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Copyright © T.A. Chase 2017. All Rights Reserved, Totally Entwined Group Limited, T/A Pride Publishing.
The general chaos of the emergency room no longer registered with me as I went from room to room, checking on patients. I glanced at each file before I entered and tried hard to be personable, focusing on each individual, though I’d rather be in my bed sleeping. I’d worked a sixteen-hour shift already and it didn’t look like I’d be going home any time soon.
Leaning on the nurses’ station, I sighed as I ran my hands through my hair.
“Long day, huh, Doc?”
I glanced up to see Jackson, one of the nurses, grinning at me from where he sat, filling out forms.
“You could say that. I sure hope this flu or whatever it is goes through quickly. Covering for people is all well and good, but when I’m asleep on my feet, I don’t think that’s good for the patients.”
“True.” He pushed a cup toward me. “Have some coffee.”
I grimaced. “No, thanks. I drank my fill of coffee during my residency. Can’t stand the stuff now.”
He looked surprised. “A doctor who doesn’t mainline caffeine? You’re a rare find.”
“So I’ve been told.”
A commotion down the hall outside one of the rooms caught my attention. I shoved away from the counter before heading in that direction. Sally, the head nurse, raced from the room.
“Sally, what’s wrong?”
“The EMTs just brought a guy in. I’m not sure what’s going on with him, except he’s been beaten pretty badly. He’s panicking and doesn’t seem able to talk.”
“Let me check him out.”
I walked into the room and froze just inside the doorway. The man on the bed was dirty and bloody, yet he was the most gorgeous guy I’d ever seen with shoulder-length black hair, so dark it gleamed almost blue under the glaring fluorescent lights. His skin was pale, but that might have been because of the trauma he’d suffered. His eyes were wide and panicked.
The patient whipped his head from side to side, trying to keep his gaze on everyone moving around him. People were touching him and asking him questions without letting him answer. One of the interns reached out to take his arm, trying to put in an IV. He jerked away from her, almost falling out of the bed.
“Sir, you have to stay still or we’ll have to restrain you.”
His eyes widened even more as fear grew in them. He tensed and I knew he was going to make a break for it.
“Okay, everyone, is our patient stable for the moment?”
They all looked at me, even the injured man.
“Then I need you all to give me the room for a second.”
“But, sir,” the intern spoke up, “he needs fluids, and we need to clean out his wounds. He has to be assessed to see where else he might be injured.”
“There’s no internal bleeding that we know of, right?” I moved closer.
“Not that we know of, sir.”
“Good, then leave. I’ll call you when it’s okay to come back in.”
They all filed out of the room. The patient studied me as I stepped to the side of the bed. I tried not to crowd him. Something told me he wasn’t used to a lot of people or to having his space invaded. I smiled, and he relaxed slightly.
“I’m Doctor Zachary Harleigh.” I held out my hand.
He offered his hesitantly, and I shook it, firm but soft enough not to hurt him.
“Can you tell me your name?”
Shaking his head, the man gestured to his throat. I frowned.
“This isn’t caused by whoever beat you, is it?”
He shook his head again.
“Okay. Can you write?”
He nodded, and I pulled a small notebook out of my pocket, handing it to him along with a pen. “What’s your name?”
He wrote something on the paper before holding it out to me.
“Raven Sanderson. That’s a nice name.”
It fit him in many ways. Of course, the color of his hair made the name obvious, but he also seemed fragile, like a bird. I’d never really thought of ravens as delicate birds, though I did see them as wild, and Raven gave off that same vibe. If I made the wrong move, he would fly away, injured or not.
He ducked his head and a little bit of pink tinged his cheeks.
“Do you have any family I can call?”
The notebook was drawn close again, and he scratched something down while I inventoried his injuries. Someone had attacked him brutally. Raven must have been in a great deal of agony.
“Do you want medicine for the pain?”
Glancing up at me, he frowned like he didn’t understand what I meant. I reached out, stopping inches away from the bruise on his right cheek. He didn’t flinch, which gave me an inordinate sense of accomplishment. For some reason, he didn’t find my presence upsetting. I snorted to myself. More than likely, it was simply because we were the only two in the room, not because of any special power on my part.
“All those bruises have to hurt.” I gestured toward his multiple contusions, scrapes, and cuts.
He lifted his arm, staring at them in fascination.
“Your family,” I prompted him.
Not taking his gaze off the various marks upon his pale skin, he gave me his note.
“There is only my sister, but I don’t know where she is. That’s why I came to the city. I need to find her,” I read the note aloud then sighed.
It would figure he wouldn’t have anyone I could call to come and sit with him. I glanced up in time to see Raven had laid his hand over the worst cut on his arm.
“No. You shouldn’t be touching the wounds. Your hands are dirty and you could get infected.”
