What Lies Beneath(3)

By: Andrea Laurence



“Will is here, dear.”

The worry slipped from her mind as Pauline pressed the button to raise the head of the hospital bed. Self-consciously, she smoothed her hair and tucked it behind her ears, readjusting her sling to make her heavy, casted arm more comfortable.

Sitting up, she was able to see Will seated at the foot of her bed. They said he was her fiancé. Looking at the handsome, well-dressed man beside her, she found that very hard to believe. His light brown hair was short but long enough on the top for him to run his fingers through it. His features were aristocratic and angular, except for the full lips she found herself watching while he talked. His eyes were blue, but she didn’t know exactly what shade because she avoided looking him in the eye for long. It was uncomfortable, and she wasn’t sure why. Maybe it was the lack of emotion in them. Or the way he scrutinized her with his gaze.

She knew absolutely nothing at all, didn’t even know what she didn’t know, but she had managed in the past few weeks to realize that her fiancé didn’t seem to like her at all. He always lingered in the background, watching her with a furrowed brow. When he didn’t appear suspicious or confused by the things she said or did, he seemed indifferent to her and her condition. The thought was enough to make her want to cry, but she didn’t dare. The moment she got agitated, nurses would run in and give her something to numb everything, including her heart.

Instead she focused on his clothes. She found she enjoyed looking at everyone’s different outfits and how they put them together. He was in his usual suit. Today it was a dark, charcoal gray with a blue dress shirt and diamond-patterned tie. He ran a newspaper and could only visit during lunch break or right after work, unless he had meetings. And he had a lot of meetings.

That or he just didn’t care to visit her and it was a convenient excuse.

“Hello, Will,” she managed, although it didn’t come out quite the way she wanted. The multiple surgeries they’d done on her face went well, but there was more healing still to go. The accident had knocked out all her front teeth. They’d implanted new ones, but they felt alien in her mouth. Even after all the stitches were removed and the swelling had gone down, she had a hard time talking with the large, white veneers. And when she did say anything, she sounded like she’d swallowed a frog from the smoke and heat that had seared her throat.

“I’ll leave you two alone,” Pauline said. “Would you like some coffee from the cafeteria, Will?”

“No, I’m fine, thank you.”

Her mother slipped out the door, leaving them in the large, private hospital room reserved for VIP patients. Apparently she was a VIP, because her family had made a large donation to the hospital several years back. At least that’s what she was told.

“How are you feeling today, Cynthia?”

Realizing she wasn’t sure, she stopped to take a personal inventory. Her face still ached and her arm throbbed, but overall she didn’t feel too bad. Not nearly in as much pain as when she’d first woken up. If they’d told her she’d been locked inside a giant dryer, tumbling around for three days, she’d have believed them. Every inch of her body, from the roots of her hair to her toenails, had ached. She could barely talk or see because her face was swollen so badly. She’d come a long way in the past few weeks. “Pretty good today, thank you. How are you?”

Will frowned slightly at her but quickly wiped the expression away. “I’m well. Busy, as usual.”

“You look tired.” And he did. She didn’t know what he looked like normally, but she’d noticed that the dark smudges and lines around his eyes had deepened each time she saw him. “Are you sleeping well?”

He paused for a moment, then shrugged. “I guess not. It’s been a stressful month.”

“You need some of this,” she said, tugging on the tube that led to her IV. “You’ll sleep like a baby for sixteen hours, whether you want to or not.”

Will smiled and it pleased her. She wasn’t sure if she’d seen him smile since she came to, but it was enough of a tease that now she wanted to hear him laugh. She wondered if he had a deep, throaty laugh. The suited man looking at her oozed a confidence and sexuality that even a sterile hospital couldn’t dampen. Certainly his laugh would be as sexy as he was.

“I bet.” He glanced down, looking slightly uncomfortable.

She never knew what to say to him. She was constantly being visited by friends and family, all of whom she’d swear she’d never seen in her whole life, but none of those chats were as awkward as talking to Will. She’d hoped it would get easier, but it just didn’t. The nicer she was to him, the more resistant he seemed, almost like he didn’t expect her to be civil.

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