My mother had been in intensive care after having coded in the emergency room and then been brought back to fight for her life another day. As far as we knew, that was where she would remain until either a miracle happened and she showed marked improvement and we took her home, or … didn’t. I had tried to pull every string I could to get her a new heart, now that we had the money for the procedure, but it hadn’t mattered because there were too many people on the list ahead of her: proof of Dr. Johnson’s incompetence and lack of pull.

Daniel gave us a genuine smile. “We have a donor, Delaine.” Apparently he remembered my name from the Scarlet Lotus Ball, where I’d made a complete jackass of myself by not speaking to him—not one word. It had been my way of throwing a very childlike tantrum in response to Noah’s order not to speak to any men at the party.

“A d-donor?” my father stuttered, an apprehensive smile drawing up the corner of his mouth. I could tell he was trying hard not to get excited, like he didn’t believe what he was hearing. Truthfully, it was hard for me to believe as well, but I had a feeling Noah Crawford might have had something to do with it. I was certain he had everything to do with the fact that his uncle, a world-renowned cardiologist, was standing in the room at that very second. It hadn’t dawned on me before that when Noah found out about my mother he would have gone to work behind the scenes trying to ensure that she got the best possible care. He’d already unknowingly contributed two million dollars toward that, and there he was, contributing family members as well. Once again, he was showing his love for me, and I still had no way to prove that I reciprocated his feelings.

“Yes, well, we are a transplant center here, and given Mrs. Talbot’s condition, she is a priority case,” Daniel explained. “We had a potential donor, and as soon as we got the lab work back, we knew we had a match. Now, there’s little more than paperwork to do, and the actual procedure, of course.”

“She’s getting a new heart.…” My father looked dazed.

I thought about Noah again, and again I wished he was here. I needed him here. My mother might have been getting a new heart, but mine was still broken. I highly doubted they were running a two-for-one special.

“Yes, she is.” Daniel cleared his throat as a nurse, who looked sort of like Betty Boop with blond hair, walked in. “Mr. Talbot, if you’ll just follow Sandra, she’ll help you with the paperwork and we can get started. Delaine,” he said, nodding his farewell with a warm smile.

“Hell yeah! Mama Talbot’s gonna live!” Dez did a fist pump in the air, earning a scowl from my father. “Oh, um, sorry,” she said with an embarrassed giggle. She stood and draped her purse over her shoulder. “I don’t know about y’all, but all this excitement’s made me hungry. I guess I’m going to head down to the cafeteria and grab some hospital slop. If I’m not back in half an hour, check the ER, and I’m not saying that because of the Latino god of an orderly down there, either. Although I just might have to fake a pelvis injury to get him to check me out after I get my belly full. Anyone wanna come with?”

Polly’s phone chirped, signaling a message, and I glanced at her, noting the way she frowned before putting her coffee down and saying, “I’ll go. I need to check in with Mason anyway.” Part of me wondered if that meant she would be checking in with Noah as well, but that might have been wishful thinking on my part.

Mack came over to me and put his arm around my shoulders. “You going to be okay here by yourself while I go do this paperwork?”

“Yeah, go ahead. I’ll stay with her.” I looked at my mother’s sleeping form. The circles under her eyes were even more prominent than the ones under my father’s, and she was much thinner than even he. I felt guilty that I’d been living in a mansion fit for a king, and that said king had been coaxing my inner sexual goddess out to play, while the two people who meant the most to me had been suffering. I should’ve been there for them.


“Hey, she’s getting a new heart, a chance to really live again. She’s going to be okay, and the second they give the all-clear, I want your ass back at school to get that degree. You hear me? No moping around now.”

“Sure, Dad. Whatever you say.” I laughed lightly as he hugged me to his side and then followed the nurse out. He was going to be so disappointed when he found out that I hadn’t actually been enrolled at college, and I had no clue how to hide it from him. I probably should’ve figured that out before I told the lie, but you know what they say about hindsight.

I sat in the chair next to my mother’s bed and took her hand in mine. Her skin was cold and had a grayish tint to it but still soft. I noticed that her nail polish was chipped, and I reminisced about the trips to the salon she’d made me take with her before she’d gotten really sick. She’d always said she felt better when she looked good. I pictured her sickly form sitting up in her bed and painting her nails even though she knew she was in no shape to go anywhere where someone besides my father might actually see them. Perhaps she even had my father do it. I laughed inwardly at that picture.

“Hey, Mom,” I said quietly to her sleeping form. “You’re getting a new heart. Yay!” I mimed shaking pom-poms in the air, a goofy smile on my face. Then seriousness took over. “But before you do, and while you’re out like a light and won’t really hear anything I’m saying, I have something I want to talk to you about.

“See, I met this guy, and he’s wonderful. His name is Noah Crawford.” I rolled my eyes, knowing the reaction she would’ve had to that if she’d been conscious. “Yes, the Noah Crawford. Don’t let the money and his gorgeous face fool you; he can be a real prick, but that’s one of the things that makes him so wonderful. So anyway, we’ve been seeing each other for a while now, and last night he told me he loves me.” My mother would’ve squealed at that point.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I said with another roll of my eyes, even though she couldn’t actually see me. “Here’s the thing, though … this morning, he pretty much told me to get the hell out of his life. I have a feeling he did it because he thinks he knows what’s best for me. Men, right? I guess I knew all along that an actual relationship working out between a billionaire and a simple girl from Hillsboro would be nothing short of a fairy tale, and fairy tales simply don’t come true. The problem is that Noah makes me feel like maybe they can. I mean, he told me he loves me, so despite my fears, I started to believe things really could work out between us. Only I never got the chance to say how I feel about him.” I buried my face in my mother’s shoulder and sighed. “I can’t stand the fact that he doesn’t know, which can really be even more torturous because there’s not really anything I can do about it. That’s not exactly something you say in a text message or over the phone, right? No, it’s gotta be face-to-face. But the problem is, his face isn’t here and I don’t know if I’ll ever get the chance to see it again. You gotta help me, Mom, because I have no clue what to do.”

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