Warm breath filled her mouth, moving down into her lungs until Ellie drew in a breath of her own. Then the lips that had been pressed to hers slid away. A rush of adrenaline followed the rush of breath, making her skin tingle with awareness. With life...
She opened her eyes to find Ben leaning over her, his handsome face so tense with concern. With fear...
Along with the breath, warmth spread through her, through her heart. She reached up and touched his jaw, sliding her fingers along the stubble clinging to it.
His breath shuddered out, and his broad shoulders lowered slightly with relief. “You’re alive...”
“Not a corpse yet,” she confirmed. Then she glanced toward her father. A nurse stood over him, checking his pulse. “How is he?”
“Just asleep,” the nurse said. “Not so sure about him...” She gestured behind Ben who moved aside so she could see where a doctor and nurse stood over another nurse, a male one, sprawled on the floor.
“He was trying to kill her,” Ben said, as if defending himself, but he’d really been defending her when he’d hurt the man. Then he continued, “I thought he had...” and his voice cracked with emotion.
Ellie reached out for him, her hand trembling as she grasped his. “I did, too.”
If he hadn’t come back when he had...
She wouldn’t have lived.
The nurse was rolled onto a stretcher and lifted from the floor. Blood soaked the back of his hair and the white sheet beneath his head. More blood oozed from the scratches on his arms. She hadn’t been able to fight him off. She shuddered as they carried him past her and out of the room.
Ben squeezed her hand.
And she squeezed her eyes shut to hold in the tears that rushed over her. Then she blinked them back and looked at her father again. “He’s not just sleeping.”
“He’s been drugged,” Ben said. “He must have been drugged.”
“Me, too,” she said. “I was so tired. But I tried to fight him...”
Ben’s lips curved into a slight smile. “I know. I saw his arms. You fought. Even drugged, you fought just like you fought all these weeks to survive that coma.”
“And a pillow nearly takes me out,” she grumbled. “Thank you. Thank you for saving me.” He hadn’t just saved her, though; he had literally brought her back to life. He’d given her CPR, so she would breathe again.
He squeezed her hand again and looked down, as if unable to meet her eyes. His voice gruff, he murmured, “I shouldn’t have left you.”
“Dad said you went to the police department to interview the carjacker they caught.”
“He wasn’t the one who put you in the coma.”
She shook her head. “I wish I did. I don’t know that nurse. I don’t know why he attacked me.”
She chuckled. “I don’t have much of that.”
“Somebody does,” Ben said. “And he must have been paying the nurse to make sure you never woke up. At least that’s what I suspect. I’ll need to have the police check his accounts and confirm it.”
They didn’t need to wait long for the police. A knock on the open door announced their arrival as one uniformed officer and another man in a suit walked into the room.
“Trying to prove you were right that the assailant wasn’t in custody?” the detective asked Ben.
Ben shook his head.
A flash of indignation had Ellie sitting up to defend him. “Trying to save my life,” she said. “That’s what he was doing and succeeded.”
“The ER doc says the guy might not wake up,” the detective said. “So we might never know why he did it.”
“I’ll figure it out,” Ben said. But he wasn’t speaking to the detective now. He was speaking to her, his dark eyes as solemn and sincere as his promise.
“Do I need to remind you again that you’re not a cop, Mr. Stoley?” the detective asked.
“I was,” Ben said. “And not all that long ago.”
“But you’re a bodyguard now.”
“And the best way to protect my client is to find out who’s trying to kill her,” Ben replied.
Somebody was trying to kill her...and that someone had nearly succeeded twice now. Would the third time prove a charm?
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