Domino Effect

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Chapter Seventeen

“You told your mother,” Ace said faintly. He was smiling.

“I told her, yeah,” Bailey replied. One more Monday down, and she was back in Ace’s room. She only smiled a little. “We had a big row afterwards, though.”

“That’s understandable,” he said. Ace shifted in his bed. “You lied to her first. Didn’t you expect something like that to happen?”

“Of course I expected it,” she told him. Bailey looked out the window across from them. “I was just hoping she’d grown up a bit since I was a kid.”

Ace’s eyebrows arched in an amused way. “People can only change if they want to change,” he said.

Bailey shrugged. “At least those bills are paid off,” she replied.

Ace shifted in his bed again. “You don’t sound upset.”

“Not really,” she admitted. Bailey stood and began checking Ace’s bandages and tubes once more. Her fingers lingered as they brushed his wrist; she could see him smile out of the corner of her eye. “That’s how it’s always been between us. When Dad died, Mum wasn’t really my mum anymore. She was just a body that the accident left behind.”

There was silence in the room for a few moments. Bailey only noticed that she was shaking when Ace put one of the fingers that wasn’t tightly bandaged to the others on top of her hand. She looked up at him when he whispered, “Hey.”

“I should be going,” she mumbled. Bailey backed away from Ace and said, looking at the wall above his head, “I’ll tell Doctor Mathews that you’re healing well. You should be ready for another surgery soon.”

“Bailey.”

But Bailey had already walked out of his room and closed the door on her name. She leaned against the door. Her head was leaning on the window, but the curtains were closed. She knew that even if he could see her shadow there, Ace wouldn’t be able to see her expression. That was good. Bailey took a deep, shuddering breath and started towards the elevator at the end of the corridor.

Bailey had purchased the lottery ticket with the hopes that she could go on that vacation she’d so foolishly tried to plan a week ago. That was, if she’d won. She’d talked to Mathews—strictly business-like, and he didn’t seem to mind it at all—about paid leave, and Bailey was surprised that Mathews agreed it would do her some good. He said that she hadn’t used any of her accrued vacation time since she started. That was a nice surprise. Bailey had been sure she’d gone on some vacation last summer. She stopped walking and thought. Maybe she hadn’t. What was the last vacation she’d been on?

To Bailey’s immense luck and surprise, the whimsical fantasy produced a winner. Bailey won fifteen thousand dollars. She had to pay the taxes, of course—she could put some of her own income towards the trip if she had to—and that still left her with a sizeable amount of cash.

Bailey sighed. She’d told Ace about it because Sam was still having plumbing problems and couldn’t be bothered with anything else, Charlie had been swamped in the maternity ward since he came back from vacation, and James was James. He listened to what Bailey told him, but he never really seemed to understand. He was a nice guy overall, but James was very philosophical; he always seemed to have a reason pointing to the world figuring itself out. Bailey was tired of being lectured when all she really needed was a friend.

And then, instead of going on vacation, Bailey had the insane urge to get in touch with her mother’s bank. She knew her father’s anniversary had passed, but her mother hadn’t mentioned anything about her husband’s bills in quite some time. Bailey began to worry. She usually always quipped about how hard it was that she still couldn’t pay them off after all these years. Was she finally off the reserve? Was her mother so lonely that she thought she didn’t have to think about her husband’s bills or even…her husband…anymore?

When the bank realized who was calling and why she was calling, they overrode their confidentiality policy and allowed Bailey to look into her mother’s records privately. At Bailey’s request, her mother would not know Bailey had searched through them at all.

Bailey’s father had been a frequent donor to the company and the branch recognized that even though he had helped the bank out more times than they could count, they couldn’t help with his bills. After a very brief deliberation, the bank had agreed to let Bailey pay off his bills after the tax had been taken out of her winnings. Bailey called the bank after the fight with her mother to let them know that the payment could now officially show up on her mother’s statement since she’d been told of what Bailey had done.

Bailey returned to the present when the elevator dinged and its doors opened. Five or so of the employees walked out and around her as she stepped inside. Mathews was standing at the very back, in the corner. Bailey held back her grimace and turned her back on him. The doors closed in front of her.

“Bailey,” Mathews said politely, nodding curtly at her back.

“Doctor.”

