The darkest hour, p.10
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       The Darkest Hour, p.10

         Part #1 of KGI series by Maya Banks
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Page 10


  Ethan chuckled. “I’ll remember that. Try and get some rest. Doc’ll be in shortly. ”

  “You take care of that girl of yours. You’re a damn lucky man. Not everyone gets a second chance. ”

  “Yeah,” Ethan said soberly. “I am lucky. ”

  He turned and walked out, his shoulders tight, his chest even tighter. A door down, he poked his head into Dolphin’s room, only to see Baker and Renshaw crowded in. He nodded at Dolphin and continued on.

  Steele sat up on the exam table, his expression brooding. He connected glances with Ethan and gave a quick, dismissive nod. Ethan took the hint and walked on to the small reception area where Sam sat. He slouched into one of the tiny, uncomfortable chairs and closed his eyes.

  The next thing he knew, Sam nudged him awake. He blinked rapidly as Dr. Scofield’s face came into view.

  “Ethan,” she said softly. “Can you come with me?”

  He scrambled up, scrubbing the sleep from his eyes as he followed the doctor toward the exam room. Anxiety made him jumpy, and he rubbed damp palms down his fatigues. When they bypassed Rachel’s room, he shot an inquiring look at the doctor.

  “I thought we’d talk in my office,” she said as she opened the door and stepped inside. “Such as it is. ” Her arm swept over the room that more resembled a closet.

  Papers were piled on every exposed surface and boxes lined the walls on either side of her desk.

  She shoved a pile of envelopes off the chair in front and extended a hand for him to sit. Then she walked around to the other side and sat down.

  No longer able to stand the suspense, he blurted, “How is she?”

  “She’s okay physically. There is some bruising around her shoulder, but it wasn’t dislocated. It’ll be sore and stiff for a few days, but she should regain full use of it. ”

  She took off her glasses and ran a hand through her shoulder-length blond hair. “There’s a lot you’re going to have to deal with. I won’t candy-coat that for you. She’s undernourished and fighting off infection. In short, she’s run down and is going to need a while to recover properly. ”

  “Did they hurt her?” Ethan asked quietly. “I mean physically?”

  Her face twisted in sympathy. “I didn’t find any recent evidence of sexual trauma. She was in captivity a long time, so it’s impossible to say what she may have endured early on. I drew blood, and I’ll test for STDs. ”

  Ethan swallowed and then swallowed again. He wanted to vomit at the thought of what those dirty bastards could have done to her. She’d been their prisoner, helpless, while he’d been a world away.

  “It won’t do any good to torture yourself,” Dr. Scofield said gently. “And as I said, there isn’t any recent evidence of sexual assault. My gravest concern is the evidence of drug abuse. ”

  “They forced those on her,” Ethan said fiercely.

  “I know. My concern is in not knowing what they gave her. The educated guess would obviously be cocaine given its accessibility in the geographic region where she was held captive. And indeed some of her withdrawal symptoms match those of cocaine withdrawal. However, as odd as it may sound, there’s evidence that she was injected routinely with heroin. ”

  Ethan closed his eyes against the sudden rush of rage and pain.

  “Many of the symptoms she’s exhibited are indicative of heroin withdrawal. On a positive note, heroin withdrawal isn’t as long or as far-reaching as cocaine withdrawal. It’s nasty while it lasts, but is thankfully over in days as opposed to the extended cravings cocaine addicts have for months, and sometimes even longer. ”

  “And her memory? Is her memory damaged irreparably?” Ethan asked.

  “I can’t say with medical certainty. The human brain is such a fascinating thing. Unpredictable. The drugs could have done damage to her brain. Whether it’s permanent, I can’t say. It could simply be a matter of the cobwebs not having time to clear yet. The longer she’s off the drugs, the better chance she has of the past coming back to her. ”

  “So what do I do?”

  Dr. Scofield offered him an encouraging smile. “You take her home and get her feeling better. She has some weight to gain. But most important is her mental health. This isn’t going to be easy, Ethan. I’d suggest you contact a therapist as soon as you get home, as well as have her health monitored by a physician. You’re going to have to be patient and understanding even when you’re at your limit. She could very well shatter. ”

  He blew out his breath, startled at the sheen of tears that blurred his vision.

  “And remember that you’ll need help too,” she said softly. “Don’t be afraid to lean on your family. I’d suggest you consult with a therapist as well. You can’t do it all. ”

  “I’ll do whatever it takes to make her better. ”

  Dr. Scofield nodded. “She’s sleeping right now. She came around briefly, and once I assured her that she was safe and that you were nearby, she slipped back under. She’s visibly in withdrawal. Even in sleep she shakes and has muscle tremors. ”

  Ethan shifted in his chair and then leaned forward. “When can I take her home?”

  She tapped the desk with her pen for a moment. “She can’t go home as she is. Withdrawal isn’t something you can wave a magic wand at or give her a few days of IV fluids, good nutrition, and she’ll feel better. Normally I’d recommend she stay in a rehab clinic until the worst of her withdrawal is over, but I recognize that this situation is different and you don’t want to draw attention to yourselves in a foreign country. The next best thing is for her to remain here where I can monitor her withdrawal and make sure she regains some of her strength. Going home will be traumatic for her, so she shouldn’t be pushed into going too soon. ”

  Ethan shook his head in confusion. “Traumatic?”

  “Well, yes. Overwhelming is a better word, I suppose. I think your brothers should go ahead and smooth things out for her homecoming. Keep it as low-key as possible. She’s in a very delicate state right now and you don’t want to push her too hard. ”

  “So we stay here,” Ethan said slowly. “Is that a good idea? I mean for you?”

