Bitten Under Fire(13)

By: Heather Long

“No, he’s fine. He was in far better shape than you were. We returned him to his parents, then we airlifted you to the Seahawke. I sent two of my guys with him, and they reported he was very pleased to be reunited with his mother and very concerned about you.”

The weight lifted off of her heart, and she smiled. “He’s a good kid. He fought them when they tried to take him at the resort. One little boy against these really burly men… There was gunfire and an explosion, and I just wanted to make sure he was okay.” Her hand trembled, so she flexed her fingers closed.

“Most people run away from danger.” He didn’t sound like he was criticizing her.

“So why did I run toward it?” It was a fair question. The pain meds must have kicked in again, because she wasn’t usually this chatty. “I work in a lot of…trouble areas. Most gunmen are just bullies, and sometimes you can scare them off when you run at them. Even if I didn’t, Collin’s a little kid, and I couldn’t let him face that terror alone.”

“You’re a hero.”

“No, I’m an idiot. But Collin made it, so I’m okay with being an idiot.” Her eyes were heavy, but she liked talking to Cage. Taking her hand from his, she reached for the water. This time, he didn’t intercept her. Instead, he watched.

“You were brave, I saw where they were holding you. It was a pit. You made a fire, you boiled water, you took hits for him, you made him feel safe. He might have a few bad dreams, but he was really proud of himself and all about protecting you when we got there. That makes you a lot more than an idiot.” Cool assurance filled his tone, and he settled against the metal rail of her bed, arms folded, just watching her.

“I’ll take your word for it.” At the end of the day, she didn’t care what label her actions earned, only that she had successfully navigated the horror of it all and Collin was safe. Her eyes grew heavier. Whether it was the company, the injuries, or the faint swaying of the ship rocking her to sleep, she didn’t know. “Cage…”

“I’m right here,” he assured her, then his hand settled over hers again. His thumb traced the edge of a bandage on her wrist, one she’d barely realized was there until he touched it.

Be bold, Bianca. When else are you going to have a chance like this? “If I wake up in some hospital on the mainland and you turn out to have been a dream, I wanted to let you know…I think you’re pretty hot.”

“Coming from such a pretty lady, I’ll take it.”

“Cool,” she said with a yawn. “That offer to get me what I want still stand?”

“Of course.”

“Tell me a story,” she ordered, letting her eyes drift closed while she held his hand. The content wasn’t important. Letting herself lean on his voice for a while to lull away any other unpleasant memories was her goal.

He hesitated for a long moment, then began to speak. She had no idea what he said, focusing only on his voice. Then she drifted, floating on his smooth, dark baritone.

Cage pushed away from the bed after Bianca’s breathing regulated. He hadn’t minded her request for him to talk, and he’d told her about his hometown in Texas of all things. Not that she heard what he had to say. No, she’d drifted so swiftly he could have read her a grocery list.

“She’ll sleep for a while,” McGinnis assured him. “It’s pretty normal with this kind of dehydration and stress.”

“So no signs of shock?” It had been a concern, especially after she’d collapsed in the village. One look at her bruised and banged-up appearance, and the urge to protect her had overwhelmed him. He’d wanted to take her pain himself—he could heal from those wounds so much more easily than she could. Since that hadn’t been an option, he focused on getting her and the boy to safety.

“No, but that doesn’t mean we’re totally out of the woods.” McGinnis was a solid corpsman and medical doctor. She’d taken charge of Bianca as soon as Cage carried her on board. Thankfully, she hadn’t objected to Cage remaining in the med bay; he’d left only twice—the first time to meet with Silver and get an update on Collin. The second time, he went to check in with the captain and apprise him of their status—carefully edited until he could confirm that the bite really was his. A deflection, certainly. One he needed until he could process the full ramifications of the action.

“Do you have a report on her condition?” Not that he had the right to it, but he needed to put together all the pieces. He’d bitten her…there was a very real chance she might turn. It often took more than one bite when they were in their human form, but it wasn’t unheard of for a single bite in their wolf form to transform another.