Holding You Close (Ex-Con Duet Series #4) by Kennedy Fox

Belinda keeps her hand tightly secured in Jerry's as he talks to Noah, letting him know we're all here and thinking about him.

“Has he been awake at all?” Gemma asks the nurse, who smiles sweetly.

“Oh, I don’t think so. He's on a lot of morphine right now too, so I don't imagine he'll be awake until morning.” She adjusts Noah's oxygen and types something into a laptop, then leaves.

The more I look at him, the more visibly upset I become. Owen stands close, but I notice he hasn't lifted his head from his iPad. I can't imagine how hard it is for him to be in here too. Everleigh is on the other side of me and wraps her arm around my waist. “It's gonna be okay,” she whispers.

“I know,” I say, hoping she's right.

Gemma moves closer to Noah and takes his hand in hers. Her voice drops to a near whisper. “You're gonna make it through this, bubba.” His hand stays limp in hers.

After an hour, Jerry and Belinda decide to go. Gemma, Tyler, and Everleigh hang around for a little longer, then say their goodbyes too. Then it’s just Noah, Owen, and me in the room. It nearly breaks me to leave him here alone, but it's a long drive home on old country roads, and it’s getting late.

I swallow hard and lean over, whispering in his ear. “I'm gonna come see you tomorrow. Please stay strong, Noah. I love you.”

I pull away as tears fall down my face, and I give him a kiss on his cheek before we leave.

“Bye, Noah,” Owen says, patting Noah on the shoulder.

Owen doesn't say much on the way home, but I explain what happened the best way I can.

“He's going to be fine, right?” Owen finally asks.

“Yep, he'll pull through. Might take a little while, though,” I tell him as I keep my eyes on the road. I'm a nervous wreck on the way home because I know how dangerous it is to drive these roads at night. There is no shoulder, and deer will often run out in front of vehicles. Though my mind is running a million miles per hour, I keep my eyes on the road and focus. When I finally turn into my driveway, I let out a relieved breath. Tomorrow when I visit Noah, I'll take Owen to my mother's. He was supposed to go to Loretta's, but no way in hell am I letting her close to my son, not until I know her involvement.

I slept like shit and woke up exhausted. After I showered last night and calmed down a bit, I called my mom and explained what happened. She was upset but also happy that Noah will recover. After I get dressed, I cook us breakfast, then drop Owen off at my parents' house. Before I leave, Owen hugs me tight, and I make sure to tell him how much I love him. This accident has really shaken him up, but I've tried to put on a happy face even though it's hard as hell. Over scrambled eggs this morning, I made sure to keep our conversation upbeat while also answering his questions truthfully.

On the way to the hospital, I go over everything that’s happened, but none of it makes sense. Is Loretta capable of doing something so horrific and using Brittany as an accomplice? I’d like to think not, but I don't know.

I replay last night and the conversation Noah and I had. The truck that slammed into him was big, and thankfully, it missed his door and hit closer toward the front fender. I wonder if this was an accident or intentional. Too many questions run through my mind, and by the time I pull into the parking lot, I'm wound tighter than a ball of yarn.

I go straight to Noah's room and smile when I see Jerry and Gemma.

“I'm sorry, I didn't realize y'all were here,” I say.

Gemma grins. “Katie! I was just telling Dad I need to eat right now before I get hangry.”

Jerry laughs and looks at his watch. It’s barely past eleven. “She did, but I was hoping Noah would be awake,” Jerry says. “He’s been sleeping all morning.”

“Dad. Food. Now,” Gemma says, and they stand.

Jerry grins. “If he wakes up, will you let us know?”

“I sure will,” I reply with a laugh because Gemma grows more impatient with every passing second.

“Bye!” Gemma happily exclaims as she heads toward the door with Jerry behind her.

Once Noah and I are alone, I move the chair next to the bed and sit. I grab his hand and squeeze tight, then close my eyes.

“Katie?” At first, I think I’m imagining him saying my name.

When I look at Noah, his eyes are open. A smile instantly hits my lips as I lean over and hug him.