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

Authors: Brenna Aubrey

Tags: #Romance

At Any Moment (Gaming The System Book 3) (6 page)

BOOK: At Any Moment (Gaming The System Book 3)
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It would blow over, maybe, eventually. I hoped it would, because I liked Heath. Nevertheless, I did plan on depriving him of his roommate. I’d have to discuss living arrangements with Emilia soon. Once things settled down, I was going to make a good case for her to come back and live with me. I needed her near, needed to know she would be okay. I needed to take care of her.

But for now I needed to give her some time alone. She’d made an agonizing decision and though I was so relieved I couldn’t even think straight, I knew she must also be dealing with a lot of doubt and self-loathing. I hoped it wouldn’t last long. She needed all of her strength, all of her fight to face what lay ahead.

I followed her into her room. “So…should I come get you tomorrow morning?”

Emilia was picking up discarded clothes from the floor and throwing them into a laundry bag, apologizing for the mess.

She cleared her throat. “Yes…I’ll have to make an appointment.”

“I…uh…I already did, after we talked this morning.”

She straightened and looked at me for a long, tense moment.

I shifted weight on my legs where I stood. “Are you—are you okay with that?”

Her mouth thinned for a moment and she took a deep breath before releasing it.

“You can’t just do that…”

I froze. Damn it… I’d fucked up again. I ran a hand through my hair. “I’m sorry. I didn’t even think about it. I was trying to be—I wanted to save you the trouble of having to do that. I know how hard this is for you…or at least I’m trying to understand how hard it is.”

She frowned and then bent to sit on the bed and didn’t say anything. Then she patted the spot next to her. Slowly I sat down beside her.

She looked up at me, grim-faced. “We can’t keep doing this—making the same mistakes over and over again. I know you meant well. I know you were trying to help…but look at this from my point of view. It looks like you were jumping on the situation and making that appointment so quickly because you were afraid I would change my mind.”

I swallowed. Maybe that thought had been in the back of my mind, too, but it wasn’t the reason I’d done it. “I’m sorry. I fucked up.” Then I took a deep breath and let it out. My throat tightened. “You can, you know…”

She tilted her head to the side a question in her eyes.

Fear made my heart feel like it was spearing my chest with every painful beat. “You can change your mind.”

She blinked, looked away. “Either way I choose, there’s somebody’s gaze I won’t be able to meet—either all of yours or my own, in the mirror.”

I needed for her to do this—we
did—and so, giving her that out was all I could do. And yes, I’d said those words because I’d had to—because I had no idea what it must feel like to be in her position.

“You’re strong, Mia. You’ll get through this and I’ll be with you every step of the way, if you want me…”

Her eyes remained drenched in misery, but a faint smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. Her head sank to my shoulder. “Yes, I want you…”

I closed my eyes, turned my head, smelled her hair, that peaches-and-vanilla scent which overwhelmed my senses. This rush of protectiveness washed over me, infusing every muscle. But no matter how much I vowed to watch over her, I was helpless to protect her from the greatest threat of all.

We made plans for me to pick her up in the morning and I left. There was an awkward moment where I think she wanted me to kiss her goodbye. And I would have, but Heath tucked his head in at that moment to make sure Emilia was okay—or probably to make sure I wasn’t up to something with her, given the glare he gave me.

The second oncologist we had seen had given me the information for a doctor who would see her immediately for the procedure, given the circumstances. His office was the one I’d called that afternoon. I’d also called the oncologist to set up the follow-up appointment for afterward.

I was at Heath’s place again early the next morning. It was a cold, crisp day that promised moisture later on. A dark, dreary sort of day. Suitable, really, for what we were about to do.

I hadn’t let myself become emotionally involved. I was in problem-solving mode. I had to be the strong one for her. It was my job—one that I took seriously. I only hoped she could do what I’d asked her to do—to put her burdens on my shoulders. I was ready to carry that weight. Emilia had once called it a baby—a child,
child. But I’d refused to think about it that way. Instead it was an obstacle to her becoming healthy, a possible threat to her life. I wouldn’t think about it otherwise.

