When You Dance With the Devil

© by J. ‘Harley’ Elmore, 2003 – 2004



See disclaimers in Chapter One

Chapter 12, Part 1

Always the consummate professional, Manny divested the area of anything that could be traced back to him. Coming here had been a substantial risk, but one he’d decided was his only option. Odd as it seemed, there was still a place in his heart for Deven, just as there had been for that twenty-year-old punk kid with a penchant for getting into trouble she’d once been. Back then, he’d seen a depth in that antagonistic young fighter and had believed that given time and guidance, she’d possessed unlimited potential.

But that potential was decimated - in part because I failed to acknowledge that you were in trouble. That was my shortsightedness. All I needed was a few more hours, Deven, and I would have had you out of that hospital. I would have had you home and everything wouldn’t have fallen apart.

Manny shook his head sadly. You were so headstrong and difficult. Aggressive and powerful. And so very feral. But, that was never the whole of you, was it, Deven?

He clearly remembered a morning when he’d been strolling through the garden and had come upon Sali and Deven sitting side by side on the edge of the pool with their feet dangling in the water. The boy had been visibly upset about something, and Deven had revealed a compassion and understanding that had stopped the man in his tracks.

You possessed an unusual depth of empathy and tenderness. A secret you kept carefully hidden. But not always, eh? Not from Sali and certainly not from Tito. I miss him, Deven, and I know he missed you. You were a true friend, and he never forgot you. You gave him the courage to accept who he was, and you stood by his side as he told his mother and I the truth. I know that it wasn’t his fault anymore than it was yours. But no parent, no matter how progressive they think they are, wants to hear that their child is a homosexual. I think I could have dealt with that, but you… you cocky, arrogant, little bitch. Manny smiled. You dared me to not accept him. My God, you were such a pain in my ass!

Eight years, Deven. Perhaps, I should have told you some of these things eight years ago, he thought as his gaze settled on the limp form lying not more than twenty feet away. The woman hadn’t stirred in some time, and Manny was tempted to go over and see if she’d passed. Finally giving into the compulsion, he took a step forward but stopped when she coughed. She mumbled something he couldn’t understand and raised the gun. A deep pang of disappointment filled his chest.

All right, Deven. If this is what you choose, I will stand vigil as a witness to your passing. The weapon fired and Manny cocked his had slightly. It fired four more times in quick succession, apparently aimed at nothing in particular. What are you doing?

Too weak to hold it steady for long, Deven lowered the gun. You failed anyway. You didn’t really think you’d hit the alarm system, did you? You can’t fucking see! You don’t even know which direction you’re facing anymore! And why are you even trying? Because, Masterson, you’re a fucking coward! One shot is all it would take and this whole mess would be over. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

A faint noise caught her attention, and hushing her thoughts, she listened. The sound came again, a slight shuffling of feet. Great. Now what? Several seconds passed, and then suddenly lifting the pistol, she aimed it unerringly at the center of Manny’s chest. Why are you protecting yourself? Let whoever it is kill you and be done with this.

Manny didn’t know if the martial artist realized how perfectly the pistol was aimed, but he wasn’t going to test her abilities. "Easy, Deven," he said. "I just want to talk to you."

"Give me…one…reason…not…to…shoot you?" Each word was an ordeal to enunciate, but she forced them out.

"You shoot me and Salvatore shoots you." The gun remained steady. "It may not be a good reason, but it is a reason. Besides, you know that if something happened to me, there would most likely be a backlash. And I know you don’t want that."


"Actually, I never left. I’ve been waiting to see what you’d do. I felt I owed you that."

She snorted and lowered the gun. Moving forward, he knelt beside her once more and studied her closely. There was no doubt that she was suffering greatly and without medical attention soon, she would die. "Do you want to live?" he asked her in the same soothing tone he’d used earlier.

What’s the point? The point, you moron, is that you don’t really want to die. If you did, you’d have killed yourself already. For once in your life, face the truth! Okay. The truth is I don’t want to die. Not yet. I know that I’ve already probably lost Rhian, but what if somehow she could forgive me? And my son doesn’t deserve to have this be his last memory of me.

Tears leaked from under swollen eyelids. Damn it, Deven, for whatever reason Manny is giving you a chance here. No one else would have. Take it! Take it while you still can. "Yes," she whispered.

