A Bargain with the Boss - Page 54

“You were perfect,” said Jade.

“You make me sound pretentious and superior.” What could Amber have been trying to prove?

“You didn’t want us to die of scurvy.”

But they hadn’t been on the verge of malnutrition.

“We had juice with breakfast most mornings,” said Amber.

“I hate to admit it, but part of me is glad you jumped into bed with your boss. If you’re not all good, then maybe I’m not all bad.”

“You’re not bad, Jade.”

“I’m pretty bad.”

“No. And anyway, you’re getting better.”

“I’m trying.”

“I’ll try, too,” said Amber.

“Try to do what? Be worse?”

“Be, I don’t know... Normal, I guess, less uptight and judgmental. Those are not attractive qualities.”

Jade grimaced as she shifted her back to a new position. “I realize now that you were trying to hold chaos together with your bare hands.”

“Maybe I should have let it go.”

Maybe if she had, Jade wouldn’t have run away. Maybe if she hadn’t been so morally superior, they could have worked together.

Then it came to her that she should do the same thing now—let things go. It was none of her business what Tuck did or didn’t do with Tucker Transportation. Dixon’s decisions were similarly his own. Why did she feel an obligation to control the situation?

“I can’t see you doing that.” Jade looked amused.

“A month ago, I wouldn’t have been able to picture you writing your GED.”

“Those are opposites.”

“Not really.”

“Don’t change, Amber. I need you just the way you are.”

For some reason, Amber’s eyes teared up. She quickly blinked.

“I won’t change,” she promised. At least not so that Jade could see. But she wasn’t going to badger Tuck anymore. Nobody needed that. She was surprised he’d put up with it this long.

* * *

Jamison’s eyes were closed, his expression lax, and his wrinkled skin was sallow against the stark white of the hospital sheets. Machines whirred and beeped as Tuck moved cautiously toward the bedside, screens glowing and colored dots of LED lights blinking in different rhythms. There was an oxygen tube beneath Jamison’s nose and an IV line in his arm.

It was odd seeing him like this. Tuck half expected him to open his eyes, sit up and bellow out orders.

“Dad?” Tuck said softly.

Sounds from the hallway drifted through the glass door and windows: a phone ringing, a nurse’s voice, a cart wheeling by and the ping of an elevator.

“Dad?” he repeated.

Jamison’s pale blue eyes fluttered open, looking cloudy instead of sharp.

“Hi, Dad,” said Tuck.

He felt as though he ought to squeeze his father’s hand or stroke his brow. But they didn’t have that kind of relationship. There was no tenderness between them. Wary suspicion interspersed with crisp cordiality was more their style.

“Dixon?” Jamison rasped, then he coughed and grimaced with the effort.

“It’s Tuck,” said Tuck.

Jamison squinted. “Where’s Dixon?”

“He’s still away.”

“Away where?”

“Sailing,” said Tuck.

“On the lake?”

“Off the coast of California.” Tuck paused. “I’ve been taking care of things while he’s gone.”

Jamison’s frown deepened. Then he waved a dismissive hand, the IV tube clattering against the bed rail. “Where’s your mother?”

Tuck pulled in a chair and sat down. “She’s with Aunt Julie.”

“Why?”

“Dad, you know you’re in Boston, right?”

Jamison looked confused for a moment, then his brow furrowed deeply and he looked annoyed. “Yes, I know I’m in Boston.”

“And you understand that you had a heart attack.” Tuck was growing concerned with his father’s apparent level of confusion.

“You must be feeling pleased with yourself.” Jamison’s voice seemed stronger. He gripped on to the bed rails.

“How so?”

“You got rid of me. And you’ve sent Dixon off somewhere. What have you been up to without us?”

Ah, yes. Tuck’s father was back.

“I didn’t give you a heart attack, Dad.”

“I want to see your brother.”

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