Could This Be Love? (18)

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A Story by Deborah Benson


There are some born to shine who can’t do it alone, so protect them and take special care


No one spoke once the pair fell to their knees.

The smaller frame tucked against the larger’s side as he clung to her, one hand knotted in her hair as the other clung to her shoulder in an attempt to keep her up-right. Deep black curls fell around his face as he hid the tears that were now falling from the rest of the company.

It wasn’t until the paramedics arrived—led by Paul—that he could even be brought to release whatever was left. No one wanted to say that they had lost her and the paramedics refused to call anything so soon, but at the same time they knew what damage must have been done regardless.

Instinctively John moved to follow her out regardless. He even managed to walk out to the ambulance before being turned away. He was not family. He was nothing as far as the crew was concerned. The most he was given to hold onto was an address to the hospital and the sliver of hope that something could be done.

While he watched the ambulance drive away with the one thing in the world he couldn’t bare to lose the faint sound of police siren’s could be heard from the entrance to the theater. Morgan was bound to be waking up soon, but there was at least the guarantee it would be behind bars.

Dakota had vacated the premises within minutes, but even she couldn’t hide forever.

With the growing awareness of something gone wrong by the audience and the other resort members there would be no place any of them could run soon. As long as Kimberly was away from the chaos there was already a better chance of her returning to him. At least that was what he had to tell himself. He couldn’t allow himself to picture what would happen if the went to find an empty hospital bed. He couldn’t. Not so soon after he had just gotten her back.

He had so much he needed to apologize for. For the things he said, for how he wanted to hurt her, for how he acted, for leaving, for everything. He had acted blindly and only thought about whichever emotion held the most power over him at the time. If he lost her before getting to say any of that he would hate himself, he knew he would.

If she truly left without him getting out a proper ‘I love you’, he doubted he could ever manage one again.

Back inside the theater Mark watched as Morgan was dragged out barely conscious, Serena explaining to the police what had occurred without leaving out a single detail. She included their plans to fake an overdose, the gun, the fight in front of the audience, every detail. It no longer mattered what she was caught for. She was free from Dakota. She had nothing to fear any more. She was finally free.

Despite this fact, however, her constant glances back to the exit door proved to Mark that her freedom was no longer the only thing she was concerned for. Kimberly was stuck in limbo somewhere and that was where she wanted to be.

And if Mark was honest with himself it was where he wanted to be as well.

He could only imagine how John was taking having to leave her, so he allowed him time on his own. Someone needed to help clean up the mess. His job was no longer emotional support; someone had to appease the officers badgering Serena.

Giving her a chance to escape he took her place, answering whatever question he was posed with the utmost honesty.

The officers asked who Morgan was and Mark explained the business. He began to describe how Dakota would sell the girls without making it outright prostitution. How she’d win them over and turn on them once they could no longer back out. How the investors were told the girls agreed, how some of them did, how some of them were convinced to agree.

The only detail he didn’t share was where Kimberly and John had gone. The last thing either of them needed was more harassment.

He’d protect them regardless of who was asking. Thankfully the police pushed no farther.

They had a case to build against Dakota once they had found her. If they needed testimony from the two they would be able to find them at a later date.

It wasn’t as though having the Grey name made it easy to hide. A fact Collins Grey will no doubt hate the moment the story reached newsstands. He would try to cover it up, Mark knew John’s father that well, and he would go through any expense to protect his company.

The theater full of newly shocked audience members however, would be far more talkative.

Poor Dakota wouldn’t even have the chance to benefit from all the free publicity. None of the shows had ever managed to make national headlines before.

Hopefully none would ever do so again.

Once the theater began to calm down John returned. His somber expression fighting between one of anger about being left or one of morning the loss he refused to admit possible.

The only thing Mark could do was to stand beside his friend as they watched the audience empty.

Stagehands slowly began to reappear, cleaning off the finale sets, doing the only thing they knew to do in order to keep some sense of normalcy going. The show must go on even though it had ended. If they stopped they’d have to come to terms with what had happened. It was much simpler to just go back to work.

John said nothing as he watched them, his fist pressed lightly against his chin, no doubt smelling faintly off the perfume from Kimberly’s hair. He had nothing to hold onto but the stage. She had nothing of her own to give him so he had to keep what he had.

His blue eyes burned red from the tears he would deny having cried if Mark had mentioned. His usual pout fixed in a stiff line, determined to reveal nothing as he waited in a limbo much like Kimberly’s.

The only difference lay in the fact that Kimberly would be able to find peace if she never returned. She was free, she had John for a moment, and she belonged to no one. It wasn’t much, but she was never one for needing much.

