Blue-Eyed Devil Page 22

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"Haven," he said, sounding hoarse. He lowered to his knees and braced his hands on either chair arm, his gaze raking over me. I managed to free myself from the seat belt, and I leaned forward into his familiar smell. His arms closed around me tentatively, unlike his usual firm grip, and I realized he was trying to keep from hurting me. I felt the trembling beneath his stillness.

Overwhelmed with relief I laid my good cheek on his shoulder.

"Gage," I whispered. "Love you more than anybody."

He had to clear his throat before he could speak. "Love you too, baby girl."

"Don' take me to River Oaks."

He understood at once. "No, darlin'. You're coming home with me. I haven't told Dad you're here."

He helped me out to his car, a sleek silver Maybach. "Don't go to sleep," he said sharply as I closed my eyes and leaned back against the headrest.

"I'm tired."

"There's a lump on the back of your head. You probably have a concussion, which means you shouldn't sleep."

"I slept on the plane," I said. "I'm fine, see? Jus' let me — "

"You're not fine," Gage said with a savagery that made me flinch. "You're — " He broke off and modulated his tone at once as he saw the effect it had on me. "Hell, I'm sorry. Don't be afraid. I won't yell. It's just . . . not easy . . . to stay calm when I see what he's done to you." He took a long, uneven breath. "Stay awake until we get to the hospital. It'll only be a few minutes."

"No hospital," I said, pulling out of my torpor. "They'll want to know how it happened." The police would be told, and they might file assault charges against Nick, and I wasn't nearly ready to deal with all of that.

"I'll handle it," Gage said.

He would too. He had the power and money to circumvent all the usual processes. Palms would be greased, favors would be exchanged. People would look the other way at precisely the right moment. In Houston the Travis name was a key to open all doors — or close them, if that was preferable.

"I want to go somewhere and rest." I tried to sound resolute. But my voice came out blurred and plaintive, and my head throbbed too much for me to keep up an argument.

"Your jaw might be broken," Gage said quietly. "And hell knows what he did to the rest of you." He let out an explosive sigh. "Can you tell me what happened?"

I shook my head. Sometimes a simple question could have a complicated answer. I wasn't really sure how or why it had happened, what it was about Nick or me or both of us together that had resulted in such damage. I wondered if he realized I was gone yet, if he'd gone out to the front doorstep and found it empty. Or if he was sleeping comfortably in our bed.

Gage was silent during the rest of the drive to the Houston Medical Center, the biggest medical district in the world. It consisted of many different hospitals, academic and research institutions. I had no doubt my family had donated new wings or equipment to at least a couple of them.

"Was this the first time?" Gage asked as we pulled up to the emergency room parking lot.

"No."

He muttered a few choice words. "If I'd ever thought the bastard would raise a hand to you, I'd never have let you go with him."

"You couldn' have stopped me," I said thickly. "I was determined. Stupid."

"Don't say that." Gage looked at me, his eyes filled with anguished fury. "You weren't stupid. You took a chance on someone, and he turned out to be . . . Shit, there's no word for it. A monster."

His tone was grim. "A walking dead man. Because when I get to him — "

"Please." I'd had enough of angry voices and violence for one night. "I don't know if Nick realized how much he hurt me."

"One small bruise is enough to warrant me killing him." He got me out of the car, picking me up and carrying me as if I were a child.

"I can walk," I protested.

"You're not walking through the parking lot in your socks. Damn it, Haven, give it a rest." He carried me to the emergency room waiting area, which was occupied by at least a dozen people, and set me gently beside the reception desk.

"Gage Travis," my brother said, handing a card to the woman behind the glass partition. "I need someone to see my sister right away."

I saw her eyes widen briefly, and she nodded to the door on the left of the reception desk. "I'll meet you at the door, Mr. Travis. Come right in."

"No," I whispered to my brother. "I don' want to cut in from of everyone. I want to wait with the other people."

"You don't have a choice." The door opened, and I found myself being pushed and pulled into the pale beige hallway. A wave of anger rushed over me at the manhandling from my brother. I didn't give a shit how well intentioned it was.

"It's not fair," I said fiercely, while a nurse approached. "I won't do it. I'm no more important than anyone else here — "

"You are to me."

I was outraged on behalf of the people in the waiting room, all taking their turn while I was whisked right on through. And I was mortified at playing the role of privileged heiress. "There were a couple of children out there," I said, pushing at Gage's restraining arm. "They need to see a doctor as much as I do."

"Haven," Gage said in a low, inexorable tone, "everyone in that waiting room is in better shape than you. Shut up, settle down, and follow the nurse."

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