Authors: Stella Bryce
Copyright 2014, Stella Bryce
This story is a work of fiction.
To see more Stella Bryce titles, visit StellaBryce.com
A blinding stream of light forced its way through the hospital blinds. Phoenix squinted, trying to figure out where he was. Closing his eyes again, he quickly retreated to the darkness. He didn’t know which was worse was worse, being thrust into the light or the visions he saw in the dark. The next attempt to open his eyes came hours later. He’d lost track of time. Phoenix opened his eyes slowly, letting them adjust and focus. His room was dimmer this time, making it more tolerable.
A woman in white stood looking at him. “Are you an angel? Did I die? I want to die.” It hurt to talk. His throat was raw, as if somebody had used a sanding belt on his esophagus.
The angel looked at him quietly. She poured a trickle of water from a plastic pitcher into a tiny paper cup. “Here, drink this,” she said.
As his head cleared, he realized she was a nurse. He was in a hospital bed. He was sad she wasn’t an angel. That meant he was still alive. He wanted to be dead. Though, he wasn’t sure he belonged in Heaven. Maybe there was a place for him in Hell.
Phoenix took the water and drank it. “Is there more?” The cup was a joke, barely big enough to hold more than a sip or two of liquid.
The angel nurse took his cup and refilled it. “Here, take these,” she said, scooping her hand into her pocket and handing him pills.
“She’s dead, isn’t she? I killed her. I tried to save her and I couldn’t.” His face was wet with tears. How ironic, his throat was dry and now his face was wet. “What are they?” Phoenix looked at the pills. He didn’t like the groggy feeling. Were these responsible?
“They’ll help relax you. You’re sick. These will help you get better.” She scribbled something on his chart.
Lost and confused, Phoenix didn’t want the medication. He didn’t want to sleep. He needed to suffer. He needed to remember and never forget what he was responsible for. It was his fault. She was dead because of him. There was nothing he could do. There was no bringing her back. He tried, he desperately tried to save her, but it was too late. He watched her take her last breath. He’d never felt more helpless in his life. Anxiety poured through him like liquid silver.
As the memories rushed back, his eyes glazed over and panic raced through his veins. “Help me!” Phoenix clawed at his arms. Ripping off his hospital gown, he tried to stand and climb out of bed. He needed to get out of here, now.
“Code Gray,” the woman yelled out. As quickly as the words were shouted, two men were in the room. One tackled him as he went to throw a punch at the other. Together they took him down and tied his arms to the hospital bed railings.
With a deep bellowing growl, Phoenix tore his arm away from the bar, the restraints barely holding. His brutal strength was apparent. He got one loose, but the staffer was on top of his arm as quickly as it happened. They added another tie down to each arm for security. Another deep cry came from somewhere inside. The agony that called out was emotional, not physical.
With him restrained, the nurse popped a tube open and fed it into his clenched and closed mouth. She squeezed it between his teeth and cheek, knowing it would absorb. They only used these in emergency situations, but at this point, she knew he wouldn’t cooperate and take more medication.
His burst of energy slithered away and his face slackened. The medicine was quick acting, and calmness soon washed over him. The other staffers nodded and headed out now that he was subdued.
The nurse picked up his hospital gown, which was hanging off the edge of the bed. She placed it over the naked man to give him some of his privacy back.
She couldn’t help but notice his muscular body. She didn’t want to notice. She didn’t want to look, but once she did, she could barely look away. Blushing, she forced herself back to a professional state of mind. His body was amazing. As scary as he was a few moments ago, she was still a woman, and he was a beautiful specimen. He looked like a finely crafted sculpture…a big, solid wall of muscle.
Sedated, Phoenix was moved to a safe room for his own well-being. Waking, he called into the night, sobbing like a wounded beast ensnared in a trap. He was captured, like a bear in a zoo. Didn’t they know he was a real bear, a wild bear, a bear that needed to be free? A shifter bear, half man, half bear. He didn’t belong in a zoo, yet they caged him. This was their first mistake. How long had he been here? How long would they keep him?
Phoenix paced and then slid to the floor. The room had a rubber mat, like a child’s playground. This was simply a holding room. Where would they send him next? Didn’t they know when he got his senses back and they stopped tranquilizing him, he’d free himself? Didn’t they understand that their silly little doors wouldn’t hold him when his true rage came out?
He slumped over and rested his head on the rubber mat. He was tired of being in a bed. At least they untied his arms. Only now, their answer was some padded room. It didn’t matter; he’d be locked in his own prison forever. The memories would haunt him. It didn’t matter if he was awake or asleep.
When the car submerged, water rushed in faster than they could get out. Phoenix was pinned and couldn’t reach her. As strong as he was, he couldn’t help. He watched his mother die beside him as she took the water deep into her lungs. She gave him life, and he took hers away. It was his fault.
His mother was coming home to visit. It was a special occasion. She’d been working overseas in Japan, and hadn’t been home in such a long time. She still had a couple of years ahead of her, but at least for now she’d be here on a break.
