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The Promise

By´╝ÜKristen Ashley

Chapter One


Takin’ the Fight Outta You



“You ready?”

“Yep.”

“Called a taxi?”

“Yep.”

“Let’s go.”

With effort, I heaved myself off the hospital bed, twisted and aimed my ass at the wheelchair Cindy was holding still for me. I could feel my mouth get tight at the pain, but other than that, I didn’t let it show (I hoped).

I settled in, but the pain didn’t entirely subside. Luckily, Cindy handed me my bag that I put on my lap, then she gave me a big envelope filled with some papers. I had to concentrate on taking hold of all that so I didn’t get to concentrate on the pain.

The pain, incidentally, was the result of a gunshot wound.

It was surprising that a gunshot wound only bought me a week and a half in the hospital. Apparently, according to Cindy and the other nurses, I was a fast healer.

I didn’t feel like a fast healer.

I felt like shit.

But I wanted to get out of that fucking hospital. The bed wasn’t comfortable. The place was freaking noisy so I wasn’t sleeping well. And it didn’t help that the shot I took was to the middle so I had to sleep on my back.

I never slept on my back. I snored when I slept on my back. Women didn’t snore. I knew this wasn’t a reality; women snored. But for me, as a woman, I was not going to be a woman who snored. So, although I used to sleep on my back all the time, I trained myself to sleep on my stomach or side so I wouldn’t snore.

Yes, I did this, even though I hadn’t had a man in my bed in seven years.

Seven.

Still, I didn’t snore. Even in my own company.

The final, most important reason to get out of that fucking hospital was because I had more company in that hospital than I’d had to my apartment for the last seven years. Sal. Sal’s boys. Sal’s wife, Gina.

And worst of all, the Bianchis. The freaking Bianchis wouldn’t leave me alone. Vinnie Senior, Theresa, even fucking Manny.

Then, of course, there was Benny.

If I was honest, Benny was the real reason I was happy to escape that hospital.

I’d been avoiding the Bianchis for a week and a half by pretending I was asleep and that was even more exhausting than not sleeping. My door would open and it didn’t matter what I was doing. Watching TV. Reading a book. Flipping through a magazine. Talking on the phone. I’d instantly feign sleep, even disconnecting a phone call to do it.

Of course, I’d stop doing this if it was Sal, one of his guys, his wife, or one of my friends.

I wouldn’t if it was a Bianchi.

But yesterday, Benny got fed up with this.

He had, on more than one occasion the last week and a half, said right in my ear, his lips so close to my skin I could nearly feel them, “Babe, open your eyes. I know you’re fakin’.”

Usually, he would do this and wait. But not for long.

I knew Benito Bianchi. I knew all the Bianchis. They were not patient by nature. And Benny was a male Bianchi so his span of patience was akin to the attention of a gnat. Therefore, I could wait him out, no sweat.

And I did. Successfully. For a week and a half.

Yesterday, though, I knew Benny was done. This was because he didn’t whisper in my ear that he knew I was faking.

Oh no.

Instead, he scooched my ass right over and stretched out in bed beside me, shoving an arm under me, wrapping it around and tucking me close. He then grabbed the remote from my hospital table and turned on a fucking baseball game.

I lay next to him biting my tongue (figuratively, seeing as if I let my mouth move, I could no longer fake sleeping), wanting to remind him of the fact that I’d been shot and perhaps he shouldn’t scrunch in my hospital bed with me.

Admittedly, this didn’t feel awful. He’d been gentle about it and it sucked to discover that Ben could be gentle physically. I didn’t need to know that about him, as in I really didn’t need to know that about him seeing as he was my dead boyfriend’s brother, he was Italian American, and last, he was hot in the sense that Death Valley was hot. He so topped the scale on hotness, he reinvented the scale. I was already perving on him, and he was my dead boyfriend’s brother, so this made it wrong to perv on him, as in wrong.

So I didn’t need to know he was gentle.

But he was. Which sucked.

And made him even hotter.

In the end, he was so gentle and so warm and so hard—in that good way men’s bodies could be hard (or, that other good way)—and all that was so comfortable to feel tucked up close, I genuinely fell asleep.

I had a feeling I snored.

That was the bad news.

The good news was, he was gone when I woke up.

The other good news was, I hoped the snoring turned him off. No one liked someone who snored.

You might put up with it if you loved them, but Benny didn’t love me and I was going to make sure that remained the case.

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