Domino Effect

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Chapter Twenty Seven

“Should I leave the hospital?”

Bailey’s questions surprised both her and Ace. He took her hand after a moment’s hesitation. “Why would you leave?” he asked.

“I’ll get fired if I stay.”

“You will?”

Ace was trying his best not to smile. He was hoping he wasn’t getting ahead of himself. He was wondering if Bailey meant what he thought he meant.

There was a knock on the door. “Bailey.” Doctor Arrington addressed her as he leaned around the doorframe. “Is everything okay?”

She nodded, standing. “Yes,” she told him confidently, glancing at Ace. “Everything’s great.”

Bailey discussed her transfer with her friends before she went to her mother. She knew that her mother would have her back, but she could just imagine her trying to give her daughter advice. It was painfully awkward and Bailey hoped it wouldn’t come to that. Her mother hadn’t given anyone advice, not successfully anyway, in twenty years. Bailey didn’t know if she even knew how to give advice anymore.

Sam agreed that Bailey should leave the hospital. She was sure Arrington would hire her back if she ever wanted it, and he’d give a great recommendation to the hospital in Burlington. James didn’t say much, as was his usual. He told Bailey that he thought she should stay. If she was meant to be with Ace, then her career would figure itself out. He was always the one to lean on fate; Bailey wasn’t too confident she could go without a job, even if Ace was rich, because she’d be bored out of her mind and she couldn’t take advantage of him like that, even if he was willing and happy to support her. Charlie was happy for her either way. He knew how much she liked working at their hospital, but knew that she’d be right at home and would prove herself in Burlington as well.

Bailey talked to Ace too. They’d finally exchanged phone numbers and talked that night. They talked after Bailey pulled up to her mother’s house and dropped her letter into the mailbox. He knew how hard it was for her to be near that house. He was proud of her to have even gotten as far as she did. When they talked that night, Bailey confessed that she’d nearly passed out getting out of the car to walk to the mailbox. It was still too much for her, she’d told him. Ace was sympathetic.

He told her that he hadn’t divorced Gemma because of how much she had adored Brady. He felt like his little brother was with him whenever he looked at her. Bailey had snorted at this but Ace insisted that though he had never truly loved Gemma, he had loved the part of her that had cared for Brady. It was almost excruciating when he couldn’t take her snide remarks or extravagant spending habits anymore: it meant that he had to say goodbye to Brady if he was saying goodbye to Gemma.

Gemma was taken to the police department in Stowe where she would be held until her court trial. Ace had enough influence with her attorney that he was able to have his signed divorce papers delivered and served to Gemma by his own lawyer. He oversaw her signing and returned to tell Ace the good news. Ace called Bailey afterwards and laughed aloud when he told her that his lawyer had threatened Gemma with another court date and more jail time if she refused to sign the papers.

It was something the lawyer shouldn’t have done, but he was an old friend of Ace’s parents, and he was just as pleased as Ace was that this whole mess was soon to be over.

Bailey was happy for Ace. He was cheerier than she had ever seen him. They had known each other for over a month now and he was finally at ease. Bailey had thought he had been when they talked in his room in the hospital; she was wrong. Ace’s face lit up openly now when Bailey came to visit him. He had moved to the rehabilitation center in the hospital, as Doctor Arrington had failed to reveal that little snag in their earlier conversations about his discharge, and she sat with him that Wednesday as he did the exercises to strengthen his arms.

“Have you thought about what you’d like to do?”

Ace’s question popped Bailey out of her reverie. The rehabilitation center was quiet today, and Ace was doing some lightweight warm-up lifts while he waited for his trainer. He was wearing a gray zip-up hoodie and loose, black pants. He looked as comfortable as Bailey felt whenever she was with him.

“I really shouldn’t talk about it here,” she said out of the side of her mouth. She glanced around as if someone was just around the corner, out of earshot.

“Why not?”

“This is part of the hospital,” she reminded him. “What if they hear me talking about it?”

