“Still.” He was frowning. “You could crash. Emily said she’d stay the night so let her, unless I come back.” But he threw me a look.
“Yeah.” His sister interpreted that look. “I’m thinking you’re not going to be leaving from here. Emily and I will work it out. You guys don’t need to worry.”
Both focused on me.
I added, a small cough coming first, “Stephanie can watch Nova, or I think she could. She watched her for Valerie.” Also, “They don’t know about me.”
So many didn’t know.
“The production.” I looked at Nate, unshed tears swimming in my eyes. I couldn’t hold them back any longer.
“I know,” he said softly. “I’m sorry.”
“Oh.” Her mouth turned down. “I’m sorry.”
I nodded, drawing strength from Nate and his sister.
I turned to Nate. “I have to call them.”
“You want me to stay?”
“I will,” Aspen spoke up quickly. “Sorry. Before you do that, I’ll make the calls to your family if you want to give me their names? I’ll get their numbers, and we can make a plan for Nova. You just get better. Spend time with my brother and reassure him you’re not going anywhere.” Her words came out rushed. She was trying to make me feel better, but I saw the sadness in her gaze.
I felt it. A hollow ache was tunneling inside me.
Before I could ask, though, she had my contacts open.
I gave her the names. She got the numbers, and she left after that.
“I didn’t know your sister was coming.”
“Surprise.” A dry laugh clipped out from him. “She was going to surprise you after your show tomorrow night.”
The show I wouldn’t be doing anymore.
“You don’t think they’ll wait for you? I mean, not for the premiere, obviously, but later on?”
I shook my head. “When a dancer gets injured, it’s really important to rest. Some take an entire year off. They won’t hold the spot for me. They’ll replace me, say to let them know when I’m ready again, but the spot is gone.”
“I’m sorry.” Nate tightened his hold on my hand, his fingers sliding through mine. He bent forward, his forehead touching the side of the bed for a moment. “Jesus, Q. You got hit by a car. I mean—Jesus. Don’t do that again, like ever. I need you here. Not over there with Val. You got me? Please say you got me. I need you to get me.”
Those words—tears were coming.
I blinked them away. They needed to go away.
But, man. I need you here.
Those were his words.
He looked like he was struggling before he closed his eyes, and a calm came over him. When he looked at me again, he was more in control but there was a look there. It was shimmering under the surface, and I didn’t know what to take from that.
Gah. I was scared to have hope.
He asked, his voice hoarse, “What do you need?”
I couldn’t hope, but I loved him.
I knew I loved him.
I knew he didn’t love me back.
Having all that said, I told him.
“I need you.”
His eyelids shuttered, then he gave me a nod, and he climbed into bed with me.
The nurses came in to do their checks, but for the most part, Quincey slept in my arms the rest of the day and evening. Aspen called later that evening, and I didn’t think about it. I hit the speaker button and put the phone between Q and me.
“Hey. How’s Quincey doing?”
Quincey gave me a tired grin, but she didn’t lift her head from my chest.
I answered for her, “She’s tired. In pain.”
Quincey closed her eyes, her head folding and burrowing into me. I just wrapped my arm tighter around her, then falling to rub up and down the side of her back. Her whole body let out a release of air.
“I bet. I’m so sorry.”
“It’s not your fault, Asp.”
“I know. I still feel it, though. But the reason I called: we got everything sorted.”
“Who’s we?” Quincey asked, her voice so drowsy I felt it seeping into my bones.
“Oh. Hey, Quincey. Did you hear me before?”
“I did. Thank you.”
“She’s in pain, Aspen. She’s going to save her energy.”
“Her voice, too. I saw that tube come out. I still have nightmares from seeing—anyway, I need to fill you in. So, I’m hoping you both are okay with this, but I got to the house. I filled Emily in on everything, and I was ready and willing to stay here, take care of Nova. Emily was planning on spending the night, too, just in case.”
Quincey was tensing in my arms.
So was I. “What changed?”
“Well. The calls started, and when I’m saying ‘the calls,’ I’m meaning a ton of calls. Quincey, your mom was the first. Then your brother. Your sister. They were all worried about you and wanted to come and see you. I told them to hang tight because you needed your rest. I also told them Nate would be there anyway. After that, it was a Patrice lady. A Matthew. Ricci. Then, Nate, it was our people. Logan. Mason. Matteo. The girls all called, too, wanting to check in themselves. Taylor. Samantha. Heather. Channing, too. Then I found out that they’d all talked to each other. They talked to Quincey’s brother, and well, they’re all coming to town.”
“Yeah. And I’m at your mom’s house. Quincey, is that okay? Stephanie said she used to take care of Nova for Valerie, and it’d be okay if she was here for the night. Tomorrow night, too, if Nate is going to stay again. I’m assuming he will because I know my brother, but I wanted to run this all by you guys.”
I glanced at Quincey.
I spoke for her, my thumb running back and forth over her back. “She’s fine with that. Emily knows Nova’s schedule. Did she help with that? Stephanie wouldn’t know her current schedule.”
“Yep. That’s all been settled. Emily is here with us, but she’s going to be leaving in a bit. We both wanted to wait and make sure that was all fine with you guys. If it is, I’ll take care of Nova with Stephanie. Emily was going to be at your place to meet the first arrivals. They’re all planning on staying at your house. I have no problem bunking at your mom’s, Quincey. I kinda like your mom’s house, to be honest. It’s old and big, but it’s cozy. Not that your house isn’t, Nate, but I don’t know. I can feel ‘grandma’ here, and it’s lovely.”