Page 30 of For the Taking

“No. I’ve been shot a lot. Believe me, you learn to live through the pain. If you want to survive, you do whatever you can to heal before you go and deal with the son of a bitch who thought they could hurt you.”

“You’re crazy.”

“No, I’m not.”

She rested her head against the seat. “You’re going to keep on doing this for your wife, aren’t you?”

Pain shot through her, but she was able to hide it. He didn’t need to know she had developed feelings for him. It wasn’t like he didn’t warn her. His heart was with another. A dead woman, and she didn’t stand a chance to compete.

“Rest, Meghan.”

“You got anything you can give me to knock me out? The pain, it’s kind of bad.” Only the pain in her heart was a problem. Everything else seemed to be working fine for her. No one would ever love her the way he did his dead wife, and it hurt more than she ever thought possible.

Why did she have to meet him?

This was really unfair.

“Close your eyes. I don’t have anything for you.”

She closed her eyes, but listened to the world going by. Would there ever come a time when she would be the person someone loved?

****

“How is she?” Riley asked, several hours later as Stephen stepped into the room.

“She’s fine. It’s a simple flesh wound. I told her where the kitchen was, and she asked for ice cream.”

Riley smiled. He hadn’t given her any ice cream in the time he’d known her.

“Did she say if it was her favorite?”

“If what was her favorite?”

“The ice cream?”

“I didn’t ask.”

“Next time, you should.”

“This woman is still alive and with you. Should I know something?” Stephen asked.

“No.”

“Really? I’ve never had you bring a woman to me once, let alone twice. Why is she so different?”

“I let her go after I was sure she was fine from the beating she took.”

“She’s still with you.”

“Peace sent men to her apartment.”

“You were already waiting for them?”

“Yes.” The pain in his side was getting worse. “It’s time to fix me now.”

“I should have been here with you in the first place. She didn’t have any life-threatening injuries, Riley.”

“She needed taking care of. Besides, I thought you’d approve of me being the gentleman. Putting the woman before myself.”

Stephen got what he needed, and Riley stayed perfectly still after removing his shirt.

“Does this mean you’re considering living your life with the pretty Meghan?”

Riley tensed up as Stephen began to work on him. They’d already done tests, and when he knew the bullet hadn’t hit any major arteries or vital organs, he’d demanded Stephen patch up Meghan first.

“Don’t push it.”

“You brought her here.”

“I know.”

“I saw the way you were looking at her. You know it’s okay to have feelings for someone who is not Bethany.”

“Stephen, I suggest you stop there.”

“I’m not going to stop. Every single day for the past ten years when you’ve been on this crazy plan, I have supported you. I’m the closest thing you have to any kind of family, and you think I’m going to look the other way?”

“I expect you to.”

“No. I got out of the life, and you helped me when you should have killed me. You’re the reason I can practice medicine. Why I have a wife and kids. It’s all on you.”

“And it doesn’t come without its cost. You fix me.”

“I would do it without any price. You know that. I only take your fucking money because you make me.”

“Well, I’ll double your price if you stop talking about Bethany.”

Stephen stopped digging around in him and glanced up at him. “You like her, don’t you?”

“Bethany?”

“Don’t play dumb. You like Meghan.”

“Just do your job.”

“You know, she talked a lot about you as well when I was fixing her up.”

He really shouldn’t care what Meghan was rambling on about when he wasn’t with her.

“I don’t have time for this. Just fix me.”

“That I am doing, quite well, as well. She’s in love with you,” Stephen said.

Riley jerked at the words and hissed. “Fuck! Go easy.”

“Do you love her as well?”

“I will shoot you if you continue.”

“I will take that as a yes.”

“You can take it any way you want. I will still shoot you.” He didn’t know if he loved Meghan. “I barely know her.”

“I knew my wife thirty minutes and I knew I wanted to marry her,” Stephen said. “Love makes no sense at all. No one really understands it. We only really know how it feels to be with the person you love and to have them taken away. That pain, that love, those feelings, it’s worth holding onto. Even if you are filled with guilt.”

“I promised Bethany,” Riley said, hating himself for how weak he sounded.

“If she was supposed to be here, she would be. She made a mistake.”

“Because of me.”

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