“Rufilin? As in roofies?” Alistair’s question hung in the air as the doctor stared at the group of kids waiting to hear about their friend’s condition.
“That would be my guess, or something similar in nature. The level of alcohol in her system isn’t high enough for me to believe this was completely alcohol related. From your story, and from my observations, she’s showing all the symptoms of someone who has been slipped the drug.”
“But she was with us the entire time,” Piper said.
The doctor shook his head. “We won’t know for sure until her blood work comes back.”
“But she’s going to be okay?”
He smiled and nodded at the petite blonde with the remarkable violet eyes. “She’s just sleeping right now. We pumped her stomach so hopefully not all of it was absorbed into her system. All her vitals are fine.”
“When is she going to wake up?” Sterling asked.
“Probably not until tomorrow. I can call you when she does…”
“I don’t want her to wake up here alone,” Laila said quickly. “She’s going to be so scared.”
“You are more than welcome to wait for her here. There’s a cafeteria downstairs and a few couches just down the hall in the waiting room.”
“Thank you,” Laila smiled back at the doctor then turned to her friends. “You guys can go. I’ll wait here for her.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Piper told her. “We’ll wait with you.”
“No, you guys should leave, take Nikki home. She’s already passed out in the car. It’s stupid for all of us to spend the night here.”
“And it’s stupid for you to spend the night here by yourself,” her friend argued.
“I’ll stay with her,” Sterling offered and Laila looked up at him with wide eyes.
Piper and Alistair exchanged a quick glance but then both looked at Laila to see her reaction. “Thanks,” she said quietly.
“Just call us in the morning,” Piper told them. “We’ll come back to pick you up.”
Laila nodded and Sterling smiled at the couple. “See you then.”
“Try to get some sleep,” Alistair suggested but Laila was already looking at the ground, her eyes damp with tears.
Sterling motioned for his brother to take Piper home and he waited until they were halfway down the hall before pulling Laila into his chest. She fell against him and wrapped her arms around his waist, her quiet sobs muffled by his sweatshirt.
“She’ll be fine,” Sterling promised her as he stroked her hair. “She’ll wake up in a few hours, you’ll see.”
But Laila shook her head. “I think I know who did it,” she said softly.
“What?” Sterling lifted her chin and looked into her eyes. She looked terrified.
“Can we go sit down?”
He nodded and guided her down the hallway to the deserted waiting room. He must remember to thank the doctor for not making them sit in the emergency room waiting area. Laila sat down carefully on the edge of the cushion and took a deep breath before looking at him.
“I think it was Will.”
“Will?” Sterling asked, wondering where she had possibly come up with that idea. “Why do you think it was him?”
“He was at the party. I saw him right before you showed up. I came out of the bathroom and he was there, waiting for me. I had left my water on the sink and he asked if it was mine. I took it back and then gave it to Luanne because she seemed like she needed it. That’s when she you came and she started acting funny.”
“Shit,” Sterling looked at her and rubbed her arm, not knowing what else to do to get her to stop shaking.
“This is all my fault,” Laila said and covered her face with her hands as she started to cry again.
“Don’t say that,” Sterling said, pulling her toward him and cradling her to his chest. He never would have wished anything like this on Luanne, but he was relieved it was her lying in the hospital bed instead of Laila. He didn’t know what he would have done if it had been Laila who had collapsed. He may have lost it completely.
“I should have listened to you about him,” Laila cried into his neck. “I’m so stupid, I couldn’t even see what was so obviously right in front of me.”
Sterling held her closer, unable to find the right words to say.
“And now Luanne’s in the hospital and we aren’t together and it’s entirely my fault.”
Sterling smiled and kissed her forehead. “Luanne being here is definitely not your fault. And us not being together is not entirely your fault. I played a small part in that as well.”
