My dad is not ready to accept August’s olive branch though. He gives a mirthless laugh. “This is all easy for you. Your life isn’t being disrupted. You’re not being asked to walk away from the only support you’ve ever known.”

August leans in toward my dad, keeping his voice low so it won’t carry to the bedrooms. “How can you have such loyalty to this program you’re supposedly hiding in when you didn’t even know what the current threat level was? Your handler should have informed you.”

My dad scrambles to justify. “We talk to our handler often. We’ve basically been told everything is okay as long as we keep our head down—they’ll report if something is amiss. Most importantly, they’ll move us to safety with new identities if they need to. Can you do the same for us?”

August doesn’t address dad’s question, instead focusing on trying to get him to see things his way. “And that lackadaisical attitude toward your own safety is why I’ve been without my son all these years,” August accuses.

Turning, he shoots me an angry glare. He holds me as much responsible as he does my father.

My gaze falls to the floor. I can’t even look August in the eyes when his condemnation is so warranted. I deserve every bit of his enmity and none of his offers for help.

“But again,” August says in a gruff voice. “I’m offering for you to come with us. I honestly believe the danger is low if you stay with me, Sam, and Leighton until you get settled, find a job and your own place. I’ll help Leighton do the same.”

My head pops up, and my eyes lock with his. “Why? You owe us nothing.”

“I’m Sam’s father, so I owe him everything,” August says quietly. “And I want him to be happy. He’s not going to be if his family is not around him when he’s getting his treatment.”

CHAPTER 11

August

I move through the maze of floors at Children’s Hospital, having finished the last injection I needed to build up my white blood cell count in preparation for the transplant. It’s been my routine for the past five days. I come in, flirt with the nurse, and get my injection.

After, I stop at the small café on the second floor and grab a black coffee for myself and a latte for Leighton. I then move up to the seventh floor where Sam was admitted six days ago.

Sam’s on the oncology floor, and it’s utterly depressing walking the halls. I can’t help but look into the open room doors at the small children, bald from their treatments and with their eyes sunken in. It’s torture coming in here every day knowing some of these kids will not survive.

It’s torture knowing Sam could be one of these kids.

As per my usual routine, I stop outside of his room and take a few moments to collect myself. While doing so, I don the required isolation gown, cap, mask, and booties anyone who enters must wear. I try to think of happy thoughts, envisioning a life where Sam is cancer free and we can play football together, go fishing, and I can take him to Disney World. I have to get my head on fucking straight before I walk into that room, because it’s not a pretty sight. Sam probably doesn’t know how bad he looks, so I never want him to see it on my face.

I take a deep breath, roll my shoulders, and plaster a smile on my face, even though I’m wearing a mask. I once heard people can hear a smile in your voice. A nurse smiles sympathetically as she passes. I move into his room, bracing to see my sick child.

I’m never quite prepared to see Sam laying there, his skin ashen and misery on his face. Leighton sits by his bed, the yellow paper gown and cap in no way diminishing her beauty. Not even sure the last time she’s had a decent shower, and there are dark circles under her eyes. Regardless, she sits patiently and bravely by Sam’s bed, and has been the one to help Sam through the worst of his treatment. For those reasons alone, she has never looked more beautiful.

Leighton has not left the hospital since Sam was admitted six days ago. I’ve tried to get her to go out and get some fresh air. Tried to take her to my house one morning to get a good shower and some sleep. I’ve even tried to get her to go down to the cafeteria for a meal she could eat while actually sitting at a table. She’s refused it all.

Instead, she eats in the room with Sam, sleeps in the reclining chair by his bed, and showers in his small bathroom.

I’ve spent a lot of time in this room as well, but nowhere near as much as Leighton. I’m still working, but Kynan has generously put me on desk duty and told me to come and go as I please. He even offered for me to take whatever time off I wanted, but I didn’t accept for a few reasons. First, I want to take time off when Sam comes home from the hospital. Second, I figure Sam and Leighton are fairly safe within the walls of this building. There’s no indication any member of the mob family even knows about them, and I had a long talk with the security office about our situation. They have admitted Sam under a different identity as a double layer of protection, and no one is allowed in his room without security clearance.

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