I didn’t want to go, but his arms were underneath me, easing me toward the edge of the gurney and a waiting wheelchair padded with pillows. I was afraid any resistance would result in another game of hospital gown peekaboo.
He settled me so gently in the soft wheelchair that my hip and my back hardly hurt. Pushing me past the curtain and into the bustling emergency room, he leaned close, over me, to say, “I fixed it. They’re going to lose the records of your visit, so you’ll never get billed. But you’re my girlfriend.”
“What do you mean, I’m your girlfriend?” What delicious blackmail was this? And was it worth the price? Perhaps I could stand it.
‘I had to make them think I have a vested interest in you,” he whispered. “They never would have agreed to lose your records if I told them you were my friend at twelve years old but not so much at eighteen and I had pretty much walked in and stolen the birthright to your family farm. See? Shhh. Hey, Brody.” He slapped hands with another man in scrubs wheeling an empty gurney in the opposite direction. The man eyed me, waggled his eyebrows at Hunter, and kept going.
“Couldn’t you have said we’re friends and left it at that?” I needed to keep up the façade that I did not like the idea at all. At the same time, I was a little afraid Hunter would call the charade off.
“I have a lot of friends,” he explained, wheeling me into a waiting room marked X-RAY. he rounded the wheelchair and knelt in front of me. Behind him, a door stood ajar. A contraption I assumed to be an X-ray machine was visible through the crack. He glanced over his shoulder at the door, then turned back to me. “Sorry about this,” he murmured as he slid both hands into my hair and kissed me.
All I could do at first was feel. His lips were on mine. His hands held me steady, so I couldn’t have shrugged away if I’d tried, but I would not try. Bright tingles spread from my lips across my face and down my neck to my chest. I longed to pull him closer for more. I reminded myself that we were faking this for a reason. I didn’t want to make the kiss deeper than necessary in case it turned him off.
Hunter deepened it. His tongue pressed past my teeth and swept inside my mouth. One of his hands released my hair and caressed my shoulder, traveling down. The farther his hand went, the higher I felt. My hip hardly hurt and my back pain was gone. I wondered how low his hand would go.
I never found out. A shadow stood in the doorway and cleared its throat.
I stopped kissing Hunter back and braced for him to jump away. He did back off, but very slowly. He sat back on his haunches and glared at the X-ray tech as if she had a lot of nerve. His cheeks were bright red.
“So, Hunter,” she said mischievously. “This is your girlfriend.”
“Hullo.” I gave her a small wave.
“And you got hit by a taxi while you were crossing the street to visit Hunter? That is so romantic! Have you seen Sleepless in Seattle?”
“Not romantic,” I said flatly. “I hate that movie. They don’t meet until the last scene. They don’t kiss at all.” Too late I realized I sounded like I was begging Hunter for more.
“But in that movie,” the tech said, “they talk about An Affair to Remember. Have you seen that? Deborah Kerr is crossing the street to meet Cary Grant and gets hit by a car. Years later he comes back to her and she’s paralyzed from the waist down.”
“You call that romantic?” I heard myself yelling. “That is repulsive!”
Hunter stood and put a heavy hand on my shoulder as he pushed my wheelchair past the tech and through the doorway to the X-ray machine. “Erin is in a lot of pain,” he murmured to the tech, “and she doesn’t want to think about being paralyzed from the waist down.”
After that the tech was a lot nicer, because Hunter had a way with people. Hunter lifted me onto the table and left the room so he wouldn’t be irradiated or see my bony ass.