"The doctor said you should rest. I'm sorry, Angel, but I'm going to listen to the expert on this matter," I tell her in a stern tone. I know she will still argue, but I'm not budging.
"I can come down in the living room at least."
"Nope. The bed is more comfortable."
Before I brought her home, I made sure that the room was nice and comfortable for her. I even went out and bought a DVD player with all kinds of new movies for her to watch. Being laid up is torture enough without having to watch old Western VCR tapes over and over.
George comes tapping into the room and stands on the side of the bed. Thankfully, the pup just had some bruising. While I stayed in the hospital with Avery for a couple of days, my mom took him to the vet and then watched him until we came home.
Without hesitation, I lift him up and lay him next to Avery.
"Okay," she says. "You'rereallytrying to go over the top. You never like this dog getting up here—especially laying on your pillow."
"He makes you feel better. That's all that matters."
"Duke, sit down," she says, patting the edge of the mattress.
"I will in a minute. I was going to go get you some water and a snack."
"Duke! Sit!" She practically screams.
Even though I don't want to, I do as she says.
Her fingernails lightly graze the back of my hand as she begins to speak. "Duke, baby, are you doing all of this because you feel bad? Because you know none of this is your fault."
She keeps telling me that, but it doesn't help to squash the guilt that I'm feeling. It breaks my heart every time I look at her face that is all scratched and bruised. "If I would have gotten there just a couple minutes sooner, you wouldn't be hurt."
"And if you would’ve gotten there later, I'd be dead. I'm thankful as hell that you showed up when you did."
Choking back my emotion, I say, "It doesn't feel like enough."
"Duke, I'm here. I'm alive. It's way more than enough." She rubs her thumb along the side of my face. "The bruises will fade, and I will be back to normal."
I lean down and press a gentle kiss to her lips, careful not to hurt her. "How is it that you are so calm about this whole thing? You went through something so traumatic, and you seem to be fine."
"Duke, it was so scary. I thought I was going to die, but you know what somehow made it a little easier?"
"What's that, Angel?"
A smile pulls up on her lips. "Because I knew that no matter what happened to me, you were going to kick that guy's ass."
Holding her hand, I say, "I did a little more than that."
"I'm glad you did. Now, we don't have to live like my father did. We don't have to go through our lives always looking over our shoulders. It's over. By the way, I never asked what happened after I passed out. Did your top-secret military guys show up and handle everything?"
I laugh. "Something like that. My intelligence guy, Boyd, sent some people out to take care of everything. Once he was able to tap into some of your father's research, all the pieces started to come together. They were able to link this Thomas guy to a bunch of shady shit back in the day. I also had him send a couple people out to help… clean up the mess."
"I appreciate that. I wouldn't have wanted to come home and see all of that."
"Angel, I never would have let that happen. If they hadn't sent someone, I would have done it myself. I could understand, though, if even now, you didn't want to stay here. Bad memories can taint a place."
She looks around the bedroom, taking it all in before she starts to talk. "You know, when I first got down here, I thought that this house made me feel so out of my element. I wanted to fix it up, rent it out, and be done with it. I was so excited to get back to my life in Boston. But as I've lived here, I realize that this place actually feels more like home than anywhere else ever has. Sure, it still needs a whole hell of a lot of work, but I can see myself here. And I can see myself here with you."
"As much as I love to hear that, Angel, I don't want you staying here just for me. I told you I'd follow you anywhere you want to go, and I mean it. I'll come to Boston if that's what you want."
"This isn't just about you, baby. Trust me, there are some things about this small town that will take some getting used to. I'm not too keen on the fact that I have to drive to a whole other town just to go to a Walmart. But staying here in the house that my dad hoped one day my mom and I could come home to means a lot to me."
I still can't get over how incredible Avery is. Her cool head and big heart never cease to amaze me. "Okay, Angel, if you want to stay, we will stay. But if you change your mind, that's okay, too."