Laila sniffled and lifted her head. “But I practically made you do it. You never would have let her kiss you if I hadn’t…”
“No,” Sterling interrupted her, not allowing her to take any more of the blame than she deserved. “I shouldn’t have kissed her at all. Regardless of what you did or didn’t do to me, I never should have kissed her. You don’t know how much I regret it.” He pushed a strand of hair behind her ear.
“I would do anything to change what I did,” Laila said, looking as if she were completely broken. “I should have admitted that I knew Will had stronger feelings for me. I was just selfish and thought that if you guys became friends he would back off. I was so stupid.”
“Was it something I was doing that made you turn to him?”
Laila shook her head as new tears started to roll down her cheeks. “No. You did nothing wrong. You were perfect, as always. It’s just that Will was the only guy besides you that I’ve ever really connected with. I just didn’t understand why I couldn’t have you and keep him as a friend. But if I had known I was going to lose you then I never would have spoken to him. I guess I just never thought anything would ever come between us.”
“I never imagined anything could come between us either,” Sterling admitted, tears starting to pool in his lids as well.
They stared at each other for a long moment, both contemplating what had just been said, what had happened all those weeks ago. Sterling was aching for her, wanting to tell her how much he still loved her; how, if she would let him, he would spend the rest of his life with her, everything that happened would be forgiven. But there was still something he needed to know.
“Laila? Why didn’t you answer my letter?”
She blinked and then gave him a confused look. “What letter?”
“The letter I sent you?”
“I never got a letter.” She shook her head and looked at him expectantly.
“I wrote you a letter the day you got back from New York…”
“The day you stopped calling?”
“What did it say?”
“I told you that I wasn’t going to call you anymore so you could have the time you needed to think about everything. I told you that I was still angry with you, that I felt deceived. And then I told you, that despite everything that had happened, I would do whatever it took to get you back.”
Laila shook her head and looked down at her lap, not wanting to believe that weeks of misery could have been avoided had his letter not gone missing.
“I said that I would always love you, regardless of how we ended up.”
Laila inhaled deeply, her blood racing through her veins. “And how do you feel now?”
Sterling raised her chin so he could look deep into her eyes, wanting her to know that he meant every word he was about to say. “I am still completely in love with you.”
Laila smiled through her tears. “I love you so much.”
“Can you forgive me?” Sterling asked, scared and hopeful at the same time.
“If you can forgive me,” Laila said, her hand finding his on the couch and squeezing it tight.
Sterling smiled and reached for her face, his fingers running over her cheek and jaw before tangling themselves in her long hair. He leaned in slowly, waiting to see how she would react, and then realizing he already knew. Their lips met and for the briefest second, time stood still, the world fell away, and it was just Laila and Sterling, exactly where they should be.
Her lips were exactly how he remembered, soft and delicate and responsive to his kiss. There was a slight desperation in this embrace, however, but Sterling didn’t mind. He felt the same way. The familiar feeling of Laila’s hands on the back of his neck and running through his hair made him moan against her mouth, his tongue tasting her lips and seeking access which was quickly granted. They kissed again and again, until they were both completely out of breath, and then finally pulled away.
“I’ve missed you so much,” Sterling said, smiling at her flushed face.
“I know. I’ve been a complete mess.”
“You’ve lost weight,” he quietly stated and waited for Laila to make up an excuse.
“I know,” she said again, unable to hide it. “It was pretty bad the first couple of weeks. I’ve been trying to gain it back.”
“Good.” Sterling ran his hand up and down her leg as she snuggled close to him on the couch.
“I’m glad you stayed with me,” she whispered, tracing indiscernible patterns on his stomach as he held her close. Sterling closed his eyes, enjoying her touch.
“I’d do anything for you. You know that.” He hadn’t realized how tired he was.
“I love you,” Laila yawned and he felt her kiss his neck.
“I will never let you go again.”
Laila didn’t respond, or at least, Sterling didn’t hear her. They fell asleep on the couch, both clinging to each other like never before. It was the best sleep Sterling had had in over a month.
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