“I thought they took it from bone marrow,” he says, appearing completely overwhelmed by the information.

“Sometimes, they do. In this instance, though, the transplant catheter is best.”

“You’re sure?” he presses, stepping into his dad shoes with no hesitation. “Do we need a second opinion?”

I’m not offended by his line of questioning. It’s August’s right to have these thoughts and doubts. He knows nothing about my parenting ability or Sam’s diagnosis. I’m just so grateful he’s on board that I patiently let him work through his concerns. I answer every question he asks, reassuring him that I’m confident in this procedure. After a full hour, he seems convinced I’ve educated him on every aspect of Sam’s diagnosis and what the treatment can offer.

But, for some reason, I’m not prepared when he changes the subject. “Does Sam know about me?”

Again, I want to weep. I want to be able to fall apart without having to defend the choices I’ve made in my life. To not be responsible for anything.

When I answer with a simple, “Yes,” August seems shocked.

“He does?” he blurts out.

I can’t blame him. Given the secretive nature of my family being in WITSEC, it would seem logical that I’d kept August a secret from Sam. But I hadn’t.

“As a parent, I believe in being transparent and as truthful as possible. I thought it was important for Sam to learn about you. To know it wasn’t your choice not to be with us. That you are a good man who treated me well, and you would have been a great father if you’d been given the opportunity. Sam is well aware of how unfair it is. He’s a good kid, August. Sadly, due to the circumstances, he’s also wise beyond his years.”

I can see the turmoil in August’s eyes. He wants to hate me for keeping him away from Sam for all these years, but warring with that emotion is gratitude that Sam was at least given a piece of his father to keep.

“I didn’t tell Sam I was coming here, though,” I continue. August whips his head my way, one eyebrow arched. “I didn’t want to get his hopes up in case you weren’t a match.”

August nods in understanding, but his expression is grim. “And just where is all this supposed to happen? Where is my son?”

“Well… we live in Denver. In the suburbs. His doctor is there—”

“You’ll have to bring him here,” August cuts in.

“But his doctor—”

“Vegas has one of the best children’s hospitals in the nation. And I’m here.”

“But he’s in WITSEC,” I stutter, completely thrown off by this demand. “He’s safe with my dad there. They’re still under protection.”

“But you’re not,” August surmises.

I shake my head. “I lost my rights when I left. I was warned I would lose their protection if I did.”

“That didn’t stop you,” he points out.

“No,” I agree. “I’d put my life at risk over and over again to save Sam. My safety didn’t factor into my decision. It’s not important at all, not as long as I have some chance of helping Sam.”

It shouldn’t hurt when August doesn’t disagree with my last statement, but it does. “You don’t know what I do for a living, Leighton, but I have the ability to protect Sam better than any U.S. Marshal. And I happen to know something about your so-called protection. You have a handler you periodically check in with, but that’s it. It’s not like someone is actively watching over you and your family.”

“We have the backing of the government,” I protest. “They monitor the chatter within the family—”

“Mob, right?”

I snap my mouth shut, years of training to hold my tongue and never divulge a thing kicking in.

“One thing you need to understand about me is that I have much better sources than the U.S. Marshals. I can find out information they never dreamed of about the people your dad snitched on. Sam will come here. I refuse to argue about it.”

“But he’ll lose the protection—”

“And I’m telling you that I’ll protect him better.” August thumps his fist into the tabletop, voice raising. “I’m not just talking about for treatment, either… I mean permanently.”

“Is that an ultimatum?” I ask incredulously. “If we don’t move here, you won’t be a donor?”

August rolls his eyes, a scowl marring his handsome face. “Don’t be daft, Leighton. But if you insist on him staying in Denver, I will swoop in and fight you for custody. I’ll still be the donor and you might win that battle, but you’ll never win the war. I can promise you that.”

“And what about my dad?” I murmur, suddenly feeling like my entire world just got upended. “He can’t leave. We’d have to sever connections—”

“Not my problem. Frankly, I don’t give a fuck. Your dad created this mess… yet I’m the one who suffered for years by not knowing if you were dead or alive, and now to realize I was kept away from my son, too? That’s also on you, but I’m going to overlook that for now so we can do what’s best for Sam.”

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