John was greedy. John needed his life; he needed what he had built for himself. He needed her. There was only one way he could come out of limbo in one peace and that was with Kimberly.

There was no doubt in Mark’s mind that he would spend the rest of his life repaying Kimberly for how greedy he could be. If he were to need her he would do everything in his power to make sure she wanted to stay with him. There would be no man working harder to insure a woman’s happiness.

He had the resources to make that happen, if he wanted to he could do nearly anything with his position and his money, but he still couldn’t see Kimberly. He still couldn’t ensure she would come back. He was useless without her.

All he could do was wait, watching the stage that had come to mean so much to him in so little time.

For the first night since the resort opened there was no curtain call.


So… Are you sure this is the right place?”

“How many Johnson’s do you think are walking around the city, Mark?” John attempted his usual belittling, his voice too weak for any real sting to take place. “She’s in one of those rooms and they wont tell me which until she’s stable.”

“I think I heard the nurse say ‘if’,” Mark muttered under his breath as he sat down beside John.

John knew what the nurse had said. He had been the one visiting the hospital every day for a week since the show closed. Every day he had to listen to the nurses try to cover whatever condition Kimberly was in. She wasn’t gone, but by their refusal to tell him anything more he doubted it was something they expected to last.

They asked for any family, to which he could only give her brother’s name and the fact he was in the military.

Kimberly was alone and they wouldn’t even let him through the door. He knew very well what the nurses had to say about his constant visits.

It was always, ” You should go home, Mr. Grey.” Or ” If anything changes we’ll call the doctor first, Mr. Grey.” Even one “Maybe you should see our grief counselor, Mr. Grey. “

He knew there was no change in Kimberly’s condition; he had nothing to grieve as long as there was still the chance he hadn’t lost her. As the days past, however, the chance seemed to grow smaller and smaller.

“Have you spoken to Serena recently?” he asked, desperate to distract himself as he began examining the speckled paint in the floor tiles for the fifth time that day.

Reclining back on the waiting room chair Mark tried his best to make himself comfortable.

Despite their frequent visits they had yet to find more comfortable seating than the rather stiff chairs covered in prints from a decade ago.

Mark was starting to believe the nurses were hiding the comfortable chairs just to make John go home.

“Not since they started going throughDakota’s office. She’s trying to find a place to stay with some of the other dancer’s Dakota had been paying for since they weren’t exactly renting rooms with legal money,” he said, checking through the messages on his phone. “She did tell me to call her if anything happens over here. She’s blaming herself for how long its taking for Kim to come out of this.”

“Wasn’t it her plan to take those damn pills in the first place?” John asked, a scowl slowly appearing on his face.

“She didn’t plan for her to take so many. We didn’t know if you were coming back, if Dakota thought she was dead we wouldn’t have to worry about her winding up with Luscious.” The defensive tone in Mark’s voice didn’t go unnoted. John knew better than to try and blame someone. “No one forced Kimberly to do anything. You never saw how destructive she had gotten.”

“…But that much was my fault, wasn’t it?”

“Well you certainly didn’t help anything.”

The pair grew quiet. Neither wanted to offend the other and frankly there were too many opportunities to hurt the other to continue talking for much longer. Their only safety zone seemed to be the flat where Liam had taken to staying after news of the story broke. He would at least slap some sense into the two when they began arguing.

Liam had decided to stay at the resort once the story reached national headlines. Traveling anywhere was far too much of a hassle with the press around so for the time being they were all stuck waiting on a sign to leave the area. Collins himself had extended paid leave to both John and Liam once he saw his son’s face plastered across newsstands throughout their hometown.

His gratuity did not come without a price however; as the story printed did little to leave out Kimberly’s position in the scandal or how John publicly attempted to pay her off during the show. Had Liam not been around to intercept the phone calls there may have been a second story released about a Grey disowning.

Though Dakota’s name in the papers had already begun to be printed as Dakota Le Jun thanks to a few anonymous donations from a very influential person. The official name change was bound to happen the moment she was taken into custody.

For the second time since they had arrived at the hospital the waiting room television began to replay a news story about the resort. The reporter’s chemically whitened smile doing whatever it could to paint Kimberly as a mindless starlet though the few clips of footage they had shot their story down before their words had time to sink in.

One clip came from a rehearsal before John had left. A greeting recorded shakily on someone’s phone as they went throughout the cast. All Kimberly had to do was smile and the world would have fallen in love with her.

The second clip came from opening night, assumed to have been recorded by the same person. There was a pan of the preparations backstage before she came into view beside Serena. Her body had visibly weakened, her eyes appeared duller, when asked for a smile she could only manage a weak wave. It was just as easy for her to steal hearts as it was for her to break them.

