Home > Falling Fast(15)

Falling Fast(15)
Author: Aurora Rose Reynolds

“Grandma wants chocolate cake for lunch,” I inform her as we exit the hospital.

“I know just the spot. And while we’re eating, you can tell me why when I got up to make myself some tea last night that I saw Colton Allyster standing on your doorstep.”

“I forgot I had his key, so he came to pick it up,” I explain, not wanting her to jump to any kind of conclusion.

“That’s it?” she prompts as we make it to her car and get in.

“Yeah.”

“Bummer,” she mutters, catching me off guard.

“Bummer?”

“Yeah, bummer. I thought you’d give me something juicy to tell the girls at book club. All of them think Colton is handsome, and since they saw you the other day, they thought you two would be perfect together. They were thrilled when I told them you started working at the Rusty Rose, which meant you’d be working with him, which also meant that maybe they’d get to experience a real life romance, like in the books we read.”

“I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there is nothing going on between us,” I laugh, picturing her book club friends, who are all older women, sitting around not talking about books at all, but gossiping.

“That’s why it’s a bummer, dear’.” She smiles, pulling out of the parking lot. “It’s an even bigger bummer, since his ex did what she did to him,” she adds as we drive through town.

“What she did?” I ask as we pull into a small parking lot with a brick building and pink awning over the door, with Afternoon Tea scrolled across the pink surface in swirly white writing.

“She broke up with him when he was in the hospital after he was shot,” she says, and my heart drops into my stomach. There was a lot there to digest, so much so that I still hadn’t had a chance to wrap my mind around it all when we were seated at a small round table inside the restaurant.

“She did that?” I ask, needing to know the answer to that question first before I ask anymore.

“She did, and they were engaged when she did it.”

“Holy cow,” I whisper.

“He was also fighting for our country when he was shot, so as you can imagine, not too many people around here are big fans of hers.”

“I bet not.” I clear my throat that has suddenly gone dry and tight. I can’t believe Colton went through that, and I can’t believe the bitch did that to him.

“Hi, ladies. Welcome to Afternoon Tea. Have you been here before?” the waitress asks, breaking into the moment, and I shake my head, because I know I need a second before I try to talk. “Well then, you are in for a real treat.” She smiles at me, then Grandma and Nina. “Are you ready to order?”

I start to say no, but Nina answers before I can. “We’ll take the full service.”

“Good, I’ll be right back with your drinks,” the waitress replies before leaving.

“We didn’t give her a drink order,” I point out, and Nina smiles.

“I promise you’ll enjoy what she brings,” she tells me.

I do enjoy it, all of it. And even though I want to ask Nina a million more questions about Colton, I don’t. Instead, I enjoy sitting there with Grandma and Nina drinking tea out of fancy teacups and eating small sandwiches and cakes.

~**~

Hearing an alarm going off somewhere in the distance, I pull my pillow over my head then shoot up, feeling my heart lodged in my throat when the sound registers as a smoke alarm. I roll off the bed then grab my sweater and move to the door as I put it on. As soon as I open the door, the alarm is so loud that it’s almost painful to hear. Seeing heavy dark smoke pooling out of the kitchen into the living room, I yell, “Grandma!” at the top of my lungs, coughing when I pull in a lungful of the smoke that is filling the room.

Covering my mouth with the sleeve of my sweater, I duck, trying to get under the dark smoke. I scan the kitchen, seeing fire has already engulfed half the room. Then I spot Grandma, lying in the middle of the kitchen on her back with dark liquid pooling around her head.

“Oh, God.” I stumble across the room toward her. “Grandma!” I lift her head, feeling wetness against my fingers. Hearing a hiss and cracking sound, I know I don’t have time to check her over; I need to get us out of here. With my hands under her arms, I drag her limp body with me. It seems to take forever to clear the doorway to the kitchen. My eyes burn, and every breath I take is painful, making me cough and grow lightheaded.

When I finally make it to the front door, I barely have the energy to open it but I do, and by some miracle, I get us both outside, down the steps, and on the grass that is wet and cold from the early morning dew that has settled on its surface. Torn between staying with Grandma and getting help, tears run down my cheeks.

“I’ll be right back,” I tell her. Standing on shaking legs, I rush as fast as I can to Ned and Nina’s house, the light of the early morning sun helping me see even though my vision is blurry. Stumbling up their steps, I pound on the door and ring the bell.

“Gia, what on earth?” Ned answers, looking disheveled, then his eyes get big.

“Fire,” I choke out, and his eyes widen. “Police, and an ambulance. Grandma’s hurt.” I blink, seeing stars.

“Ned?” I hear Nina call, but I don’t see her when she comes to the door, because everything turns black.

CHAPTER 5

I’ve Got You

Gia

STUDYING GRANDMA AND THE machine she’s hooked up to, tears blur my vision. When I woke up in the back of the ambulance, my first thought was getting to her to make sure she was all right. The EMTs told me then that she was okay and she was in another ambulance on the way to the hospital. They couldn’t give me any more than that at the time. I didn’t find out until I got here that she had a substantial laceration on the back of her head, and she had taken in a lot of smoke. She had woken up for a short time, but fell back asleep. The doctors said this was perfectly normal, but I still didn’t like it.

Resting my forehead on top of my hand on the bedrail, I pull in a breath then regret it when all I smell is the smoke that is clinging to my hair, clothes, and skin. Nina, who was here when I finally made it to Grandma, left about a half hour ago to go see about finding me something to wear, but she hasn’t come back yet. It probably means the house is gone, which will only add to how shitty this situation is. Then again, Grandma and I could both be dead, so it could definitely be worse.

“Calm down,” I hear a man say, and I look up just in time to see Colton, Rose, and Kirk—Colton’s dad—coming toward where I’m sitting next to Grandma’s bed in the emergency room.

“Honey,” Rose says as soon as she’s close, and then she pulls me up out of the chair and into a tight embrace. “Nina called us. Are you okay?”

“I’m okay,” I whisper, because that’s all I can do with how sore my throat is. Looking up at Colton when Rose lets me go, I’m surprised by the amount of fear I see in his eyes, and even more surprised when he pulls me into his big body.

“Jesus,” he says gruffly, resting his head on top of mine and holding me tighter.

My arms go around his back and my eyes slide closed as something I probably shouldn’t be feeling, settles over me.

“What are the doctors saying?” Rose asks as Colton lets me go for his dad to give me a hug.

“They gave her stiches. I’m just waiting for her to wake up,” I tell her, looking at the bed and wishing Grandma would open her eyes so I can see for myself that she’s okay.

“How are you feeling?”

“Okay,” I lie. In all honesty, I’m exhausted, my body hurts, my chest hurts—actually, every single part of me hurts, including my heart.

“Sit,” Colton orders, taking my elbow and moving me back to the chair I was sitting in when they arrived. I want to tell him not to boss me around, but I don’t have the energy to bicker with him right now. So instead, I sit and pick up Grandma’s hand.

“Has she woken up yet?” Nina asks, appearing out of thin air and carrying a plastic bag with the Target logo on the front of it.

“Not yet.”

   
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