It seemed wrong that the weather was so beautiful. The room faced east
and she had been watching the sun rise until it formed a blinding glare
on the window panes. Her fingers folded, unfolded, refolded the ugly
hospital gown. The pale blue fabric fanned over her stomach in
undulating patterns. Because they were the only part of her that moved,
the movements, even though they were slight, seemed grotesque against
her still body.
She was alone for the moment. The doctors had finally convinced him to
go home. He’d been standing sentinel by her bedside since they had
admitted her into the hospital. After the first few hours, he’d given up
the idea of making her talk and had contented himself with staring at
Shifting her legs beneath the blankets, she released a small puff of
air. She hadn’t expected to have to re-evaluate her life. Waking up in
the middle of the night had been an unwelcome surprise. Waking up to
find the Admiral and Harm flanking her like the lions in Trafalgar
Square was worse. She shouldn’t have called him. That was where she had
screwed up. She should have known that despite everything that they had
been through, he would swoop in and rescue her from herself. He’d been
doing it for eight years and she supposed old habits were hard to break.
Even when – her mind stopped at that thought.
A chair’s legs scraped against the linoleum by her bed. She didn’t have
to turn her head to know it was Harm. She blinked against the sudden
lack of sunlight. Bright blue and purple spots obscured her view of his
face for a minute. He was dressed in a suit, elbows on knees, chin
resting against steepled fingertips. He didn’t smiled, didn’t speak for
a minute, just studied her face.
“I might not be able to get away with this,” he said after a few
minutes. “But the Admiral and I agreed.”
“You.” The word caught in her mouth and she cleared her throat to try
again. “You talked to the Admiral?”
He nodded. “He’s granting you leave while you get therapy. You can go
through a private doctor and we’ll try to keep this as quiet as
“You can’t force me into therapy,” she said mildly.
“You tried to kill yourself.” The words were said quietly but she could
hear the anger behind them. Her fingers curled around the gown again,
bunching it in her fists, before clawing at the blanket and pulling it
up to neck. “Therapy seems like a reasonable step to me.”
She sighed a little and looked away again. He put a finger under her
chin and turned her head to face him. “You’re going to get help, Mac.
You have three choices. You can stay in the hospital—“
“No,” she said quickly.
“You can get help from a private psychologist and stay with one of us.”
He waited to see her reaction.
“Or we transfer you to Bethesda and the
doctors there will treat you.”
“You can’t transfer me.”
He took a deep breath. “I’ll go to court, Mac. I’ll bring in the doctors
who were here last night and I’ll petition the courts. I’ll try my
damnedest to get an order to show cause to have this done immediately.”
He waited a minute. From his raised eyebrows, she guessed that he was
expecting a reaction from her. For a minute, something flared up and
railed against the bullying tactics. But it died just as quickly as it
appeared. Exhaling slowly, she said, “You can’t do that.”
“Yes. I can. I may not succeed, but I can certainly try. And I can do it
“You tried to kill yourself,” he bit the words off in hard syllables.
“You have no leverage in this.” He pushed the chair back as he stood up.
In an awkward gesture of affection, he patted her shoulder. “I wouldn’t
do this if I didn’t care. Call me when they release you and I’ll pick
Halfway across the room, he turned back to face her. “I have the name of
a psychiatrist. Someone recommended her. He said she was very good. I’ll
make the appointment for you.” His mouth tilted up at the corners. “Try
to get some rest, Sarah. I’ll be back later this afternoon to check up
She waited until he left the room before she started to cry. It had
seemed like such an easy solution to her problems before. And now, now
her life was more of a mess than it had ever been. Hiccupping, she
closed her eyes and prayed for sleep.
Dr. Audrey Hepburn, her name an unfortunate accident resulting from a
star-struck mother and the bad luck to fall in love with Walter Hepburn,
studied the woman in front of her. She was getting plenty of time to
complete her study. Sarah Mackenzie didn’t speak unless spoken to,
didn’t make eye contact, and, from the looks of it, didn’t eat much. She
was sullen, uncommunicative, and prone to one-syllable answers.
