The prompt lines are:
"I'm trying to have a conversation with you!"
"And I'm trying to subtly avoid it!"
They'll be teal in the narrative, and this is in an upcoming tale, DUDE WITH A COOL CAR. The story went a lot longer than I'd expected but more reading isn't bad. ;) Happy reading!
I stopped outside of the hospital doors and fidgeted. I hated hospitals. They often sat full of people who’d experienced my dubious gifts in a spectacular way and facing their suffering wasn’t fun.
Although, I wasn’t sure if it was his karma he’d experienced or my own. He lay in the hospital bed upstairs because I told him to leave the Concrete Angels’ compound, and the guys from Backlog found him. They beat him nearly to death. I made them experience their karma far faster than they would have normally, but I wasn’t waiting around for them to pay for harming my true mate.
Even if it was kinda my fault.
Taking a deep breath, I stepped through the sliding doors and headed for the elevators to the fourth floor. Most people ignored me despite my fluffy hair, Concrete Angels’ cut, and my tight jeans, but I wasn’t there for them anyway. I slid past the nurse’s station as if I was meant to be there and found Coop’s room.
Again, my courage damn near failed me at the door. Would he want to see me after I’d pushed him away and refused to answer his phone calls and texts? I bit my bottom lip and stepped into the room.
Coop lay in the bed, slightly propped up and covered with a light blue blanket. His head was tilted toward the window, his eyes closed, and my breath stilled in my chest. Horrid blue and purple bruises marred the cheek I could see and probably the one I couldn’t. His left arm hung across his chest in a cast and sling, and I knew he’d had pins installed to help the bones knit. Because I’d brought him in and convinced the staff I was as close to next-of-kin as he was going to get, I’d found out he also had broken ribs, a bad concussion, and a punctured lung. He’d received surgery quickly enough to correct it, but he’d be hurting for a long time.
I wanted to pull him up from the bed and hug him close to my body, promising to take care of him forever. Which I could, being who I was. But it wasn’t who he was. U.S. Marshal Cooper DeVille was the kind of guy who’d run toward danger just to save a few innocents, including members of his own law enforcement club. He was a rare breed.
“Hey, Karma.” My breath stopped in my throat as his cracked voice washed over me. “What are you doing here?”
I barked a surprised laugh that came out too close to a sob. “I’m checking up on you to find out how you’re feeling.”
Coop grimaced, one eye swollen shut. “Pretty much everything hurts, but at least I can breathe again. How are you?”
I sighed and rested a hip against the end of his bed. “Miserable and lonely, but that’s pretty much par for the course, so I’m fine.”
He nodded. “Yeah, I guess being the physical manifestation of retribution can be pretty rough.” He frowned as he shifted his body in the bed. “I take it this is your work for lying to you?”
“What?” I gaped at him. “You think I had this done to you?”
“No, or not directly.” He gave a tired shrug. “I’m sure it’s just my karma from actions in the past.”
I wanted to deny it, to insist that I had anything to do with it. But karma was always working whether we believed in it or not, and his actions had brought the attention of Backlog onto him. Yeah, but he didn’t have to be alone when they came for him. No, I could’ve been there. Hell, all the Concrete Angels could’ve been there to back him up.
But we weren’t because I’d told him to go and never come back.
“I’m sorry, Coop.”
He raised an eyebrow. I think. It was hard to tell with the swelling and bruises. But he didn’t say anything and let me squirm through my apology.
“I’m sorry I told you to leave and never come back. I’m sorry I didn’t take the time to listen to you.” Tears started to roll down my cheeks, but I couldn’t stop them more than I could stop the pain in my heart. “And I’m so sorry I wasn’t there when those guys cornered you and beat you all to hell. I should’ve been there. I should’ve stopped them. I should’ve had your back.” I didn’t tell him I had been there, just not in my physical form.
Coop said nothing, watching me cry and squirm at his silence. I didn’t know what he was thinking but I could guess it was something along the lines of a day late and a dollar short. And he was right. I’d let him down when it counted and nothing I did from now on could change that.
