Bargaining with the Bride(2)

By: Allison Gatta



No matter what the case, though, she was sure he preferred their separate lives. After all, he had before he'd gotten sick. Back then, he’d told her he was big into charity, even going as far as traveling across the world to give to the needy. In all of her college naiveté, she’d believed him.

It wasn’t until they’d been together for a year that she’d learned the truth—that his version of giving to the needy half a world away was sitting in a strip club in Brazil, stuffing his father’s tuition check down someone’s G-string.

After she’d gotten to the bottom of his deceit, she had decided to end things. Enough was enough, and when he got home from “Vietnam,” which was apparently code for “The Bahamas,” she was going to tell him as much.

Or, at least, that had been her plan.

When he finally graced her with his presence, he beat her to the chase with news of his own. He was sick with god only knew what—a souvenir from his many adventures abroad. She’d still come clean with him, told him she knew the real truth, but he’d apparently seen that day coming.

“What will people say?” he’d asked. “When you tell them you left your sick boyfriend of two years? What will your parents say when you bail yet again? Are you so cold hearted that you’d do that to me?”

She wasn’t, but apparently he was. And though her bags were packed and waiting by the door, she'd used them to ship out to Connecticut. From that moment on, every time she looked at those bags, her fingers twitched to unzip them and throw everything she owned into an escape pod.

Somehow, every time she was on the edge of leaving forever and losing the energy to care what people would say about it, he'd fall out of his bed, or he'd need a sponge bath. Or worse yet, her mother would call and remind her of exactly what a disappointment she was.

It was always something.

Something to prove she couldn’t leave him here, sick and alone. That would be all too cold, even if it was only a tenth of what he deserved.

So here she was, three years later. Stuck. Engaged to a man she hated if only to ensure that his healthcare expenses didn’t continue to drain every last penny she had. As much as she’d tried to convince herself that things would change, they were the same from day one. Even confined to one room, one way or another he found a way to be completely unavailable, and that was the only way he would ever be dependable.

She shook her head, clearing the dark cloud of thoughts that always fogged her mind, and approached Lance’s room. The thuds were louder still, and even more rapid.

Was the equipment broken? Was he trying to get the nurse's attention? And where was the freaking nurse? A thousand bucks a week and this was what Rachael got for it?

She made a mental note to call the agency before rushing in, not bothering to knock before banging the door against the wall.

But that wasn't the only thing banging against the wall.

Her breath caught as she tried to take it in. So, he could walk.

What a fucking miracle.

In fact, he could stand so well that he had the redheaded nurse pinned against the wall beside his bed. Rachael wasn't sure what affronted her more—the fact that her fiancé was still mid-nurse when he turned to look at her, or that he was wearing the nurse's white cotton uniform and a pair of red heels while he was doing the deed.

"Rachie," he said. Still inside the nurse. Did he not at least have the decency to unsheathe himself?

"Feeling better?" she asked. The words tasted bitter in her mouth, sticking to her cheeks and resting there while the remainder of her effort focused on not leaping across the room and strangling him.

"This isn't what it looks like," he finally slid out of the nurse and dropped the uniform to the ground, turning to face her full on. Apparently, surprise made him flaccid. Not that there had ever been a big difference between the two states of wiener-hood for him.

"It looks like physical therapy. Am I paying you overtime?" She craned her neck to talk to the woman who was rushing to collect her clothing from the ground. At least the redhead had the decency not to look up.

"Leave her alone," he demanded.

Rachael let out a short laugh, stunned that he had the balls to come at her, now. "Because she's an innocent victim? Tell me, how long have you been disease-free?"

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