She repressed the sigh that wanted to force its way out of her throat.
She had told Sarah’s friend – she checked her notes – Harm that this
wouldn’t be a miracle cure. A person did not appear in therapy one day
and emerge magically better. It was a complex cocktail of sessions and,
in cases like Sarah’s, the right drugs. She did agree with his
assessment that Sarah needed it. The suicide attempt alone demanded it.
But Sarah had to want help in order to receive it and it appeared that
she didn’t realize that she wanted to be helped yet.
“Sarah,” she prompted. They only had fifteen more minutes left in their
session and she wanted an answer to her original question. “You never
answered me. How are you feeling?”
“Fine.” She rubbed her hands down her arms and looked around the office.
She pulled the corners of her mouth up in what passed as an imitation of
a smile. “You have a lovely office.”
“How’s your mood been today?” She ignored the attempt to dodge the
question, but she could have laid even money on the answer.
Audrey tapped her fingers against the side of her desk. Leaning forward
and resting her chin on her palm, she said, “Your friends don’t think
you’re fine. They’re worried about you.”
“I’m okay,” she murmured.
Audrey shook her head. “Why do you think you’re okay?”
The other woman looked up. “I’ve been in difficult spots before.” Her
lips trembled into a smile. “I’ll survive.”
“Sarah,” Audrey said firmly, “you very nearly didn’t survive this.”
“And yet, here I am.” Sarah shrugged her shoulders and studied the
woman’s office. “You have a lovely office,” she said again.
“Thank you.” Audrey followed the path of Sarah’s eyes. “Most of it I
picked up while traveling.” She flicked her gaze back. “Do you like to
“I don’t get the chance to very often.” She knitted her fingers together
tightly in her lap. Audrey could see the knuckles turning white from the
pressure of the grip. “Work. I travel for work.”
“Do you enjoy it?”
“Work? I guess. It’s a job.” She hitched a shoulder a little. “If it
were fun, it’d be called play.”
Audrey had already talked to a few of Sarah’s co-workers, unofficially.
She needed a control group because she knew Sarah’s viewpoints were
likely skewed by her emotions. Although there was a fair amount of the
usual office grumbling, everyone had been unanimous in the unique
atmosphere. She heard the word family mentioned often during the
Sarah’s response, despite the contrasting stories she heard earlier,
didn’t surprise her. Often, people who attempted suicide developed a
type of tunnel vision approach to their lives. Combined with a sense of
isolation, they lacked the ability to see the fuller picture. She
thought that Sarah had simply lost the ability to see that people cared
“What about your co-workers?”
She sucked her lower lip into her mouth and chewed on it. “They’re
nice.” She glanced away. “I like them.”
“They said the same about you.”
“I know.” The words shuddered out.
“Do you really?” Audrey leaned against the side of her chair and rested
her elbow on its arm.
“Yeah.” Her voice was small. “I do.” She paused. “It’s getting late. Can
I go home now?”
“Do you have someone to take you home?”
Sarah jerked her thumb over her shoulder in the general direction of the
door. “My frie – uh – Harm.” She stuttered the beginning of his name.
“He’s set up residency in my apartment.”
“It’s better for you to have people around.” Audrey had explained that
same principle to Sarah’s friends. Sarah couldn’t be left alone. Not
because of the risk of another attempt, although that played a role in
the decision, but because many people who tried to killed themselves
were isolated or felt that way. She needed the contact with the outside
world that another person would provide. She simply could not be left
alone with the demons in her mind. “I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”
She walked the other woman to the ante-room. The man, Harm, stood up
when they entered. Sarah didn’t look at him and he didn’t take his hands
out of his pockets. He looked puzzled, as if he had yet to figure out
how he had arrived at the office. Audrey understood his frustration and
she could only hope that Sarah would be able to see his concern, but if
body language was any indication, a major source of Sarah’s problems
stemmed from the tension flowing between them.
