Josh let go of Devon and pointed at him to stay put. Devon slid down the wall to the floor and wisely sat. Josh strode to Grace and crouched at her side, implacable, coolheaded, every inch of him the ER doctor now. Sharp, assessing eyes roamed over her as he gently cupped the back of her head, feeling the bump there. His jaw clenched, the only sign he gave of what he was feeling. He shifted his attention to her foot, his long, knowing fingers probing in exactly the place to make her suck in a breath.
His gaze slid up to hers. “Where else are you hurt?”
“He touch you?”
“She attacked me!” Devon said.
Josh slid him a look that would have had Grace peeing in her pants. Devon zipped his mouth.
“I’m so sorry I brought Toby in here,” Grace rushed to tell him on a shaky breath, feeling so guilty she could hardly draw more air. “I didn’t know what to do. Anna needed me and—”
“I know.” Josh squeezed her hip gently. “Don’t move.” On his knees at Grace’s side, he scooped up Toby, hugging both him and Anna close.
“Won the battle, Daddy,” Toby said, and wrapped an arm around Josh’s neck. Anna set her head down on Josh’s shoulder, fisting both hands in his shirt, holding on, eyes closed tight. He murmured something softly to her that had her nodding but not letting go of him. Stroking a hand up her back, he palmed her head and let her cling. Grace watched, throat burning, heart warm.
The police came. An ambulance came. The fire department came, which turned out to be because someone in a neighboring apartment had seen the flash of the lightsaber and thought there was an electrical fire.
It took about two hours for everything to wind down, and when it did, Grace was taken for X-rays. She was sitting on one of Josh’s ER beds when he came in, X-ray in hand.
Her heart immediately kicked into gear.
He didn’t say anything at first. He simply hung the X-ray on the wall, flipped on the light to read it, and turned to her. His eyes were serious, so serious she felt the breath catch in her throat. “Grace, I—”
“Knock-knock.” The curtain swung back to reveal Sheriff Sawyer Thompson. “Heard there was a party in here.” He nodded to Grace’s foot. “Is it broken?”
“No,” Grace said.
“Actually, yes,” Josh said, eyes narrowed at Sawyer. “And don’t even think about it.”
“Think about what?” Grace asked.
Sawyer sighed. “It’s just for questioning, Josh.”
“What’s just for questioning?” Grace asked.
Sawyer turned to her. “I need to bring you into the station.”
Save Earth. It’s the only planet with chocolate.
Josh was pacing the front room of the sheriff’s station. Grace’s broken foot had been set in a cast. Devon had been questioned and was being held. Anna had been questioned and let go. She was sitting quietly in her chair next to the bench on which Toby was perched, the two of them playing games on her phone.
Grace was still in the back with Sawyer.
Josh had no idea what was taking so long. Sawyer was definitely one of the good guys, but this was pissing him off.
Mallory came rushing through the front door. “Just heard from Lucille that Grace was arrested. What the hell?”
Josh didn’t even bother to ask how Lucille knew that Grace had been taken in. “It’s not an arrest. It’s just formalities. She clocked Devon with the lightsaber, and he’s claiming assault.”
“Well fuck formalities.”
Yeah, they were on the same page on that.
“They okay?” Mallory asked quietly, gesturing to Anna and Toby.
“Toby is. I don’t know about Anna yet. She’s playing it close to the vest.”
“She’s strong, Josh.”
“Stronger than me,” he said, and looked up to find Anna’s eyes on him. There was something in her gaze that he hadn’t seen in years.
He shook his head at the last and moved toward her and Toby, hunkering down before them. He pulled Toby in for a hug. “You did good today, Little Man.”
“Better than any other Jedi?”
“Better than every other Jedi.” He ruffled Toby’s hair and turned to Anna. “Proud of you.”
Her eyes filled. Swearing beneath his breath, he set Toby down and pulled her tight. Dropping her head to his shoulder, she did what she so rarely did. She completely lost it, sobbing like her heart had just broken.
Toby stepped up behind her and very gently patted her on the back.
“I’m s-sorry,” she hiccupped. “I didn’t mean to get Grace h-hurt or arrested—”
“She’s not arrested,” Josh assured her. “And you didn’t get her hurt. That was Devon.” He tightened his grip on her even as he pulled back enough to see her face. “You promise he didn’t hurt you.”
