Ryan Ch. 09byMissPrimrose222©
Ryan was in his office when he got the call.
When he saw Crystal's name on the caller ID, he got a tingling sensation on the back of his neck.
"What's wrong, Crystal?" he asked before she could say anything.
He could tell she was crying and felt his chest tighten.
"Is it Dani?" Ryan prompted, already feeling the first tentacles of fear.
"Yes... she ....she was attacked. I'm at Tampa General Hospital. She's unconscious, Ryan," she cried.
Forcing himself to stay calm Ryan said, "I'm leaving right now, I'll be there soon," and hung up without waiting for a response.
Shouting to Dave that he was in charge, Ryan headed out of the door. On the way to his car, he called Micah.
"Yeah, Ryan, what's up?" Micah answered.
Breathing in deeply, Ryan said, "Dani's been attacked. She's at Tampa General. I'm on my way there now."
"How is she?" Micah asked anxiously.
"She's unconscious, that's all I know."
Then in a strained voice, "Micah, I can't lose her."
"I won't say don't worry, Ryan. All we can do is pray. I'll meet you at the hospital," he said.
"Thanks," Ryan said and hung up.
When he got to the hospital he ran to the emergency room. Crystal was sitting with her head in her hands quietly sobbing. When she raised her head to wipe her eyes, she saw Ryan rushing toward her. Jumping to her feet, she ran to him and threw her arms around his neck.
"Oh, Ryan, I'm so scared. I don't know what's going on," she wailed.
Ryan hugged her for a moment, then took her hand and led her over to the nurse's station.
"We'd like to have an update on Danielle Carter's condition," he practically growled at the nurse.
The nurse recognized Crystal as the patient's sister.
"All right," the she said, "I'll get that as soon as possible."
"Now," Ryan said in a quiet, but firm voice, his green gaze unwavering as he stared at the nurse.
"All right, have a seat and I'll call immediately and have one of the nurses come out and give you a report," she amended.
Not budging, Ryan said, "No, we'll wait right here until you call."
Getting the message and the impression that Ryan could make a scene, she quickly dialed the nurse's station and requested that someone come out to give the family a report right away. She listened to the response and then said,
"I know, but this guy isn't going to wait long."
She glanced up to see Ryan's face harden, then dropped her eyes quickly and said to the person on the other end of the line, "Ok, I'll let him know."
She hung up the receiver and addressed Ryan directly.
"A nurse will be out within five minutes."
When she saw Ryan open his mouth to say something, she hurriedly added,
Resigned to wait a little longer, Ryan and Crystal returned to the waiting area where he asked her what she knew about the attack. She was about to tell him, when Micah rushed into the emergency room.
Ryan and Crystal stood up and Micah embraced them both, visibly shaken.
The emergency room which was relatively quiet when Crystal got there was starting to fill up, so they moved to the far end of the room where it was less congested. When they were seated Micah said,
"I called the rest of the family. They wanted to come, but I thought it best that they waited at home. I'll call and give them an update on Dani's condition. Have you found out anything yet?"
"We should know something soon," Ryan said.
His face was drawn; his voice deceptively calm as he marshaled his emotions to keep from tearing through the E/R to find Dani. He refused to think of what could be happening.
"Crystal was about to tell me what she knew when you came in."
Both Ryan and Micah turned to Crystal who was having problems with her own emotions.
"I don't know a lot," she said with a sigh, "but I'll tell you what the police told me."
"There was a couple coming back to their vehicle and saw the attack in progress. The guy attacking Dani must have heard them because he took off running. The man ran after him and yelled for him to stop, but he couldn't catch up to him. While his wife was assisting Dani, he called 911 who dispatched an ambulance and called the police. Soon after, I got the call."
Crystal felt like she was going to cry again, but when she saw the dark expression on Ryan's face, she took a deep breath intent on continuing. But before she could, he asked a question, one that had been on her mind when she first heard about the attack.
"Was Dani...was she... sexually assaulted," he asked, the very words produced a burning sensation in his chest, his voice hoarse with emotion.
Micah, sitting close to his brother, felt the tension in his body. He'd never seen Ryan like this before and felt helpless.
"I don't think so," Crystal answered. "She still had her clothes on."
Ryan remembered that Dani wore a pant suit to work and sighed in relief.
