Gently running her fingers through her son’s hair she smiled down at him. “Don’t worry about daddy.”
“But you said,” he swallowed hard “you said he didn’t love us. That’s not true.”
“I know baby,” she murmured recalling the night he had rebuked her. She had been unreasonable. It had taken her about two weeks to make the actual call to Gena. To apologize. By that time Gene had already left. Her hurtful words had effected his thinking during the interviews. She could tell when parts of the interviews were aired on the show. She just couldn’t bring herself to make the call. Too afraid to hear him tell her he was done trying. Done with putting up with her and her melt downs when things started get rough.
She should have known she had nothing to worry about. An unseen behind the scene conversation between Gene and Sydney had convinced Gene to call her. The night Sydney had hosted her own challenge instead of either William or Gene doing it. It had given them the privacy they needed to talk. To make things right between them.
It hurt to see that immature boy tear into Gene on TV for shirking his duties as host. But Gene handled it well enough at least he hadn’t torn the poor misguided boys head off. Now everyone could see him the way she saw him. A caring individual who would literally walk through fire for anyone he cared about.
“How long have I been out?” Matt asked struggling to sit up.
“You’ve been in and out of consciousness for a couple of weeks. Before that you were in a coma,” Aimee explained as she pushed him back down.
“I feel like I’ve been asleep for years,” Matty mumbled. “I missed graduation, didn’t I?” He watched his mom nod in
response tears in her eyes. “How’s Kimber?” he asked.
Blinking Aimee sighed knowing that he would eventually ask about her. Dreading to have to break the bad news to him “I’m sorry Matty. She didn’t …”
“No you’re wrong,” he screamed “she can’t be….”
Touching his shoulder “I’m sorry Matt….” He shrugged her hand off turning his face away as giant tears escaped his yes and fell onto his pillow.
She’s your Aunt?” Celia asked
“Apparently” Ian shrugged “if I understand right she died in a house fire when she was seventeen. A year or so ago some scientists resurrected her.”
“Oh I remember reading about that,” Celia shook her head “I thought it was rather sad.”
“Sad why?” Ian asked her “she’s getting a second chance.”
“Yeah but think about it. Everything she knew has changed. She’s our age when she should have children our age.” Shrugging “it’s just sad….I wonder….”
“You wonder what?” he asked.
“I wonder what complications she’ll have down the road from whatever the scientists did to her.” She put a hand out to Ian “oh I’m sorry. I really don’t mean to be so pessimistic.”
“You do bring out some good points. I’ve heard dad ask the same thing.” Ian sighed “I hope she’s ok.” He turned his attention to the screen “so which one of these guys do you think will win?”
“I don’t know. Its two early to tell,” she laughed “I’m rooting for the underdog.”
“Which on is that?”
“All of them,” she shrugged “whoever wins is in for a bumpy ride.”
“I…” he was interrupted by his phone ringing. “Hello…mom I’m on my way.”
“What’s up?” Celia asked watching Ian as he slowly got up looking stunned.
“Matty’s awake and asking about Kimber,” he looked at her “mom had to tell him she didn’t make it…”
“Oh no,” she squeezed him tight “what can I do to help?”
“Can you stay here and watch Katrina?” Ian asked as he moved towards the door.
Nodding Celia followed him “tell Matty I love him.”
“I will,” Ian leaned over and kissed her before leaving. “He’s going to need all the support we can give him.”
Walking into Matty’s room he found his mom trying to coax Matty to look at her. “Mom” he said sharply.
Looking up she wiped tears away “I can’t cope with him like this.”
“I know mom,” Ian said nodding his head towards the door “why don’t you go and get something to eat?”
“But I….” looking down at Matt she sighed “ok sweetie I’ll be right back.”
Once Aimee left the room Ian sat down frowning at Matt. “Why were you guys in that warehouse?” Silence was his only response “Matt please. I can understand you not wanting to tell mom but I’m your brother.” Matt silently turned to stare at him tears still sliding from his eyes “did you and Kimber go there for some privacy to you know….”
Shaking his head Matty whispered “no Kimber would never. We uh talked about it but decided neither one of us was ready yet.”
“Then why were you there?” Ian asked again “her brother refused to answer any questions. The police have closed it as a case of kids doing drugs. I know you Matty you wouldn’t do drugs. So why were you there?”
“I needed some place to talk. Kimber suggested her brothers rave site. We weren’t doing drugs. We didn’t think anyone would be there. Her brother was there tinkering with his equipment. I don’t know what happened. One minute we were talking the next we were surrounded by fire.” Matty fell silent for a moment “it’s true…Kimber’s gone.”
