Home > Eden (Providence #3)(15)

Eden (Providence #3)(15)
Author: Jamie McGuire

“They’re bored.”

I ran my fingers through my hair and wiped the mascara that had likely smudged under my eyes. “I am hungry. That’s the best time to eat hospital food, right?”

“I thought we could bring some take-out.”

“Even better,” I said, opening the door. “I know just the place.” Jared put his hand on the knob over mine, and leaned down to kiss my lips.

Instantly, I felt better. His lips were their usual soft and smooth. Not as warm, though.

I took a deep breath and smiled. No bul ets raining down, no explosions, and no men breaking into the building with automatic assault rifles. Our first day back would be without event. I dared to hope that Hel would wait until the baby came to bother with threats. Their typical pride and overconfidence would give us a little more time to plan, and to win over some key all ies on the other side.

As we drove through the streets of Providence, it suddenly seemed like the home I had known in my childhood. In that moment, it wasn’t harboring threats at every corner; it didn’t seem dark and sinister. It was the picturesque, bustling, traffic-heavy town I remembered. Where I was born. Where my child would be born, and where I’d walked the streets with my father. Providence was the backdrop of my love story with Jared. It was stil home, and this is where we would make our stand.

“You’re curiously relaxed this evening,” Jared said.

“I don’t know,” I sighed. “Everything just feels right.”

“That’s encouraging.”

We picked up dinner and then made our way to the hospital. When the elevator doors opened, Jared grabbed my hand and led me to Ryan’s room. The door was open, but it was quiet inside.

Claire sat next to the head of Ryan’s bed. Her head was resting on her fist, and she was smiling at him. Ryan’s fingers mindlessly twisted a section of blanket next to Claire’s arm. They seemed to be engaged in a sweet conversation about nothing in particular. I remembered when I was in that chair, giggling at Ryan’s nonsensical humor, and I was glad to see the light back in his eyes.

The IVs and telemetry leads were no longer streaming from different parts of his body. He seemed so relaxed with Claire next to him. I reached out for Jared’s hand. His knuckles brushed against mine as our fingers interlaced, and I looked up at him. He was smiling at his baby sister, pleased to see her final y content.

Ryan’s eyes wandered to the doorway where we stood. Claire slowly turned our direction and offered a smal smile.

“Knock, knock,” Jared said, holding up the bags of take-out. “Cheeseburgers. Nina said it’s your favorite.”

Ryan’s smile turned into a cheesy grin, and he threw his head back. “Oh, thank God! I thought I would starve to death.”

“Oh,” Ryan said, chewing an oversized wad of cheeseburger. “Red Stripe has the best burgers. Seriously. You shouldn’t do this to me in the hospital. I might think I’ve died and gone to heaven.”

Claire rol ed her eyes. “Could you be a little more dramatic about a cheeseburger?”

Ryan stopped chewing, and wiped the bit of ketchup off the corner of his mouth with his wrist. “You don’t have to be jealous of a burger, honey.”

“Oh, brother,” Claire said. She pointed at Ryan. “Do you see what I have to deal with? Wil one of you cal OSHA?”

“I don’t know,” Jared said. “You looked fairly pleased when we walked in.”

Ryan took another bite and then smiled. “She acts tough every time someone visits. She doesn’t fool me, though.”

“Who else has visited?” I asked.

“Mom. Kim. Beth. Chad. Josh…yeah. That’s about it. No, wait….”

“How did that go? With your mom?” I asked.

Claire frowned, and Ryan winked at her. “It went fine. She’s developed a theory. Since the last time I was in a hospital you showed up, and now Claire’s here, Mom thinks I’m getting myself hurt over girls.”

“Aren’t you?” Jared said with a wry smile.

“Shut it, Jared,” Claire warned.

I handed Ryan his cup of soda. “You know, this is becoming a habit.”

His whiskers were far beyond a five o’clock shadow, and his hair had grown downright shaggy. He looked so much older than the last time I’d seen him in that hospital, and nothing like the Marine in the photos he'd sent with his letters. “Tel me about it. I thought I said two hospitalizations ago that it was your turn?”

“I took a turn.”

“Yeah, so you almost bled out, big deal. I’m three to your one.”

“Wel , I’m pregnant, so I’m due for a hospitalization this year,” I said, processing the words as I spoke them.

Ryan laughed. “Wait…what?” he said, his face morphing from amusement to concern.

I looked to Claire. “You didn’t tel him?”

She shrugged, her platinum, angled tresses bouncing when she did so. “It’s your business to tel . Way to dump it on him, stupid.”

I frowned. Ryan mirrored my expression. “Congratulations,” he said. He glanced to Jared, sent him a lightning-fast dirty look, and then returned his focus to me. He pushed up in bed, sitting tal er.

“Say it,” Jared said.

Claire watched the exchange, clearly unhappy. I wasn’t sure if she was just sensing Ryan’s change in mood, or if it was her own reaction to the sudden, unpleasant turn in conversation.

“It’s not my place to say anything,” Ryan said.

“You have my permission,” Jared said. After his last word, he gestured for Ryan to continue.

Ryan rol ed his eyes and looked to Claire. “Isn’t this exactly what none of you wanted to happen?”

Claire seemed uncomfortable answering for her brother, but she quickly shrugged it off. “Yes and no. Not going along with the prophecy in Shax’s book would have been the safer route—in theory—but Hel would more than likely stil anticipate its completion. Now that it’s happened, it’s a means to an end. We have a better chance at getting Heaven on our side.”

Ryan was right to ask Claire. Jared was wel known for lengthy explanations. Claire went right to the point.

Ryan’s eyes drifted away from Claire to me. “Are you okay?”

I shrugged. “Great. Fantastic, actual y. I feel like I could run a marathon.”

Ryan smiled. “That’s good.” He turned to Claire. “That’s good, right?”

Her nose wrinkled. “Why are you asking me?”

“I don’t know,” Ryan shrugged, “I thought you might know better than anyone else.”

Claire stood, laughing once. “I’m hardly the expert. It’s never been an option for me, so I didn’t bother asking my mother about the details.”

“Why wouldn’t it be an option?”

Claire rol ed her eyes. “Because I’m busy.”

“With what?” he said, dubious.

Claire placed both of her palms facedown on the bed and looked at Ryan. “Keeping you alive.”

Ryan’s hand slid slowly across the blanket. His fingers layered hers. “Wel ...what if we were together? That could make it an option.”

Claire straightened quickly and crossed her arms. “Dream on.”

The corners of his mouth turned up. He enjoyed unsettling Claire far too much for his own good. “Am I wrong?”

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