He lightly stroked her cheek as he took the gun from her hand. "Listen carefully. They will come for you, but you know I can’t be anywhere near here when they do. So, it will be a little while. You have to hang on. I’ll make sure you’re safe until they find you, but you have to fight now. Do you understand?"


"Salvatore, get the car," he instructed his son, and then spoke to her again. "Lottare per la sua vita. Lottare per il suo amore."

She tried to concentrate on what he was saying, but it was diffcult. "Fight for…what?"

"Fight for your life. Fight for your love," he translated for her.


The phone rang, sounding unreasonably loud in the kitchen. Rhian jumped up from the chair and grabbed the receiver. "Hello?"


"Yes?" The voice sounded familiar, but she couldn’t quite place it. "Who is this?"

"It’s Alex Perez."

"Oh, Alex, have they found her?"

"Not yet. But, Rhian, we located Mace Collier."

"What did he say? Did he tell you where she is?" The landscaper felt hope for the first time since this whole tribulation had begun.

"No," he answered. "There’s no easy way to say this. Rhian, he’s dead."

"Where?" She swallowed, trying to erase the burning in the back of her throat. "Where was he?" Feeling like she’d just been punched in the stomach, she dropped down into the chair and the minuscule of hope slipped through her fingers.

"He was found in an alley downtown," Alex said. "But it was obvious that he’d been left there so there isn’t any indication that Deven is there, too." This part of his job was hard under normal circumstances, but this wasn’t some stranger. He knew these people, and it was personal. "Listen, that doesn’t mean that she’s dead. We’re still looking and I swear to you, I’m not going to stop until she’s found."

"Thank you, Alex."

"I’ll keep you informed, okay? Don’t give up, Rhian. We’re not." He waited but she didn’t respond. "Is there anything Lydia or I can do for you?"

"Find her."

"I’ll be in touch."

"Bye," she said and then hung up the phone. "They found Mace."

"What did he say?" Jay asked. "Man, the next time I see that guy, I’m going to beat the crap out of him."

"You can’t," Rhian replied despondently. "He’s dead."

Part 2

Patrol cars were parked outside of the building with lights flashing and radios blaring as dispatchers’ relayed information. Police officers stood in clusters discussing what they knew of the case thus far and speculating on what they didn’t know, and Alex Perez walked right past them, not wasting any time with pleasantries. None of that was important to him at the moment, though he remained mindful that this was a crime scene, and he had a job to do.

Flashing his badge at the door, he passed through the threshold while steeling himself for what he might find inside the building. There had been no information about the woman’s condition nor had there been any confirmation as to her identity. The tip they’d received had stated though that the victim was his missing neighbor.

He hadn’t known Deven long, but they’d become friendly over the past few months. The bond between families had grown stronger since their children played together on a regular basis and because Lydia had a past with the woman. Beyond that, he knew little about her and had no idea what could have prompted this attack. But he intended to find out.

Following the sound of voices, he came upon a small group of uniformed officers milling around a cordoned off area within the warehouse. Pushing aside his personal feelings, he looked directly at the still figure on the floor but was unprepared for what he saw. "Holy mother of God," he whispered under his breath.

"Detective Perez?" one of the officers addressed him.

"Any ID?" He believed it was Deven but it was too hard to be certain given the condition of her face.

"Yeah. One Deven Masterson reported abducted yesterday evening by a Rhian McKenna," the policeman answered as he handed the detective her wallet. "Someone sure didn’t like her much," he added with just the hint of a smirk on his face.

Alex fixed the young man with an expression of scorn. "You think there’s something funny about this?"

"Uh, no," he replied defensively.

"Any women in your family?" Alex read the nametag. "Harrison?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, you better pray that nothing like this ever happens to one of them. Go wait outside," he ordered.

The officer started to protest but changed his mind and stalked out of the building.

Alex gave the other officers a warning look before nearing the body. Crouching down, he put on a glove and then carefully touched her neck, relieved to find a pulse beneath his fingertips. "Deven? It’s Alex. I don’t know if you can hear me, but we’re going to get you to the hospital. Hang in there, okay? Rhian is out of her mind with worry, and I sure don’t want to have to tell her anything other than good news."

He looked up as the EMTs arrived. "Her name is Deven Masterson," he advised the medics and moved out of their way. Even after all the years he’d been with Lydia, he didn’t understand more than one word out of ten of what the two professionals were saying to each other. Unhooking his cell phone from his belt, he quickly dialed home. "Lydia, they found her, but she’s in really bad shape. She looks like. Damn, Lydia, she looks like someone used her for a punching bag."

