Daphne must have known it, too. That was why she’d been so stricken when she’d sent Cade and Audrey out on a date. She was being a martyr, pairing together the two people she cared for most in the world because she thought that was what Audrey wanted and what Cade deserved. And when she realized she’d just made things worse for everyone, she’d tried to take the easy way out again. She’d approached Cade and seduced him because she’d known he wouldn’t be able to resist.
It was always the same old song and dance with Daphne.
And Audrey realized, for the first time, that she couldn’t save her twin, no matter how much she loved her. So she simply pressed her cheek to Daphne’s and held her, waiting for the ambulance to arrive.
Audrey looked up from her spot in the waiting room of the hospital to see Gretchen rushing down the hall, two cups of coffee in her hands. Gretchen looked like a mess—her dark red hair was pulled into a messy ponytail, and she wearing a grubby sweatshirt, yoga pants, and flip-flops despite the chilly weather.
At the sight of her older sister, Audrey gave her a wan smile. “Hey, Gretchen. I’m glad you could make it.”
“Make it? My fucking junkie little sister’s in the hospital. Of course I made it.” Gretchen scowled at the woman seated next to Audrey who was on the phone, a camera around her neck. “Move it, sister, or you’re going to be eating that telephoto lens.”
The woman glared at Gretchen, but discreetly vacated the seat, going to talk to one of the other photographers hovering in the waiting room.
“Jesus,” Gretchen said, flopping into the chair and handing a coffee to Audrey. “I see the paps didn’t waste any time getting here. Who clued them in?”
“My guess is him,” Audrey said tonelessly, gesturing at the man in the corner. He was dressed in a slick, pinstriped suit despite the late hour and was chatting animatedly to one of the paparazzi while he texted on his phone.
“So who’s that douchebag?”
“One of her managers.”
Gretchen grunted. “Surprise, surprise. He probably thinks all this publicity is fabulous.”
“Probably,” Audrey said in a tired voice.
Gretchen wrapped an arm around Audrey’s shoulders and pulled her into an awkward hug. “How you hanging in there?”
“I’m fine,” Audrey said in her brightest, most efficient voice. “Cade is struggling, though, so I’m trying to keep him calm. I sent him off to talk to one of the board of directors about donating a wing if they’ll give Daphne privacy while she recovers. He liked that idea.”
“Clever,” Gretchen admitted. “But I was asking about you.”
“You don’t seem fine.”
My sister overdosed because I blamed her for my love life troubles, I’m not in love with Cade like I thought I was, and I fell in love with a guy who abandoned me. “I’m fine.”
Gretchen gave her a disbelieving look. “You do realize that this is one of those times that it’s okay to be emotional?”
Audrey simply sipped her coffee, ignoring Gretchen. Her sister talked a big game, but she knew as soon as they heard word on Daphne, Gretchen would fall apart like she always did. Her big sister had a heart of gold, but she was impulsive and incredibly emotional. Couple that in with Daphne’s self-destructiveness and Cade’s restlessness as he sought to be able to do something—anything—to assuage his guilt over Daphne using him to get to the drugs? It was just best all around if Audrey kept her head together. Someone had to.
Later on, in the privacy of her own apartment, she could break down if she wanted to, but there would always be more to do. People to call, arrangements to make for Daphne’s car, managers to scold, her boss to check in with . . .
Someone had to be the practical one in all of this. The dependable one. And it was exhausting, but it needed to be Audrey. Longingly, she thought of Reese and the way he always pushed her into showing emotion. The way he’d laughed as he’d tossed her into the hot tub and bent her over the edge to made love to her.
Tears pricked her eyes and she blinked them back. This was not the time to dissemble. At least she had some really good memories of their interlude, before it had all gone to shit.
“Miss Petty?” A doctor entered the crowded waiting room and immediately the half dozen paparazzi and reporters stood up, readying their cameras. Audrey stood and raised her hand quietly and, true to form, Gretchen burst into emotional tears, just like Audrey had expected.
The doctor eyed Gretchen and moved to Audrey’s side, leaning in to whisper. “Your sister is in intensive care, but we feel she’s out of the woods. She’s awake and alert and can receive visitors.”
“Good. Thank you,” Audrey said. She squeezed Gretchen’s hand consolingly as she mopped at her face with Kleenex.
“You can’t bring those,” the doctor said with a sniff, gesturing at their coffees.
Gretchen automatically handed hers to the reporter sitting next to her. “Here, make yourself useful,” she said in a watery voice.
Someone pushed through the double doors nearby and then Cade was sprinting at them, his blond hair mussed and his clothing wrinkled. He looked like hell, dark circles under his eyes, and pocketed his phone. “I’d like to see Miss Petty.”
“I’m sorry,” the doctor said. “Family only.”
Cade looked at Audrey, raking a hand through his hair in frustration.
