“I slipped.” Lee rested his head on the window.
The rest of the kids piled their packs in the cargo area and climbed into the backseat. Sitting down never felt so good to Hannah. Her leg muscles went lax.
“I should have canceled the trip. The weather turned out much worse than predicted,” the Colonel said in a rare moment of self-doubt. “But you all reacted well. I’m proud of the way you handled yourselves out there. You worked as a team, and you used your heads to get out of a bad situation.” His eyes caught Hannah’s in the rearview mirror. “But maybe now you see why women don’t belong in combat. If Grant hadn’t been there, you couldn’t have carried Lee out.”
Mac couldn’t have done it either, Hannah thought, but she kept her mouth closed.
“Hannah would have figured something out,” Grant said.
But their father didn’t respond. There was no arguing with the Colonel.
“You could have called for help. A rescue team would have come and gotten you.” Anger colored Brody’s statement.
Hannah shrugged. “None of us even thought about it. We were taught to take action, and we did. We handled it fine. Dad trained us to operate as a team. I guess he did a good job of it.”
“No offense, but your father sounds a little psycho,” Brody said.
“No offense taken.” The memory used to make her angry, but now that Lee was gone, it just depressed her. “I pushed him to include me on all those survival training weekends. But that was the only time he spent with any of us, teaching us to be good little rangers. He was supposed to be a general. He wasn’t cut out to be a father. Looking back on it now, I realize how crazy it all was.”
“What about your mother?”
“She was the one who held the family together. A strong woman, but very traditional. She stayed home while we played in the woods. I don’t think she had any idea what the trips were actually like.” Pain wrapped around Hannah’s heart. “She was diagnosed with stage four cancer during my freshman year of college. She faded quickly. I took the second semester off to nurse her through hospice. She was gone before summer.”
“I’m sorry.” Brody’s voice grated with empathy.
“The four of us kids were close, growing up. We stuck together like a troop. But after Mom died, the Colonel fell apart. Her death fractured our family. Grant’s career was advancing. I went back to school. Mac ran with a bad crowd. Lee did his best to be the family touchstone, but the rest of us wouldn’t cooperate.” Guilt sandbagged Hannah. She and Grant and Mac could have tried harder. “What about your family? Grant said you were in the military?”
“Just four years to pay for college. I appreciated the training, but the army wasn’t for me,” Brody said. “I came home, joined the Boston PD, got married.”
Hold on. “You were married?”
“Not for very long.” His fingers opened and closed on the steering wheel, as if he’d been holding it too tightly. “A few years into my career in Boston, I was involved in a shooting at a convenience store. It was all clean and justified, but I had some . . . issues relating to the incident.”
Brody hesitated. “That, and my partner froze, putting me in a very bad situation.”
“Unfortunately, yes.” He nodded. “I was shot in the chest. I was wearing a vest, so I wasn’t hurt, but it’s hard to walk into dangerous situations with no confidence in your partner.”
“Did you report it?”
“No. But he retired shortly after that. I think shame drove him off the force.” The windshield fogged, and Brody turned on the defroster. “I eventually went for help, and it got better.”
Hannah could hear the but coming. “I hope you got a new, better partner.”
“I did. Unfortunately, while I’d been wallowing around in depression, my wife was having an affair with her coworker.”
“What a bitch!” Hannah covered her mouth. “I’m sorry. That just slipped out.” She hadn’t had many relationships in her life, because she took commitment seriously. Hearts should not be traded lightly. And the thought that Brody’s ex had trod on his made her angry and sad. “I can’t imagine turning your back on the one person you’re supposed to support.”
“No. You wouldn’t.” Brody laughed. “Long story short, we got a divorce, and I moved out here for a fresh start.”
“I was trying to figure out why anyone would move to Scarlet Falls.”
“I like it here.” Brody pulled into Grant’s driveway. “Doesn’t traveling all the time get old?”
Yes. But sadly, Hannah doubted she was settle-down material.
He carried the dog inside. Hannah was tempted to ask him to stay the rest of the night, but that wouldn’t be fair. She wasn’t here to stay. She wouldn’t treat him with the same disregard as his ex. A good man like Brody deserved total honesty.
Instead, she set the alarm and slept on the couch next to the dog. Again. As she closed her eyes, all she could think of was that it was three a.m.—well past midnight. Tuesday had arrived. Whatever end was coming to Jewel would happen today.
Perched on the edge of the exam table, Hannah shifted her position at the knock on the door. Paper crinkled under her jeans-clad butt. She checked her watch. This was taking forever.
Dr. Martin’s white lab coat topped a pair of tailored gray slacks. She scanned papers stacked on a clipboard. “I have your test results.”
She tucked a strand of long brown hair behind her ear. “The computer program generates instant feedback.”
“Well? How did I do?”
The doctor sat down on the swivel stool. She flipped through several sheets, then lifted her gaze to meet Hannah’s. Her brown eyes were serious. “For a successful attorney, you have terrible short-term memory, slow cognitive function, and your balance is off. You said you feel perfectly normal, but that’s obviously not true. Now why don’t you tell me how you really feel?”
Hannah blinked. “Excuse me?”
The doctor set her clipboard down. She pulled her frameless glasses off her face and set them on top of the clipboard. “The test results don’t lie, Hannah, and exhibiting symptoms less than a week following a concussion is perfectly normal. No one suffers a brain trauma and is fine a few days later. I can’t help you unless you’re honest with me.”
“My hearing is still a little fuzzy on one side, but other than that, I am fine.” Hannah craned her neck to see the paperwork. “Those results can’t be right.”
“How about sleeping? More or less than usual.”
“Maybe a little more,” Hannah admitted. But she had been working long hours for the last month. Being tired wasn’t unusual after she’d finished a major deal.
Dr. Martin lifted a skeptical brow. “What about reading?”
“No problems,” Hannah said. “When can I get back to work?”
“Every individual is different. Some people heal quickly. Others might take a few months.”
“Months? I don’t have months.” Hannah’s head had felt fine before, but now pain spiked through her temple.
“Relax.” The doctor’s tone sharpened. “Getting upset will only make it worse. This is going to take some time, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
And watch my career go down the drain. “But I feel fine, and I can’t take months off from work. I’m supposed to be in London next week. Isn’t there a medication that would speed things up?”
The doctor sighed. “No. If you don’t take care of yourself now, you will pay in the long run.”
“I really need to get back to work.”
“That isn’t going to happen,” Dr. Martin said. “I want you to come back in four weeks for a reevaluation.”
Four weeks . . . How would she cope with four weeks of inactivity? Royce said her job wasn’t in jeopardy, but other associates were there to jump in and handle cases while Hannah was sidelined.
Hannah turned on her voice memo app and recorded the doctor’s instructions. Then she zoned out while the doctor expounded on the long-term consequences from repeated blows to the head. Hannah was focused on the here and now.
Four weeks was a long time. Hannah needed to be busy. The more time she had to rest, the more time she could contemplate Jewel’s fate and relive the terrors of last spring. The absolute last thing she wanted was more time on her hands.
Sitting in the neurologist’s waiting room, Brody checked his e-mail for the fourth time, then leafed through a six-month-old issue of Time magazine. What was taking so long? Hannah had been called into the exam room over an hour before.
The door opened. Her face was pinched and strained, her eyes clouded with pain—and disappointment.
She pulled her mouth into a tight smile. “I’m sorry that took so long.”
“Are you done?” He glanced back at the sliding glass window that separated the reception station from the waiting room.