We said little on the way to the doctor’s office. She kept her pale face pointed downwards, staring at the clenched hands in her lap. I didn’t bother with small talk. She never looked up once and that was the first time that I began to wonder what kind of long-term effects this whole thing would have on her, beyond the cancer. Would it affect her will to fight it? I clenched my jaw. One step at a time. We’d tackle that problem later.

I filled out paperwork when we got there, leaving blanks for her complete with information I didn’t know, like medical history. She underwent a quick examination to confirm the date of conception. Then the doctor handed her a small plastic cup with two pills inside and a glass of water.

“You’ll come back for an exam and more medication in two days and a blood test in seven. Remember to follow the guidelines in the paperwork if there are any unusual symptoms.”

Emilia gave a vague nod and took the water in one hand and the pills in the other. The doctor left the room and we were alone. She hadn’t looked at me or directly addressed me since getting to the office. Now, she stared at the pills like they were coiled rattlesnakes.

“I can’t do this.”

That same cold fear clutched at my throat. She was changing her mind. “Mia—”

She wrinkled her brow, focusing on the pills, her hand beginning to shake. “I thought I could.”

I gently put my hands on her shoulders and stooped to get on eye level with her. “Look at me.”

But she didn’t. “August eighteenth. That’s the due date. I looked it up.” Her lip trembled.

I moved my hands so that they were on her cheeks, holding her, trembling, in my hands. Finally her gaze met mine.

The tears pooling in her beautiful eyes shredded my heart. Valiantly, she blinked them away and swallowed. I soothed her cheek with my thumb.

“Adam…” she whispered. “I can’t…”

My attention narrowed on her so that she was my entire focus, my entire world for those few critical moments. “You
Mia, I need you—so much.
” My voice died out and I was incapable of saying a word with my throat closed up, clogged with fear and agony.

She froze, her gaze dropping. Any color she’d had in her cheeks was long gone. She was so pale, in fact, that she looked like she might pass out.

I swallowed. “Do you need a minute? I’ll step out…I’ll—I’ll do whatever you need. And—” I gulped air, suddenly feeling sick. “If you can’t…if you change your mind, I’ll be here for you for that, too.”

Her eyes flew to mine—as if to ascertain whether or not I was serious. I was, but God—I prayed to any and all of them that she wouldn’t choose to carry to term. We stared into each other’s eyes. “You’d do that?” she choked out.

“I want you in my life for as long as possible—one way or another. This is your choice. You know where I stand. But I can’t pressure you beyond telling you how much you mean to me. And I can’t even find the words to tell you that in any adequate way. But I’ll go and be right outside the door and give you a moment to figure this out.”

“No,” she said, her voice half a shaky sob. “I need you to hold me. Please. Just hold me and don’t say anything.”

I nodded, taking her in my arms. She turned so that her back was to me and I tucked her head under my chin, wrapping my arms around her waist. She felt thin, frail, breakable.

“Tighter,” she whispered.
The cure for all that ails me
, she’d once said about my hugs. Now my words had no power. She knew what I wanted…but what I wanted meant nothing right now. I was lost, at her mercy.

For long, silent moments, she was still, making no sound. She wasn’t weeping. She wasn’t shaking.

Then after an agonizing string of minutes, she put the cup with the pills to her lips. She began to tremble and with a sob murmured quietly, “I’m sorry—I’m so sorry.”

She jerked her head backwards, following up with the water and swallowed. Then she went limp in my arms. It really felt like she was coming undone. Every muscle shook. I buried my face in her hair and she was still. I wished, somehow, that there were a way I could transfer my own strength and health to her. For the battle she was about to face, she would need them. She’d need everything she could get.

But first and foremost, she needed to heal from this. She needed not to blame herself. Even if it meant blaming me.

She finally pushed away from me to go to the sink and splash some water on her face. I noted that she still wasn’t crying—hadn’t shed a tear since telling me yesterday that she was going to go through with this. I didn’t know whether that was a good sign or bad.

Bending over the sink like she might fall over, she looked sick. Then, she started to laugh—an ironic, wounded sound—like she was laughing and crying at the same time. “I’m sick as hell with morning sickness. But if I puke this up, it’s not going to work. How weird and ironic is that?”

