Amy had known it was going to be bad. Midterm elections gave the voters their first real chance to stick it to the president, and they rarely missed their chance. It was gonna be the night of a thousand kicks in the head, and the only thing making it worse was the surprise of politicians who should’ve seen it coming.
‘None of us want to be here, Amy,’ Sue said. ‘Looking at your watch will not speed the passage of time.’
‘Neither will your sarcasm,’ Amy said, walking past rapidly.
‘Zing,’ Mike muttered.
Selina was stomping around somewhere. Amy would have preferred her staying out of the spotlight. POTUS would be looking for a scapegoat, and the fucker was likely to randomly point at the next person he saw.
Amy stopped in the middle of the corridor. She grabbed the arm of the next shambling cretin to walk within range: it turned out to be Jonah. ‘Who is... Is that who I think it is?’ she asked.
Jonah followed her pointing finger. ‘That is the man. Kent Davison. K-Dog himself.’
Amy gave him a look of pure disgust. ‘He does not refer to himself as K-Dog.’
‘That’s true,’ Jonah admitted. ‘But –’
‘And if he ever heard you call him that, he would strangle you with your own vest,’ she said.
Jonah straightened his tie. ