The Good Luck Charm Page 2

“I didn’t realize Martin had been admitted until a few minutes ago. How long have you been here?” I lock down the emotion and switch gears to professional mode. This I can do. This I am good at. I read through the chart at the end of the bed, then cross the room to check the monitors—though my mind barely registers the numbers.

“I don’t know. Awhile, I guess. I just got into town and then … this happened.” I can feel Ethan’s eyes on me. I self-consciously touch the end of my ponytail, having given up on wearing it down by lunch. My scrubs are a size too big, and my running shoes are old and scuffed, my good ones still soaked from this morning. I look as bad as I feel, and I hate that I care about the way he perceives me and that it’s even a thought, with Martin hooked up to monitors, his prognosis uncertain.

“His vitals are good, but we won’t know anything long-term quite yet. Where’s Jeannie?”

“Mom stepped out to get some coffee.” He rubs the back of his neck, as if he’s trying to ease the tension. “So you’re a nurse here?”

The fact that he has to ask, that it’s not something he knows, feels like another shot to the chest. Maybe he’s making small talk, but it still hurts to be reminded that he knows nothing about my life.

I look down at my scrubs, as if they hold the answer to his question—which in a way they do, considering the hospital name is emblazoned on the pocket over my heart. At my silence he clears his throat. “I thought you were at Mercy in Minneapolis.”

“I transferred a while ago.” I’ve been here since just after the New Year. The last time Jeannie mentioned Ethan was two weeks ago. She’d said something about hoping he’d come for a visit before the hockey season started, not that it would make a difference to me since he never made an effort to see me when he blew in and out of town.

A very small part of me is happy he’s here—for Jeannie and Martin. But the bigger part, the part that he discarded so carelessly all those years ago, is hurt that this is what it’s taken to get him in the same room as me for the first time in almost a decade.

He shoves his hands into his pockets, then withdraws them, smoothing them over his thighs. “I figured you’d be working on your residency by now.”

I can’t tell if it’s a dig, or if I’m interpreting it that way because this day has been full of them. “Sometimes we have to readjust our goals.”

“Yeah. Don’t I know it,” he mutters.

I don’t have a chance to ask about the deeper meaning of that, or stoke the already awkward fire raging between us, because we’re interrupted.

“Delilah!” Jeannie’s holding two coffees, one in each hand. When our eyes meet, I see every worry and question. From her fears about Martin to my interaction with Ethan—all of it passes in the few seconds before she opens her arms for me. Like a mother would. Like she’s always done.

And I fall right into that offered solace, because I feel as though I’m a ball of wool, unraveling into a darkness that doesn’t seem to end. I wrap my arms around her, seeking comfort, not just for Martin, but for everything that’s happened today.

The possibility that I could lose the man I’ve come to see as a father—after my own dad left my mom, me, and my five siblings behind in search of a life that didn’t include us—is excruciatingly untenable. Even after Ethan and I broke up, Martin was the one who helped make sure I wasn’t getting ripped off when I bought my first car, taught me how to fix my leaky sink, and always had a smile and a hug whenever I came over to visit. I don’t know if I can handle this—not with the way the rest of my life seems to be falling apart, too. Especially with Ethan standing here, hints of the boy I once loved hidden behind those arresting eyes. It took me long enough to finally get over him disappearing from my life and now I wonder if I ever really did get over him at all.

I have years of pent-up frustration, resentment, and disappointment churning in my head and in my heart, and all I want to do is throw it all at Ethan. But there are more important things going on right now.

“It’s okay. Shhh, Delilah; he’ll be all right,” Jeannie says quietly, rubbing slow circles on my back.

I realize I’m crying soundless, body-shaking sobs that I’m unable to control. I’m embarrassed and angry with myself that I’m falling apart like this when clearly it’s Jeannie who needs the support.

When I manage to pull myself together enough to release her, I ask brokenly, “What can I do for you? Why don’t I go to the house? I just finished my shift; I can feed Flower, bring you a change of clothes and anything else you might need for tonight.” My offers are clearly unnecessary, especially with Ethan being here. I don’t like this feeling, like I’m not needed. I’ve always been the one Jeannie comes to when she needs something.

“I thought Flower ran away,” Ethan says from behind me.

It’s such a normal question in such an abnormal situation.

“Turns out the new neighbors across the street put in a cat door and Flower took to sleeping in their basement, until they discovered the raccoons in the area were using it, too.” Jeannie touches my arm. “Remember when the babies got into their fridge while they were away for the weekend?”

“Their entire kitchen was a mess!” We giggle and then Jeannie brings her hand to her mouth, stifling a sob.

“Martin helped us clean it all up before they got back,” I say softly.

Jeannie turns to Ethan, who I’ve been trying desperately not to look in the eye, and says in a wavering voice, “What if he’s not okay?”

Ethan steps up and pulls her into his broad chest. “I’ll be here to help, no matter what happens.”

I don’t understand how he can do that when he’s living in Chicago, but maybe he’s placating.

“I’m so glad you’re coming home,” Jeannie says.

My stomach dips and then flips. I finally meet his gaze again. Raw emotions make him look older than twenty-seven. My questions must be evident in my expression.

“I’ve been traded to Minnesota,” he explains.

I feel like I’m taking slap shots to the heart left, right, and center today. And this might be the one that finally does me in.

chapter two




You’re coming home.” It’s a soft whisper filled with a range of emotions, not the least of which is anger.

“I am.”

I look away as Ethan envelops Jeannie in a hug, murmuring soothing words. He’s her anchor in an otherwise turbulent sea of uncertainty.

I focus on Martin’s unconscious form, feeling as if I’m intruding on a private moment, unsure of my role. Usually I’m Jeannie’s shoulder and she’s mine, but Ethan’s presence changes everything. As does his permanence.

Jeannie’s burst of emotion dissipates on a deep exhale. She turns to me with a small smile. “I’d like to stay the night. Do you think the hospital will allow that?”

“I could—” I’m about to offer to stay with her, but I pause, then force the corners of my mouth to lift and approximate a smile. I’m not needed with Ethan here. “I’m sure I can get clearance. I’ll see about having a lounger brought in so you don’t have to sleep in one of those chairs.” I motion to the one beside the bed.

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