Ride Wild(9)

By: Laura Kaye

Finally, it was their turn. “My son, Ben Evans, came in by ambulance from his school,” Slider said before he and Cora even made it all the way to the counter. “He’s only six.”

“Of course, Mr. Evans,” the woman said, her fingers flying over the keyboard. “You can come right back.”

Finally. Thank fuck.

The receptionist’s gaze cut to Cora. “Are you family, too?”

Slider saw it. The little step backward Cora was about to take as she bowed to the hospital’s rules. But he wasn’t having it. Not for a second, not when Ben might need every bit of combined strength they had to offer. So Slider took Cora’s hand in his, and the tiny catch in her breath just made him hold tighter. “Yes,” he said. “Now, please take us to him.”

Chapter 3

As bad as Slider’s earlier words had made Cora feel, his actions now made her feel more important than anyone else ever had. Except Haven, of course, who never once let Cora believe she was anything less than her best friend in the world. Slider’s behavior was confusing as hell, but Cora went with it, because she was worried out of her mind over Ben.

And given how scared she was, she couldn’t imagine how Slider was feeling. Not after having lost a wife.

So Cora was determined to be there for both of them. In whatever ways and for however long they might need her. Because it was good to be needed. And no one else seemed to need her except the Evans men. Not even Haven anymore, who now had a man who was absolutely devoted to her. After everything she’d been through, Haven deserved that devotion—and every bit of the happiness she’d found with Dare Kenyon.

But it left Cora more than a little adrift in her own life.

“The doctor will be in to see you soon,” the nurse said as they arrived at a curtained exam room.

Slider nodded, and then his pale gaze cut to Cora like he was looking for something from her. But she didn’t know him well enough to do more than squeeze his hand in reassurance. “I can wait here until you’ve had a chance to see him.”

“I want you with me. He’s, um, going to want to see you, too.” His hand still around hers, he pulled her inside.

Whatever pleasure she’d felt from those declarations quickly fell away when she took in Ben’s little body, looking so small in the big hospital bed.

Slider’s face was a stone wall, but she felt the jolt of his reaction where they were connected. “Hey, Benji,” he said, his voice strained.

The boy’s eyes swam open and finally focused. And even though his forehead was bruised, bandages covered the side of his head and one arm, and an IV ran into his other arm, the kid’s face still managed to light up when he saw his father. “Dad, I got to ride in an ambulance,” he said with a hint of his usual exuberance.

Slider managed a chuckle as he eased onto the edge of the mattress and took Ben’s hand. “Yeah? Did they turn on the siren for you?”

“It was loud,” Ben said, eyes wide. “And everything inside was shiny. And the man told me knock-knock jokes the whole way here.” Cora heaved a relieved breath. Hearing the kid talk gave her hope that he’d be okay. “He was almost as funny as you, Cora.”

She smiled at the sweet compliment. “No one’s as funny as me, Bean. No one.” Even though, just then, humor was eluding her in favor of bone-deep relief. This kid had lost a mother at the age of four. The last thing he needed was any kind of permanent injury at the age of six.

He rolled his eyes. “Coowa, it’s Ben!”

Happy tears threatened. “Yeah? Well, Ben, how’s that noggin feeling? Is it true you dented the monkey bars with it?”

“Noooo,” he said with a giggle as he nodded toward the bed opposite from where Slider sat. Even though the man had made it clear he wanted her there, she couldn’t help but feel a little like she was intruding, so she’d hung back. But now she made her way to Ben’s side. “I have a headache. And my elbow hurts. And I might need a case on my arm. But I didn’t break the monkey bars. Or, at least, I don’t think I did.”

“I think it’s called a cast, buddy,” Slider said.

“Oh, yeah. And they said I could pick the color of it,” Ben said. “Isn’t that cool?”

Slider nodded, his eyes suddenly blinking fast. “Really cool,” he managed.

Seeing the normally stoic man struggle with emotion almost brought tears to Cora’s eyes. “Definitely the coolest,” she added, admiring the kid’s positivity. He’d been hurt, taken a probably scary ride by himself in an ambulance, and been poked with a needle, yet what he focused on was how fun the ride was and that he’d get to choose the color of his cast. She pulled a stuffed animal out of her purse. “Brought someone for you.”