Once Bitten, Twice Shy (Chapter Seven, page 1 of 14)

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Carmen woke to a dim light shinning through her bedroom window - only the window was in the wrong place - and the bed was hard. Something was stuck under her nose and when she tried to move her hand, something tugged on it. She tried to sit up and push the hot covers away. Hands urged her back to the bed, and a masculine voice whispered.

"Shhh. Try to sleep. I'll stay here with you."

"Alex?" She managed to croak. The hands weren't as gentle as she remembered them. And then everything went black again.

The next time she opened her eyes, sunshine filtered through alabaster blinds on a hospital window. An old woman in the next bed spoke to her in a gravely voice that quavered with age.

"Are you feeling better, honey?"

Carmen tried to sit up again, and that was when she realized she had an IV in her hand and an oxygen hose under her nose. Surely she couldn't be that sick. She glanced at the woman, trying a scratchy voice.

"I guess I must be better. I'm awake. What time is it? I must have slept through the whole night."

The woman craned her neck to look at something on a table behind the drawn curtain.

"It's ten O'clock, and you've been sleeping longer than you think. They brought you in here Monday evening, and this is Wednesday morning. They said you had double pneumonia, or something like that. You were one very sick girl."

A dark head peeked around the door and Katie stepped into the room. "You're awake - and lucid." She placed a bouquet of brightly colored flowers on the table. "These are from Alex."

Carmen admired the flowers. "They're beautiful - so cheerful." She glanced up at Katie. "Where is he?"

"Alex?" Katie turned the crank at the base of the bed. "In Houston, I expect."

The head of the bed rose so Carmen had a better view of Katie. "When did he leave?"

Katie stared at her. "You have been sick. He left four weeks ago. Don't you remember?"

Carmen frowned. "But I thought he was here last night. I must have been dreaming."

Katie shook her head and nodded at the recliner. "Probably Josh. He spent last night in that chair."

"Josh? Why would he do that?"

Katie rolled her eyes. "Girl, you must have amnesia or something. He's your boyfriend. Remember good old Josh?" She straightened the sheet. "Fine thing. He spends the night worrying over your bed while you're dreaming about Alex."

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