The door slid open and Cliff stuck his head in. “Any change?” he asked.

“None that I can see.” Olivia had been asleep the entire time. “Where’s Jack?”

“He met Justine in the hallway. He’s giving her an update.”

Grace would be forever grateful that Justine had gone to her mother’s house yesterday morning. It might well have meant the difference between life and death.

“Charlotte and Ben are here, too,” Cliff said. Olivia’s mother had spent the morning at the hospital, along with Ben. They’d gone home for a few hours but were obviously back.

The private room was small, and when Justine and Jack came inside a few minutes later, Grace decided to take a break. She needed a cup of coffee and some fresh air. Cliff sat with Charlotte and Ben in the waiting area, watching television.

“I’m going down to the cafeteria for a cup of coffee,” she announced.

Charlotte, who was contentedly knitting, was the only one who seemed to hear. “Oh, you’re up,” she said. “I glanced in earlier but I didn’t want to wake you.”

Ben and Cliff were both concentrating on the last few minutes of the Seattle Seahawks football game.

“Does anyone need anything?” she asked.

Charlotte looked up from her knitting again. “I’m fine, Grace, thank you.”

“Cliff? Ben?”

Her husband smiled briefly in her direction. “I’m good, thanks.”

“Me, too,” Ben returned without moving his eyes from the screen.

Cliff had told her that this game would determine the team’s ranking in the playoffs later in the season. Grace liked football well enough, but at the moment it seemed irrelevant to her. She was too concerned about Olivia.

When she got to the cafeteria, she stood in line with a couple of male nurses and reached for a midsize cup. Someone came to stand behind her, but she didn’t look over her shoulder.

“Hello, Grace.”

She made an effort to disguise the effect Will Jefferson’s voice had on her. She shouldn’t be surprised that he’d shown up at the hospital. Olivia was, after all, his sister, and he was as worried as anyone. Apparently he’d visited Olivia yesterday evening, but their paths hadn’t crossed.

She turned. “Hello, Will.” She spoke in a controlled, even voice. Their history made her wary of him. It wouldn’t be out of character for Will to say or do something to make her uncomfortable.

“How’s my sister?”

“There hasn’t been any change since early this morning.”

“She’s out of danger, isn’t she?”

She nodded. “Immediate danger, yes. She’s still fighting the infection.”

“Poor Liv,” he murmured.

Grace reached the coffee machine and filled her cup. Will followed and filled his own. She noticed that his shoulders were wet.

“It’s raining?” she asked, disappointed because that meant she couldn’t go out for fresh air.

“Afraid so,” Will said. “Actually, I was hoping for snow.”

Grace smiled. “You and every school-age child in Cedar Cove.”

Will grinned back at her. “Hey, I guess I’m still a kid at heart.”

“Apparently so.” In more ways than one, she mused. She got to the cash register and was digging in her pocket for change when Will beat her to it.

“Both coffees,” he instructed the cashier.

“Thank you, Will, but that isn’t necessary.”

He shrugged. “Consider it a peace offering.” He gestured toward an empty table. “Do you have a few minutes?”

Grace hesitated.

“If Cliff objects, I’ll understand.”

Grace knew he was baiting her. Her husband wasn’t an unreasonable man, nor was he particularly jealous, although Will had given him cause to doubt her.

“I just wanted to ask you a few questions about the gallery,” he said.

She looked pointedly at her watch. “I don’t suppose five minutes would hurt.”

“Good.” He led the way to a small table and sat down.

Grace joined him.

“I signed the final papers last week,” he said proudly.

“Already? I didn’t think you were taking over until January.”

“I didn’t, either, but the paperwork went smoothly and there was no reason to wait. The previous owners thought it would be to their advantage tax-wise to close early, so I agreed.”

“Congratulations.” She raised her cup in a gesture of celebration.

Will touched his own cup against hers. “If not for Olivia, I would never have known about the gallery.”

“The community is grateful.” Grace knew the art gallery had given many local artists their start. Jon Bowman, her son-in-law, was one of them. His photography was first displayed at the Harbor Street Gallery back in the days when Maryellen had managed it.

In fact, they’d met through the gallery. Jon’s work was displayed in a large Seattle gallery these days, and he now had an agent. His photographs appeared in print ads, including a series of high-profile tourism ads for the state.

“I was astonished at the amount of artistic talent in this area,” Will told her. “When’s the last time you were in the gallery?”

Grace had to admit it had been some time. “I’ve only been by once or twice since Maryellen left.” Her daughter had been instrumental in the success of the Harbor Street Gallery. When Maryellen was forced to give up her job due to a difficult pregnancy, the gallery’s fortunes had steadily declined.

