“It did hold my weight,” I said crossly.

She threw her head back and hooted with laughter. “Yeah, for like thirty seconds. You shoved yourself in that damn thing, with your legs touching your chest.”

“You zipped me up!”

“And that thing broke and I thought you broke your ass.”

I thought I broke my ass. So did Calla and Teresa, which reminded me of how grateful I was that I hadn’t broken anything, because none of the girls could stop laughing long enough to make sure I was even alive.

Fucking tequila.

Katie bounced forward and hugged me, squeezing me so tight I thought I’d pop. “It’ll be okay. He’s going to come around.”

I hugged her back. “You think this or are your superpowers telling you this?”

She giggled as she pulled away. “Call it feminine intuition.”

I cocked a brow. “Really?”

“Yep.” Katie flounced to the door. “I’ve got to go drop it like it’s hot, and yes, this is hot.” Smacking her ass, she laughed. “Peace out, homie homes.”


A smile pulled at my lips. Katie was . . . she was different and she was awesome. Straightening my glasses, I told myself not to do it, but before I left the room, I grabbed my purse out of the cabinet and pulled out my phone.

The small smile faded from my lips. There was a missed text, but it was from Dean, and seeing it really knocked my feet out from under me. Besides the fact that the last time we spoke, I’d hung up on him, it was the same message I’d sent Reece earlier and had received no response from.


I let out a shaky breath as sadness swelled. Holy crap, I was the female version of Dean right now, texting someone who was so not interested. Had he stressed over that text as much as I had? He’d probably gone through three different versions before settling on the innocuous greeting. Seeing that truly was a kick to the chest. My heart ached.

Slipping the phone into the back pocket of my jeans, I swallowed the cluster of tears that were threatening to turn me into a fat, angry baby. I needed to pull it together. I made this mess. Reece made his decision. Contrary to what Katie believed, I wasn’t in love with him.

I hadn’t fallen that far for him.

I hadn’t fallen for anyone that hard and I never would.

Friday afternoon, I wasn’t thinking about Reece at all. A different kind of problem had surfaced, a far more serious one than my relationship or lack thereof.

Nurse Venter stood beside me, at the foot of Charlie’s bed, her face contorted in a sympathetic expression that really did reach her tired eyes. “If you need anything, you know where to find me.”

Afraid to speak, all I could do was nod. She left the room, quietly closing the door behind her, and I was stuck standing. It was like someone had pressed the pause button on life.

Charlie was back on the feeding tube.

I wanted to close my eyes, but what was the point? It didn’t change what I was seeing. It wouldn’t undo anything. When I opened them up, Charlie would still be in the same position. His life would not somehow rewind.

The pale lilac comforter was tucked up to Charlie’s slender chest, hiding everything from the shoulders down, but I knew that his hands were restrained under the blanket, secured to the bed.

I hated that, absolutely loathed that he was tied up. It seemed too inhumane and cruel even though I knew there was a valid reason for it. The moment the feeding tube was hooked up, he’d started pulling at it. They did this for his own good, but it still hurt to see it.

I forced myself to the chair next to his bed and sat stiffly, placing the tote beside me. Reaching out, I found his hand under the blanket and folded both of mine over his. “Charlie,” I whispered. “What are we going to do?”

Charlie’s eyes were open, and I wished they were closed, because there was something wrong with them. They were dull, absolutely lifeless. I would’ve thought he was a mannequin if it wasn’t for the occasional blink or tremor that coursed down his arm.

Fear clawed at me as I stared at him. Oh God, he didn’t look good. I couldn’t remember him ever looking this frail and sallow before.

Minutes ticked by and the only sound was the chirping of birds outside the window and the low hum of conversation from other rooms. There was a ball of cold dread sitting in the center of my chest as I sat there. This . . . this reminded me of my grandfather who’d been sick and in hospice care before passing away. I was a little girl then, but I remembered my mom sitting at a bed just like this, holding my grandfather’s hand and whispering to him while he slept so deeply I couldn’t remember seeing his chest move.

This felt like that, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that we were not alone in this room. That there was a third entity, and it was death.

Scooting as close as I could get to the bed, I closed my eyes and rested my head on the pillow next to his. “I miss you so much,” I whispered thickly. “I know you know that.”

Tears leaked out of the corners of my eyes as I tightened my hold on the blanket and his hand. Who knew I could still cry so easily after the week I had? Maybe I was turning into an emotional mess. At this moment, I didn’t care. The turmoil I felt over Reece was nothing in comparison to how I felt now. I wanted to crawl in bed with him, but I was afraid of disturbing his feeding tube.

I knew that I needed to act like nothing was wrong. I needed to pull out one of the paintings I brought in for him—one that I had done weeks ago, and I needed to read to him. That was the normalcy of our visits. I liked to think both of us needed that.

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