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CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED AND SIXTY-FOUR
Saturday evening — 7:47 p.m.
New York City, NY
Nash looked up at the numbers above the hospital elevator’s door. He was given the responsibility of coming to the hospital to pick up her father and Sandy. Nash winced. No matter how much he loved Sandy, he never managed to think of her as his mother. It wasn’t that Sandy wasn’t his mother. She was truly the only mother he’d ever known. And she was really good at mothering.
Noelle told him he was a moron. “Sandy loves us,” Noelle always said. “She is our real mother.”
Truth be told, Nash knew he was an idiot about this.
He just felt like he didn’t deserve a mother like Sandy. The elevator reached the floor Ivan was staying on and he got off. He went down the hallway and asked at the nurses’ station for Ivan. Nash liked Ivan. Nash had spent a lot of time with Ivan when he was hanging out with his father. He just wasn’t sure how he felt about Ivan dating Sissy. Then again, Nash didn’t think Sissy should date anyone.
He smiled at himself. He felt very protective over Sissy and Noelle. They were family.
“But not Sandy?” an irritating voice in his head asked.
Nash gave a quick shake of his head to clear the voice. Standing in front of Ivan’s door, he heard his father laugh. Ivan and Aden had become fast friends in the last year. Nash scowled. If his father wasn’t going to take this Sissy thing seriously, he would definitely make sure Ivan explained himself.
Nash pushed open the door. From where he stood, the door blocked his view of the bed and his father. In front of him sat a woman with steel blue eyes. Her long black hair was in a tight bun at the back of her head. She wore a dark blue turtleneck and jeans with a white doctor’s coat over it. The doctor’s white coat she was wearing was stuffed full of pens and what looked like pieces of paper. Her lower pocket held a stethoscope. At the moment he opened the door, she was laughing at something that was happening near the bed.
Nash stopped moving. He had never seen a more beautiful sight. He felt as if all time stood still. The air seemed clearer and his sight sharper. He stopped in the doorway. Since turning thirteen, he felt things in places in his body that he’d never felt before. This woman brought his entire being to attention. He didn’t want to even blink.
Feeling his eyes, the woman turned to look at him. Pink appeared on her cheekbones and her jaw slackened. She looked like she had been hit by the same shock wave that had gone through him. Ivan said something in Russian and her eyes flicked to where she’d been looking before. She couldn’t seem to tear her eyes away from Nash.
And Nash couldn’t make himself go anywhere. He stared at the woman and she stared at him.
“Who is it?” Ivan asked in English.
Nash felt more than saw his father walk to the door. The door moved from Nash’s extended hand and his father appeared.
“Nash?” Aden asked.
Aden looked at Nash and then at the woman. He stepped in front of Nash for a moment and the spell was broken. Nash went to move, but Aden held him in place. His father’s eyes flicked to Nash’s belt in a way Nash had seen him do with Charlie. Nash adjusted himself. When Aden stepped away, the woman’s face was bright red. From his hospital bed, Ivan was laughing at her. They were speaking to each other in fast Russian.
Nash felt like an idiot. What was he doing gawking at this woman? She was an adult! A doctor! The diamonds in her ears and her watch told him she was rich too! He never felt more stupid or more like a little kid. Seeing Nash’s shame, Aden put his arm over his shoulder. In the last month or so, Nash has sprouted up so that his head was almost at Aden’s shoulders. The Irish bakers had said it was their loving care after getting beaten up. But Aden was tall, so Nash was likely to be tall too.
“Nadia?” Aden asked.
The beautiful woman turned to look at Nash again. Nash felt the same shock and saw it register on the woman’s face. Nash looked down at the ground.
“Have you met my son, Nash?” Aden asked. Nadia gave a quick shake of her head. “Nash, this is Dr. Kerminoff. She is a friend of Ivan’s.”
Nadia stood up and held her hand out. Nash looked at her hand for a moment.
“Have we met before?” Nash asked.
“I don’t think…” Nadia’s voice seemed to catch in her throat. Her perfect American English surprised him. “Uh, no. Ivan has told me about Aden’s son, but I’ve never… um…”
Ivan laughed at Nadia.
“Byt’ po-prezhnemu.” Nadia shot at Ivan which made him laugh even harder. She glanced at Nash. “It’s my pleasure to meet you.”
When Ivan started to cough, Nadia went to the bed.
“Look what you’ve done,” she said as she examined Ivan’s bandages. “You are bleeding.”
