“Shh, Haze. It’s fine. Trust me. I figured it out. We had a free day, and I took a flight back home. I leave tonight on a red-eye, but I couldn’t imagine not being here for you when you needed me.”

“You’re only here for a few hours?” I asked. “You must be so exhausted.”

“Yeah. But it’s worth it. Now come on. Introduce me to your sister.” He started walking toward her, but I stepped in front of him like an overprotective mama bear.

“Wait! You have to wash your hands before you can touch her.”

He smirked and held his hands up in the air. “I already did. The nurse notified me before I came in. Go ahead, HCT me.”

I leaned in close to his hands and sniffed, smelling the hospital soap against his skin. I smiled. “Okay, carry on.”

We each took a side of the incubator and put our hands inside. Ian took her left hand, and I held her right. It almost looked as if she were smiling too. Sure, I knew that was probably not a smile, and she might’ve had gas or something, but her lips were curved up, and that made me feel happy. At peace after a very nonpeaceful few days.

“I want to yell at you for being here, but I also want to kiss you for being here too,” I whispered to Ian as we lay in the hotel room. Big Paw, Holly, and I had been staying at a hotel for the past few days in order to be close to the hospital in case anything went awry. They were back in their hotel room doing research while I was soaking up every single second of my time with Ian.

He’d be leaving in about two hours, and all I wanted to do was wrap myself around him and not let go.

“Go with the kissing option. That’s the better one.”

I smiled, which in turn made him smile.

“I missed that, Haze. I missed your smile. I’m not going to lie—you scared me when we talked the other night. About how my life was moving forward and yours was frozen. It sounded like you had all these doubts, and it freaked me the hell out.”

“I know, and I’m sorry about that. But I still feel that way, if I’m honest. And with everything going on with my sister, my life will be tossed upside down if I get to take care of her. I know that’s not something you signed up for, Ian, and I don’t want that to somehow get in the way of your dreams. You can’t slow down right now. You’re about to take off.”

“Just give me a chance to prove that we can make this work, okay? Don’t give up on us too soon, Hazel. I know there’s a way for this to happen.”

The butterflies in my stomach swirled as he clasped his hands with mine. “I’m not running, Ian. I swear, I’m here. I’m just being cautious and realistic.”

“Well, stop that,” he laughed, kissing the palms of my hands. “Just dream a little dream with me for a while.”

I wanted to argue with him that we couldn’t live in a dreamworld, but in a few short hours he’d be gone again, and I didn’t want to leave him feeling unsettled about what we were. So I kissed his lips.

He kissed me back and arched an eyebrow. “So . . . about you screaming my name . . . ,” he commented with a sly grin.

“Okay.” I snickered. “Take off your clothes.”

We made love in the hotel room that night, and for those few hours, I allowed myself to dream of a world where he was him and I was me and that was more than enough.

The next day, Big Paw, Holly, and I drove back to Eres. Even though I felt awful leaving my sister’s side, we had to go and collect more information. Big Paw told me we’d be better off if we could get Charlie to agree to signing custody over to me, but I felt like that was a big shot in the dark. Charlie would never come around to that idea. Even though he was still locked up, I knew the last thing he’d want would be to give the girl who was responsible for that something of his.

Still, I was going to try all avenues that I could think of before giving up.

As we drove home that afternoon, the radio played a song by the Wreckage, and all three of us freaked out in excitement.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” Big Paw exclaimed, slapping his hand against his leg. “Ian’s out there really doing something big, huh?”

“Yes, he is.” Holly beamed ear to ear.

Big Paw cranked the music up, and I sang every lyric to the song as if the words were tattooed in my mind. Hearing his voice on the radio gave me an odd sense of hope that maybe Ian and Holly were right. Maybe, at the end of the day, everything would work out; everything would be fine. If it looked as if things weren’t working out, then it probably wasn’t the end just yet. I’d had enough faith to get me through yesterday, and I’d have enough to get me through tomorrow.

Patience was the name of the game, and I had every plan to be the best player.



Hazel: Confession time: I’ve been listening to your songs on repeat.

Ian: Confession time: Every time I sing a love song, I’m singing it for you.

I’d been working closely with Big Paw and Holly to figure out how to get my sister home to us. Luckily, a lot of the laws said they preferred to put the child into the home of a family member, and seeing as how it was my little sister, that made things a bit more hopeful.

Still, I had to get more information from people who hadn’t had much desire for me to be in their lives anymore.