Evers & Afters (Dare With Me #2) by J.H. Croix




Chapter One





Elias





November



“You have a visitor, Elias,” the nurse said in a cheerful voice.

I resisted the urge to actually growl at her and managed a tight smile in return. “I wasn’t expecting anyone,” I replied.

“Well, the coffee around here isn’t the best, so I think you’ll appreciate this visitor.”

I didn’t know this nurse’s name. She wasn’t one of the regulars. I’d only been here three days, and I’d already figured out the usual staff.

I closed my eyes and leaned my head against my pillows. Being in the hospital sucked. My throbbing side annoyed me, and I wanted to be out of here yesterday. Now, I had a freaking visitor. I only hoped it was someone I liked enough that they wouldn’t mind me being an asshole.

“Elias?” a voice called softly.

I ransacked my brain for a moment because I knew that voice. My weary, achy body gave itself a shake. Then, I spied her. It was Cammi Taylor. Opening my eyes, I saw her step into my hospital room and close the door behind her. She had a cup of coffee in her hands, and my mouth almost started watering because Cammi made the best damn coffee in town. Hell, in all of Alaska as far as I was concerned. Considering that I flew all over the state and visited many coffee shops, including the high-end ones in a few cities, my opinion was based on strong research.

She turned, her blue eyes lighting up when she saw me awake. “Hey,” she said as she crossed the room. “I brought you some coffee.”

I sat up a little straighter in bed and silently cursed the effect Cammi had on me. Every cell in my body sat up and took notice when she was nearby. I’d been getting coffee at her coffee shop for five years now. Red Truck Coffee was impossible to miss when you drove past it on the way to the airport. It was in an old red baker’s truck, a beacon representing incredible coffee and Cammi’s warm smile. I started going there for the coffee, and now I couldn’t be sure it wasn’t Cammi that drew me in like a magnet. Every time I saw her, I had to beat back my body’s intense reaction.

When I first met her, her hair was short, but she’d let it grow out and it fell in a silky bob, swinging forward as she sat down in the chair beside my bed and held up the distinctive red paper coffee cup. “Here you go.”

I ignored the twinge of pain as I lifted my hand to reach for the coffee. I took a swallow, letting out a low groan at the decadent and rich flavor.

Opening my eyes, I met hers, my lips tugging into an unbidden smile. “Thank you. The coffee here is shit.”

Cammi’s laugh was like soft bells in the room, and I felt a tug low in my chest. “I’m sure they do the best they can, but their priorities are taking care of their patients. How are you feeling?” Her concerned eyes coasted over me.

I felt like hell, but I didn’t want to complain. I hated how weak and useless I felt in the hospital.

I lifted my shoulder in a shrug. “Okay. Better now that you brought me this.” I took another healthy swallow.

I tried to adjust the pillows behind me and swore when I couldn’t get it right. Next thing I knew, Cammi was standing beside the bed fussing over me.

“Elias, take it easy. Here,” she murmured. She leaned over me, adjusting the pillows behind my back.

I closed my eyes, taking a breath, and instantly getting a hit of Cammi—she smelled like sugar, coffee and sweetness. Jesus, this girl made me crazy.

I hated how helpless I felt, laid up in a hospital bed. I’d been arguing with the doctor about my discharge ever since I woke up here.

I was both relieved and disappointed when she moved away. Of course, she got the pillows just right so I was more comfortable.

She straightened, her face inches from mine when she asked, “Better?”

The air around us felt lit with a charge. Her blue eyes had layers of color in them, like the ocean under the sun. My eyes landed on her rosebud mouth. There I was, laid up in a hospital bed, cranky and probably acting like an asshole, and I was a hair’s breadth away from kissing her.

I didn’t realize I hadn’t even replied to her until I saw a flush cresting on her cheeks. “Elias?” she prompted.

Oh, right. I was too busy staring at her mouth. I brought my eyes back to hers and cleared my throat, my answer coming out rough. “Definitely better. Thank you.”

Cammi sat back down. “I’ll bring you coffee tomorrow too. Actually, are you getting out before tomorrow?”