Domino Effect

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Chapter Twenty Three

Ace was healing well. Not that Bailey had talked to him. After the incident with Mathews, Doctor Arrington took Bailey off Ace’s case. He ordered her to take a few days off. He had pulled her aside, however, and said she could take as many days as she needed; he was giving her paid leave.

Bailey was grateful to Arrington. She hadn’t wanted to be off Ace’s case—most of her argument she kept in the back of her mind, so Arrington won that conversation quite easily—but had agreed in the end. Ace asked about her the day after Mathews died, when she didn’t show up for work. Bailey told Arrington that Sam should be put on his case instead; she didn’t tell Ace about the switch. He was understandably confused.

She wondered if Ace really wanted her. Had Ace been playing into Mathews’ hands to protect her? Or was he, Gemma and Mathews in it together? Bailey knew what types of people could come out of Ireland. Mobsters were usually only in the movies but was Ace the real thing? Was he so good at his job that he had tricked Bailey into believing he was a good guy?

All Bailey wanted was some peace with her thoughts. Because he mother liked to watch the news, something Bailey rarely did, she called her daughter as soon as Bailey was captured walking out of the hospital with Dane and Sam on camera. The peace that Bailey sought wasn’t found until a few days later. Her mother was her constant companion during that week; Bailey had forgotten what it was like to have a mother. The insistent fluttering of her mother’s hands whenever Bailey moved was getting to her.

Thursday finally brought Bailey to an almost boiling point.

“Mum, I need some space here,” Bailey said. They were sitting on the couch together. An inch or so of space was between them.

“Oh, sorry,” she said, scooching to her left a fraction.

Bailey rolled her eyes. “Not on the couch,” she told her. Her mum was warm.

Her mother’s eyes narrowed. “Whatcha mean?”

“Now, don’t start that. I just mean that you’ve been away a while, so we should take things slow.”

“Are you my wife now?”

Bailey tried to keep her voice even; she found it was easier than the day before. “I appreciate what you’re doing for me,” she told her. “I just think you’re trying to squeeze in twenty years of mothering.”

“Well,” her mother paused, thinking, “I am.”

“Oh.” Bailey’s retort was lost in her mother’s ashamed smile. She had expected a real toss, but a scuffle was more of what had been happening since Bailey came home on leave. This wasn’t even a scuffle. It was more of a...ruffle.

“Yep.” Her mother stood and walked over to the island. “Since I’ve been doing all the cooking these past few days,” she said, “would you like some help with dinner?”

“Oh, you expect me to cook now, do you?”

“I offered my help.”

Bailey smiled. She was beyond glad that her mother was giving up the reins. It would do her some good to take a break. All that mothering in three days was bound to make her snap sooner or later.

“Have you talked to Ace yet?” Her mum was avoiding Bailey’s eyes. She was crouched, reaching into one of the cabinets for a pan.

“No.”

“Why not?”

“I wouldn’t know what to say.”

And that was actually the truth. Bailey had told her mum everything that had happened with Mathews. Every little detail that could have set him off. She told her about Ace. She told her about Gemma. Bailey had never told anybody exactly what was on her mind. She wasn’t sure how she felt about it yet.

Her mum reappeared with the pan. “It sounds like you like him,” she said.

Bailey looked around her to the stove. “Of course I like him,” she told her.

“Are you avoiding him?”

Bailey frowned at the stove. “No, Arrington gave me paid leave.”

Her mum shook her head. “I know,” she said. Her hand landed gently on Bailey’s arm; Bailey stared at it. “But you haven’t called to see how he is or anything.”

“He’s a patient,” Bailey insisted. “I’m sure he’s fine.”

Her mum laughed softly. “You know as well as I do that Ace isn’t just a patient to you anymore,” she told Bailey.

“But…Sam’s looking after him.”

“How would you feel if—”

Bailey had looked away from her mother’s hand in distress, unable to bear hearing the rest of her mother’s sentence. Her mum sighed. “Exactly.”

Bailey knew all of this. She had known it for quite some time. All those questions about the Mob or Ace helping out Gemma and Mathews she had posed didn’t seem to matter now. Bailey slumped against the counter. She leaned heavily on her elbow.

“What do I do now?” Bailey asked her mum, searching her steely gray eyes for some answer.

Her mum waited patiently, crossing her arms.

“I can’t…ask Ace out,” Bailey continued. She began to pace. “He’s married. I can’t…talk to Gemma. She’s gotten out of dodge.” Bailey glanced to her mother, who nodded. “Should I… Should I talk to Ace again?”

“It seems like the most obvious thing, doesn’t it?”

Bailey stopped mid-stride. “But what if—”

“You said he’s not happy with his marriage. You won’t know if he’ll back out of it unless you talk to him.” Bailey’s mother wrapped her in a hug. Her whisper tickled her ear. “And if he doesn’t… if his inheritance won’t allow it… I’m sorry, Honey, but it looks like you’re heading into “the other woman” territory.”

Bailey stuck her tongue out at her mother after they pulled apart. Inside, though, Bailey’s heart sank like a stone.


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