Katrina changed into her hospital gown and waited. A nurse arrived, asked her at least a thousand questions, removed the soiled bandages and cleaned her wounds. She left, promising the doctor would be in shortly. When he arrived, she was checked thoroughly. The doctor then left the room. Just when she was thinking seriously of holding her scanty gown tightly about her and venturing out to see if she’d been forgotten, a man in hospital scrubs showed up to take her down to X-ray.
She assured the X-ray technician there was no possible way she could be pregnant. As if there was a man willing to get her in that condition, she thought dejectedly. She lay still, holding first in this position then in that one, and holding her breath when advised.
She was returned to her cubicle in the emergency room and told the doctor would be with her after he’d looked at the X-rays. She hoped she took better pictures with an X-ray camera than she did with a regular film camera and wrinkled her nose at the thought.
Again the wait was interminable, and she found herself wondering where Gavin was and why he wasn’t hovering over her. At least, if he were here, she would have someone to talk to, which was better than listening to her own thoughts.
It had occurred to her that both times she was attacked at the zoo, Gavin had not been exactly right on hand. He’d egged her into running up the hill ahead of him, which made her a better target for the driver of the cart, and he’d been nowhere in sight across the lake when those shots had been fired.
She didn’t want to believe he would hurt her, but, on the other hand she seemed to be safer when he was where she could see him.
The nurse finally bustled back in, babbling merrily about Katrina’s discharge instructions. Discharge? She’d thought the doctor was coming back to talk to her. She listened closer to the nurse’s prattle which was being delivered at high speed. Katrina’s X-ray had disclosed a mild concussion. The doctor had ordered a tetanus shot, just as the zoo nurse had advised. Here the nurse paused, slid Katrina’s gown up to expose her hip and plunged the needle in before Katrina could even frame a protest.
Still at top speed Katrina was cautioned about various activities for the next few days and what to do if she felt nauseous or faint. She would have to be awakened several times during the night to check for signs of the concussion being more serious than they may have thought. It was the normal procedure followed in these incidences. Katrina would be okay, the doctor was sure, if she would just take it easy for awhile and was watched carefully.
A medicated ointment was slathered on her scrapes and clean bandages applied. If Katrina would please sign here, here, and here, she could get dressed—and a clipboard was shoved into Katrina’s hands. Katrina signed by the X’s and handed the clipboard back to the nurse.
The doctor had prescribed a pain killer to be used sparingly for headaches anytime after tomorrow, but absolutely not to be used tonight. The prescription page was thrust into her hand as though it, and she, were contaminated. It was a full sheet of paper rather than the small, pad-sized piece Katrina was used to. She wondered why it was so large until she realized it was computer generated before being signed by the doctor.
A second sheet was shoved into her hand with the rest of the paperwork, and she was admonished to see her own doctor if any of the things on this list happened.
“Your husband can take you home now and get you into bed, then watch you through the night.” The nurse finished off the orders at the same lightning speed she’d delivered all the other instructions.
Her husband? Katrina looked up at her in confusion.
“He’s waiting for you. You may join him as soon as you’re dressed.” With a bright smile, the nurse left the cubicle, pulling the curtain firmly behind her.
Katrina stared at the closed curtain, stunned. She looked at the list. The first item on it was ‘dizziness’. The nurse’s spiel had been delivered so quickly, the very speed of it made her feel dizzy. Somehow, she didn’t think that was exactly what the doctor meant, though. Katrina hastily suppressed a chuckle at the thought. Honestly, she was such a dolt. She would often laugh at inappropriate moments…a trait Charleston had hated and one he and his brother had often reprimanded her for.
Katrina slid off the bed and slowly pulled her dirty blouse and torn jeans onto her aching body, folding the hospital gown neatly onto the bed. Why on earth did people insist on thinking Gavin was her husband?
‘It would be awful nice if he was, though,’ a small voice in her head suggested. Katrina immediately stomped on the thought.
Someone must have been peeking through a gap, because the moment Katrina’s clothing was in place, the curtain was whisked aside and a wheelchair pushed into place. The new woman was prattling happily along with her memorized speech of ‘sit here my dear, it’s hospital policy.” “Here are your shoes; let me tie them for you. You shouldn’t be bending over with a concussion, you poor dear, and if you have your papers I’ll just push you out to meet your husband.”