"Is she on her way to the hospital yet?"

"No. The medics are attending to her now. But, querida, it doesn’t look good." He glanced back over to where Deven lay and felt a slow anger starting to rise as he watched them suction out the beaten woman’s mouth and carefully ease her onto her back. "How could someone do this to her?"

"I don’t know, Alex."

"Oh shit!"

"What?" Lydia asked.

"They’re going to stick a harpoon into her chest!"

Lydia almost laughed at her husband’s horrified reaction. For years she’d tried to get him over his fear of hypodermics but had thus far failed in her attempts. "Alex, calm down. I know you don’t like needles, but I’m certain that they aren’t stocking rescue units and ambulances with harpoons these days." She listened as he released a long sigh and then asked, "Is there anything unusual about the needle?"

Hesitantly, he looked back at what the paramedics were doing. "Yeah. They inserted it through the finger of a glove."

"That’s probably what they call a flutter valve." Lydia didn’t like the implications. "She must be exhibiting symptoms of a pneumothorax," she muttered more to herself than to Alex. "It will help her breath," she explained to her husband, trying to keep the concern out of her voice.

The needle slipped in and he saw the piece of latex flutter as a gush of air escaped from her chest. It then settled around the entry to form a seal of sorts, keeping air from leaking back into the cavity. "Oh," he said. "What’s wrong with her?"

"I don’t know for certain," Lydia said. "But most likely she has a punctured lung that has filled her chest cavity up with air." She didn’t want to go into too much detail with her husband. The injury was life threatening if not treated and had most likely caused the lung to collapse. It was conceivable that Deven had been suffering from insufficient oxygenation, and the domino effect from that injury alone could be staggering and fatal.

The detective stood to the side, observing how they were treating Deven and relaying as much information as he could to his wife. "They’re sticking another harpoon in her."

"Alex," Lydia warned.

"Okay. They’re setting her up on an intravenous line. I think they said something about lactose ringer."

"Lactated Ringers solution," Lydia corrected.

"Whatever," he muttered. "They’re trying to give her oxygen. Aren’t 12 to 15 liters a lot? And I have to tell you, Lydia, I don’t see how in the hell they can accomplish this."

"That is a high concentration, but she needs it, Alex. And why wouldn’t you think they could accomplish it?"

He lowered his voice. "She’s so messed up. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone beaten up so bad. If it weren’t for her license, I wouldn’t have been able to identify her."

Lydia took it all in with a sinking feeling. "Alex, what are they doing now?"

"They’re putting one of those collar thingies around her neck."

"What’s going on, Perez?" one of the medics asked.

He looked a bit embarrassed at having been caught repeating their conversation into the phone. "My wife is Deven’s doctor, and I’m just trying to let her know what’s going on."

"Ah." The medic replied. "Tell her we’ve done all we can here. As soon as we get her secured on the back board and splint her hand, we’ll transport her to Fair Oaks."

He started to speak into the phone but Lydia beat him to it. "I’m going to head over to the hospital now. I’ll meet her there."

"Okay." He looked back down at Deven and thought about Rhian and the children. "Hey, Lydia."


"I love you."

"I love you, too."


"Don’t you even care that your daughter is missing?" Rhian asked in astonishment.

Patricia waved her hand dismissively. "Missing? I truly doubt that. Any time she has gone missing in the past, she’s merely been out drinking and indulging whatever deviance strikes her fancy at the moment. She’ll turn up eventually." She gave Rhian a pitying look. "Oh come now, Ms. McKenna, you didn’t actually think she’d take you seriously, did you?"

"Mrs. Masterson," Jay interrupted the conversation. "I can assure you that she takes Rhian and the children very seriously."

"Oh, please don’t insult me, Jay. I know Deven."

Clinching her fists, Rhian willed herself not to beat the daylights out of the woman. "Mrs. Masterson, I was there when Deven was taken. I know for a fact that she is missing."

"Well, if that is the case, then it’s no doubt that her deplorable behavior has finally caught up to her. If you choose to dance with the Devil, than you deserve to be burned."

Rhian looked at her mother. "I don’t believe this. Please tell me I’m not hearing this!"

Kate placed a comforting hand on her daughter’s shoulder. "What do you want?" she asked Deven’s mother.

"I’ve come for my grandson. If you’ll just bring him to me, we’ll be on our way."

"No!" Rhian said. "Please. Let him stay. At least until we know what’s happened to his mother?"

