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New Novel: In That Moment Season 1 Episode 4

Chapter Four

I stare at the man in the bed, at this tattooed, hard man.
Pax Tate is beautifully sexy in a very masculine way.  There’s not an ounce of fat on him, he’s muscled and strong. I can see that from here.  He’s got an air of strength about him, like nothing is too much for him to handle, although his recent overdose contradicts that notion.  I feel like there’s a certain sadness to him, probably because his eyes hint at things that I don’t yet know about him, troubled things.  His body is hard, his face is hard, his eyes are hard.  Like stone.
And even still, I am pulled inexplicably to him.
I can’t explain it.  It’s not logical.
Maybe it is the vulnerable look hiding in his glittering hazel eyes; the eyes that almost seem warm, but contain too much past hurt to quite allow that, so they appear hard instead.  Maybe it is the devil-may-care attitude that exudes from him. Or perhaps it is the jaded look on his face, the expression that tells me that he is simply waiting for me to show that I am only here because I want something from him, which isn’t true, and part of me wants to prove it.
I don’t know why I’m here, actually.
I don’t have a good reason.
I reach over and graze his hand with mine, right in the spot where his thumb forms a V with his index finger.  There is jagged scar there in the shape of an X and I remember seeing it the other night.
“How did that happen?” I ask Pax curiously, as I finger it. It’s clearly old, but it’s apparent that it was a really deep cut.  The scar hasn’t faded much, but the edges have that fuzzy look that old scars get.  He looks unconcerned as he shrugs.
“I don’t know,” he tells me casually.  “I don’t remember getting it.  There are a lot of things in life that I don’t remember.  It’s all part of it, I guess.”
“All part of what?” I ask.  I feel like he is baiting me, challenging me.  But challenging me to what?  It almost feels like I’ve been invited to play a game, but the rules aren’t going to be explained.
“Part of what happens when you f**k your life away,” he tells me, his voice harsh now, cold.  I feel the urge to shiver from it, but I don’t. Instead, I simply pull my hand away from his.  His eyes meet mine.  He notices my retreat.
“Why do you think you’ve f**ked your life away?”
I have to make myself say the word.  It feels so foreign in my mouth because it’s not something that I normally say.  Pax smirks, almost as if he knows that, as if it sounds so out of place on my lips that it is funny.  I fight the urge to scowl.
“I don’t think it,” Pax answers tiredly.  “I know it.”  He settles back into the pillow of his hospital bed, wincing slightly as he moves, his face set determinedly as he tries not to show the pain.  I remember the crack that his ribs had made on the beach when the paramedics were saving him and I wince too.  It has to hurt him.
“How many ribs are broken?” I ask. “I’ll never forget the sound.”
Pax looks at me now, startled.  “You saw it?”
I nod.  “I don’t know why I stayed.  I didn’t know what to do, so I just stood there. I watched them work on you and load you into the ambulance.  And then I stripped off my shirt and sweater before I drove home—because you puked all over me and I smelled like something died.  I drove home in my bra.”
Pax chuckles now, amused by this. As he laughs, his eyes do warm up; they flicker with something other than the jaded boredom that seems to normally live there.  For some reason, that makes my stomach flutter.  Maybe there’s warmth in there after all.   Or maybe he’s just amused.
“It sounds like I owe you a sweater, then,” he says, his lip twitching. I notice how he doesn’t apologize for puking on me, but then, for some reason that doesn’t surprise me.  Pax Tate doesn’t seem like someone who apologizes.
It’s my turn to shrug.
“It doesn’t matter.  I’ve got more.”
I pretend to be nonchalant, although in reality, that’s the last thing I am. I’m a planner, which is contrary to my artistic side.  I carefully plot things out, I plan my life.  Although, I certainly didn’t plan for this detour. I would never have expected that I’d be sitting in this hospital room with a stranger.
My thoughts must be showing on my face, because Pax notices. Apparently, he doesn’t miss much.
“You don’t like hospitals much, do you?” he asks gently.
