The way with you the way.., p.6
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       The Way With You (The Way #2), p.6

           Anne Mercier
 
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  eight

  My mouth is dry. I need water, but I can't open my eyes. Why can't I open my eyes? Why does my body hurt? My chest, my jaw, my hands… it all hurts. I try to shift and the pain is excruciating. I can't breathe.

  Someone's calling for a nurse—or a doctor? Or both? Next thing I know, the pain is fading and so am I. I remember this feeling. It happened after the accident. What happened that it's back?

  My brain gets fuzzy and I don't fight it.

  Ow. Shit. Fuck. Damn. What is going on?

  "Liv."

  I take a breath—even that hurts.

  "Livvy," Bash murmurs, his hand gently brushing the hair off my forehead. "Just rest."

  Easy for him to say. His body doesn't feel like it's going to implode on itself.

  "She's awake and in pain," he tells someone.

  "I've got her pain medication right here," a bright female voice says.

  "Good. I don't want her to hurt," Bash tells her.

  "Did you ever reach her parents?" that female voice asks.

  "I did." Lex answers.

  I want to see. I push myself to open my eyes but I just can't. My eyelids are too heavy and that blissful numbness that comes from those pain meds is taking over.

  "They're on their way," Lex says.

  "Where's your fucking brother?" he barks.

  "I don't know," Lex bites out, her anger clear.

  "It's three in the morning. What the fuck?" Bash growls.

  "I don't know and I don't care. I left him messages—about twenty of them. I'm done with him. He doesn't deserve to see her," Alexa replies.

  "He doesn't deserve her, period," Bash rebuts.

  "No. He certainly doesn't," Lex agrees.

  I sigh, and immediately regret it. He's not here again—even through this—whatever this is. I search my brain trying to remember what happened. The accident? No. I didn't know Sebastian then, but I hurt more now than I did then.

  What the ever-loving hell happened to me?

  The sun is peeking between two clouds, letting a lone ray of sunshine into my room. I feel the warmth on my hand, and a deeper warmth on the other hand. I take a steadying breath, bracing for the pain that's sure to come and turn to see who's holding that hand.

  Bash. I should have known. He's asleep, sitting in a chair, leaning forward so his head rests on his arm. His eyelashes fanning over his cheekbones, dark circles beneath his eyes. Just how long have I been out?

  I want to talk, but my mouth isn't working so I wiggle my fingers. Big mistake. My scream comes out as a soft groan. Bash's head jerks up.

  "Livvy," he whispers, moisture gathering in his eyes. I want to tell him there's no need for that, but—what's going on with my mouth? So many questions.

  I lift my other hand slowly, noticing two of my fingers are casted along with my arm which is casted to the elbow. Lovely. I point to my mouth and frown.

  "Your jaw's cracked," he tells me softly. My eyes widen as shock ignites inside me. I knew it was bad, but I wasn't expecting that.

  I frown again. How can I ask what I need to ask?

  "Try talking without moving your jaw by keeping your teeth together," he instructs.

  "Wh--," I huff when I can't do it. It's much harder than it seems. "What happened?" is what I ask, but it's all muffled and garbled.

  "You were attacked."

  I meet his soothing brown eyes and the memories flash in my mind of being hit, kicked, punched.

  "Who?"

  He shakes his head, his jaw clenched. "We don't know yet."

  An image of Alison threatening me on the bench by the creek comes to the fore. "Alison."

  He shakes his head again. "She was at the game, in the stands."

  My turn to shake my head. "No, a man but she set it up."

  He tilts his head. "Did she threaten you with that?"

  "Not those words. I wouldn't see it coming."

  "When did she say that?"

  "The day of the attack," I tell him, spitting all over as I do.

  "The police want to ask you some questions. You need to tell them about this," he informs me.

  "I know. So hard." Talking like this is frustrating the fuck out of me. "My chest hurts," I tell him when I try to take a deeper breath, only to pull up short when I get a sharp stab in my right side and chest.

  He swallows—hard. "Baby doll, you had a collapsed lung. They had to put some tube in to drain the blood. You had to have surgery on your wrist."