She scowled at Ivan. Keeping her eyes on the ground, she left the room to get a nurse. Aden leaned into Nash.
“You okay?” Aden asked.
“I…” Nash said. “No, not really.”
Aden smiled at him. Nadia and a nurse came in. They rolled Ivan onto his stomach and changed his bandages. Nash followed the entire procedure in disgusted fascination.
“Heather warned me about you and Nadia,” Aden said in his ear.
“What does that mean?” Nash asked.
“You remember us talking about the ‘dark arrows’?” Aden asked.
“Eros-the-dick shot people who could never possibly meet each other with his soulmate love arrows?” Nash asked.
“I thought it was a lame excuse for Ivan-the-geezer to mack on Sissy,” Nash said.
Aden grinned at Nash’s language. He leaned into Nash’s ear.
“You don’t like Ivan and Sissy?” Aden asked in a low tone.
“Just seems… weird, I guess,” Nash said terse whisper. “We need to make sure that Ivan isn’t taking advantage of Sissy.”
“We?” Aden said with a grin.
“You’re not taking this seriously,” Nash said. “It’s child abuse!”
Aden pulled Nash’s head to him and kissed the top of it. Aden pulled Nash in front of him in a hug while they watched the nurse and Nadia change Ivan’s bandage. When Ivan was settled again, Aden led Nash toward the bed.
“Nash is concerned that you might be abusing Sissy,” Aden said in an even tone.
“I am, as well,” Ivan said.
Ivan glanced at Nadia. Nash refused to look directly at her, but he tracked her out of the corner of his eye. He noticed Nadia nod.
“We are all worried,” Nadia said with a nod.
He glanced at her and her face flushed. She stammered. Nash cleared his throat.
“What are you going to do about it?” He made an effort to keep his original indignation in his voice. The words came out flat. Surprised, Ivan looked up at him. His eyes searched Nash’s face.
“That is the question, isn’t it?” Ivan asked. “The Oracle…”
“Delphie?” Nash asked. Looking at Ivan, he regained some of his indignation. “What’s she got to do with it?”
“She told Ivan…” Nadia’s voice came from behind Nash. He didn’t dare look.
“Both of us,” Ivan said.
“Yes, she told Ivan he would meet me,” Nadia continues. “She said we would love each other, but to be careful not to get too settled.”
“We are family, not destiny,” Ivan said.
“Our soulmates were too young for us,” Nadia said. “She told Ivan to be very careful with Sissy or he might destroy something perfect in every way. Ivan has lived with this for more than a decade.”
“That is what we were joking about,” Ivan said.
“I thought the whole soulmate thing was about Ivan and Sissy,” Nadia cleared her throat. Her voice came out as a whisper, “Not me.”
Nash saw Ivan give Nadia a kind look.
“What would you do, Nash?” Aden asked.
“Uh.” Nash shifted from one foot to another.
“We talk about it — Sissy and I,” Ivan said. “We talk and talk and move very slow. That’s our plan. And we’ll see. We may not be able to have it.”
“But we’re sure as hell going to try,” Nadia said.
Nadia’s voice held so much emotion that Ivan looked past Nash to Nadia. He smiled at her.
“Why don’t you show Nash to Sissy’s room?” Ivan said to Nadia.
Nash sucked in a breath.
“Sandy texted that Sissy is asleep,” Aden said. “I’ll meet you in the lobby in a minute.”
Aden grabbed Nash’s shoulder and turned him around. Nadia caught his eye before looking at the ground.
“Just breathe,” Aden said in Nash’s ear.
He gave Nash a shove in the direction of Nadia. Nash stumbled but caught his feet. Remembering his manners, Nash gestured for Nadia to proceed him through the door. Outside the door, Nadia laced her hand in his elbow. They were standing on the elevator landing when Nadia cleared her throat.
“It’s very nice to finally meet you, Nash Norsen,” Nadia said.
“You too,” Nash managed.
“For the record,” Nadia’s voice dropped to a low tone, “they didn’t tell me who, just that I would know when.”
Nash grunted. Nadia looked up into his face.
“You too?” Nadia asked.
“Delphie didn’t tell me,” Nash said in a low voice. “I just left her. She told me to take the limo and come get Dad and Sandy so they wouldn’t have to take a cab. She told me to see Dad first because it will take him a while to wrap up with Ivan and that Sissy was asleep.”
