Let Me Love You Again (An Echoes of the Heart Novel Book 2) (7 page)

BOOK: Let Me Love You Again (An Echoes of the Heart Novel Book 2)
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“Go after her.” Marsha stood close to Oliver without touching him, the way she had the first day he’d come to live with the family.

He’d felt unbearably raw then, after losing his birth mom. A similar flood of violent emotion clawed at him now.

“I’ll go,” Brad said.

He hesitated. He blinked at the killing stare Oliver cut him and headed for the elevators, shaking his head.

Marsha followed at his heels. “This is all my fault. Poor girl.”

“You’re just going to stand there like a chump,” Travis asked, “and leave Mom to deal with this on her own?”

Oliver wanted to snarl and rip into something, preferably his brother. But Travis was right. Marsha looked almost as rough as Joe had. She needed to be caring for her husband, not consoling Selena. And Oliver could have prevented all of this if he’d had the balls to deal reasonably with Selena from the start.

His mother and Brad had already disappeared, their elevator heading down. Oliver punched the button to follow. He could still feel the softness of Selena’s skin beneath his fingers. Travis joined
him, stepped with Oliver into the car, and punched the button for the ground floor.

“Butt out,” Oliver said. “I can handle this on my own.”

“You bet. You’re one smooth devil.”

“Do yourself a favor and back off.”

“Hey.” Travis cuffed Oliver’s shoulder with an open palm. “Don’t hate your wingman.”

“Is wingman slang for ‘dead man walking’?”

Travis chewed his gum, unfazed.

The elevator dinged. The doors opened in time for them to catch Selena hurrying across the lobby toward the front entrance. Brad and Marsha watched her leave. By the time Oliver and Travis reached them, Selena had disappeared outside.

“I feel horrible,” Marsha said.

She wasn’t the only one. It had gutted Oliver upstairs—the stricken look on Selena’s face.

“I’m sorry if I made things worse.” Brad’s remorse was as genuine as his earlier
welcome home
smile. “But it’s good to see you, man.” He offered Oliver his hand. “It’s been a hell of a long time. Too long.”

Oliver shook out of habit, while watching Marsha stare after Selena.

“I stopped by on an early lunch break.” Brad’s uniform, identical to Travis’s, explained the rest.

Travis had conveniently forgotten to mention that he worked with the guy.

“Dru’s tied up at the restaurant,” Brad continued. “She dropped Teddy at the church daycare after getting the kids off to school. She’ll pick him up on her way back for this afternoon’s meeting at the house. She wanted me to see if there’d been any updates from Joe’s doctors.”

“Dru?” Oliver pictured his baby sister, forever tagging along after him, Travis, and Brad—the Three Musketeers, Selena had dubbed them.

“My . . .” Brad turned to Travis. “You didn’t tell him?”

“Tell me what?”

A fresh batch of memories attacked, images of Oliver’s kid sister and his then best friend. Dru and Brad were dancing together when Dru had been a high school sophomore and Oliver, Travis, and Brad were seniors. She and Brad were slow dancing
too close while the spring formal’s band played “Endless Love.”

Oliver’s head was going to explode.

“Brad and Dru were engaged last Christmas,” Marsha explained. “After he came home to help his grandmother.”


And Dru.

Whose crush on Oliver’s best friend had been so big, she’d been the first to guess that the boy she’d fallen for had hooked up with Selena. She’d been the one to break the news to Oliver and had been just as devastated as he was. She’d sworn to never forgive Brad.

“When Vivian died,” Marsha added, “she left Dru the Dream Whip to run. Your sister and Brad have been doing a fine job with it. They’re living in the Douglas house now, exactly the way Vi thought they always should have.”

“Seriously?” was all Oliver could manage.

Brad’s good-natured vibe dimmed at Oliver’s underwhelming response. What? Was Oliver supposed to congratulate the guy who’d helped Selena kick him to the curb, because Brad had moved on to Oliver’s sister?

