Home > Come Back to Me (Waters of Time #1)(3)

Come Back to Me (Waters of Time #1)(3)
Author: Jody Hedlund

Her lips gave an involuntary twitch of a smile, but she leveled him with what she hoped was her most serious look, one that said his charm didn’t work on her—even though he was chipping away at her reserves. “I’ll be fine. I promise.”

He stuffed his hands into the front pocket of his sweatshirt. “If you’re sure.”

“I’ll let you know if his condition worsens.”

“Say the word, and I’ll be on the first plane over.”

She tidied the remaining items on her desk. “You’re too nice to me.”

“Friends are supposed to be nice.”

She couldn’t hold back her smile any longer. “You’re a good friend, Jasper. Thank you.”

He tugged the keys out of his pocket and jangled them. “Since you clearly don’t intend to wait for a morning flight, I’ll drive you to the airport.” Sometimes it was scary how well Jasper knew her.

She made several quick phone calls, one to reserve her flight, a second to her boss to let him know of the family emergency, and another to her landlady. With no time to swing by her place and pack, Marian was glad her dad had insisted on her keeping a room and wardrobe at his Canterbury home. She’d always felt like he wanted the arrangement to make himself feel better. Maybe he truly had believed it would help draw them closer. But it hadn’t.

Marian switched off several machines before giving the lab a final survey. Her gaze snagged on the silver-framed picture on her desk, the last photo taken of her family during a trip to Jennings Beach before Mom died. The happy faces stared back at her. With windblown hair and their arms draped around one another, they stood against the backdrop of the ocean stretching out behind them. Even her dad was smiling, his hair still red without any gray.

That day on the beach had been the last time not only for smiles, but for being together. Little had they known they’d existed in a sinking ship without a lifeboat. Cancer had been lurking beneath the surface, waiting to capture Mom in its sharp teeth and drag her away, leaving the rest of them lost at sea and floating further apart with every passing year.

Even if the abyss between Dad and her felt unbridgeable, she had to go to him anyway. She still loved him, had always been close to him growing up, closer than to her mom. She didn’t want him to be alone during this medical crisis. Perhaps when he awoke from his coma, she could try harder to connect with him.

For a second, she considered snatching up the family photo and taking it with her, especially as a strange sensation came over her—one warning her she’d never see the picture again.

She shook her head to dislodge the silly feeling. Then she brushed past Jasper out the door and down the hallway without another glance at the lab or the silver-framed picture. She was coming back. She was on the verge of finding a cure for Ellen. No one and nothing could stop her from returning and saving her sister’s life.

 

 

~ 2 ~


AT A TOUCH against her arm, Marian startled upright and blinked awake.

“Marian, love. Go home and have a rest.” A gentle voice spoke beside her. “Take a hot shower and sleep in a bed.”

She shifted in the hospital chair to find Harrison Burlington in his motorized wheelchair. Through his glasses, he regarded her anxiously. He’d changed his attire—another crisp suit with a bow tie and matching vest reminiscent of the 1850s. He even wore a pocket watch with a fob dangling out and looped to one of his buttons.

His dark hair was neatly combed away from his forehead. The scent of sandalwood aftershave lingered in the air about him but still couldn’t overpower the ammonia and bleach that permeated the hospital room.

Her attention jumped to her dad, to his pale face, closed eyes, and the gentle rise and fall of his chest. His hand was still within hers where she’d placed it. She tightened her grip, but his remained loose and lifeless.

From what she could tell, he hadn’t moved a muscle while she’d dozed. His body was in the same position, his arms at his sides, his head and chin facing the ceiling. Not a strand of his scraggly gray hair had shifted. Even the bedside monitors registered a steady pulse and normal breathing rhythm, unchanged from every other time she’d looked.

The heavy curtains across the window didn’t let a sliver of light into the private room Harrison had arranged for her dad, and she had no idea whether it was the middle of the night or day.

“What time is it?” Her voice was raspy with sleep.

Harrison withdrew the elegant pocket watch and flipped open the lid. “Eleven o’clock in the morning.”

She’d been at the hospital for almost twenty-four hours straight. After coming directly from the airport, she’d spent the majority of yesterday grilling the specialists and persuading them to order further tests.

She was sure by now that every physician at Kent and Canterbury was as anxious to see her leave as Harrison was—although Harrison’s motives were out of kindness and not irritation.

She rubbed her eyes, the grittiness of her waterproof mascara assuring her that she was still wearing at least a little makeup. Even so, she guessed she looked a fright. Harrison was right. She needed a shower.

Harrison stuffed the watch back into his pocket. “Bojing is outside in the car park and will drive you to Chesterfield Park. I left instructions for the maids to make up a guest bed for you.”

“Thank you, Harrison. But I have a rental car. And I don’t want to impose on your home.”

“With twenty bedrooms, you’ll hardly impose.”

Harrison’s sprawling manor was located on the outskirts of Canterbury. Long ago, the estate had consisted of over a thousand acres of surrounding land. Although it wasn’t as vast anymore, the remaining formal gardens and deer park gave the place a private, country-like feel. Set against such a magnificent backdrop, the ancient mansion house was stunning, always featured in travel magazines.

“I’d love to stay at Chesterfield Park. But I keep extra clothes at Dad’s house. I’ll be fine there.”

“Right. But I don’t want you to be alone at a time like this.” He sounded like Jasper, fussing over her. In fact, Jasper had already called three times since her arrival.

“I’m a strong woman.” She’d said the same thing to Jasper each time.

The crease between Harrison’s eyes only deepened. He was a striking man, and she’d always wondered why he’d never married. Even though he’d lost the use of his legs as a result of a spinal cord injury during a car accident when he’d been a child, he was one of the most capable men she’d ever known. Surely, he could have his pick of women, especially with his prestige and wealth.

“Besides”—she fished for the car keys in her purse—“Dad’s house is closer to the hospital.”

Harrison opened his mouth as if he wanted to say more, but then he sat back in his wheelchair and pressed his lips closed.

She kissed her dad’s cheek then stood and stretched. “I won’t be gone long.”

“Take your time. I’ll stay with Arthur.” His eyes still radiated worry, although he was evidently trying to rein it in.

She leaned down and placed a kiss on Harrison’s forehead. “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

As she made her way out of the hospital to the Lexus she’d rented, she listened to her voicemail, including a message from Ellen. She still hadn’t told her sister about Dad’s coma, and guilt nudged her. She couldn’t put it off forever. But the longer she could spare Ellen the stress, the better.

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