He brushed away his tears and took her hand. “My love, let’s go.”
“Go?” Eve wrenched her hand free. “I think you need to explain what you just said.”
He shrugged. “I don’t know what else I can tell you. Mason told me the file Dancey left at his office said our son is Ethan. I don’t understand how, but it’s what he said.”
“Of course you understand how. It’s Alistair! It’s no wonder somebody bashed his head in. Ethan can’t be our son, Julian.” Eve closed her eyes, rubbing her temples. “No, it’s not possible.”
“Are you sure? You saw our baby after he was born, did he look…”
“He was very small and fair, Julian. Most black babies are born fair, and with our son being biracial, he was extremely fair, but—”
“So, he looked white.”
“Yes, he did, but still, it’s not even about the pigmentation, or even his features. I’m a doctor. I know biracial children can be light, dark, or a combination of in-betweens. That’s not my question. Our son was born weeks before Ethan, and in Boston. How could it be that Ethan is our son?”
“Ethan weighed over ten pounds when he was born.. If our son was small and fair when he was born, chances are weeks later he would still be fair, just bigger.”
“With Alistair involved, anything is possible. All I do know right now is Ethan is in the hospital and we need to get to him.”
Eve held fast to his hand as he led her to the door. He turned to her when she gave it a squeeze. Tears shined in her eyes. “How are we going to deal with this if it’s true, Julian? On top of everything else.”
“Like we handle everything else--together,” he said, pressing a kiss to her hand. “Leaning on each other, and praying that everybody pulls through.” Julian brought her into an embrace. “I’ll call Mason and tell him to meet us the hospital.” The underlying anger he felt from the moment he heard about this accident took root inside him, threatening to overwhelm the good judgment he knew he needed to hold on to. “I swear to God, Eve, if anything happens to Ethan…” His words trailed off before he continued. “If that maniac ex-husband of yours isn’t already dead, I will kill him myself.”
Simone raced off the hospital elevator with Dylan hot on her heels. She stopped at the fourth floor nurse’s station but before she could question the lone nurse behind the desk, she spotted Liz out the corner of her tear-filled eyes.
The woman stood. Thick white gauze covered the left side of her forehead, and her right arm was held close to her body with the aid of sling. Slow steps propelled her forward as Simone made her advance.
“I’m glad you’re here,” Liz said, embracing Simone with her good arm. “It was so awful.” She sniffled. Pulling back, Liz’s gaze fell upon Dylan.
“This is Dylan.” Simone explained. “He’s a friend. She searched Liz’s face, confused by the woman’s last statement. “You were in the car with Daddy?”
“Yes. We had just come back from the Dominican Republic.”
“We? What were you doing in the Dominican Republic with him?”
“Your father and I—” Liz began.
Simone raised her hand and shook her head. “Never mind,” she said. Her mother was married to Julian; somehow her father being involved with Liz wasn’t even in the running on the surprise list. Although her mother might be a little taken aback. For whatever reason, she didn’t seem to care much for their houseguest. “How is Daddy?”
“Bad, Simone. He was thrown from the car and arrested on the way to the hospital.”
“Oh, my God. Daddy.” The room started to spin. Her knees buckled.
Dylan dashed to her aid before she slumped to the floor. “Come on, you need to sit down,” he said, ushering her to the empty row of chairs.
He kept his arm around her and offered words of comfort as Liz hobbled over and joined them.
Simone closed her hand around Dylan’s, grateful for his support as the worst thoughts imaginable filled her head. She drew a breath, attempting to steady her extremely frayed nerves. It didn’t help. The pungent smell of antiseptic and sickness all around her only served to exacerbate her lightheadedness. After a couple of minutes, the dizziness passed.
“I was told he was rushed into emergency surgery. He hasn’t…?” Simone asked, her shaky voice trailing.
“No, Simone, he’s still in surgery.”
She nodded. “Okay,” she managed between sobs. “How could he be thrown from the car?”
“He wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.”
“Shh! Stay calm, sweetheart,” Dylan advised, rubbing her shoulder.
