Authors: Glenn Stormy
Jonah swallowed his sudden fear. “Sick?”
“He’s got a bad cold.”
“Is anyone taking care of him?” Jonah couldn’t stand the idea of the man being all alone while he was sick.
“It’s a cold, Jonah.”
Jonah growled as he pushed himself to his feet. He reached into the booth and grabbed his cowboy hat. After jamming the Stetson on his head, he pushed past Trudy and stormed away. He didn’t care if it was simply a cold. Someone needed to look after Aldrin.
Jonah made his way back to the grocery store. It was probably a myth that homemade chicken noodle soup helped cure what ailed a person, but Jonah couldn’t think of anything else to make. That’s what his mama always made him. Problem was, Jonah had no idea how to make it.
When he reached the store, he went down each aisle, gathering together what he assumed went into homemade chicken soup and putting it into a basket. He also grabbed cough drops, sore throat spray, several different types of tea, and juice. Lots of juice.
Once he got to the checkout counter, he wasn’t thrilled to see the same checker behind the counter. The woman was a Nosy Nancy. She constantly asked him questions every time he went through her line. He wasn’t looking forward to listening to the questions she would ask about him going through her line for a second time on the same day.
It had never happened before.
Jonah made one trip into town once a week. He attended church, went to the grocery store and picked up whatever he needed, went to the diner for the Sunday Special, and then he went home until the next Sunday.
Jonah didn’t smile as his basket moved across the conveyor belt, but he tried not to frown either. The cashier started grabbing items, scanning them, but then she gasped when she saw him.
“Mr. Cade, how wonderful to see you twice in one day.”
“Ma’am.” Jonah nodded. See? He could be polite. His therapist would be so pleased.
“Making dinner for a friend?”
Damn Nosy Nancy.
The woman’s eyes sparkled with glee. “Anyone I know?”
“How would I know?” Jonah was quickly losing patience. He did not want to discuss the cashier’s social life. He didn’t want to discuss anything with her. He just wanted to pay for his groceries and go.
The cashier shot him a little frown, as if he had sucked all of the fun out of her day. Jonah’s shoulders slumped. Maybe she was just trying to be friendly.
“My friend is sick. I am hoping to make him some chicken soup to make him feel better.” Jonah pressed his lips together to keep from growling when he gained the cashier’s interest again. That had not been his intention.
“Ma Blaecleah makes the best chicken soup in all of Cade Creek.”
“Ma Blaecleah?” Now it was Jonah’s turn to frown. “You mean Mrs. Blaecleah?”
The cashier smiled as she nodded. “Ma is a fantastic cook.”
Jonah eyed the cashier, wondering just how much information to give out without seeming like a complete idiot. “Do you think she would know how to make chicken soup that could go into one of those Crockpot cooker things?”
Jonah nodded as he thought about what she said and processed what he needed to do if he truly wanted to take care of Aldrin. “Do you know where I can get a Crockpot?”
* * * *
Jonah pulled his truck in beside two others and then turned it off. He turned to stare up at the small white cottage with its hunter green shutters. This was kind of going above and beyond what his therapist wanted him to do, and he’d be making the guy’s week if he knew what Jonah was trying to do.
As he climbed out of his truck and shut the door, he reminded himself that he was doing this for Aldrin. His adorable little waiter needed someone to take him some food and medications and make sure he was getting lots of rest.
Jonah didn’t know how many friends the guy had, but he suspected there were a lot. Aldrin was friendly like that. Any one of them could be caring for Aldrin. As much as that thought made his stomach knot, Jonah felt the need to check on Aldrin himself.
Jonah wiped his sweaty palms on the legs of his jeans and then forced himself to walk up the steps and knock on the door of the cottage. He had braved going to the grocery store for a second time, down the street to the general store to pick up a Crockpot, and then driving out to the Blaecleah ranch to ask Ma Blaecleah to teach him to make chicken soup.
He could do this.