"He doesn’t need to be subjected to anymore distress because of Deven. She’s brought more than enough into his life, believe me."

Rhian ignored the woman and looked at Laura who had thus far remained silent. "Please." But Laura only looked away, and Rhian realized there would be no support there. "Mrs. Masterson, he’s."

At that moment both of the children entered the room and Rhian felt her heart sink. How much more can I be expected to take? Tiernan looked from face to face before walking over and standing next to the landscaper. He leaned against her, and she placed an arm around him, hugging him closer. "You see? He’s okay, and he wants to stay."

"I don’t care what he wants. I care what’s best for him. Tiernan, come with me."

The boy made no move other then to look up at Rhian, his eyes beseeching her.

"Tiernan, do not disobey me. I want you to come here now," Patricia commanded.

"Come on, Tiernan," Laura said from behind her mother. "Let’s go home."

"I don’t want to," he replied, his lower lip trembling. "I want to stay here. Mommy said I should stay with Rhian."

Patricia met the landscaper’s eyes. "You have no legal claim to the boy. If you don’t want me to call the police, you will encourage him to do what’s right."

"Right for you? Or right for him?" Rhian shot back.

"Enough of this." Patricia reached out and grabbed the boy by his upper arm, pulling him toward her. "Go get in the car," she demanded.

"I want my Mommy," he whimpered.

Rhian started to move forward but was stopped by a firm hand on her upper arm. "Think for a minute," her father said. "This is about Tiernan. Ask yourself if it’s in his best interest to add this conflict to all the other burdens he has right now? Or is it better for him, to let him go back to familiar settings without making him feel like he’s trapped in the middle of something way beyond his control?" The look his daughter gave him almost broke his heart. "I know you love him, Rhian." He lowered his voice. "And I know you need him but is it the best thing for him right this minute?"

She lowered her head but before she could acknowledge the truth of his words, everything rushed out of control. Tiernan fought his grandmother’s grasp, trying to pull free as he wailed, "I want my Mommy." The effort earned him a solid slap across the face from the woman, and Mac barely restrained Rhian from attacking the woman.

"Leave him alone!" she screamed.

"Quite frankly, Ms. McKenna, I’m tired of you meddling in my family’s affairs. You are no one. Do you understand? You are Deven’s playmate but nothing more. I am his blood. If you so much as interfere again, I will bring the police in."

Despite the rage, Rhian let her father’s words sink in. "I’m okay." She looked at him and then at the boy. "I’m okay." Mac released her, and she moved over to the crying child and knelt down pulling him into an embrace. "Listen to me, little man. Your mommy is going to be very proud of you and when we find her, I’ll call you, okay?"

"I don’t want to go," he cried.

"I know, sweetheart. But unfortunately, you need to." She swallowed several times while trying to find the strength to let him go. Pulling back, she reached up and wiped his tears. "Be a good boy. And know that Mommy and I love you very much."

Patricia opened her mouth to speak but the glare she received from the landscaper was enough to give her pause. "You go with your Aunt Laura now." She kissed him on each cheek and then the forehead. "And don’t worry about anything, okay? Everything’s going to be okay."

Laura reached out a hand, and he reluctantly slipped his into it. Rhian stood up and faced the elder woman. When she spoke she kept her voice even, but the underlying rage was evident to everyone in the room. "You listen to me. You so much as lay another finger on him and I will bring Children’s Services down on you so fast, you’ll never see him again."

"How dare you speak to me this way!"

"How dare I? How dare you! I know what you did to Deven."

Patricia’s eyes narrowed. "I don’t know what you’re talking about."

"For some unknown reason, you’re a bitter woman who took that out on her child. I know you used to beat her."

"I never beat her. I spanked her, certainly. I had to discipline her after all. She was an extremely difficult child."

"You keep telling yourself that. But you forget there were witnesses."

Patricia’s eyes met Jay’s, and he glared challengingly at her. Before she could respond Rhian stepped closer. "I know you did nothing to help her when she was assaulted. She was a child, your child, and you share in the guilt of why she’s done some of the things she has."

"I will not accept responsibility for her actions."

"I suppose you wouldn’t because you won’t even accept responsibility for your own. I don’t think that the courts would take such an uninterested approach when the whole story comes out."

Regaining some of her composure, Patricia asked, "Is that a threat?"

"Oh, no. That Mrs. Masterson is a promise. And believe me, it would give me great pleasure."

