And like before, when she boomeranged back to the dark place, she questioned whether she'd ever really left it and if her mind was just playing cruel tricks on her.
Hospital, Day 3-afternoon
So Carson was thinking about sex.
Nothing new there.
But he wasn't fantasizing about the hot and sweaty pulse pounding moment when bodies connected, but the importance of touch. How even in their most intimate moments, he had to have his hands on Carolyn. Feeling her skin and reveling in her reaction to how he touched her.
So although he caressed her arm every second of those five minutes every hour, it wasn't the connection he needed from her.
During his last hourly visit he'd barely spoken to her. He'd held her hand, willing her to squeeze it. He'd stroked her cheek, silently and stupidly begging her to turn toward his touch. He couldn't lower his protective face shield to nuzzle her temple, hoping for just a hint of the scent of her skin or her makeup or her shampoo. A shower-cap looking apparatus covered her head from her eyebrows to the nape of her neck. It was a wound care protection that kept the wound draining and the area around it sterile.
Today her stillness bothered him. It reminded him of the days following his father's first heart attack. The doctors had kept Jed sedated and on oxygen. Back then diagnosis took much longer, so for those few days, he and his brothers had no idea whether their father would live or die.
As hard as that wait-and-see time had dragged on for them, it'd had one positive outcome. When Jed McKay finally came to, he realized he wasn't invincible. He understood changes had to be made to the existing structure of the McKay Ranch. So in the months that followed, Jed parceled out individual sections to all four of his sons. Carson ended up with the most land and cattle. Casper grumbled about it even when Jed explained the pro-rating system he'd been compiling over the years.
So the bottom line was Carson's hard work hadn't gone unnoticed and he'd finally been rewarded for it.
He snapped to. His eyes flew open and he realized his daughter-in-law was right in his face. "Channing. Warn a guy, next time, will ya?"
"I said your name like four times."
He eased back and scrubbed his hands over his face. Three days' worth of whiskers scratched his palms. His neck hurt, his eyes burned, his stomach growled, his hip ached. Hard to believe he slept at all when he felt like a caged animal. "Sorry. I'm a little out of it."
"That's understandable. I'm assuming no change in Carolyn's condition?"
Channing backed off and perched in the chair across from him. She eyed the stacks of magazines. "I'm glad Quinn brought you a distraction."
"Is that why you're here, darlin'? To distract me?"
She cocked her head. "Not even close. But we'll get to that in a bit."
"Now you're scarin' me."
"The almighty Carson McKay scared of little ol' me?" She laughed. "That'll be the day."
"So what's on your mind?"
"Besides the sad fact that the most thoughtful, generous, caring, sweetest, fiercest woman I know is lying in a hospital bed, fighting for her life? That's pretty much all that's on my mind, and anyone else's mind who loves her. And who loves you."
Uncomfortable, he looked down at his hands. "I know how Colby feels about her, Channing. But that don't change nothin'. He can't…" See her like that. He could at least admit to himself that it wasn't only the threat of germs keeping everyone out of her hospital room, but the knowledge that Carolyn had always taken such pride in her appearance and she wouldn't want people gawking at her like she'd become a science experiment.
"I didn't show up to browbeat you about the parameters you set for your adult children regarding your wife; that, as adults, they should accept without question and understand since they're all married themselves."
He glanced up at her. "Well, that's a relief."
"However…I am here to browbeat you about something else."
Shit. "What now?"
"While I know you've not let your personal hygiene slide entirely, you're skating on that thin line. You haven't been home, which means you've been wearing the same clothes since you rode here in the ambulance…three days ago."
"So, you need to go home and shower, shave off the raggedy beard you're sporting, and put on some clean clothes."
He bristled-rightly so. "What part of I ain't leavin' her is confusing to you kids?"
Again, Channing got right in his face. "What part of you smell bad, you look like a hobo, and after three days of constant wear, your dirty, germ-laden clothes might be putting your wife at risk is confusing to you? Not to mention that Carolyn would seriously kick your ass if she saw you out in public like this."
That gave him pause. Serious pause.
"You said yourself that nothing has changed with her condition and nothing will change for several more days. The doctors won't attempt to wake her while you're gone. So take a couple of hours. Get some fresh air. Clear your head and clean up, you'll feel better for it. Plus, you left in an awful damn hurry so do a walkthrough of your house and give yourself piece of mind that all is safe on the home front. Get your cell phone charger since your phone is dead. And yes, I know that because my husband has bitched about not being able to get in touch with you. Not that you want to talk to him or your other kids. But at least if you had your phone charged you could check on cattle futures and play Farmville on Facebook."