Nash swallowed hard and nodded. Nadia’s eyes scanned his face. She took a breath that seemed to make her an inch taller and let it out.
“Well…” Nadia said.
The elevator door opened to an empty car.
“Wanna make out?” Nadia asked in a joking tone.
Nash laughed. As if they were doing some kind of synchronized dance, they shuffled to the back of the elevator and turned in unison to face the door.
“Maybe later,” Nadia said with a nod. Nadia leaned forward to press the button for Sissy’s floor. “Like in five years or so.”
“I hope not that long,” Nash said with a crack in his voice.
Nadia chuckled and Nash smiled.
“First, tell me — why do you have these healing bruises?” Nadia asked.
Nash glanced at Nadia.
“Oh God, you’re not a part of that horrible trial are you?” Nadia’s voice rose with concern and her hand went to her heart.
Nash chuckled and looked down.
“I guess we have a lot to catch up on,” Nadia said.
The elevator door opened. They stood at the back of the elevator. Neither one dared to move.
“My shift starts again in a half hour,” Nadia said.
“Why don’t I text Sandy?” Nash asked. “I’m sure she knows all about this.”
“Probably,” Nadia said.
“Can I buy you a cup of coffee?” Nash asked.
“Sure,” Nadia said. “I love coffee. You?”
Nash shook his head.
“There’s a quiet place down the street,” Nadia said. “I have to go back to work in a half hour.”
The door opened to Sissy’s floor. Sandy was standing on the landing. She looked at Nash and then at Nadia.
“If you hurt him, you will answer to me,” Sandy said.
“If I hurt him, I will answer to me,” Nadia said.
“We’re going to for coffee,” Nash said. “She has to work in a half hour. Is it okay?”
“Sure. We’ll wait for you,” Sandy said with a smile. “You know, your father loves this awful cafeteria food. We’ll be there. You’ll come to find us?”
Nash nodded. Sandy waved and the elevator door closed. Nash let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding.
“What is it?” Nadia asked.
“I have this feeling that my life has just begun,” Nash said. “My dad told me that he felt that way when he met Sandy.”
Nadia was silent until the elevator hit the ground floor.
“I feel the same way,” Nadia said.
Grinning, Nash ushered her off the elevator.
Saturday night — 10:07 p.m.
New York City, NY
“Hey,” Jill said into her computer screen.
Jacob smiled when he saw her face.
“Hey to you,” Jacob said. “How was your meeting?”
“Amazing,” Jill said. “Bizarre.”
“I bet,” Jacob said. “I want to hear all about it but first…”
“Yeah?” Jill asked.
“Do you have any idea where our children are?” Jacob asked. “Or the dogs?”
“Edie took them to the Isle of Man,” Jill said. “I told you she might. You weren’t listening.”
“I wasn’t listening,” Jacob said. “I was…”
“Worried about everything,” Jill said with a nod. “How is it going at Lipson?”
“Good,” Jacob said. “Easy. I have…”
He stopped talking and rubbed his face. He looked exhausted.
“You have?” Jill asked.
“I’m thinking of leaving the company,” Jacob asked.
His eyes went wide and his eyebrows went up and down. Jill nodded.
“It’s probably time,” Jill said.
Jacob let out a breath.
“I wasn’t sure how you’d react,” Jacob said.
“You’ve been working toward this day as long as I’ve known you,” Jill said. “The employees own over half of the company…”
“Fifty-three percent,” Jacob said.
Jill shrugged. Jacob looked off to the side.
“Did you tell me where the boys are?” Jacob asked.
“Isle of Man,” Jill said. “Edie and Jimmy took the kids and went home.”
“The dogs too,” Jill said. “You must be tired.”
“I don’t sleep well when you’re not here,” Jacob said. “Too restless.”
“Me too,” Jill said.
“You mean, you’ll leave the four chefs, private bedroom, masseuse, and everything to come home to this drafty old place?” Jacob asked.
“I’ll be home tomorrow,” Jill said with a smile. “The kids and dogs, too.”
“Good,” Jacob said.
He closed his eyes and leaned on his hand. Jill realized that he was asleep.
“Jacob?” Jill asked.
“Mmm,” Jacob said.
“See you tomorrow,” Jill said.
Jacob opened his eyes long enough to wave good-bye. Shaking her head at him, she shut off the computer and went to bed. A few hours later, her cell phone rang.
“The kids are on the Isle of Man,” Jacob said without saying hello. “Dogs, too.”
