Mike Horton hesitated pouring out his feelings to Hope. He didn’t know why. She knew how he felt about Carrie. Had he gotten so good at holding in his feelings that he couldn’t express them out loud? He hoped that wasn’t the case. Maybe this was meant to be. Him telling Hope everything that happened. The kiss he shared with Carrie in the abandoned hut still haunted him. He wondered if Carrie still thought about it. Of, course, she did, you dim wit. She thought it was Austin kissing her. He started at the beginning. At least as far back as he could remember loving Carrie. It must have been the day John asked him to watch out for her since Austin was acting so distant. That was nearly a year ago. God, had it really been a year? Time flew by so quickly these days, and Mike didn’t want to lose another minute of it.
Hope smiled at him and nodded, but her smile didn’t quite reach her face. It was a worried smile. A smile that meant something was on her mind. A smile of pain. He knew the smile well. All thoughts of what he’d been rambling about drifted away in his need to make Hope’s life a little better than his own. He smiled down at her with a genuine 100 carat smile. A smile of someone who understood. He pulled her into his arms trying to comfort her the best way he knew how. The medicinal atmosphere of the hospital faded into insignificance as Hope cried on Mike’s shoulder. He knew about Billie and her pregnancy. He also knew that this put Bo in an awkward position. It couldn’t be easy on any of them. Ironic, thought Mike, how similar their situations were.
Sami came upon the two cousins comforting each other. She slipped back into the adjoining hallway waiting to hear an interesting tid bid of information she could use to get Austin back.
"Don’t worry," whispered Mike. "Somehow we’ll each get the people we want. God knows how but it will happen. You’ll be with Bo and I’ll be with Carrie." Mike patted his cousin’s head but she quickly pulled away from him.
"I’m not so sure anymore Mike. Billie always finds away to come between us. I’m tired of fighting her." Hope turned and looked up at Mike. "I don’t want to fight her anymore."
"You’re not going to give up on Bo, are you? You can’t. You both love each other and have gone through so much to be together."
"I know, that’s why it’s so hard. I wish it would all go away." Hope gestured in the direction of the exit. "I wish SHE would go away."
Sami watching from a distance smirked.
"That’s right, Mike. You get Carrie away from Austin anyway you can. And if Bo and Hope happen to get back together— well, Franco will just have to fend for himself."
Sami walked away with a grin that would embarrass the Cheshire cat. While Sami was dreaming of her ultimate victory, paramedics wheeled in a woman on a crash cart. One of them yelled out to Mike and he came straight over.
"What do we have?" Mike quickly assessed the situation.
"Internal bleeding. She was unconscious when we arrived," said a female EMS worker.
Mike glanced down at the patient. Her mouth was covered with a clear plastic mask. Blood stained her pants and the hem of her shirt.
"Oh, my, God! Billie," whispered Hope in horror. She stumbled backward holding her hand to her mouth. "I have to call Bo."
As she turned around she bumped into a chair. It skidded a few inches and she tried to mask the noise by holding it still. Her hand trembled as she tried to steady the motionless chair. Her eyes focused on the doors to ER when they burst open suddenly. Austin ran through the ER waiting room abruptly stopping only a few feet from Hope. She noted how strange it was to see him without Carrie by his side. He looked like a lost and scared little boy as he approached her. He was out of breath and in a panic.
"Billie. Where is she?" Hope thrust her hands against Austin’s shoulders.
"Austin, there is nothing you can do until Mike examines her. He’s an excellent doctor. I’m sure she’ll be fine." Hope could hear herself say the words but what she didn’t know was where the voice of authority was coming from. She, herself, had been horror stricken only minutes earlier.
Austin’s breathing became a little less rapid as Hope led him outside. The two of them walked until they reached the pier. Neither of them talking. Only knowing they were both being there for each other. What happened next was a blur.
Footsteps pounded behind them. A man, in a rush to get by, barreled between them throwing Hope into a fishing net on one side of the pier. Austin retained his balance before nearly falling into Salem Lake. A pulley attached to the net unhooked itself from it’s mooring and swung in the direction Austin had stumbled. He quickly ducked but raised up too soon. The pulley slammed into the right side of his head with a sickening thud. After impact the pulley unwound itself from the rope it had been attached to falling into Hope’s hands. Austin fell to his knees. She threw the bloody pulley down and got up to help Austin. The movement was too fast and her head swum. She grabbed for the rope and steadied herself. The blood from the pulley marked her hands and now the rope. She fell to her hands and knees next to Austin yelling for someone to call an ambulance.