Crime scene tape cast shadows across the asphalt spattered with blood and bullet casings. As he watched the report play out on the television hanging in the corner of the small hospital room, Benjamin Stoley cursed. He should have been there, with his fellow bodyguards, protecting the witness in an upcoming murder trial. Instead he’d been here...with her.
Not that she knew it. Ever since Eleanor Prentiss had been attacked a month ago, she’d been in a coma. He turned away from the TV to focus on the woman lying in the bed. Sleeping Beauty...
She was so beautiful. Her hair was such a deep gold, her skin so translucent, and her lips so full and red. If she really was Sleeping Beauty, maybe he’d be able to wake her up with a kiss. He was no prince, though, but even if he was, he wouldn’t kiss a woman without her consent.
Eleanor couldn’t consent to a damn thing. If she was sleeping, she’d be able to wake up or at least move or murmur in her sleep. But if she moved or her breathing, which she was still managing to do without a ventilator, changed, the machines attached to her would go off. But except for the hum of their engines, they were silent. Her coma was so deep it was as if she was dead.
And it was so damn frustrating because he couldn’t do anything about, couldn’t do anything to help her. He wasn’t a doctor, and that was what she needed—one good enough to
bring her back to life.
From all her visitors, Ben had learned that Eleanor Ellie Prentiss was as beautiful inside as she was out. And smart. And funny...
So why had someone attacked her? Had it been random? The police believed it was a carjacking since her vehicle had been taken but it had been recovered a short distance away from where she’d been found. Whoever had stolen it hadn’t taken much of a joyride—if that had been the purpose of the theft.
Ellie’s father hadn’t been willing to take any chances with her life or her safety, so he’d hired the Payne Protection Agency. Ben’s boss, Parker Payne, had assigned him as Ellie’s bodyguard, sticking him in a hospital room while all the other bodyguards for the agency had real assignments, protecting real targets. He punched in a contact on his cell phone.
“Parker,” his boss answered, his voice gruff as if he was sick. Or maybe just tired.
Ben was, too. “I just saw the news—all hell is breaking out in River City.”
The cell phone crackled with what sounded like Parker’s sigh. “Yeah...”
“You need me there,” Ben said.
“You’re needed where you are,” Parker replied.
Ben snorted. “No. I’m not. This is like guarding a corpse. Nobody is coming after a dead girl and sitting here is like watching paint dry.”
“Her father hired the agency to protect her,” Parker reminded him. “He believes she’s in danger.”
“He’s overprotective of his princess,” Ben said.
“She wouldn’t be in that coma if someone hadn’t attacked her.”
Anger surged through Ben over someone hurting her, but it couldn’t have been personal. “A random carjacking,” he said. “Nobody’s coming after her again.”
Parker sighed again. “Let me check with her father. I could use you here.”
“Good,” Ben said. “I need to go where I’m needed.” Where the action was...before he lost his mind sitting here, wishing she’d wake up. He clicked off the phone and murmured, “It won’t be long now.”
He glanced at the bed, and a gasp slipped through his lips. For weeks he’d watched her sleep, but Ellie was awake now, her blue eyes wide as she stared at him. Her lips, those full red lips he’d been tempted to kiss, parted and a raspy whisper slipped out. “Don’t...”
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