Her apartment was getting dark but she didn’t want to turn any lights
on. Her hands were wrapped tightly around her mug of tea she stared out
the window. It had taken some convincing but she was finally alone. He’d
been reluctant to go and for that she was grateful. She was just tired
of being watched.
Everyone was watching her. Her doctor, her CO, her friends. Harm. It was
the first moment alone since she’d been released from the hospital. It
was temporary, Harm was picking up Chinese take-out, but she relished
it. Her stomach growled in protest at the thought of food. She hadn’t
eaten much in the past few days. Weeks, really, if she were honest with
Her fingertips pressed against the window sash. The glass was cool
beneath them. She imagined the coolness spreading through her hands,
radiating up her arms and down her bones until she was as cool, as calm,
and as invisible as the glass. Her forehead leaned against the panes and
she watched the world below her.
Often, during the course of their time together, she wondered why Harm
felt compelled to fly. But now, she wanted to experience the freedom.
She wanted to feel the rush of the wind against her face. Wanted to be
able to spread her arms and feel those few precious minutes when all
there was the air, the wind, and the sky.
An arm wrapped around her waist and yanked her back from the window.
Off-balance, she tumbled to the ground, taking the body attached to the
arm down with her. Almost objectively, she noticed the broken mug on the
floor and the half-open window. Had she done that?
From their position on the floor, Harm soothed her hair back from her
forehead. “Mac, what are you doing?” He kissed the crown of her head.
She wondered if he knew that he was doing it.
“I don’t know,” she said, studying the mess under the window. “I didn’t
know I did that.”
His arm tightened around her waist. “Why are you doing this?”
“I don’t know. I’m sorry,” she cried. “I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry,” he murmured into her hair. “Get better, please,
She nodded slowly. The tears gathering in her eyes spilled over onto her
cheeks. She buried her face into her hands and mumbled, “I’m sorry,”
into them repeatedly.
Mac’s bedroom door was closed. She had gone into her room, mumbling
something about needing a nap after her session, and pushed the door
closed behind her. The car ride back had been silent. The journey from
the car to her apartment had been silent, too. She hadn’t looked at him
either. She sat or stood with her face angled away from him and her arms
wrapped tightly beneath her ribs. He hadn’t realized how much he could
miss a voice.
Two weeks before she tried to kill herself, he had decided that he was
okay, that his life was okay, without her. He’d even told his new
partner that it had been time for him to move on. They hadn’t been
friends, best or otherwise, in a while. They’d been reduced to
co-workers, sparring partners, and, on occasion, co-counsel, although
that was increasingly rarer. The degeneration from friends to casual
acquaintances had been slow. Little things, not so little fights, had
eaten away at the bones of the friendship until it was a brittle shell.
It had almost been a relief to cast it aside.
Or, at least, that’s what he had told himself. It was harder to lie to
himself when he had set up camp in her apartment. He dragged his fingers
down his face, stretching the skin beneath them into a warped mask of
his face. This would definitely qualify as a mess. He couldn’t really
remember a bigger one.
Trust Sarah Mackenzie to throw everything into a tailspin. She was,
without question or doubt, the unstable air mass in his life. His life
was gaining some semblance of normalcy. He had a decent job that gave
him the chance to fly and provided him with the adrenaline rush to which
he’d grown accustomed. It was far a field from the life he’d imagined as
a little boy. There were no more carriers, no more flight decks, and the
courtroom battles had been silenced. But he was growing used to
revamping his plans. He thought he was adjusting nicely this time
And then she called. Her voice had been shaky and tired. It still sang
in his ears, weeks after it had been erased from his answering machine.
He could recall it with perfect clarity; her slight exhalation and the
way the resigned “I love you” whispered out into his apartment, louder
than any scream. Anger and concern warred for supremacy in his emotions.