Phoenix picked her up at the airport. She beamed with pride, looking at her son as he towered over her. Coming home was just what she needed. To see her family meant everything to her. She missed them so much.
Unfortunately, the weather made the drive home dicey. It was a stormy night and the roads were slick. When the large truck veered into their lane, its high beams glaring at them, he jerked the wheel to avoid the oncoming collision. Only the car slid on the wet road and plunged into the river that ran along the side of the embankment. It all happened so fast.
The water rushed in too quickly. It seemed to be coming from every crevice, and their pocket of air was getting smaller and smaller. With everything he had in him, he pushed and pulled and tugged, and still nothing. He was pinned and couldn’t help her. Phoenix watched as the life drained from her body. By the time he broke free, it was too late.
The angel was back. The woman in white stood beside him when he woke. It was the same woman. He recognized her. Her hands were resting on her full, child-bearing hips.
“If you continue to act up, we’ll have to use the restraints again. I prefer that we didn’t.” Her voice was stern, but soft.
Phoenix stared at her and said nothing. She continued to talk anyway. “I can’t have you misbehaving, especially on my shift, okay?” Her voice was soothing. She wasn’t afraid of him, even though she’d seem him snap earlier. She tried to reach out to him, but he shut down.
Lily knew the basics of what happened and the guilt he was carrying. He talked in his sleep, and between that, the ambulance crew, and the newspapers, she’d gotten bits and pieces. She wondered if Phoenix knew how much time had passed. He’d been heavily medicated to stop him from clawing at himself. She had to wrap mittens around his hands and tie them in place the first few days. He was only coherent for a short bit, and then the meds would absorb and he’d be knocked out again.
Over the next few days, they cut down the dosage as much as they could, but when he got combative, there was no other choice. After the Code Gray, he was put in a safe room. They’d be moving him to another hospital after the court order went through. It was for his well-being.
She knew of the accident and what happened. What she didn’t know was that Phoenix Monroe was a bear shifter. Nobody at the hospital knew quite what or who they were dealing with. If he’d been able to clear his mind, he’d be able to shift...but with the medication, he couldn't focus his thoughts.
The broken man glared at his nurse. He didn’t want to be here, caged up like a fool. They thought they were helping him, saving him from himself. But they couldn’t save him. His hell was inside his brain. No amount of restraints could shut that down.
He hated the drugs. He hated the fogginess. He hated feeling out of control. Didn’t they know he was an alpha bear? His entire life, he’d been in control. He was a leader. He was strong. He was the one people came to when they needed help. If they knew, they’d treat him with more respect. Only they didn’t know. And he didn’t want to tell them. He couldn’t. Humans were nervous around shifters. And yet, when he was ready, he’d let them know exactly who he was. There would be no question remaining.
His brother drifted into his mind, and then his father. All this time he’d only thought of his own torment. He knew Carter would blame him...with good reason. He blamed him for everything, but this time he’d be right. They were never that close. He’d never let go of the fact that Phoenix was responsible for their mother’s death. He expected the same from his father. Neither had come to see him that he was aware of, though he’d spent the last few days unconscious and drugged. He didn’t blame them. They had every right to hate him.
He wouldn’t be able to go home. What was home anyway? It hadn’t been a real home since his mother left for Japan. Her work called her overseas with a contract offer she couldn’t refuse. Her kids were grown, and she was focused on her career at this point. And as for his father, being a bear, he was a loner, only coming and going time to time. His mother still had a few years to finish the contract, but got to finally come home for a visit. She never made it home. Now he’d never go home either. He deserved no less.
Lily watched the broken man struggling within himself. He was either oblivious that she had spoken to him or maybe he was just choosing to ignore her. It pained her that he carried such a large burden on his shoulders. What happened was an accident. No charges were filed against him. And somebody came forward who had witnessed the accident. The truck driver was responsible. He was drinking and driving, and swerved into oncoming traffic.
She sighed. He’d be leaving soon. They weren’t equipped to handle him there. He’d need specialized treatment, time, and intense therapy. They were simply waiting on the official paperwork before they moved him. She would miss him. She mourned his leaving before he even left. She wanted to watch over him. She was his angel. That’s what he called her the first time he opened his eyes. Her stomach twisted on hearing the word angel. She needed somebody to believe in her. Maybe in saving him, she could save herself. She’d watch over him. Somebody had to care. Was it too late for salvation?
Phoenix woke to find new people looking at him. He didn’t recognize their faces. His arms were strapped down to the bed, but he had no fight left in him. When the others left the room, only a doctor remained.
“How are you feeling today?” The doctor’s hair was pulled back tight. Her rimless glasses blended into her face. She wore little to no makeup, just a dab of nude lipstick. It feathered at the edges, showing her age as it snuck into the tiny wrinkles around her mouth. She knew not to turn her back on patients in this wing of the hospital. He didn’t answer. “I want to help you, but you’re going to need to help me.” She watched his eyes, but they gave nothing away. “Until you’re willing to talk to me, we won’t get anywhere. And until you heal, you won’t be allowed to leave.”