"I’m sure it would." She smirked at the landscaper before turning and marching out of the house.

It was only then that Rhian felt the full impact of what had just happened and covered her face with her hands. Oh Deven. I’m sorry. I wanted him to stay. I swear I did. But Dad’s right. I don’t want him to hurt unnecessarily. I’m so sorry.

"It’s okay, honey," Kate said as she hugged her daughter. "He’ll be all right."

Rhian allowed herself to indulge in being mothered. What she really wanted was for this nightmare to be over. In the back of her mind she registered Seana crying and slowly pulled back. Turning her attention to the little girl she opened her arms to the little girl.

Neither child understood fully what was going on. They just didn’t have enough information to decipher the true severity of the situation. That Deven might in fact never come home was something they couldn’t quite grasp, and Rhian was grateful for that. She herself didn’t want to face the possibility.

She closed her eyes and allowed herself to imagine they were in the living room, all cuddled together on the sofa; and that she was in that safe place, with Deven’s arms securely around her, and her lover’s steady heartbeat beneath her ear.

There was a knock on the front door, and her fantasy vanished leaving dire reality in its place. Even as she bid it not to, hope rose again only to be decimated when she realized it wasn’t news about Deven. Rhian recognized Kelly’s voice as the woman explained that she and Carl had just returned from out of town and rushed right over. Leaving Jay to fill the Prestons in on the events of the past sixteen hours, she cradled Seana in her arms and walked out to the back deck.

Part 3

"Well, hi there, Dr. Perez. What brings you down to my chaotic world?" David Iverson teased good-naturedly.

Lydia was grateful to find that David was the trauma surgeon on call. She respected his abilities and appreciated the attention he afforded everyone in his care. "Your incoming," she answered. "She’s a patient of mine."

"The assault?" Lydia nodded, and he asked, "What can you tell me?" In an arena in which seconds could be the difference between life and death, anything he could learn before the patient arrived helped him to accelerate the process of diagnosing the injuries and selecting an appropriate course of treatment.

"Thirty year old female. Athlete in excellent physical condition. Received a tetanus shot two months ago. No known allergies or chronic aliments other than some pain and stiffening in the hip joints from over use." He lifted an eyebrow in question. "Martial artist," she said. "Been kicking her whole life."

"Really. My wife started taking some cardio classes at a martial arts school a couple months back. Then we got the kids involved. I’d like to give it a try if I could do something about my schedule."

"Its great exercise from what I hear. At least that’s what Deven’s always told me."

"Deven Masterson?" he inquired and Lydia inclined her head. "She’s the owner of the school."

"And she’s your trauma."

He released a soft whistle through his teeth. "What the hell happened?"

"From what my husband has been able to tell me, she was at the carnival with her family and they were accosted by several men. Deven managed to fight most of them off, but then someone threatened her partner with a gun. And being Deven, she agreed to go with the bastards if they let everyone else go. Alex says she looks bad."

"Yeah, that’s what I hear." He shook his head. "No telling how far we are from the critical hour, Lydia. You know the odds drop the longer that lag gets between when the trauma occurs and when we get to do our jobs."

"I know," she sighed. "Let’s just hope that we aren’t too far from it to do her any good."

The doors to the ER flew open and the stretcher was wheeled in. "Oh, sweet Jesus. What have they done to you?" Lydia whispered as she followed the gurney that carried Deven’s body.

Dr. Iverson’s attention riveted to the battered woman. "Okay people, let’s go. I need her neck and chest x-rayed now. Let’s get a chest tube tray set up and ready just in case." The team moved in a well-orchestrated ballet of medical maneuvers under the surgeon’s leadership, rapidly assessing her condition while the x-rays were taken.

As the image of her chest came up on the screen, he analyzed it for only a moment before moving to her right side. Though Deven remained fairly unresponsive, he explained his intentions to her anyway just in case she was aware enough to hear him. "I have to insert a tube into your chest, Deven. It may hurt initially, but it will help with your breathing."

Somewhere in her insensible state, Deven registered when the surgeon made the incision in the side of her chest and proceeded to ease his finger into the opening to clear a path for the chest tube. The sharp pain pulled her up from the depths of her peaceful unconsciousness into complete disorientation. The martial artist couldn’t seem to think clearly enough to understand where she was and what was happening to her. At first she thought perhaps that she’d had too much to drink and passed out. But then things started to leap into her awareness at a pace far too rapid for her to assimilate.