“I’m sorry. I know I said some shitty things to you because you didn’t tell me who you really were. It was wrong of me to hold it against you since I didn’t tell you who I really was, either.” The tears kept rolling and I kept talking. “In that, we’re pretty much even. I was afraid you wouldn’t believe me, or worse, you would and run screaming from me.”
I shrugged and rubbed the back of my neck as he continued to stare. “I’ve never had a long-term relationship with anyone who wasn’t like me. You know, not human. But I’ve also never met anyone like you, and according to the Goddess, you’re my true mate. My one-and-only. The happily-ever-after everyone reads about in romance novels.”
I waited for him to respond, but he only turned his head to look outside.
“I know, it’s a lame excuse, and I should’ve tried harder. I get that, now. And I want to try again. With you. On equal footing. No more secrets about who we are between us.”
He said nothing. He didn’t even turn his head to look at me, and the very real fear that I would lose him entered my mind. Sweet glory, don’t let it be so.
“I’m so sorry, Coop, and I don’t want you to leave. In fact, I want you to come back to the Concrete Angels with me. And hey, I’m trying to have a conversation with you. Could you please look at me?”
“I can’t.” He didn’t move.
“You can’t look at me or you can’t come back with me?”
Now he met my gaze. “I can’t come back with you.”
So, this is what it feels like to have a sword in my gut. The swirling, piercing pain just about made me double over and sink to my knees. I’m pretty sure my face drained of color because the skin on my head tightened hard enough to make my cheeks and eyes ache. I’d experienced a broken leg once, and it didn’t even come close to the agony in my chest at the moment.
“Okay.” I had to swallow a couple of times before I could find my voice again. “Fine. Yeah, good. Good.”
He grunted. “Aren’t you going to ask me why?”
“I’m trying to subtly avoid it.”
He snorted and I thought it might be with laughter. “Fine. But I’m gonna tell you anyway.”
I swallowed hard. “Okay.”
He grimaced as he tried to get into a better position, but he gave up after a few moments of painful movement. I rose and moved to his head, rearranging the pillow behind him so he could meet my gaze without straining.
“Thanks.” He settled back as he gathered his breath. “I can’t go back with you because the Backlog will come after you if I survive. I’m not going to give up on bringing them down. There are too many people they can hurt and that’s unacceptable. But just because I’m putting myself in harm’s way doesn’t mean I have to drag you down with me. So I can’t go back with you. You’ll be safer without me around.”
I wanted to tell him he was full of shit. No one could kill karma, not even Loki, the God of Mischief. But I’d known Coop long enough to read resolution in his voice and body language. Nothing I could say would sway him from what he perceived he had to do.
I nodded slowly, my heart breaking into shards of cracked ice. But I changed the direction of my head, swiveling it into a shake. To hell with it.
“I said no.”
“What do you mean no?”
I raised my eyebrows. “Is there some part of ‘no’ you don’t understand? It’s a pretty direct answer.”
“I mean, I don’t understand what you’re saying no to.”
“Ah.” I gave him my best disagreeable smile. “No, I’m not going to be safer without you. And even so, I refuse to be without you.”
“Nope. I made the mistake of being without you for the last few days and that turned out to be a shit decision on my part. So, I’m not about to do that to myself again.”
He sighed. “Short of my death, I won’t ever be safe. And neither will you. Immortal goddess of retribution or not, I can’t put you in that kind of danger.” His resigned expression told me he wouldn’t be convinced in the usual ways. “I won’t put any of the Concrete Angels in that kind of danger.”
He cracked a sad smile. “Yeah, not even him.”
I nodded. “Okay. Then we’ll just have to kill you.”
His one eye opened wide. “What?”
“We’ll just have to kill you.” I grinned. “That way the Backlog guys will think the problem is solved.”
He eyed me for several seconds. “You’re serious.”
Coop’s brows came down over his eyes. “Why does that make you grin?”
“Because I’ve always wanted to try something like this.”
He swallowed hard. “Try something like what?”
“Try making someone disappear. It’s like WITSEC, only sexier.”
That's it for me this month. Check out the other authors who wrote something to the prompt.