The next few moments seemed to go in slow motion.
Pam’s eyes shot open wide and she gasped, dropping the napkin she’d held under her nose and jumping backwards out of range of the splattering coffee.
My eyes darted over to Sookie, where Godric was staring wide-eyed and open-mouthed, only to see her eyes roll back in her head. She crumpled to the tile floor, banging her head on the edge of the kitchen table as she went. It seemed like I was moving through molasses as I threw myself towards her, sliding like I was the game winning run in the World Series.
Amelia shrieked as she spun back around from where she’d been staring at Godric’s arrival, trying in vain to catch her friend.
And I cringed as I barely managed to make it under Sookie in time, only managing to catch her head. Swinging myself around, I pulled her small body into my lap, cradling her like a child.
I rocked her back and forth, purposely shutting out the chaos in the room around me as Godric, Pam and Amelia talked over and around one another.
“It’s okay, I’ve got you, I’ve got you,” I repeated, almost on autopilot. A hand touched my arm and I growled low in my throat before I realized it was Godric.
“Dude, she hit her head pretty hard. I think we may want to take her to the hospital.”
Amelia paled considerably and began shaking her head. “No. We can’t! She-uh-shit! We just…I can’t.”
She sank to her knees next to us, trying to pull Sookie to her. But I must have been channeling my inner vampire because I growled again, not willing to relinquish her for anything or anyone.
The possessive feelings welling up in me were slightly disturbing once again, but I had no real desire to fight them at the moment.
“Amelia,” Godric’s gentle voice pleaded, “she’s not waking up. That’s a serious problem. Come on, whatever this secret you’re protecting is, it can’t be that bad.”
Her eyes darted between the two of us and silently pleaded when they landed on Godric. Sighing in resignation, she nodded. “I have her purse in the car. Come on then; let’s go.”
My knees popped as I struggled to stand up, but I wouldn’t put Sookie down. I shot Pam a glare as she stepped forward, maybe to help me, maybe to knock Sookie out of my arms-I didn’t know, so I didn’t take the chance. I cradled her gently to my chest and nuzzled my face into her hair.
“Eric! Seriously? You’re just going to drop everything because this psychotic hussy decided to pass out in your kitchen?”
The frosty glare aimed her way by Amelia made her scoff. However, when an angry Godric grabbed her arm roughly and steered her out of the room, I saw a real flash of fear in her eyes.
I shook my head to clear it as I led Amelia through the house and out the front door, steering myself automatically to my Range Rover.
I stopped at the back door, stumped as to how I was supposed to open it, but Amelia darted in front of me to yank it open. I shuffled myself and Sookie into the back seat before softly closing the door. Amelia ran back to her rental to retrieve their purses and then back to the passenger side and jumped in, immediately sticking her head through the seats to look back at us.
Godric pulled open the driver door huffily, grumbling as he jabbed the key into the ignition. “It’s a good thing I know where your keys are.”
I rolled my eyes. I settled back into my seat as Godric drove sedately through my neighborhood, navigating the streets like a little old lady on her way to church. But I couldn’t bring myself to be annoyed because it gave me more time to hold Sookie. And I didn’t honestly know how much time I had with her. After all, this whole clusterfuck of a marriage was a mistake. Right?
Before I knew it, we’d reached Tampa General and Godric had parked in the emergency lot. He pulled my door open, allowing me to scoot across the seat, cuddling Sookie close to my chest as I did. She groaned slightly and began shifting restlessly in my arms, but her eyes still didn’t open.
I led the way into the ER with Amelia and Godric trailing behind me. Approaching the counter, I waited impatiently as a nurse smacked her gum into the phone, completely ignoring my presence.
“Excuse me.” Apparently the annoyed tone of my voice didn’t break through this dipshit’s bubble. “Hello?”
“I’ll BE right with you Sir,” she rolled her eyes at me and swiveled around in her chair, returning to her conversation with ‘Phil’ about how she forgot to fill her birth control prescription this month. My head dropped back in frustration.
“Excuse me! My wife fainted and hit her head and hasn’t woken up yet. It’s been over 20 minutes and she’s still unresponsive. Do you think maybe I could get some help?”
“Sir, I already told you. I will be right-”
“No, I don’t think you understand. My WIFE has been hurt. She hit her head. She’s not waking up. And if anything happens to her as a result of this delay I will sue you.” My patience had officially reached its end.
She stood up, her bright Snoopy scrubs just pissing me off even more. “Sir. This is inappropriate. Please calm down.”