“I promise. And we didn’t— God, Josh.” She covered her face. “I don’t want to talk to you about this.”
“It’s me or someone else, Anna-Banana,” he said gently. “We’re done with this angry shit.”
She sniffed and nodded.
“I don’t feel quite so angry anymore,” she whispered, then sniffed again and wiped her nose on the hem of his shirt, laughing soggily when he grimaced. “Watching Grace go ape-shit on Devon’s ass was kind of empowering,” she said. “I could do that, with some self-defense classes.”
“For paraplegics like me. They have classes like that, you know. Grace found them for me at Washington University.”
He looked into her eyes. “Yeah?”
“And there’s soccer too. I want to go there and live in the dorms, like a normal college student. And next year I want to go on their abroad program. I’m going to see the world, Josh. My way, not yours.”
“Can you do it without a douche-bag boyfriend?”
“Good.” Josh leaned back on the bench, exhausted, and more than a little worried about Grace. But beyond that, there was something new blooming in his chest.
Or rather, the lack of something old. He’d felt like a family tonight with Toby and Anna. A real family.
That was all Grace. It was still Grace, and she wasn’t even in the room. He’d actually believed that he didn’t have anything at stake with her, that it would cost him nothing to enjoy the fun while it lasted. To enjoy her.
But he’d been wrong. He’d had his family at stake, his heart. Everything.
And she loved him. It’d been a shock to hear her say it. After she had, all he’d wanted to do was hear it again, but he quickly realized during her vanishing act that it’d been a mistake on her part. She hadn’t meant to say it at all.
She loved him, but she didn’t want to love him.
He’d found someone he’d never in a million years expected—someone who’d put it all on the line for him, someone to love him—not for being a doctor or a dad, but just for being Josh.
And he’d blown it.
The front door of the station opened and more people arrived. Amy. Matt. Ty. Lucille and her entire posse.
Hell, half the town.
Lucille and her gang were carrying posters that said things like FREE GRACE. One of the sheriffs confiscated the posters when an eighty-five-year-old Mrs. Burland hit one of them over the head. He said he’d arrest her for police brutality, but he was afraid of starting a riot.
Finally, Sawyer came out of the back, leading Grace, on crutches, and everyone started yelling at Sawyer at once.
“She was only protecting Anna!”
“You can’t arrest her!”
“We won’t let you take her!”
Sawyer held up a hand, and the din stopped on a dime. “You people are crazy, you know that?”
The yelling renewed, but again Sawyer stopped them. “She’s not arrested! We just had some questions that needed answers. Seriously, you all need a life. Grace is free to go.”
Grace was standing in the middle of the crowd looking a little bowled over at the support. And also a little unstable on her feet, especially when everyone began to move in too close. Josh waded in, parted the seas, and drew her up against him, crutches and all.
Grace hadn’t seen him coming, but the minute Josh’s warm, strong arms surrounded her, she sighed. “Hey,” she said, breathless. The crutches were a bitch, and all the people were a little disconcerting, but that wasn’t what had stolen the air from her lungs.
Nope, that was all Josh, and the way he’d somehow pushed through the crowd to get to her. It was how he’d pulled her in tight, as if she were the most precious thing to him, as if he couldn’t wait another second to touch her.
She liked that, a lot.
Everyone around them seemed a little crazy, but she realized that they were here for her.
In her world, she’d always had to earn acceptance, approval, even love. But from the very beginning, it’d been different here. She had Amy and Mallory, who had accepted her as is, and the rest of Lucky Harbor had eventually done the same, no questions asked. She’d never experienced anything like it. It was humbling.
It was amazing.
And then there was Toby and Anna.
Behind them, Sawyer was shoving people toward the door. “Out. Everyone out.” He eyed Lucille’s FREE GRACE sign and shook his head at her.
Unrepentant, she grinned, then turned to Grace. “You did good, hon, protecting the tot. If Dr. Scott doesn’t realize what a catch he has, we’ll all make sure to hit him with our signs when he comes out of the station.”
“Hell,” Josh said. “I’m right here.”
“He ought to make an honest woman out of you,” Mr. Saunders said, ignoring Josh. “If he doesn’t, I will.”