Bonus Scene: Sluggish and Scrapbooks, a bonus scene for Trials and Tiaras
I hated being sick. Not a little bit hated, but actually loathed. Worse, I hated sleeping all the time and feeling groggy. Though if I wasn’t sleeping and hot, my nose was running and tickling and making me crazy. The night before in the bathroom, I stared at my red nose, swollen eyes and made a face. Archie slid up behind me and tucked his chin on my shoulder.
“If yew caw me bewtifuw like this, I’mma sneeze on yew.” The stuffy nose left my voice all kinds of thick and spoiled words with mashed consonants.
He kissed my nape. “I’ll survive, besides, I was going to say adorable.”
I’d made another face and then just leaned back into him. I was so tired. “I thwow something at yew tomowwow.”
Bless him, he didn’t laugh in my face.
Despite Jeremy’s threats, he also didn’t leave me to sleep alone and anytime I woke up needing something, Archie got it. Ian was there, first thing in the morning, with Jeremy and breakfast. Then Jeremy shooed them out for school.
I’d had texts from Jake and Coop as well as Rachel. I managed a shower which pretty much sapped all my energy, so I didn’t argue with Jeremy when he gave me medicine, checked my temperature and insisted I drink all of the hot tea he’d made me.
Hot tea with a heavy dose of whiskey and honey, holy crap, but it helped and I was asleep until just after lunch. I woke up to a huge bowl of soup, crusty bread that was still warm from the oven and more water. Jeremy fussed.
No one ever fussed over me.
The guys had after Homecoming, but this was different.
He even moved me over to Archie’s desk to eat while he stripped and changed the bed.
“You don’t have to do all this,” I said for like the hundredth time and Jeremy gave me a mild look before pointedly staring at my food. So far, I hadn’t won a single argument. After he stripped the bed and remade it with fresh sheets, he vanished and then returned, there were fresh pillows, a pitcher with water, a clean glass and even some throat lozenges and… “Jeremy…”
He paused and glanced at me.
“How did you get so awesome?”
“Well, yours is not the first cold I’ve had to tend to, Miss Frankie.”
I smiled at that. “Sorry, I’m being so difficult.”
“Oh, you are not remotely as difficult as you might believe.” His chuckle was real. “I’m going to make you some more tea. Finish all that up, then leave it and get back in bed.”
With a sigh, I debated arguing that point but settled for… “Do you know where my backpack is?”
“Yes,” Jeremy said. “You don’t need it.” Then he was gone and I stared at the closed door, mouth open, more than a little shocked.
He’d meant it, too. I was back in bed by the time he returned with my tea.
“I could work on…”
“Getting better. You’re going to work on resting.” He set my tea next to the bed, then turned the television on. “The history channels are pre-programmed in, but you can also watch any of the movies we have in the digital library. If there’s something you want and it’s not there, let me know and I’ll get it added. Drink your tea. I’ll be back up to check on you in a couple of hours.” He didn’t slow as he gathered my lunch plates. “Also, if you need me before then, just press one on the phone there next to the bed, it will ring the kitchen.”
It will ring the kitchen. Then he was gone.
That night, the guys all teased me when I tried to complain but even then I couldn’t complain. Not really, Jeremy was being sweet. On the second day, I was already at the desk when he came up with lunch. I’d managed another shower and I hadn’t had the energy to blow dry my hair so I was resting up for that task.
“And how are we feeling?”
“A little antsy,” I admitted. The guys had been texting me on and off all morning and I’d nearly made my way through a full rewatch of Lord of the Rings. I loved the extended editions. I figured I could knock out the third movie after lunch if I didn’t sleep.
“Hmm.” He left my lunch and changed the bedsheets out then remade it before disappearing to get my tea. The amount of whiskey he put in it lessened each time and while it was different, I wasn’t complaining. I had actually felt better after each dose.
When he came back he had a tray with a teapot, cups, a couple of books stacked on it and I grinned. Was I getting to do some homework after all…
With a knowing look, he set the tray down. The books were not textbooks at all. But he didn’t pull them out, taking the time to pour the tea and preparing it before he moved a chair over and took a seat next to the bed.