“You know what? Just get me Preston Pardloe. You know, the Dean of Medicine. I’m sure he’d be very interested to know the level of care your patients are getting.” My words apparently finally hit home as she visibly paled and began fumbling on her desk.
“Sir, there’s really no need-I mean…I’m sure Dr. Pardloe is busy and uh-there’s no need-”
“There’s no need for what Cindy?”
The nurse gasped and spun around, knocking over the charts on the counter by her elbow. “Dr. Pardloe! Sir-it’s…I mean, I don’t-”
“That’s enough Cindy. I’ll take it from here. Make sure you stop by my office after your shift please.” Preston waved his hand dismissively as he ushered us back into an intake bay.
“I got your text Godric.” I cast an appreciative glance back at my friend as Preston spoke. “Now, what can I help you with Eric? Who’s this lovely-albeit unconscious-young lady?”
As he talked, Preston began taking Sookie’s vital signs. He hmmmm’d and screwed up his face as he waited for a response.
“This is Sookie. She’s my wife.”
The stunned silence I was met with wasn’t all that unexpected. And neither was the puzzled expression he was shooting my way.
“And why wasn’t I invited to the wedding?”
Shit. This is why I really should have thought about my answers beforehand. But-I was just so worried about Sookie…
“Uh-it’s complicated…” My words didn’t exactly impress and he cast a withering glare in my direction as he led us through the emergency room and into a room.
“I expect I’ll hear more about it later, huh?” I nodded. “Alright then, here’s a gown for her. A nurse will be in momentarily for a blood draw and I’m going to order some tests. We’ll do a CBC and get an MRI-”
“NO!” I nearly dropped Sookie in my suprise when Amelia shrieked. “She can’t have an MRI!”
“Why not? It’d be the easiest and quickest way to see what’s going on.” Preston furrowed his eyebrows.
Amelia wrung her hands and Godric shuffled into the room behind her, sinking into one of the visitor chairs.
“I-uh-I can’t…shit. She-I mean, Sookie…well-fuuuuuuuuuuuck.” She sank next to Godric and put her head on her knees. I sat on the bed, still cradling Sookie to me, waiting for an explanation.
“She just-look, she’s got pins in her wrist. So she can’t have an MRI. I really can’t tell you any more than that. It’s…it’s her story to tell.” She seemed to beg me with her eyes to understand. Godric reached over and rubbed his hand down her back,
“Miss, this is a medical facility, not a gossip factory. But as I understand it, she hit her head when she fainted, correct?” I nodded as Preston spoke. “And since she hasn’t woken up yet, that is a serious problem. It’s probably nothing to be overly concerned about, but it might be. Head injuries are a tricky thing.”
Amelia scoffed and muttered something only Godric could hear. He, in turn, shot to his feet and began turning puce as his face was marred by an angry expression.
“What? What am I missing? Can we please just get something done? My wife still hasn’t woken up!” Even I could hear the panic rising in my voice.
“Okay, I’ll order a CT scan then. I’ll send someone in momentarily. And Eric-” I looked up at my long time friend, “I expect an introduction when she’s awake.”
I smiled, despite my worry. “Sure thing, Pres. It’s a very long-and complicated-story.”
My eyes returned to Sookie as he ducked out of the room, waving to Godric and Amelia in the process. Why wouldn’t she wake up? And, come to think of it, Amelia and Godric seem pretty chummy…what the hell was going on today? I swear it felt like I’d been dropped into the Twilight Zone.
“So,” my voice broke them out of whatever secrets they were whispering back and forth, “you two seem pretty cozy. Care to share anything?”
“It’s nothing Eric. We’re just worried about Sookie.” Godric’s soothing tones did nothing to actually soothe me, as I’m betting he was hoping.
“And why are you so worried about Sookie, Godric? You don’t even know her. Do you?”
There it was! He had guilty eyes. Seriously, he was a shit poker player-wore all his emotions right on his sleeves.
“Eric-it’s…complicated.” I pinched the bridge of my nose as he tried to placate me.
“I know I threw that out at Preston, but seriously, how is this so fucking complicated? Do you know Sookie and Amelia or not? Did you know that I somehow managed to marry a complete stranger a month ago and didn’t bother to tell me? Did you know, Godric? Did you?!?” My voice steadily rose as I got more and more angry.
Sookie began stirring in my arms, probably due to the tightly wound tension coursing through my body.
