Of course the Yazzies didn’t speak of Thorne the way the other locals did, and now he understood why. Thorne had been family, and he understood how grief could devastate. How it was too painful to talk and just easier to bottle it up.

“It’s good to see you again,” Derek said, grinning at her.

“Don’t even!” she teased. “I know you’re not thrilled to see me, but I’m not here to see you. I’m here to see the OB/GYN. This Dr. Merritt.”

“Dr. Merritt isn’t here, Katlian.”

“Joe Jr.’s wife is supposed to see her this afternoon and I wanted to talk to her about Jennifer’s birthing plan. I didn’t trust that Dr. Pearson.”

“That I can agree with you on, but Dr. Merritt got married and sent in a replacement. Have you talked to your son?” he asked gently.

Katlian’s brow furrowed. “What does it matter if I talked to Joe. He knows nothing. Why would I…?” The words died in her throat as Evelyn stepped out of one of the examination rooms.

Evelyn wasn’t paying attention to them at first—she was flipping through a file before she stepped back into the exam room. Not even noticing them.

Katlian turned away and covered her mouth with her hand. She’d gone pale, as if she’d seen a ghost.

Derek reached out and held her shoulders, steadying her. “That’s why I was wondering if you’d talked to your son.”

“Is that…?” Katlian’s voice wavered.

“Dr. Evelyn Saunders,” Derek answered. Then he guided Katlian toward exam room number one, away from some of the curious onlookers in the waiting room. He helped Katlian take a seat and then shut the door.

Katlian was wide-eyed. “I haven’t talked to Joe since the day before yesterday. I’ve been staying with Joe Jr. and Jennifer. They didn’t tell me.”

“Joe Jr. didn’t know who Dr. Saunders was. But I think he told his father, because Joe Sr. and Dr. Saunders had a reunion     last night.”

He’d seen the love there in Joe Sr.’s eyes when he’d looked at Evelyn, but he’d seen fear in hers. The way she’d held herself, her body rigid, her smile fixed—she had been throwing up walls.

Derek knew the art of going through the motions. He’d practiced that art so many times after Vivian had died, when all people had done was offer him condolences and feel sorry for him. What he’d needed was help. So he’d learned to put on that act. Worn that armor to shield his heart from pain.

He wondered why Evelyn felt she needed to do that.

What had happened when her parents died?

He knew she’d been taken away, but there must be more to the story.

Is it really your business?

No, it wasn’t and he was annoyed with himself for caring so much, but for some reason he couldn’t help himself when it came to Evelyn.

She drew him in. Just this short time of getting to know her and he was completely drawn to her. He wanted to know more about her, and that was a dangerous thing indeed.

Katlian Yazzie smiled. “Evie’s mother was my daughter. Evie…”

Katlian wept.

Derek was taken aback by the usually stoic woman’s crying and was at a loss as to what to do. He slipped his arm around the old woman. “Joe mentioned she was taken away?”

Katlian nodded. “By Thorne’s mother. Because a judge deemed that she was better for Evelyn. That Boston was better than Wolf’s Harbor.”

“Why would a judge decide that? Evelyn knew Wolf’s Harbor not Boston,” said Derek.

“Because Boston had access to more healthcare. Thorne was our only doctor… Well, you know no one replaced him after he died. Not until you came. So the judge decided in favor of Boston and not here.”

Derek’s stomach twisted in a knot. He understood that. If there had been a local hospital on the day of that storm that had grounded all the planes to Sitka, Vivian would have had a chance of survival, instead of bleeding to death.

“Thorne died at the scene—no hospital could’ve saved him. Joe and I fought. We fought hard—spent money that we didn’t have—but we lost. We didn’t have the money or the power that Georgina Saunders in Boston had. We had to walk away. I wrote to Evie constantly, but my letters were returned to sender. Once Joe went down there to see her, but Georgina had taken Evelyn away on a long vacation so he had to come back. Georgina had sole custody. We had nothing.”

“I’m sure if you explain…”

Katlian sighed. “I need a moment.”

“Do you still want to talk to her about Jennifer?”

Katlian shook her head. “I don’t know if she would want to see me. I don’t know if I’m ready to see her or even if she’ll remember me.”

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