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By´╝ÜTiffinie Helmer

“I’d rather not do it with you.”

“Good. If you did, I’d think you really were sick.” She reached for a pair of crutches. “Eva already considered this. She had Lynx drop these back by. She doesn’t want you putting weight on your leg until it’s been x-rayed.” Raven brought the crutches over to the bed. “Don’t think of crossing her. She’s very pregnant and very moody.”

“You forgot to mention she’s also very scary.”

Raven laughed, and it looked as though it surprised her. She was quick to smother it. “She also told me I’m supposed to take your temperature if you woke.”

“Bathroom first.” He didn’t want to embarrass himself in front of her. It was hard enough breathing the same air when he never thought he’d see her again. He swung his legs over the side of the bed, being careful of his injured one. Someone—probably Lynx—had removed his flannel shirt, leaving him in an undershirt and boxers. His leg throbbed but felt a hell of lot better than earlier. He reached for the crutches and noticed how careful Raven was to not let their hands touch. It said a lot about a person when they could care for you and still hate everything about you. No wonder he’d always worshipped her. She reminded him of his ex-girlfriend, Sonya. Or had Sonya reminded him of Raven all these years? It would explain why he’d latched onto the idea of him and Sonya being together.

But then he’d fucked that up too.

He stood, balanced on one leg, and put the crutches under his armpits. He was shaky but holding his own. Manning up, he swung on the crutches toward the bathroom and shut the door behind him. He didn’t want Raven’s help in this department any more than she wanted to give it.

He finished, flushed, and hopped to the sink, leaning the crutches against the counter. Thankfully, he found a new toothbrush and paste laying on the vanity, which he used to scrub the nasty taste off his teeth and tongue. Then he splashed water on his face and stared at his reflection in the mirror.

He looked like shit. But then again, he felt like shit.

He didn’t want to go back out there. Raven had looked at him like he was trash. And he was. He’d never been worthy of the Maiskis. Not worthy to be Raven’s lover or Lynx’s friend. He should leave. But how the hell was he going to do that? He was stuck by a snowstorm, a chewed up leg, and he still needed to do what he’d come here to do. Then he could be done with this place for good. Never to return. Never to have his heart ripped out of his chest, his love thrown back in his face. Never disappoint those he cared about again.

He returned to the bedroom and headed to the bed. Raven was gone. Guess he hadn’t needed to delay his time in the bathroom avoiding her.

Carefully he sat on the edge of the bed, breathing a sigh of relief he’d made it under his own steam. History had taught him that relying on others was always an exercise in disappointment. He swung his leg over and repositioned himself on the bed, pulled the blankets up to his chin, and tried to get back to sleep. But his head pounded and he was thirsty.

Sure, one minute you have to pee, and the next you want something to drink. Suffer. He wasn’t getting back up again.

The door squeaked open, and Raven entered carrying a glass full of water like an angel, or dark angel. Had she poisoned the water? But then that wasn’t like her. If she wanted him dead she’d had plenty of opportunity while he’d slept. Besides she wouldn’t have chosen poison.

She’d gut him.

“Here. Eva said to take two aspirin if you woke.” She handed him the pills and the glass of water.

“Thanks.” Gratefully he took the items she held out, again making sure they didn’t touch.

“Don’t thank me. Just following orders.”

“Got anything stronger than aspirin? My head is killing me.”

“The aspirins are supposed to help prevent any blood clots from forming. Oh, I was also supposed to give you some Ibuprofen.” She scratched her head. “But I wonder if you should be taking them together.” She shrugged. “It’s your choice. I’m not waking Eva to ask her.”

“Give me.”

She dumped two pills in his hand. He motioned for more. She dropped two more into his palm. “That’s all. You can overdose on your own time.”

He tossed back the pills and swallowed them down with another long drink of water. He set the glass on the nightstand and laid back down, his head propped up on pillows. Raven presented a thermometer.

“I don’t have a temperature,” he said.

“Orders. Open up.”

He opened his mouth, and Raven placed the thermometer under his tongue. They waited. Raven refused to look at him. She gazed off into the room. As it was dark, with just the glow from the bathroom, he didn’t know what she saw, but it must have been preferable to looking at him.