“But that would mean meeting your family.”

It does, and I’m okay with that if it means she’s by my side. “I don’t care. I need you to be with me.”

She smiles and cradles my face with her hands. “Of course. I’ll come if it’s what you want, but this is going to change everything.”

“I know, but it’s what I want.”

I race toward the hospital and we’re there in five minutes. We enter the lobby and I see Evan waiting for us by the elevators. “Any news?”

He takes a look at Laurelyn. I know he’s putting it all together and remembering the photographs, but now isn’t the time to tell him to stop picturing her naked. “I walked down right after I talked to you, so I don’t know.”

“Do they know if it’s a bad one?”


“No. It could be something else, but the tests they’re doing now will tell us how extensive the damage is if it’s a heart attack. When he comes out, he might have to be in the intensive care unit.”

Shit, that doesn’t sound good.

Laurelyn squeezes my hand. “I know intensive care sounds scary, but I think being monitored there after a heart attack would be standard care, regardless of the severity.”

This is why I need her here. She’s my anchor. She calms me.

“This is my brother, Evan.” Who better not be picturing you naked right now.

“Laurelyn, it’s nice to meet you. I’ve heard some great things about you from my brother.” Evan keeps it tame, but I’m positive he would jack with me if he were meeting her under other circumstances.

We follow him onto the elevator and then he ushers us to where the rest of the family is waiting. My mum is out of her seat the second she sees us and has me in her arms. “I thought we’d never get you, Jack Henry.”

“I’m sorry. My phone was off because Laurelyn and I were at the Opera House.”

My mum lets me go and gives her full attention to the girl by my side. This is it. This is where it’s all going to change. She’s going to know my name. “Laurelyn, this is my mother, Margaret McLachlan.”

I don’t know if it’s the circumstances with my dad or the end of her wait to meet the woman she perceives as my girlfriend, but my mother pulls Laurelyn into a tight embrace. I almost think she’s going to cry, but she keeps it together. “I wasn’t sure I would ever get to meet you. Jack Henry has promised me more than once he would bring you to the house, but something always comes up. I was beginning to wonder if you existed, but I see now that you do, and you’re even more beautiful than the pictures he showed me.”

And there it is. She knows I’m Jack Henry McLachlan and from the look on her face, it doesn’t mean jack shit to her. I want to bust out laughing. All of this secrecy about who I am has been for nothing.

“Thank you. It’s very nice to meet you, Mrs. McLachlan. Jack Henry has told me wonderful things about you.”

Oh, hell! Laurelyn doesn't know that my mum is the only person on earth who calls me Jack Henry. I see Mum’s face and know the shit just got real. “You call him Jack Henry?”

Laurelyn is unaware of this blunder. “Yes, ma’am.”

My mum takes Laurelyn’s face in her hands and leans forward to whisper something in her ear. God, help me. She’s so determined to marry me off, there’s no telling what she told her. She may have proposed marriage for me.

Mum recovers from meeting the woman she thinks is her potential daughter-in-law and we join the rest of the family in the waiting room. I introduce Laurelyn to Chloe, and then Emma and the girls. It’s an awkward introduction for her to meet my family for the first time under these circumstances, but she handles it well.

We’re all antsy because it’s been almost two hours since my dad went back, but his doctor finally comes out with an update. “Are you Henry McLachlan’s family?”

My mum is the one to answer. “Yes. I’m his wife.”

“Mr. McLachlan is doing well. It wasn’t a heart attack as we suspected, but he had two very significant blockages. One was ninety percent blocked, the other about ninety-five. That’s where the pain was coming from. We’ve stented both of them and I expect him to make a full recovery. We’ll watch him overnight and he should be able to go home tomorrow.”

My mum holds her head with her hand, her face flooded with relief. “Thank you so much. When can we see him?”

“He should be coming out of recovery any minute. He’s going to a step-down cardiac unit instead of the intensive care. His nurse will come for you when he’s settled into a room.”

I see Evan huddled with his wife and children while Mum and Chloe are hugging, and I know bringing Laurelyn with me was the right decision, even if my dad’s condition ended up being less than life-threatening.

She hugs me and our foreheads touch. “Your dad is going to be fine.” She smiles as she adds, “Jack Henry.”

I whisper so my family can’t hear. “It’s weird hearing it come out of your mouth.”

“It feels weird to say it.” And that’s the end of our name conversation. This isn’t the time or place to discuss it.

We don’t wait long until the nurse comes for us. “I can take five of you, but children aren’t allowed.”

Emma’s holding Mila and looks up at Evan. “He’s your dad. You go and I’ll stay with them.”

Laurelyn peers up at me. “I don’t know your father. Emma should go.” She turns to my sister-in-law. “I can stay with the girls, if you don’t mind leaving them with me.”

I see the relief on Emma’s face. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Laurelyn takes a slumbering Mila from Emma and carries her over to where Celia is sleeping in a chair. “Don’t worry. We’ll be just fine.”

We enter Henry McLachlan’s hospital room in a cluster. None of us say it, but it’s frightening to see this strong man so frail and weak. He’s pale against the white hospital sheets—almost white on white.

He hears us enter and opens his eyes. He looks groggy. I’m sure it’s the anesthetic wearing off.

He looks at my mum first. That’s the way it’s always been between them. She’s always his number one.

And that’s what my mum wants me to have. My very own number one.

She sits in the chair at his bedside while we observe as spectators. My dad reaches for her hand and she places it inside his. “I should have listened to you, Margaret.”

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