His Temptation, Her Secret(10)

By: Barbara Dunlop

She hadn’t been able to let go then, and she didn’t want to let go now. It was a frightening feeling, and she tried to pull back.

TJ didn’t seem to want to let her go either. He held on tight for long seconds before breaking his grip.

“He did it,” he said.

“You did it,” Sage said.

At the moment, she didn’t care who TJ was, what he’d done in the past or what he might do in the future. He’d saved her son, and she owed him everything.

“He needs to get his strength back,” Dr. Stannis said.

Sage felt a dampness on her cheek and swiped at it with the back of her hand. She hadn’t even realized she was crying.

“And we’ll have to carefully monitor his T cells. Infection is still a very serious concern.” Dr. Stannis dropped into her high-backed chair. “But at this point, all signs are positive.”

TJ eased Sage back into her chair and then took his own.

“How long until he can come home?” she asked. She couldn’t wait to have Eli back in his own bed.

“Normally, we’d wait a week,” Dr. Stannis said. “But in Eli’s case, I’m recommending two.”

Sage’s euphoria disappeared. “Something is wrong?”

“The chemo was very hard on him. And we’ve already fought one infection. He’s young, and his body has been through a lot.”

“Are you sure that’s all?”

“I would tell you if there was anything else.”

“What about another hospital?” TJ asked.

Sage wanted to shout no.

Dr. Stannis switched her attention to TJ. “What do you mean?”

“Highside Hospital, on the coast.”

“They’re top-notch. There’s no doubt about that,” Dr. Stannis said.

“I’m affiliated with them,” TJ said. “They’re world renowned. I want to do everything possible to support his recovery.”

Dr. Stannis looked at Sage. “Medically speaking, yes, he could be moved there.”

“He’d have a private room,” TJ said to Sage. “It would be quieter for him while he recovered. Their equipment is state-of-the-art. If Eli came down with an infection or any other complication, he’d be in the best possible facility.”

Sage’s hands began to shake. “He wouldn’t have his mother.”

“You’d come with him. They have a residential facility for parents. You can stay there the whole time free of charge.”

“I have a job,” Sage protested. There was no way she could take another two weeks off. “After he’s out, once he’s better, the two of you can—”

“This isn’t about me seeing him.” TJ’s tone was firm. “This is about Eli getting the best care. The nurse-to-patient ratio in Highside is the lowest in the country. They have a pediatric ICU, an extensive on-site laboratory system, and they’re an oncology teaching facility.”

Dr. Stannis rose to her feet. “I’ll leave the two of you to talk.”

“One more question,” TJ said to Dr. Stannis.

“Of course.”

“If Eli was your son, would you choose St. Bea’s or Highside?”

Dr. Stannis’s hesitation and her guilty look in Sage’s direction answered the question.

“I have to be honest,” Dr. Stannis said. “Highside is unrivaled for patient care and outcomes.”

“Thank you,” TJ said.

Dr. Stannis left the office.

“I have to work while he’s recovering,” Sage said to TJ. “I can’t do that from Whiskey Bay.” Surely a mother’s love counted for something.

“Take some time off. Don’t worry about money, I can—”

“It’s not just the money.” She was embarrassed that her voice cracked. “I’ve missed so much time lately. They’re trying to be patient with me, but they’re going to have to replace me if I don’t get back there soon.”

“Where do you work?”

She found herself raising her chin. “The Eastway Community Center. I’m their event planner.”

She wasn’t embarrassed by her job. She did meaningful work that helped people in need. But she knew it was nothing compared to what TJ had accomplished since high school.

“Maybe I can talk to them.”

“Oh, no, you don’t.” The idea was offensive. She was an adult. She didn’t need some tall, male financial mogul in an expensive suit to advocate on her behalf. “Eli’s home is here. His mother is here. My life is here.”

“And my life is—” TJ suddenly stopped talking. He rocked back in his chair, looking annoyed with himself. “Fine. I’ll let it drop.”

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