Erin here. I wanted to give you a sneak peek of Grave Touched, book 2 of my Fey Touched series, releasing May 1st from Turtleduck Press. Not long now! (Also? Fey Touched, book 1, is on sale for $.99 right now. Check it out if you want to catch up!)
Whispers. A flicker of thought.
My eyes wouldn’t open. Panic sliced through me.
I opened my mouth, but nothing came out.
“It’s okay, Em. You’re okay,” a familiar male voice said. A hand stroked my brow. Nick? Was Nick here? My beloved Nick could always soothe me, keep me from the edge.
“Em…you’re really here,” Nick said softly. “You’re alive.”
Alive? Of course I was alive.
I opened my eyes, wincing.
A tall human woman watched me with gray eyes that I was sure peeled layers off of me. “Emily, I’m Doctor Lucia Jonath. You’ve been under my care for a few weeks now because you were in an accident.”
Someone squeezed my hand, and I gasped with pain.
Bright light made my head throb. I lifted my free hand, pain searing through every muscle, and moaned. The blur beside me resolved into Nick, his deep brown eyes and his goofy grin. I wanted to hug him, kiss him, but the fear of pain stopped me.
What was going on?
“Movement will hurt for a while,” Dr. Jonath continued. “I suggest you limit it while you heal.”
I licked my dry lips. “Wh – what…happ…” I ground my teeth together, frustrated with my inability to speak. Was something wrong with my mouth, too?
“Here, have some ice chips,” Nick said, placing a cup to my mouth and tipping it so I could get the ice chips in. Ah, sweet relief.
“There was an accident,” Dr. Jonath said patiently. “You were injured. We’re using the latest technology to heal you. Don’t be afraid.”
It was difficult to not be afraid when I was in excruciating pain.
I reached out to touch Nick, my arm and wrist throbbing. Noticed I was in an unfamiliar room with bare white walls and an antiseptic smell. The sparse furniture – my nightstand and my bed – was made of gleaming stainless steel. Behind me stood a complex machine that beeped and hummed and…scanned my every movement with a faint whirring sound. Creepy.
“That’s the Sentinel,” Dr. Jonath said, gesturing toward the machine. “It watches you for any abnormalities. It also can give us an MRI in seconds if need be.”
I tried to put that thing out of my mind.
I swallowed the ice chips slowly. “Why…the…pain?” I asked, tripping over the words. What the hell was wrong with me?
“It’s the nanobots,” Dr. Jonath explained. “They are working on your injuries, and you’ve woken up a bit early. It’s okay, but you will experience some pain. It’s nothing to worry about.”
“How…in…injured…was I?” I asked.
“Profoundly,” Dr. Jonath said, holding my gaze. “It’s a miracle you’re still alive.”
“It was horrible,” Nick put in. “I couldn’t lose you. So I brought you here.” He looked down at his hands, then back up at me. “I couldn’t…I need you, Em.”
I remembered nothing about an accident. Did a rogue Fey hurt me? My stomach churned with anxiety. “I…I don’t…remem – remember.”
“No, you probably wouldn’t. That’s okay…but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.” His voice quivered a bit.
“But I need to know what happened,” I protested.
Nick’s eyes darkened. “You almost died.” It sounded as if he were forcing the words out. And a bit defensive. “I did what I had to do to save you.”
Stifling a scream of pain, I reached out to him. I grabbed his shirt, skewering him with my gaze. “You’re not…telling me……something. What… is…going on?”
Nick chuckled, and it sounded fake. “Everything’s fine, I promise.” His hands covered mine. “All I want is for you to get better.”
“That is crap and you know it,” I said, tightening my grip, ignoring the pain. “Tell me what happened. Now.”
“I think we should let you get some rest,” Dr. Jonath said. She checked something in my IV bag. “You have been awake for less than an hour. All will be revealed in time.”
“I don’t needrest. I need answers.” I released Nick, who smoothed his shirt and wouldn’t look at me. “Dr. Jonath, can’t you tell me anything? I am the patient, after all.”
Nick and Dr. Jonath exchanged glances. They were insane if they thought I’d let this go.
“Knowing what happened won’t help you,” Dr. Jonath said. “So no, I can’t tell you anything right now. I’m sorry.”
“You’re…sorry? That’s it?”
Nick put his hand on my arm. “Em, try to relax. She’s just doing her job.”
