WINTER'S WARM EMBRACE

Chapter 5-

"Sir, please, you have to let him go," Murray argued a few days later as he sat by Bryce's bedside. "Can't you see he's wasting away?"

It was true. Bryce was a lot thinner than he was meant to be. He'd been too grief-stricken to even think about eating. Needless to say, it had not done him well.

"He'd never survive out there," Cheviot said. "Especially in his current state."

"Sir, if this keeps up, he won't survive in here, either." Murray pointed out. "Bryce isn't normally the emotional type. This isn't just puppy love he's pining over. It's serious."

"I'm not sending him out onto the streets," Cheviot said firmly. "And that's it."

"Then let him stay at my place," Murray said, wondering why he hadn't thought of it sooner. "I have a guest room that he can rest in. And his girl can visit him there."

"And what if she steals from you?"

"It would hardly be Bryce's fault."

Cheviot let out a harsh sigh. "Fine. Take him to your place. But if I find he's been in the Fringes…"

"I'll take him straight home," Murray assured him. "Bryce, can you get up?"

Bryce let out a soft whimper, but did not move. His condition had become very serious. Even Cheviot winced at how pathetic that whimper sounded.

Murray picked Bryce up and carried him out to his car. Placing him on the back seat, he drove away from Network 23.

Not wishing to leave Bryce alone for any amount of time, Murray drove to Big Time TV. He honked the horn, hoping that Reg would come out. He needed to find Paula quickly.

Inside Big Time, Paula was talking with Dominique.

"I want Bryce with me," Paula was saying. "He's my husband, Dom. We belong together."

"I wish I could help," Dom replied. "Reg. Go see who's honking."

"Right, love," Reg said, stepping outside.

A moment later, he rushed back in.

"It's Murray from Network 23. He's come for Paula."

"Is Bryce with him?" Paula asked, hopefully.

"Paula," Reg said, his voice somber, "Bryce is with him. But he doesn't look too good. He's much too thin and he's very weak."

"He needs me!" Paula exclaimed, running out to Murray's car.

Without waiting for a spoken invitation, she got into the back seat, resting Bryce's upper body in her lap.

"How could you let him get to this state, you bastard?" she demanded, glaring at Murray. "I demand you drive us to a hospital. And step on it!"

Murray nodded, realizing she was right. Bryce's condition was too serious just to bring him home with him. He sped to the hospital, carrying Bryce inside when they arrived, Paula running beside him.

"Are you related to the patient?" a doctor asked both Murray and Paula.

"I'm his coworker," Murray told her.

"I'm his wife," Paula added.

"You're WHAT?" Murray exclaimed.

"He didn't tell you?" Paula asked, wondering why Bryce hadn't mentioned their wedding.

"He didn't speak to us at all," Murray told her. "Only yelled at Cheviot to let him return to you. If he told Cheviot about the marriage, Cheviot never said. When Cheviot wouldn't relent, Bryce just took to his bed, and only got out when he had no choice."

The doctor came back out a few minutes later.

"He's a bit starved and dehydrated," she said. "He'll survive, but…"

"What room?" Paula demanded. "He needs me."

"Room 118," the doctor told her.

Paula hurried to Room 118. There were two beds in it.

One was occupied by an elderly gentleman who was resting comfortably and smiling sadly while a little girl, probably his great-granddaughter, read a story to him.

Bryce was in the other bed, still very weak and barely awake.

"Bryce," Paula said, sadly. "I'm here, my love."

The old man and his granddaughter both smiled silently as Paula bent down and kissed Bryce for the first time since their separation.

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