Curling up over his thighs and hugging his shins seemed to help, but it didn’t leave Forest with much of a view other than the hospital’s black-speckled linoleum floor. Around him, families ebbed and flowed, some chattering away as if no one was dying a few feet away, bleeding out on unseen surgical tables while their loved ones shivered from the overly enthusiastic air conditioning.
And try as he might, Forest couldn’t remember ever actually being in a hospital for anything other than the cops or CPS dragging him into the emergency room to check him over for damage. Once Frank took him in, he hadn’t seen the inside of a hospital again, although he’d seen doctors and dentists, since Frank’d taken periodic checkups quite seriously.
“Fuck, who the hell is going to tell me when it’s time to get my teeth cleaned?” he muttered at his knees, hating the tears falling from his eyes and soaking into his jeans. “Dad took care of all that shit.”
“Here, sit up and drink some of this,” Connor ordered, and a hot cup of coffee appeared under Forest’s nose. “I got you something to eat too.”
Taking the cup, Forest inhaled its steam, coughing slightly at the bitter in its aroma. He sipped at the sharp opening in the cup’s plastic lid, wincing at the sour sweetness of the hospital’s blend and Connor’s heavy hand with the sugar. Food turned out to be a couple of microwaved green chile and bean burritos, their molten innards leaking out from cracks in the tortillas and spilling onto a scallop-edged paper plate.
“I’m not hungry.” Forest wasn’t feeling the love for his stomach at that moment, especially since it’d been nearly an hour since they’d last heard from someone official about Jules’s whereabouts. He put the plate down on the empty chair next to him. It stayed there for about a second before Connor picked it back up and put it firmly in his lap.
“Eat something. Now,” Connor growled. “Actually, before I forget, put this on and then eat. You’re going to make yourself sick.”
The much-missed leather jacket settled on his shoulders again, and Forest numbly let Connor take the coffee cup from him. Connor’s holster was empty, a dark slash of black leather against his broad shoulders and back. The man’s chambray shirt was old, an obviously well-worn garment used to hugging the Irish cop’s muscular form. Small white patches dotted Connor’s chest, areas rubbed down from his holster, and a thumbnail-sized splash of pink on one of its tails turned out to be nail polish.
Forest wondered about the woman who’d stained Connor’s shirt, leaving behind a small territorial mark to claim him as her man. Any thought about the unknown and mysterious woman disappeared from Forest’s brain as Connor began to roll up his shirtsleeves to reveal his thickly muscled forearms and strong wrists. A satin-brushed gold ring on his pinkie gleamed dully under the hospital’s florescent lights, its wide surface engraved with fluid Celtic designs Forest thought looked like animals of some kind.
“On, Forest. The jacket,” Connor repeated. “Now.”
He was about to argue—just for the sheer fuckery of it, but one look at Connor’s face stopped Forest in midbreathe, and he tucked his hands into the jacket’s sleeves, sliding it on.
The scent of Connor’s faint cologne and the musk of his skin swaddled Forest immediately, and he reluctantly took the coffee back, wishing its bitter scent wouldn’t drown the Connor out of his nose. Stewing in the lingering heat of the man’s body, Forest sighed and felt the coldness in him in him melt, slipping away under Connor’s ad hoc embrace.