Read At Any Moment (Gaming The System Book 3) Online

Authors: Brenna Aubrey

Tags: #Romance

At Any Moment (Gaming The System Book 3) (2 page)

BOOK: At Any Moment (Gaming The System Book 3)
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I turned from the sink, wiping my mouth with the back of my hand, and went to grab my funny padded bra and shirt.

“Can you turn your back, please?” I said. My voice was raspy, hoarse. He watched me with his unreadable eyes. It was a ridiculous request, really. He’d seen my naked body hundreds of times before—touched it almost as often. God, how he’d touched it. My cheeks heated at the memory and I looked away.

He turned around, snatching up his tablet and typing furiously into it. Likely he was looking up some of the terms the doctor had used.

I pulled off the paper covering my torso and glanced down at my breasts. The right one was perfect, untouched. The left one had an angry red scar slicing into it and a scoop-shaped divot taken out of it. I shot a look at his back. Maybe he’d find the disfigurement disgusting. He’d never been shy about expressing his appreciation of my breasts before. I slipped on my bra and hooked it. It wasn’t a sexy bra—those little lacy things I used to love wearing when I had the money to splurge on one. This was more of an old lady’s bra. Sturdy, supportive. Functional.

Thanks to cancer treatment, I was slowly but surely being robbed of my youth, between scars on my body, hormone therapy and the dreaded chemo-beast, which loomed near, like one of those giant dragons scrawled across the edges of antique maps. Soon I’d be as shriveled as and even balder than my grandma.

As the child of a surviving cancer patient, I knew what I was in for with chemo. I’d seen my mom go through it all. The thought made my gut twist in dread. Maybe the pregnancy was my unconscious way of engaging in the ultimate procrastination where that was concerned. Knowing what I knew, I probably would have jumped off a balcony and broken both my legs to delay the inevitable.

After I slipped on my shirt, Adam turned around, closing one app on his tablet and opening another. It looked like a calendar.

“Your next appointment is at one.”

My head shot up as I grabbed my bag. “Next appointment?”

“The second opinion we discussed. You’re going to need to sign some papers on the way out to get your records and test results.”

I signed the papers and got copies of my tests and records transferred onto a flash drive that Adam handed to the office staff. When they gave it back, I snatched it and stuck it in my pocket. Damned if I was going to give him access to pictures of my maimed boob. Hell no.

If Jordan, Adam’s playboy best friend, had been setting Adam up on “hot dates” lately, then Adam had probably been rubbing elbows—and God only hoped no other parts—with models and actresses. To say nothing of the swarm of interns at work that I had mentally nicknamed the “Adam groupies.” They liked to catalogue what he wore to work and rate how hot he looked from one day to the next. It had been hell having to sit around and listen to that shit day in and day out while attempting to ignore it.

Not that I thought he’d ever date any of those interns. They were like eighteen and nineteen. But they had perfect bodies and I was sure not a one of them had a big divot taken out of their left breast. Nor would any of them soon be balder than Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship

I caught Adam watching me a couple times. Well, it was more like I could
him watching me. Adam’s dark eyes had a way of drawing your eyes to him like a magnet.

“What?” I said finally.

He shook his head, unlocked his car and opened the door for me, patiently waiting for me to get in.

I paused and folded my arms against my chest, turning to him. “You’re up to something.”

He frowned. “Why do you think that?”

“Aside from the fact that you are
up to something, you haven’t mentioned Dr. Metcalfe’s prognosis numbers yet.”

He rested an arm across the edge of the open door and looked at me—
looked in that way that usually felt intimidating. “What’s there to say, Mia?” Then he took a deep breath and looked away. “Those numbers speak for themselves. You’re an intelligent woman. And hopefully you’re going to be an oncologist. If you were in that doctor’s place, what would
recommend your patient do?”

It suddenly felt a little harder to breathe, like a band had been wrapped around my chest. Instead of replying, I dropped my arms to my sides and sank into the passenger seat. Adam gently closed the door for me and came around to the left side of the car to slide in behind the wheel. I bent my head, rubbing my temples against the beginning of a headache. His use of the word “hopefully” was not lost on me. Odds were good that if I went ahead with the pregnancy I would not be starting medical school any time in the near future.

