“That was Cassie, wasn’t it?” Lia asks, in a voice that says she already knows the answer.
“Yes.” I sigh.
“Why didn’t you tell me she was out?” Lia’s voice sounds like a mixture of hurt and pissed off.
I pull her into my arms, closing them around her protectively. “I didn’t know, baby. Aidan told me a month or so ago that her doctor suggested having her come home with him for a day to see how she responded, but he never told me that he’d scheduled it. He usually visits her on the weekends, and to my knowledge, that was all he was doing this time.”
Lia shivers against me and I know it has nothing to do with the temperature in the elevator. “Did you see the way she looked at me? Touched me?”
“Yeah, I did,” I say hoarsely. “I shouldn’t have let you near her. Shit, let’s get out of here.” I lean over to punch the button for the ground floor, thinking it wasn’t a great idea to linger just feet from where Cassie was.
“Is she better now?” Lia asks. “I mean, from the few things you’ve said, I assumed she would never be…out again.”
“It’s supposedly the new medication they have her on. I told you that she’d been responding to it. I mean, I hardly believed it when Aidan first mentioned it, and I just shoved the information aside. Especially when I put Aidan solely in charge of her care and removed Max.”
“Was that really a good idea?” Lia asks delicately. “Don’t you want to know what’s going on there to avoid something like what just happened?”
Hell to the fucking yes, I want to shout, but wait until we’re on the road once again before I answer her. “I needed to avoid as much stress as possible with trying to detox on my own. Having to hear updates on Cassie tends to push me close to the edge. I also didn’t feel it was fair to keep that kind of personal responsibility on Max’s shoulders. Aidan is more than happy to look after Cassie and he’s able to do it far more impartially than I’ll ever be. For the first time in eight years, I thought I might be making a decision concerning her that wasn’t just based on my hate. I wanted to give that much consideration to Aidan.” Hitting the steering wheel with the palm of my hands, I snarl out, “It was a mistake, a fucking huge one. That should have never happened tonight.”
I feel Lia’s hand on my thigh as she tries to calm me. I’m surprised she isn’t freaking out as well. I can’t get the image of Cassie’s hands on our child as she called it her own. It was such a darkly twisted moment that I have to fight the urge to pull over and heave until there is nothing left inside of me. “I’ll call Debra and cancel dinner. We can go home and attempt to regroup.”
I take a deep breath, knowing that my anxiety level directly affects her. I can only imagine how she feels because I want to freak the fuck out myself. I need to be strong and downplay what’s happened if possible. I have no desire at all to socialize tonight, but I’ll do it—for her. I place my hand on top of hers and give it a squeeze of reassurance. “It’s fine, baby. You’ve been looking forward to seeing your friends again and I refuse to let my baggage ruin that.”
“Are you sure?” She sounds skeptical.
“Absolutely. There’s no use in going home to dwell on something we can’t change…at least tonight. Tomorrow will be soon enough to get some answers.” Even though I managed to keep my voice level for Lia’s benefit, I’d really like nothing more at the moment than to call Aidan and ask him what in the hell is going on. How dare he fucking bring her back here—to his apartment—for her first home visit without telling me. I also want to call Max and demand that he finds some way to make sure this never happens again. She’s not well—fucking far from it. If Aidan can’t see that, then he has no business managing her care. She’s a danger to all that I hold dear. An icy feeling of déjà vu washes over me and I know with certainty that in order to have a future with Lia, I’ll have to battle a past that threatens to take it all away—again.
“How dare you bring her here without telling me,” I bark out before Aidan has made it more than a couple of feet into my office. “Where in the hell is she now?”
He looks guilty but resolute as he says, “She’s back in the facility. She was only here overnight.” Expelling a breath, he sinks into a chair in front of my desk. “I didn’t tell you because it wasn’t something I had planned. When I went to visit her on Friday, her doctor asked if I’d given any more thought to signing her out for a short time. They’re interested in her case since this is experimental medication and she’s doing so well on it. They want to see if she can rejoin society and feel that exposing her in small measures would be helpful to her recovery.”
“We’re not talking about someone with social anxiety here, Aidan. She slit my fucking throat and killed my child! So they give her some new wonder drug and then decide to thrust her back out into the world? The whole thing is dangerous and unethical. How did they know she wouldn’t kill you in your sleep?”
“I locked her bedroom door,” he admits quietly. “It wasn’t that I feared her doing something to me, but I wasn’t confident she wouldn’t wander off somewhere during the night. She’s not used to any type of freedom.”
“You saw how she reacted to Lia. It scared the hell out of me,” I admit. Truth be told, I was distracted all through dinner with Debra and Martin, and then I was awake most of the night with images of Cassie hurting Lia.