“Someone claiming to be with the press was asking for you this morning. I’ve questioned my staff about the leak, but no one is claiming responsibility.”
“Did you get the name of this person, or their press credentials?” Jacob immediately asks.
Mr. Reed’s lips press together. “Unfortunately, no. The doorman did try, as did the bellman’s desk.”
“Did they confirm that Mr. Compton’s staying here?” Jacob asks.
“Absolutely not,” Mr. Reed assures us. “We took great precautions to keep Mr. Compton’s stay as invisible as possible. However, he is quite well known among the staff.”
“Is there security footage of this visitor?” Jacob asks, pounding away at the issue, which is commendable, but the seconds are also pounding away at my watch.
“We have cameras everywhere,” Mr. Reed replies. “I can arrange the footage.”
“Call me when it’s ready,” Jacob instructs. “You have my card. And if it can be emailed, please do so.”
I insert, “Right now, I need to be somewhere.”
“Of course,” Mr. Reed says, sounding apologetic. “I’ll be in contact in the next hour.”
I’m already stepping around him and heading toward the door by the time he’s finished the sentence. Jacob again falls into step with me and I say, “Clearly, you aren’t convinced it’s a member of the press asking around about me.”
“My motto is proof before acceptance.”
I don’t ask where that comes from. I’ve looked in the man’s eyes. I’ve seen the hardness that only going to hell and pulling yourself back gives a person, and I approve. People who’ve been through a bloodbath and survived are the strongest, and I expect nothing less than Hercules by my side when it comes to protecting my family and employees.
We step outside to find the Escalade has been pulled around and is waiting for us, the storm gusting wickedly. I wave away the back door a doorman opens for me, choosing the front instead.
Jacob joins me and glances at me, his face expressionless as he starts the engine.
“You aren’t my driver,” I tell him, answering the question he hasn’t asked. “And I prefer being behind the wheel, especially in the city.” I eye my watch. “Step on it.”
We pull away from the curb to blizzard-like conditions, the traffic as heavy as the snow on the bumpers. I’m not going to make my mother’s treatment by car. When finally we begin to move, I direct Jacob to a subway stop and tell him, “Meet me at the hospital. Tell them your name and I’ll have them bring you to me.” I open my door.
“Wait. Where the hell are you going?”
“I’m taking the subway.”
“That’s risky with someone looking for you,” he points out. “Let me park—”
The light turns and I get out, slamming the door shut as horns start blowing.
Mark . . .
I hold on to a pole in the crowded subway car. I’ve had to take three trains to reach the hospital, all done in only fifteen minutes. It would have taken an hour on the city streets.
The train halts and as the crowd moves toward the doors, a flash goes off too close to me for comfort. I look for a camera or cell phone being directed my way but find nothing. Giving up, I exit and head for the stairs to the street, bothered by the flash that my gut tells me was directed at me.
I reach the hospital five minutes later and quickly arrange entry for Jacob through the secure entrance reserved for visitors of high-profile patients. It’s now just ten minutes until my mother’s treatment time. Rushing out of the elevator on her floor, I head toward the private room we’ve arranged for her to use before her treatments. Headed toward me, rolling an empty wheelchair, is my mother’s radiology nurse. Just seeing that chair, and thinking about seeing my mother in it again, rips a piece of my heart out, but Reba is still a sight for sore eyes. She’s close to my mother’s age and has a knack for challenging every stubborn word my mother speaks—of which there are many—while still making my mother love her.
“I’m so glad—” she begins as we meet outside the cracked door of my mother’s room.
I hold up a finger, stepping to her side. “She doesn’t know I’m here.”
She smiles warmly and pulls the door shut. “She’s going to be elated. I’ll give you a couple of minutes to see her, but we have a tight schedule, so make it quick. Your timing is perfect. Apparently she tried to refuse to come this morning.”
“Refused? That’s new. She’s been all about getting this behind her and getting back to work.”
“Even the strong feel weak at times, and believe me, cancer is the beast that can make that a truth. The blast of chemo your mother was given just before the mastectomy was a lot for most to handle, but yet she weathered both procedures well. But we just couldn’t give her as much time after that blood infection to get stronger as we would have liked to ensure she didn’t go backwards now. Considering everything, I’d say she has a right to feel beat up.”
I nod. “Hopefully I can help her get past this.”
“From what I understand, you were her rock during the blood infection. Having you here will be good for her. But be warned; she’s lost more weight since you left.”
“How much?” I ask, concerned. “She was too thin two weeks ago.”