Marsha laid a comforting hand on Brad’s arm. “Joe’s resting better this morning. We’re still waiting to hear from someone
about what’s next. They ran more tests and scans early this morning. Another EKG about an hour ago. Tell Dru to head over to the house whenever she can this afternoon, and thank her for running Teddy around. We should know more by then about what the next few days will be like. But at least Oliver’s agreed to stay for a while.”

Travis grinned. “Well, hell, man, that’s great.”

Brad looked like he wanted to agree. Oliver saw the precise moment the other man decided that keeping quiet was a wiser course of action. Marsha crossed her arms at the lot of them.

“Seriously?” she mimicked. She looked ready to knock their heads together, the way she’d frequently threatened to when they’d been kids. She never had back then, but there was a first time for everything. “Tell me you boys aren’t planning on keeping this up the entire time Oliver’s back.”

“Why don’t I stop by later?” Brad suggested. “I’ll have some time when my shift is done, unless Dru needs me to cover the restaurant. Unless . . .” His attention shifted to Travis. “I don’t want to make more trouble for anyone.”

“Come by anytime you can,” Travis said.

“Thank you,” Marsha added, “for taking such good care of Dru and the Whip through all this, so Dru can be wherever she needs to be.”

“Anything I can do.” Brad included Oliver in the offer.

“I’ll walk you out.” Travis steered Brad away.

“Brad and Dru?” Oliver asked his mother.

“You need to talk with Selena,” Marsha insisted.

After the stunt she’d just pulled, her gentle reprimand finished pissing him off. “I need to focus on helping you and Joe. Other than that, I should probably steer clear of conversations
that tempt me to take my sister’s fiancé apart again with my bare hands.”

He rubbed the side of his nose. A delay tactic when he was close to doing or saying something he’d regret. He was supposed to breathe deeply and regroup. He sneezed instead.

“Bless you.” Marsha rooted in the pocket of her cardigan. He’d never known her not to have a spare tissue whenever someone needed one.

He stopped her, keeping his hand on her arm until she looked up. The worry in her gray eyes damn near broke his heart.

“Let me take care of you and Dad right now. Please, let the rest go.”

“Dealing with Selena—and Brad, too—is one of the best things you can do for your father and me.”

“Not if you want me to stay.”

He would handle diving headfirst into his family. Somehow he’d still find a way to walk once his job here was done. But how did he do that if he opened the door any wider to reconnecting with Selena? He’d treated her like shit twice already because he didn’t trust himself to get closer and be able to find his way out. Some part of him was still so stuck on her, he’d come close to punching Brad—just for breathing near her.

“If you’re going to give us a hand with everything else,” Marsha insisted, “you’re going to have to at least talk with Selena. She lives next door. Brad and Dru are engaged. He’s over at the house all the time, pitching in as much as your sister does. And—”

“Hold on.” Oliver’s vision narrowed to one suddenly obvious detail. “Before you sent me out of Dad’s room to talk to Travis, when you knew Selena was there . . . You were stalling. Brad was already on his way. Dru called ahead, right? Damn it, Mom. What
were you thinking? Throwing the three of us back together without at least warning me, while Dad’s in the next room fighting for his life?”

“Take it easy, man.” Travis stepped beside their mother. His gaze was the kind of intense that must put the fear of God into people he confronted on the job. “Mom’s trying to help.”

And maybe she
helping. Oliver’s first confrontation with Selena and Brad was done. The surprise of it was behind them. But that’s where this ended. Selena’s sweet face and sad, hurting eyes while she’d apologized for their disastrous end that had been as much Oliver’s fault as hers . . . What was the point of repeating that, just so they could all hurt some more?

“I’m sorry,” he said to his mother. “But, please. Lay off whatever the two of you were angling for upstairs.”

Oliver’s fist clenched at the memory of Brad’s
friends again
handshake. The man was going to be his brother-in-law, which meant at the very least Oliver had an uncomfortable conversation ahead of him with Dru. He had no bandwidth left for additional drama.

“If you won’t go find that girl for your own sake,” Marsha said, sounding dug in, “do it for our family.”

The wanting place inside Oliver ripped wider open. He rubbed a hand across his face.

