Authors: Susan Stoker
“Exactly,” Laine beamed. “Not many people get it.”
“I like you,” Mack blurted out with a big grin on her face, putting her hand on Adeline’s shoulder. “You’re smart, you like Crash, you’re pretty but don’t act like it, and you like dogs. All pluses in my eyes.”
Adeline smiled back. She liked these people too. Was fitting in. And was having a good time. She hoped she could continue to get to know all of them.
Down at the bottom of the bleachers, Coco lifted his head suddenly and sniffed the air. She turned to look up at Adeline, then quickly stood up and ran toward the field.
“Coco. Come!” Adeline shouted sternly, but her dog ignored her.
“What’s he doing?” Corrie asked.
“Being a pest,” Adeline told her. “He’s never ignored my commands like that before.”
The group of women watched as Coco ran up to Crash on the field. He was standing next to first base and waiting to see if Hayden was going to be able to hit the curve balls Chief was lobbing her way. The dog head-butted his leg. Crash reached down, smiled, petted Coco’s head absently, then turned his attention back to the game.
But Coco wasn’t to be denied. He jumped up onto Crash, almost knocking him over.
“Oh my God, I’m so embarrassed,” Adeline moaned, putting her head in her hand. “Here I was advocating you getting a service dog and mine has completely lost his mind.”
A few of the cops called out things like, “Good distraction, dog!” and “Nice first-base coach!” Crash laughed and pushed Coco off him, pointing toward the bleachers, obviously telling the dog to go back to the women.
Adeline watched in disbelief as Coco sat next to Dean and pawed his leg. Just like he did to her when—
“Oh, shit,” she said in a low voice.
“What?” Mackenzie asked, confused.
“Shit, what?” Laine asked at the same time as her friend.
Dean obviously understood what was happening at the same time Adeline did, because he turned and caught her eye before sprinting toward the bleachers where the women were sitting.
Adeline vaguely heard his teammates asking where he was going and the cops cheering because now first base didn’t have anyone there to guard it, but she kept her eyes on Dean and her dog running toward her.
Before she could explain what was going on to her new friends, Dean was in front of her, holding out his hand.
“Come on, beautiful, let’s get you down from there.”
“Crash, what’s going on?” Beth asked in a worried tone.
“Coco alerted,” he told her shortly. “Come on, Adeline.” Not waiting for her to grab hold of him anymore, Dean stepped up to where she was sitting and pulled her to her feet, keeping one hand around her waist.
“Why did he do that?” Adeline asked, her brows drawn down in confusion, gaze flicking between Dean and her dog.
Knowing exactly what she was talking about, Dean said evenly, “Because he knows I’ll take care of you.”
“But I was right there. He should’ve come up to me,” Adeline protested.
“Doesn’t matter right now, beautiful,” Dean reassured her, helping her step down from the bleachers.
“What’s up?” Chief asked, appearing next to them as if out of nowhere.
“Coco alerted,” Crash explained quickly.
“Not here,” Adeline begged, tears in her eyes, looking up at Dean.
“Adeline, you’re safe. It’s fine.”
“I don’t want—”
“Did you hear me?” Dean interrupted. “You’re safe here with me and our friends. It’s not a big deal.”
Adeline really didn’t want to have a seizure in front of the women she’d met only an hour before. And she really,
didn’t want to have a seizure in front of the dozen or so hot men now standing around staring at her.
“Give her some space, guys,” Mack suddenly called out. She was standing on the bleacher with her hands on her hips. “Stop staring at her. Jeez. I thought you were here to play a game or something?”
Her words did what they were meant to—snapped everyone out of it. Most of the men turned back to the field to retake their places. The men with girlfriends kissed their women before moving. Chief and Sledge hung back.
“You need anything?” Chief asked.
Crash shook his head. “No. I think we’re good. She just needs a flat place to lie down.”
