“Promise me.” I tug on her arm, and she comes up short.
“Promise me you’ll come back here and stay the night with me.” Without hesitating, I pull her into my arms and lift her off the floor. “Every time you leave me, my heart breaks.”
“Stop it or I’ll cry.” She playfully slaps my chest. “Look, my dad said he’s going out tonight, and I’m pretty sure it’s with Evy. I’ll sneak out and bring a bag.”
“You promise?” I raise an eyebrow, and she nods.
“Swear.” She kisses me quickly on the lips once more before she dashes out the door to her mail truck. I’m left standing on the porch watching her go and counting down the seconds until I can see her again.
“Someone looks smitten.” I glance over at my brother, who I didn’t see walking over.
I’m so obsessed with Gracie a stampede could come through, and I probably wouldn’t notice. “Yep,” I agree, not even trying to deny it. “Why aren’t you at work?” I eye the suit he’s wearing that he always has on when he goes into the office.
“I’ve got a little plan I’m cooking up. Just needed to come home and make some calls.”
“Does it have anything to do with that girl that runs the dress shop?”
“It most certainly does.” He grins, and it’s mischievous. “And I’m going to need your help.”
“Hmm,” I say, not really agreeing until I hear what it is.
“Don’t worry, it’s nothing crazy, I’m just planning to marry her at the fall festival without her knowing.”
Before I can process what he’s saying, a bark of laughter leaves me. Of course my brother is doing something entirely ridiculous for the one woman who has finally managed to turn him inside out. As I have this realization, I can’t help but think that it's not a bad idea. I wonder what it would take to do this to Gracie?
“I’ll let you know what I need from you later. I’ve got to go back into town and annoy my soon-to-be wife.”
“You’ve lost your mind, you know that, right?”
“Oh totally.” He smiles as he puts his hand over his heart. “It’s incredible.”
After that, my brother takes off, and I check on the horses. Ginger and Cookie are doing great, and I take care of everything in the barn. I’m thinking about Gracie and how I can’t wait to see her when the cell in my back pocket rings. I go to grab it, but my reception at the barn isn’t great and as soon as I see it’s Gracie, it cuts off.
I try to dial her again, but it doesn’t connect. Normally she texts me, but maybe that isn’t working out here either. Walking back toward the house, I see when I get service again and dial her once more.
The way she says my name has the hair on the back of my neck standing up. “Sunshine, where are you? Are you okay?”
“I’m on the way to the hospital. It’s my dad.” She sounds like she has tears in her eyes, and I’m already running inside the house to grab my keys.
“Work was trying to get me back so they could tell me. He collapsed and they’re taking him in just as a precaution, but I’m scared.”
“I’m coming, sunshine. Are you driving?”
“No.” She sniffs. “One of my coworkers is giving me a lift. Can you meet me there?”
“I’m already on the way. I’ll be there waiting for you.” My foot hits the gas as I tear out of my driveway and toward the hospital. “Just stay calm, Gracie, everything is going to be okay.” I want to tell her I love her, but this doesn’t feel like the right time. “It’s going to be okay.”
Maybe if I say it enough it will be true, and I’ll do everything in my power to make it so. I know how much Gracie loves her dad, and when she was telling me about his diabetes I knew that was a big part of why she was still at home with him and not living on her own.
Whatever happens now, I know that I’ll be there for her any way I can.
A bit of relief fills me when I see Donovan standing in the waiting area of the emergency room. He beat me to the hospital, and I try not to cry as I rush over toward him. As soon as he sees me, he comes straight to me and wraps me in his arms. His hold is tight and makes me feel safe.
“The doctor is going to be out in a second.” I lift my head from where I’ve buried it in his chest, breathing in his familiar comforting smell. “They didn’t want to tell me anything, but I demanded to speak to someone,” he says before I can ask how he got any information.