“That’s the message I’m getting from everyone,” Will said. “I’m talking to Maryellen, of course, but I’m also meeting with local artists and getting their suggestions on how to generate interest in the gallery again.”

“That’s a great idea,” she said, and meant it.

“Thanks.” He accepted her praise in an offhand manner. Staring down at his coffee, he asked, “Do you know Shirley Bliss?”

The name was vaguely familiar to Grace. “I think so…I seem to recall Maryellen being impressed with her work.”

“She’s a fabric artist. She quilts, but she also uses other techniques and she’s very inventive about materials. Her work’s really exciting.”

The gallery had occasionally displayed fabric art, like Shirley’s, but had tended to feature paintings and photography.

Will glanced up. “I’m hoping Shirley has some fresh ideas. We’re meeting this week. I’d like to do more with fabric art.” He added a little more sugar to his coffee and stirred. “Quilting and knitting are incredibly popular activities these days—as my mother has pointed out.”

Grace nodded. “That’s true.”

“Mom thought I should have a special quilt display,” Will said. “They’re usually seen as practical—you know, a traditional domestic craft—but they can be works of art.”

Grace was pleased by Will’s enthusiasm…and relieved that he’d found a focus for his time and energy. She finished her coffee, then said, “I really should get back.”

“Right.” Will held his cup with both hands. “Tell everyone I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

“Sure.” Grace stood and turned to leave. “See you later.”

When she entered the waiting area, the football game appeared to be over. Both Ben and Cliff spoke animatedly about the last-second win.

As Grace took the seat next to her husband, Cliff reached for her hand and intertwined their fingers.

“I met Will in the cafeteria,” Grace told Charlotte casually.

“Oh, I’m glad,” Charlotte murmured, pausing in the middle of counting stitches. “He said he was coming by.”

“We talked for a few minutes.” She mentioned this so it wouldn’t come as a surprise, should Will bring it up in front of Cliff.

Her husband nodded, not questioning the comment, and she squeezed his fingers.

Justine came out of the hospital room and joined them, with Jack following a moment later.

“Shift change,” he explained. Everyone was asked to leave when the next staff group came on duty and the nurses were updated on each patient’s condition.

“How does Olivia look?” Charlotte asked anxiously.

“Not bad,” Justine answered. “Mom’s a trooper.”

“She’s awake now,” Jack informed them. “You were right,” he told Cliff and Grace, “she didn’t know I’d been gone.”

“Mom’s going to be fine,” Justine said with the certainty and optimism of the young.

Grace had every intention of believing those words. And if love, faith and prayers could make a difference, Olivia would indeed be fine.

“Hey, everyone.”

Grace glanced up as Will stood in the entry to the waiting area.

“Hello, Will.” Cliff got up and offered his hand.

They shook hands, then Will bent to kiss his mother’s cheek and sat down next to Ben.

“Did you hear the Seahawks won?” Ben asked.

“I heard it from one of the physicians in the elevator.” He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. “So what’s the latest on my sister?”

“She’s improving,” Jack told him. “Although she gave us all a fright.”

Will nodded. “I’m glad she’s doing better.”

“We all are,” Charlotte said with feeling. “But I’m still not sure Ben and I should be taking that cruise.”

“Grandma.” Justine shook her finger at Charlotte. “You’re going. If Mom hears you’re even thinking about not getting on that ship she’ll have a fit.”

“I did purchase travel insurance,” Ben told everyone, “so we can cancel if we have to. I want Charlotte to have a good time, and she can’t do that if she’s worried about Olivia.”

“Then there’s only one thing to do,” Jack said, looking at each person gathered there. “We’ll all have to make sure Olivia recovers quickly.”

Charlotte beamed. “I’m going home and making my chicken noodle soup. It worked when Olivia was a little girl and it’s bound to work now.”

“I love that soup,” Will said, smiling at his mother. “I used to pretend I was sick just so Mom would make a batch.”

“You sneak!” Charlotte burst out, and everyone laughed.

“But like you always said, Mom, it cures whatever ails you.”

Jack chuckled. “I wonder if those cancer specialists know about the medicinal qualities of Charlotte’s soup.”

“I’ll tell them,” Justine said.

Charlotte shoved her knitting in her bag. “Let’s go, Ben. We’ll be back with a thermos of chicken noodle soup.” She stood up slowly, reaching for her husband.

Not for the first time, Grace noticed that Charlotte was showing her age. Ben, too, she thought as he rose awkwardly to his feet. They held each other, arms linked, and shuffled out.