Bailey didn’t dare say the word “leaving” or “transferring” when she was with Ace. Anyone approaching them would hear her and knowing some of the nurses she worked with, Bailey didn’t doubt they wouldn’t go scampering off and would rat her out to Arrington. He was a reasonable man but he was also a practical man. He would probably lay Bailey off; that could be almost as bad as getting fired.

She hadn’t been laid off before, but she had been fired. It wasn’t a pleasant memory, and for some reason, Bailey noted, she couldn’t seem to remember why she had been fired in the first place. She shook it off as another memory lapse resulting from the accident, and turned back to Ace.

He had been talking and now he was looking at Bailey expectantly. “What, sorry?” she asked sheepishly.

“You know,” Ace said, placing his three-pound hand weights on the table next to him, “you do that quite often.”

“What?” Bailey knew he was going to comment on her lack of memory, so she braced herself. It hadn’t bothered her, not for the first few years after the accident, but she’d been forgetting things a lot more recently. She was wondering if anyone had noticed.

“You go off into another world and I lose you.”

That was not what she thought he was going to say. “I wouldn’t say you lose me,” she told him, pink rising in her cheeks. “I just get confused and come back when I’m not anymore. I know it looks bad—”

“Hmm.” Ace placed a hand to her head. His palm was warm and soft. “You think about many things, don’t you?” he asked.

Bailey’s eyebrows rose underneath his palm. “I do,” she confirmed.

“What are you thinking about now?”

“Your hand is warm.”

“Really?” Ace removed his hand. “That’s what you’re thinking about?”

“At present,” Bailey told him, nodding.

“Hmm,” Ace said again.

Her forehead crumpled in a frown. “Is that a bad thing?” She didn’t want to sound defensive or as if she was searching for his approval, but maybe she was feeling a bit of both.

Ace could see that in her eyes. “I apologize. I didn’t realize it was a sensitive subject.”

Bailey was grateful that he hadn’t said “touchy” or “such a big deal.” She never appreciated the way other people shrugged off her clumsy memory and distance. They couldn’t pinpoint exactly what was wrong with her, so they tended to lean towards Bailey being standoffish, rather than having an actual illness. Ace’s tact gave her the courage she needed to smile at him.

“That’s better,” he said, smiling as well.

“Thanks.”

“For what?”

“For seeing me,” she told him.

“Of course,” he replied. “Shouldn’t everyone?”

“They should,” Bailey agreed, nodding, “but they don’t.”

“Hey, Ace.” Ace’s physical therapist sidestepped into the conversation then and stood at the door with her hands in her pockets. She cleared her throat apologetically. “I interrupted,” she said, a small grin on her lips, “like I always do.” She shrugged. “Sorry.”

Ace laughed. “It’s alright, Melissa,” he told her. “I did some exercises before you got here. I’m halfway done.”

Melissa laughed. She was a pretty blond like Bailey, but her eyes were a stunning blue. It was like staring into the sun, looking back into her eyes. “Nice try,” she chastised. She sat next to him and picked up the weights. “Shall we?”

“I’ll be back later,” Bailey told Ace. He smiled. Though they weren’t technically in a relationship, almost everyone at the hospital knew about them. Bailey could be seen with Ace on any given day, after her rounds were finished, of course.

They were friends. Arrington knew about them, but he was discreet enough to pretend as though he were blind. He didn’t want to lose Bailey and he knew that Bailey had friends here. Arrington wasn’t a fool. He had spent enough time with Bailey on cases that he could almost see who she was. He knew she didn’t have many friends besides her coworkers. He knew from the interview he had conducted at the time of her residency that she wasn’t on the best of terms with her mother. He also knew that she lived alone.

Bailey and Ace hadn’t gone on any dates. When they were seen together, they kept things strictly business. The whole Gemma-Mathews fiasco cramped up any pleasantries Bailey was able to have with anyone. Well, she could be friendly and happy, of course, but she felt as though she should tone it down for a while. Fly under the radar. She didn’t need anyone to find any excuse to fire her, so she stayed neutral.


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