She didn’t know what kind of a man he was. She knew what kind of a teenager he’d been back then—unscrupulous and self-centered. She had no reason to assume he’d changed.

“I don’t know.” She forced the words out.


“Well, know,” he said. He looked to Dr. Stannis again. “How soon will we be sure I’m a close enough match?”

“A few days,” she said. “But given the genetic connection, I’m even more optimistic.”

“It’s a stroke of luck,” TJ said flatly.

Sage couldn’t begin to guess at the emotion behind those words.

Dr. Stannis moved to look her directly in the eyes. “Are you sure you’re all right?”

“I’m fine.” For the moment, she was fine.

TJ was going to help them. They’d figure out the rest later. For now, the bone marrow transplant was all that mattered.

The doctor stepped back. “I’ll give the two of you some time to talk.”

With a final assessment of Sage’s expression, she left the lounge.

Sage had no idea what to say next, and the seconds ticked past.

When TJ finally spoke, there was contained fury in his tone. “I’m not going to ask you how you could have done something so horrible.”

“Me?” Sage could barely believe he’d said it. “You were there. You know exactly what happened between us.”

He waved a dismissive hand. “That was a stupid stunt by an ignorant kid. We’ve grown up since then. You’ve known about this for a decade.”

“You were a shallow, self-centered jerk.”

He squared his shoulders and set his square jaw. “I don’t want to fight with you, Sage. This conversation can wait. Right now, I want to meet my son.”

Sage staggered and reached to an armchair for support. “No.”

“What do you mean no? No is no longer an option for you.”

She struggled for the right words. “You can’t tell him, TJ. Not now. Not while he’s so sick.” She stretched her arm expansively toward the door to the rest of the hospital. “There’s no way we can expect him to absorb news like that in the middle of all this.”

TJ seemed to consider her words. His expression lost its hard edge. “I need to meet him, Sage. We don’t have to tell him I’m his father, at least not right away. But I’m going to meet him, and I’m not waiting another minute.”

Sage decided she could live with that. “Okay.”

“His name is Eli?”

“Yes. Eli Thomas Costas.”

TJ didn’t react to the name. He walked over to the lounge door and pulled it open, holding it for her. “Take me to my son.”

* * *

“Whoa, whoa, back up, back up,” Matt said to TJ. “You say he’s nine years old?”

“It was in high school,” TJ responded.

There was an open beer on the wide arm of his wooden deck chair on Matt’s Whiskey Bay Marina sundeck, but TJ had no interest in drinking it.

“So, before you met Lauren,” Caleb said.

The three men were sitting around the gas fire pit, but it was early on a June evening, so they hadn’t bothered lighting it.

“I didn’t cheat on Lauren.” TJ’s tone was hard.

“I’m just getting the time line straight.”

“It was a one-night thing. At prom. We danced.”

TJ didn’t want to own up to participating in the foolish prank that had led him to ask nerdy brainiac Sage Costas to dance with him that night. At least not until he had to. And he hoped that was never.

“And she never told you about the baby?” Matt asked.

“I assume that’s rhetorical,” TJ replied.

If Sage had told him about Eli, TJ would have moved heaven and earth to have a relationship with his son. TJ’s own father had walked out before TJ was born, and there was no way he’d do that to a child of his own.

“What’s he like?” Caleb asked, his tone dropping.

TJ’s mind went back to the sleepy boy in the stark hospital bed. “He’s a great-looking kid.”

Eli had been too tired to do much but say hello.

“Like his dad?” Matt joked.

TJ would be lying if he said he hadn’t seen some of himself in Eli. He didn’t think he was imagining it.

“If he’s got his mother’s brains, the world better watch out.” As he said the words, TJ realized they were entirely true. From a genetic perspective, Eli had a fantastic mother. Back in high school, Sage was voted most likely to save the world or become president.

“When are you going to tell him?” Matt asked.

TJ decided it was time for a shot of alcohol, no matter how weak. He raised his beer and took a drink before answering. “I don’t know. When he’s feeling better, I guess.”

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