“Good to know,” Jacob said with a chuckle. “Love you.”
“Love you!” Jill said.
Saturday mid-night — 12:07 a.m.
New York City, NY
“O’Malley,” Seth said into his vibrating phone.
“What is it?” Ava whispered.
Seth shook his head and shrugged. He looked at the phone before holding it to his head.
“Bumpy, here,” a breathy male voice said.
“What can I do for you, doctor?” Seth asked in a wry tone.
“You’re hilarious,” Bumpy said. His voice dropped to speak to someone else, “Yes, sir, thank you.”
“Give me the phone,” Dionne said.
While Bumpy and Dionne argued over the phone, Seth got out of bed. He pulled on the pajama bottoms Sandy had given him for these family adventures. He had gone to the bathroom and had a drink of water by the time Dionne’s voice was on the phone.
“Sorry about that,” Dionne said.
Bumpy seemed to be talking non-stop in the background.
“What can I do for you, my dear?” Seth asked in false romantic tones.
“What’s so funny?” Bumpy’s voice asked in the background.
“O’Malley’s working his sexy tonight,” Dionne said.
“You tell him to keep his dick where it belongs,” Bumpy growled.
“And where is that?” Seth asked.
Dionne laughed again. Bumpy groaned in the background.
“Sounds like a self-help book,” Seth said.
“You’ve got that right,” Dionne said.
“What’s going on?” Seth asked.
“You don’t know?” Dionne asked.
“I was asleep when you called,” Seth said.
“That’s right,” Dionne said. “It’s only nine here. Sorry, Seth. I wasn’t thinking. We were just go, go, go here.”
“What’s going on?” Seth repeated.
“One of the acts canceled,” Dionne said.
“For what?” Seth asked.
“Grammy’s,” Dionne said. “Remember old man — we were all going to the Grammy’s together?”
“I’m in New York,” Seth said.
Dionne groaned. The sound of echoing footsteps on tile came through the phone.
“You’re at LAX,” Seth said.
“They want us to perform Jer’s song live,” Dionne said.
“Because one of the acts canceled,” Seth said with dawning awareness. “I can’t make it to LA, Dionne. Tanesha’s here too.”
“We’re coming there,” Dionne said. “Jer’s already in the air.”
“What?” Seth sat down in an armchair. Ava turned on the bedside lamp and sat up in bed. He raised his eyebrows at her naked form.
“We’re performing Sunday at sunset,” Dionne said. “Some rooftop garden. They want us to perform the song live. Outside. On the rooftop. They’ll broadcast it with the Grammy’s to fill in the place for the band that canceled.”
Seth didn’t say anything.
“You have a problem with that?” Dionne asked.
“Give me the phone,” Bumpy said.
The phone jostled from Dionne to Bumpy.
“We are traveling across this great country to play with you,” Bumpy said. “What’s your problem?”
“I don’t have a problem,” Seth said. “I was just thinking through what we need.”
“The producers are supposed to take care of everything,” Bumpy said. “Schmidty worked all of this out. I thought he would have told you.”
“We were sleeping,” Seth said.
“Old man,” Bumpy said. Seth laughed. In a quiet voice, Bumpy said, “I feel like I’m a hundred years old.”
“You won’t,” Seth said. “We’ll get up there and show the kids how it’s done.”
“Schmidty’s working overtime, but you know how that boy is,” Bumpy said.
“I’ve got this,” Seth said. “Don’t worry. You flying here?”
“We’re just about to get on the plane,” Bumpy said. “You’re at the apartment?”
“No, we’re still supposedly on our honeymoon,” Seth said.
“Ah,” Bumpy said. “Well, enjoy it. We’ll take the apartment.”
“See you soon,” Seth said.
“You’ll call Claire?” Bumpy asked.
“My guess is that Claire already knows,” Seth said. “But I’ll take care of it.”
“You’ll get some…” Bumpy started.
“I’ve got this,” Seth said. “Don’t worry.”
Chuckling, Bumpy hung up the phone. Seth waiting only a moment before Schmidty called.
“Someone canceled and we…”
“I’ve got this,” Seth said.
The young man’s relief was evident.
“I’ll text you what I know,” Schmidty said.
“Good,” Seth said. “See you soon.”
Seth hung up the phone.
“What is it?” Ava asked.
“Want to go to a concert?” Seth asked.
“Sure,” Ava said. “Who’s playing?”
“This is the best honeymoon ever,” Ava said.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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