Wife by Design(3)

By: Tara Taylor Quinn


His family was close by. And hers had visited twice since the baby’s birth. They’d help with whatever the problem was.

Maybe that was it. Maybe he was tired of both sets of parents camping out on their doorstep now that Kara was there.

“Please, Brandon. You’re making me crazy with worry. What’s wrong?”

She braced herself. Knew, when he met and held her gaze, that her life was about to change forever. And still wasn’t prepared for his reply.

“I’m gay.”


Present

THIRTY-EIGHT-YEAR-OLD Grant Bishop wasn’t an emotional guy. He was a busy guy—too busy to get tangled up in things he couldn’t control. Except for the things he couldn’t let go.

He couldn’t let go of Darin’s condition.

Sitting in the silence of his older brother’s hospital room that balmy February morning, he rested one ankle on his knee and beat out the rhythm playing over and over in his brain. Da da dah. Da da dah. Da da dah. Da da dah.

Dr. Zimmer’s Tuesday-morning rounds were at seven-thirty. Grant wanted to be at a job site across town by nine so he could be back to make sure Darin got up in his chair for lunch. As long as his brother cooperated, he should be able to have Darin back home the next day.

Assuming the doctor told him the previous day’s surgery had gone as well as he’d thought. That Darin was responding as expected. His forty-four-year-old brother had still been groggy from the anesthetic the night before when Grant, after spending fourteen hours at the hospital, had finally gone home to shower and get some sleep.

Darin, with a big patch of gauze taped over one side of his head, didn’t look much different nine hours later.

More than two nights in the hospital was going to be a financial hardship. But if Darin wasn’t ready to go home Wednesday morning, they’d manage. He’d paid off the loan against his landscaping business and could borrow again if he had to.

And if there was a long-term problem? If the surgery hadn’t been successful? If the infection that had formed around the bit of irremovable stingray barb lodged in his brother’s brain was still active?

If Darin experienced any of the numerous side effects that could have resulted from the craniotomy itself?

Hands clasped, he pounded his thumbs together, keeping the beat with the rhythm rocking his foot.

Darin was going to be just fine. The brothers had been dealing with this—Darin’s accident—for seventeen years, and things always worked out.

Maura, the sixty-year-old widow next door, checked in on Darin for Grant on the rare days his brother couldn’t accompany him to the job site, in exchange for handyman work whenever anything needed fixing at her place. She was all set to nurse Darin through the two weeks postsurgery the doc had said it would take before his brother was able to return to work.

Arrangements had been made. Details tended to.

It was 7:40 and the doctor was late. Standing, hands tucked into the pockets of his jeans, Grant walked to the door of his brother’s room, pulled it open and stood in the entryway, watching the hallway. Nurses went to and from rooms; an orderly pushed a cart with breakfast trays up the hall, stopping at doors, delivering trays and moving on.

Darin was still on IV. He should have progressed to a liquid diet the night before but hadn’t cooperated enough to sit up and drink. He’d barely regained consciousness and hadn’t known Grant was even in the room, prodding him.

Running his fingers through thick black hair that hadn’t yet begun to show the gray that had started to appear on his older brother’s head, Grant rolled his shoulders and sat back down. He’d built extra time into his schedule in case the doctor was late. This wasn’t his first hospital run. He knew how things worked.

And Santa Raquel, the coastal California town where he and Darin had settled after Darin’s accident, wasn’t all that big. He could make it across town and to his job site in less than twenty.

“Grant?” The deep voice had Grant out of his chair and at the bedside in one second flat.

“Right here, bro,” he said, pushing the hair off from his brother’s forehead as he took Darin’s right hand in his and held on. “Just like always.”

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