The lift seemed to be taking a longer time than usual. Bailey glanced down at the row of buttons. There were only four and the one that she needed was pressed. Why had she felt the need to take the elevator now? Bailey was usually all about the stairs. They were good for her cardiovascular health. Taking them also improved the strength in her legs. The stairs provided a time to think on the run. No one stopped her on the stairs because everyone around her was in a hurry, too. The lifts could take too long and be too crowded.

Or they could be too empty.

“Bailey.” She jumped when he said her name again. “Since the elevator is taking quite a long time to get us to our destination, I think this is a good time to have a chat,” Mathews said. Bailey turned to face him. “I would like to talk with you.”

“What would you like to talk about?” Bailey kept her voice as even as she could. She didn’t like being in closed spaces. Being in a closed space with Mathews just made everything worse.

“You seem to be avoiding me.”

“I don’t think I am.”

“We used to talk all the time between surgeries,” he said. His green eyes were rounded in a way that was supposed to seem innocent; Bailey could tell there was something else he was hiding behind them. When she didn’t respond, he continued with, “Sam even thinks you’re avoiding me.”

Bailey tried her best to keep eye contact. The lift still wasn’t moving, and now the air around her was growing thick and hot. She wiped a bead of sweat from her neck. “You should have talked to me about this rather than getting your information from her,” she said. She was restraining from banging on the doors. Something was definitely wrong. She glanced to the emergency stop button. It wasn’t blinking.

Mathews followed her eyes with his own. “I think the elevator might be broken,” he said calmly.

Bailey shot him a look of distress that she regretted immediately. He saw both reactions and his face changed in an instant.

“You don’t like being alone with me.”

“I like being alone with myself.”

“Why are you avoiding me?”

Bailey gulped. “I told you,” she said, “I’m not. Last week was a glitch. I saw you before and after our surgery this morning. I saw you at lunch. I talked with you about how Ace is doing—”

There was a clang from somewhere above their heads. The elevator suddenly gave a violent lurch and Bailey and Mathews were knocked into each other. Bailey righted herself and released her hold on Mathews’ lab coat.

“Ace this, Ace that,” Mathews muttered savagely. He glared down at Bailey. “It’s always about Ace—”

“You put me on his case! What else am I supposed to talk to you about?” Bailey was struck with how angry he had gotten. She took a large step away from him.

The elevator rocked again and Bailey was reminded hideously of her nightmare in the skyscraper. Oh, no, she thought. This cannot be happening. She was not going to die in an elevator! She was not going to die with Mathews! There’s no goddamn way!

“I think we should call for help,” Bailey suggested as the lights above them went out. A ghostly red light bathed down around them. “This isn’t normal.”

“I can’t believe you!” Mathews suddenly cried. He pushed Bailey against the back wall and put his hands on either side of her face.

“Mathews, hey!” Bailey yelled. “Bugger off!” She pushed against him but he stayed where he was like he was bolted there. There was some shouting in the corridor beyond the elevator doors; Bailey shoved against Mathews’ chest again.

“Sam said that you talk about Ace all the time,” Mathews hedged, a dangerous edge to his voice.

She had never talked about Ace to Sam. Not once. She didn’t count the one time they ate lunch in town; Bailey hadn’t known his name then. And she had barely seen Sam last week because of their different schedules. Bailey glared back at him. “You’re lying,” she said through her teeth.

“She said you can’t stop thinking about him.”

That was somewhat true, but it was only in a nurse-to-patient kind of way. Bailey did think about Ace quite often, but she was really only concerned about his wellbeing. Ace was a nice guy; Bailey would be lying to herself if she said she wouldn’t be sad when he left the hospital.

“You’re wrong!” Bailey yelled.

“She said you’re planning to run away with him once he’s out of here!”

Bailey scoffed in Mathews’ face. She pushed on his chest again and this time he stumbled back a few steps. “Why do you even care?” she spat at him, her arms straining against his chest. “We’re not supposed to date patients! It’s against policy!”

Now it was Mathews’ turn to strain against Bailey. He was trying to keep her pinned to the elevator wall. “I care because you can’t have him!” The shouting outside the elevator was growing louder, and Mathews actually dropped his voice to a whisper, “You’re mine.” He forced his face to be within inches of Bailey’s.

The elevator rattled and the sound of a cable snapping made both Bailey and Mathews look to the ceiling. Her heart hammering, Bailey took the moment of distraction to cry out. She drew her knee up and dug it into Mathews’ stomach with all the force she could muster in the confined space. He doubled over, howling in rage, when the doors opened.


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