Coco had crept up to Adeline and was now alerting her to the impending seizure. Adeline looked down at her dog in exasperation. “Oh, so now you let
know. When did I become second fiddle in your eyes, bud?” Coco whined and pawed her leg just as he’d done to Dean out on the baseball field.
“Here,” Mickie said, “Use this towel. I’ve been sitting on it because the bleachers hurt my butt.” She handed Crash a large beach towel that had been folded into a pad.
“Awesome, thanks,” Adeline muttered, not meeting her new friend’s eyes, still embarrassed. Figures she’d have a seizure now. It couldn’t wait another hour or two when she was home alone with Dean.
Chief took the towel from Mickie and followed Crash and Adeline behind the bleachers. The women all sat back down and only glanced behind them occasionally.
Sledge put his hand on Crash’s shoulder. “Let us know if you need anything.” Then he turned to Adeline and winked before saying, “Thanks for the distraction, Adeline. With the cops wondering what the hell is going on and worrying about you, they’ll be paying less attention. We’ll be caught up in no time.”
Adeline couldn’t hold back the chuckle. He’d surprised her. She thought the men would hover and be über concerned. But it seemed as though her having a seizure was a normal thing—which it kinda was, but they didn’t necessarily know that. It was weird…she appreciated it, but it was still weird.
Dean helped her sit a bit away from the bleachers in a grassy spot in the shade, then lay down on the towel Chief had spread out. Coco settled into his usual spot at her feet and laid his head on her legs. Adeline looked up at Dean. “I don’t like this.”
Dean leaned down and kissed her on the forehead and said simply, “I know.”
She wanted to say more. To talk to Dean about why Coco had done what he’d done, but the last thing she remembered was the tender look on her boyfriend’s face as the seizure took control of her body.
* * *
rash was glad Chief stayed
. It wasn’t that he was worried about Adeline, per se, it was more that the other man could run interference with the women or the other men if needed. All of Crash’s attention was on Adeline. Her eyes were open and she stared off into space as her body twitched as the seizure continued.
He was also glad the other man didn’t try to make conversation—not that he would, Chief didn’t talk much, and never engaged in small talk. He was a quiet man. Which Crash appreciated right about now.
He could hear the women talking in low voices in the bleachers behind him, but kept his attention on Adeline. Glancing at Coco, Crash reached out a hand and petted the dog’s head. “Good boy,” he murmured.
He was as shocked as Adeline had been that her dog had alerted him rather than her. It had taken a moment to truly understand what was happening, but the split second between when he’d understood the dog’s action and when he’d turned to find Adeline had seemed like eons. He’d been afraid she’d fallen off the bleachers or was somehow otherwise incapacitated, and that was why Coco had come to him.
But she’d been sitting on the bleachers looking as confused as he’d felt. He’d reached her in moments, but he’d never forget the panic he’d felt when he’d thought she’d been hurt.
He reached up and put his hand on Adeline’s forehead as she continued to jerk. He hated that she had to go through the seizures. He was all for having the brain surgery to lessen the frequency of them, but could also admit that it scared him as much as it did her.
The last thing he wanted was to lose her now. Not when he’d just found her. The thought of her not knowing who he was, or not really understanding the world around her, made him feel sick. But even knowing the risk, knowing she might not remember him or how she felt about him, Crash would be by her side for the rest of her life. Even if she never remembered him, he wouldn’t give up on her. In sickness and in health. They might not be married, but he took the words to heart.
“Looks like she’s coming back,” Chief noted softly
Crash nodded and kept his eyes on her face. He brushed her hair back from her forehead, and continued the light caress as her eyes closed then opened again.
As was typical for her, she came back to herself slowly. She blinked up at Crash.
Thank fuck. Every time she had a seizure, he was half afraid her brain would be damaged and she wouldn’t remember him. He loved that the first word out of her mouth was his name.
“I’m here, beautiful. Just relax, you’re good.”
She sighed and closed her eyes again. Crash could see every muscle in her body relax.
