Home > The Dragon Finds Forever (Nocturne Falls #7)(13)

The Dragon Finds Forever (Nocturne Falls #7)(13)
Author: Kristen Painter

With a shake of her head, she came back out, nudging the door shut with her foot. “I’ll stick these in the fridge.”

“Good,” Norma said. “Then you can eat. Your omelet’s ready.”

Van drank the last of his coffee, watching Lisa over the top of the mug. She looked a little different this morning than she had last night. He couldn’t quite figure out what had changed, but she seemed…more approachable.

Prettier than he remembered too. Which was odd, because he’d thought her pretty as soon as he’d seen her. But today she looked softer. Maybe it was her hair. It was drying in loose, fiery waves that hadn’t been there yesterday, and they framed her face like one of the women in the portraits painted by the old masters.

Whatever it was, he was pleased that he’d had the idea to text Norma last night about getting groceries and making breakfast, because if it had been up to him, it would have just been coffee and last night’s steak with half a dozen eggs. Which was what he’d had anyway, minus the chunk of steak that had gone into Grom’s bowl.

He put his cup down as Lisa came to sit by him at the breakfast bar. Norma was bustling around the kitchen, cleaning up and putting things away. Grom sat near Van’s feet and sighed loudly every once in a while in hopes of becoming the center of attention.

Lisa set her plate, utensils, and coffee cup at her place, then pointed at his mug. “You want a refill? I’ll get it for you.”

“Yes. Thank you.” He reached down to pat Grom on the head. Silly dog.

She smiled and took his cup, returning a minute later with it full of the strong black coffee he so enjoyed.

She took her seat and dug in. After the first mouthful, she put her fork down. “That’s a great omelet, Norma. Really good.”

Norma was drying a pan. “I’m glad you like it.”

Lisa went back to eating. Norma threw the towel over her shoulder and came over to the counter. “You need anything else, Van?”

“No. Everything is good.”

“All right. Same time tomorrow?”

He shook his head. “Little later.”

“You got it.” Norma gave Lisa a nod. “Nice to meet you, Lisa.”

“You too, Norma.”

Norma left the towel on the counter, then picked up her coat and purse. “See you tomorrow.”

“Do svidaniya.” Van drank his coffee as Norma departed, leaving him and Lisa in the sudden silence.

His house had never seemed small until now.

Thankfully, Lisa was much better at making conversation than he was. She cut her omelet into bite-size pieces with the edge of her fork. “Does Norma come every morning?”

“Usually once a week, but since my troubles, now four times.”

“She’s very nice. And a good cook.”

“Yes.” He frowned. Yes and no answers did not a conversation make. “She brings groceries. Takes Grom out. Cleans also. Very good help.”

Lisa nodded. “I’m sure she is, especially with you not being so mobile. Speaking of…” She glanced at his knee. At the brace. Then back at him. “What sort of exercise does your doctor have you doing?”

He grunted and stared into his coffee. “Stationary bike.”

“How’s that going?” She ate another bite.

He shrugged.

She swallowed, then the right side of her mouth curved up in the kind of smile that was a little bit know-it-all and a little bit sympathetic. “You haven’t been using the stationary bike, have you?”

He frowned and stared at her defiantly. “Once. Very painful.”

“But isn’t the idea that as your strength and healing improve, the pain lessens?” She blinked and straightened, her expression growing slightly more serious. “That is how it works, you know.”

He sighed. That was exactly what Dr. Martinez had said.

“If you don’t do the physical therapy, you could lose mobility permanently.”

Something else Dr. Martinez had told him. “I will be fine.”

Her skeptical expression said otherwise. “It’s a good thing I showed up.”

“No bike.”

She tilted her head and gave him a slightly confused look. “I know it’s painful, but that’s part of the process. I would have thought a guy like you would be a little…I don’t know, less concerned about pain. You are the undefeated TFL heavyweight champion, after all. Achieving and maintaining that title had to come with a tremendous amount of effort. Some of it painful. Maybe a lot of it.”

“Was undefeated. No more.” He grabbed his crutch and pushed to his feet, the anger and self-doubt he’d been struggling with rearing its ugly head again. The self-doubt was easy enough to shove down. The anger wasn’t. And he didn’t want that coming out around her.

She reached toward him like she was going to try to stop his departure, but pulled her hand back at the last second. “Van, I’m sorry if I upset you. That wasn’t my intention.”

He ignored her, unable in that moment to explain that the pain wasn’t the problem. It was the memories associated with it. The feelings. And the way they came flooding back. The humiliation of defeat. Or losing everything he’d worked so hard for. His career. His life. His purpose. The weight of it had crushed his drive. “Grom, ko mne.”

The dog jumped up and trotted along as Van limped toward the coat closet. Getting down the steps would be difficult. Getting back up them would be a major undertaking. But he could do it, even if it took an hour. He didn’t need therapy.

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