Authors: Marla Monroe
“What does that mean?” Boyd asked.
“She will stay here overnight and receive a few doses of antibiotic. I want to make sure we take care of anything in her bloodstream as well.”
“I don’t want to stay overnight. Can’t I go back to the house and take the pills?” Ashley asked.
“I’m going to give you IV antibiotics because they work faster and are stronger. Then you’ll go home with a bottle of antibiotics to take at home.” He started an IV on her and the nurse hung a bag of something.
“Let’s see how you do in the morning, and if you’re better, you can go home.” The doctor turned to the men. “One of you can stay, but the other one will have to leave after nine. There isn’t enough room for but one of you.”
“Boyd, you’ll stay. I’ll go home and check on the horses. Then I’ll come back in the morning and pick you two up.”
“Please bring me some clothes,” Ashley said with tears streaming down her face. “You aren’t leaving yet, are you?”
“No, baby. I’m going to wait around for a few minutes till they get you settled in a room.”
“Which we’re going to do now,” the nurse said. “Why doesn’t one of you carry her for me? We’ll put her in a room in the main house downstairs. It’s where we keep people for a few nights when we need to.”
Boyd gathered Ashley up in his arms and the three of them followed the nurse through a series of doors into another part of the building that looked to be a house. He indicated a room and held her IV as the men settled her on the bed. Then he hung the IV on a hook on the wall above her.
“There’s water in the big cup there, and we’ll get you something to eat in a little while. If you need anything, the buzzer on the side of the bed will call me.” He pointed to the button on the bed.
“Thanks,” Ashley said.
“Are you comfortable?” Boyd asked, sitting on the only chair in the room.
“I’m fine. Keeton, will you hold me please before you leave? I wish you didn’t have to go.”
Keeton looked over at Boyd, who grinned and shrugged. He carefully sat on the edge of the bed and drew Ashley into his arms, being careful of the IV in her hand. She clung to him like a lifeline and buried her face against his chest. He swallowed, not knowing what to do. So he patted her head.
After several minutes, he gently pulled away and stood up. “I better get going, Ashley. I need to settle the horses and let Danny and Andrew know what is going on. I’ll be back in the morning with your clothes so we can bring you home.”
“You promise?” she asked.
He settled a hand on Boyd’s shoulder. “Take good care of her. I’ll see you two in the morning.” Then he walked out of the room.
By the time he was back at the transport, there were tears in his eyes. He hated leaving her there. It didn’t seem right. She belonged at home with them.
Damn that fucking rat
Keeton fired up the transport and turned it around to head for home. It would be a long, lonely trip and an even longer night. He just prayed that she could come home tomorrow. He already missed her.
* * * *
Boyd took Ashley’s plate when she was finished eating and left it on the tray by the door. He’d had two sandwiches for lunch, but she had gotten soup and crackers. They didn’t want her eating much yet since she’d been sick.
“Did you get enough to eat, Ashley? That wasn’t much.” Boyd smoothed down the cover over her lap.
“It was plenty. I wasn’t very hungry.”
“Do you feel sick?” he asked.
“No. I feel fine. I mean, other than my leg stinging, I don’t feel at all sick anymore. I wish I could go back to the house.”
“It’s home, Ashley. That’s our new home.” Boyd wondered why she hadn’t referred to it as her home.
“I know. I guess I just haven’t gotten used to it yet. We’ve only been there a few days, and now I’m here.”
“You’ll be going home tomorrow. You’re doing too good to have to stay here. You’ll see. Why don’t you take a nap?”
“Um, would you hold me?” She didn’t look at him when she asked.
Boyd realized she was embarrassed to want him to hold her. He got out of the chair and sat on the edge of the bed, pulling her into his arms.
“There, better?” he asked.
“Um-hmm, thanks. I don’t like being here.”
“I know, baby. Only for tonight. Then we’ll all go home and take care of you there.”
He held her for several minutes before he felt her relax into sleep. Finally he gently laid her back against the pillows and settled the covers further over her.
He sat back in the chair and waited for her to wake up again. Hours passed and she didn’t wake up. It worried him. The doctor hadn’t told him anything, either. He’d said it would take some time to prepare the slides and read them, but he was anxious to know what was going on.
Boyd wondered how they were going to survive on a planet that seemed to be hostile to them. There was some giant creature out there that attacked cattle and people, and now a giant ratlike thing that had acid for saliva. Why hadn’t any of the others noticed them before? He checked that Ashley was asleep, then slipped out to talk to the doctor.
He found him in an office down the hall writing up notes. He looked up when Boyd knocked on the door.
“Come on in. I was just writing down my findings on the samples I took.” He put down his pen and turned to look at Boyd. “What can I do for you?”
“Why is it that no one has seen these things before? If we had three of them in our cellar, stands to reason someone else should have had them.”