The kind tone in his voice seems both foreign and familiar to him, as though he can easily change in a moment’s notice from apathetic to genuine.  The idea that I stirred him into feeling something strikes a chord deep down in me and I shake my head.
“No.  My parents died a few years back.  I’ll never look at hospitals the same.”
Pax is interested now and he cocks his head again, examining me.  I can’t help but notice his strong jaw and the way his brow furrows as he thinks.  His natural good looks combined with his rebellious and dangerous attitude make him gut-wrenchingly sexy.
“They died at the same time?”
He asks this strange question, rather than offering his condolences as normal people do.  I find his honest curiosity refreshing, so I nod.
“Yes.  They died in a car crash. It was a foggy morning and they were driving on a little two-lane highway along the coast.  A semi swerved into their lane and hit them. They died at the scene.”
I don’t know why I just told him that.  I don’t like to talk about it, but normally I don’t have to.  Our community is fairly small and anyone who lived here during that time knows about it.
“If they died at the scene, why do you have an aversion to hospitals?” Pax asks, his gaze thoughtful. And still genuinely interested.
I think back to that morning, how I was in a Humanities class in college.  I was tired and blurry-eyed from lack of sleep the night before.  The Dean himself had come to the classroom and pulled me into the hall.  His face was twisted and awkward as he told me there had been an accident.
I don’t know any specifics, he had said.  But you should go.  
So I did.  I rushed to the hospital and when I arrived, I somehow knew as I walked through the doors that something was very, very wrong.  No one would meet my eyes, not the doctors or nurses passing in the halls and not my old neighbor Matilda, who had somehow managed to beat me to the hospital.
She had wordlessly led me to an empty room; a chapel, I think, where she quietly told me that I wouldn’t find my parents there, that they’d been taken to the morgue. She had been so matter of fact.  And then she had caught me when I had collapsed to the floor.  I still remember my fingers releasing the leather handle of my purse, and how it had hit the ground, spilling all of its contents onto the blue carpet. My lipstick had rolled to Matilda’s feet and she had picked it up and handed it to me, her face white and solemn.
I gulp now.
And then I realize that I had just spoken all of this aloud.
Pax is staring at me intently, the expression on his handsome face unreadable as he processes the details of the most painful day of my life.
“I’m sorry,” he says quietly.  “That must have been horrible for you.  I didn’t mean to dredge up old memories.”
His words are simple, his voice is not.  He is a complex person, which seems to be all I can figure out.  He’sdifficult to read, but his complicated and seemingly contradictory nature is intriguing.  I feel my belly twinge as I stare back at him, as the gold in his eyes seems to swirl into green.
“It was a long time ago,” I answer simply.  “I’ve put it to bed.”
“Have you?” he replies, his eyebrow raised. “You must be talented.  Sometimes, the past doesn’t want to sleep.”
“That’s true,” I admit.  “You’re right.  Sometimes, at the least opportune times, the past is an insomniac, alive and well.”
He nods as if he understands and I wonder if he actually does.  But he doesn’t say anything more and I let it go.
In fact, I stand up, picking my purse up off of another hospital floor.
“I’ve taken up enough of your time,” I tell him politely.  “Thank you so much for humoring me and letting me see that you are doing okay.  You’re going to be just fine, Pax.”
I don’t know if I’m trying to convince him or me.  He looks like he isn’t sure either, but he smiles and holds out his hand.  It is slender and strong and I take it.  He shakes it, like we’re businessmen.
“It was nice to meet you, Mila.  Thank you for saving my life.”
His voice is husky.  I gulp and stare into his eyes and I can’t tell if he really means it.  Somehow, it seems that he doesn’t really want saving.
But I smile anyway and I turn around and walk away.  When I am partway down the hall, I turn and glance back into his room. He is still watching me, his eyes intent and fierce.
I swallow hard and turn back around, putting one foot in front of the other.  Before I know it, I’m in my car.  And I still don’t know what the heck happened.

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