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Should she . . . ?

No, that was ridiculous.

But Carlos and his whole family were all at the hospital. And they were starving. And all the food was right there. And the hospital was only about fifteen minutes away. And this was the one thing she could do to help.

She wrapped a pan in aluminum foil and put it in a grocery bag, stacked the paper plates and plastic forks in another, and was in her car three minutes later.

The entire way to the hospital, she kept thinking about turning around. He probably didn’t want her there. If they were really hungry, they could probably get food from the cafeteria or something, couldn’t they? But she kept thinking about his last text and the look on his face when he’d hung up the phone and the sound of his cousin crying on the phone to him, so she kept going.

She parked in the hospital parking garage and carefully lifted the bag full of still warm enchiladas out of the back seat of her car. Then she stopped, put everything down, and put lipstick on before she picked it all back up again. She carried everything into the hospital and asked the way to the maternity ward.

“Are you family?” the woman at the front desk asked her.

“No . . . but a family friend,” she said. That was only sort of a lie, right? She lifted the bags she was carrying. “I’m bringing food to the family. She’s in an emergency C-section now, and the family is all in the waiting room.”

She really hoped the woman didn’t ask her Jessie’s last name, because she’d just realized she didn’t know it.

“Oh, that’s great. It’s the seventh floor. Go on up. Turn left. You won’t be able to miss the waiting room.”

She was right; she couldn’t miss it. She could hear them talking as she approached the waiting room. That must be a good sign. If anything bad had happened, they’d all be pretty quiet.

This was a terrible idea. Why hadn’t she texted Courtney and Dana when she’d thought of it? They would have told her it was a terrible idea. This is what happens when you don’t ask your friends for advice—you make stupid decisions.

She could still turn around and go back. Maybe she should still turn around and go back?

She straightened her shoulders and walked in.

* * *

• • •

“Nik!” Carlos stood up when he saw Nik walk through the door. What the hell was she doing there?

She had two big grocery bags in her hand and a very tentative smile on her face. He didn’t meet her eyes.

“I thought you guys might be hungry, so I brought some enchiladas over.”

Did she think that’s what he was asking for when he texted her that he wished he’d had some of the enchiladas? Because, wow, that had not been what he meant.

He tried to smile and took the bags from her. Now he had to introduce her to his mother. He hadn’t introduced a woman to his mother since he was in his early twenties.

“Mama, Tia Eva, this is my friend Nik. She was helping me make enchiladas for Jessie when I got Jessie’s call, so, um . . .” He looked down at the bags. “I hope you’re as hungry as I am.”

He opened the bags and set out the food, all without looking at Nik. His stomach rumbled when he unwrapped the tight aluminum foil from the baking pans.

“Nikole, did you say? It’s nice to meet you,” his mother said. Nik handed him the paper plates, and he dished up enchiladas for his mom.

“It’s nice to meet you, too,” Nik said.

“How do you and Carlos know each other?” Tia Eva asked her.

Oh shit. How were they supposed to answer this?

“Through me,” Angela said from behind them. “Thanks for bringing over the food, Nik!”

Thank God for Angela. And this had the benefit of even being sort of true. As Angie hugged Nik, she stared right at him. Her smile was very smug. Damn it.

“It was no problem at all,” Nik said. “But um, I should go, I don’t want to intrude, I know this is family time. I’ll just talk to you later and you can let me know how everything goes, okay?”

“Oh no, you can’t go now!” His mom picked up a paper plate. “You have to stay and eat enchiladas with us after making all that effort.” She scooped two enchiladas onto Nik’s plate and handed it to her without waiting for a response.

Nik glanced at Carlos and shrugged. He turned away to dish up his own plate. Maybe her feelings were hurt that he hadn’t been thrilled when she walked in, but it was her own fault for showing up without checking with him first. She went to sit on the other side of the room with her food.

Angela looked at him, at Nik sitting alone, and back at him with a glare. Fine. He made a plate for himself and sat down next to Nik. He wasn’t sure what to say to her, not with his mom and aunt right across the room and his sister . . . oh wow, his sister sat down right next to him.

“They could have been a little spicier, you know, Carlos,” his mom said. “What kinds of chilies did you use? You should have added hotter ones in there. You’re too used to cooking for,” she glanced in Nik’s direction, “your friends, not your family.”

He and Nik looked at each other for a split second with laughter in their eyes, and both immediately looked away. He could only imagine how long she’d have had to keep the sour cream on her face if he’d used hotter chilies.

“No, Mama—I usually make it spicier, but I toned down the spice in these because I was making them for Jessie for after the baby, and I know a lot of breastfeeding mothers like to avoid food that’s too spicy. It can upset the baby’s stomach.”

His aunt made a hand motion like she was batting the whole idea of what he’d said out of the room.

“Our babies don’t get their stomachs upset by spicy food. You’re listening to too many of those other doctors. I’m sure Jessie isn’t worried about that.”

Carlos knew there was no point in responding to that one.

“Where did you get the meat?” his aunt asked. “It’s good, but you probably paid too much for it, in one of those fancy grocery stories you go to over there.”

“I got it at El Rancho market, Tia Eva.”

Tia Eva took another bite and changed the subject. Carlos tried not to smile.

Soon, his mom and aunt were in a deep discussion about the woman who used to live across the street from them with her children.

“I’m sorry,” Nik said under her breath to him. “I wasn’t thinking. I was just worried about everything, but I shouldn’t have just shown up here. I’ll go as soon as I finish my food.”

He shrugged.

“Now that you’re here, you might as well stay for a little while.”

She scooped some enchilada onto her fork.

“Well, I don’t know what your mom and aunt were complaining about: these are the best enchiladas I’ve ever had.”

He grinned at her. It always thrilled him when she complimented his cooking; he couldn’t help it.

“I’m glad you liked them, especially after what they did to you. And I feel better, now that I got some food in me. I was so stressed before you got here—my blood pressure was probably sky-high.”

She looked at him sideways.

“Hmm, you know one way to find out how high your blood pressure is? Going to the doctor.”

Did she really need to bring that up right now? With his sister right there? He looked away.

She nudged him with her knee.

“I’m sorry. You left me such a perfect opening there, but I should have resisted. This isn’t the time for that. Forget I said anything and have another enchilada.”

He shook his head and smiled, despite himself. He nudged her with his knee back.

“I can’t stand you. Did you know that?”

She grinned at him. “I know.”

He touched her hand for a second. He couldn’t help it. Even though he hated that she’d come, he felt better with her here next to him. He sighed.

“Sorry if I seem on edge, I’m just so worried. I’m five minutes away from charging in there and waving my badge around and demanding answers.” He paused. “That might get me fired, but I’d probably get the answers first.”

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