“And the tests?”

“They said the results will take a couple of days. I’ve got three major private placement deals on the table. I have to close them. Then I’m clearing my desk to go back to Seattle. Whatever happens, if I’m a match or not, he’s still my kid, and he’s getting the best medical care money can buy.”

Matt and Caleb exchanged a look.

“What?” TJ asked.

“That’s a good place for your money,” Matt said.

“You bet it’s a good place for my money.”

But money wasn’t the only thing his son needed. TJ didn’t know what he’d do if he wasn’t a bone marrow match. He had to be a match. Nothing else was acceptable.

“You talked to him?” Caleb asked.

“Only a little. He was pretty groggy from all the medication. Sage says he plays baseball, a catcher.”

“Have you talked to a lawyer?” Matt asked.

“I’ve talked to three lawyers.” TJ’s company Tide Rush Investments had a financial lawyer on retainer and his firm had a family law division.

“What do they say?”

“That I’ve got a case.”

“What are you looking to get?” Matt asked.

“What has she offered?” Caleb’s brow shot up.

TJ took another pull on his beer. It was such an incredibly ordinary thing to do—sitting up here with his two friends like he had hundreds of times over the years. But his life had been turned upside down. It would never be the same again.

He’d been considering his position for the past thirty-six hours. “She had custody for the first nine years. I’ll take the next nine.”

Caleb frowned.

“You can’t take that hard a line,” Matt said.

“A teenage boy needs his dad. I’d have given anything to have my old man show up in my life when I was Eli’s age,” TJ said. He had a lot of time to make up for, and he had no intention of letting Sage or anyone else stop him.

“They need their mom too,” Caleb said.

TJ knew that. But he didn’t want to admit it right now. He wanted to hold on to his anger at Sage for a while.

“She can have visitation,” he said. “That’s more than she gave me.”

“Could you move to Seattle?” Matt asked.

“The Whiskey Bay school is top-notch,” TJ countered. “So is the area hospital. And the lifestyle can’t be beat.” He couldn’t imagine a more perfect place to raise a child.

“The neighbors are pretty good,” Caleb said with a half smile.

“It’s not like I don’t have the room.”

His wife, Lauren, had wanted several children. She’d designed a six-bedroom house with a massive recreation area in the basement for rainy days and a nanny suite over the garage. She’d been trying to get pregnant when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I can’t see it being that straightforward.” There was a cautionary note to Matt’s voice.

“Nothing’s that straightforward,” TJ said. “But I’m a determined and resourceful man.”

“She’s the mother of your child.”

“And I’m the father of hers—a fact she seems to have conveniently ignored.”

“Do you know why?” Caleb asked. “Why she kept it from you? I mean, she could easily have come after you for child support.”

“She wouldn’t have had to come after me. I’d have stepped up without a fight.”

“I know. I know. But you’d think she’d have wanted your help.”

TJ knew the whole truth would eventually come out. His friends were too astute, and they cared too much about him to let him get away with a vague explanation. It was both a blessing and a curse.

TJ took the plunge. “She said I didn’t deserve to know about Eli.”

“Why?” Caleb’s question was perfectly predictable.

“Because it was a prank.”

Both of his friends looked at him blankly.

“Prom night.” TJ gritted his teeth at the memory. “A group of us, the seniors on the football team, we each picked a girl’s name out of a hat. I picked Sage.”

“I’m guessing they weren’t the girls on the cheerleading squad,” Matt said. His disappointment in TJ was obvious.

TJ knew he deserved that. “Not the cheerleading squad. They were the nerds, the brains. It was supposed to be a kiss, only a dance and a kiss. That was it. But Sage…”

He remembered the overpowering rush of adolescent hormones. He couldn’t say what it was about her. She had been thin and freckled, with this wild red hair. But when he’d kissed her, she’d kissed him back, and they’d both been left breathless. His car had been far too close to the side door of the gym, and they’d ended up in the back seat.

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