“Yeah I’m sorry,” Ian leaned over and hugged his brother close. He felt his shoulders begin to shake as sobbed on his shoulder. “Why were you there?” Ian asked again as Matt calmed down.
Sniffing loudly he shrugged “it doesn’t matter now.”
“Of course it does,” Ian said “maybe not to anyone else but Matt I pulled you guys out. I risked by teams lives to get you out. I almost lost my job because of it.”
Blinking at him Matt hung his head “I didn’t mean to cause so much trouble. I just didn’t know what to do.” Looking away he muttered “if she hadn’t sent me that text I wouldn’t have been upset. Kimber wouldn’t have suggested skipping class…”
“Matt just tell me,” Ian insisted.
“Celia sent me a text wanting help. She needed money. I …” he stopped talking as he watched the blood drain from Ian’s face “I knew I shouldn’t have said anything.”
Shaking himself slightly Ian smiled at his brother “I asked you told me. It’s not your fault. Celia shouldn’t have burdened you with her problems.”
“You two got back together, didn’t you?” Matt said nibbling on his bottom lip.
“We’re working on it,” Ian confessed.
Gripping Ian’s hand Matt insisted “don’t hold this against her. She had no way of knowing we’d skip class and be in a fire. It wasn’t her fault.”
Ian stared into Matty’s pink eyes before nodding “You’re right.” He smiled a little “I’ve missed you.”
Stifling a yawn Matt nodded “I have that effect on people. I can always solve their problems but not my own.”
“Matty don’t blame yourself about what happened to Kimber. She wouldn’t want that.”
“I know. It’s easy to say but not so easy to practice. I’m alive and she’s not. Who is there left to blame?” he snapped his mouth shut before he could continue with the if only’s That route was only going to lead down a never-ending spiral. “When can I go home?”
“I don’t know,” Ian told him “not for a while probably. I think you have a long stint of physical therapy coming your way.”
Groaning Matt covered his eyes more tired then he had ever been in his life. “Ian will you stay with me? At least until I fall asleep. I’m…I’m scared.”
“Scared, of what?” Ian asked trying not to show how upset he was at the unusual statement and plea.
Opening his eyes Matt grimaced “I’m afraid if I go to sleep I’ll never wake up again.”
Ian slipped away once he was sure Matty was asleep and his mom was there in case he woke up. Walking to a nearby park Ian sat on a bench staring into a space. Why had Celia contacted Matt for money? Why hadn’t she come to him or his dad? Despite everything they would have helped her.
He felt anger building inside him as he thought about it. If it hadn’t been for her Matty would never have been in that warehouse. Kimber would still be alive. How could he look at her again without becoming angry? Blaming her for the pain his family had been suffering for the past several weeks. He knew he should go home. He needed to hold his little girl. He needed to be reassured that she was alright.
Sighing he got up from the bench and slowly made his was back to the hospital parking lot to get his car. Stopping outside his house he sat for a moment in the car simply staring at nothing. His mind a complex frightening mess of jumbled emotions.
Upon entering the house Katrina cried “daddy,” and toddled over to him “up” she demanded lifting her arms up and out to him. Holding her close he hugged her tight feeling her soft kisses on this cheek “luv you daddy.”
Nearly choking over his emotions he cuddled her whispering “daddy loves his princess.” Glancing at the time he frowned wondering why Celia hadn’t put her to bed. “Where’s mama?” he asked the little girl.
Shrugging the little girl snuggled into him “dunno.”
Going up the stairs Ian felt fear knifing through him as he wondered where Celia was. Surely she wouldn’t just leave Katrina alone in the house? The house appeared to be empty, cold and silent. Ian put Katrina in her crib and firmly closed her door. His fear was slowly being replaced with a deep-seated anger. Where was she? What happened that she would leave Katrina by herself?
He searched the upstairs room by room. Then moved his search downstairs. His methodical search brought no results. Celia was nowhere to be found. Katrina hadn’t seemed to be overly upset so she couldn’t have been left alone for long. Had Celia gone outside? Was she hurt? Going upstairs Ian grabbed the baby monitor from his nightstand checking that he could hear Katrina if she woke up.
Searching the yard Ian could feel panic rising in him. She was gone. He couldn’t believe she would do this to him to their daughter. Choking back tears that rose from a mixture of fear, frustration and anger Ian went back into the house.
Sitting drained at the table holding his head in his hands. He jumped when the door opened. Eyes widening in shock as Celia walked in “where have you been?” he demanded standing up and rushing to her.
“Ian I’m sorry” she looked upset. Tears building in her eyes “is Katrina alright?”
“No thanks to you,” he yelled failing to reign in his anger. His relief and fear seemed to fueling his building anger, stoking it higher.
