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Lovely. I grinned. My sister was becoming an adult.

“That’s fine with me,” Quincey said, her voice a little hoarse. “Thank you for doing all of that.”

“Of course. It’s the least I could do. Oh, Nate. Blaise wants to do a Skype call with you later. He asked how the jar cleaning is coming.”

I closed my eyes, feeling Quincey’s gaze.

“It’s going just fine, thank you. I’ll call him later.”

“Okay.” Aspen laughed.

I could tell she was going to sign off. “Aspen?”


“Call Mason and Matteo. I know them, and I love both, but they don’t need to fly in for a visit. Neither have time with their schedule right now.”

“I did, and they both told me to tell you to stick it where it doesn’t shine. Mason said he has a bye week, and Matteo said the flight back and forth is short. Considering Matteo’s size, I’d just agree with him. He told me he’d sit on you the next time he saw you if you tried to tell him not to come.”

I chuckled. They were being tame because my sister was the middle-woman.

“I feel bad.”

I tensed, hearing Quincey.

She was saying into the phone, “They already took time out for the baby shower. They don’t have to come for this.”


She was referring to herself as “this.” As her getting hit by a car was a “this.”

I wasn’t down for that. I was really not down for that.

She kept on, “I’ll be fine, but wait. They’re coming for you.”

I just kept frowning at her.

She noticed. “What?”

“They’re coming for you. You were hit by a car. They tubed you because they were worried about a head injury. Are you kidding me?” I was just getting started. “And stop saying “this.” You aren’t a this. You’re a goddamn person. Jesus Christ. They’re coming because we’re all family. You’re included in that, Q. Do you not get that?”

“Nate,” said Aspen.

I sat up, my frown just getting sharper. “This. Fuck “this.” You’re not a this.”

Her eyes widened, then teared up until she stopped them. I didn’t know what she did or how she did it because they were there. They were about to spill, but a second later, they were gone. Her eyes were blazing, an inferno in there, but she masked that, too.

“Your friends are not coming here for me. They don’t know me.”

“They don’t need to know you. They know you’re important to me, and you got hit by a car.” My voice was shaking. I was so furious. My hands, too.

I needed to walk.

I needed to get this out of me, or I’d lose it, and I’d say shit that wouldn’t be conducive to either of us.

Shoving off the bed, I called to Aspen, “I gotta walk, A. I’ll be back.”


This was the beginning of the end.

I felt it in my gut.

Nate’s sister signed off, sounding awkward, but that was on me, too. She was so sweet, so pure, and I’d made this awkward, all sorts of awkward.

It was me.

This was the time when Nate would learn I wasn’t worth it. Because they always did.

One by one, people had that realization, and they stopped reaching out. They stopped trying. It’d be Duke and me like it’d always been. I felt cursed, and I was kidding myself by thinking I could break free.


I was being irrational.

I was on meds. I was banged up and hurting in a hospital bed.

I went and got hit, and now I was here. I’d need time before I was fully healed. Who knew what battle Duke would pull because it was a matter of time before he’d bring that motion forward, claiming I’d been trying to hurt myself.

With my history, a court would probably believe him.

It wouldn’t matter in the end. My father didn’t know that I had signed away any chance I had to contest Nate for Nova. Maybe this was for the best?

Nate was upset with me, and with Duke circling, it’d just get worse.

It always got worse.

A part of me knew I wasn’t thinking rationally, but I mean, hello. I got hit by a car. My father was going to say I did it deliberately, and would Nate believe him? I hadn’t been able to bring myself to warn him because I didn’t want to see the moment he might consider it. Because there’d have to be that moment. One moment.

A hesitation to wonder if she would? Was she like that?

Did I have to worry about her doing that now?

Then that might spring to the question of: should Nova be around her?

That sliced me the most, digging deeper than all the others.

I was being irrational.

I needed to stop these thoughts. Nothing good would come out of it.

I loved Nova. I loved Nate. No. I wouldn’t walk, and I was too selfish to stop loving Nate. I couldn’t. I’d never be able to make myself hate him. So… what then?

You’re a mother now, Quince.

I closed my eyes, hearing Valerie in my head.

Why did you leave Nova to me? Why not Graham? Calihan?

Because you were supposed to have her. She’s yours, Quince. Yours and Nate’s.

It had to be you.

But why? I don’t understand. Why me?

You’ll understand when you’re supposed to.

It’s something I always knew, deep down.

That made me pause.

Was I actually talking to my dead sister?

I must’ve hit my head harder than I thought. I mean, they were worried about a head injury.

I couldn’t help myself. One last thought.

Will I be a good enough mother?

You’ll be the best mother.

It’s the second reason I chose you.

I hoped she was right.

If she wasn’t, then I’d just blame my head injury.



It was three days later when they were letting Quincey come home. Thank the fucking God.

This was all a new experience in some ways and way too familiar in others. The hospital. Car accident. Those things had happened so much to the people I loved and me, so it was an old hat. But when that happened to your little girl’s new mom and your partner—it was terrifyingly new.

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