He didn’t start the car, just sat and watched me. I pressed back harder into my seat and sighed, looking at him. I shook my head. “I can’t do this. He is one opinion, one estimate. His number might not even be right.”

We stared at each other for a while—long after it had become awkward. I wanted him to reach out and hug me. And it was strange…if I wanted him to hold me so much, why didn’t I ask, or—better yet—lean forward and take him in my arms? I swallowed and blinked, my eye stinging.

“I need to stop off at the office for a few minutes to grab some of my stuff,” he said.

“You aren’t going into work today?”

He gave me a look like I must be crazy for asking him that and turned to start the car.

Twenty minutes later, at the campus of Draco Multimedia, Adam’s company, I rolled down the windows of his car, telling him I’d wait while he got his stuff done inside. He promised me no more than ten or fifteen minutes but I knew better, because his secretary would catch him to sign some papers or someone would call or he’d get stopped a half dozen times on the way back to his office. I might have gone in with him, but I wanted to avoid that awkward return to work. The Friday before, I’d hurriedly packed up my desk with no explanation whatsoever while Mac, my superior, and the interns I worked with watched me with slackened jaws. I hadn’t cared, though. All I could think about at that point was the pregnancy test I’d just taken and the subsequent angry confrontation with Adam in his office.

I played a game on my phone to avoid having to sit and think about everything that was happening. I’d done too much thinking throughout the weekend and was starting to get exhausted and nauseated by it.

But the game was interrupted when Heath, my roommate and best friend, texted me.


Hey, did you make it to your dr. appointment okay?


I typed out my reply:


Yes. On way to 2nd appt.




No. A is with me.


Ok. I’ll be home when you get here.


Just as he’d promised and in spite of my fears to the contrary, Adam returned about a quarter of an hour later with his laptop case slung over his sturdy shoulder. The second doctor was in some super fancy medical building in Newport Beach right next to Hoag Hospital (half country club, half medical response to the rich and sometimes famous). Adam’s search for “the best” in OC must have led him there.

After taking twenty minutes to page through my tests and charts from the flash drive, she looked up at me, grim-faced. Her numbers were not as good as Dr. Metcalfe’s.

Less than fifty percent if I went through with the pregnancy. She was dead serious and adamant that I not pursue this course.

“I strongly recommend termination and immediate rounds of chemotherapy.”

And that’s when, slumped on her fancy exam table, I felt the tears filling my eyes. I met Adam’s gaze through my hazy vision. His face was cold, impassive. I imagined him telling me, “I told you so.” I looked away and blinked, unable to breathe.

The whole world around me felt like it was sinking.

Chapter Two

I watched Emilia closely as the doctor delivered her prognosis numbers. She bravely tried to hide the emotional reaction that I knew was near the surface. The doctor excused herself and I stood, approaching her as she sat on the exam table. She didn’t look up or move at all, her eyes fixed on some point in the middle distance, her mind far away from this point in time.

I swallowed, feeling the same old guilt almost suffocate me. But by necessity, I shoved it aside. I couldn’t let emotions get in the way, not now. This was a critical time and we had to act fast. My sole concern was Emilia’s health and survival. Everything else could be taken care of later, when she was healthy again. Hopefully by then there would be enough pieces of us to pick up and put back together.

I prayed to a God I didn’t really believe in that she listened to what the doctors had told her today. Since I’d had the time to recover from the shock of discovering that not only was she pregnant but she also had cancer, I’d taken the time to analyze the way I’d handled it. And determined that I should have done everything in the opposite way of what I’d done.

So I’d spent the whole weekend strategizing and coming up with a plan. These doctor visits were part of that plan. I hoped, rather than knew, that she would follow the medical advice. Emilia was a very smart woman but at this point she was being driven by pure emotion. Since we’d argued on Saturday morning about her need to terminate the pregnancy, and faced with her adamant refusal to do it, I’d decided to back off and be there for her. We hadn’t mentioned the subject again because I feared that the more she fought me over it, the deeper she would dig in her heels.