“I need some air,” he said. Except Marsha’s complexion had turned deathly white. He grabbed her elbow. “Mom? Are you okay—”

“Dr. Kask,” she said over Oliver’s shoulder.

He and Travis turned to see a middle-aged man in a lab coat heading their way from the elevator bank.

“You’ve met Travis,” she said to the fifty-something doctor with a fifty-something comb-over. “This is Oliver, another of our boys.”

Comb-over looked up from his clipboard to acknowledge Oliver and Travis. His attention tracked to Marsha and held. The clipboard dropped until it was in front of his waist.

“The charge nurse thought perhaps you’d headed to the cafeteria. I wanted to speak with you and Mr. Dixon together before I went off shift.”

“Okay.” Marsha’s voice was hushed, as if whispering might soften the blow of whatever the doctor had to say.

“We have your husband’s test results back. Unfortunately, they’re not what we’d hoped. He’s not responding to the medication well enough for that to remain our only course of action. This morning’s electrocardiogram isn’t showing enough increased blood flow. Given the significance of the blockage to his left coronary artery . . .”

The doctor glanced at Oliver and his brother as if they should find somewhere else to be. Neither of them budged.

“I need to discuss a few options with you and Joe,” Comb-over said.

“Options?” Travis and Oliver asked in unison.

“More invasive alternatives, to get blood flowing properly to the patient’s left ventricle. Interventions that will increase his oxygen levels and reduce the degree of permanent damage done to the heart muscle.”

“The patient?” Oliver bit out. The man sounded like a walking, talking textbook.

“I’m sorry to be so technical,” the doctor said to Marsha. “Occupational hazard when I spend most of my days with other doctors, poring over lab tests and research. We’re wasting muscle, Mrs. Dixon, the longer we wait to try something else. I’m afraid there’s no clear recommendation for me to make. There are two procedures that offer you similar potential results, with different
sets of risks and probability for complications. It will take me some time to explain them. But I’d like Joe scheduled for surgery later tonight, first thing tomorrow at the latest.”

Marsha turned to Oliver and Travis.

“I’ll let you know what your dad and I decide as soon as I can,” she said, ready to battle onward. “Travis, could you give your sister a call? Let Dru know I might not make it to the house this afternoon. You kids talk to the younger ones on your own if I can’t.”

“Sure,” Travis said.

She left for the elevators with Comb-over. A flash of panic shook Oliver—a premonition that he might never see his father again. His next calming breath did little to loosen the dread clogging his windpipe. He shook it off.

Marsha would have made damn sure Joe had the best doctor for the job, even if the guy had the bedside manner of a chunk of computer code. She and Joe would make the right decision. And, surgery or not, Joe would be fine. He had to be. Then he and Marsha would pick up the pieces the way they had after every other setback they’d faced. Oliver’s whole family would.

A firm grip closed around his shoulder and yanked him from his thoughts, spinning him to face his equally worried brother.

“You’re coming with me,” Travis said.

“Mom and Dad will be awhile.” Travis shoved Oliver toward a hallway to the right of visitor reception. “Let’s go.”

Oliver rounded on him. “Hands off, man. I’m not going anywhere but back upstairs.”

“I’ll text Mom. She’ll join us if she’s finished with the doc before we’re back.”

“Back from where?”

“Hell freezing over.”

Travis kept a firm grip on Oliver’s shoulder as they walked. Oliver’s options narrowed to cooperating or starting a brawl.

“That ass kicking we’ve been talking about?” he said. “Considered yours kicked.”

“Looking forward to it.”

Something was slipping inside Oliver, more out of his control by the second. Listening to that doctor talk medical options reminded Oliver of how he laid out system specs to a waffling client who had a mother of a design mess on their hands. By that point it usually didn’t matter what decision was made. Oliver was already focused on the inevitable fallout. Either option was just as likely to blow up in their faces.

Only this time it was his dad’s life on the line. Not some faceless IT application he felt no attachment to beyond getting paid.

BOOK: Let Me Love You Again (An Echoes of the Heart Novel Book 2)
4.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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