He was angry at her for trying something so unbelievably stupid, so
incredibly selfish. When he saw her lying on the gurney, her face pale
and sweaty, the paramedics hovering over her, he tried to tell himself
that it was just an attempt. That she hadn’t been serious and it was
just an attention getting technique. A horribly cruel one, but
effective. The doctors had disabused him of that notion. They had loaded
him down with pamphlets, websites, and fact sheets. It was a shame he
was no longer practicing law, he could almost call himself to the stand
as an expert witness in this area now.
He didn’t know how to help her. He felt powerless watching her struggle
with something that he couldn’t begin to understand, mostly because she
wouldn’t let him try. The day he’d come back to her apartment, arms
loaded down with Chinese food, to find her leaning halfway out the
window, he just reacted. The sight of her balanced precariously against
the window ledge had scared him. He had cherished hopes that she’ been
getting better. It hurt him to realize that he had only been seeing what
both she and he wanted him to see.
She never explained what prompted her to apologize. Her broken sorrys
echoed in his memories. God, he wanted a drink. A long, slow pull of
whiskey or bourbon and a puff on a strong cigar. He was so tired of
this. He wanted to run for the hills and never look back. How easy would
it been to just walk away from this mess? To leave Sarah behind and
never go back to find her? He could call Catherine and ask her out to
dinner. He could call Beth and see if she wanted to go out someplace,
any place but here. He could do something that would let him spend the
night far away from this apartment. And his mind, he knew, would never
leave this room.
He pushed himself up off the couch and hesitated outside her bedroom
door. He wanted to make sure she was sleeping and not just avoiding him.
The information on the websites and booklets that the doctors had given
him said that he should talk to her about her experience. Obviously, the
people who conducted the studies did not conduct them on stubborn
She wouldn’t talk to him. Oh, she’d speak to him. She’d ask him about
his work, the CIA, and his family. It was perpetual small talk, never
reaching the underlying problems. Turnabout, he supposed, was fair play.
He’d kept his fair share of secrets from her, too. It was a hell of a
game to play, though, when her life was on the line.
He took a risk and turned the knob on her bedroom door. The quilts and
blankets piled on her bed cocooned her form from view. Only the top of
her head was visible. Her soft, even inhalations and exhalations filled
the room. After eight years as her partner, he knew she was really
asleep, not just hiding from him. She never could pull off the fake
He pulled the door shut quietly and went back to his spot on the couch.
There was another test flight scheduled for next week and he wasn’t sure
how long he’d be gone. At least overnight. The thought worried him more
than it had before. He needed someone to stay with her. He had
systematically eliminated all of their friends, except for Sturgis.
After weighing the pros and cons, he had been tempted to call him but
stopped short of actually dialing the number. With Mac on leave and his
resignation, Sturgis’ caseload was probably huge. He didn’t need the
added burden of Mac’s problems and Mac deserved better care than he
could give her. He had considered the Admiral, but rejected him, too.
Personal reasons more guided that decision than practical ones.
Briefly, he considered Webb, but rejected that idea as quickly as it
came. As much as the guy bothered him, he’d be willing to set aside
personal differences if it meant Mac would get better. But, he didn’t
think Webb knew about this. He hadn’t asked and she hadn’t said, but
he’d gotten the impression that Clay wasn’t a factor in her life. It
made him wonder about what he’d seen in Paraguay and in the hospital.
Regardless of what did or didn’t happen between them, Webb’s absence, at
the hospital and at her apartment, told him what he needed to know. He
couldn’t call him.
More than she needed company, he wanted to be certain that she would be
okay while he was gone. They both needed to know that someone who cared
whether she got better watched over her. He didn’t know to where she’d
disappeared, but he wanted his Mac back. He wanted the woman who trekked
across forests to find a truck; the woman who wore flowered skirts and
rode along beside him in the back of a Gypsy caravan. She was the woman
he had fallen in love with. The woman sleeping soundly behind that
bedroom door was her shell. She didn’t fight with him; she acquiesced
when he acted overbearing. She ate when he cooked, watched TV if he had
it on, read if he handed her a book. She was lost. She was trapped
somewhere and it was time for him to find her. She’d found him in the
middle of the ocean once. He could certainly find her when she was only
a few feet away from him. He’d done it before over greater distances.
