Wife by Design(4)

By: Tara Taylor Quinn

Darin studied him with eyes that appeared to hold recognition—and more.

“How you feeling?” He started out small, not sure what kind of cognition Darin would have left. Or what further damage might have been done.

“Head hurts.”

“You just had surgery.”

“Not just. I had a night since then.”

With a grin, Grant nudged his brother’s shoulder. “You’re right, bro, you did. And if you’ll cooperate with the nurses today, tonight will be your last one here. You ready to come home?”

Darin made a face, scrunching his lips up toward his nose. And did it again.

What the hell was that?

The covers moved above Darin’s left hand. And then moved again. Darin made that face again.

“Nose itches.” Pulling his right hand free from Grant’s clasp, he scratched.

And Grant grinned a second time, letting go of a deep breath. The day before had been slightly alarming, he admitted to himself now that Darin was back. His brother hadn’t come out of the anesthetic as the doctors would have liked—the way he had for all previous surgeries.

He hadn’t really been coherent, either, even when he’d opened his eyes.

But Grant had known Darin would make it through just fine.

Still, it was great to—

“Good morning.” The tall, gray-haired doctor entered the room. Dr. Zimmer was Grant’s kind of doctor. No-nonsense, tell it like it is. With a nod toward Grant, he focused on Darin. Asked a couple of questions. Slowly. Kindly. Lifting the sheet to look at his brother’s feet, he asked Darin to move his toes. Asked about pain and other sensations. He studied Darin’s eyes, had his brother follow a penlight with his gaze.

Everything was going as expected. Fine. Grant would be out of there soon. He’d get to work on time, come back to spend the evening with Darin and then go home to prepare the house for Darin’s return the next day. All in all, they’d come through the potentially life-threatening episode with only one day of missed work. “Your left hand, Darin. Can you lift your left hand?”

Grant watched, nodding, waiting. The covers moved. And…nothing. The left toes had moved. Hadn’t they? Grant hadn’t paid that much attention.

He wanted Dr. Zimmer out of the way so he could check again. Just to make certain.

Moving to the left side of the bed, the surgeon lifted the cover, setting Darin’s hand on top of them. “Now,” he repeated gently. “Move your fingers for me.”

And Darin did.

Thank God.

“Lift your hand.”

Grant stared. Willed the hand to move. And it did. Okay, not a lot. But the movement meant that Darin was capable, didn’t it? That there was no permanent damage to his brother’s motor skills resulting from the latest surgery?

They’d been through this before. Through worse surgeries. Like the one right after the accident when they’d had to go in to remove the barb the stingray had left in his brother’s brain. Grant had been a senior in college at the time. A mere boy.

Darin, once a force to be reckoned with in the business world, had been forever changed. He had his normal moments. And childlike ones. Stress made things worse. He couldn’t figure out basics, like monetary value.

But they’d survived. Made a fine life for themselves. Just the two of them. A satisfactory life. Other guys had wives. Kids. Grant had Darin.

“Can I speak with you in the hallway?” Dr. Zimmer’s request interrupted Grant’s silent pep talk. The look on the surgeon’s face put a blight on the positive outlook he’d been trying to create.

“I’ll be right back.” Grant squeezed Darin’s hand. “You get ready to spend an hour or two in that chair over there.” He nodded at the high-backed leather seat in the corner by the window. He knew the drill. Darin had to be up, able to walk and get to the bathroom before they’d release him. And it all started with the chair.

“I can’t lift my hand, Grant.” Darin’s voice was low. “Why can’t I lift my hand?”

“Because it’s asleep,” he said, keeping his tone light. Lightness was the last thing Grant felt as he uttered his asinine response and followed the doctor out the door.

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