His Temptation, Her Secret(3)

By: Barbara Dunlop


“Everything okay?” Matt had appeared beside him.

“Fine. Hopefully very fine. I may be a bone marrow match for a nine-year-old boy in Seattle.”

It seemed to take Matt a moment to process the statement.

“I really hate to cut out on you,” TJ said.

“Go!” Matt said, making a shooing motion with his hands. “Go, save a life.”

TJ could feel his adrenaline come up with purpose. His next call was to a jet charter company he’d used in the past.

He didn’t want to fight for a seat on a red-eye when a young boy and his mother were waiting. And he could afford to fly privately. There were moments in life when it came in handy to be a ridiculously wealthy man.

* * *

As she followed the wide corridor at St. Bea’s Hospital, Sage Costas’s heels echoed against the polished linoleum. Her stomach churned as it had for the past nine days while her son, Eli, had undergone a battery of tests and been diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia. The closer she came to the family lounge, the harder her heart pounded. She found herself wondering how much stress the human body could endure before it simply shut down.

She’d barely slept all week, hadn’t slept at all last night. She’d forced herself to shower this morning and put on a little makeup. She didn’t know why she thought makeup might help. But she wanted to make a good impression. She was terrified the donor would back out.

She could see him now. Through the lounge windows, she could see a tall, dark-haired, smartly dressed man talking to Dr. Stannis. He had to be the donor.

Her steps slowed, and she swallowed. Then she stopped at the closed door. It was more than she could do to push the handle. She’d prayed desperately for this moment. So much was at stake. She wasn’t sure she could face it if the process fell apart.

She forced herself to open the door and step inside the lounge.

Dr. Stannis immediately spotted her. “Hello, Sage.”

The man turned. His expression was instant bewilderment. “Sage?”

Her world tipped on its axis.

“Is that you?” he asked, stepping forward.

A roar came up in her ears. Her vision switched to black and white, then tunneled down to a pinhole.

“Sage?” Dr. Stannis moved quickly, taking her by the arm.

Sage’s brain pulsed a million miles an hour. The room swayed for a moment, until her vision cleared.

He was still standing there.

“I’m fine,” she managed to say around the lingering noise inside her head.

“Have you met TJ Bauer?” Dr. Stannis asked with obvious curiosity.

“We went to the same high school.” Her voice was little more than a squeak.

How could this be happening?

“It’s your son who’s sick?” TJ’s expression was filled with concern. “I’m so sorry, Sage.”

Then his forehead creased, and she could all but see the calculations going on inside his head.

He turned to the doctor. “You said he was nine?”

“Yes.”

TJ twisted slowly back to Sage, his words carefully enunciated. “And I’m a likely bone marrow match for him?”

Sage tried to swallow again, but her throat had gone paper dry.

TJ’s eyes shifted from blue to gray thunder. “Is he my son?”

The doctor went still. The entire world went still. The ventilation system clicked against the booming silence.

All Sage could manage was a nod.

Dr. Stannis’s grip firmed up on Sage’s arm. “Perhaps we should sit down.”

“I have a son?” TJ asked, his voice hoarse. “You got pregnant?”

Sage tried to speak. She managed to move her lips, but no sounds came out.

TJ wasn’t having the same problem. “And you didn’t tell me?”

Dr. Stannis jumped in. “I think it would be best if we all—”

Bitterness suddenly broke through Sage’s fear. She found her voice, all but shouting. “You didn’t deserve to know.”

“Sage.” Dr. Stannis’s tone was shocked and sharp.

Sage immediately realized her mistake.

They were dependent on TJ. Eli’s life depended on this man’s good graces, this man who had deceived her, lied to her and taken shameless advantage of her teenage naïveté as a prank to amuse his friends.

She hated him. But he was the one person who could save her son’s life.

“I’m sorry,” she said, trying desperately to put some sincerity into her tone.

Judging by his expression, she hadn’t pulled it off.

“Please don’t…” Her stomach cramped up. “Please don’t take it out on Eli.”

He looked completely dumbfounded. Then he swore under his breath. “You actually think I’d harm a little boy…my own son—” He seemed to gather himself. “You think I’d let my anger with you impact my decision to donate? What kind of a man do you think I am?”

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