Zack shook his hand, trying to get the itch from his fingers. He should step away. Maybe that would slacken this urge to touch. But even as his brain told his feet to move, they stayed frozen to the floor and his gaze lingering over the still body before him.
They looked so much alike. Rob and Ryan. Yet, while Ryan slept, his body healing from its trauma, Zack could now see the differences. Ryan wore his hair a bit shorter than Rob, trimmed military style around his ears. Studying Ryan as he slept, he saw that even in sleep, Ryan held a crease between his brows instead of the almost innocent serene expression Rob wore, as if he hadn’t a care in the world.
Zack’s gaze lowered and he caught the barest glimpse of the scar on Ryan’s collarbone peaking from the hospital gown, but the long, thick scar on his arm was what drew his attention. Despite being blood, Ryan too had seen harsh reality at the hands of Rob. They were kindred spirits of sorts. Was that why Zack felt attracted to Ryan, as if he were a magnet?
Ryan shifted his body and groaned. Zack backed away, his body starting to reach for its fight or flight response. One minute he wanted to flee, the next, he felt the need to comfort and even protect Ryan. He watched as Ryan slowly came awake, scared of the confused emotions this man, who looked so much like the lover who tried to kill him, evoked within.
Ryan’s eyes fluttered open, then they quickly shut with a painful moan. Zack rushed over to the lights and turned them off then flicked on only the bathroom light. Charlie said that he’d hit his head when he fell to the ground, so it was a good bet the bright fluorescent lights hurt as much as the bullet wound to the shoulder.
“The lights are off, try again.”
Ryan’s eyes fluttered again, more cautious this time and Zack could see that he was getting his bearings.
“What happened?” Ryan’s voice was harsh, scratchy. Zack reached for the pitcher on the rolling table not far from the bed. He silently poured the cool water into the cup and carried it over to the bed. His hands trembled only slightly as he held the straw he’d put in the cup up to Ryan’s lips.
“Zack?” Confusion was clearly etched on his handsome features. Damn, why was he feeling attracted to Ryan?
“Take it a drink.”
Ryan hesitated only a moment before the straw tip slipped between his lips. Zack couldn’t take his gaze from them. It felt like a spell was being cast, drawing him closer. When Ryan released the straw and licked his lips, Zack thought a vacuum had sucked all the air from his lungs as his blood started with a not so subtle heating.
Zack clenched his jaw and forced his chest to drag in a long breath of air. Only that worsened the situation as the sent of Ryan, male and musky, permeated his nose. Silently uttering a curse, Zack backed away from the bed, his fingers clutching the plastic cup a little too tightly.
Ryan’s eyes hadn’t strayed from Zack. “What are you doing here, Zack?”
He swallowed hard, coercing his voice box to work. “Maria heard the call over the scanner. She was upset. She thought Charlie…” he paused a moment remembering how his chest had constricted when he heard the call for an ambulance. “I wouldn’t let her come alone.”
Zack glanced toward the door, suddenly feeling trapped by Ryan’s intense gaze. Why had he thought he’d be okay alone with Ryan? Oh, right. He figured he’d stay unconscious until Charlie came back. “Charlie should be back in a minute. He took Maria down to get coffee and calm her down.” He realized his feet were slowly edging toward the door.
“Thank you, Zack.”
The words halted him in his tracks. He opened his mouth to speak, but his throat closed.
“You don’t have to stay. Besides a killer headache and…” he glanced at the wrapped shoulder. “The murderous pain in my shoulder, I’ll be fine.”
Zack’s eyes widened, nearly bulging from his head. Did Ryan just use the words killer and murderous?
“Oh, shit. I’m sorry, Zack. That was sick cop humor coming out. I didn’t intend to upset you.” Ryan used his good arm and tried to sit up further in bed, but failed with a dejected cry of pain. Zack rushed forward without thought, though he too only had one good arm, the other held to chest by a sling. Zack raised the bed and helped Ryan sit up a little more.
“You didn’t upset me,” Zack confessed, once more backing away from the bed. Why couldn’t he stay away from Ryan? “Your words just surprised me after…well, after everything that’s happened lately.”
Ryan huffed. “Yeah. Well, after you work a few years in New York as a cop, you develop ways to relieve the stress. Sick humor is mine sometimes. Listen, Zack…”
Before Ryan could say anymore, Charlie walked into the room. He stopped just inside the door, his gaze going from Zack to Ryan and back to Zack.
“You’re awake.” Zack wasn’t sure how to interpret Charlie’s tone. “Thanks for keeping watch, Zack. Maria’s heading downstairs. She’s ready to go home.”
Zack nodded and started toward the door. He stopped beside Charlie and looked back at Ryan. Something deep inside of him didn’t want to leave. Not yet. But the logical part of his brain demanded it as he felt as if the walls were closing in on him again. Putting distance between him and Ryan was a good idea. But why did he feel like crying when he walked out of the room?