Home > Fatal Reckoning (Fatal #14)(8)

Fatal Reckoning (Fatal #14)(8)
Author: Marie Force

Gathering her into his embrace, Nick could finally breathe again because he was back where he belonged, with the only woman he’d ever truly loved wrapped around him, bringing the distinctive fragrance of jasmine and vanilla that he would recognize anywhere in the world as the scent of love.

“Thank God you’re home.”

“I’m so sorry it took so long and that I wasn’t here when you needed me.”

“You’re here now. That’s what matters.”

Over her shoulder, his gaze landed on the empty hospital bed and wheelchair in the dining room, his eyes filling with tears. He would dearly miss Skip and his steady presence in their lives, his words of wisdom and the way he looked out for Sam as best he could, even after his devastating injury. The loss would leave a huge hole in all their lives that could never be filled, but no hole would be bigger than the one left for Sam.

“Your dad and Stacy are here.”

He’d been so intent on getting to her, he hadn’t noticed anyone else besides Scotty. “Nice of them to come.”

“Everyone has been so incredibly nice.”

“Everyone loved him.”

“You should go see them.”

“I will.” He buried his face into her hair. “But first I need some more of this.”

She held on tighter to him. “So do I.”

* * *

THEY SPENT HOURS greeting friends, members of Sam’s squad and others from work, including her father’s good friend Deputy Chief Conklin, as well as Dr. Lindsey McNamara, FBI Agent Avery Hill, Dr. Trulo, Detective Erica Lucas, Lieutenant Archelotta and all three of the identical Miller triplets, who served as Assistant U.S. Attorneys for the District of Columbia. The people kept coming all afternoon and into the evening.

Around eight, Sam helped her sisters divide the food that had been brought among their four households. They were cleaning up the kitchen when Scotty escorted their mother, Brenda, into the room.

“I was in Richmond for the weekend and just heard the news.” Tears filled Brenda’s eyes as she hugged each of her daughters. “I’m so sorry.”

Sam returned her mother’s embrace, thinking that this was the first time she’d seen her mother in this kitchen in more than twenty years, which was bizarre to say the least. “Thanks for coming.”

“I was hoping Celia wouldn’t mind if I came to see you girls.”

“She doesn’t mind,” Tracy said.

“How is she?” Brenda asked.

“Not great,” Angela said. “Which is understandable. She’s devoted her life to his care for almost four years. What would we have done without her?”

“He wouldn’t have lasted this long without her,” Sam said bluntly, sagging against the counter, losing her steam now that the house had begun to empty and the gritty reality began to set in.

“True,” Tracy said.

“I think it’s time to get the kids home and into bed,” Angela said.

“Are you sending Scotty to school tomorrow?” Tracy asked Sam.

“Only if he feels up to it. I’ll let him decide.” She hugged her mother again. “Thanks for coming by. We appreciate it.”

“Please let me know if I can do anything for any of you in the next few days. I’m here for whatever you need.”

Sam appreciated the kind offer. “What I need right now is some time with the kids, some time with my husband and some sleep. I’ll check in with you guys in the morning.”

She hugged her sisters and went into the living room, where Scotty was still seated with Celia and her two sisters. Mike, Spencer and Nick were still there, along with Brant and Debra, who were there because of Nick and Scotty.

Nick stood when she came into the room. “Ready to head home, babe?”

Sam nodded and then turned to her stepmother. “I’ll be over in the morning for the meeting with the department rep at ten, okay?”

Celia nodded. “Thank you.”


“Go get some rest, Sam. We’re all going to need it.”

Celia’s anger cut Sam to the quick. But now was not the time or the place to address it. There would be time for that after they laid her father to rest.

“Let’s go home, Scotty.”

He hugged and kissed Celia. “I’ll be over tomorrow.”

“Thank you for being the sweetest boy I know. You really helped me today.”

“Love you,” Scotty said.

Celia teared up as she hugged him. “Love you too. Your gramps was super proud of you.”

Scotty swiped subtly at tears as he got up to join his parents for the short walk home.

Sam put her arm around him. “You made me very proud today. Thank you for being so good to Celia.” They walked slowly as Brant and Debra kept a respectful distance behind them.