Katrina felt like she was being pushed swiftly out of the hospital to make room for the next warm body. If the concussion hadn’t made her dizzy or given her a severe headache, the nurses certainly could have simply from the speed with which they spoke and moved her.
To her immense relief, Gavin was waiting at the nurse’s station where they’d checked in so many hours before.
"Are you going to be all right, my dear?” His smile was dazzling, his tone tender.
She started to nod, but the pain in her head, heightened by both chatty nurses’ strident voices, swirled and intensified. “Yes; they tell me I’m going to live.”
The look of relief on his face was plain and immediate. Maybe he hadn’t had anything to do with the cart…or the gun, she thought. Hope stirred within her.
She started to rise, but the nurse put her hand on Katrina’s shoulders, keeping her still. Gavin stooped, bringing his face level with hers. He looked up at the nurse, gave a brief nod, and she walked away.
“Sweetheart, the police are here to talk with you. They’ve arranged a place away from people so you won’t be overheard." Gavin gently touched her cheek as he looked into her eyes.
Katrina’s stomach tightened and roiled within her. She recalled that “nausea” had been on the nurse’s list, but knew this nausea had nothing to do with her head injury.
"It won't be easy, Little One, nor pleasant, but it needs to be done.”
Katrina nodded, then closed her eyes against the searing pain.
"Gavin?" She put her hand on his.
"Stay close by me, please?" Her voice wavered, catching on the words. "I need to…um, to…borrow your strength to…to get…through this."
Gavin shook his head, a frown pulling his mustache down.
“I can’t. Lt. Carew has already told me he wants to talk to you in private.”
"Yes?" His gentle smile steadied her.
"They…they're going to…find out about…Charleston, aren't they?" Her eyes filled with threatening tears, the moisture ready to spill if she blinked.
"Katrina, I don't know what they'll ask you. Just tell them the answers as honestly as you can. That’s the best thing you can do. It's the only thing you can do." He stood up, then leaned close to her. He gently kissed her forehead at the edge of her new bandage.
"Come along, Fair Maiden. The law awaits." His light tone and courtly bow were obviously meant to ease her fear. Katrina appreciated that, and gave him a shallow half-smile in gratitude as she blinked back tears. As Gavin pushed her chair down the hall at a thankfully slower rate than the nurse had used, Katrina spoke again. “Gavin?”
“The nurse said they were discharging me, and releasing me to my husband. Why do people keep thinking we’re married?”
“In this case, it’s because I told them we were.”
“Gavin!” Katrina couldn’t believe her ears.
“Calm down, Little One. I had to tell them that or they would have kept you here overnight. They weren’t about to let you go home alone to an empty house.”
“But…but…” Katrina spluttered. “Gavin, did you tell the maitre d’ the same thing?”
Gavin laughed. “Are you still worried about what he thinks? The only thing he cares about is that you had a miserable time at his restaurant and that you won’t ever return to try for a better meal, and that you’ll tell all your friends not to go there.”
Katrina felt her cheeks grow hot. “The food was very good, but I probably won’t be back simply because I can’t afford it. Anyway, that’s not the point. What are you going to do if your wife finds out you’re out here telling people we’re married?”
He laughed again. “It’s a shame we’re not in Scotland a hundred years ago, love. By the laws there and then, declaring we were married in front of witnesses would have made us married, true and legally. Then you wouldn’t need to fret about it.”
Katrina felt additional heat rising up her neck and flowing into her cheeks, and knew she was blushing again. What was it about him that had her blushing so often?
“But as we’re not in Scotland,” Gavin continued, rounding a corner with her chair. “I suppose the only way to calm you is to tell you that I have no wife. And before you ask, I've never had one, because I'd never discovered anyone that would put up with me and the odd hours I keep at times. Granny despairs of my ever getting married. She says that when a legal brief or a contract is more important than eating her good cooking, then I'm already married to my job and a lost cause to any butterfly that flits in my direction!"
Gavin patted Katrina’s shoulder, then removed his hand as he continued pushing the chair. Katrina felt the warmth of his fingers lingering after his hand was gone, and wondered at the sudden feeling of giddiness in the pit of her stomach.