Soon, she felt herself drifting, as he
touched her, rubbed her, and she knew everything was okay.
long as he’s with me, I’m fine.
better than fine.
Her eyes stayed closed and she remembered
the feeling of the sand between her toes while walking the beach with her
husband, and she drifted off.
When her eyes opened again, Ivy could
tell that some time had passed.
Cullen was gone and she was alone in the
bed, the covers over her.
smiled, knowing that he’d tucked her in after she’d fallen asleep.
Ivy felt a little groggy, but mostly she
just felt happy.
She still was having trouble believing
it, but it was real and she just had to keep reminding herself.
After using the bathroom to freshen up,
she went downstairs to find Cullen in the kitchen cooking.
There were a couple of large pots on the
stove, and Cullen was busy tending to a pan of sizzling meat.
“It smells amazing in here,” she said.
Cullen turned and saw her, and
immediately his expression brightened.
His blue eyes were filled with love.
It was so obvious and unashamed that Ivy
found her skin breaking into gooseflesh.
really loves me.
It’s written all
over his face.
“You’re awake,” he said.
“And you’re cooking,” she said, coming
further in and peering at the pan.
“I’m making linguine and sauce with
sausage and meatballs.
family recipe,” he said, as he stirred the sizzling sausage a bit more.
“You didn’t have to cook for me,” she
“I want to make sure you feel at home
here,” Cullen told her.
“I do,” she said, and then realized it
Cullen finished cooking the dinner and
served it on two beautiful plates that probably had cost more than Ivy’s
He poured them each a glass of wine and
then they sat down and ate beside the large window that looked out on the city
“How do you like it?” Cullen asked, as
she took her first bite.
The linguine melted in her mouth, and
then the spice of the sauce kicked in and she grinned.
She took another bite, making sure to
include a piece of sausage, chewing as Cullen watched her with interest.
“Good?” he asked.
“More than good,” she said, and it was
She covered her mouth as
“You could be a chef at
a five-star restaurant.”
He shook his head.
“Yeah, I don’t think so.”
“Cullen, I’m serious.
This is the best spaghetti I’ve ever had
in my entire life.”
“Well, thank you.
For me, it’s the company that makes it
the best meal of my life.”
looked her in the eyes.
meal we share will be better than the last.”
Ivy smiled and had to look away, she was
so overwhelmed momentarily.
Everything in her life had become more
than she’d ever imagined possible.
Despite all of the challenges that lay ahead—
Cullen shoved his chair back and picked
up his phone, his brow creasing.
“Something wrong?” Ivy asked, her heart
starting to race.
“I don’t know.
Maybe it’s a telemarketer, but somehow I
Cullen answered the
“Yes,” he said.
There was a pause while he listened, his
“How did you get
this number?” he asked.
again and Ivy could tell he was growing increasingly tense.
“Now you listen to me—“ he
started, but then Ivy could hear a tinny voice yelling out of his cell phone
even from across the table.
She couldn’t quite make out the words,
but she could hear it was a woman’s voice.
Cullen listened for what felt like a long
He didn’t even try and
Finally, after what seemed like forever,
“And you have that
authority?” he asked.
There was a lot more talking from the
other end and then Cullen closed his eyes.
“Fine,” he said.
I’ll be there within the
Cullen hung up and put the cell phone down
on the table in front of him.
entire demeanor had shifted.
bearing was tense and closed off, his eyes far away as he stared now into the
“What happened?” Ivy asked, her voice
small and quiet.
Cullen picked up his napkin and dabbed at
his lips before answering.
was Peg Woodhouse.
health has begun to seriously fail and if she’s not operated on within the next
few hours, she’ll die.”
Ivy felt like her entire body had just
been hit with ten thousand volts of electricity.
He didn’t look at her.
“I’m getting ready now.”
“So you’re going to try, then?” she
“You’re going to perform the
Cullen’s lips pressed together.
“I suppose I don’t have a choice.”
And then he was leaving the table, his
plate of food hardly touched, still steaming.
Ivy had lost her appetite.
He left the room.
She stared at the table and all of the
beauty, and wondered if that amazing moment where everything had seemed just
right with the world—and there had been dreams of many more moments to
come—had actually been the only time they’d ever be able to experience
Ivy remembered Peg Woodhouse’s
That if Cullen didn’t
perform the surgery, or even if he did, but her sister died—then the
district attorney would make it his life’s mission to see Cullen put behind
Minutes went by with Ivy just sitting
there, stunned, not knowing how to react.
She wanted to do something—wanted to go to Cullen and give him her
But she could tell he didn’t
because he blames me for putting him in this situation in the first place.