“I’ll leave you to it,” Chief stated easily, and before Crash could say anything, the man was gone.
Coco whined and crawled on his belly up Adeline’s body between her spread legs until his head was lying on her stomach. Her hand came up to pet his head. Crash knew this was a part of their routine as well. She lay quiet for a couple of minutes before taking a deep breath and opening her eyes again.
“Help me sit up, please.”
Crash wanted her to stay down for a bit longer, but didn’t treat her like a child, doing as she asked, putting a hand behind her back and easing her to a sitting position, letting her lean against him for support.
She looked around then said dryly, “It’s not the worst place I’ve woken up after a seizure.”
His lips didn’t quite make it up into a grin. “Where’s the worst?”
“The floor of the restroom in a bar.” She wrinkled her nose. “Have you ever
the floor of a bathroom in a bar? It’s absolutely disgusting. I can imagine that the men’s room is probably worse, but still. It wasn’t fun. I took a thirty-minute shower when I got home and washed my clothes twice.”
Crash wasn’t amused in the least, but he tried to tamp it down. Just the
of her going through that made him want to hit something. “You feel all right?”
As if realizing he was changing the subject, Adeline didn’t complain. “I’m okay. Just tired as usual.”
“Can you stand?”
“Yeah.” She said it, but it was obvious she wasn’t sure she could by the way she didn’t even make a move to try.
“I’ll help you. Come on. Up you go.” Crash lifted her to her feet and kept his arm around her waist as she swayed and tried to get her bearings. He helped her shuffle back to the bleachers and sit on the bottom row. Coco followed close behind, sitting at her feet next to the row of seats.
Crash looked up to the other women, who were looking down at them anxiously. “Tell the others we’re headed home, okay? I’m gonna go get my car.”
“Sure, go,” Mackenzie told him, moving down the bleachers to sit near Adeline. “We’ll keep watch over her until you get back.”
“Appreciate it.” Crash turned to jog off toward his car. He wanted to get Adeline home and in bed. She could take a nap while he made them something to eat.
The other women moved down the bleachers until they were all sitting close to Adeline.
“Hey, I thought I’d be the first one to leave. I appreciate you letting me outlast you,” Beth teased.
Adeline smiled weakly. “Any time.”
Mickie put her hand on Adeline’s shoulder. “Don’t be embarrassed. Seriously.”
“Yeah,” Mackenzie agreed. “When they found me in that coffin, I was so scared that I’d peed all over myself. I’m sure it smelled horrible, and all of Dax’s friends were there. I wasn’t at my best at all.”
Adeline looked over at the other woman, appreciating what she was trying to do.
Laine piped up next. “And you should’ve seen
. Lord, I was a mess. After spending all that time in a dirty hole, I don’t think there was an inch of my skin that wasn’t caked with mud.”
“And seriously, Adeline,” Mickie added, “you looked like you were napping. Do
“And I swear to God, the way Crash looked at you,” Beth said with a sigh. “If I didn’t have my own man and didn’t see that same look on his face every night, I might be jealous. Adeline, in case you didn’t know it, that man is so in love with you.”
“I don’t think so,” Adeline said shaking her head for emphasis. “We just started dating. It’s just the rush of a new relationship.”
“No, it’s not,” Beth argued firmly. “I know it’s hard to believe. I was right where you are not too long ago. I couldn’t believe a man as good looking as Cade would ever take a second look at me. Especially when I was so messed up in the head and couldn’t even leave my apartment without holding on to Penelope’s hand like an eight-year-old. But he did. And taking a chance and accepting that love, and returning it, is the best thing that ever happened to me.” She looked Adeline right in the eye and stated, “Grab hold, Adeline. And don’t let go. It’ll change your life…for the better. Seizures or not.”
Adeline nodded and opened her mouth to say something, but Dean had returned. He’d parked his car as close to the bleachers as he could, ignoring the fact he’d driven over the grass and put ruts in it.