Drake couldn’t help it. He jerked as if he’d been buzzed by a cattle prod. “Ben…” he growled.
“Sorry.” Both Ben and Grace spoke at the same time. She laughed, a soft little huff.
Ben slanted him a glance, then focused back on Grace. He was a good doctor, the best. Drake had to back off. She was covered with cuts and scrapes, there was going to be some discomfort while Ben cleaned her up.
But damn, he hated to think of her hurting. Hated it.
“So…” Ben had sterilized tweezers and was working on something in her hand. “Back to my question. What’s your name? I need to work on my bedside manner, or so everyone tells me, so I need to have a name to do that.”
“Grace,” she said softly, then sucked in a breath. Ben stopped immediately. “Sorry. No, that’s fine. I don’t mean to be a wuss. Grace Larsen.”
“Uh-huh.” Ben had that distracted voice that meant he was intensely concentrating on what he was doing. “And what do you do, Grace Larsen?”
“I’m an artist.”
“Artist, huh? I…see.” Ben’s hands stilled and he shot Drake a look. He knew what was in the study. He concentrated again on her, cleaning up the side of her face. He peered closely at her temple, gently lifting her hair away. “What happened here? Someone grind something into you?”
“You could say that.” Her voice turned dry. “A gun muzzle. It wasn’t fun.”
“No, I bet it wasn’t. The sights tore your skin. I don’t want to put stitches in, though. I’m no plastic surgeon and you’re too beautiful for me to mess your face up. But you might want to have that looked at later. I’ll put in butterfly stitches. How we holding up, boss?” Ben raised his voice without looking over at him. “I’m wrapping this up.”
Grace peered around Ben to look at him and he saw her eyes widen. “Listen, I’m fine now. Go to him, please.”
Ben carefully placed the last butterfly stitch and looked at Drake, who was holding himself up by sheer willpower.
Ben scrubbed his hands carefully but fast, snapped on new latex gloves and came to him, holding a big syringe.
“Okay, my man, it’s your turn, and it’s about time.” He cut away Drake’s shirt, looked carefully at the wound without touching it. “Ricochet,” he said finally, “you lucky bastard. If the force hadn’t been almost spent by the time it made its way into your tough hide, you might have been a goner. As it is, it’s shallow and it’s going to be easy to get out. You got a free one there, Drake, my man.”
Ben was carefully filling the big syringe with anesthetic.
“Not very much anesthesia,” Drake said. “I don’t want to lose the use of my shoulder and arm.”
Ben looked at him, shocked. Drake nearly smiled. It took a hell of a lot to shock a trauma surgeon.
“You’re crazy. I can’t stitch up a bullet wound if it’s not completely numb. You can’t hold still for me. We’re not out on the Afghani plains, Drake, we’re in midtown Manhattan. Cleaning bullet wounds requires probing and debriding. It’s going to fucking hurt if I don’t pump you full of anaesthesia.”
“No.” Drake kept his voice firm, but only through a huge effort. “Just the bare minimum.”
He couldn’t lose the use of his shoulder and arm, not even for an hour. He had no idea how far his security had been breached. Every instinct he had told him that he was safe here, but there had to be a mole and he could be close by. The thought of Grace in danger while he had lost the use of his arm and shoulder was too frightening even to contemplate.
“So how the hell am I supposed to work on you if I’m fucking hurting you?” Ben asked in exasperation.
Drake closed his eyes and went away.
It was just amazing to watch. Before the doctor could inject the anesthetic, this man, this Drake, as everyone called him, simply closed his eyes and…disappeared. It was as if he put himself into a deep sleep—actually it looked like more of a coma, though he remained sitting upright—in a second.
“What—what happened?” she asked. Her voice sounded shaky.
Ben looked up at her and frowned. “Don’t go into shock on me,” he warned. “At least not yet. I need to take care of Drake now.”
“Of course,” she said, ashamed. The man’s wound was much worse than anything she’d suffered and he’d insisted she be treated first. The least she could do was not distract the doctor.
“Amazes me every time,” the doctor said conversationally as he made three injections of anesthesia around the wound. He started cleaning the area, bloody gauzes dropping steadily into a steel receptacle. He took something that looked like cooking tongs and, after a few moments’ fierce concentration, dropped a flattened piece of metal into the receptacle. “Hmm. Boat-tail Sierra MatchKing. Don’t see too many of those in city shootings. Came from a military rifle.”
He brought out a scalpel, needlepoint scissors and a curved needle with thread in it. Grace’s stomach lurched.
“Are you—are you hurting him?” Grace asked.
“God knows. He’s got this incredible control over himself and when he has to, he just disappears. Poof! He’s gone.” He shook his head. “Strongest son of a bitch I’ve ever met.” There was raw admiration in his voice.
Grace had to look away, think of something else besides what Ben was doing to Drake’s torn flesh. She looked around and took in the big room for the first time. “What is this? A private hospital?”
“You could say that.” Amusement colored Ben’s voice. “Yeah, you could say that. I like the idea. Drake Hospital. That’s what I’m going to call it from now on. Drive him crazy.”
Grace watched Drake’s face. It was completely impassive. Even his eyes behind the closed eyelids were still.
“Can he hear you?” she whispered.
“Maybe. Maybe not. Who knows? I admire him tremendously, but he’s an enigma. Who knows what goes on in his head? I sure don’t.”
Grace eyed what looked like a CAT scanner. “So. Where are we? Are we—are we in a private home?”
“Yep.” He was bent over Drake’s shoulder. She heard snipping sounds and swallowed heavily. “Drake’s.”