He knew whom he could call. The only person in the world, other than the
woman he was trying to help, he’d want if he were hurting. Sighing, he
cast a glance at her closed bedroom door. When she got better, she was
going to kill him. On the bright side, it might anger her enough to pull
her out of her stupor. Maybe one day, when she was old and feeble minded
and her swing didn’t pack as much of a punch, she’d even thank him. He
was going to relish that day. If, on that day far in the future, when he
had great-grandchildren running around the house, his bones will let
him, he has a dance of victory already planned. Picking up the phone, he
dialed and waited for the phone to ring.
The voices whispered in the dark. They hissed in the corners of her
mind. They were armed with claws and she could feel them pinching and
pulling at her, tugging her back into the dark. She was so tired of
fighting them. She was so tired of telling herself that they didn't
matter, that she was better than them.
She didn't have any weapons left to fight them. She had used them all
and the voices were still there. It was time to acknowledge that they
were stronger than she was.
It wasn't just her father's voice or Chris's voice, either. It was a
full chorus of voices, blended together in discord, telling her it
wasn't enough. That she wasn't enough. She would never be good enough;
she would never be smart enough; and she would never be able to quiet
Her opinion of the quiet had changed. If it could drown out the sounds
of her demons, she wanted noise. She left the radio playing in her
bedroom, the television on in the living room. During the day, while
Harm was at work and she was waiting for her appointment with Dr.
Hepburn, her apartment was a barrage of noise. It poured from the
doorways and spilled into the apartment's central rooms.
And still, the voices were louder. She didn't know how to clear them.
She slept, pulling the covers over her ears. She read. She ran. And the
voices would not go away.
Every once in a while, she was tempted to tell Harm about them. Her
mouth would open and the words would be there, waiting to be formed, and
she would lack the air to push them out. She couldn't bring herself to
say the words. Contrarily, she found herself wanting to ask him
questions, wanting the answers in order to restock her arsenal against
the voices. She wanted the reinforcements without having to explain why
she needed them. So she tried to stay silent. Twice, she bit her lip to
keep herself from blurting the questions out like an insecure teenaged
girl asks, "Do you think I'm pretty?" It was an odd position to be in.
To want to talk and not be able to, to not want to ask for reassurance
and be powerless to do almost anything else.
Instead, she found herself chattering inconsequentially, talking about
the weather, how much she loved this time of year, asking about his job,
and his family. Her jaw ached from the fake smiles and the constant
pressure of trying to maintain a calm façade. She suspected that he
probably missed the days when she didn't talk at all.
One night, over dinner, he interrupted her babbling. She nearly cried
from relief. Shut me up, she wanted to scream. Make it quiet again. Make
the noises stop. But he didn't, because he didn't know they were there.
He couldn't know because she couldn't tell him.
"Mac," he said. He sounded nervous and she raised an eyebrow. "I have to
"Oh." She lowered her fork to her plate. "Of course. You have things you
need to do. You can't just spend the rest of your life here." She pushed
herself back from the table and began to clear the plates. "You didn't
have to stay this long. I appreciate it, but you know you didn't have to
stay, Harm." She smiled to let him know that she was okay with his
going. "Do you need help packing?" The hand holding the plate shook
lightly as the demons danced in her head.
"Oh." It shouldn't have hurt. This had been her goal since that night in
the hotel in Paraguay. "Okay. Well, I'll just start clearing up then.
You can start packing. You made dinner, you don't need to help with the
clean up." She set her plate down when the tremors wouldn't stop, drew a
deep breath, and decided to start over again.
"That's not what I meant." He moved his napkin from his lap to the table
and made an ineffectual grab for her wrist, but she was a flurry of
movement. "Mac, please sit down."
