be the victim of abuse, but here he was. He’d tried to hide what was happening. To rationalize it in his mind. To think it would get better and Rob would change. Zack had allowed his fear of Rob rule his life and now he’d almost died when he finally decided to leave.
Maria wiped at the tears glistening in her eyes. “Two broken ribs. One put pressure on your spleen. They thought it might have been punctured, but it was just bruised.” Her hands tightened on his. “Your left arm is broken in two places and…” her eyes strayed to his splinted arm.
“I almost bled out, didn’t I?” he question barely audible.
Maria nodded and sniffled. “The paramedics said five more minutes and you would died.”
“Shit.” Zack cursed through clenched teeth. He’d been so close to death. He was angry with himself. He should have told Rob to kiss his ass and walk out the door. He should have fought harder. He should have…That was the make up of his entire relationship with Rob.
“And Rob?” He had to ask. He remembered little after Rob had sliced his arm. Just nightmares and a familiar voice calling him back from the darkness.
Her blue eyes glittered with anger. “Sitting in a fucking jail cell where he belongs. He’s got so many charges on his ass he’ll be an old man if he gets out of jail.”
Zack nodded feeling numb by all that had happened. He didn’t know if it was the drugs they were giving him for the pain or just his psyche not yet ready to accept everything. He should feel relieved, safe. And in a strange way, he did, but not like he thought he would. But there was still a foreboding feeling floating in the back of his mind. This wasn’t over. Rob couldn't be stopped that easily. If Zack knew anything about his now ex-lover, is that he is determined. If Rob can’t have something…no one can. Including freedom.