Shooting up in bed, he grabbed the phone and answered.
“Hello?” he said in a sleepy, gravelly voice.
“Mr. Curtis?” the woman said, using Julian’s real last name.
“Mr. Curtis, I’m sorry to call at such a late hour, but this is Theresa from the Hawthorne Community.”
He knew that. He knew the minute he picked up the phone. Now get to the point. “Is James okay?”
A hesitation, slight but noticeable, preceded her answer. “He’s stable,” she said. “He’s developed pneumonia and we’re going to be transferring him to the hospital for observation.”
Julian fought the confusing mix of sleep and panic. “Do I need to come? Is he going to be all right?”
“We don’t think you need to come yet,” Theresa said. “Right now he’s stabilized. We’re going to see how he reacts to treatment. He already has so much difficulty breathing, this just makes things that much harder for him.”
“Yes, I know. Someone will call me as soon as there’s a change?”
“Yes, Mr. Curtis. That’s what James’s file says, which is why we called you at such a late hour. You’re to be notified any time there’s a major medical change for him.”
Julian nodded at the phone. That was the way he wanted it. If anything went wrong, he wanted to know. He couldn’t be there with him, but he could make sure James had all the best doctors and treatment that a movie star’s salary could provide. “Thank you.”
The call ended. Julian dropped the phone into his lap and took a deep breath to expel the fear that held his lungs captive. It was only fair—if James couldn’t breathe, Julian shouldn’t be able to breathe, either. That was never the way it was in reality. Julian was perfect. Healthy and able-bodied. James was not. The constant stream of late-night calls over the years had proven that much.
“Julian?” Gretchen’s soft, concerned voice called to him from the pillows. “Is everything all right?”
A sudden feeling of dread, more powerful than the one that rushed over him as his phone rang, overcame Julian. Gretchen was in bed beside him. She’d heard everything. This situation had the potential to go horribly wrong.
“Uh, yeah,” he said dismissively, hoping she would let it go. Very few people in his life knew about James’s situation. Hell, almost no one knew about James at all. Julian kept it that way on purpose. He certainly didn’t need the press exploiting this story. James had never asked for anyone’s pity, and making him a headline could potentially have millions of people looking at his brother as though there was something wrong with him. He didn’t want that. Despite everything, James had always just wanted to live a normal life. Being at the Hawthorne Community had given him that. He had his own apartment, his own helper and a staff of professionals to care for him when he needed it. Julian didn’t want to ruin that for his brother.
Gretchen sat up beside him in bed and leaned her bare shoulder against him. “For an actor, you’re not a very good liar.”
Julian chuckled softly. “Three a.m. is not the peak hour for my craft, I suppose.” He turned to her, planted a soft kiss on her lips and ignored the concern in her eyes. “It’s nothing. You can go back to sleep.”
He expected her to lie down, but instead he felt her arm wrap around his shoulders. “Julian, I told you my secret and you were able to...uh...help me out. Tell me what’s going on and maybe I can help you in return.”
He shook his head. “Gretchen, if this was as simple as making love to you, I’d tell you in a second. But this can’t be fixed by you or anyone else.” Julian returned his phone to the charger and lay down in the hopes she would do the same.
She did, pressing her naked body against his and resting her head on his chest. Normally, thoughts of desire would’ve rushed through his mind and he would’ve made love to her again, but there were too many worries in his mind now.
“Tell me,” Gretchen said. “It’s dark. We’re both half asleep. You don’t have to look at me while you say it. Just get it off your chest. You’ll feel better.”
Julian had never told anyone about this situation aside from Ross and the people who were a part of his life before he became a star, like Murray. Ross needed to know why he was so driven. But tonight, under the cover of darkness, he wanted to tell Gretchen the truth. She wasn’t like those other women, mining for a story they could sell. If there was one person he could tell, it would be her. He didn’t want to keep it from her.