She was even more beautiful awake than she’d been sleeping. Her eyes were a stunning blue and so heavily lashed that she looked like she was wearing makeup. But the only color in her pale face was the blue of her eyes, which were wide with fear.
“Who am I?” she asked again, her voice a raspy whisper.
“Eleanor—Ellie,” he said, trying to jog her memory. But should he do that?
What the hell should he do?
His job was to protect her, so upsetting her was not a good idea. He glanced back toward the door he’d opened onto the hospital corridor. Where the hell was the doctor? Where was everyone? Why was no one responding to all the machines going off? Or his yelling? A former police officer, Ben was used to providing help, not needing it. But he couldn’t help Ellie.
He pulled his tingling hand from her shoulder and walked back to the doorway. “Hey!” he yelled again. “She’s awake! Get the damn doctor!”
Ellie groaned as if pained at his shout.
“Sorry,” he said. Her head probably still hurt since her concussion had been so severe.
“For what?” she asked. “For calling me a corpse?”
Despite her coma, she’d definitely heard him. The doctor had encouraged her family to talk to her and read to her because patients can often still hear them. Ben had figured the neurologist was just offering them comfort more than her, though. “You’ve been unconscious for weeks,” he informed her.
He clenched his jaw to hold in any more admissions. He didn’t want to tell her anything that might upset her, that might send her back into that coma or worse. “Wait for the doctor,” he advised.
The door opened farther as a nurse joined them. “She is awake,” the woman murmured in surprise. Even if she hadn’t believed him, she should have responded to the machines going off.
“Yes, she is,” Ellie answered for herself.
Despite just waking from a coma, she was feisty—even though that fear remained on her pale face. She was scared, but Ben didn’t blame her.
For some reason he was scared, too—scared that she might never be again the woman all her friends and family had described, that incredibly sweet, smart woman...
“Please get the doctor,” Ben implored the nurse. “She doesn’t know her name.”
“Ellie,” the patient murmured. “It’s Ellie...”
The nurse looked at him as if he’d lost his mind. “Just a minute ago she asked me who she was,” he explained, “and I told her.”
“The neurologist is on his way,” the nurse said as she shut off the beeping machines. “Some initial confusion after waking up from a coma is to be expected.”
“Coma...” Ellie repeated the word. “Why? What happened?”
Ben opened his mouth to reply, but the nurse shook her head. “Let the doctor examine her first.”
The police officer in him wanted to question her, to see what she remembered of the attack, if anything, that would help him find her attacker. But his new role as a bodyguard made him more protective. He would save his questions until he knew that she was really going to okay.
But then she closed her eyes. And fear coursed through him that she was slipping back into that damn coma.
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