Had Ben made a mistake—again?
Ellie leaned heavily on his arm as they climbed the stairs to her third-floor apartment. Had the doctor been right? Should she have stayed at the hospital longer?
But she’d nearly died there.
If he hadn’t gotten back in time...
Guilt and something much heavier settled onto his shoulders, and he stumbled a bit with the weight.
“I’m sorry,” Ellie said. “I’m leaning on you too much.” She tried to straighten away from him, but her body shook as her legs trembled.
“No,” he said, and he put one arm under her legs and the other around her back to lift her. She slid her arm around his shoulders, grasping at him as if afraid he might drop her. But she was so light—so fragile—that there was no danger of that. “You’re not leaning enough. The doctor warned that your muscles have some atrophy from the coma.” If not for the physical therapist who’d worked with her while she was unconscious, she probably wouldn’t have been able to walk at all.
He carried her up the remaining flight of stairs to her apartment door. Before he could reach into his pocket for the keys to the new lock, Ellie wriggled from his embrace, her body sliding over his. Awareness shot through him, making him tense.
She wobbled and leaned against him, murmuring, “Sorry...”
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I shouldn’t have taken you out of the hospital so soon.”
She shuddered. “It wasn’t soon enough.”
It nearly hadn’t been. If he hadn’t gotten back in time...
“I can keep you safer here,” he said. Or so he hoped...
“My dad wanted me in this building because of its high security,” she shared. “He worries so much.”
He did. He’d had concerns about Ben taking her out of the hospital so soon after she’d regained consciousness, but he’d also agreed that she would be safer here, where they could control the amount of people coming and going.
He unlocked the door and pushed it open for her.
“You have my keys,” she said.
“No. These are new keys for the new locks your dad had installed because your keys were missing from your effects,” he said. And they hadn’t been recovered with the car. The keys appeared to be the one thing of hers that whoever had attacked her had wanted. Why? To get into her apartment?
His hand on the weapon in his holster, he peered around as he stepped through the door. Weeks had passed since the attack, though, so whoever had taken those keys wouldn’t still be here. As a precaution, he checked every room, which didn’t take long since it was a studio apartment. With scant furnishings and bland decorating, it felt more like a hotel room than a home. “Cozy,” he murmured.
Ellie stared at the place as if seeing it for the first time herself.
“Don’t you remember it?” he asked.
She shrugged. “Looks the same as every other place I’ve stayed for the past couple of years,” she said. “I travel a lot for work, so I don’t have a permanent place.”
“Not with your dad?” he asked.
She glared at him. “I already told you not to blame him for my being in danger. He’s a good man with no enemies. It’s not his fault.”
She was as protective of her father as he was of her. Ben envied them that closeness and agreed that her dad wasn’t responsible. But he couldn’t believe what she’d said in the hospital either. “According to you, it’s yours,” he said. And finally, now that they were alone, he was able to ask the question that had been nagging at him since her admission. “Why?”
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