“Eric?” Her voice was weak and thready. “What happened?”
“Shhhh, Sookie. Just relax, sweetie.” I nestled her in under my chin, hugging her to me. I brought my eyes up to Godric and Amelia, who still looked guilty. “I think our friends owe us an explanation though.”
Her nose wrinkled adorably in her confusion. “Huh?”
I clenched my eyes shut, trying to block out all external stimuli that wasn’t Sookie’s body pressed tightly to mine. “Just-here, let’s get you set up here and then we can all discuss everything. Alright?”
“Uh, yeah okay…” She pulled away from me and I felt cold. This was wrong. She should always be curled up against me. Wait-what?!
“Uh, could you and Godric maybe leave while I change?” Her timid request made my heart ache. What the hell had happened to this woman to make her so skittish?
“Of course. We’ll be right outside. Just come get us when you’re ready.” I kissed her forehead once again before retreating to the hallway with Godric in tow.
I cut him off abruptly. “Just stop Godric. What the hell, man?”
I snapped my mouth shut as I realized that the hallway of a hospital emergency room was probably not the ideal place for this particular conversation. He cast his brown eyes woefully at me, trying to appear innocent. Like a big,innocent, tattooed puppy…wasn’t working.
The door slid open and Amelia poked her head out.
“She’s dressed. You guys can come back in.”
I pushed past her quickly and darted to Sookie’s side, startling her in the process.
“I’m so sorry about what Pam said! She’s really protective…and loyal-but that causes all kinds of problems and…” Her lips pressing gently against mine effectively shut me up and I sank slowly into her body.
“It’s alright, Eric. Today’s been…interesting, to say the least.” She smiled against my lips and nuzzled her cheek against mine.
I just stared into her amazing blue eyes for a moment, savoring the intense connection I felt. And then the door slid open again and burst my bubble. I blinked, looking around at the newest occupant of the room-a large, older African-American nurse-who bustled in quickly.
“Hey babies! I’m Georgia and I’ll be taking care of you today!” She smiled brightly, obviously happy to be doing her job.
“Hi there Georgia. I’d say it was nice to meet you, but under the circumstances…” Sookie trailed off into a giggle that made my heart flutter. Amelia and Godric chuckled as well from their exile in the corner.
“Totally understand, baby. Let’s just get you all patched up and out of here. I understand you and this hunk a’burnin’ love over here are newlyweds.” Her eyebrows wiggled comically and Sookie barked out a laugh.
“Ha, yeah…it’s a long story. But yeah, I guess you would call us newlyweds.” She smiled at me and I sat on the edge of the hospital bed, thankful for my long legs because I didn’t have to struggle.
I watched in horrified curiosity as Sookie held out her arm unceremoniously for the nurse to draw blood. Even if she didn’t flinch, I did. I hated needles. And somehow I found that seeing her being stuck freaked me out a hell of a lot more than it would if the needle was headed for me.
“Don’t worry.” Sookie whispered under her breath, casting her eyes to the nurse who was busy working on filling vials. “I’m used to it.”
“Now-” I whispered back, dangerously close to her ear, “why would a beautiful girl like you be used to having needles stuck in her?”
Her smile faded and I squeezed my eyes shut. Great job, doofus.
“I’ll tell you. Just-wait ‘til she’s done. Alright?”
I nodded solemnly and lifted my eyes to Amelia and Godric who were huddled in the corner, mumbling back and forth.
“That’s fine, sweetheart.” She blanched and paled visibly.
“Baby, you feelin’ okay?”
“Yeah-uh…I just-jus-” Her voice faded rapidly and she squeezed her eyes shut as her chest pumped up and down with her rapid breaths.
Georgia raced out of the room as much as her considerable frame would allow and returned quickly with an apple juice.
“Here ya go, honey. Just drink it up.” She held the straw to Sookie’s lips, who obediently sucked down the juice, a sweet sigh escaping as she did.
“Please don’t call me sweetheart.” Sookie implored as Georgia left the room after double checking that she was feeling better.
“Okay, I’m sorry.” I pulled her further into me, spreading my legs on either side of her small frame. “Why don’t we hear what our lovely friends have to tell us though? They seem to be thick as thieves over there, which is weird considering they both claim to not remember the other.”
Sookie’s eyebrows furrowed and she looked over to Amelia. “Ames, what’s he talking about?”
Amelia took a deep breath, raising her brown eyes to look into Sookie’s blue ones. “Well…Vegas wasn’t the first time I met Godric.”