“There you are!” he said, his hand raised in ready to knock.
Simone frowned. Why was he forever popping up when she didn’t want to see him? Which, unfortunately, was all the time and never. It was barely nine o’clock. Wasn’t it bad form to show up this early without calling first? “What are you doing here?”
“Looking for you. I tried that old lady’s house, but according to some girl, her name is an alphabet, Bea, Dee…”
“Kay,” Simone said.
“Yes. Kay. She said you weren’t there and she hadn’t seen you since yesterday. I found that a bit odd considering I dropped you off there last night. I assumed you’d be here.”
“I decided to come home. I wanted to be alone.”
“Had a lot on your mind, huh?”
He motioned to the house. “You gonna let me in?”
“Actually, if you couldn’t tell, I was just on my way out.” Dylan backed away as Simone stepped outside and closed the door. “Excuse me,” she said, making her way around him.
“Wait.” He took her arm, and like always his touch stirred something in her she didn’t quite understand. “Why did you lie to your mother about why I was with you last night?”
Desperate to keep her bearings, Simone pulled her arm away. She couldn’t let Dylan work his charm on her this morning. She had too much to do. “I didn’t lie. You were worried about me.”
“Yes, but I wasn’t there to take you to the movies. Not that I would have minded. Why did you add that part? Why wouldn’t you talk alone with your mother? And why were you so zealous in your insistence that your mom and Mr. Crane not let the elder Crane win?”
“Why do you ask so many questions?”
Dylan folded his arms across his chest. His handsome face set in determination. She knew he wouldn’t budge until she answered him.
Simone sighed. “Because Alistair wants them apart, that’s why,” she replied. “Regardless of what’s happening between Mom and Julian, I know she loves him. Julian makes her happy, and no one should come between that.” Mainly, she did it because her mother and Julian asked her, but she couldn’t share that with Dylan.
“Well, lying in a coma, I doubt Alistair Crane will be coming between anybody. I can’t believe the police chief suspects Julian tried to kill his own father.”
“Neither can I,” Simone added. She barely got a wink of sleep last night with worry about what was happening with Julian. Or maybe it was her conscious keeping her awake. She knew he was innocent, but Chief Bennett didn’t seem to agree. Hearing Julian was held overnight prompted her into action. Simone clutched her purse. God, give me strength. “I have to go.”
Dylan stepped in front of her, blocking her path. “Where are you off to?”
“None of your business. Please, get out of my way.”
Concern filled his blue eyes. He raked his hands through his dark hair, sighing. “Simone, don’t do anything stupid.”
“Yes. Whatever this is you think can help Julian.”
Could he read her mind, too? “I know I can help Julian,” she said.
“No, you can’t.”
“Oh, but I can, Dylan. You don’t know.” Tears blurred her vision. She couldn’t keep this to herself anymore. “Yesterday, I –”
Dylan silenced her with a kiss. It wasn’t a long kiss, more like a peck with a kick, but it was nice, and surprising.
Simone pressed her tingling lips together. “Why did you do that?” she asked, her tone so soft she barely heard herself speak.
“To get your attention, and because I wanted to.” Her stomach fluttered at the feel of his finger sliding against her cheek, brushing her tears away. “I care about you, Simone. No, I haven’t known you very long, but I know how I feel. I can’t let you run off to play savior for Julian at your own expense.”
“But you know I did something wrong.”
He pressed his finger to her lips. “No, I don’t know that,” he said. “What I know is I won’t let you go through whatever this is by yourself, okay?” He extended his hand and she readily accepted. His fingers locked around hers. “Let’s go inside and talk about whatever this is. We’ll figure something out.”
Simone nodded. Nothing Dylan could say would deter her from talking to Chief Bennett about her run-in with Alistair, but she would humor him nonetheless. His conviction to save her from herself yet another addition to his long list of appealing qualities she tried to resist but met with continual failure. Her lips twitched into a reluctant smile. Playboys weren’t supposed to have hero complexes.
Just as they entered the house, the telephone rang. Who could that be? No one knew she was there. Racing to the coffee table, she picked up the cordless phone on the second ring. “Hello.”
“Hello. Are you a family member of Mr. Thornton Chandler Russell?”
“I’m his daughter,” Simone answered, a feeling of dread settling in her stomach. “Why?”
“I’m calling from Harmony Hospital,” the man said. “There’s been an accident.”
Eve checked her watch for the tenth time in half as many minutes. Eight-forty. She rose from the table and paced the length of the floor. This waiting was killing her. She chewed on her thumbnail. “I don’t get it, Julian. Shouldn’t this Mason be here by now?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact he should. His office is only a couple of miles away. Even with the morning traffic he should have been here fifteen minutes ago.” Julian held out his hand, stopping Eve as she passed. “The pacing, my love, you’re making me dizzy.”
“I’m sorry,” she said, returning to her chair and taking his hand.
“It’s alright. I’m excited, too,” he said.
“I can’t believe he knows the identity of our son. After all these years, we’re finally going to know about him.” She squeezed his hand. “What do you think he’ll be like, Julian? Do you think he’ll like us?”
Julian smiled. “I like to think he’s a happy young man, maybe with a family of his own. I do believe he’ll like us think. There’s no reason he wouldn’t love you.” He pressed a kiss to her hand. “And once he learns what Father did to keep us apart and away from him, I’m sure he will understand.”
She nodded. “Me, too. At least I hope so.” Eve slid her cell phone across the table to Julian. “Try calling Mason again, Julian. Maybe you’ll get through this time.”
“I’ll give it a try,” he said, punching in the numbers. “I better not find out Mason had his phone turned off all this time.”