Jonah raised his hand and knocked on the door. He waited a few moments and then knocked again. He started to feel like a goober and wondered if he was making a big mistake when no one answered. Maybe Aldrin had called in sick to work because he just didn’t want to go in. Maybe he wasn’t sick at all. Hell, maybe he wasn’t even home.
A crash and a cry of pain from inside dissuaded Jonah of that thought. He knocked again, harder. “Aldrin? It’s Jonah Cade.”
Jonah heard something, but he couldn’t quite make it out. He walked down the steps and over to one of the windows. He cupped his hands to his face as he tried to peer inside the darkness. There were no lights in the main room, and just a faint shadow cast from somewhere down the hallway.
Jonah started to turn away when he spotted movement down near the floor. He looked a little closer and then swore when he realized someone was on the floor. Jonah raced back up to the porch and pounded on the door.
“Aldrin, can you hear me? It’s Jonah Cade.” He had already said that but he didn’t want to scare the man. “I’m coming in.”
Jonah used his heightened strength along with the weight of his body to kick the door open. The door swung open and slammed into the interior wall with a resounding crash. Jonah raced inside, dropping down next to the prone body on the floor.
“I’m here, Aldrin,” he said in a voice much calmer than he felt. He carefully felt along Aldrin’s arms and legs to make sure nothing was broken, and then gently turned the groaning man over.
“Oh, baby, who did this?” Jonah needed to know so he could kill them.
Aldrin had been a mass of fading bruises the last time Jonah had seen him. Now he looked like he had gone fifty rounds with every member of a malicious biker gang. Both eyes were swollen shut, the dark bruising that covered most of his face broken up only by the vicious scratches across his cheeks.
Jonah looked up and glanced around. He needed light and he needed something to clean Aldrin up so he could assess the man’s injuries. It was a good thing he had combat medical training in the service. Not only could he protect Aldrin from whoever had done this, but he could take a look at Aldrin’s injuries to see if they could be treated at home or if he needed to go to a hospital.
Jonah jumped up and ran to the wall when he spotted a light switch. One flick of his thumb and the room was thrown into light. As he turned to head to the kitchen that he could now see, he shot a quick look at Aldrin.
The pool of blood under the man’s body changed Jonah’s mind about what he needed to do. He raced back and dropped down next to Aldrin. “I am so sorry about this, baby,” he whispered as he carefully turned Aldrin over, looking for whatever was bleeding so badly.
His heart refused to beat again until he saw the large gash on Aldrin’s lower back. He blew out a breath of relief. It wasn’t that he wanted Aldrin injured, but he didn’t even want to contemplate how bad things would be if the blood was coming from lower down.
Still, it was obvious Aldrin needed more medical care than Jonah could give him. Jonah grabbed a throw off the back of the couch and spread it out over Aldrin. He gently picked the man up, making sure to keep the blanket wrapped tightly around him.
Jonah carried Aldrin out to his truck. He was glad he had put the soup in the back seat. It left the bench seat in the front for him to lay Aldrin out. Once Aldrin was settled, Jonah went around to his side of the truck and climbed in. He gently laid Aldrin’s head on his thigh and then started his truck.
He pulled out and headed for the hospital at a speed that would probably get him a ticket if he got caught. He knew he should have simply called an ambulance, but the thought of waiting for medical personnel to get to the cottage when he could just as easily take Aldrin there himself didn’t sit well with Jonah. Aldrin needed help now, not when whoever got around to it.
Jonah knew he was one lucky son-of-a-bitch when he pulled into the emergency room parking lot without flashing lights trailing behind him. He would have eagerly taken the ticket if it came down to it, but he didn’t want to have to stop and explain to the sheriff or one of his deputies why he was speeding.
He pulled up in front of the double sliding doors and turned his truck off. He had the door open and was sliding out before the engine even quieted down. Jonah raced around to the other side of the truck and yanked the door open.
