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Protect Me

By´╝ÜLacey Black

Protect Me



Rivers Edge - Book 4



By Lacey Black



Prologue


Lia





9 months ago




Beeping. Somewhere very distant, I hear the constant, dull sound of beeping.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

The rhythm is enough to try to lull me back into unconsciousness.

I struggle to open my eyes. They feel gritty and heavy like little weights are pulling down each of my eyelids. My entire body is…sore. Painfully sore. I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck. A very large truck. My limbs are heavy. My abdomen is tight. My head is foggy.

What the hell happened?

And then it all comes back to me.

I reach down and touch my ribs covered with a tight stretchy bandage underneath my hospital issued gown. That slightest touch is enough to send fire through my gut and pain shooting through my entire body. I turn my head to the side, fighting the urge to throw up. I know from experience that if I just breathe deeply, in and out, and focus on the breathing with my eyes closed, the nausea will pass. Eventually.

After a few minutes, the first wave of nausea finally subsides. I crack open my tired, heavy eyelids and take in my surroundings for the first time.

Another hospital room.

My eyes quickly go to the chair in the corner which is surprisingly empty. As I scan the small, private room, lit only by a dull florescent light on the wall above the bed, I realize I am alone. My eyes quickly avert to the doorway, to the door that is closed all but a couple of inches. I wonder how long before someone comes in to check on me?

The clock on the wall next to the dry erase board with the name Emily, RN on it reads ten-fifteen. Ten-fifteen. The fundraiser ends at eleven. I am alone but only for a short time, and I know what I have to do.

With super-human strength I summon up from deep within, I swing my legs over the edge of the sterile hospital bed with rough, bleached white sheets scraping against my smooth body. I fight the returning wave of nausea as I sit on the edge of the bed. Close your eyes. Breathe deep, Lia. In and Out.

It doesn’t take but a few moments and the queasiness slowly subsides. I gently grab a hold of the IV sticking out of my hand and give it a tug. It pulls free and draws just enough blood to turn my stomach again. I reach for the box of Kleenex sitting on the nightstand next to the bed and apply a little pressure to the open hole that once held my IV. Breathe in and out.

The hospital gown falls into place as I gingerly step down onto the cold linoleum floor. My ribs scream in protest by the sudden movement of my body, of the twisting and turning as I stand completely upright. Fight the nausea, Lia.

My eyelids are still heavy and groggy, and the desire to climb back into bed and succumb to a deep sleep is great. I’m tired. I’m in incredible pain from the bruised and probably cracked ribs. Just the simple act of breathing seems to be the most unbelievably difficult task ever. But my quest for freedom is greater. My need to get out of here and start a new life is within reach. For the first time in my adult life, I taste it. All I need to do is get out of this room.

I head over to the wardrobe closet and find my dress. The long, black sequined dress that I had been wearing when I had this little “accident.” Accident, my ass.

It takes everything I have to slip out of the large hospital gown and drop it on the floor. My stomach wants to retch. My ribs are screaming. The fog in my head is threatening to completely take over. I fight to keep the tears at bay, but a few slip out.

I grab the gown out of the closet and slowly - very, very slowly - start the agonizing process of dressing myself. I bite my lip hard enough to draw blood to keep from screaming as I slip the gown over my head and down my battered body. I contemplate calling a nurse in for assistance, but know that they will probably hinder my exit. No, no one can know that I’m leaving.

After what feels like hours, I finally have the dress back on; the elastic wrap around my abdomen, still securely in place. The once beautiful dress is stiff around the high neckline, caked with dried blood. My own.

I try to reach for the black strappy three-inch designer heels that are sitting at the bottom of the wardrobe, but my ribs won’t have it. Screw it. I don’t need shoes. The clicking of the heels in the quiet, empty hallway would probably only draw attention anyway.

I long to slip into the bathroom and pee. Vomit. Pass out. Anything. Unfortunately, time is not on my side right now. Leave. Go. Hurry.

I take one last look around the small hospital room and snatch up my black clutch that is sitting on the bedside table. I know there isn’t anything in there of value, but at least I feel like I have something of my own. Especially since I can’t go back home to retrieve any of my belongings or the hidden shoebox containing enough money to live off of to get me wherever I’m going.

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