Logan was further down the hallway. He’d open a door, poke his head in and leave. A few people came to the hallway and watched as he repeated the process, but I stopped. I twisted around and saw David at the end of the hallway. He was waiting for us and he was too patient about it. I sighed as I went back to him. “She’s not in this hallway, is she?”
Logan was at the end of the hallway now. He circled and started opening doors on the side I had stopped.
“As soon as the doctors will let us see her, you’ll be the first one in.” David frowned as he rubbed a hand over his face. His eyes opened and closed, as if trying to focus on me. Then he began rubbing them with the palm of his hand. “I never thought I’d be here again.”
“Again?” I went cold. “Again? You mean without Analise being in the equation.”
David hesitated before saying, “Mason, son—”
“I’m not your f**king son. If you’re going to throw the father term around, start acting like it with the one person who’s still hurting because you left her.”
“I didn’t …” His face paled.
I watched as the blood drained from Sam’s father’s face. I didn’t care. I was being kept from seeing her. It was driving me nuts. David knew it. Noticing a sign for the emergency room further down an adjourning hallway, I knew where she’d be. “Screw it. She came in on an ambulance. She’d go there first.”
I hauled ass down the hallway.
David jogged to keep up. “Mason, I really do need to talk to you before you go in there.”
He could talk all he wanted. I wasn’t slowing down.
“Because you need to be on board before you go in there.”
“Be on board with what?” I got into the emergency room section. This floor was different from the one we were just in. The walls were painted an off-white color. I headed towards the main desk, but began glancing into each room I passed.
“That’s what I’m trying to talk to you about.” He stopped then, but his voice lifted, “I’ve already talked to Samantha about it and she agreed. It would be best if you heard about it from me first and not her. She’s already worried about how you’ll react and this is the best decision for her well-being. You cannot go in there and make her feel guilty about this decision. I won’t allow it, not after what she’s been through tonight.”
I had no choice. The urge to do physical damage had been with me since the Broudous showed up. It had increased since then, and David Strattan wasn’t helping. “If you don’t start talking, I’m going to start not giving a shit whose father you are. The two things I know right now is that Sam is hurt, and I have to get to her. Logan’s still over there. He hasn’t figured out that she’s not in that part of the hospital. You’re doing a lot of talking, but you aren’t saying shit. Start talking or I’ll let him loose on this department.”
David didn’t wait another second. “Sam’s coming home with me.”
“Like hell she is.”
“She is, Mason.”
The older man sighed. “It’s really not your call. I’m trying to do my ‘fatherly’ duties as you enjoy throwing in my face. I’m standing here and blocking you because this is the best thing for her.”
“Fuck that and f**k you.”
“No, she’s living with us. We’ll take care of her.”
“Better than you,” I threw back. My hands jerked up, but I stopped and stepped back. “I’ve taken care of her when you let her go with that crazy psycho. We protected her from Analise. Me and Logan. What’d you do? You stood back and let her go with her. You’re stepping up now? The crazy bitch isn’t here anymore. You’re protecting her from me?”
David’s jaw tightened. His shoulders lifted as his chest rose. He drew in a deep breath before he bit out, “You are getting on my last nerve, boy.”
“Boy?” I chuckled, but I wasn’t amused. “Don’t stand and puff up your chest to me. We both know where this is going. I should respect you? Because you’re Sam’s dad? Because you’re older than me?” My eyes narrowed to slits. The same lethal intent was there that’d been since I saw Budd Broudou. It was pumping through me and it was growing the longer he kept me from her. “I’ve been around enough screwed-up adults to know that they don’t deserve any respect unless it’s earned. I’ve not seen a damn thing from you except now. I’m the wrong person you need to be protecting from her.”
“Right now, you’re exactly the person I need to protect her from. She’s hurt, Mason.” David’s jaw was still clamped tight, but he gentled his tone. “She’s going to need help all day. Are you going to be there for her? You’re going to skip school? Quit the basketball team? Not graduate? I know you have a full scholarship already, but it’s contingent on graduating first. You can’t be there for her, neither can Logan.”
“And you can?”
“Better than you. Malinda doesn’t work—”
“You’re going to have your girlfriend take care of her?”
“No. I’m going to be there, but I have to work during the day. During that time, Malinda will come to the house and be there. She doesn’t work, Mason. Would you rather have someone else?”