"The police were here until a few minutes ago," Crystal continued. "The hospital is supposed to notify them when Dani's able to talk to them. They think she might have a better description of the guy. They also said they'd call as soon as they got any information on the guy. "
"How did they know to call you?" Micah asked.
"Last year when Dani updated her emergency contact information, she put my name on the card since Mom and Dad had moved to Jacksonville. I work near here, so I rushed over. I got here just a little bit before the ambulance."
"What about your parents, have you called them?" Ryan asked.
"Yes, they're on their way down. I got to see Dani just briefly," Crystal said choking back a sob as she remembered the blood on the side of her sister's face.
Ryan rubbed her back to soothe her.
Getting under control again, she said, "I don't know what would have happened if that couple hadn't been there."
"But, they were there," Micah reassured her, "and we can thank God for that."
Ryan closed his eyes briefly giving a silent prayer for the couple's intervention. He'd have to find them later and thank them personally. But right now, he was getting impatient since the nurse had not arrived with an update on Dani's condition. He was just about to find out where the hell she was when he heard:
"Family member of Danielle Carter!"
The small group walked over to the nurse who led them to an empty hallway off of the E/R to speak to them in private.
"How is she?" Ryan asked impatiently, his green eyes unwavering.
The nursed eyed him curiously. He looked intense. She'd seen the ring on Dani's finger and thought he might be the fiancé. Whoever he was, he wasn't going to wait on ceremony, so she answered him directly.
"She's stable and in no immediate danger."
At her answer, Ryan lost some of the rigidity in his body and leaned against the wall.
Then turning to Crystal she asked, "Are you her sister?"
"Miss Carter regained consciousness briefly and is asleep now. She has a concussion with an accompanying intracerebral hematoma which was caused by an injury to the small blood vessels in the brain due to trauma on the left side of her head. There was some internal bleeding along with slight swelling, but it was minimal and stopped on its own. There was no need for surgical intervention."
"There was a lot of blood," Crystal said in a whisper.
"There was a good amount of blood because there are many small blood vessels close to the surface of the skin in that area," the nurse said. "That wasn't as much of a concern as the internal bleeding and swelling."
"As I said, she's stable now, but after all the tests are done, we'll be moving her to ICU for observation for a couple of days. She was only conscious long enough to tell us her throat hurts. There is some swelling in the area which could indicate that she was strangled."
"Fuck!" Ryan barked.
Pulling himself off the wall, he paced back and forth along the hallway. He was seething with anger and just wanted to smash something; anything. So he hit the wall with the side of his fist. It wasn't enough to make a hole, but enough to release some of his tension. Micah watched his brother closely knowing that he needed to take the edge off his emotions.
Ryan took a deep breath, rolled his shoulders and slowly walked back to where the others stood.
"I'm sorry there wasn't a better way to tell you," the nurse said, sympathizing with him.
Ryan nodded, closed his eyes and took another deep breath.
After he was under control, the nurse said, "I don't suppose you know this, but Miss Carter is pregnant. The baby is doing fine," she added hastily when she saw the shocked expressions.
"Baby?" Ryan said, stunned.
"Oh, my God," Crystal said equally stunned.
Micah put his arm around Ryan's shoulder and whispered, "Congratulation, Brother, you're going to be a great dad."
"I'm going to be a dad," Ryan echoed in disbelief. Then on the heels of that emotion he was angry again at the son of a bitch who attacked Dani. He could have killed her as well as their unborn child.
Turning her attention to the nurse, Crystal asked, "Dani's pregnant? Are you sure?"
Seeing the look on Ryan's face, the nurse didn't answer Crystal immediately. Instead she spoke to Ryan, "I'm sorry to shock you like that, sir. Are you all right?"
"Yeah," he said quietly, breathing deeply. "I'm ok. Our baby is ok."
Then he said, "I need to see Dani."
"Soon, sir," the nurse said, "I promise."
Turning back to Crystal, she said, "As for your question, yes, we're sure she's pregnant. She's five, maybe six weeks along. We still need to do a couple more tests. I'll come back to let you know when she's in her room and you can see her for a few minutes."
Nodding to Ryan, "Congratulations," she said and headed back to her duties.
