The Proposition, p.21Jessica Schlafer
There was a knock and Paul walked in. He had a huge basket of flowers, some balloons, and a box of chocolates. “Abby! I’m so happy to see your eyes open.”
“Hey, Paul,” was all I could muster.
“How are you feeling?”
“Like I was hit by a car,” I said dryly.
They exchanged glances.
Paul found a place to put his gifts down and pushed past Nick to get to the head of the bed. “When can you get out of here?”
“I don’t know, tomorrow maybe. I don’t know, though.”
“The doctor said that they want to see how she manages her pain tonight and they’ll talk about leaving tomorrow,” Nick said.
A terrifying thought hit me, “Does my family know I’m here?”
“No,” Paul said quickly. “I didn’t think you’d want that circus around you yet. I’ll let you call them if you want.”
“Oh, thank God,” I said. “I’ll call them tomorrow, I suppose.”
“Is there anything you need here?”
“Who else knows I’m in here?”
“Just me and Nick. No one else needs to know.”
Another knock on the door and a large, male orderly brought in a covered tray, nodded to both men like he knew them, and placed it on the rolling table in front of me.
“I’ll be back around in a while to pick that up from you, Ma’am.”
“Thank you,” I said.
The orderly backed himself out of the room, closing the door softly.
“Abbs, I brought your iPad. I thought you might get bored here. I can’t stay long, though. I’m sorry. I’ll come by tomorrow and hopefully they’ll let you go home. Are you sure there’s nothing you need?”
“No, I think I’ll be fine tonight. Thanks, Paul.”
"Okay, sweetie," Paul bent and kissed my forehead. "Nick, can I see you in the hall?"
Nick nodded and followed Paul in to the hallway. I was alone again. I was starting to think that's how I wanted to be. There was no way I could go back to Boston. I suddenly felt very scared and very alone.
Nick came back in and stood in the doorway.
"You don't have to stay," I said.
"I'm not leaving."
"I'm just not leaving, Abby."
"Why, Nick?" I sat up, wincing at the pain in my head.
Nick rushed to the bedside, "Jesus, Abby. Lie down."
I pushed him away, "Tell me what you two have gotten me involved in, Nick."
"I can't Abby,” he sighed. “I didn't want to do it like this."
Nick slumped into the chair beside the bed, took in a deep breath, and just shook his head.
"I want you to leave then," I said, anger seething.
"I can't, you won't be safe."
"It's a hospital, what could happen?"
"Abby, please don't."
"I want you to leave. If you don't, I'll scream, call security. They'll throw you out."
"What will you do if Merritt comes in here? Are you gonna scream then, Abby?"
"What if they send the driver of the car back to finish the job? Are you gonna scream then?"
"No," I said. "It's just, I-I don't know what is happening, Nick. How can I keep myself safe with you and Paul hiding everything from me?"
"I’m sure he has people working here, too. I'm trying to protect you, Abby."
"How are you protecting me by not telling me anything? You guys asked me to help you. Yet, here I am, in a hospital bed, and you want me to accept that you can't tell me anything? That's bullshit, Nick."
"Fine, Abby. You wanna know? Are you sure?” I nodded. “Fine, listen up, then, I won’t be repeating this.” He took a long pause and continued. “As you know, I used to steal cars for Paul. I was the best at it. I could get in and get the car gone in less than 45 seconds. Then four years ago, I had an accident and had to stop. I tried to take a car that had someone in it and got shot in the stomach. It was serious and obviously I survived, but I got out of the game."
"That scar..." I whispered more to myself.
"Exactly. Now, I have a different role, more behind the scenes. This is a big business. We have people all over the country. Part of the business is to ship the cars to other countries and business is good.”
He stopped and looked at me, I nodded for him to go on.
"Well, business was good until Merritt came to town. That was four years ago. He had been interrupting our business in other parts of the country. We didn't know who he was then. Now we know. After he had been in town for a few months, he wanted to make sure we knew who he was, so he blew up one of our warehouses."
I sucked in a breath.
Nick continued, in a much lower voice, "My fiancée was in the warehouse. She thought I was cheating on her so she followed me to the warehouse one night. She didn’t know about my job.
“I left and shortly after, the place blew up. Her parents blame me, still. I blame myself. I don’t know why she thought I’d cheat. I loved her." His voice was shaking; he took a long, deep breath, he was looking at the floor. "About a month later, we were prepping a shipment of real high-end cars to go to one of our best buyers, and the shipment disappeared. Gone. No trace has yet been found. And it’s not like we can call the police, ‘Hey, our stolen cars have been stolen.’ We know Merritt is behind it but he’s untouchable. He has no weaknesses, no way in. We’ve played friendly but he keeps pushing. Paul’s worried about an all-out war starting. We don’t have the firepower for something like that.”
Nick stopped and looked into my eyes. “The most recent was just two weeks ago. Carlie just got a new car for her 16th birthday and, the day after Paul gave it to her, it was stolen. That was a personal attack and that was when Paul sent them to Australia or wherever.” Nick sighed. “Since then, we’ve been stockpiling weapons and we knew that Merritt’s only weakness is for women, specifically women like you. Paul brought it up and talked about it for days. I didn’t want to put someone in any kind of danger. Especially if it was someone who he says he cares about. I’m not comfortable with this situation and I’ve told Paul I want to send you back to Boston. I didn’t want to bring you here in the first place. It’s just, well, it’s Paul. It’s out of my hands now.”
“What happens now?” I whispered.
“When they discharge you, you’ll come stay with me. I have a big house in the mountains. It’s nothing like Paul’s, but you’ll be comfortable there. We’ll lay low for a while and go after Merritt.”
“How are you going to do that?” I yawned.
“I don’t know yet. I’ll think of something,” he pulled the blankets back up to me. “Get some rest. Hopefully tomorrow you’ll get to go home, before they figure out how to get to you here.”
I fell asleep again.
The Proposition by Jessica Schlafer / Romance & Love have rating 2.5 out of 5 / Based on40 votes