“I love her.”

“I know you do, buddy.”

“She’ll still be, like, my grandma even though Gramps died, right?”

“Of course she will.”

“Is she mad with you about something?” Scotty asked.

“Yeah, she is,” Sam said with a sigh.


“When everything happened earlier, I was the one who told the paramedics that Gramps had a DNR and wouldn’t want extraordinary measures.”

“What’s a DNR and what do you mean by extraordinary measures?”

“DNR stands for do not resuscitate, and it’s a form people sign when they don’t want medical personnel to go all out to save their lives.”

“Why would he sign something like that?”

“Because, pal,” Nick said, “if his body shut down on him, he wanted to be allowed to pass away peacefully and not be brought back to life.”

“Gramps didn’t want to die,” Sam said, “but he also didn’t want heroic measures if his body decided it was time.”

“You have to think about the way he’d been forced to live for the last four years,” Nick added. “He made it look easy, but it was a very, very difficult thing to contend with on a daily basis. As much as we’ll miss him, I’d like to hope he’s in a better place tonight where there’s no such thing as paralysis.”

“That would be nice.” As they went up the ramp to their home, Scotty glanced at his mother. “Will Celia forgive you?”

“I sure hope so. I really think it was the best decision for Gramps, or I never would’ve done it.”

“She’ll realize that, babe.” Nick squeezed her shoulder. “When she’s had time to process it.”

In the living room, Shelby was curled up on the sofa with Noah asleep in her arms and Avery stretched out on the sofa, his head on her leg as they watched a movie.

“So sorry to keep you guys so late,” Sam said.

Avery sat up and straightened his hair. “How’re you holding up?”

“I’m okay. How’re our littles?”

“They’re tucked into bed and their backpacks are ready for the morning,” Shelby said. “I’ll be here to get them off to school.”

“Do I have to go to school?” Scotty asked his parents.

“That’s totally up to you,” Sam said. “You can decide in the morning if you feel up to it.”

Under normal circumstances, the chance to take an unscheduled day off from school would’ve been met by jubilation. Tonight, Scotty said, “I’ll think about it.”

Sam hugged him. “If you need us during the night, you know where we are.”

When Sam released him, Shelby stepped up to hug him after handing Noah to Avery. “Hope you’re hanging in there, pal.”

“Thanks, Shelby.” Scotty hugged Nick. “I’ll see you guys in the morning.”

After he trudged upstairs, Shelby reached for Noah’s blanket. “We’ll get out of your hair. I’ll see you in the morning?”

Sam hugged her. “Thank you so much for today.”

“No need to thank me. I’m glad there was something I could do.”

Sam and Nick waited for Shelby and Avery to depart with Noah before they headed upstairs to bed, looking in on Aubrey and Alden, who were sound asleep in the big bed they were sharing for now. They preferred to be together, which was fine.

Debra was on duty outside Scotty’s room.

“Isn’t it time to go home?” Sam asked.

Debra shrugged. “I offered to give a few more hours.”

“That’s very good of you.”

“I hope you’re able to get some rest.”

“I’m going to try,” Sam said. “Good night.”


Nick ushered her into the bedroom and closed the door. “We’re not the only ones who love that boy of ours.”

“Debra was amazing today. If there’s anything you can do for her...”

“I’ll pass it along.” He put his arms around her and held her close. “I wish there was something I could say or do that would ease your grief, sweetheart.”

“Having you here really helps.”

“I’ll always be sorry I wasn’t here earlier when you needed me.”

“It’s okay. I was very well supported, and I’m very glad to have you home.”

“Me too. Let’s go to bed.”

Sam went into the bathroom to brush her teeth and then dropped her clothes in a pile on the floor to be dealt with tomorrow. She slid naked into bed and held out her arms to him when he joined her a minute later. After a week of craving the feel of his skin against hers, she sighed with relief.

Nick held her tight against him. “There you are. I missed you so much.”

“I missed you just as much.” She ran her fingers through his thick dark hair. “It’s a little bit ridiculous that we can’t spend a week apart without losing it.”

“Tell me what you need, babe.” He caressed her back in small, soothing circles. “I’m so worried about you.”

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