  I close my eyes. "Same one." Same one as the accident.

  He nods. "They had to set it and do some other stuff so it stays that way. I don't know everything they did."

  "Tell me all."

  "You want to know what's all wrong?"

  I nod faintly.

  "I'm not going to sugar coat it, Livvy baby. It's bad. Concussion. Broken nose. Fractured jaw. Broken wrist and fingers. Collapsed lung. Bruised kidneys. And, baby, your entire body is bruised purple, black, blue, yellow, and green. There isn't a spot on you that isn't bruised except for behind your ears," he confesses and I let the tears fall.

  He reaches up to wipe the tears with his fingers. "Livvy."

  I meet his gaze with my watery one.

  "You're alive. This will all heal," he says firmly.

  "Lucky," I say with sarcasm.

  "Damn right. Olivia, I—"

  "Liv!" my mom cries, flying in from the hall, coffee in hand, my dad joining her beside my bed.

  The drama ensues and I'm just too tired to deal with it, so I close my eyes.

  Flashes of fists flying at me, hitting me—feet kicking me—blood everywhere. My eyes fly open and I grip Bash's hand tighter. He rubs his thumb over my wrist, his fingers holding on to me.

  "It's all right now, love. You're safe," he whispers, his other hand lifting to touch my face.

  "I bet I look like shit," I blurt out, a tear slipping out and running down my temple and into my hair.

  "You look like you've gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson, but Livvy?" he pauses.

  "Hmm?"

  "You're still beautiful," he tells me. I look into his eyes and I can see he really means it.

  "Weirdo. You need glasses."

  One side of his mouth tips up in a half grin. "No, I don't. I see you."

  I frown, confused.

  "I see you," he repeats. My eyes widen at his meaning, my breath catches. I knew that already, so why does it feel different now? It feels like… more.

  I'm not ready to deal with that yet. I need to deal with my broken and battered body that's starting to ache again. Then there's Cam. The thought of him hurts me, disappoints me, and saddens me.

  "Hey," Bash whispers. "What just happened?"

  I look away.

  "Livvy. Look at me," he demands.

  I meet his gaze.

  "What's going on?"

  "I gave him a second chance yesterday morning," I confess.

  Bash's lips tighten and he nods.

  "Fool me once…" I let the rest of it hang there.

  "It'll all be okay. I promise."

  I wince when a stabbing pain goes through my arm—the same damn arm I broke in the accident, only this time it hurts so much worse.

  "Let me call the nurse for some more pain meds," my mom says from next to me. I startle. I didn't even know she was still there. Looking at her, I feel like a child again—a child who needs its mother.

  "Mommy," I whisper, letting my tears fall.

  "Oh, my baby," she replies, leaning onto the side of the bed, holding me as gently as she can.

  "I'm scared," I admit, my eyes lifting to my dad where he's standing, next to my mother.

  He gets that look—the one that lets me know he's angry, frustrated, and ready to do some bodily harm.

  "You're going to be okay, Olive," he tells me softly. "You're safe now."

  The nurse injects the medication into my IV, smiling at me so
ftly, with sympathy. I don’t want her to feel sorry for me.

  "I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me. I want you to feel sorry for whoever did this," I whisper drowsily. "They're gonna need it."

  I drift off to Bash's murmured, "That's my girl."

  nine

  I wake to angry shouts, but I'm still too tired to open my eyes.

  "Where the fuck have you been?" Alexa demands.

  "I was at the frat," Cam answers.

  "The frat? What the hell, Cam? Partying it up while your girlfriend was in the hospital having surgery and in agony because someone beat the hell out of her—and I, personally, think your skank bitch friend Alison had something to do with it!" she accuses.

  He lets out a frustrated sigh. "I don't know anything, Lex. What do the cops say?"

  She growls. "They, of course, let us know that psycho was at the game, in the stands, at the time of the attack—which we already knew. But I think she hired some thug to do this to Olivia and if Bash hadn't gone looking for her, who knows how bad it would have gotten."

  "How bad is it?" Cam asks.

  Lex's breath hitches. "It's bad."

