Sizzling(Buchanans, Book 3)(79) by Susan Mallery
Lori saw the little girl cuddled next to the tall former marine. They seemed lost in their own world. Then Walker looked up and smiled at Elissa. Lori felt the residual heat and despite her worry, smiled. Talk about a couple in love.
SOMEHOW WORD GOT OUT that there was a party going on in the waiting room. Several nurses and orderlies joined them. Lori watched Reid’s family embrace her mother, keeping her close, talking to her, distracting her.
Lori rested her head on Reid’s shoulder as she curled up next to him on one of the sofas. The minutes crawled by. She could think about something else for a second or two, but then her mind returned to the operating room as she wondered what was happening. How many more hours until they knew the surgery was a success? How much longer after that until Madeline was out of the woods. If she could—
The doctor walked into the waiting room. He was tall, still dressed in scrubs. There were stains on the front of his shirt.
Lori was on her feet in an instant. An initial burst of joy was followed by confusion. It was too soon. The surgery was supposed to take all day.
And then she knew. She didn’t even have to look into the doctor’s eyes to see the pain there.
The room disappeared into a buzzing blur. There was only the sound of her heartbeat and the doctor’s drawn face.
“I’m sorry,” he murmured, his voice thick with pain and frustration. “It was her heart. A complication we didn’t expect.”
He kept on talking and talking, but Lori didn’t hear anything else. She didn’t have to. Her perfect sister was gone.
LORI DIDN’T REMEMBER anything about leaving the hospital or driving home, but suddenly she found herself standing in the middle of her living room. Reid was next to her, his arm around her waist. He guided her to the sofa and urged her to sit, but she resisted.
She couldn’t think, couldn’t move, could barely breathe. It was as if her life force had drained away. She ached, but the pain was so all-encompassing that she wasn’t even close to tears. It was as if crying were too meager a reaction to what had happened.
Madeline was dead.
The sentence played over and over in her mind, like a song lyric she couldn’t escape. With each repetition, her body tightened, as if preparing to be hit. She ached from the inside out and knew nothing would ever be the same.
Madeline was gone. Her funny, beautiful, perfect sister hadn’t survived the very surgery that was supposed to save her life.
“What can I get you?” Reid asked.
She shook her head, unable to answer him. Speaking seemed impossible.
The front door opened again and Walker and Cal came in, her mother supported between them. Evie had aged a lifetime in the past hour. Lines pulled her face into a mask of grief.
Lori crossed to her and hugged her close. Her mother’s thin arms embraced her.
“I can’t believe it,” her mother said quietly, her voice thick with grief. “I won’t believe it. She can’t be gone. She can’t.”
Lori agreed, but she couldn’t defy the truth. It nestled inside of her, a dark, heavy creature that stole her breath. She was cold and shaken and knew there were a thousand things she had to be doing. Only she couldn’t think of a single one.
The rest of Reid’s family walked into the house. They were quiet and uncomfortable, staying at the fringes of the room. Lori knew she should say something—thank them or give them permission to leave.
Before she could force herself to react, Reid put his arms around her and her mother.
“We’ll take care of everything,” he said. “Just hang on to each other. That’s all you have to do.”
She led her mother to the sofa where the older woman collapsed. Dani crouched at her feet and took her hands.
“Can I get you a cup of tea?” she asked. “Or coffee?”
“Tea would be nice,” Lori’s mother said.
“I’ll get it.” Dani rose. “Lori?”
Lori shook her head.
Reid settled Lori next to her mother. Both women were pale with loss. He’d never seen such a stark expression in Lori’s eyes. Her pain was so powerful, it was practically alive.
“Is there a doctor?” he asked. “Someone who can prescribe something for you and your mom?”
“What? I don’t know.” Lori shook her head and started to stand up. “I don’t…”
“My purse,” her mother said. “I have medication in there. The doctor’s name.”
While Dani was off making tea, Reid found Evie’s purse and called her doctor. In a matter of minutes, Walker had left for the drugstore to pick up the prescription.
Penny walked out of the kitchen and crossed to him. “She doesn’t have anything to eat in the house. I have the stuff I made for our day at the hospital, but that’s not going to be enough. I’ll write up a shopping list for Cal, then stay long enough to fix a few things. Friends and neighbors might drop off food, but we can’t depend on it.”
Penny had always believed food was the solution for every problem. It was one of her best qualities.
“Thanks,” he said. “That will help.”
“Good. Okay, let me get the list going. Cal can shop, then bring the food here. Once that’s done, he can pick up Allison. Elissa took her and Zoe home.” Penny shook her head. “I’m sorry, Reid. For you, for Lori and her mom. It’s so awful.”
He nodded, but didn’t say anything. There weren’t any words that could make what had happened all right. He hated what Lori was going through—what she would keep going through. She and Madeline had been close. The unexpected loss would be devastating.
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