The Arrangement 16

By: H.M. Ward

Chapter 1

As I pace back and forth, I wrap my arms tightly around my middle, covering the tear in my bloody bodysuit. The stupid stage costume is still clinging to me and I shiver, but not because of the temperature. It’s Sean.

Since I arrived at the hospital, I’ve been stuck in the emergency waiting room. It’s packed with people; some are press, trying to find out what happened. Hospital security tossed out anyone that shouldn’t be here. I’m covered in blood and it’s obvious I was with Sean, so they’ve let me stay, but the hospital staff won’t let me see him. Since I’m not his next of kin, they won’t tell me crap either. The only thing I know is he was rushed into surgery. I overheard the paramedic say Sean might bleed to death before he even got here. If I’d kept his ring, maybe they would take pity on me. Right now, I look like a crazy clown. My stage makeup is smeared all over my face from wiping away too many tears.

Pacing the floor, I stare into space. My mind is in overload. What I saw cannot be, but I won’t allow myself to think about that, not now. There are more pressing matters at hand, more gut wrenching horrors that I may have to face.

Death cannot visit me again, not today. I can’t lose Sean. I couldn’t bear it.

After all this time, I wasn’t certain how I felt about him—about his good and his bad, about the light and the darkness within this man. But now that Sean’s time has been cut short, I know exactly how I feel. It’s not fair. Some people my age haven’t lost a single person and I’m losing everyone I love. My throat tightens at the thought.

Stop it! I scold myself and try to hold it together. He’s not dead. He’ll survive, Sean’s a fighter, and he will fight. It’s what he does best. That makes me smile a little. Fighting is so Sean.

There’s a burst of noise and then someone shoves through the doors into the ER. Trystan’s brown hair hangs in his eyes, wet with rain. The pavement behind him glitters as flashes of fire and the press tries to find out if he is also hurt. They hurl questions at him in a barrage. His bodyguards push people back, and then manage to follow him into the room. Trystan scans the space until his eyes land on me. Without a word, he races over and opens his arms.

I fall against his chest and sob. Trystan’s arms wrap around my shoulders as he kisses the top of my head. “He’ll be all right.”

“You don’t know that!” I manage the words between sobs.

Trystan pulls me back and looks me in the eye. “You’re right. I don’t know shit. I don’t know if he’ll be all right or not, but I do know that you can survive anything, Avery.” When he says my name I feel stronger. The way he looks at me challenges me to collect the strength that is rapidly flowing out of me. I want to crumble in his arms, but I can’t do it, not with him looking at me like I’m a pillar of stone.

Sean was accused too many times of being nothing but stone. Is that what life does?

My throat is so tight that I can barely speak. “People break. They can’t endure something like this alone.”

“You’re not alone. You’ll never be alone, not as long as I’m around. Do you understand? This isn’t the end.” I can’t look at him anymore. He’s so certain and I’m so scared. My gaze lowers to the floor, but he won’t let it stay there. Trystan takes my face between his palms and lifts until we’re staring at one another. “I know what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling. She’s here and if that happened to her, God—” he presses his eyes closed, blinking hard. “Some people will say they know, but they don’t. The thing is, with us—we’re so alike—he’s your shaft of light in a dark place, he’s the cool breeze in the sweltering heat. I know you. I know what you’ve been through. No matter what happens tonight, I know you can get through this, too. Avery, your story is epic and this isn’t the end.” He offers a lazy smile.

My hands have found his and in that moment, I believe him. I want things to be all right. I want Sean to live and I want to marry him. “I didn’t know how I felt and now that I do, it’s too late.” A smile tugs at my lips, but I can’t hold it in place. I’m so stupid, so very stupid. I let his dark side dictate what happened to us, but it’s Sean’s sliver of hope, the man behind the mask, that called me to him in the first place. I forsook him when he needed me. Sobs bubble up until I can hardly breathe.

Trystan brushes my hair out of my face, smearing back tears. “It’s never too late.” He drops his hands and walks over to the counter where a nurse is totally star struck. Trystan’s bodyguards are a few feet away, but since he’s walked inside, no one has had the audacity to bother him. There are no fans trying to get his attention. They’ve remained in their seats and a quiet hush overtook the room. The main source of noise comes from the televisions mounted on the walls. News of the shooting traveled fast and by the time we reached the hospital, there were cameras out front, vying to get more information.

A Ferro gets shot at a Trystan Scott concert. It’s like a homing device for every news outlet in the country and more of them are arriving every second. Uniformed police officers are guarding the door, making sure that only patients and staff can come and go.

The young nurse is standing there, mouth gaping, her messy blonde hair pulled back into a bun with a pen sticking through the middle. Her purple scrubs make her complexion appear pristine. If I weren’t so upset, her expression would be comical.

Trystan takes her hand and turns up his charm. That mop of dark hair glistens as he sweeps it to the side and gives her his full on heart-breaker smile. “You see that woman over there? She’s Sean Ferro’s fiancée. She’s also one of my best friends. She’s so worried about Sean that she can’t stop crying. Any chance you can help us out and tell her if he’s alive?”

The nurse doesn’t move. A high-pitched noise comes out of her mouth, and I’m sure she’s going to pass out.

Trystan continues, leaning in, saying the horrible words softly. “The thing is, we’re both friends of the family. If he’s not going to make it, please give her the chance to say goodbye.”

An older heavyset nurse with dark skin and bright red lips is frowning at him. She finally stands, scolding the blonde nurse, causing her to snap back to life and rush off. Meany Nurse shakes her head. “Just because you’re a celebrity you think you can go around breaking rules? Well, you can’t. Not here. I’m the charge nurse and I say no.” It’s clear she thinks Trystan leads an easy life—if she only knew.

Trystan smirks and leans forward on the counter, his hair dripping onto her papers. “Listen,” he whispers, “I know people here that could make your life so much easier. Plus, I’ve managed to hide…” his voice drops so low that I can’t hear him. The nurse and Trystan glance at me. “She can’t know.”

The nurse’s gaze flicks down Trystan’s bare chest. He’s wearing an old leather jacket that’s soaked. When she raises her eyes, she nods and lifts her hand to press the button to let us through the door. The thing buzzes and when he turns to look at me, his relief is evident.

“Come on.”

A familiar face is standing on the opposite side of the doors, her face white as paper. “Trystan?”

Chapter 2

“Mari,” I say her name and thank God there wasn’t someone else standing there.

“Avery?” She glances at me and then returns her gaze to Trystan. It looks like someone punched her in the stomach.

Trystan turns toward her slowly, his shoulders tense and his eyes widen. Before she can see, he grabs the ring hanging around his neck and yanks it off, breaking the chain, and shoves it in his pocket. Either he grabbed it before coming here or it was in his pocket during the show. The poser smile he wears too often appears as he resumes his normal slacker stance. “Dr. Jennings, how are you this evening?”

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