“Is it true, Skylar? Are you safe now?” he’d asked.
“Yes, baby, I’m safe. You let these lovely people help you now, okay?”
And he’d calmed down and lay peacefully on the stretcher as the paramedics fussed around him.
It wasn’t until she got to hospital and caught sight of herself in a mirror that she understood what a dreadful sight she looked. Her face was covered in red welts from the mosquito bites, and she was filthy, streaked with dirt and blood. But she knew Nash looked just as bad and so she’d shrugged, thankful she’d never been too hung up on her looks. The bites and bruises would fade in a few days. She smelled bad, too. She felt a little sorry for the paramedic who’d shared the back of the ambulance with them on the trip down to Cairns.
Now, three hours after she was first admitted to hospital, the bullet graze on her shoulder had been cleaned and dressed, as had all the other scrapes and bruises. She’d been encouraged to drink as much water as she could, and she’d eaten a meal of sandwiches and fruit. Then, she’d had a shower and washed the dirt and bugs out of her hair and was now dressed in a clean pair of pyjamas her mother had brought with her. The myriad bug bites all over her body were driving her crazy, but the nurses had given her an anti-inflammatory, and smothered her with calamine lotion and the itch had dulled to a low-grade annoyance.
The nurse had told Skylar that she’d need to stay in overnight for observation. And Skylar was fine with that, because it meant she could stay close to Nash.
But worry still gnawed at her guts.
There was a knock at the door, and Skylar whirled around. The policeman on guard let a young doctor in blue scrubsthrough the door, then closed it behind him and went back to his guard station. Daniella stood up, and they both stared at him expectantly.
“How is he?” Skylar asked at once.
The young doctor fixed his steady gaze on her. “He’s out of surgery, and recovering nicely,” he replied. “The wound was deep and left a nasty incision in the muscle of his thigh. And infection had also set in.”
Skylar felt like telling the doctor to get on with it, she already knew all this. But she held her tongue and smiled sweetly.
“The infection was spreading fast; it was lucky the SES found you when they did. The poison was already in his bloodstream.”
“But he’s going to be all right?” Skylar demanded.
“Yes, we’ve got him on strong antibiotics, they should knock the infection on the head within twenty-four hours. He should be up and walking around by this time tomorrow.”
“Oh, that’s great news.” Skylar sagged against the bed. “Can I see him now?”
The doctor hesitated. “Technically, we should only let close family in…”
Skylar opened her mouth to object, and doctor held up a hand.
“But he’s been calling for you non-stop since he came out of the anaesthetic. And we think that for his mental wellbeing we should let you see him. Follow me.”
“Thank you,” Skylar said, grabbing a light robe her mother had brought for her and wrapping the tie around her middle.
The doctor stopped as Daniella also made to walk through the door. “Sorry, just your daughter at this stage, ma’am.”
Daniella looked about to argue until Skylar shot her a quelling glance. She wasn’t about to let her mother ruin her chance to see Nash.
The doctor had a quick word with the police officer, who nodded, then followed them down the hallway. They were really taking this shit seriously, if the policeman had to follow her around. But Skylar didn’t care if ten police followed her thorough the hospital, as long as she got to see Nash.
“What about his family?” she asked the doctor, as she hurried after him down the hallway.
“I believe one of his sisters is flying up from Brisbane this evening,” the doctor replied. “That’s all I know,” he added, as she opened her mouth to ask him more.
She followed the doctor’s blue scrubs through a maze of hallways until they finally reached a double door that had intensive care splashed across it. There was another police officer stationed outside this door, and she nodded to Skylar and the doctor and let them through.
A row of hospital beds stretched down the length of the room, but only two were occupied. A nurse looked up from studying a chart in surprise. The doctor led her past a man in the first bed, who Skylar barely glanced at, toward the one at the very end. She could see Nash lying very still beneath the stark, white sheets.
Then she was by his bedside, looking down into his familiar face. A white bandage covered his left cheek.
She took his hand, and he opened his eyes. They were fuzzy, as if he was still affected by the anaesthetic, but they cleared as he saw her face.
“Hi.” She smiled at him.
“Hi.” Those delectable lips curled up at the edges, and he smiled back.