“No, she’s not. I’m the patient, she’s the doctor. That’s how it works.” I glared at him.
“Not at Solstice.” Dr. Jonath’s lips compressed into a straight line. “Nicholas brought you here. He’s your guardian, so to speak. He has been advised not to tell you anything that would be damaging to your recovery.”
I crushed my bed sheets into my fists. “That’s not fair…or right. I need to talk to your supervisor.”
The look on Dr. Jonath’s face said she disagreed, but she let out a sigh and gave me a smile that looked put on. “As you wish.” She left the room, the smell of her sickly sweet perfume following in her wake.
Once we were alone, I decided it was time to get the truth.
“Nick, you need to be straight with me…you need to tell me…what’s really going on.” Panic twisted my insides.
“Nothing, I swear. You’re recuperating from major surgery and major healing. We have Dr. Jonath to thank for your very survival.” His eyes pleaded with me to understand.
“There’s something more to this,” I insisted. I wanted to touch him, feel his skin on mine, but I didn’t feel like having more pain. “This is just too strange.”
“Look, you were badly injured, okay? You – ”
“Why don’t I…remember?”
“The trauma to your brain, according to the doc. It’s normal. The memories will come, in time.” He sounded deflated now. “This wasn’t just a broken bone, Em. This was…huge. We practically brought you back from the dead.”
“I still would like to know exactly how.” Nothing could dampen the anger winging its way through me, the fear that it was something too horrific to contemplate, and him and Dr. Jonath handling me as if I were a child. It made me fume and clench my teeth and want to commit murder.
By Artemis, I needed to relax.
Just as the tense silence became almost unbearable, a short man wearing a lab coat and glasses strolled in, followed by Dr. Jonath.
“I’m sorry, sir. She insisted,” she said. Her eyes darted from the man to me. “I wouldn’t have interrupted you otherwise.”
The man gave a slow nod. Dr. Jonath handed him my chart.
I twisted the bed sheet in my hands.
Nick let out a breath.
Dr. Jonath just watched him.
The doctor looked up at me, handing my chart back to Dr. Jonath. “I am John Bernard, Chief of Psychiatry here at Solstice. This is a precarious situation you’re in.” His eyes were kind, and his voice held the lilt of some type of accent. “I’m the one who advised against giving you all of the information as soon as you regained consciousness. It is much too soon.”
“It would affect my recovery thatmuch?” I asked.
“It would,” Dr. Bernard replied. “When it’s time to know what happened, we’d be happy to tell you. Until such time, you need to focus on getting acclimated.”
Getting acclimated…it was an odd way of putting it. Was there more to it?
I knew there had to be, but breaking down the freaking wall they’d built was going to be impossible. Time to think of another way to find out.
“So you see, Emily, it is really for the best,” Dr. Jonath said. “The last thing we want to do is hurt you.”
I wasn’t going to get anywhere today. “Okay, fine. You win. For now.” I glanced at Dr. Bernard. “Thank you for seeing me.”
“You’re very welcome. I must go now. Do call if you need anything else.” He left the room quietly.
“Do you understand now?” Dr. Jonath asked, picking up my chart. Damn. Would have been good to look at it.
I shook my head. “Not really. But I’ll let it go for now.”
“Good,” Dr. Jonath said, as if I’d given her a different answer. “Get some rest. I’ll be back to check on you later.” And she was gone.
I turned to Nick. “I’m going to find out no matter what it takes.”
“I don’t doubt it,” Nick replied.
And then he kissed me.
Our lips touched, and it felt…not quite right. I gasped. “What…what’re you doing?”
Nick lifted his hand to soothe me. Grimacing, he dropped it. An eternity of seconds ticked by as I watched him and tried to understand. “Uh – I’m sure you know what I’m doing, Em,” he said at last. “I’m trying to kiss you.”
I knew that, damn it. But – how to put what I was feeling into words? “Um…that was…interesting?”
His eyes narrowed. “Em? You feeling all right?”
I looked down at my trembling hands. “I’m fine. I’m just trying to cope with all of this. It’s a lot to take in.”
I totally understand. It’s just…I’ve missed you,” Nick said with a sigh. “You’ve been here and not with me.”
I nodded, but I was still caught up in confusion, in how weird this all felt, as if I’d changed so much –
What had really happened to me?