“It’s fine, Cade. Go home and get some sleep,” Audrey told him in her easiest voice. “I’ll handle it from here.”
“I need to see her.”
“I know you do,” she said soothingly, and gave him a hug. She whispered in his ear, “Maybe tomorrow. I’ll work on the doctors, okay?” When she released him, he nodded and then sat down in one of the waiting room chairs.
The man with the suit approached the doctor and handed him a business card. “I’m Miss Petty’s manager. I need to see—”
“No,” Audrey said at the same time as the doctor.
“I’m Miss Petty’s manager,” the man in the suit repeated. “The label—”
“I’m her legal guardian,” Audrey interrupted. “And she doesn’t want to see him.”
The doctor shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. Right now we are only allowing immediate family to visit.” He looked at Gretchen and Audrey. “If you will follow me.”
Gretchen shot the manager the bird when they left, and Audrey pretended not to see it.
They followed the doctor through the maze of corridors in the intensive care unit. “We’re keeping her under heavy monitoring,” he explained. “Her system was compromised by the amount of drugs, but with time and proper care she’ll make a full recovery.”
Gretchen began to loudly sniffle again, and Audrey handed her more Kleenex. “Thank you, doctor.”
He gave Audrey a pointed look. “I don’t need to tell you that that young woman needs serious help.”
“She told me she was trying to get clean. You know I must recommend constant psychiatric observation and a detox facility where she can be monitored at all times. She is a danger to herself right now.”
“I can force her to go,” Audrey said quietly. “But it won’t work unless she wants it. It has to be her decision.”
“I realize this. As a professional, though, I’m recommending it strongly. I don’t know that Miss Petty could survive another overdose. Do you understand me?”
The doctor nodded and led them to a door. The room’s blinds were down and the door was closed. Isolated. Private. “I’m Doctor Howell. Please let me know if you need anything else.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” Audrey said, her voice calm as she shook the doctor’s hand. “We will.”
Gretchen sniffed loudly.
The doctor turned and left. When they were alone at the door, Audrey turned to Gretchen. “I’m going to say some unkind things to Daphne,” she warned her sister. “But I need you to support me in them, understand? It’s for her best interests.”
Gretchen’s eyes widened but she nodded. “I’ll follow your lead.”
Audrey opened the door and they went inside.
The lights in the intensive care unit were turned off so Daphne could sleep. Her twin’s frail form was hooked up to multiple monitors, all beeping and flicking with her vital signs. Intravenous medications hung from her skinny arm, needles taped into it. As they shut the door, Daphne opened her eyes and gave them a wan smile. “Hey.”
Gretchen burst into tears again. She sat down next to the bed and took Daphne’s hand in hers, squeezing it. “Hey, baby girl. It’s your slutty sister come to visit.”
The corner of Daphne’s mouth quirked, as if she were trying to smile and didn’t have the energy. “That’s an odd greeting.”
“You told me I was a slut the last time I saw you.”
“I did? Huh. I don’t remember.” Daphne’s voice was soft, tired.
“It’s because you were drunk. And high. Both,” Gretchen told her.
“That explains it.” She turned to look at Audrey. “I guess I caused you a little trouble, didn’t I?”
Anger flared in the pit of her stomach, but she tamped it down. Anger wouldn’t reach Daphne. It’d just make her run harder. “You caused everyone a bit of trouble,” Audrey said, her voice mild. “Your manager’s here, along with every paparazzi he could round up at this hour.”
“I don’t want to see him,” Daphne said in a tired voice. “Tell the doctors not to let him in.”
“They won’t,” Audrey reassured her. “Cade’s waiting to see you, too.”
“I don’t want to see him, either.” Tears welled in her eyes and trickled down the sides of her face. “I can’t look at him right now.”
“Because you used him to get to the pills?” Audrey said coldly.
Daphne sighed. “You don’t understand.”
“I don’t,” Audrey said calmly. “I’ve never understood it. You have the life you’ve always wanted and you’re tossing it away.”
Daphne said nothing. She squeezed Gretchen’s hand as Gretchen continued to mop fresh tears from her cheeks. “Don’t lecture me, Audrey. You don’t know how hard it is to be me.”
Audrey moved forward and put a hand on Gretchen’s shoulder. “You’re right, Daphne. We don’t know what it’s like to be you. We’ll never know. That’s why it’s time for us to say good-bye.”
That got her twin’s attention. Daphne’s gaze focused on Audrey, her eyes widening a little. Audrey felt Gretchen stiffen under her grasp, but she didn’t speak up to contradict Audrey.
“You’re my twin,” Audrey said in a soft voice. “I love you more than anyone else on the planet. And I thought that by supporting you through everything, no matter what happened, that I’d be doing you a favor. That you needed someone to lean on.”
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