Sizzling(Buchanans, Book 3)(75) by Susan Mallery
When he was gone Madeline sighed. “He’s a good man. I just wish there’d been more time.”
“What do you mean?” Lori asked.
“I’m not ready to do this.” Madeline held up her hand before Lori could protest. “I know. Without a transplant, I die. I want the surgery. It’s just…”
Lori understood. They were talking about a serious operation. “You have a great doctor. Remember that.”
Madeline stepped back and smiled. “I do. Still, it’s weird to think about someone else’s liver in my body. It sounds so gross.”
“It beats being dead.”
“You always did have a talent for putting things in perspective.” Madeline picked up a nightgown and folded it. “I’m happy, of course. This is a chance for me to live a relatively normal life. But I also can’t get my mind around the fact that someone else has to die to make this happen. I don’t think I’m worthy of that.”
“You didn’t kill the person. Even if you don’t take their liver, they’re still going to die.”
“I know, but…” She shook her head. “I guess I can’t explain it. I just feel weird. Happy and grateful, but weird.”
“You’re not going to change your mind about the surgery, are you?”
Madeline shook her head. “It’s too late. Besides, how many people get a second chance like this? I want the operation. I never thought it would happen and yet it’s here. But it does make me think. If I don’t come back, I want you to be okay with that.”
Not come back? Madeline kept on talking, but Lori wasn’t listening. Not come back?
Madeline had to come back. She, Lori, refused to accept any other outcome. Coming back was very much a part of the plan.
Until that moment, Lori had never thought of her sister dying in any but the most theoretical sense. Surgery could go badly, but that was for other people. Her sister had always been in her life. They were family. They had always been family.
“You can’t die,” she blurted without thinking. “I couldn’t stand it.”
Madeline grabbed her hand, sat on the bed and pulled Lori next to her. “I’m not going to die.”
“But you could. I knew that in time your liver could fail, but not now. It wouldn’t be fair.”
“Life isn’t about fair. Odds are, I’m going to pull through and be around for years, driving you crazy.”
Lori’s eyes filled with tears. “You’re my best friend.”
Her sister’s expression was kind. “I know. You’re mine.”
“I didn’t know,” Lori muttered. “I didn’t know at all. I’ve loved you and hated you and all this time you’ve been my best friend.” She blinked back tears. “I’m sorry.”
Madeline tucked a strand of Lori’s hair behind her ear. “For hating me? Don’t be. If I were you, I would have hated me, too.”
“Because you’re perfect.”
“I’m not perfect.”
“Hey, I was there. I have the pictures to prove it. I love you despite the fact that you’re perfect.”
Madeline laughed. “Thanks for being such a generous person, but you have to let go of the perfect thing. Perfect people don’t get sick.”
“That’s not your fault. You were in that car accident and you got a blood transfusion. That’s out of your control.”
“Fine. My husband left me when I got sick. That doesn’t happen to perfect people.”
Lori rolled her eyes. “Again, not your fault. He’s a jerk.”
“I picked him.”
“Oh. Yeah. Good point. So you have one flaw. Lousy taste in men.”
“It’s a big flaw. Which makes me not perfect.”
Lori hugged her. “You’ll always be perfect to me. I love you. Don’t you dare die.”
“I won’t. I promise. I want to be around long enough to be an embarrassment to you in our old age.”
“I’d like that,” Lori said as she straightened. Everything would be okay, she told herself. It had to be.
“I want to dance at your wedding to Reid,” Madeline added.
Lori sighed. “There’s not going to be a wedding.”
“I thought you were crazy about him.”
“I am, but I have no idea what he’s thinking. I know he likes me but liking and marrying are worlds apart. I don’t even think about it.”
Which was a complete lie. Of course she thought about it. Sometimes it was all she thought about. Being with Reid seemed like an impossible dream. But sometimes she allowed herself the fantasy.
“He’s so much more than I thought,” she admitted. “He’s a terrific man, which wouldn’t have been my first guess.”
“You’re responsible for any changes.”
Lori shook her head. “That sounds nice, but he did what he did himself. I…” She swallowed, then confessed. “I’m in love with him.”
“Have you told him?”
“No. I’m afraid he’ll laugh and point.”
“What are the odds of that actually happening?”
“At this moment any odds are too great. I don’t need the pain in my life.”
Madeline squeezed her hand. “The man is crazy about you.”
“Maybe.” But was it enough?
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