“Tell me more about Sam,” I demand. I’ve been so focused on whether I was a match, finding the best doctors to treat Sam—again thanks to Kynan and Jerico—then making the travel arrangements to pick him up that I haven’t had the presence of mind to ask about much of anything.
Wariness creeps into her expression. She’s expecting a fight from me. “What do you want to know?”
I shrug, giving her a wide smile. “Oh, I don’t know. Whatever one might tell a father who has missed out on nine years of his kid’s life.”
My jab makes a direct hit, her cheeks flushing red. Still, I give her credit for taking a deep breath and squaring her shoulders, refusing to be shamed.
“He looks just like you. Same color hair and eyes. Except my nose… he has that, but you’ll see. He’s smart. Science is his favorite subject. But, oddly, he has a real artistic side and loves to draw. He’s a quiet boy. Introspective. I suspect it’s because of the life we live. Since he was a toddler, he’s known about keeping secrets and having to be careful to never divulge too much. But he’s funny, August. He learned sarcasm early on, and I have no clue where he got it from because I’m so literal about everything. He’ll just snap out these one-liners that’ll make you double over in laughter. He hates most vegetables…”
She talks for a solid half an hour about Sam without ever having to pause once to come up with something interesting to say about him. If I let her, I bet she’d talk for hours.
It’s clear she loves him beyond measure and has more pride in him than in anything else in her life. I know she places him first, as she should.
“…and his favorite team is the Denver Broncos. He’s playing recreational football, but he’s a good baseball player, too.”
I interrupt her, not because I don’t want to hear more about him. I do. I want to know him inside and out, front and back, upside down and all around.
But we’re getting close to landing, and we need to have an important conversation. “You said he knows about me… Did you tell him I was coming with you today?”
She shakes her head. “He still doesn’t know where I’ve been. My dad just told him I was on a girl’s trip or something, which he’ll never buy. He’s too smart for that.”
“How do you want this to play out? I mean… how should he meet me?”
She wrings her hands, her gaze dropping as she considers this. When she lifts her eyes to mine, she says, “I think I should talk to him alone first. It’s going to be a shock, but he’s going to be incredibly happy to meet you. Then I think the best thing to do is to just let you have some time together.”
It feels fucking amazing to know my kid is going to be happy to see me. I don’t know why that makes me feel so good. I’ve never had so much as a dog that was happy to see me when I came home.
“Have you told your dad that Sam’s coming to Vegas for the transplant?”
She shakes her head, grimacing at the notion. “He knows you’re a match and you’re coming to Denver with me today. But I haven’t told him we’re returning to Vegas. That’s also a conversation that’s best to have face to face.”
I give her a warning look. “He’s going to try to talk you out of it. And I’m not budging, Leighton. We have everything set up and ready to go in Vegas.”
Her lips turn down in disapproval, but also in submission. “I’m giving you this, August. This is me caving because of all you missed out on with Sam. I’m not doing it because you’re ordering me to do so in caveman fashion. It’s my olive branch because I owe you for not letting you in on Sam’s life. But once it’s done, you need to consider us even.”
I don’t like the fact she’s considering us even. I sure as shit don’t like that she doesn’t seem cowed by my demands to bring Sam to Vegas. But in the back of my mind, I know that’s not true. There’s always been a part of me that has admired her backbone. Regardless, if she thinks this makes us even, she’s sorely mistaken. She has so much to pay for.
And I’m the one in charge.
I make another demand. “When we return to Vegas, you and Sam are staying at my house. For safety’s sake.”
Leighton doesn’t respond. Doesn’t nod or shake her head. She merely puts her earbuds in and gazes out the airplane window, ignoring me.
“It’s at the end of the street in the cul-de-sac… Number 5521.” Through the windshield, I point down the street of the neighborhood I’ve been living in for the past ten years.