She sat. Her lips trembled open and closed again. "Okay, I'm sitting."
She gestured to the chair beneath her.
"I have to go away for work," he started to clarify.
"How long - no, never mind. You probably can't say. Where are." Her
voice trailed off and she shook her head. "I know better. I'm sorry."
"It's okay." He clapped a hand down on hers to stop her fingers from
tapping against the table top and squeezed her fingers lightly. "The
point is, I don't know how long I'll be gone."
"Harm," her voice was calmer, soothing, "I'll be fine."
"I know. Because," he paused, sucking in air to give himself time and
courage. "You won't be alone," he said in a whoosh, running the words
"I don't understand," she said, her eyebrows sinking low on her
"You won't be alone," he repeated.
"But you won't be here," she pointed out. "You'll be in some exotic
"Yes, but - "
"And Harriet and Bud have AJ and the baby. And the Admiral and Sturgis
are busy. And you won't be here."
"No." He wanted to scoot his chair back into the safety of the kitchen.
"But my mother will be."
"Your mother." She wondered if she heard him correctly.
"Her plane lands in an hour. We're going to have to leave soon to pick
Her fingers curled around her glass. She wanted to throw it. She wanted
to give into her childish urge and have a temper tantrum. "I'm not a
child," she said slowly. "I don't need a babysitter."
"I know that, Mac."
"Obviously, you don't."
"Yes," he said calmly, "I do."
"Then tell your mother not to come." Her tone was almost pleading.
"It's a little late for that. She'll be here in," he checked his watch,
"fifty-six minutes. Get your shoes, we have to go." He stood up and took
the stack of plates away from her.
"Don't handle me," she snarled the words out.
"I'm not." He dumped the plates in the sink. "Get your shoes."
The muscles in her arm bunched and tightened as she lifted the glass
slightly. Realizing what she was about to do, she lowered it and pulled
her hand into her lap. "I don't need a babysitter," she repeated,
He turned back to face her. "I know." At her skeptical look, he
repeated, "I know."
"Then why fly your mother out here?"
"Because." He shrugged. "Because I trust her."
"Harm," she began.
"Mac," he cut her off. Kneeling before her, he said, "I need to
concentrate on my job."
"I can't do that if I'm worried about you." He tugged her hands and
hauled her to her feet. "You'll be okay with my mom."
"That's it?" he asked.
"We're going to be late." She avoided his question. Watching him move
about her apartment, she wanted to ask him why he cared. She had done
everything she could to make him leave and he still wouldn't go. Nothing
worked. It was no damn good, but she didn't know what she could do to
make him see that. She was a black hole and it was only a matter of time
before one of two things happened. He would see her one day. One day, he
would look at her and see beyond the woman and into the abyss and he
would run. Or he would never see it and he would stumble into it and
Walking down the concourse of Dulles International Airport, Trish
Burnett was confused. Not by the airport or where to go, but by what she
was doing in the airport. She had been puzzled ever since Harm’s phone
call. It had been a week since he called and during that week, aside
from making travel plans and provisions for the gallery, resentment had
begun to build. Not for Harm, but for the woman who had caused her son
so much pain. It had been simmering beneath the surface, she was sure,
since Harm had told her that he’d resigned from the Navy to find her and
had come back without her and with a broken heart.
He’d never told her exactly what had happened. He’d categorized under
the broad catchall of “it’s classified,” but he’d said enough to let her
know that he was unhappy. Logically, she knew that she only had one side
of the story, but she felt she was entitled to be biased. He was, after
all, her son.
Although they had only met a handful of times during the course of Harm
and Mac’s partnership, Trish had always liked Sarah Mackenzie. Despite
the weight of that precedence, the woman striding through the terminal
was prepared to dislike her time in Washington, D.C.. She was here as a
favor to her son and that was it. And she wasn’t quite certain why Harm
had thought she’d be the best person for the job. Didn’t Mac have
friends? Friends other than her son, who could watch over her and let
Harm move on to a happier, healthier life? Apparently not. So here she
was, in Washington, getting ready to babysit a woman in her thirties
that she couldn’t bring herself to like anymore.
