Bitten Under Fire(11)

By: Heather Long

“Miss Devlin?” Cage snapped his fingers in front of her eyes, breaking the spell. “Hey, Doc,” he called, glancing away from her. “Is this fogginess to be expected?”

“It’s the dehydration, and a touch of flu, I imagine. She was running quite the temperature when she came in.” His mouth tightened, and his eyes narrowed. “Give her a break, Sergeant. She just woke up.” Then the corpsman appeared in Bianca’s line of sight once more. “I imagine she’s pretty tired, but we can up the pain meds if you think you need them…”

“No,” Bianca said, then coughed. It didn’t matter how much water she’d drunk, her throat felt like the desert. “I don’t like to be muddled.”

“Well, no one does, but it’s also foolish to suffer when we can ease it. Your x-rays showed a couple of cracked ribs and a minor fracture to your wrist. Nothing to worry about.” While she spoke, the corpsman moved around to the IV.

“Minor fracture?” Her personal savior sounded a touch confused by that pronouncement.

“Yes, Sergeant. Minor. We’ve got it in a splint, and she should be fine.” Patience marked the corpsman’s tone. A minor fracture didn’t seem so bad. Though she could have sworn it hurt a hell of a lot more.

“So what’s in the banana bag?” Bianca managed, though she stole a peek over at Cage. He seemed riveted on her, not the doctor.

“Standard fluids, nutrients, and electrolytes. You were in a rough place,” she said, then added a notation to the chart. “I’ve also given you about twenty-five milligrams of tramadol, I can give you another twenty-five.”

Not a willing martyr, Bianca considered the offer. “I’m sore, but I’m not hurting, hurting.” Next to her, Cage released a whoof of breath. Belatedly, it occurred to Bianca she’d finally answered Cage’s earlier question.

“Sorry,” she murmured to him, and managed a half smile. Grinning pulled at her damaged lips and reminded her of a dull throb in her cheek. Oh, they’d hit her with the pistol… “Is my cheekbone broken?” It might explain the swollen sensation weighing down her face.

McGinnis paused, then shook her head slightly. “You’ve got a massive contusion and a laceration. We’ve used a couple of butterfly stitches to close it. You may want to see a plastic surgeon at home, but I didn’t detect any broken bone.”

None? At all? How was that possible? Her mind was full of murky, half-shadowed memories, but that one was clear. They’d hit her with a gun; she remembered the sensation distinctly and the crack when the handle caught her cheek. The pain had been a constant companion in the hut. “Not really worried about a scar.” Her dad might be, but then, he and Mom were going to be too busy to worry about a little cut on her face.

“All right, well now that you’re awake, we’re going to sit you up some here and let you finish this bag. Then, if you’re up for it, we’ll get you some food. Sound good?” McGinnis had a great smile, terrific bedside manner, and a comforting attitude. So why then did Bianca find herself looking at Cage instead?

“Oh yeah, it’s Meatloaf Surprise tonight. Though I hear the officers’ mess might have something more interesting. I bet we could pull a VIP card for you.” Though McGinnis had made the suggestion, it was Cage who helped lift her bed into a half-sitting position. It left her a little dizzy, or maybe it was the nearness of the big man leaning into her as he cranked the bed up.

He smelled great. After choking on sweat, moist jungle, and reeking men soaked in alcohol, a man who bathed was swimmingly attractive. There was something unique about his aftershave; it reminded her of spices, woods, and musk. The scent tickled her nose, made her eyes water, and she jerked her face away swiftly rather than sneeze on him.

The achoo she released climbed a couple of octaves and came out with a wild squeak. Wincing, she glanced at Cage, another apology on the tip of her tongue. His expression, though, held a measure of entertainment and instead of saying she was sorry, she blushed. Heat scorched her face at the simple joy in his eyes.

“That’s a sneeze,” he said softly, without a hint of mockery.

“It’s a thing with me,” she admitted. “I’ve never been a quiet sneezer.”

“Good to know,” he said, settling back onto—oh, he was sitting on a stool. Even sitting, he seemed huge. His presence dominated the room, but he didn’t overwhelm her. “I meant it when I said I’d go get you something else if you’d like it.”

“Why?” The question popped out before she could think better of it. They were total strangers, and she was aboard a military vessel—she’d had the honor before and would have recognized the med bay even if the corpsman hadn’t been in uniform.