"Wouldn't miss it for the world. Glad Ray's heading in the right direction."

"Yes. You, Mr. Rodriguez, and Ray have to come fishing with Christian in Aspen."

"Yeah? Sounds cool." Jose grins before he leaves to fetch his father's coat, and I crouch down to say goodbye to Mr. Rodriguez.

"You know Ana, there was a time . . . well, I thought you and Jose . . ." His voice fades, and he gazes at me, his dark gaze intense but loving.

Oh no.

"I'm very fond of your son, Mr. Rodriguez, but he's like a brother to me."

"You would have made one fine daughter-in-law. And you do. To the Greys." He smiles wistfully and I blush.

"I hope you'll settle for friend."

"Of course. Your husband is a fine man. You chose well, Ana."

"I think so," I whisper. "I love him so." I hug Mr. Rodriguez.

"Treat him good, Ana."

"I will," I promise.

Christian closes the door to our suite.

"Alone at last," he murmurs, leaning back against the door, watching me.

I step toward him and run my fingers over the lapels of his jacket.

"Thank you for a wonderful birthday. You really are the most thoughtful, considerate, generous husband."

"My pleasure."

"Yes . . . your pleasure. Let's do something about that," I whisper. Tightening my hands around his lapels, I pull his lips to mine.

After a communal breakfast, I open all my presents then give a series of cheery goodbyes to all the Greys and the Kavanaghs who will be returning to Seattle via Charlie Tango. My mom, Christian, and I head up to the hospital with Taylor driving since the three of us would not fit into my R8. Bob has declined to visit, and I'm secretly glad. It'd be just too weird, and I'm sure Ray wouldn't appreciate Bob seeing him at anything less than his best.

Ray looks much the same. Hairier. Mom is shocked when she sees him, and together we cry a little more.

"Oh, Ray." She squeezes his hand and gently strokes his face, and I'm moved to see her love for her ex-husband. I'm glad I have tissues in my purse. We sit beside him, me holding her hand while she holds his.

"Ana, there was a time when this man was the center of my world. The sun rose and set with him. I'll always love him. He's taken care of you so well."

"Mom - " I choke and she strokes my face and tucks a lock of my hair behind my ear.

"You know I'll always love Ray. We just drifted apart." She sighs.

"And I just couldn't live with him." She gazes down at her fingers, and I wonder if she's thinking about Husband Number Three: Steve who we don't talk about.

"I know you love Ray," I whisper, drying my eyes. "They are going to bring him out of his coma today."

"Good. I'm sure he'll be fine. He's so stubborn. I think you learned it off him."

I smile. "Have you been talking to Christian?"

"Does he think you're stubborn?"

"I believe so."

"I'll tell him it's a family trait. You look so good together, Ana. So happy."

"We are, I think. Getting there, anyway. I love him. He's the center of my world. The sun rises and sets with him for me, too."

"He obviously adores you, darling."

"And I adore him."

"Make sure you tell him. Men need to hear that stuff just like we do."

I insist on going to the airport with Bob and my mom to say goodbye. Taylor follows in the R8, and Christian drives the SUV. I'm sorry they can't stay longer, but they have to get back to Savannah. It's a tearful goodbye.

"Take good care of her, Bob," I whisper as he hugs me.

"Sure will, Ana. And you look after yourself."

"Will do." I turn to my mother. "Goodbye, Mom. Thank you for coming," I whisper, my voice hoarse. "I love you so much."

"Oh my darling girl, I love you, too. And Ray will be fine. He's not ready to shuffle off his mortal coil just yet. There's probably a Mariners game he can't miss."

I giggle. She's right. I resolve to read the sports pages of the Sunday newspaper to Ray that evening. I watch her and Bob climb the steps into the Grey Enterprises Holdings jet. She gives me a tearful wave then she's gone. Christian wraps his arm around my shoulder.

"Let's head back, baby," he murmurs

"Will you drive?"


When we return to the hospital that evening, Ray looks different. It takes me a moment to realize that the suck and push of the ventilator has vanished. Ray is breathing on his own. Relief floods through me . I stroke his stubbly face, and taking out a tissue to gently wipe, the spittle from his mouth.

Christian stalks off to find Dr. Sluder or Dr. Crowe for an update, while I take my familiar seat beside his bed to keep a watchful vigil. I unfold the sports section of the Sunday Oregonian and conscientiously begin reading out the report from the Mariners game against the Kansas City Royals. By all accounts, it was an exciting game, thanks to the Royal's Paulino. I grip Ray's hand firmly in mine as I read it through.

"And the final score, Mariners 2, Royals 4."

"Hey, Annie, we lost? No!" Ray rasps, and he squeezes my hand. Daddy!

Chapter Nineteen

Tears stream down my face. He's back. My daddy is back.

"Don't cry, Annie." Ray's voice is hoarse. "What's happening?"

I take up his hand in both of mine and cradle it against my face.

"You've been in an accident. You're in the hospital in Portland."

Ray frowns, and I don't know if it's because he's uncomfortable with my uncharacteristic display of affection, or that he can't remember the accident.

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