I hoped that she’d listen to the medical advice, but if she wouldn’t, I wasn’t going to give up—I’d find something or someone she
listen to. For this reason, I had set about up a back-up plan.

Emilia was quiet the entire walk down to the parking structure. I opened the car door for her and she slid inside, her shoulders rounded. When I sank into the driver’s seat, she was staring straight ahead. I reached over and took one of her hands in mine. It was cold and lifeless, and she didn’t return the pressure when I folded her hand inside mine.

“Mia,” I said quietly. “Are you okay?”

She blinked. “What do you think?”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault.” She buried her face in her hands and laughed bitterly. “I bet you wish you’d gotten laid with that model of Jordan’s instead of hopping into the sack with me.”

I pulled her into my arms. She laid her head on my shoulder. “Now you are just being silly.”

She grabbed my shoulders, holding me against her. “Adam, I’m sorry.”

“I don’t want you to apologize. All I want is for you to have the best chance possible.”

After holding each other in long silence, she quietly said, “Can you take me home now?”

I hesitated. Home. For me, her home was my house, where we’d lived together until our breakup two months before. And it hurt when I realized that her reference to “home” meant Heath’s condo. I turned and gave her a quick peck on the cheek, then pulled away.

I started the car, on the way to set up my back-up plan, but it didn’t involve taking her to Heath’s place.

By the time I got on the freeway, she was dozing in the seat next to me—thankfully. I knew she was exhausted. I’d kept the top up to minimize the wind inside the car so it wouldn’t keep her awake. She hadn’t slept enough lately. Her head lolled forward and all I could see was that ridiculous white fluff of hair that she had recently bleached white and dyed in rainbow colors to match her fairy costume for the company costume party at our convention in Las Vegas. The hair coloring had been permanent—presumably because she’d anticipated it would soon be falling out from the chemotherapy she was supposed to start this week. She looked like a faded punk rock star from the ’90s.

I took the long route, so she didn’t start to stir until I exited the freeway. Rather than head straight up Chapman Avenue to Heath’s house, I turned right, toward North Tustin and my uncle’s house instead.

She blinked, coming awake, groggily asking, “Why are we going to Peter’s house?”

When I didn’t answer, she glared at me, realization dawning. She straightened in her seat. “Adam, stop the car.”

Instead I shifted, pressed the gas and headed up the hill toward the high school.

“Adam,” she said between clenched teeth.

“You need to tell her sooner or later.”

She hissed through her teeth like I’d just punched her in the stomach. “Stop. The. Fucking. Car.”

We were about two blocks away from Peter’s house. I pulled over to the nearest curb and turned off the ignition. I hesitated, staring out the window in front of me, gripping the wheel. Emilia sat stiffly beside me, fuming. I’d been willing to risk her anger because if Kim was the only one who could talk sense into her, then she was my secret weapon. At this point, I was willing to do whatever needed to be done. I was that desperate.

I waited for her to catch her breath, her cheeks even paler than normal, her hands white-knuckling the edges of her bucket seat.

I took my hands off the steering wheel and watched her carefully.

“Mia…She’s your mom. You have to tell her.”

She pressed the heel of her shaking hand to her forehead. “I don’t
to do anything.”

I took a deep, calming breath, staring out the windshield, trying to collect myself.

She fidgeted in her seat next to me. “Take me back to Heath’s, please.”

After a long pause, she turned to stare at me expectantly.

“I’ll take you back to Heath’s under one condition. You hear me out first.”

Her jaw tightened and then relaxed and finally she nodded, her eyes avoiding mine.

“When we were just online friends, I recall sitting up with you all night online until six a.m. the night you found out about your mom’s cancer. Do you remember that?”

She bit her lip. “Of course.”

“I know how painful that was for you. I also know you are trying to protect her now—”

“Don’t make this about me.
are angry with me because I didn’t tell any of you, but what you need to understand—”

I held up a hand to cut her off. “We’re not talking about me right now, Mia. We’re talking about your mom. She has a right to know. She has a right to be the strong one for you, to help you. You’re going to need people. That’s probably harder than hell for you to admit.”

BOOK: At Any Moment (Gaming The System Book 3)
8.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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