Sam returned to the room before Julian could complete his call. The door slammed behind him. “Eve, what are you still doing here?” He stormed over to her. “I said ten minutes!”
“You don’t have to shout, Sam,” Eve scolded. The man lowered his head. His shoulders slumped. At least he had the decency to feel bad about his gruff tone. “When you didn’t come back, I thought you decided to let me stay longer.”
“You thought wrong, Eve. There was a bad accident downtown. I had to dispatch several cars and men to control traffic, that’s why I was gone. What is Julian doing with that cell phone?”
“It’s called telephoning, Bennett. I’m trying to reach my lawyer,” Julian answered, filling the room with electronically enhanced beeps as he continued the dialing process. “I’ve had about as much of your civil servant hospitality as I can stand. I expect to be out of this place by the top of the hour and you and this cop shop can expect a world of litigation for holding me in the first place.” He shot Sam an angry scowl as he brought the phone to his ear.
“Did you give Alistair a similar threat before you bashed his head in?”
Eve gasped. “Sam! You can’t believe Julian did that.”
“All I know is a man is fighting for his life in the hospital and Julian is one person who has a motive for wanting him there.”
“Sam, everybody in Harmony has a reason for wanting Alistair dead, but you don’t have them here.”
“I’m working my way down the list,” Sam grumbled, his gaze still fixed on Julian. “I still wonder why you care, Eve? Shouldn’t you be filing for an annulment about now?”
Eve shook her head. Sam was hopeless.
“Mason! Man, where are you?” Julian said, shooting Sam a hateful glare before making his way to the far corner of the room. “Stuck in traffic?” He nodded. “Yes, I heard there was an accident.”
Sam’s eyes stayed riveted to Julian. He took a few steps forward.
Eve cleared her throat. Her hand closed around Sam’s shoulder. “I think he should be able to speak to his lawyer alone and without you watching him like a hawk.”
A knock on the door turned Sam around. “Chief Bennett,” the uniformed officer said, motioning Sam over.
Sam held up his finger to the officer. “Give me a minute.”
“It’s urgent, sir.”
Sam sighed. He looked at Eve. “Maybe you should come with me.”
She shook her head. “No, I’m fine.”
Sam glanced at Julian before turning to the door. “I’ll be right back.”
At Sam’s exit, Eve made her way to Julian’s side. She twined her arm around his. “Did he tell you the name of our son?”
“Not yet,” Julian answered. “Look, Mason, I’m desperate to get out of here, but more than anything I need to know the identity of my son. Who is he?”
Eve could hear Mason speaking but couldn’t make out what he said. Julian drew a deep breath. His cheeks reddened. “No, I’m not sitting down and I don’t need to. Just tell me my son’s name.”
Eve tightened her grip on Julian’s arm. Why would Mason ask him to sit down? Was their son someone they knew? “Julian?”
She heard more of Mason’s indistinct garble.
Julian’s eyes widened. “What?” He shook his head. “No, that’s—that’s impossible,” he stammered.
“What’s impossible? Julian, what is he saying?”
Julian held up his hand, halting her questions. “Eve’s, with me. I know what you thought, and I’ll explain that later, but I need you to explain what you just said.” A few moments passed with more of Mason’s mutterings. “File? But how-- No, this is one of Alistair’s tricks.”
“Alistair’s tricks?” Oh, God. Was their son dead? Had Alistair been stringing them along all this time? Tears filled Eve’s eyes. “Julian, what is it? What did he say?”
“Mason, just get here as soon as you can.” Julian ended the call and dropped the phone to the table. He met her gaze. He didn’t look happy, but he didn’t really look sad. What he did look was confused.
“Do I need to sit down?” Eve asked.
“I don’t know,” Julian murmured. He closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I can’t believe this.”
“He’s not dead is he?”
“No. No, he’s not dead.” He sighed. “I don’t want to tell you this Eve, because I can’t—I can’t see how it’s true, but Mason said…”
“Said what?” she prompted.
“He said that--”
Sam came barreling into the room. “Eve, you need to come with me.”
“Damn it, Bennett, would you leave us alone!” Julian erupted.
Eve rubbed Julian’s arm, at an attempt to keep him calm. “Sam, now is not a good time,” she said.
“It’s not the best time for me, either, Eve. That terrible accident in town…” his voice broke. Shaky hands covered his mouth.
Eve’s heart sank. What now? “Oh, God, Sam, what is it? Who?”
“T.C.! He came racing through town, ran a red light, and crashed into a car crossing the intersection.”
“No,” she whispered. Julian slipped his arm around her waist. Eve backed into him, grateful for his support. She and T.C. weren’t on the best terms, but she didn’t wish him harm. “How is he?”
“Bad. It’s very bad, Eve.” Sam sniffled. “But that’s not the worst of it.”
“What do you mean?” Julian asked.
“The car he ran into was Ethan and Gwen’s.”
Julian’s body stiffened against her. He swallowed audibly. “Ethan? T.C. ran into Ethan?”
Eve held fast to Julian’s hand. She knew how much he cared about Ethan. This had to be killing him. “How are they? Ethan, Gwen, and the baby?” she asked.
Sam shrugged. “They had to be cut out of the car,” he said, his voice weighted with emotion. “I have to get to the hospital. Ivy’s on her way there now. I thought you would want to know.”
“We’re coming,” Julian said, ushering Eve toward the door. He fixed a warning scowl at Sam. “Don’t try and stop me, Bennett!”
“Do whatever the hell you want! I need to get to my son.” Sam bounded out the room.
“My son,” Julian murmured. “Our son.”
Our son? Eve turned to Julian. Her heart dropped to her stomach. “What did you say?”
“The file. The name.” Tears streamed down his face. “Eve, it said Ethan is our son. He’s our son.”