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I close my eyes and pretend I’m working on another patient. Anyone but him. I try to think of Mrs. Patterson – but her flesh is old and wrinkled and thin, not anything like his smooth and toned skin.

A hand reaches up to grab one of mine. “Ry, it’s okay. It’s just me. Just us.”

My eyes open to find him stretching his neck to look at me.

“Sorry,” I say, pulling my hands away. “Was I hurting you?”

He doesn’t release my hand, but puts it back on his neck. “No, you weren’t hurting me. But you’re so tense. Maybe you need a massage.”

I feel heat flush my face at the thought of his hands on me.

“Please don’t say things like that, Brady.”

“I’m only saying what we’re both thinking.” He lets me go and sits up.

I shake my head. “It doesn’t matter what we’re thinking.” I point my finger between us. “This is not happening again.”

“Why?” he asks. “Why can’t it happen again?”

I back away and lean against the other table. “Oh, the reasons are endless. One: I want to be your New York girl about as much as I want a hole in the head. Two: your season is starting and you have about thirty other girls ready and willing to service you. And three: you ran away last time without so much as a word. Maybe that was fine when I was in Tampa and you were here in New York, but I live here now, Brady. And some of your friends are my friends. Need I go on?”

He jumps off the table and approaches me. He gets close enough that I can feel his breath on my face. “I don’t give a shit about those other girls, Ry. The only woman I give a shit about is you.”

I put my hand on his chest and shove him away. “I don’t know anything about you, Brady.” I laugh sorrowfully. “Well, that’s not true. I know plenty about your reputation. How could I ever trust you knowing your track record? Knowing how easily you could walk away from someone you claim to have wanted more with?”

“Maybe that’s why I walked away, Ry. Did you ever think of that?”

I have thought of that. But when he never came back; when months went by without a text or a call, I knew that couldn’t be the reason.

There is a knock on the door to the PT room. “I have to go. I have another client. I’ll see you next week.”

He walks towards the door. “See you soon,” he says.

I watch him stroll down the hallway, disgusted with myself that I’ll be counting down the hours.

~ ~ ~

“Where is that handsome boy, Brody?” Mom asks for the third time.

I spoon soup into her mouth. “Mom, you are thinking of Denny. He doesn’t come around anymore. We broke up, remember?”

I laugh inwardly, wondering how many times I say remember? to her when I’m visiting. Dozens? Hundreds?

“Broke up? But he was here just the other day.”

“That wasn’t the other day, Mom. That was four years ago. I brought Denny to see you a few times. He’s Stryker’s father.”

“Who is Stryker?”

I sigh getting out my phone to show her pictures. “He’s your grandson. He’s three years old now. He’ll turn four this summer.”

She looks at me in confusion. “My, you must have been just a baby yourself when you had him.”

“I was twenty-three, Mom. I’m twenty-seven now.”

She looks around her room. The room I helped decorate when Dad and I moved her here almost five years ago. Five years ago, when I had just started PT school and he couldn’t look after her full-time. Five years ago, when both our hearts broke as we drove home without her.

“Where am I?” she asks. “Is this a hospital? Am I hurt?”

“This is a memory care facility. You live here now. You have Alzheimer’s, Mom.”

“You’re being silly,” she says. “Why isn’t Brody with you?”

“His name is Brady, Mom. And you’ve never met him. Why do you keep asking about him?”

Barbara comes in to take her tray. “She asks about this Brody person all the time. She has for months now. Is he someone significant in your life?”

I shake my head and look at the floor. I guess I did talk about him a lot when I Skyped her last fall. When she was not lucid, and when I couldn’t be here in person to watch television, or help her with her food, it was sometimes hard to find things to talk about with her.

It’s hard dealing with her sometimes when she’s so confused. She doesn’t even know who I am on the really bad days, but most of the time, she thinks I’m still twenty-two years old. She thinks dad is still alive which is both a blessing and a curse. She sometimes thinks Stryker is my brother, her child, but most times she doesn’t remember him at all.

I put my head in my hands thinking about Barbara’s question. Is he significant to me?

“Yes. No. I don’t know.”

She puts a calming hand on my shoulder. “It’s okay, dear. The best relationships are sometimes the most complicated ones.” She nods to my mother. “Talk to her about it. It can be good therapy just to get it all off your chest.”

