“Yeah, I knocked it out of his hand. Whoops,” I said dryly, taking a sip of the tar-like coffee. “Why did I buy this?” I stared down at the cup. “I don’t even like coffee.”

“Finkle,”—Brody leaned forward on the table and folded his hands in front of him—“are you okay? I mean, I know this whole thing has moved faster than lightning, and it’s not exactly a pleasant experience, but… how are you holding up?”

I couldn’t believe he was asking me how I was. Our friend was lying upstairs with a hole in his head and tubes going into God knows where in his body, and Brody was worried about me.

“I’m fine.”

“No you’re not.”

“You’re right, I’m not, but I will be.”

He narrowed his eyes and studied me for a minute, trying to decide if he should push me further. Thankfully, he decided against it. “All right,” he finally said, “let’s head back upstairs. Would you text Andy and let him know you’re under control, please?” Grabbing my coffee cup, he stood and took it over to the garbage can.

I picked up my phone and, without reading any of Andy’s messages, wrote back.

I’ll pay for whatever it cost, but I won’t apologize. That asshole deserved it.

We weaved through the crowded hallway and made our way back to the elevator. “Did you go in yet?” I asked once we were alone.

“For a minute.” He swallowed and stared at the drop ceiling tiles in the elevator, clearly avoiding my eyes. “I’m not gonna lie, it was tough to see. He’s pretty jacked up.”

I closed my eyes and nodded, not saying another word.

The elevator came to a stop on the third floor, and we were barely two steps from it when we heard loud crying. Brody’s eyes flashed to mine quickly. “Oh shit!”

We started walking faster toward the waiting room, but just before we were about to round the last corner, Kacie ran right into Brody.

“Kacie!” Brody gently grabbed her shoulders and leaned back, looking straight into her eyes. “What’s going on?”

“I was just coming to find you guys.” She was out of breath and trying desperately not to cry. “You need to come back. It’s bad.”

“What’s bad? What happened?” Brody asked.

“Mike. They did the EEG and a bunch of other tests.” She swallowed and shook her head, unable to say any more.

“Kacie, baby, talk to me. Please.”

“There’s nothing,” she choked out. “He’s brain-dead. Gone.” Her hands covered her face and she started to sob as Brody cupped the back of her head, pulling her into his chest.

Gone. He’s gone. How the fuck can he be gone?

Kacie had to have misunderstood something. There was no way Mike was gone. I rushed past them to the waiting room where Michelle was hysterical, kneeling on the ground and hugging herself, rocking back and forth. Taylor was kneeling next to her, staring into space with a dazed look on her face. Two nurses were rubbing Michelle’s back, trying to get her to calm down enough to take a pill. The room started to spin. Then the world started to spin. Someone kept asking me if I was okay, but I couldn’t tell exactly where it was coming from. Nurses were hustling in and out of the room, talking to each other, but all I could hear was the blood rushing through my ears.

“Sir, I said, ‘Are you okay?’” was the last thing I heard.

My head was pounding. The back of it felt like someone had hit me over and over with a hammer. Peeking my eyes open just a tad, I was relieved to be waking up in my bed, beyond thankful that it had all been a really shitty nightmare. I cringed as I craned my neck to look at the clock on my nightstand.

No nightstand. No clock.

I lifted the blue blanket I didn’t remember buying and looked down at my outfit.

Practice clothes.

I sat up suddenly and tried to look around but was overcome by the pressure in my head as I cupped it in my hands and winced in pain.

“Hey, there you are,” an unfamiliar woman’s voice said softly.

I opened one eye to peek at her, trying to move my head as little as possible. A nurse in blue scrubs stood at the end of my bed with her hands on her hips, smiling at me. “You gave us quite the scare.” She walked over to the side of my bed and gently touched the back of my head. “How’s this feel?”

The second her hand made contact with my head, I flinched. The pain was off the fucking charts.

“Shitty,” I answered, leaning my head away from her hand. “What happened?”

She sighed. “You walked into the waiting room and passed out. Hit your head pretty hard too. You have a big ole bump back here.”

Waiting room.

Fuck. It’s not a dream.

“When did this happen? Where am I?” I was so confused, but the harder I tried to remember, the more my head hurt.

“Just about half an hour ago.” She gently put her hand on my arm in an effort to calm me down. “Relax. We put you in an empty bed in the ICU so we could monitor you, make sure you were okay instead of sending you off to the ER.”

It hurt like hell but I turned my head to the side to look at her. “I’m still in the ICU?”

“Yeah, we want you to rest for a bit.”

“Fuck that.” I stood up too quickly and the room started spinning again. Closing my eyes, I grabbed the side of the bed to steady myself.

“Please lie back down,” she pleaded. “The last thing we need is for you to pass out again.”

“I’ll be fine,” I snapped stubbornly. I knew she was just doing her job, but I didn’t respond well to people telling me what to do. Never had, never would.

Finally regaining some control over my body, I slowly made my way to the door, holding on to anything I could for stability. The bright lights of the hallway hurt my eyes, but I narrowed them as much as I could and kept going. I rounded the corner of the waiting room, shocked to see it full of people now. Brody and Kacie were still there and Taylor, of course, but now Louie, Viktor, and a few other guys from the team were there too, huddled together and talking quietly. Big Mike’s agent, Ross, was there as well, talking to Andy in the corner. The second I stepped into the room I felt like everyone turned and stared at me, silently judging the evil monster and what he’d done.

“Hey!” Brody stood and hurried over to me. “How are you?”

“I’m fine,” I lied through gritted teeth. Trying not to move my head too much, I looked around the room again and noticed one person was missing. “Where’s Michelle?”

“She’s in with Mike,” Brody said somberly.

My head snapped back toward Brody quickly, sending a shooting pain across the whole backside of my head from ear to ear, but I didn’t care. “Did he wake up?”

“No.” He shook his head, biting down hard as the corners of his jaw popped. Leaning in close, he put his hand on my shoulder. “He isn’t gonna wake up, buddy. That’s why Michelle is in there. She’s with him and the chaplain.”

The chaplain?

My heart starting pounding so hard I was worried it was going to explode right there in the waiting room. “The chaplain? What the fuck for?”

“He has no brain function… at all. Michelle’s decided to donate his organs while they’re still viable.”

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