Ryan, still shocked, sat down on the bench in the hall with his brother and Crystal sitting on either side of him.
While Crystal was lost in her own thoughts, he rolled over the idea of being a father in his head. This was unexpected, but he couldn't have been happier about Dani being pregnant. As for the asshole that attacked her, Ryan was going to make sure that dying would seem like a blessing to him.
Coming out of her reverie, Crystal asked, "Wasn't she on the pill?"
"Yes," Ryan said with a frown.
"She might have forgotten to take them while she was recovering from the sinus infection, but she didn't say anything about it."
"She didn't say anything to me and I think she would have if that had happened," Crystal said.
"The culprit was probably the antibiotics. They can reduce the effectiveness of the pill. Doctors don't always tell you that, but they should. I've been on antibiotics twice in three years and my doctor never said a thing. I found out on my own years ago."
"That can happen, seriously?" Micah asked surprised.
"More than you think, that's where some of those surprise babies come from."
"I wonder if Dani knew she was pregnant," Ryan pondered.
"She might not have noticed any symptoms. I seriously doubt that she would have kept something that important from you," Crystal said.
"Damn, I'm going to be a dad," Ryan said again.
"I'm going to be an aunt. Expect me to spoil the kid rotten," Crystal said with the first signs of a smile.
"Oh," Micah interjected, "I need to call the family. They are going to be more than surprised about the baby; Mom and Dad will be over the moon with another grand kid coming. "
Micah excused himself and went outside to make his call. After making it, he returned to the E/R with the family's congratulations on the baby and well wishes and prayers for Dani.
It was almost thirty minutes later when the nurse came back and said that Dani was in her room and they could see her for just a few minutes.
They were somber as they entered the ICU.
Ryan walked to the head of the bed, leaned down and kissed Dani on the lips. His heart ached at the bandage on the side of head and the monitors that were attached to her. He had to tamp down his anger as he imagined her fear and helpless during the attack.
Crystal sat in a chair on the other side of the bed, Micah stood behind her.
Ryan whispered to Dani telling her how much he loved her, how much he was looking forward to being a father. He was stroking the back of her hand when he realized that her engagement ring was missing.
"Where's her ring?" he asked to no one in particular.
"I have it," Crystal said opening her purse.
"The nurse gave it to me when I saw Dani earlier."
Taking it out of her purse, she gave Ryan the ring wrapped in tissue. He wanted to put it back on Dani's finger, but he knew that jewelry often disappeared in hospitals. He'd take it home and put it on her finger as soon as she got there.
He placed the ring in his pocket, leaned down and kissed her again.
Dani stirred, opening her eyes slowly.
"Ryan," she whispered.
Her throat hurt, her vision was blurred and her eyes were blood shot.
"Hey, baby," he said with a smile, "I'm so happy to see your pretty eyes."
"Did they get him?" She asked hoarsely.
"Not yet," Ryan said stroking her cheek.
Dani's face scrunched as she fought hard to stay focus.
"Keith," she whispered so softly that only Ryan heard.
She was so tired, her head hurt and she was losing the battle to stay awake.
Ryan frowned and whispered, "Who's Keith, baby?"
But before Dani could answer she was asleep again.
Dani's parents arrived a few minutes later. After they saw Dani and said a prayer for her, they all went to the small waiting room down the hall where Michelle and Davis were filled in on what happened. Before leaving, they were allowed to look in on Dani one more time; she was still asleep.
Ryan, Crystal and Micah were parked in the covered garage with the Carters parked in the west parking lot. They parted ways outside the hospital amid hugs and words of comfort. Shortly afterward Micah took the garage steps to his vehicle on the second level.
Ryan became lost in his thoughts again. He knew answers would have to wait, but he was frustrated knowing there was nothing he could do at the moment.
They were nearing their vehicles when Crystal stopped in her tracks and said to him,
"I didn't want to say anything in front of my parents, but I think I know who attacked Dani."
"What?!" Ryan said in surprise.
She looked at him and said, "I heard you ask about Keith. I was mulling it over in my mind, but before I could say anything my parents arrived. I didn't want to upset them in case I was wrong."
"Do you know someone named Keith?" he asked.