  “Talk it over with Sam. I’m sure once he understands the situation he’ll agree. As for me, I’ll be fine. After the shit in Africa, not much scares me anymore. The government putzes around here leave me alone to treat the villagers. I’m not seen as a threat. ”

  “That could change with our arrival,” Ethan pointed out. He liked the doctor. She had a no-nonsense air about her that was appealing. Or maybe it was because she hadn’t sugarcoated things when it came to Rachel. He needed honesty and bluntness because he was at a complete loss for the first time in his life. Even when he’d been wrong in the past, he’d been decisive. Blunt and quick to make a decision. Most of the time to his detriment.

  This time he was going to take it slow and put the needs of Rachel before his own. Something he hadn’t been willing to do in the past.

  “It’s a risk I’m willing to take. KGI risked a lot for me. It’s the least I can do. ” She smiled. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have other patients to see. . ”

  Ethan rose. “Thank you, Dr. Scofield. For everything. ”

  “Call me Maren, please. ”

  “Thank you, Maren. ”

  “My pleasure. ”

  She walked out of her office and ducked into Cole’s exam room, leaving Ethan standing in front of her desk, his heart beating a little faster than before.


  RACHEL opened her eyes, blinking to adjust to the dim light. After a moment she could see clearly. Things had changed since the last time she’d woken up. No longer was she on a narrow table in a room so small that she’d immediately broken out in a sweat. Instead she was in a bigger, more comfortable bed.

  She glanced down to see an IV line running from her arm to a bag dangling from a pole beside her bed. For a moment she just lay there in the quiet and stillness, absorbing the first s
ense of peace she’d experienced in longer than her shattered mind could comprehend.

  There was no hunger. No overwhelming need for the poison that pricked her skin and crawled insidiously through her veins. For the space of few moments there was no pain. Only sweet silence.

  A movement to her right startled her, and she let out a gasp. The shadow moved and soft light flooded her eyes.

  “Rachel, it’s me, Ethan. Sorry if I frightened you. ”

  He came into view, standing at her side. She took the opportunity to study him with borrowed clarity. He was large, much larger than the men who haunted her nightmares, and yet she knew instinctively that he wouldn’t hurt her, that she was safe with him.

  Sleek, black hair worn short. Military. The word floated through her mind unsummoned. Startling blue eyes, serious and brooding. Another image flashed, those eyes sparkling with laughter as he spun her round and round. She closed her eyes, wanting more of the memory, but just as quickly as it came, it was gone.

  “Are you hurting?”

  Ethan’s urgent voice crashed through the pleasantness of her dreams. Her eyes fluttered open again, and this time, he was leaning close, his fingers reaching tentatively for her cheek.

  Instead of responding, she reached up and caught his fingers. They were so warm and strong around hers. He rubbed his thumb across the top of her hand and then brought it up to his lips in a gesture so tender that it deeply moved her.

  “Hey,” he murmured in a voice that cracked. “How are you doing?”

  “Ethan. ”

  “Yes, baby, it’s me, Ethan. You’re safe now. Do you understand that?”

  She nodded, her throat too constricted to say anything.

  He leaned down and pressed his lips to her forehead, and then he withdrew and carefully pushed her hair back with his fingers.

  “Got room for me to sit?” he asked.

  She looked down at where his hip leaned against her bed and then hastily scooted against the rail on the other side.

  He settled onto the bed, his thigh pressed to hers.

  “How are you feeling?”

  She thought for a moment. How could she explain how she felt?

  “Free,” she finally said.

  He reached for her hands and pulled them into his grasp. “I’m going to take you home soon. Dr. Scofield wants to watch you for a few days and make sure you’re okay to leave before we go home. But I’ll be with you the entire time. ”

  More images haunted her memory. Smoky, hanging on the edge of her recall. This time she saw Ethan’s face drawn in anger. He shouted and she recoiled from the dark feeling that swept over her.


  She yanked her gaze to his and tried to control her rapid breathing.

  “What’s wrong, honey?”

  She shook her head, unable to explain the brief flash that had unsettled her so.

  For a long moment, he simply stared at her, his gaze caressing her face as surely as if he were stroking her with his fingers. She absorbed it greedily, wanting this contact, the feeling of security he instilled just with his presence. For the first time in so long, she wasn’t eaten alive with fear and pain.

  Again he brought her hands to his lips and held them there, his mouth pressed to her knuckles. He trembled against her fingers as he kissed them.

  “I just need to touch you,” he said. “To have you here. To see you. To feel you again. ” Emotion clogged his voice, making it strained and raw. “I thought you were dead. They told me you were dead. I buried you, mourned for you, tried to get on with my life without you. And now here you are. It’s more than I ever hoped or dreamed. ”

  Her breath caught and hiccupped roughly from her chest. Her insides twisted and squeezed. Tears burned like acid.

  “I waited for you,” she whispered. “Over time I thought I’d imagined you. When I forgot everything but my name, I thought maybe I’d made you up and that hope was forbidden to me. I knew you’d come when I knew nothing else. ”

  He bowed his head, lowering until his forehead touched hers. “I love you, Rachel. So damn much. I know we have a lot to get through, but you aren’t alone anymore. You won’t ever be alone again. ”

  She closed her eyes, savoring his promise. She was afraid to believe, to hope that after so long her nightmare was over.

  “There’s a lot I don’t remember,” she said hesitantly. Would it anger him that she could only remember bits and pieces of their life together? Not only that, but she could barely remember her.

  As if sensing her turmoil, he pulled away. He stared down at her, his eyes suddenly troubled. Almost guilty. Her eyes narrowed in puzzlement. What would he have to feel guilty over?

  “It’ll be okay, baby,” he soothed. “It’ll come back in time, and we’ll face it together. The important thing is that I have you back. ”

  “What did she give me? The doctor. I feel. . . ”