Wrapping her arms around herself she tried not be show her shock and fear but her bond was overwhelmed with shakes and shivers. “Ian I’m sorry,” she repeated.
“Where were you?” he repeated “you said you’d watch Katrina. The least you could have done was call a babysitter if something came up…”
Weak hysterical laughter bubbled to the surface. “I…I…I didn’t want to leave her…”
“Then why did you?” Ian asked “help me understand. I come home and find my little girl all alone. You’re nowhere to be found. Tell me Celia. Help me to understand.” He took a step forward eyes pleading with her.
Shaking her head Celia started to sob “I can’t I’m sorry,” she turned to leave.
Catching hold of her arms Ian made to block the door. Eyes staring his anger melting as he took in the bruises “who did this?” he demanded looking at her arms.
Shaking uncontrollably she felt Ian pull her close “I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” she repeated almost in a chant.
“Celia tell me what happened. Who did this to you?” he held her as she fought for control.
Taking a deep breath she looked up at him “they came…”
“They who?” Ian asked confused.
“Beth and John,” she muttered “demanding I either go with them or they’d take Katrina. I….I…I couldn’t let them take her…”
“So you went with them,”Ian felt a cold hard anger building inside him. How dared they come into his home and threaten is daughter. Hurt his girlfriend. “What did they want?”
“They want…they want” she gulped for air near to hysterics “they want my baby.”
“John’s the baby’s father,” she cried “he told me he didn’t want anything to do with the baby. Why did he suddenly change his mind? He says he wants custody.” She looked up “what am I going to do?”
“The first thing we’re going to do is call the police.”
Shaking her head “no no no they said they’d be back for Katrina if we did that.”
Lifting her chin up “Celia they’re frightening you. I’m scared too but if we don’t get the police involved what will prevent them from waltzing in here anytime they want to take Katrina? I won’t be coerced into doing something that will hurt you,the baby or Katrina.” He kissed her forehead “do you understand?”
Nodding “I’m scared,” she murmured leaning her head on his shoulder.
Several hours later Ian was holding Celia on the couch. “Are you ok?” he asked her. She had been silent for so long. After the police left she just curled into a ball and cried. “Celia please tell me. Tell me what you’re thinking. What you’re feeling.”
Shaking her head she leaned her head on his shoulder “what if they come back? What if they hurt you or Katrina? I should just leave and never come back. All I do is cause more problems for you.”
“Shh,” he whispered in her ear “I want to help you. I love you.” He kissed her forehead “I can’t promise that nothing back will happen. I will promise that I’ll do everything I can to keep you safe.”
“Why? Why do you love me?” her voice was muffled as she buried her face in his shoulder. “I’m a walking, talking catastrophe. A disaster waiting to happen. All I ever do is cause trouble.”
“You make mistakes” Ian squeezed her tight “but you’re not to blame for the actions of others. John and Beth are responsible for their actions. If John wanted custody he could have sought it the right way. He didn’t have resort to threats.”
“What if they come and take Katrina? What if ….”
“Celia we’ll deal with it if and when it happens. I’m not going to borrow trouble. That’s why I called the police. I hope once they know the police are involved they’ll think twice about trying anything.”
“What if they don’t care?” Celia cried.
“Celia please the what if’s will drive you crazy if we let them. I can only deal with what’s happening and take precautions to prevent anything else.” Standing up he pulled Celia up with him. Pulling her close he talked in her hair “the first thing we’ll do tomorrow is move you home..”
“But I” she looked up into Ian’s gentle eyes and smiled “alright I’ll do this your way.”
“Good,” Ian kissed her lips as she looked up at him “next I’m hiring a bodyguard for …”
Shaking her head “no Ian absolutely not.”
“Yes and no argument,” he tilted her chin up “I don’t want a repeat of tonight. You have no idea how that made me feel. Coming home to find you gone and Katrina alone,” he shivered.
“What about you?” she asked accepting the temporary annoyance of a bodyguard.
“What about me? I’m not the target here,” Ian told her “the bodyguard is to keep you and Katrina safe. I can take care of myself.”
“I’d feel better if you had…”
Shaking his head “it’s just not practical. I’d be putting them in danger with my job. I go into burning buildings for a living. I can’t put their lives in danger by having them follow me.”
“I don’t like it,” she protested “you work with Beth. She’s obsessed with you.”
“I can handle her,” Ian told her firmly “Beth won’t try anything at work. Not in front of all those witnesses.”
“But when your on the job? What then? Anything can happen in a fire,” she bit her lip as panic threatened to overwhelm her.
Smiling down at her Ian shook his head “what did I say about the what ifs? They’re endless and will drive you crazy.” He felt her slip her arms around him murmuring “I love you. I don’t want anything to happen to you.”