Oren squinted. “A bar?” he repeated incredulously and shook his head. “I’m not even old enough to drink and I—I mean...” Probably remembering he was twenty-two now, instead of seventeen, he pressed a hand to his brow, soaking in the news. “Weird,” he murmured.
He glanced at Eva standing with Pick, so Pick wrapped an arm around her waist. “And this is my soon-to-be wife, even though everyone already calls us married already—”
“Goddess,” Eva spoke up. “You nicknamed me Goddess.”
Thinking he’d remember that he really called her Milk Tits, everyone paused, waiting for him to correct her, but he only nodded. “Okay.”
Pain sliced through me. This might be Oren Tenning lying in this bed, but the Ten part of him was completely gone. And it had been the Ten part I’d fallen in love with. My perfect Ten.
I shuddered and squeezed Noel’s hand harder. He glanced down at me, his eyes lit with the same worry. His Ten, his best friend, was also gone.
Mason introduced himself next.
“And you call me Buttercup.” Reese waved at him with a grin that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “We shared an art class last year, and had some good times annoying the hell out of each other.”
Oren blinked back a confused frown, probably trying to figure out how annoying each other could be considered good times.
“I’ve probably known you the shortest amount of time,” Asher said. “My first name’s Asher, but you usually call me by my last, which is Hart.”
It seemed so bizarre that we had to introduce ourselves to him. I wanted to escape this room, I wanted to escape this moment. Oren couldn’t forget us. He just couldn’t.
“Sounds like I nicknamed a lot of people.”
“You definitely do the nickname thing,” Quinn said. “My first name’s Quinn, but you’ve always called me Ham. And Noel is usually Gam to you.”
Oren nodded and glanced up at me before turning his gaze to Noel. “So, what did I nickname your wife?”
“Oh.” Sympathy rushed through Noel’s gaze as he glanced at me. “No. This is actually my sister. Caroline.” He paused briefly, as if waiting to see if that name meant anything to him, but he didn’t even flinch, which totally made me flinch inside. “My wife Aspen’s at home with my younger brothers. But you call her Shakespeare, because she’s an English teacher.”
“Oh. Sorry.” Oren glanced at me, apologizing for mistaking me as Noel’s wife. He started to look away again, but then did a double take. Recognition lit his gaze, and I held my breath, yearning, praying he remembered.
I think everyone else in the room leaned in as well, holding a collective breath as they hoped for the same thing.
He pointed at me. “You were the nurse in here yesterday, weren’t you?”
I sucked in a pained breath and pulled back, trying not to lose it. Noel squeezed my elbow hard, so I blinked rapidly and nodded. “Y-yes. That was me.”
He looked between me and Noel before murmuring, “Oh. Okay, then.”
I wasn’t going to make it. I needed to curl into a ball and weep somewhere. Soon. I caught Zoey’s eyes and her face dissolved into misery. She had to bury her face in Quinn’s shoulder to hide her tears.
I lifted my chin to hold strong, but I don’t know how I made it.
That was a breaking point for everyone, it seemed.
“We should probably let you rest,” Asher murmured, looking as sad as I’d ever seen him.
“Okay.” Oren, on the other hand, appeared relieved to see us go.
Noel tugged me against him hard, knowing how close to the edge I was. We all glanced toward the door, but then Eva muttered, “Damn it. I know you don’t remember me, but I’m going to hug you goodbye, anyway.”
“Uh...” Oren pulled back, his eyes going wide as she stalked toward him with a determined arch in her eyebrows. Then he said, “Okay.”
I watched enviously as Eva wrapped her arms around him and hugged him. He even hugged her back with one arm. Then she stamped a quick kiss to his cheek. I longed so hard to go to him, too, to melt into his arms and just hold the love of my life.
Reese glanced at me, winked, and then darted away from Mason. “Well, I want a hug, too, then.”
So, she hugged him, and he let her, giving her another one-armed hug back. When she pulled away, she looked directly at me. “Next?”
Zoey reached out and nudged me forward. I stumbled, but caught my feet and lifted my gaze. Oren watched me, letting me step toward him without protest.