And why shouldn’t he feel that way?
It’s true that I made the deal that got
him out of jail but perhaps put him in even worse danger.
What if he really couldn’t save the
What if a woman died and Cullen went back
to jail and the only person Ivy could blame was herself?
She pushed the plate of food away.
A moment later, she heard footsteps and
Cullen entered the room once more.
“Come on,” he said.
to get to the hospital.”
She lifted her head, turned and looked at
“We?” she said.
“You—you want me to come with
I couldn’t do it without you.”
And then he offered her his hand and she
felt the knots in her belly let go, and relief flooded through her.
“Okay,” she said, getting up, and
grasping his hand.
And they went out the door together,
still holding hands.
The drive to the hospital felt too quick.
Cullen was quiet, his eyes determined,
his emotions hidden.
not to push, not to ask questions or probe him about his mental state.
She already knew he hadn’t wanted to do
this surgery, didn’t believe he was up to the task.
But he was doing it anyway, and knowing
that was enough to tell her that Cullen needed his own space right now.
He was trying to get himself mentally
ready for the challenge that lay before him.
Ivy’s only job was simply to support that
as best she could.
As they drove, she could see his knuckles
turn white on the wheel, and his jaw flinching, his eyes growing cooler and
cooler and cooler.
By the time they pulled into the hospital
parking lot, the old Cullen Sharpe had returned.
He glanced at her.
“You just stay with me, and do as I tell
you,” he said in a flat voice.
“Yes,” she said.
“Anything you need…”
But he wasn’t listening for her
He was already getting
out of the car and moving at high speed.
She rushed to keep up with him as he walked towards the main entrance.
Even his stride was fast, efficient.
Once they were inside the main lobby of
the hospital, Cullen led the way through a mazelike hall and a set of
They took the elevators
up in silence.
Cullen’s face was a mask of cool, calm
detachment and Ivy sensed that this was a form of protection.
He’d been avoiding this moment since the
day she’d met him.
He hadn’t wanted
to perform this surgery, hadn’t asked to be put in this position.
In fact, he had clearly been dreading it
and trying to stave it off at all costs.
Now that it had come to this, he was trying to get on with the task at
hand and the last thing Ivy wanted to do was distract him in any way.
The elevator doors opened and he gestured
to the right, towards a set of double doors, through which she could make out a
“That’s where you
go,” he said.
“I’ll be out when I’m
“Okay,” she said, her throat tight with
She wanted so badly to
tell him he was going to be great, that he could do this.
Cullen nodded, turned on his heel and
went the opposite way, through a different set of doors, and disappeared.
Ivy let out a breath, realizing she’d
been holding it ever since they’d gotten in the car to head to the hospital.
Slowly, she made her way into the waiting
The second she got inside, her eyes fixed
on the woman sitting with Kleenex in a death grip in one hand.
It was Peg Woodhouse.
Sitting next to her was an older, gray
haired, heavyset man with a tough, haggard face.
Ivy didn’t want to have to talk to Peg
Woodhouse at a time like this, but there was no way to avoid it.
The waiting room was nearly empty, and
she couldn’t ignore her.
When Peg saw her walking towards them,
she grabbed the older man’s forearm.
“Dad,” she said.
She nodded towards Ivy,
who forced a smile to her face.
“Hi, Peg,” she said, giving a small wave
of her hand.
“This is my father,” Peg said.
“Dad, this is Ivy…”
“I’m Cullen Sharpe’s wife,” Ivy said,
trying to project a confidence she didn’t feel.
“Oh?” the older man said, cocking an
eyebrow and gazing up at her critically.
He extended his hand and gave her a very firm handshake.
She took a seat across from them, wishing
she’d known they were in here beforehand.
She would have waited downstairs.
“I tried calling you,” Peg said.
“But you never answered your phone.”
“My phone broke, unfortunately,” Ivy
said, trying to laugh it off.
“What bad timing,” Peg said.
Her father raised his eyebrows.
“Lots of bad timing nowadays.”
“I’m so sorry your family is going through
this,” Ivy said, “but Cullen—Doctor Sharpe—he’s going to do a great
I have faith it will all work
out, he’s a fantastic surgeon.”
As the words left Ivy’s mouth, she
wondered what gave her the right to say them.
She truly didn’t know what kind of a
surgeon he’d been.
And even if he’d
once been great, Cullen didn’t believe in himself anymore.
He’d also made it clear that he didn’t
think this surgery would be successful.
But she certainly wasn’t going to say
that to a pair of grieving family members in the hospital waiting room before a