It was easy to find her son. Even if the crowd hadn’t been thin because
of the late hour, he would have stood out. Not just because of his
height. There was an air about him. An indefinable air that commanded
people to take notice of him. He’d had it all his life as had his
father. She looked around the waiting area to see if he’d brought Mac
with him, but couldn’t see her. Stretching her arm out in front of her,
she cried out, “Harm, darling.” She reached up to hug her son. “It’s
good to see you.”
“Hi, Mom.” He returned the embrace before pulling away. “How was your
flight?” He reached out to take her carry-on and started to guide her to
the baggage claim area.
“Long.” She grimaced a little and put her hand against her stomach. “And
bumpy. We hit turbulence somewhere around the middle of the country.”
He pulled his face into a sympathetic expression. “I’m sorry. Listen,
Mom, thank you so much for coming out here. I really appreciate it.”
“And how does Mac feel about it?” Trish asked.
He had the grace to look a little embarrassed. “She, uh…” he stuttered,
unsure how to tell his mother about Mac’s reaction.
“She doesn’t appreciate it, I take it?”
“She thinks I think she needs a babysitter.”
“Well, Harm, honestly, how did you think this would be interpreted?” She
ran a hand through her hair, frowning when it caught on tangles from her
trip. She glanced around the airport again, exaggerating her movements
so he would be sure to take notice of what she was doing. “I’m surprised
you didn’t make her come along.”
“She’s, uh, she’s waiting at the baggage claim.”
“Harm,” she sighed.
Misinterpreting her sigh, he said defensively, “I didn’t make her wait
there. She wouldn’t come up here. She said we needed time alone.”
“Harm,” she said patiently, “she’s a grown woman. She doesn’t need
someone to watch her every minute of the day.”
“I know that.” When she only looked at him, he said, “I do.” He sighed
as they arrived at the baggage claim area. He stopped walking. “She’s
not doing well. I need to know that someone I trust is taking care of
Trish raised a hand to his face and ran her thumb over his cheek,
something she hadn’t done since he was a boy and needed comfort. “I’m
flattered that you asked, but I really don’t see how I can help.”
He set her bag down and walked over to the monitors to find Trish’s
flight number. When he came back, he stuffed his hands into his jeans’
pockets. “I guess,” he shrugged, “I thought she could use a mother.”
Trish smiled at him. She couldn’t help it. He looked so uncomfortable
and awkward, a look she wasn’t used to seeing on him. It reminded her of
the way he acted as a little boy when he thought she was unhappy with
him. Truthfully, she was unhappy. Not with him, but with the situation,
with Mac for causing it, and with herself for being unable to be more
sympathetic. “I’m your mother,” she reminded him, “not Mac’s.”
“I know.” He flashed her a grin. “But you’re a very good mom and who the
hell knows where hers is.”
Trish let out a resigned sigh and picked up her bags. “Let’s get Mac and
Mac was sitting by herself. Had she been standing with the throngs of
passengers, she still would have looked lonely. Her head was angled away
from them and the crowds, so Trish couldn’t see her face. But she could
see the rest of her. During the few times that they had met, she’d
always walked away with the image of a pulled together and confidant
woman. She had been lovely, and she probably still was, but the woman
leaning against the low silver railings surrounding the baggage carousel
looked nothing like the woman Trish remembered. She looked smaller and,
somehow, crumpled. Her entire body seemed to have collapsed in on
itself, giving the impression that the only thing keeping her from
sinking under the weight of gravity was the small silver rail.
“I told you it was bad,” Harm said in a low voice.
“I had no idea.” Trish looked at her son. “No idea at all.” The
resentment began to lessen, but the tension it caused remained. She cast
a quick prayer heavenward that her son would survive this, even if Sarah
Mackenzie did not.