Chapter 20, part 2

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"I'm just overwhelmed and need a moment. I'll be fine."

As the nurse exited the room, someone else slipped in past her. Eyes still filled with tears, she raised her hand towards them. "Iola?"

The person came to her side, hand wrapping around her own.

"A poor substitute for her, I'm afraid."


His whole body seemed to tremble as he slid to his knees, head resting on the bed next to her side. Gradually he looked up again. Nothing could have surprised her more than the sight of tears glistening in the corner of his eyes.

"Ryker, I don't... I can't remember what happened."

"It's okay. You don't have to. It's better if you don't. It was... terrifying. I thought for sure you'd died."

She furrowed her brow. "You sound like you were there."

Instead of responding, he took something out of his pocket and placed it in her palm. Her opal necklace. "I hope you still want this. Because it's yours. Forever."

This statement, coupled with the knowledge that her baby was alive, engendered all the emotion she could take at the moment. She folded her fingers around the necklace and let its warmth soak into her, gliding her back into sleep.


When she woke again hours later, Ryker remained by her side. Emmie still didn't ask for more details—she wasn't ready for them. She had survived a terrible ordeal. Her baby had survived. And somehow, Ryker had been there. This was enough to ease her in and out of her medicated delirium. It wasn't until much later, deliria giving way to wakefulness, when the lights were turned low and Ryker had fallen asleep in a chair next to her bed that it struck her: the car Sam had almost hit, the one she'd turned the wheel in order to spare—that had been Ryker's car.

The gasp that escaped her lips at this revelation was enough to wake him. "Emmie, are you okay? Should I get the nurse?"

She shook her head. "I'm okay... I must know, though..." After a pause so that she could gather her thoughts, she asked him everything she needed answers to. "How long have I been asleep?"

"Three days."

"Three?" That meant Ian's deposition had already happened. If it had happened. "Where's Sam? Ryker, he's... he's..."

Ryker took her hand again. "It's okay, Emmie. It's okay. But... Sam didn't make it. I'm not sure if I should offer you my condolences or if we should be uncorking the champagne."

Emmie winced.

"Neither, I think." Sam had tried to kill her and part of her hated him for it. But another part of her was facing a mountain of grief and mixed emotions she couldn't even begin to climb at the moment. "Do you... do you know what happened. I mean, do you know who Sam really was? He was never my boyfriend. You understand that now, right?"

He squeezed her hand. "God, Emmie, of course I know that now. I was so stupid. I didn't piece things together until it was too late. And not just about Sam. About everything. I'm so sorry."

Emmie placed her free hand on his head as he leaned in towards her. "I know. I only blamed you for how you chose to react never for not understanding. How could I? I was lying to you. Not because I wanted to, but because I had to. It was a lonely road to be walking down, Ryker."

"I wish I could go back and handle things differently."

"Me too."

"Well at least now I know why you're a Chicago-style pizza aficionado."

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