Raven tilted his head, listening to me, but I wasn’t sure he understood what I said. He allowed me to peel his hand away and my mouth dropped open. Where there had been a gaping wound, deep enough for me to see the white gleam of the bone, now there wasn’t anything. Not even a pink scar hinting at an injury.
I reached out to run my fingers over his slender arm, and he jerked away from me. I realized that, even though I was being nice to him, he didn’t completely trust me not to hurt him.
“I won’t hurt you, Raven. I’m a doctor, and that means I heal people, not hurt them.”
He stared at me with his dark eyes, and I swore he could look all the way into my deepest soul, seeing all my secret hopes and dreams. Raven blinked, letting me go from whatever spell he’d put on me.
“As long as I stay in the room and take the lead, will you let the nurses come in and check you out? Keep the pen and paper. Write notes if you need to, and I’ll make sure they listen to you.”
Nodding, Raven relaxed back against the pillows. I checked that he had my pen and notebook before I called the others back into the room. I remained calm, and like the professionals they were, they followed my lead. Most of their questions required a yes or a no, and Raven didn’t have any problem answering them.
Sylvia, one of the ER nurses, pulled me aside and gestured to Raven. “I could’ve sworn his injuries were far worse. There’s a lot of blood on his clothes for the simple cuts and bruises he has.”
I shrugged, scrambling to come up with a good enough explanation to satisfy her when I couldn’t even believe it myself.
“Mr. Sanderson was panicked when he came in here. Maybe there was too much commotion for everyone to get a good look at them.”
Shouts came from the entrance of the emergency room, so Sylvia shot me a skeptical glance before she raced off to see what was going on. Sighing, I scrubbed my hand over my face and turned back to see Raven scribbling something on the paper. He ripped the piece of paper off and held it out to me.
I took it from him and read the note. Afterward, I glanced up at him and shook my head.
“Your injuries might look like they’re minor, but I’d like to keep you overnight to make sure there’s nothing we haven’t caught.”
Raven waved a hand at me, and I held up the paper.
“I know you have to find your sister, but I don’t think one night will make that much difference. It’s a big city, and she could be anywhere. Unless you know where she is?”
As Raven shook his head, I found myself distracted by the liquid blackness of his hair. I stared at Raven, wondering what made him different from the other beautiful men who rolled through my hospital. It wasn’t just his looks, even though those were amazing.
His pale skin glowed and his features were almost foxlike in their angles and curves. A sudden thought hit me, causing my heart to skip a beat. When the aliens had arrived all those years ago, I’d been a baby and had never interacted with any of them before they’d been destroyed. Yet I’d seen pictures since then, in history books and on the ’net.
Something about Raven’s features reminded me of the creatures who’d arrived from space and caused so much chaos and destruction. There was no possibility of Raven being one of them—the world government had ensured all the aliens had been wiped out. They’d showed no mercy to the invaders, and I understood why.
Some part of me couldn’t help but wonder why the aliens had had to die. To be honest, from what I’d read and the research I’d done, the aliens had never actually attacked any of our countries or people. They’d simply appeared and seemed interested in trying to communicate with us.
Of course, what did I know? I probably should have been angry with the aliens since they were the reason my father had died, but I didn’t dwell on the past. He hadn’t been there for me while I’d been growing up, and I didn’t know what I’d missed, though my mother had never hesitated to tell me all about what a no-good man he was.
A throat clearing brought me back to the present, and I blinked. When I looked toward the door, I saw Jackson standing there. He must’ve seen me staring at Raven and believed I was ogling him. I rolled my eyes at him, and the nurse grinned.
“Can I help you, Jackson?”
“I’ve come to take the patient up to his room.” Jackson sounded purely professional.
Raven whimpered and shook his head, reaching out to grab my arm. Panic and fear ripped through me, like I felt every emotion running through him. Gasping, I almost went to my knees. I braced my hands on the mattress next to Raven’s hips. His eyes widened and he yanked his hand away from me, whining low in his throat.
I took a deep breath and gathered myself. After straightening, I patted him on the shoulder, not letting my touch linger.
“You’ll be okay. I’m on shift all night, so I’ll stop by every hour to check on you. It’ll be fine.”
I could tell Raven wanted to argue, but not having a voice caused problems. Finding his sister was important. I couldn’t let him go, though. Not without knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was okay. Admittedly, I usually wouldn’t argue with a patient who wanted to leave, but everything inside me told me not to let Raven out of my sight.
With a silent sigh, he settled back and nodded. As Jackson rolled Raven out of the room, I overheard the nurse say to Raven, “You’re lucky. Dr. Harleigh is the best doctor in the hospital. He’ll keep his word and visit you throughout the night.”
Raven grunted, and I smiled. Something told me the young man would believe that when he saw it. I set an alarm on my watch for an hour from now, so I could remember to go and visit Raven like I’d promised.