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"You're one lucky son of a buck," his father said, the words drowning out the machines in the room. "If you'd been going even a little fastera"
The guilt resurged. Cole prayed that wasn't moisture he saw in his father's gaze. His dad never cried.
Wyatt saved him from responding when he entered the room. After looking between each of them and quickly a.s.sessing the situation, he said, "Mom, Dad, why don't you have a word with Dr. Rosen about Cole's aftercare? Then grab a cup of coffee and a m.u.f.fin or something. Put it on my account."
As a cardiologist on staff at the hospital, Wyatt would make sure their parents were taken care of, Cole knew. They nodded and Brenda bent down to kiss Cole's forehead.
"You're my baby, you know," she murmured. "You're not allowed to scare me like that."
He winced. "Sorry, Mom."
She ruffled his hair and let his dad lead her from the room. Wyatt closed the door behind them.
Seeing Wyatt's expression when he turned back from the door, Cole groaned. "Don't start with me."
"Don't start with you? That's asking an awful lot when you've been a complete dumba.s.s."
Cole glowered at Wyatt as he settled into the chair their mother had abandoned. It was the only chair in the room and sported a tilted round seat and an off-center, triangle-shaped back. Somehow, Wyatt managed to sit in it without his long legs ending up in his ears.
"What the h.e.l.l is that thing?" Cole wondered.
"Our hospital's failed attempt at becoming more *hip and trendy,'" Wyatt responded. "Don't try and deflect from the fact that you ended up here with a concussion and bruised face because you were driving under the influence."
"What about my face?" Reaching up, Cole gently prodded his cheeks. He didn't feel anything unusual.
"The airbag nearly broke your nose," Wyatt explained, his sandy brows drawing together. "You likely lost your grip on the steering wheel before impact or you'd probably be suffering from a broken arm or two, as well."
Cole considered that. "I don't feel bruised."
"You don't feel much of anything. You were given a hefty dose of Codeine shortly before you woke up. Mom was carrying on about how much pain you'd be in, so Dr. Rosen allowed it."
"Remind me to kiss the doc on my way out."
"Cole, get serious for a minute," Wyatt said sharply. "I've managed to keep your intoxication out of the official records. Fortunately for you, the guy who made you swerve into that tree was conscientious enough to see if you were all right, and he happens to be a fan of yours. He kept rambling on to anyone who would listen that it was all his fault. Between that and you being my brother, no one tested your blood alcohol level."
"Then why do you think I wasa"?"
"Don't even go there, Cole. You reeked of alcohol. You still do."
Raising his left arm, Cole gave himself a sniff test. Then he shrugged.
Wyatt pushed up from the chair and leaned over the bed. Cole knew his brother nearly matched his own six-foot, three-inch height, and his hovering position had a dominating effect.
His voice was much quieter when he said, "Cole, for G.o.d's sake, you could have killed yourself. You could have killed someone elsea"a kid. What the h.e.l.l were you thinking?"
The combination of Wyatt's posture and tone made another dent in Cole's conscience. He'd always sought his older brother's pride, and he knew now that he had disappointed him.
"I'm sorry, Wy."
Whatever Wyatt read in his expression must have convinced him he was sincere. Sighing, Wyatt returned to the chair-like contraption.
"What's going on, Cole? You don't normally drink yourself stupid when you go out with your friends."
Cole considered blowing his brother off. He could easily say it had been a one-time slip and it wouldn't happen again, blah, blah, blah. Then he'd go back to living his life.
But he had to tell someone.
Rubbing a hand down his face, he asked, "Can I talk to you under the doctor-patient privilege rather than brother to brother?"
"Wyatt, this is important, okay?"
After a pause, Wyatt nodded.
Cole took a deep breath. "Okay. The truth is, I think I've blown out my pitching shoulder. I've been drinking and taking pills to relieve the pain."
The quickly-issued confession didn't make Cole feel any better. If anything, it made his non-physical pain that much keener. Still, it did help a little to share his burden. He was facing the possibility that his pitching career was over at the age of twenty-four. It had seemed more than he could bear before this moment. Now, he had hope.
He had Wyatt.
"When do you think the injury occurred?" Wyatt asked at last.
Grateful for his brother's unshakable calm, Cole replied, "I experienced twinges several times last season when I pitched. It got worse in October. Once the season ended, I tried to work it out, but it's been a few weeks and the pain isn't going away. It's getting worse."
"Have you spoken to your team doctors ora"?"
"Wy, if I tell anyone I'm having issues in my throwing arm, it'll be all over the news. My contract comes up for renewal at the end of this coming season. I have to be in prime conditionano rumors about pain or treatment or surgery."
Wyatt frowned. "You can't continue on without an evaluation, Cole. You have to see what's going on. It could be something treatable without surgery."
"I want you to treat me," Cole said. "I can trust that you'll do it secretly and the press won't find out."
Wyatt was shaking his head before Cole finished. "If this was a heart condition, we might be having a different conversation, buta""
"Then one of the doctors you know. Get them to treat me off the record so it stays quiet."
"You're asking me to go to my colleagues and ask them to risk their medical licenses to treat you without properly doc.u.menting it?"
That made Cole frown. He wasn't about to put his brother in that position.
"Look, it's only the first week of November. You're still months away from spring training. a.s.suming you don't need surgery and you start rehab now, you should be fresh and ready to go by the time you report."
Cole rolled his eyes. "Sure. I just have to figure out a way to get the rehab I need without the public finding out about it. That means it has to be done outside of a center and not by anyone bogged down by licensure and professional ethics. How the h.e.l.l am I going to get effective treatment with all of those restrictions?"
Wyatt leaned forward. "I'll make you a deal. If you stop drinking it up at the clubs and downing pills, I'll figure out a way to make this work."
There really wasn't any other choice. He nodded. "You've got yourself a deal."
You can learn more about Raine Thomas and her books at, www.RaineThomas.com.
It's been two years since I put out my first book, Ta Ta for Now!. On one hand it seems like just yesterday, on the other, I can't believe how much has changed.
I have been very fortunate to meet amazing, wonderful, supportive people, who manage to make my books better.
I want to thank Raine, Autumn, Tee, Lyn, Jennifer, Andrea and Kristi, for reading Indelible and giving me their opinions on how to make it better. And Christie Rich for suggesting the name.
I also want to thank Kelsey and Allie for making the cover what it is today. I LOVE it! And I want to thank the models Justin and Kathryn, for becoming my characters.
To KMS, Kristina, and Julie, thank you for helping me make Indelible reader-ready!
To the Readers ~ I Love You!.
Finally, to my family, for putting up with my long hours in front of a computer screen, supporting my road trips for signings, and giving me the freedom to follow my dreams.
Bethany Lopez began self-publishing in June 2011. Since then she has published various YA and NA books. She is a lover of romance, family, and friends, and enjoys incorporating those things in what she writes. When she isn't reading or writing, she loves spending time with her husband and children, traveling whenever possible.
For more information about Bethany and her books, visit:.
Independent Author Network.
Other t.i.tles by Bethany Lopez.
Stories about Melissa - series.
Ta Ta for Now.
Friends & Lovers Trilogy.
Make it Last.
I Choose You.
Trust in Me.
Omnibus: Books 1, 2, & 3.
Nissa: a contemporary fairy tale.