I nod. “Thanks, Barbara.”

She takes the dinner tray and leaves the room, closing the door behind her.

I take my mom’s hand. “I’m a fool, Mom. I’m a fool to love a man who can’t love me back.”

“I’m sure Denny loves you dear. I saw him kiss you the other day when you didn’t think I was looking.”

I ignore her comment. “He’s a baseball player. A celebrity. He’s rich and famous and women throw themselves at him. He throws himself at women. Can anyone really change after being that way?”

“Right. He plays baseball. What team is he on again?” she asks.

“The Nighthawks.”

“No, that’s not the one. It was the Mets, wasn’t it?”

“Not Denny, Mom. Brady.”

“Brady? Who’s Brady?”

I shake my head. “Never mind.” I stand up and give her a kiss. “I have to go now. Stryker is waiting for me. We’re moving into our new place tomorrow. We can start doing Sunday night dinners again, would you like that?”

“I’ll make my famous lasagna,” she says proudly.

“That sounds great, Mom. That’s exactly what we’ll make.”

“And will Brody be joining us?”

“No, Mom. Brody, Brady and Denny all have other plans. It will be just you, me and your grandson.”

“My grandson?”

“Yes. Stryker. My son.” I point to a picture mounted on her wall of Stryker when he was just two years old.

“My, he’s handsome. That Brody must be quite a looker.”

“He’s not Brody’s, uh, Brady’s … Ugh! I have to go, Mom. I’ll see you soon.”

I put a reminder in my phone to go grocery shopping for her recipe after I get settled in tomorrow. I can’t wait to get out of that hotel room and get back to normal.

I laugh at my thought. Normal. My life has been anything but normal from the day she was diagnosed. From the time I got the horrible phone call about my father. From the moment I found out I was having a baby with a man who dumped me.

From the second I laid eyes on Brady Taylor.

Chapter Twenty-seven

I run my hand along the beautiful hand-made ‘Welcome’ sign Murphy brought me to hang outside my new front door. It’s engraved with my last name. I smile thinking I’m finally getting settled into adulthood. Yeah, I guess technically I’ve been an adult for a while, but I’ve never had a place of my own that I thought I might live in more than temporarily.

When Dad died, I sold the house and took the proceeds to pay Mom’s expenses. The best memory care facility on the East Coast does not come cheaply. Between that and school, I couldn’t afford much else so I got an inexpensive third-floor walk-up with a friend from PT school. Then once Stryker came along, I moved into a small one-bedroom until I graduated. From there I did a short internship in the city and then went to Tampa with the Nighthawks organization. I’ve bounced around from place to place over the past four years and am looking forward to putting down some roots.

“It’s perfect,” I tell Murphy as she pops her head out the door to see me admiring it.

“I’m glad you like it.” She looks at her watch. “The guys should be here any minute with your furniture. You picked a good day to move. One week later and Caden and Sawyer would have been on the road and unable to help.”

Sawyer, Caden, and Caden’s brother-in-law, Kyle, rented a moving truck to empty out my storage unit outside the city. Murphy and I have been putting away everything else we moved over from the hotel. I left a few toys behind since Stryker and the sitter aren’t coming over until all the heavy lifting is done. I didn’t want him underfoot.

“Are you dreading it?” I ask her. “Caden leaving?”

She nods. “This is our second season together and even though we’re married now, I’m not sure it will get any easier. But we’ve found out that it’s true what they say about absence making the heart grow fonder. Sometimes I’ll fly out and join him for a weekend. And I do get to see him every day when they aren’t traveling. We make it work because we have to. We have no other choice.”

“I envy you guys, you know.”

She laughs. “I’m pretty sure you could have your own uber-hot baseball star if you wanted one.”

I shake my head. “I’m not so sure about that. And even if that were true, I’m not sure I’d want it. He has a girl in every city, Murphy.”

She puts her hand on my arm. “I know he did. I’m not so sure he does anymore. But I guess time will tell, won’t it? Oh, look, here they are now.”

Caden and someone I don’t know, presumably Kyle, come off the elevator with a mattress. I direct them to the master bedroom in the back. They put it against the wall and Caden introduces us.

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