“Daddy has never gotten into a car without buckling his seatbelt,” she remarked, brushing away he tears. “He wouldn’t even pull out of the yard before Whitney and I buckled up. He hammered the importance of driver safety into our heads. Why would he be driving without his seatbelt?”
“Because he was angry,” Liz said. “He was so angry, Simone, he couldn’t even see straight. You know your father’s temper.”
“What was he angry about?”
Liz rubbed her injured arm. “Your mother’s marriage to Julian and their new son Chad.”
Fresh tears welled in Simone’s eyes as the gravity of this situation stared her straight in the face. She never liked this lie, and now it could be responsible for her father’s death.
“He saw a paper while we were on the island,” Liz continued. “When he read about the marriage and realized Whitney had been—she’d been intimate with her own brother, he was out for blood. Julian’s blood. We got off the plane this morning and he rushed to my car, desperate to find Julian and make him pay for causing this hurt to Whitney.”
“So, what happened? Somebody ran into him?”
Liz shook her head. “No, it was T.C. who did the running into. He was flying through town and ran a red light, straight into an oncoming car.”
Simone closed her eyes. Failing to block the new flow of her tears. How much worse could this day get?
“The driver of the other car and the passengers, are they okay?” asked Dylan.
“No, they’re not,” Liz answered. She sighed. “Simone, there’s something else you need to know.”
Simone tensed. There it was. The worse she dreaded shining in Liz’s eyes.
The clapping of high heels against the glossy tiled floor drew closer. A fuming Rebecca Hotchkiss led a group that included Ivy Winthrop, and Chief and Mrs. Bennett. The irate woman stopped inches in front of Simone, pulling her up from the chair.
Too stunned to speak, Simone stood there, her mouth agape, as the woman’s grip tightened around her arm.
Quick as a flash, Dylan jerked Rebecca’s hand away and gave her a stare-down that would stop an attacking rottweiler in its tracks. “What is wrong with you, Rebecca? Simone just found out her father was in a serious car accident! How dare you come up to her like that!”
“Her father! Dylan, is Simone’s father more important to you than your cousin, her husband, and unborn baby?”
“What are you talking about?”
Simone couldn’t help wondering the same.
“That crazy man ran into them! My Gwennie is in surgery where doctors are hoping to save her and her baby, and you’re concerned about Simone’s upset!” Unshed tears shined in her eyes as she continued. “Her upset will be the least of her problems if anything happens to my baby and hers.” Rebecca peered over Dylan’s shoulder, shooting a glare that chilled Simone to her bones. “Your mother stole my pookie from me, if your father kills my Gwen, your family is going to have hell to pay. No one will be safe from my wrath. Do you understand me!”
Anger mixed with the worry already consuming Julian when he walked off the elevator to find his ex-fiancée in the midst of vicious tirade leveled at his stepdaughter.
“Get the hell away from her, Rebecca!” he demanded, dropping Eve’s hand and rushing over to the fray.
Simone raced to the safety of Eve’s arms. “Mom.”
“Shh, sweetie, it’s okay,” Eve soothed.
“How dare you go after Simone like that!” Julian barked. “This is not her fault.”
“You’re right about that, Julian, it’s all Eve’s fault,” Liz accused, her beady-eyed stare fixed on her sister. “Eve and her lies.”
Julian groaned. How was it this hellcat walked away from the accident only slightly battered and bruised? While it appeared the others were in a fight for their very lives. He met her hostile glare. “Shut up, Liz! If you were any good at keeping T.C. occupied, you would both still be in the Dominican Republic and none of this would have happened.” He returned his focus to Rebecca. “As for you, I know you’re upset, but if you ever threaten Simone again, you will have to deal with me! Do you understand?”
Rebecca turned away with a jerk and stomped away. Julian looked from Ivy to Sam. “Now, can someone tell me how Ethan is doing?”
“Everyone is in surgery. Ethan has some sort of head injury,” Sam shared. Julian’s chest tightened. He closed his eyes. Ethan. “That’s all we know.”
“Like you even give a damn, Julian!” Ivy sneered, dabbing her watery, red-streaked eyes. “You threw Ethan out of your house and life the moment you learned he wasn’t your son.”