"The only Keith that I know is a guy Dani dated about three years ago, Keith Hall. Dani never said why they broke up. We all assumed that it was because he got a job opportunity and moved away. The move was to Gainesville and I haven't seen or heard about him since. I don't think Dani has either, but I can't be sure." she said.
"Was he someone who would want to hurt Dani? Was he violent?" Ryan asked.
"Not that I know. Like I said, Dani didn't say much about him, even when they were dating. I think they dated maybe three months. She seemed to like him, but I don't know anything about what he was like. I wasn't living at home and I was going through a bad patch with my boyfriend at the time; I wasn't paying that much attention to what was happening with Dani. Damn, I wish I knew more," she sighed.
"Why would your parents be upset?" Ryan wanted to know.
"Keith's mother and my Mom are good friends. It was through her that Dani met Keith. I just would rather be sure it was him before getting them upset about it."
They walked the rest of the way in silence, each deep in their own thoughts.
When they reached Crystal's car Ryan said, "I'll be back here early tomorrow morning, call me if you need anything in the meantime. Let me give you my cell phone number."
"Ok, thanks," she said.
Taking out her phone she entered his number. Ryan then hugged her and said,
"Call me anytime; day or night."
Crystal nodded and got into her car. Ryan watched her until she rolled out of the garage, and then preceded to his own car several spaces down.
By the time Ryan got to his parents home, he found that all of his siblings as well as Matt were in attendance. They were talking, but paused when they saw him. Haley got up and walked over to him. She hugged him tightly and whispered how sorry she was about Dani.
Ryan looked exhausted.
"Everything is going to be all right, Ryan" she comforted.
"I know, Haley. I just feel so damn frustrated that the bastard is running around loose," he sighed as he sat down.
"I know," she said, "but we do have some good news; congratulations on the baby. He and Mallory are going to have a great time growing up together."
After receiving congratulations and hugs all around, Ryan told them about his conversation with Crystal.
"I have some more news," he said as everyone looked at him expectantly.
"There's a good possibility that Dani knows the guy who attacked her."
"How does she know him?" Dan asked, surprised.
"Dani whispered the name Keith. Crystal says that she only knows one Keith and that's the guy Dani dated a few years back. His name is Keith Hall."
Haley gasped and everyone turned to her.
"What's the matter?" Matt asked.
Haley felt like she'd been kicked in the chest when she realized who attacked Dani.
Taking a deep breath, she said, "Keith Hall? I had almost forgotten about him. That's the name of the guy that Dani and I saw in the grocery store just before Thanksgiving. He gave me the creeps. Dani told me about him on the way over here."
"Why didn't she say anything to me about it?" Ryan questioned.
"She said she would tell you after Thanksgiving," Haley answered. "She said she didn't want him intruding on the holiday, but she'd tell you afterward. I guess with going back to work, the engagement and everything it must have slipped her mind."
"Did she tell you what happened between them?" Ryan asked.
"Yes. She said that he'd been really nice when they started dating, then he gradually started getting possessive. They hadn't agreed to be exclusive and she'd told him from the beginning that he could date other people."
Seeing the surprised faces around her, Haley continued.
"She said he had agreed, but apparently he was just saying that for her benefit. She kept seeing him because he pretended to accept what she said and his attitude did get better. Dani wasn't dating anyone else because she thought it seemed weird to be dating more than one guy at a time.
Ryan smiled to himself. That sounded like Dani.
"Anyway," Haley said, "over a period of a few weeks, he started showing signs of possessiveness again. Dani stopped dating him after a particular incident."
After telling them about the incident at the park, Haley went on.
"Dani let her family believe that they stopped dating because he moved away for a job. She didn't want things to be sour between her mom and her longtime friend, who was Keith's mother. She never saw him again, not until just before Thanksgiving."
"You said he gave you the creeps; how?" Caleb asked.
Haley told them about the incident in the store.
Do you know if he'd ever been violent with Dani?" Ryan asked.
"No, he never was. But he struck me as someone who could be. His expression changed so fast. One second he had this charming smile, the next..." she just let the sentence trail off.
"Anyway," she offered, "I think she just felt uncomfortable with him after a while and got out of the situation."
Ryan mulled over what Haley said. He wouldn't have thought that Dani had that kind of an experience with a man. But he did recall one conversation with her that he'd thought just came from curiosity.