Domino Effect

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Chapter Thirty

A tear fell onto Ace’s file. So that’s why Ace had to take care of Brady in the end. Their parents had died two weeks before Brady’s own death. Bailey fell to her knees. But how did this happen? She glanced through shining eyes to Ace. A small sob bubbled in her chest. How did he end up here? And why hadn’t Arrington told her before he left?

An anger that Bailey had never known before began to rise from her core. Why would anyone want to hurt Ace? His only crime had been having a little too much fun as an adolescence. He was getting back on his feet. His parents seemed understanding; they bailed him out of jail and always got him the best care whenever he landed himself or his friends in the hospital. They were rich. But was that all they were? Bailey hadn’t known them. Maybe they had been distant. Maybe all Ace ever knew of his parents were that they had deep pockets and that’s how they came to his rescue.

But she couldn’t think that. She couldn’t defame his parents’ legacy, especially since she hadn’t known them.

Ace was accident prone. Maybe he’d done this to himself somehow. Accidents happen. Maybe it was God saying that Ace needed one more dose of his own medicine before he could truly move on with his own life after the death of his parents and Brady, and after Gemma.

The rage Bailey had begun to feel suddenly burst forth and she stood, screaming.

“Why are you like this?” she cried to Ace’s still figure. “How did this happen?”

“Bailey?” Arrington’s voice came through the door. “Bailey, what’s wrong? Are you alright?”

“The hell I am!” she yelled. Tears of frustration, of sadness, of fear, and of fury rolled down her cheeks.

“Let me in, Bailey,” Arrington reasoned in a level voice. He wiggled the handle of the door. It was locked. “Please, Bailey, don’t hurt Ace.”

Bailey’s laugh was maniacal. “I’m not going to hurt him! Why in the world would I do that?” She started pacing in front of Ace’s bed, her arms crossed and shaking against her chest.

“Okay,” Arrington agreed, “you won’t. I don’t know why I said that.”

“I do,” Bailey snarled. She stopped pacing and faced the door, her feet shoulder width apart, braced for impact.

“Then tell me.”

“Oh, I dunno!” she exploded. “It’s because you think I’m going to go off the reserve or something, isn’t it? You think that because I’m so damaged and was doing so much better after he came along that now that he’s almost gone, I’m going to shoot the whole place up, is that it?”

“No, that’s not it.”

Arrington had unlocked the door as Bailey spoke and he now stood in front of her. The hall behind him was eerily quiet; Bailey could hear her shouts echo down the long corridor. She waited for him to speak, her chest rising and falling rapidly with her labored breathing.

“Well?” she snapped. “Why do you think I’d ever hurt Ace?”

Arrington advanced slowly into the room, his hands held up in defense. He sidestepped around Bailey and sat on the edge of Ace’s bed. “Because I made a decision in my life that you’d kill for,” he said.

“I would never—” Bailey stopped herself from saying any more. When she had been angry with her mother, Bailey felt as though another person had control of her body. When she would drink, Bailey had only had one thing keeping her from striking out and killing her mother: her father’s memory. She was on a much safer path now, and she knew that if this anger towards the world—Gemma, Mathews, whoever hurt Ace—continued, Bailey would have no choice but to give in to that monster.

Bailey took a deep, rattling breath. She held it for a moment. The air left her lungs, and Bailey could feel the deep red draining from her face. She couldn’t give in. Ace needed her.

Arrington smiled. “You have a great sense of control,” he told Bailey. “I, however, do not have what you have. It’s always been elusive to me. What I do know is that I’m good at one thing.”

Bailey resisted the urge to smack the smirk right off his polite face. She walked over and sat next to him, placing a hand on Ace’s legs. “What would that be, Doctor?” she asked. Fresh tears began to trickle from her eyes.

Arrington’s eyebrows rose. His forehead crinkled; it gave him an almost comical look. “I,” he said, leaning towards Bailey, “can do things that others wouldn’t expect. It gives me an air. People don’t know what it is, but they can sense that they’ve met someone important. Someone with purpose.”

And that’s when it clicked for Bailey. Arrington’s smile had a hint of something close to mischievousness. He had put Ace in this coma. He hadn’t wanted to be on his case as lead doctor because he wanted this moment to be special. He needed Mathews as a distraction so that he could have Ace where he wanted and not have anyone in the way. If he had taken on Ace’s case from the beginning, Bailey felt sure that he’d be the one in the ground, not Mathews.

Mathews would have been fired. He wouldn’t have rigged the elevator. He would have just come onto Bailey too strong and would have had a lawsuit on his hands. Gemma would have gone to Arrington with the money, and Arrington would have taken it. He would have gotten shot, and he wouldn’t be able to put the last piece of his plan in motion. Bailey and Ace would have been able to live a long, happy life together. That was something Arrington would not allow.

But he was smarter than Mathews. He was smarter than Gemma. She hadn’t known his plan. It was her downfall. Maybe Gemma could have stayed out of prison if she’d gone to him instead of Mathews. Arrington stood and watched Bailey’s face turn to horror with each realization that hit.

“You?” Bailey’s asked, her voice breathy. When Arrington’s smile widened and his eyes twinkled with an impish light, she shot to her feet. “Why?!”

“Because,” Arrington chortled, “he didn’t die the first time.”

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