Domino Effect

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Chapter Twenty

“So, not to be forward or anything, but shouldn’t your wife be here?”

Bailey’s question pulled Ace’s eyebrows down. He looked around her towards the door. “Can we not talk about her, please?”

“Why?”

“I’d like to keep my business to myself.”

“Now that’s not fair,” Bailey chided. “You know it’s not.”

Ace sighed through his nose, eyes locking with Bailey’s. “You have your own problems. Let’s focus on that and leave my problems to me.”

Bailey snorted. “Hell no,” she said. “We are not leaving your problems alone just because Mathews attacked me. He had it in his head that I was seeing you, and maybe your wife failing to visit you has something to do with that.”

Ace blinked at Bailey a few times; it was like she could see the wheels turning in his mind. Swallowing, he said, “Fine. Maybe it does have something to do with it. I don’t like it, but we should discuss it.”

“Wow, okay.” Bailey couldn’t believe it had turned out that easy. She had expected Ace to put up a fight, to refuse to talk about his wife. It had been a little over two weeks since he’d been admitted, and Gemma had only visited once. That was the only time Bailey had asked Ace about her.

A smile tried to escape over his lips, but Ace clamped them tight and forced it away.

“Do you think she’s a part of this, then?” Bailey asked him.

“There’s got to be a way she and Mathews are connected.”

“Why?”

“Because my family’s rich.”

Bailey was taken aback. “Whatcha mean?” She didn’t know anything about him, not really, so she shouldn’t have been surprised that he was hiding something from her. And it couldn’t be considered hiding, Bailey countered, because she hadn’t asked about his family or his material worth. It wasn’t her place and she hadn’t been interested. Not until now, anyway.

“Bailey, think about it,” Ace replied. His blue eyes were fierce. “Maybe Mathews was scared that you’d end up with me and take all the money Gemma had offered him.”

“How d’you know she did that?” she asked.

“It would make sense, wouldn’t it?” Ace scratched the patchy stubble on his chin. “Gemma probably wants to know when I die—”

“She did ask about that, yeah.”

“—so she probably paid Mathews to kill me. He is my doctor, after all,” he explained with a knowing look at the machines around him.

All this was just a little too much for Bailey. Her head was beginning to spin. “Why’d you marry her?” She had decided that delicacy could be thrown out the window at this point. “Gemma sounds like a right backstabbing—”

“I needed a wife in order to collect my inheritance,” Ace told her calmly. “In hindsight, though, I should have waited until I was sure I wanted a wife.”

“You…” Bailey practically choked on her outraged laugh. “You married her for money?”

“She married me for it, obviously.”

“But, if you really didn’t love her, couldn’t you have waited until you did love someone? Couldn’t your money wait?”

Bailey was furious with Ace. This was the reason—out of all or any other reasons—that Mathews had tried to kill her? Money? She stood and began pacing in front of Ace’s bed. Ace’s gaze turned alarmed.

“You’re upset, I understand—”

“That’s an understatement,” Bailey growled her threat. Why did it matter to her what he did with his money? Why did it matter to her what he did with his life? Was Bailey so caught up in this strange rectangle that she really needed to know?

But now she was in the middle, she reasoned. Bailey was caught in between Ace and his wife, and between Gemma and Mathews. The only thing Bailey had done was take care of Ace. It was the only thing she should have been doing. But of course she had to go and talk to Ace, not just take care of him like she would any other patient. She had to tell him her life story, talk to him about her problems, visit him every day even when she wasn’t scheduled on his roster. It wasn’t something she regretted, but she could have handled it a bit better. Bailey could have been smarter about the whole thing.

“But I needed the money!” Ace stressed. “The inheritance expires after age twenty eight if I’m not married by then.”

This only troubled Bailey all the more. “You should have let it expire! It would have turned out better than marrying her, almost getting me killed, and starting this whole mess in the first place!”

“Everything okay in there?” Stevens knocked on the door. Both Bailey and Ace stiffened. They could see his outline behind the closed blinds; his ear was almost against the glass.

“Yes, we’re fine,” Bailey called out to him. But she glared back at Ace.

“Bailey, please!” Ace whispered. He was insistent; he tried to get up from his bed. Bailey pushed him back onto his pillows a little more roughly than she should have. She resumed her pacing. “I needed the money to help pay for my little brother’s chemo. I chose Gemma because she was a family friend and she wanted him to get better just as much as I did. It meant nothing to either of us. I had no idea she’d try to kill you. Or me.”

“She didn’t,” Bailey said softly, staring at the tiled floor. Most of her anger had seeped away into the cracks as Ace’s explanation sunk in. “Mathews did.”

“It’s essentially the same thing,” he murmured.

Bailey rubbed her temples with her closed fists. She was tired. “So you’re saying,” she began, “that your kid brother was dying. You chose Gemma so you could get the money to pay for his chemo, but you didn’t know she would try to do you in, in the end, because you two were friends.”

“Yes,” Ace panted, relieved.

