Kim parked the crash cart at room three. Dropping a rainbow selection of tubes, gauze, and a vacutainer into her scrubs pocket, she stepped into the patient’s room.
Dark hair stuck out in every direction, as if he’d washed but didn’t have a comb, and stubble lined his jaw. A thick white cast covered his shin. A flutter radiated from the base of her belly.
She crossed to the foot of the bed, accompanied by the squeak of her sneakers.
He gave a long sigh. “As soon as I realized the ambulance was taking me to St. Francis, I knew my days were numbered.”
Lifting the chart, Kim flipped through it. Her heart thudded against her rib cage. “Good to see you, too.”
Ben opened his eyes to slits. “Something tells me you’re not here to draw my blood.”
“Oh, there’s orders.” She slid the chart back in the slot and logged into the computer. “Did you lose blood? The doctor wants to check your hemoglobin.”
“I was pretty banged up in the accident. Got a unit during surgery, I think.”
Kim squeezed a dollop of sanitizer into her palm and rubbed her hands together until they dried, then slapped on gloves. “You’re supposed to be in Indonesia. I saw you get on the plane two weeks ago.”
He looked away, his hair a bit too long at his ears. “You saw me go into the airport, but until I get my visa renewed, I’m stuck in Chicago.”
She smothered a grin. “Aw, too bad.”
He turned sharply, glaring. “I hung around the airport for an hour, then left. Thought if I could get you to believe I was on a different continent you’d let us go.”
Extending his arm on the bed with more force than necessary, she felt for the vein and then fit the tourniquet under his arm.
“Asia’s where I need to be.”
She swallowed, focusing on her work. With an alcohol swab, she cleansed the area. “You’re not going anywhere until that leg is healed. Hold still.” She positioned the needle. “You’ll feel a pinch.”
He drew in a sharp breath even before she pierced the skin. The maroon liquid seeped into the tube, and she released the tourniquet.
Exhaling, his arm relaxed. “I didn’t think of you at all, you know.” His chin tilted, but his voice softened. “Not one day.”
Kim focused on keeping her hand steady.
“When I get on that plane, I’m never coming back.”
Was he trying to convince her or himself?
“Mm-hmm.” Removing the needle, she inverted the tube gently. “But you’re here.”
“Yeah. I was rear-ended on I-90.”
She paused, the piece of gauze hovering over the insert site. Hot moisture pressed on the back of her eyes, and she applied the bandage quickly, turning away to discard the needle and label the tube.
“Kim, you deserve someone better than me.”
She scrawled her initials, blinking rapidly until the tears dried. Stop running, Ben. Even when you try to get away, you can’t.
Depositing the tube in a biohazard bag, she stuffed it into her pocket and sat on the bed.
“I would’ve thought some other guy had swept you up.” Ben gathered the sheet in his fist. A crosshatch formed at the bridge of his nose, his lips forming a straight line. “Someone with a job. With a life.”
She covered his knuckles with her palm, a lump forming in her throat. “You thought wrong.”
He turned his hand and curled his fingers around hers. Deep-blue eyes melted into liquid pools. It took a broken leg to stop running. But the fact was, he’d stopped. Could she risk her heart again?
“You’re good, by the way. I didn’t feel a thing. Not even that pinch you warned me about. Is it odd that a doctor doesn’t like needles?”
“That’s why I’m the phlebotomist and you’re not.”
His chest rose and fell, the faint beeps from the monitor doubling. “Kim …” His voice turned raspy. “Come here.”
Heat pricked her cheeks.
The corner of his lips hiked up. “I have a bruised rib, so if I’m gonna kiss you, you’ll have to come here.”
Just a peck. She’d take things slow. Kim leaned over the bed, brushing her lips against his.
“Oh, no, you don’t.” He reached up to grab her shoulders and pulled her back to him, sealing his lips over hers. She steadied herself on the railing as his fingers found the nape of her neck, and he deepened the kiss.
When he released, his breath came in heavy pants against her cheek.
She laughed. “That must have hurt.”
“A little.” He closed his eyes, sinking into the pillows.
His bare toes peeked out, and Kim adjusted the sheet, tucking the edges around his leg.
“I could join you at the clinic in Indonesia.” She switched off the overhead light, bathing the room in a soft glow from the monitors. “Is the language hard to learn?” She knew only a few phrases, and they wouldn’t be very useful in a hospital.
“Very. The next time you drop by to poke me, I’ll give you a lesson.”
She moistened her lips. “Um, no, I’d be teaching you.”
“In that case.” His eyes danced. “Aku sayang kamu.”
Her breath caught. His confession of love seeped into her pores, burrowing deep inside her chest.
She took a step back, swaying as his gaze held hers. “You do? I’d never thought you’d admit that.” Her hand connected with the back of a chair, and she grasped it. “Because I love hot sauce on my eggs, too.”
She drew in extra air as her pulse ramped to a staccato. The phrase she’d committed to memory the day he’d left her six months ago formed in her mind, and she pronounced it carefully. “Aku mencintaimu ratuku.”
He let his head settle back and closed his eyes, a smile playing on his lips. “You are my heart, too.”
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