She was in a lot of pain and each attempt to inhale was grueling. For some reason she couldn’t see, but she could feel hands touching her skin in various places all over her body. Where are my clothes? Even as her rational mind tried to gain control and comprehend what was happening, a part of her flew backwards fourteen years and the memories of the night she’d been raped assailed her.

Not again! With surprising strength, she struck out narrowly missing Dr. Iverson with a punch before she managed to connect a solid kick to the midsection of one of the trauma nurses.

"Deven!" Lydia moved forward, quickly bringing her face as close to Deven’s head as she could. Hoping to avert a potential blow from the martial artist, she spoke rapidly. "Deven, its Lydia. You’re in the emergency room at the hospital. Deven, do you understand? You have to relax and let them help you."

The martial artist remained tensed and the rapid beeps of the nearby monitor reported her elevated heart rate. Reaching out, Lydia gently touched the woman’s arm. "Deven? Do you know who I am?"

The excruciating pain in Deven’s chest helped to dissipate the fog in her head, and she tried to articulate as clearly as she could. "Can’t see."

The doctor settled her hand more firmly on Deven’s forearm in an effort to comfort the woman. "I know. Your face is very swollen." She lightly stroked the taut arm and repeated the question. "Do you know who I am?"

The past faded back to where it belonged, and the present filled her awareness. How the hell did I get here? "Yes," she finally responded and some of the tension eased.

"Listen to me, okay? You need to work with them so they can give you the best possible care. I’m going to stay close by, but I need to get out of their way."

"No," Deven forced out despite the difficulty she was having with her jaw. With her good hand she grasped her neighbor’s wrist and held it firmly.

Lydia looked up and met Iverson’s eyes. He frowned but nodded slightly. "I’ll stay as close as I can, but it’s paramount that they can do their jobs, Deven. So, if I have to move out of the way, I will. Try to work with them, okay?" She eased the martial artist’s grip off her wrist and slipped her fingers into the woman’s larger hand.

For several minutes she was able to coax Deven into answering the surgeon’s questions, but it was obvious that the injured woman’s energy was fading. Eventually, she stopped responding coherently and Lydia had to work harder to keep her awake.

"Sleep," Deven garbled out around the blood slowly seeping from her mouth.

"Not yet," Lydia prodded.

But the pull became too great. "Rhian," she whispered as she sank back into the darkness, still keeping a firm hold on Lydia’s hand.

Looking up from the last set of images, Iverson stated, "We’ll need to protect her airway for her. The Cervical spine film shows a possible fracture to her mandible which explains why she’s having trouble talking." He adjusted the chest tube and then said over his shoulder, "Call anesthesia to intubate her now." Meeting his colleague’s eyes, he added, "I don’t want to trach her if we don’t have to."


Alex Perez’s arrival effectively ended Rhian’s brief, if illusory, respite. She looked up into his eyes as he stepped out onto the deck and felt her chest tighten.

"We found her," the detective advised. "An anonymous tip came in that told us exactly where she was."

She swallowed hard against the escalating fear. "And?"

"Deven’s been transported to Fair Oaks. Lydia was already there to meet her."

"Is she?" Rhian couldn’t say the word.

"She was alive when they put her in the ambulance."

Reaching up, the landscaper wiped absently at the slow trickle of tears making their way down her cheeks. "I have to go."

"Of course," Alex said. "I’ll drive you over if you want."

"I." She looked around the deck in a daze and then to the child she still cuddled on her lap. Slowly rising to her feet, she set the little girl down. "Yes. Thank you, Alex."

"We’ll follow you over, " Jay said.

"No. You and Kelly come with me. If you don’t mind," Rhian said to the man. She could see the confusion on the faces around her and added," They’re her best friends. They should be there. Nic, you and Carl meet us, okay?"

Nicole nodded even as she asked, "Are you sure?"

"Yes. Be careful though."

Mac placed an arm across his daughter’s shoulders and walked her out to Alex’s car. "Give us a call. And if you need your mother or I, just say so. We’ll be there."

"I know. Thanks, Dad. But right now, I think Seana needs you more."

He gave her a solid hug and then released her. It wasn’t until everyone had departed for the hospital that he turned and walked back inside the house. Neither he nor Kate spoke for some time other than comforting words to their granddaughter. They didn’t know what to say but after all those years of marriage, they really didn’t need to. Words weren’t needed to convey that they were both deeply worried.

To Be Continued in Chapter Thirteen

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