“How long did you know her?”

“Since we were kids,” Ace replied. “You know those friends I told you about, the ones back home that got me into all sorts of trouble? Gemma was one of the guys’ sisters.”

An enormous sigh raised Bailey’s chest and then lowered it. Her head tipped back so that she could look at the ceiling. She wanted to ask about Ace’s brother. He had been the start of all this but he wasn’t the menace Bailey had envisioned the start to be. She didn’t know if, after all this, Ace’s little brother had survived.

“He didn’t,” Ace said, answering Bailey's unspoken question. It must have been in her eyes. His face fell. “Brady didn’t survive too long after I married Gemma. He went to our wedding, but I think all the excitement was too much. He liked Gemma, always had. Me and him were both excited that he was strong enough to go… I think he just wanted to see Gemma and I one last time.”

Bailey was about to say…but what could she say? She wanted to let Ace know that she was sorry he had lost his little brother. Bailey hadn’t grown up with any siblings. She didn’t know what it was like to have someone look up to her. She wanted to tell him that marrying Gemma hadn’t been as horrible as she made it out to be. But Gemma had turned out to be a nasty bitch; she was only after his money, and maybe it was their history as kids, but Bailey was almost certain that Ace didn’t want to see the bad part of Gemma. Ace was a good guy; Bailey knew that from the start. She shouldn’t have assumed that he was all about money the first time he told her that he was rich.

Bailey just wanted him to understand that just because Gemma had been sweet to his little brother, it didn’t mean that she was sweet now.

Bailey cleared her throat. There was a shout outside of the room and both Bailey and Ace shot panicked glances from the door to each other. Bailey rushed forward and placed her ear against the glass. It shook beneath her cheek.

“What’s going on?” she called through the door to Stevens. She couldn’t see him behind the glass. “Officer Stevens?”

“There’s something going on,” he said after a minute. It looked to Bailey as if he’d gotten knocked down. “Stay in the room. Ah… Don’t try to—don’t come out.” His shadow reappeared on the other side of the glass. It staggered.

There were more shouts and another bang. Bailey rushed from the door and grabbed the nearest thing she could reach to push up against it; the heavy visitor’s chair next to Ace’s bed. She backed away from the door until she was next to Ace again.

“What is it?” he asked her. There wasn’t a hint of bravado in his voice; Ace wasn’t like that. Bailey was suddenly filled with pride towards him for showing his emotions. It was a fleeting thought, one Bailey wasn’t going to share with him, but she noted that he was just as apprehensive as she was, if not a bit scared.

“I dunno, but it doesn’t sound good.”

Just then, another crash rocked the room. They heard Stevens yell. His shadow disappeared from behind the shielded glass, and a pounding began on the door.

“I know you’re in there!” Mathews yelled. “He’s in there too, isn’t he?!”

“Go away, Mathews!” Bailey yelled back. She found herself standing protectively in front of Ace’s bed. “It doesn’t have to be like this! We could all go home today!”

“I want my money!” Mathews cried. A scuffle ensued and Mathews’ shadow was flung away from the door. Bailey heard him lash out as if there were people trying to hold him down. Another bang made both Bailey and Ace jump, and Mathews was back against the door, pushing against it.

“He’s got to go, Bailey! He has to go!” Mathews continued to yell.

“He’s completely mad!” Bailey burst out. She felt Ace’s hand wrap itself around her arm. She looked back; he was on his hands and knees on the bed, reaching for her.

“Don’t go near the door,” he wheezed as he pulled her closer to him. Bailey stumbled on the heel of her shoes and he caught her against his chest. He winced in pain and she tried to lean away from him, but he kept a firm grip on her arm.

This was taking too much out of him. There was a sheen of sweat forming on his forehead and his breathing was labored. Bailey didn’t want him to tear his grafts, but it looked like that might be inevitable with the dangerous way things were moving.

“Bailey, why don’t you come out?” Mathews commanded. “You don’t have to die. I was wrong earlier. I don't want you anymore. I only need Ace. You’ll be safe with me, I can guarantee that.”

The door banged against the chair and the chair skidded against the tile a few feet with a loud scraping sound. Bailey had locked the door as soon as she’d closed it behind Officer Stevens. She didn’t know how long the lock would hold. She hoped it was longer than she thought. Mathews banged on the door again, threw his whole weight against it.

Mathews roared in frustration.

“Stay where you are!” a man shouted. “Don’t move!”

Bailey froze. She knew that voice. It was Dane. Sam’s husband was out there with crazy Mathews. “Oh, bollocks,” Bailey breathed. “He shouldn’t be out there. Why is he out there? Where are the police?”

“Who is it?” Ace asked.

“Oh, look, it’s the security officer that ratted me out,” Mathews sneered. The banging stopped and Bailey and Ace watched as his outline walked away from the door. “Come to take me away, then, sir?”

“Don’t do it, Dane!” Bailey screamed suddenly. “For God’s sake, get out of there!”


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