Beneath This Mask (Beneath #1)(13)

by Meghan March

“Why don’t you come in here for a moment.” He gestured to a small private room connected to the waiting room.

“Why? What’s wrong? Please—” My words died, and dread spread through me as I followed Simon inside.

“Just let Jack tell us. Okay, Charlie?”

I refused to sit, so Simon stood beside me, and the vet leaned against the closed door. “He made it through the surgery. He’s in recovery.”

Relief momentarily smothered the dread, but I needed more information. ‘Made it through surgery’ didn’t sound promising. “And?”

“His leg was severely broken, and I had to screw a stainless steel plate directly into the bone. Because of his size, it was really the only option we had. The upside is he’ll be able to walk a little sooner than he would otherwise. He also had extensive internal bleeding, but we were able to stop it. I’d like to keep him here for at least a week so we can monitor the initial stage of his recovery. It was a hard hit. He’s very lucky.”

I stumbled to a chair and dropped my head into my hands. I was thrilled he was going to be okay, but the hours of waiting had sapped my energy.

“He’s really going to be okay?” I felt like I had to ask one more time, just to make sure I hadn’t superimposed the words I wanted to hear over his.

The vet nodded. “He’s young, otherwise healthy, and a fighter. Barring any unforeseen complications, he should be just fine.”

“Can I see him?” I asked.

Dr. Richelieu nodded. “Just for a few minutes. We’re keeping him sedated so he doesn’t further injure himself.”

He led us back through the clinic to a wide room containing what looked like horse stalls. Huck was laid out on his side on a thick stack of blankets covering the floor, an oxygen cannula in his nose. The vet opened the chain link gate, and I knelt and stroked Huck’s silky ear. I whispered nonsense to him for several minutes before kissing his furry forehead and standing.

“Can I come back in the morning?”

“Anytime you want. And if you have any questions, Simon has my cell number. Feel free to call me. If I’m in a procedure, I’ll call you as soon as I’m finished.”

“And you’ll call us if anything changes?” Simon asked.

“Absolutely, man. He’s in good hands. We’ll watch him all night and call you immediately if there’s any change in his condition.”

I shuddered at the thought and hoped we were through the worst of it. I dejectedly thought about going home to my empty apartment. Harriet was still gone, so there’d be no crashing with her for company. As good as I’d gotten at being a loner, I really didn’t want to be alone tonight.

My mind was whirling, trying to figure out who I was going to call and beg to sleep on their couch. Things were still awkward with Con, so that left Delilah or Yve. Delilah lived with her brother, and Yve lived alone. But for all I knew, Yve might still be with Con. Dammit. Simon helped me into his SUV before rounding the hood and climbing into the driver’s seat. I was still contemplating my limited possibilities when I realized we weren’t driving back toward the French Quarter.

“I live that way.” I pointed toward the rear of the vehicle.

“I know.” Simon didn’t turn the car around; he just continued to St. Charles Avenue.

“Where are we going?”

He didn’t answer. We headed down Third Street and slowed as we entered the heart of the Garden District. He hit a button on the rearview mirror and turned into a driveway where a section of elegant green fence topped with fleur de lis was sliding open.

“Where the hell are we?” Simon hit the button again, and the fence closed behind us. He hit another button as we pulled up to a garage around the side of one of the most gorgeous homes I’d ever seen. It was easily as large as many of the homes in the Hamptons, and was built in a similar Neoclassical Italianate style, but that was beside the point.

“My house. Well, to be fair, it’s my parents’ home. But I live here as well.”

I didn’t know which fact to take issue with first, so I tackled them both. “You still live with your parents? Why didn’t you take me home?”

He opened the driver’s door and exited the vehicle, ignoring both of my questions. I was still sputtering when he opened the passenger door and unbuckled my seat belt. I smacked his hands away. “What the hell, Simon?”

He frowned, his features turning dark in the dim light of the garage. “You don’t need to be alone tonight. And for some inexplicable reason, I want to help you. So stop being so prickly and independent for a goddamn minute and let me.”

I glared at him. “Don’t tell me what to do. And don’t freaking kidnap me without asking first.”

He scrubbed a hand across his face. “Fine. I’ll take you home.” He walked back around the car and opened the driver’s door again. But I’d already gotten out. He was dead on; I didn’t want to be alone tonight.

Simon slapped both hands on the roof of the car before peering through the cabin to where I stood outside the open passenger door. “Are you always this stubborn?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. I can’t help it.” He slammed the driver’s door shut a second time and came around the hood and grabbed me by the hand.

“Come on, woman.” He led me out of the garage, and when we didn’t go toward the main house, I looked up at him, confused.

“Where are we going?”

“I live in the guesthouse.”

I smirked. “So you only sort of live with your parents? Aren’t you a little old for that?”

He tugged on my hand. “Trust me, I was going to buy my own place when I got out of the Navy. You would have thought I told my parents I was taking a vow of silence. To say they were horrified is putting it mildly. When I refused to move home, my father had the guesthouse renovated, and my mother guilted me into it. It would make them feel ‘so much better to have someone on the property when they’re traveling. And they’d missed out on so much time with me while I was in the service.’ It was easier just to give in.”

“You’re a momma’s boy, aren’t you?”

“As much as any good ole Southern boy. I like sports, huntin’, fishin’, fast cars, and faster women, but I love my momma.”