Page 74

“She wants to write. Here you go. We have a board and marker next to you.”

The nurse again. She was being nice. Helpful.

I took the board, the marker. It felt funny in my hands, and I had a hard time grasping it at first.

I wrote, slipping a few times.


The nurse frowned. “Nate? I’m sorry. I don’t know who Nate is. Is that someone you want us to call?”

I began writing again, feeling Duke moving forward.

Not him here. And I drew an arrow toward my dad.

Understanding dawned, followed by horror. The nurse looked at my dad. “Oh.”

“I think that’s enough for her today. We should let the doctor finish his evaluation.”

Duke was across from her now, reaching over.

He was going to take the board. I tried to move it out of the way, but he plucked it from me.

“That’s enough, sweetheart. You need to rest—”

“No.” The nurse’s voice was firm. She reached, took the board from him, and returned it to me. “She’s an adult, Mr. Royas. If she’s able to communicate with us, we need to hear her wishes.”

I tried glaring at him.

He barely flicked his gaze to me, his entire demeanor becoming chilled. “Excuse me. This is my daughter, and you will not speak to me like that.”

She stepped back, her head down.

I ignored whatever she was about to say, and I wrote again.

I don’t want him here. Why is he here?

The doctor had come around, standing next to the nurse. He read the board, glancing at my father before answering.

“He was your emergency contact in your file. We followed the procedure because you were unconscious. You would like your father removed from the room?”

Yes. I underlined it, almost stabbing the board if I could’ve.

He gave a nod, his shoulders setting. “Mr. Royas, you’ll need to leave the room at your daughter’s request.”

“She doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She was hit by a car.”

I was back to writing.

We are estranged. I need to update my file ASAP!

“Yes. We’re getting that.” He frowned, seeing my father still hadn’t left. “Mr. Royas. Now.”

A growl came from my father before his gaze fell to me. “You will regret this. You’ve messed up. You stepped out in front of that car. You were trying to kill yourself. The courts will see that now. They’ll believe me, and they’ll strip you of your guardianship. You have proven you’re unable to take care of yourself.”

My lips parted.

Searing pain raged through me.

No! No! No!


Call Nate Monson. Now. Please.

I shoved the board at the nurse after writing his phone number.

I had no idea how long I’d been in the hospital. A day? Was Nate concerned? Would someone have called? Oh God. The production. Miss Patrice.

My solo.

I felt a tear coming, but I hardened myself. This wasn’t the time to fall apart. It’d be proving what he was alleging.

“I’ll make the call right now.” The nurse took the board, moving stiffly around my father, and I caught the side of her own glare toward him before she stepped out into the hallway.

“Mr. Royas, until anything has been decided, you need to leave her room. Now.” The doctor wasn’t fucking around. “If you remain one more second, I’ll call security.”

Duke blasted me with another condemning look, his mouth flat and thinning. “I’ll see you in court.”

He left, and I couldn’t stop the tear this time. It rolled down my face.

“We’ll get it all sorted.” The doctor tried to give me a reassuring grin, but it was falling flat, too. It didn’t reach his eyes. “When the paramedics brought you in, they told us it was an accident. That’s what the witnesses told them, so that’ll be in the report.”


I closed my eyes, feeling some relief.


I let all the tears fall.



“Does she know I’m coming?”

Aspen asked that after we both got into my vehicle. I’d just stowed her luggage in the back, and I began easing into the line of traffic leaving from picking up other passengers. It was lined back to back with cabs and vehicles. This airport was a mess, so it took a little before I could answer.

“No. I’m half considering putting you up in a hotel tonight, so when she sees you, it’ll be a surprise after the show tomorrow night.”

“I didn’t fly overseas to hang out in a hotel alone.”

I threw my sister a look. “Like you’re not going to crash the second you see a bed?”

She huffed, folding her arms over her chest. “It’s the thought that I want to stay up as long as I can. I want to hug and cuddle with my niece. I want to love on her and play with all her toys with her, and I want to be the best aunt she’ll ever know.”

“I think you’re beat since Quincey’s her aunt.”

“Quincey’s her mother now, her second mother. I’m her aunt.”

Nope. She was right. She was totally right.

I threw her a grin just as my phone started ringing. “I love ya, sis.”

She reached for my phone, grinning back at me before frowning. “It’s an unknown number.”

I frowned. I started to ignore it, but there was a nagging.

It was faint and in the back of my mind.

I’d had this feeling before.

“Answer it.”

She did, hitting the speaker button.

I said, “Hello?”

“Is this Nate Monson?”


“I’m a nurse at Seattle Hospital, and there’s a patient who wanted us to call you—”

An alarm spiked in me.

I gripped the steering wheel hard. “Who?”

“Quincey Royas.”

The blood drained out of me.

Fear flooded me, and I almost jerked the wheel to the side.

The world was tilting upside down, swinging around.

I’d never had this feeling before.

No. I had. One other time, a time that I never wanted to remember.

Please, God. Please not that. Not. That.

Aspen gasped. “Is she okay?”

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