Lifting the first book, he set it on the bed between us and then flipped it open and I swore my heart did a backflip of its own.
Baby Archie stared up from one of the photos on the page. I’d recognize those eyes anywhere. He looked pissed.
“Why is he so mad?”
“Because he had mastered the baby gates and figured out how to free himself from his crib by sliding open the bottom, then letting himself out of the room. He’d cheerfully stripped off his diaper and pee’d a path down the hall along one of the Persian rugs.”
I jerked my head to find Jeremy smiling fondly.
“He was always very clever.”
“I bet…but why is he mad?”
“Because I reversed everything and it took him another two months to figure out that he could still open the bottom if he went to the other side, but he couldn’t reach the locks on the gates.”
I giggled. That was hilarious.
“And here…” Jeremy touched the next page, Archie was dressed in a sailor suit. God, the cuteness was killing me. “We had to attend a function at a country club and Miss Muriel insisted on the outfit, this is the only picture we have of it before he figured out how to upend an entire bowl of punch.”
That picture was on the next page.
For the next hour, Jeremy entertained me with tales of Archie’s escapades as a child. Precocious didn’t begin to cover it. The pictures often included anecdotes that he’d written down about Archie and the events that happened. There was even one of him with a red nose, swollen eyes, and looking like hell. He also had the surliest scowl on his face.
“As I was telling you, you’re far from the worst patient I’ve had to take care of…”
The note next to the picture read: When young men don’t listen and go out even when they have a fever. They not only lose privileges, they get to suffer longer.
“Sometimes, when he’s ill, I trot these out for him so he remembers to listen.”
I grinned. “I’m almost afraid to ask…”
“Do I have a photo of you in a similar state? Well, we shall find out if you decide to be difficult again. Now. This book I’ll leave you to enjoy on your own. Then you should get some more rest. You’re looking better today. I’d say at least another day of rest and good medicine and you’ll be bouncing back.”
After he left, I flipped open the next book and grinned. This scrapbook was all of us. Jeremy had made notations about us in the margins just as he had about Archie. Including the fact that we were good kids and good for him.
I was still holding the book when Archie got home and woke me as he eased out from my fingers. “Hey,” I said with a yawn and he settled onto the side of the bed and chuckled.
“Go back to sleep, I didn’t mean to wake you up.”
“It’s okay, I’ve had a lot of sleep today.”
He glanced at the book before setting it on the nightstand. “And someone busted out the photo albums. Please tell me he didn’t get out the baby pictures.”
I grinned and Archie groaned but when he laid down next to me I curled up against him. “You were adorable.”
“I’m still adorable,” he corrected, but chuckled. “Jeremy must really like you. He doesn’t get them out for everyone.”
That much I figured. Still… “He wanted to show me I wasn’t his worst patient.”
That got a real laugh. “Sorry, babe. I’m afraid that honor is definitely all mine.”
I tilted my head back and smiled up at him. “Well, the next time you’re sick, be ready to be spoiled rotten.”
“Will you play nurse for me and wear a sexy little number?” He wagged his eyebrows suggestively and it was my turn to groan. “I mean, if you’re feeling up to it…the doctor is in and I could totally give you a check up.”
A throat clearing at the doorway had me blushing so hard, I was sure my face went neon.
“You’re a killjoy, Jere.”
“So, I’ve been told. Dinner will be ready in an hour and Miss Frankie is due for another dose of medication. I can assure the doctor that checking her out is unnecessary.”
This is where I was going to die.
I hid my face against Archie’s chest and he rubbed my back. “Fine, I’ll behave.”
“Well,” Jeremy said as he left the room. “There’s a first time for everything.”
I snickered then coughed. Then laughed a little harder as Archie’s shoulders shook and he dragged me up to sit with him and curl against his side. He held over the meds and the water, then turned on the television.
“The doctor will check on you tonight,” he murmured against my ear. “Promise.”
I was still grinning when Jeremy brought up dinner and gave us both a look before he headed out.
Nope, not going there, just gonna watch the show.
And the doctor definitely came to call later.