“You would think so. I agree, but so far no one has reported seeing them. If they think they are just rats and are ignoring them or just shooting them, they don’t know how dangerous they are,” the doctor said.
“Someone needs to get the word out about them,” Boyd insisted.
“The council meets tonight, and I’m going to recommend that we contact all the outlanders about them. We did that about the creature when it attacked Rachel.”
“Outlanders?” Boyd asked.
“Yeah, that’s what we call all of you living outside the city.”
“Oh, funny. I think we still thought of ourselves as part of the city,” Boyd said with a half grin. “Guess we’re more the country folk.” Boyd shook his head and sighed. “Tell me what you found.”
“The skin has an acid burn, so it’s safe to say the saliva has acid in it and soaked through her jeans. It probably wouldn’t have been so bad if she’d pulled them right off. What I don’t understand is why didn’t it burn a hole in the jeans?” the doctor asked.
“I don’t know, either. She had several bumps on her leg that had a weird yellow tint to them, and then she got really sick, and they opened up.”
“Right now, she’s doing fine. I’m going to let her go home in the morning with oral antibiotics provided she doesn’t run a fever tonight.” The doctor got up and walked over to a shelf and pulled down some pills. He shook out several and placed them in another bottle. He made a label and handed it to Boyd.
“Give her one of these twice a day until they are all gone. Keep the bandage on as long as she is draining. Then let it stay open to air. I don’t want her walking on it for another couple of days, either. If it changes in any way, bring her back here.”
“Got it. Do you think there’s going to be any residual problem from it?” Boyd asked before he walked through the door.
“So far Rachel hasn’t had any trouble, and neither has Danny. Other than the scarring, they are fine.”
“But you aren’t saying there won’t be any. Is that what you’re saying?” Boyd asked.
“Yeah, I guess it is. I’ve never seen anything like it. Even from some of the astronauts I checked out after some of their planet landings. I just don’t know what to tell you.”
“Thanks for the help, though. She’s doing fine now.” Boyd walked through the door and headed back across to Ashley’s room. He hoped he would make it back before she woke up and found him gone.
He slipped back into the room and was sitting in the chair ten minutes later when she stretched and winced, but woke up. She smiled at him.
“Hi yourself, Ashley. How do you feel?”
“I feel fine. Can we go home now?” she asked.
“Not till in the morning. Keeton will be back then to take us home.”
“Oh, I thought it was morning.” She pouted.
Boyd chuckled. “You only took a nap. You didn’t sleep all that long. It’s barely eight at night.”
“What am I going to do for the rest of the night?”
There was a knock at the door and the nurse, Scott, came in. “I’ve brought your night dose of antibiotics. I need to borrow your hand, Ashley.”
Ashley frowned, but dutifully held out her hand. Once he had her hooked up, he covered the site with gauze and tape. He left them alone again.
She and Boyd talked for several hours about their pasts, and he realized he knew very little about her. All he’d been interested in originally had been getting his cock in her cunt. Now he wanted to know more about her.
“Could you draw that thing if you had paper and a pencil?” Boyd asked her.
She shrugged. “Probably. It was sure close enough for me to get a good look at it. Why?”
“We need a record of what it looks like. No one has ever seen one before now.”
He told her he would be right back, then went and borrowed a notepad and pencil and brought it back to her. She took it and began to draw.
Keeton drove the transport as fast as he felt safe to drive. He was anxious to get back to town to find out how Ashley was. He had missed her as much as he had missed Boyd being there. He realized she had come to mean a lot to him. He never would have believed someone so innocent could hold his attention, much less become important to him.
He would easily admit to being a hard man who loved his women down and dirty. Finding that he cared about Ashley was messing with him. He wasn’t sure what to think.
He pulled into town at close to ten that morning. He parked out front of the medical clinic and climbed out of the transport, eager to see for himself that she was doing okay. He hoped they would be able to take her home with them today.
The nurse met him at the door with a smile. He felt his heart lighten. If the nurse was smiling, the news had to be good.
“She’s been driving Boyd crazy all morning about when you were going to get here,” he said.
“I had to deal with the horses before I could get here. Is she okay?”
“She’s doing fine, but I’ll let the doctor talk to you about her. Come on in.” The nurse led the way to a room in the back that was obviously the doctor’s office. “Have a seat and I’ll let him know you’re here.”
Keeton took the chair opposite the desk and leaned back. He didn’t have long to wait. The doctor walked in and shook his hand before taking his seat behind the desk.
“Ashley is a very lucky woman. She’s doing fine, but we don’t know anything about the animal that injured her. Her leg is healing up, but she’s going to have several small scars there. It looks like they are going to be yellow tinged as well.”
“Are you trying to say that you don’t know what sort of long-term effects this may have on her?” Keeton finally asked.