As soon as the helicopter lands on the roof, Tara and Derik are out of the room, meeting it, while I stay behind and make sure we have enough supplies and everything is in order. When they arrive at the room, my world feels like it closes in around me. A little boy no older than ten is strapped to the gurney. His neck is in a brace, his face is cut and swollen, and his head is bandaged, blood seeping through the white gauze they’ve used to protect the wound. All I can see is my son. He would be about as old as the boy is. My brain tries to tell my body to move, but I can’t. I’m glued to the floor.
“Autumn, I need you to come over here and help me transfer him,” I hear Derik say, but all I can do is stare.
“Autumn!” Tara shouts, and my eyes go to her as she shakes her head and then nods towards the young boy, asking me a silent question. I shake my head in response.
“Autumn, I need you to pull it together. We need to help this little guy get better,” Derik says gently.
My eyes go to him and I swallow the bile in the back of my throat, turning my emotions off before I start to work on autopilot. For the next twenty minutes, we do everything we can to help save the boy before he is taken into emergency surgery.
“What happened in there?” Tara asks, sitting down next to me on the bench outside of the emergency room.
I shake my head before looking over at her. “I have a son.” I close my eyes before opening them again. “I had a son,” I whisper, correcting myself bitterly. “I put him up for adoption when he was just hours old.” I look down at the floor, seeing small drops of blood on the tops of my shoes. “He would be about the age of that little boy. I’m so sorry I freaked. I…” I take a breath, closing my eyes. “I’ve never even thought about something like this happening.” I feel an arm go around my back and Tara’s head lean against my shoulder.
“I’m sorry,” she whispers.
I nod as tears fill my eyes. I never once thought I would have to help a child. I’m so stupid. “All I could think about when I saw that boy was my son lying there.”
“Honey,” she moans painfully, making me bite the inside of me cheek. Taking comfort from people is something new to me. Hell, having someone care enough about me to comfort me is something new to me.
“I think I need to leave for the night,” I tell her when I feel tears begin to fall from my eyes. “I’ll see if I can get someone to come in. I just don’t think I’m going to be a lot of help right now.” I breathe through my tears.
“Rach needs hours. She’ll come in. I’ll give her a call now,” Tara says softly.
“Thank you,” I whisper, wiping my face. I never cry in front of people. I was never allowed to show emotion like that. One of my mother’s favorite sayings was, “If you want to cry, I will give you something to cry about,” and she often kept her word.
“Go home and sleep, girl, and I’ll see you tomorrow,” Tara assures me, rubbing my back.
I stand, giving her a quick hug before I make my way to the front desk. I grab my bag and head out to the parking lot. Once I have my car door unlocked, I toss my bag into the passenger’s seat, get behind the wheel, and shut the door. I lean my head back and close my eyes.
All I keep seeing over and over is the little boy, his face bruised and battered from the car accident he was in. I can’t even imagine what his parents are feeling right now. I turn the car on, more tears filling my eyes.
I don’t even know how I make it back to Kenton’s. Once I let myself into the house, I quickly set the alarm before heading upstairs. When I reach the top landing, Kenton’s standing in his bedroom door. His shirt is off and the pajama pants he’s wearing are barely hanging on his hips. I look at the hand he has resting against his thigh, seeing that he’s holding a gun.
I look up at his face again. This time when our eyes meet, his are concerned. Something inside me snaps and I run to him, seeing surprise on his face right before I shove mine into his chest and my arms wrap around his waist as I sob loudly.
“Baby?” he whispers, pulling me harder against him. I’m grateful that he doesn’t say anything else for a long time; he just stands there holding me in his arms, offering me comfort. “Come on. Let’s lay down.” He pulls me with him to the bed, sets me on the edge, and then lays his gun on the nightstand before going to the dresser. I watch as he pulls out a shirt before coming back to me.
I take the shirt from him as he turns around, giving me a little privacy to change. I pull off my scrub top quickly, tug his shirt on, and then kick off my shoes along with my pants. I scoot up the bed as he turns back around. He climbs into bed and his big body wraps around me, holding me against his chest.
“Talk to me,” he says as his hand slides through my hair.
I take a breath, my heart beating out of my chest because of what I’m going to tell him. “When I was sixteen, I got pregnant,” I whisper, feeling his muscles tighten. “When my mom found out, she sent me away to a home for girls who were expecting.” Tears begin to fill my eyes again, so I squeeze them tightly, trying to fight them off. “The day I had my son, I got to spend two hours with him before they took him away from me.” I feel a knot form in my throat, making it hard to breathe. “I never wanted to give him up.”
“Fuck,” Kenton rumbles, pulling me closer to him. Feeling the strength in his arms gives me the courage to continue.
“A little boy was Life-Flighted in tonight.” I close my eyes, seeing the child in my head. “When I saw him, all I could think about was my son, who would be close in age to him.” I open my eyes and tilt my head back to look up at Kenton. I can barely make out his image with the moonlight shining through the window. “Sometimes when I’m out and I see a little boy, I wonder if it could be him. Logically, I know it’s not, but my heart still hasn’t accepted that he’s lost to me after all these years and I will never see him again.”
“I can’t imagine that’s something easy to accept,” he says softly, running a hand down my back. “Why didn’t your boyfriend help you find a way to keep your son?”
“He didn’t want me or a child. When I told him I was pregnant, he told me he didn’t want to have a kid and he was breaking up with me.” I cry a little harder, reliving the devastation I felt back then. “He was happy when my mom contacted him, telling him that she was forcing me to put the baby up for adoption and he needed to sign the papers.”