Home > Come Back to Me (Waters of Time #1)(2)

Come Back to Me (Waters of Time #1)(2)
Author: Jody Hedlund

But compared to Ellen’s tanned face, Marian’s complexion was pale, making her brown eyes too dark and brooding. Ellen had pulled her hair back into a messy bun, managing to look stylish and casual at the same time. Although Marian had used plenty of straightening products and her hot iron in an attempt to tame her long auburn waves, her messy bun looked just that—messy.

Marian picked her phone back up. She had to reserve a flight. One tonight, if possible.

The phone screen lit up with a recent text from Ellen still awaiting her response. Nothing serious, just Ellen being her usual sweet self and checking in to say hi. Marian’s fingers hovered above the message, but then she swiped it away. She had to wait to reply. If she ended up having a conversation with her sister, she’d probably spill the news about Dad.

She’d never believed in her wildest dreams Ellen would outlive their dad. And she’d certainly never imagined she’d have to bear bad news to her sister about Dad. It was always the other way around—calling Dad to let him know of a new development with Ellen.

Last year Ellen had laser surgery to eliminate three tumors from the outer regions of her retina. The year before, she had one of her adrenal glands removed. Even now, her doctors were paying special attention to the tumors on her kidney, which would need to be taken out eventually.

Harrison was right. They couldn’t say anything to Ellen. Not until they knew more. Otherwise her sister would jump on the first plane out of Port Au Prince to be by Dad’s side. But the travel, the sleeplessness, the stress—it would take a toll on Ellen, weaken her immune system, cause high blood pressure, lead to more weight loss, and increase the rate and size of tumor growth.

The outer office door swung open, and the motion sensor lights came to life, revealing Jasper’s brown hair and athletic frame. In his Under Armour shorts and University of Illinois at Chicago sweatshirt, he’d slung his gym bag over his shoulder after exercising in the company fitness center. Marian was never sure if he timed his nightly workouts to coincide with her late hours, but he was always there when she finished.

He smiled and lifted a hand in greeting.

She gave a half wave in return, too despondent to muster any enthusiasm at seeing him.

He wound through the hallway to the office they shared with several other researchers. “Hey,” he said as he entered. “Almost done? I’ll walk you out.”

“My dad’s in a coma.” Saying the words aloud was like having the wind knocked out of her. She pressed a hand against her chest and tried to drag in a breath.

Brow furrowing with concern, Jasper shrugged his bag off his shoulder and eased it to the floor. His hair, damp from his shower, clung to his forehead, and his body emanated the citrus of his Axe body spray. “I’m sorry, Marian. Does anyone know what happened?”

“The doctors haven’t found the cause yet.”

Jasper crossed his arms and leaned against the doorframe. Mercer had hired Jasper Boyle at the Groton facility about the same time she’d started last year. They’d been partners on several chemical analysis projects and had quickly gotten to know each other.

Over time, she’d opened up to him about her frustrations with her dad, especially regarding his crazy research and theories. And Jasper had shared his disappointment with his dad’s Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Jasper had hinted recently at wanting more from their relationship, but Marian had been honest with him that she was married to her work. Besides, she hadn’t wanted to ruin their friendship with romantic entanglements.

Of course, she’d never had many romantic entanglements to speak of. In high school, she’d been a geeky science nerd and had happily spent Friday nights dating her books rather than boys. That pattern had continued through college and graduate school. And she doubted it would ever end. Not until she found a way to save Ellen.

Now her plans had to widen to include saving her dad.

“You look tired.” Jasper’s gaze swept down the form-fitting black Dior top she’d paired with a slim charcoal skirt. The appreciative glint in his eyes assured her that while she might not have Ellen’s jaw-dropping beauty, she had inherited the same long legs and womanly form.

“I’ll be fine once I’m at the hospital with Dad.”

“Have the doctors given him a prognosis?”

“Not that I’m aware of.” She reached for the leather briefcase beneath her desk. “But as soon as I get there, I’ll find out exactly what’s going on and make sure they’re doing all they can.”

“I have no doubt you will.” His tone was amused. He knew her well enough to realize she was capable of getting what she wanted. “When are you leaving?”

“I haven’t booked a flight yet.” She tucked her laptop into the briefcase along with the binder filled with meticulous records of all her experiments.

“You should take the company jet this time.”

She shook her head. “You know how I feel about that.”

He shrugged. “I thought you might like to get there faster.”

Since her dad’s family—her great-grandfather—had been one of the founders of Mercer Pharmaceuticals and her dad still owned a share of the business, she had access to the company jet whenever it suited her, but she didn’t want to be known for using the family perks. The other employees already thought she’d landed her position because of her connections. Of course, no one said so to her face. But she had no doubt that’s what they believed.

The truth was, she’d earned her research job at Mercer Pharmaceuticals the same way everyone else had. She’d spent long years in school, excelled in her studies, and pushed herself hard to get where she was.

She reached for the latest spreadsheet outlining the pharmacokinetic parameters, the columns of absorption rates and volume of distribution that were once again inconclusive. She was getting close. Intuitively, she knew that. But how could she convince everyone else without solid evidence?

With a frustrated sigh, she crumpled the sheet and tossed it toward the wastebasket in the corner. It bounced off the glass wall and landed on the floor near the other papers she’d already discarded.

Jasper straightened and combed his fingers through his damp hair. “Let me come with you.”

Her gaze shot to him in surprise.

His eyes were warm and sympathetic. “You shouldn’t be alone at a time like this.”

For one brief instant, she was tempted to let herself need someone else. But just as quickly as the weakness surfaced, she stuffed it away like an item in her leather case. “Thank you, Jasper. But you have responsibilities here, and I don’t know how long I’ll be gone.”

“I can take off some time—”

“What if he doesn’t come out of his coma right away?” Or ever? She shuddered at the unbidden thought.

“I’ll stay as long as I’m able.” His expression was earnest.

“Jasper . . .” She didn’t want to lecture him with the I-only-want-to-be-friends conversation again. She was too tired for it.

“Just as friends, Marian.” He could read her well. “Friends are there for friends, aren’t they?”

She snapped her briefcase closed.

He grinned one of his charming grins that could win over even the staunchest of hearts. He was attractive and amiable. And the impish quirk of his mouth told her he knew it.

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