“And who was the bitch who lied to Ethan and me for most of his life about him being my son? How dare you say I didn’t care about him! I love Ethan. I always have.”
Julian glared at his ex. The last thing he needed was Ivy reminding him how he treated Ethan when that ‘truth’ came out. What stupefying irony it would be if this file proved Ethan was indeed his son, and not Ivy’s. That the boy he loved so much was his son with the love of his life.
Grace moved between the two. “I think everyone needs to take a breath,” she suggested, attempting to be the voice of reason. “We’re all upset, but this is not a time to turn on each other. We all want the same thing. For our loved ones to be okay.”
Sam brought his arm around his wife. “Grace is right. So, let’s end all this fighting. It’s not helping anyone.”
Eve smoothed Simone’s hair as she continued to hold her close. “It’s going to be okay, sweetie,” she assured her. “Everything is going to be fine.”
Simone pulled away. “No, it’s not, Mom! Daddy found out about your marriage to Julian and your connection to Chad and got angry because Whitney was sleeping with her brother.” She sniffled. “He came home to kill Julian, but instead he may have just ended up killing himself along with Ethan, Gwen, and their unborn baby.”
“Please, Simone, don’t say that. Ethan and his family are going to be okay, and so will your father.”
“You don’t know that.” Simone smoothed her tears away. “This is what lies cause, Mom. I can’t take anymore of this!”
“Simone!” Dylan made his way over. “You’re too upset and you really need to calm down, okay?”
“Dylan, I appreciate what you’re doing, but you can’t save me.”
“What’s going on, Simone,” Sam asked, moving to where she stood with her mother. “What lies are you talking about?”
“Leave her alone, Bennett!” Julian demanded, unwilling to let his stepdaughter be railroaded into saying who knows what. “Simone is sick with worry about her father, and you want to question her about what? Nothing!”
“No, it’s something, Julian,” Simone piped in. “I need to find out what’s going on with Daddy, but afterward I have to make a statement to you, Chief Bennett.”
Eve cupped Simone’s face. “What are you talking about, sweetheart. What statement do you need to make?”
Julian joined his wife and stepdaughter, and ushered them a few feet away from the others. “Tell me what’s going on here, Simone,” he whispered, checking over his shoulder as Sam continued to keep an eye on them. “I can’t help you unless I know what’s wrong.”
“You can’t help me at all, Julian, but I can help you,” she replied. “I have to try to make things better.”
“Simone, please, reconsider this,” Dylan pressed, sticking his head into the impromptu powwow. “You’re being rash.”
Julian rolled his eyes. This fellow was really starting to test the tiny bit of patience he had left. “Look, Dylan,” Julian said through gritted teeth, “I understand why you’re here at the hospital, but you don’t need to be right here. This is a family matter, and it does not involve you.”
“But it involves Simone, and I care about her, Mr. Crane. I’m not going to let her do something that’s going to hurt her.”
“You know about what’s bothering her?”
Dylan’s eyes stayed fixed on Simone. “I have my suspicions, sir.”
Dear God, what was it now? Julian checked his watch. Where
was Mason with that file? Maybe he and Eve should tell Simone what
they’ve learned about Ethan. What they think could be true. He sighed.
But would that be wise, especially given the obvious guilt the poor
girl was already feeling? Simone still didn’t know Liz was her aunt.
When he implemented this plan to find his and Eve’s son, he never
dreamed it would come to this.
“Somebody, please, tell me what’s going on,” Eve implored, looking from Dylan to Simone. “One of you needs to start talking.”
“I’ll talk,” Simone said. “It’s about Alistair, Mom. I know Julian didn’t try to kill him.”
“Simone,” Dylan pleaded.
“No, Dylan, I can’t take this burden anymore.”
“What is it Simone?” Eve’s worried tone took on an anxious edge. “How do you know Julian didn’t try to kill Alistair?”
Julian tightened his arm around his wife. Supporting her and bracing himself for the other shoe he knew was about to drop.
“I know Julian didn’t try to kill Alistair because I did it. It was