She put her face in her hands. I came up behind her. “You going to be okay?” It was a stupid question. Of course she wasn’t okay. On so many levels.

Stiffening, she stepped away from the sink, away from me. “I’m fine,” she said in a flat, raspy voice. “Take me home, please.”

My stomach dropped. “Sure. Can I—do you want me to stay with you?”

She looked down. “I’m not going to be pleasant company.”

“I’m here for
, not the other way around.”

“But Heath—”

“—will understand, I’m sure.” I scratched my jaw for a moment, studying her, wondering why she was being evasive now. Was she already starting to blame me?

I drove her back to the apartment. The cramps were already starting and she was as pale as a stone. I walked her to her room and she lay down on the bed without my even having to ask her.

“I’m going to run out and fill your pain med prescription and get some other things. Text me if you need anything. I’ll be back soon.”

I got back an hour later and gave her the medicine, which she refused to take, telling me it wasn’t that bad. She was curled up on herself in bed, her forehead clammy, and even I could tell the pain was considerable.

“Mia, please take your meds.”

“I will, just not now. Please don’t pester me about it?”

I pulled out my laptop and used my special log-in to give her special access to Dragon Epoch. It was the beta version of the completely new and unreleased expansion that wasn’t due out for months yet. She sat up, somewhat interested as I showed her some of the new features. She leaned on my arm, breathing heavily. I fought with the urge to try to get some pills down her again, wondering why she seemed averse to pain medicine when she’d had no qualms about injectable medication during her earlier cancer treatment. Eventually, she slid down on the bed, eyes half closed.

“Adam,” she whispered. I tucked away the computer and turned to her. “Can you hold me for a little while?”

“Of course,” I said, lying down beside her. She turned toward the wall and settled back against my chest. “Are you okay?” I asked quietly.

She took a long time to respond. When finally she answered, her voice was groggy, on the edge of exhaustion. “I need to sleep. For a long, long time. When I wake up, it will all be over. Maybe I’ll wake up and this will all have been a nightmare.”

I didn’t answer, felt her go slack in my arms. I wondered which parts of this last year she wished away. Did she regret us and the pain our messed-up relationship had brought into her life? She’d fought so hard not to be pulled into this. Maybe on some level, she’d known something that I didn’t. Maybe, once she was well again, she’d decide this wasn’t healthy for her.

I pushed that nagging fear aside, reminded myself that I was here for her. I was the healthy one. I’d protect her until my last breath, if it came to that.

Chapter Seven

My body felt like it was breaking in half and my heart along with it. For a week I only left my room to go to the bathroom. Heath brought me food and so did Adam. And I ate a little, because neither of them would leave me alone until I did. But I didn’t take the pain meds and Adam actually started an argument about it before I shut him down.

After that, I would take a few of the pills out of the bottle and throw them away when he wasn’t there to see. But he wasn’t stupid. It was impossible for me to hide the pain and he knew I wouldn’t be like this if I had taken them.

After our argument, I only got the deeply concerned looks when he thought I wouldn’t notice them. I wasn’t against medication at all. But for this… well… I couldn’t explain it fully. Something inside of me strongly compelled me to feel everything, the emotions of what was happening, the physical pain. I was afraid to be numb about it. So I felt it all.

Because one thing I couldn’t afford was to fall into depression. That would defeat the purpose of why I was going through all this in the first place—depression would only inhibit me from surviving the cancer. And I had to survive, especially after this. I’d done this for everyone who loved me so, because of that, I wouldn’t give up.

But Adam didn’t understand and I lacked the words to explain it to him. All I could feel, in his every stiff muscle when he visited, holding me in his arms when I asked him to, was worry, concern, and yeah, deep guilt. It made it hard for us to talk and, to be honest, I don’t think either of us could have even if we’d wanted to.

On one of the days when Adam had to put in a few hours at work in the afternoon, and when I was feeling well enough to migrate to the couch and watch TV, Adam’s cousin William paid me a visit with a plastic box tucked under his arm.

BOOK: At Any Moment (Gaming The System Book 3)
9.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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