  I can smell Cam when he gets close to the bed, his breathing uneven as he curses under his breath.

  "Hi Cam," my dad greets.

  "Mr. Brennan. How's she doing?" he asks, lifting my hand into his.

  "She's stable," my dad answers, then tells Cam about all of my injuries.

  "They fucking cracked her jaw?" Cam seethes. "Excuse my language, Mrs. Brennan."

  "No, it's fine. I've said more than a few colorful words myself. Honestly, Cameron, the jaw isn't as bad as her arm and bruised ribs. They're concerned about her kidneys, but so far the tests show they're functioning just fine. She'll be okay but it'll take time," my mom informs Cam.

  "What about her classes?" he asks. "They'll let her make that up, right?"

  "They will," Lex answers. "I already talked to her professors and the Dean."

  "Good, good," he says. It sounds like he's distracted. "Do they have any leads?" he asks, and my hand tightens on his. He squeezes back softly.

  "They'll never find him," I murmur sleepily, my eyes barely open. "It was Alison, Cam."

  "How do you know for sure?" he asks and I pull my hand out of his. "Liv…"

  "No," I blast, the increase in my heartbeat blipping loudly from the machine. "She threatened me yesterday. She told me I'd forgotten my place and she was going to remind me, that I'd never see it coming." I pause to swallow and rest my jaw. "She's right. I never saw it coming and then it was too late. I tried to fight back, to defend myself, but he was too strong and he just kept coming and coming and coming," I murmur, my breath hitching on a sob.

  "Fuck," Bash murmurs, walking into the room and over to me. He elbows Cam out of the way, and takes my hand, using the other to wipe the tears off my face. "You're okay now, Livvy. You're safe," he tells me again.

  He keeps telling me that. I think he thinks if he says it enough I'll start to believe it. I feel safe with Bash—Cam, not so much.

  "Why haven't you answered your phone, Stone?" Bash snaps.

  "It's been missing since before the game yesterday. I looked everywhere," he tells us. His gaze meets mine, "If I had known, I swear, Liv, I'd have been here. I didn't find out until now."

  "Who told you?" Alexa asks, my parents looking on cautiously.

  He looks down and swallows.

  "Alison?" Alexa asks incredulously.

  Cam nods. "Yeah. She was at the frat when I went down to get breakfast."

  "Of course she was," I murmur.

  Cam looks at me and I stare at him. His jaw is set and gets tighter every time he sees Bash squeeze my hand. My jaw is killing me, but it's time to say what needs to be said.

  "Cam," I begin.

  He shakes his head. "I know, Liv. I've been a shit boyfriend, but I didn't know. I swear," he pleads.

  "If you're going to remain friends or associate with Alison in any way, we're done. We can't even be friends," I say flatly. "I can't be friends with anyone who has anything to do with the bitch that had someone do this to me."

  "No," my mom states. "She did this. It might not have been her fists, but she did this."

  I blink in agreement with my mom—nodding hurts my neck, jaw, and head too much.

  "I'll make sure she never sets foot in the frat house again. She's ruined," Cam says.

  I blink at him and he relaxes his shoulders just a little.

  "I know it's unreasonable to be mad at you when you didn't know about this, but I am," I confess to Cam, who takes a seat in the chair on the other side of my bed. "I think it's because you've been absent."

  He wants to grab my hand, but it's casted, so he rests his hand on my shoulder. "I know, Liv. I'm sorry. Christ, I wish I'd known."

  "Did you see Alison yesterday?" my dad questions.

  Cam nods. "Yeah. She was at the frat. She's seeing one of the linemen."

  "So she could have taken your phone, sent the message to Olivia—" my dad begins but Cam cuts him off.

  "Wait—what? They sent a message to you from my phone? What did it say?" he asks, his eyes blazing with anger.

  My dad tells him and Cam's anger grows.

  "I can see why you'd be pissed at me," he tells me, "even though I had nothing to do with it. I've been around her. I let this happen because she wiggled her way in."

  "Yeah," I admit.

  "She'll answer for this," Cam growls.

  "What are you gonna do?" Bash asks him.