“Okay, this is probably going to hurt,” Jonah said as he lifted Aldrin up in his arms. He left the door wide open as he spun and carried Aldrin into the emergency room. “I need some help here!”
Things happened pretty quickly from that point. Two nurses came running toward him. Someone grabbed a gurney and pulled it over. Jonah carefully laid Aldrin down and then stepped to one side as the nurses went to work.
“Dr. Berkeley!” the blond-haired male nurse called out. “We need you.”
“I’m here,” a light-brown-haired man in a white doctor jacket said as he came hurrying through the secure doors leading back to the exam area.
“What happened?” the doctor asked.
“I don’t know. I found him this way when I reached his house. There was a pile of blood under him so I know he’s lost a lot. There’s a huge gash on his lower back.”
Dr. Berkeley lifted one of Aldrin’s eyelids and flashed a pin light in it. Aldrin groaned and tried to pull away. “Has he been in and out of consciousness?”
. Jonah shoved a shaking, frustrated hand through his hair. “I don’t think he’s really been awake at all. He groaned a little while I was checking his injuries, but nothing more than that.”
“Okay.” The doctor nodded to one of the nurses and they started wheeling Aldrin away. “The waiting room is right over there.” The doctor pointed to a room off to one side of the emergency room. “Someone will be out to talk to you as soon as we know something.”
Jonah’s heart dropped. “Wait. Can I go with him?”
“Are you a relative?”
“I’m sorry. Only family can go back to the exam rooms.” As if he had seen the slumping of Jonah’s shoulders and knew he was hanging on by a thread, Dr. Berkeley patted Jonah’s arm. “We’ll take good care of him, and I promise, someone will be out to talk to you just as soon as we know something.”
Jonah nodded because he knew he had no other choice. When Aldrin disappeared behind the security doors, Jonah felt as if the life had been drained out of him. He walked back outside and moved his truck to a parking spot. He couldn’t exactly leave it in the driveway. But he hurried back into the emergency area as fast as he could.
And then the waiting began.
Jonah paced simply because sitting in one spot wasn’t possible. He felt as if he had ants running up and down his legs. His skin crawled. He knew it was excess adrenaline. A good run would help alleviate it, but until he got home, that wasn’t possible, and he didn’t intend to head home until he knew Aldrin was okay.
Jonah didn’t know how long he had been pacing when the security doors slid open. Jonah swung around and raced to the edge of the waiting area, praying it was someone coming to tell him how Aldrin was doing.
It was the blond-haired nurse with the robin’s egg blue eyes. “Jonah Cade?”
“Please come with me.”
Jonah felt a bit of trepidation as he followed the nurse back into the exam area. His throat closed up, making it hard to swallow. “Is Aldrin…” Jonah swallowed hard. “Is Aldrin okay?” Could the man’s injuries have been worse than he thought?
The nurse stopped and pushed open a door. “Right in here, Mr. Cade.”
Confused, but willing to do whatever it took to get to Aldrin, Jonah stepped inside. His eyes instantly went to the man on the bed still being worked on by the doctor. Jonah raced over to the side of the bed. “How is he?”
Dr. Berkeley glanced up. “Calling for you.”
Jonah’s glance dropped to Aldrin’s bruised and swollen face. “He asked for me?”
The doctor never looked up from what he was doing as he replied to Jonah’s question. “He refused to allow us to work on him until we promised to go get you.”
Jonah felt something deep inside warm as it flashed with…joy? He wasn’t quite sure what it was he was feeling other than damn glad Aldrin was breathing, and that the man had asked for him.
Jonah reached down and clasped Aldrin’s hand, holding it gently with his own. He breathed deep when he felt Aldrin’s hand tighten around his for a moment. Aldrin knew he was there. For Jonah, that was enough.
Aldrin knew Jonah was there. He could hear the man breathing. How he could hear such a silent sound over the constant nagging beep of some infernal machine, he would never know. But the soft inhale of each breath Jonah took made Aldrin feel better, safer.