“Mark,” John finally spoke up. “Did she hate me?”

The question caught Mark off guard, distracting him from the broadcast the moment he heard it.

He looked to the larger man to see if he was joking but found nothing but large blue eyes looking back to him. John was large enough to rival any man save for Paul yet at that moment he seemed so weak. For once in his life, he seemed small.

“She never did. She made you leave because she wanted to save you,” he said slowly, resting his hand on his friend’s shoulder. “I don’t think she could hate anyone. I think she even believed Morgan to have some redeeming quality.”

“Like what?”

“Well he was loyal to Dakota, and as far as I know he helped the show once you had left.”

Mark shook his head. “It doesn’t matter anymore though, he’s not getting out of jail anytime soon with Serena’s testimony against him.”

“But you’re sure she never hated me?”

“John, you two hate yourselves more than you could ever hate each other. She never hated you.”

The words did little to comfort John, but they did make the broadcast less painful to watch.

Before they new it the reporter had changed topics to a local woman finding something strange in her tap water and the waiting room around them had begun to filter out. Soon they would be asked to leave officially.

They’d take a taxi to the resort, avoid the press and wait until they were allowed back. That had been the routine for days and nothing short of a miracle would keep John from waiting as close to kimberly as he could.

Nothing short of a miracle or a tired nurse approaching them rather frazzled.

“Mr. Grey?” she asked.

John’s head shot up faster than Mark had seen him move in days.

“The doctors haven’t seen any change in the past twenty-four hours. You can at least see her before you leave.”

Mark could have sworn he caught John ready to run after the nurse.


Miles of wires and tubes covered the room where Kimberly slept. The small bed underneath her still managed to seem large compared to her frail frame. Dozens of monitors had been stuck all across her body. An IV attached to her wrist dangled from the edge of the bed while her hand hung limp. Thankfully she seemed to be trusted to breath on her own, but the oxygen mask hung from the bed frame above her regardless.

If it wasn’t for the constant beeping of the heart monitor she would barely have looked alive. It was terrifying.

“Visiting hours are almost over, I’ll be back when it’s time for you to leave.” The nurse checked a few charts before heading out of the room.

John’s knees became weak. His hands grasped the railing of her bed as he tried to figure out whether or not he could touch her. She was a petite woman from the day he met her, but she had never looked so breakable before. Without the layers of stage makeup the damage that had been done during their time apart became obvious.

Gingerly he picked her hand up from the side of the bed, holding it in his owns as tightly as he dared. His hands covered hers with ease that scared him. She shouldn’t feel so small. She had never seemed so small before.

He remembered noting her hourglass shape, how the dancing sculpted her calves though she hated their size, she had always been petite but she had never seemed small. Seeing her as small more unsettling than any number of wires protruding from her body.

“This is all my fault…” he muttered, bringing her hand up to his lips as he spoke, clinging to it as if he could warm her up on his own. “I was such an ass. I never should have left, I should have known, I should have done something. I knew what was going on but I still didn’t know enough to help you. God, I’m such an idiot.”

Mark stayed in the back of the room, making sure to keep a close eye out for the nurse in order to give the two some privacy.

John’s eyesight began to blur when Kimberly made no sign of waking up.

“Please, please come back. I need you,” he whispered. “I need you here. I’m not strong on my own. I-I’ve always needed someone else.

Mark, work, my father, but they aren’t you. I’ll do anything. I just need you back.”

For the first time since she had been taken away tears began to stain his cheeks. His grip on her hand shaking as he held tighter. He had come so close to losing her and was still waiting to hear the verdict. His world was frozen around one person and there was guarantee it could survive if she could not.

“I love you,” he finally managed, kissing her hand hard. “I-I love you with all my heart.

Please don’t leave me.” His tears began to make speech difficult. All he could do was mutter the same sentence over and over again.

Please don’t leave me.


The faint sound of the nurse heading down the hallway began to grow louder between the melodic beeps of the monitor. She’d have to pry his hands away just to get him up from the side of the bed.

I love you.


Mark left the room, attempting to delay the nurse.

With all my heart.

“John..?” a faint voice muttered.

His eyes shot up, his grip on her hand tightening. He couldn’t even breath as he prayed that he hadn’t begun to hallucinate.

“I love you,” he said against her hand, watching her face intensely.

” Until my…dying day… ” Her voice came out strained, in desperate need of a cup of water, but it was hers. She even attempted a smile.

“But that’s not for a while,” he said, tears blurring his vision as the largest smile he had ever known broke out across his face. “Not for a long, long time.”

Her smile grew and as best as she could, she returned the grip on her hand.

“I promise.”

…to be continued

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