  "I'm not sure yet. I'm gonna talk to Dekker and Brax and figure this shit out. What she did… Liv, Christ, I'm so sorry. I'm not the one who hit you, but I may as well have. I'm so damn sorry," he pleads.

  I close my eyes—so confused, so hurt. I know he's sincere right now just as he was yesterday when we spoke, but is it just a fleeting vehemence, one he'll forget when I'm not there, or will these feelings stick with him, even when I'm not around?

  Only time will tell.

  Bash gets up. "I'm going to go grab a shower and something to eat."

  I don't want him to go. I feel better when he's here—safer.

  He must see my panic because he squeezes my hand again. "I'll be back soon. I promise."

  I blink my agreement and he winks before he walks out of the room.

  "He's been here the whole time?" Cam asks, walking around to the other side of the bed so he can see everyone in the room and doesn't have his back to my parents.

  "Yeah," I answer.

  "He found her, Cam," Lex reiterates. "Except for when she was in surgery, Bash and I haven't left her side."

  He nods. "I wish I'd been here for you, babe."

  "I know," I tell him and mean it—mostly.

  He lifts my hand, bringing it to his lips for a kiss. "I'll do whatever it takes to find who did this to you." I stare into his eyes and see the determination, the sincerity, and the love—a love that doesn't burn as brightly as it once did. Why doesn't that bother me?

  "I know," I whisper. "I know."

  But I really don't. He doesn't have the time—for me.

  Three days later and a gazillion arguments with my mom later, I'm back at the dorm. Mom wanted me to go home and heal, but I need to be here to keep up with my schoolwork. Most of my professors have accommodated me as far as the coursework is concerned, but I still have to take the tests and exams, plus write the major papers that are required. There's no getting out of that.

  Honestly, I'm fine. My mom was insisting on staying here since I wasn't going home. I kept reassuring her and arguing until my dad intervened. Really, what can she do to help that Lex or Bash can't help with? She didn't like that—feeling like I didn't need her and that wasn't what I meant. I gave her a hug and told her this is where I needed to be right now. I wasn't going to fall behind on my classes and let whoever did this win.

  I'm lying on the couch watching TV when there's a k
nock on the door.

  Lex goes to answer it.

  "Hi," Raven Ruiz, head basketball cheerleader greets.

  "Hi," Lex welcomes.

  "I hope it's okay that I stopped by?" Raven questions.

  "Of course. Come in," Lex invites.

  "Oh, Olivia," she breathes, her hand flying to her chest, her eyes full of sympathy.

  "Hi Raven," I say, hoping she'll lose that look of pity. I hate it.

  "I heard what happened and wanted you to know we—the squad—came up with a different way to determine if you would make the squad or not," she tells me.

  "Really? I thought for sure my chances were gone," I admit, feeling hope spark.

  She nods. " We wanted to give you a fair chance."

  "And how will you do that?" I ask.

  "Well, we reviewed some tapes from when you cheered in North Carolina. We were able to judge your form and technique—really everything we needed to see," she tells me.

  "That's pretty cool," Alexa states.

  I nod. "What did you determine?"

  "You made the squad!" she tells me, excitement radiating from her. "Both of you did as well as Candace Stetson."

  Alexa and I exchange a look. Candace is one of Brittany's best friends and Brittany is Alison's cousin, which equates to trouble.

  Raven senses our unease. "You don't have to worry about Candace. She's no longer friends with Brittany. She's been trying to break free from that clique for a while now."

  "Really," Lex says.

  "Yep," Raven affirms with a nod. "She's been pretty embarrassed by Brit's behavior and when Alison showed up, she had an escape. Brittany pretty much forced Candace to be her friend but now she's got Alison."

  "So Candace is free," I offer. I'm really glad I'm able to open my jaw a little bit more now. Talking with my mouth closed makes me drool and that'd be pretty humiliating in front of the cheer captain.

  "Candace is free," Raven agrees, but looks at her hands.

  "But?" I offer.

  "Not really a 'but'. Candace wanted me to apologize on her behalf for all the things you've had to endure at the hands of Brit. She'd like to be friends—if that's possible," Raven adds quickly.

 
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