I return ten minutes later with a piping hot mug, an icepack, and his medication. Both of Salvatore’s brows raise at the sight of me.
“You were serious. You really expect me to have tea.”
“And water. You can take your pills.”
“What’s the icepack for?”
“Your bruises. You’re swollen.”
“Phi,” he says in warning, “I don’t know what you think you’re doing here… this isn’t some charity project for you to take on.”
“Any other time, you’re relishing in the chance to torture me with your presence. Now that I’m here voluntarily, you’re being a grump about it?”
He scowls. “That’s different. You weren’t playing nurse, treating me like some helpless patient.”
“I might as well be your nurse. I’m going to make sure you get better whether you like it or not.” I set down the tray I’ve carried in with the assortment of items I’ve brought him. In the time it takes for the tea to cool, I’ll tend to his bruises.
As I gingerly apply the icepack to the deep bruise along the side of his torso, Salvatore watches me closely. It’s calculated, his face composed, but his lengthy, intent stare revealing enough. He’s deciding how he wants to play this.
Damn. We really do know each other too well.
He develops the faint traces of a mocking grin. “If you’re going to be my nurse, then you’re going to have to dress the part.”
“Salvatore…” I trail off, my skin flushing at once.
“I’m serious. Pretty sure we can get you one of those nurse costumes. You know, the little white dress. Real low cut in the front with the ass out in the back.ThenI’d let you be my nurse all you want. I’d be too busy enjoying the view.”
He shifts away from me when I try to check his bandages, and I have half the nerve to agree to his proposition—if it means he’ll stop fussing as I try to care for him, then a skimpy nurse costume seems like a viable option.
“That’s not appropriate,” I say instead. My heart skips another beat as my fingers graze the hard curve of his bicep, where another bruise purples his ivory skin. “I can take care of you just as well dressed like this.”
“Where were you anyway?”
“Stitches called me while I was at the Fuel the Child event in the park.”
“Why’d you come?”
Another moment of pause passes between us as I stop paying attention to his wounds and sit up straighter, my body stiffer. Again, he’s watching me carefully for my reaction. If I’d known, I would’ve avoided his gaze—it pierces through me, practically an X-Ray of my inner thoughts and feelings.
I set down the icepack, my heart softening. Only for the moment. For the unplanned confession that makes its way past my lips.
“I owe you,” I say quietly, studying the tray of supplies. “You were there for me in my darkest hour. However pissed at you I am—and Iampissed, Jon—I don’t like seeing you injured. So let me do this. Okay? We can press pause on whatever toxic mess that’s been going on between us.”
Salvatore catches me off guard. He grips my chin and forces my gaze back to his. “I didn’t help you after your attack because I expected anything back. I helped you because it’s what I’m here for…”
For a fleeting second, we teeter on the edge of something else altogether. Salvatore on the cusp of saying words we’re not supposed to say to each other. He’s not supposed to say aloud what he’s thinking. No confessions of feelings belong here, in this confusing moment where we sit as two exes and attempt to be civil.
We can’t. Not right now…
His breathing deepens, his muscular chest rising higher. He drops his fingers from their grip on my chin and gestures to the tray at his bedside.
“I’ll try the tea if it gets you off my back.”
A slow smirk lights up my face, grateful for the topic change. “Green tea is good for you. If you drink it all,maybeI’ll make you some soup.”
“You forget you can’t cook?” He husks out a laugh—a real one. Not the taunting one I’ve grown used to in recent months. His real, throaty laugh that sparks in his eyes and briefly rearranges his features. It’s a sound I didn’t realize I missed until this moment.
“I’d whack you with a pillow if you weren’t so injured,” I say, grabbing his medicine and glass of water off the tray. “But first, medicine. The doctor said you need to take two of these and then rest.”