“No, you don’t—”

The guard cuts me off, “I’m sorry, Ma’am, but it’s past visiting hours. You’re going to have to come back later in the day to see the patient. If you’d like, you can stay down here in the waiting room.” He gestures to the large open area filled with seats and solemn people waiting to go up to see their loved ones.

I shake my head in frustration before I turn and stalk out of the hospital back to my car.

I slam my car door and turn the ignition. As I go to put the car into drive, a wave of frustration washes over me. A scream from deep in my belly comes ripping out of my throat, and I beat my hands over and over against the steering wheel. I’m so close. There’s no way I’m going to give up now. There has to be a way for me to get up there.

I drop my head to the steering wheel, take a few deep breaths and try to think of a way to solve this problem.

“Clover!” I chirp and instantly start digging around for my phone.

Clover used to work at Diamond Dancers as a barmaid. She was there to pay her way through nursing school. Last I heard, she was working in this hospital in the ICU. A lot of times, with large establishments, it’s not what you know, but who you know that will get you through the door.

I’m praying that Clover is there and she can get me upstairs.

She picks up after the first ring, “Poppy?” Clover answers clearly concerned that I’m calling her so late.

“Clover! Please, I need a favor. It’s an emergency. I’d never ask if it wasn’t.” I rush through without even greeting her.

“What? What is it?”

“Tristan is upstairs. They found him alive. I need to get upstairs, but the guard won’t let me in. I need to get upstairs. Is there any way?”

Clover gasps, “Oh my god, of course. Meet me down in the small cafeteria. I’ll take you up through the back way. I’m coming down right now.”

I nearly weep. I’m so happy. “Okay, thank you!”

I hang up and race back to the main doors. This time I turn and follow the signs that show me the way to the cafeteria. Clover is already there waiting for me, and I rush to give her a hug.

“Come on, this way.” Clover takes me to the nearest elevator bay. Corentina told me where they were keeping Tristan, and even though it’s only a few floors up, it seems like I can’t get there fast enough. I’d scale the side of the building if it’d mean I could see Tristan quicker.

Finally, I make it to the floor. “I have to get back on the floor, but you should be good from here. If you need anything else, let me know.” Clover kisses me on the cheek, and I give her one last thanks before I walk out of the elevator. The first thing I see is Corentina out in the waiting area, pacing back and forth.

“Corentina,” I call out for her, but my voice barely carries through the hall.

“Oh, Poppy, I knew you’d show up.”

She pulls me into a hug, but I push away quickly, “Is it really him? Are you sure?” I try to walk by her and go to the room, but she grabs hold of my arm. “Poppy, it’s him, but I want to warn you that he’s in a bad way. He’s been badly beaten, and he’s been burned extensively on the right side of his face. It’s going to be a long road to recovery.”

“That’s fine. As long as he’s alive, all of that is fine.” I look over her shoulder again. “Can I go see him?” My eyes cut back to her. “You think that will be okay?”

“Sure, I didn’t think you’d come all the way over here and not want to see him. I’ll let you have some time with him. He’s sleeping right now, but if I were you, I’d take this time to really let him know how you feel, don’t hold back.” She smirks at me, and my mouth drops open. It’s like the woman is in my mind. How the hell does she know that?

“What do you mean?” I stare at her, and when her eyebrow raises, I know she’s not going to be buying any denial tactics I throw at her, “How did you know? I never said anything.” I whisper as if someone around us could hear what I’m saying, and my big secret would be out for all the world to know.

“Poppy, please, I’ve been around for a while. I can hear the way you talk about him, and it doesn’t help that every time you look at him, you blush. It’s obvious to everyone who would take the time to look.” She grabs my arm and squeezes it.

“Go on.” Corentina gestures with her head toward Tristan’s room.

I give her a tight smile and walk into the room. At first, it feels like I can’t catch my breath. A blubbering cry leaks out of my mouth as I take in his form. He must be in so much pain.

Who would do this to him? I wipe my eyes and walk over to the bedside and drag a chair from the corner so I can sit next to him.

For months I’ve lived with the regret of never telling Tristan how I felt for him. It was always the wrong time or wrong place, but now that he’s lying in a hospital bed sleeping, in pain, and hanging on to his life by a thread, I know I can’t let another day go by without telling him. Even if he won’t remember it. I just need to get the words out.

I grab hold of his hand and let everything I feel for him come rushing out. I admit every piece of him that I love and how his quirks and oddities just make him more adorable to me. How I never wanted to say anything because it was never the right time, and lastly, I just apologize for wasting so much time. If I get my way, I won’t waste another minute. I hold on to his hand and lay my head on the bed, just feeling his warm body against mine. My dreams have come to life.

Tags: E.C. Land Crime
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