I head for Nic’s room next but stop in the hallway in front of the bathroom. The light’s on. I knock on the door. “Nic?”
“Yeah?” Her voice is weak, and I barely hear her reply.
“Can I come in?”
I open the door and find her curled up on the bathroom floor in front of the toilet. Her shirt is damp with sweat, but she’s shivering and her face is pale, and I feel like a dick for not getting to her faster.
“I’m sorry I had to call Shay.” She doesn’t open her eyes, as if looking at me would take too much effort. “Didn’t want Lilly to be alone. I couldn’t . . .” Grimacing, she holds her stomach. “Sorry.”
I grab a washcloth from the cabinet and run it under cold water. I sink to my haunches and wipe it across her forehead. “It’s okay. Have you had anything for this fever?”
She waves limply toward the counter, where a bottle of Advil sits next to a liter of untouched Gatorade. “Don’t think it stayed down.”
“Let’s get you back into bed.”
“No, it’s easier if I stay here.”
I slide an arm under her. “Come on. Bed.” I help her off the floor and guide her out of the bathroom, but instead of going to her bedroom, I take her downstairs to mine—the only bedroom with an attached bathroom. She doesn’t protest; she doesn’t seem to have the energy to care.
I pull back the sheets and tuck her into bed. I put the trashcan by the side of the bed, just in case, and go to the kitchen to get her some water, but when I return, she’s sleeping.
My mouth tastes like rotten-egg-flavored sawdust, but for the first time in I don’t know how long, I’m thinking of opening my eyes for a reason other than finding the nearest toilet. I stretch in bed, my arms overhead, my toes pointed, and hum in appreciation of the warmth from the sunlight coming in the window.
It feels good to feel healthy, but I’m in no hurry to get up. I open my eyes and bolt upright when I realize I’m not in my bed. I’m in Ethan’s bed, and I’m not alone in the room. Ethan’s sitting in the recliner in the room’s little alcove, a book in his lap. His eyes are on me, and there’s a gentle smile on his face.
I look down to make sure I’m still decent. I have no memory of coming in here. I’m in the dirty gray T-shirt I wore to disinfect the house yesterday and some fleece sleep pants. I shift my gaze to him. “How did I get here?”
“I got home after midnight,” he says. “You were sleeping on the floor in the upstairs bathroom. I moved you.”
I frown. “Why’d you put me in here?”
He nods to his bathroom door. “Closer to the toilet?” He shrugs. “And it was more comfortable for me to keep an eye on you in here. The only place to sit in your room is the floor.”
I drag a hand over my face, trying to wipe the grogginess away. I have too many questions and I’m not sure where to start, so I begin with the most important. “Where’s Lilly?”
“Is she up for that?” I grimace as soon as the question comes out of my mouth. Her father would know, wouldn’t he? Between being her father and, you know, a doctor?
He’s unfazed. “She’s fine. Shay said Lilly was fine all evening, and she was her usual Energizer Bunny self this morning, so I took her to school. She made me promise to tell you she said goodbye. I wouldn’t let her wake you.”
I feel like I’m failing at this nanny gig. My first week on the job and I’ve had to call in the sister to help and Ethan had to let me sleep in his bed. “And why aren’t you at work?”
“A friend is covering my rounds. I stayed home to take care of you.”
“I could have taken care of myself.”
“I have no doubt about that.” He stands and puts his book in the chair before coming toward me. “But just because you could doesn’t mean you should have to.”
My stomach flip-flops happily, not just at his words but at the warmth in his eyes. It appears I’ve finally won the approval of Dr. McBroody Pants. All I had to do was puke for twelve hours straight.
I’m suddenly all too aware that Ethan’s eyes are on me and I’m sitting in his bed. Even though he’s here tending to me in a totally platonic way, my overactive imagination is trying really hard to make it into something more. I scooch out of bed and straighten my sleep clothes.
“I’m gonna get a shower.” I wave to the bed. “Then I’ll change these sheets.”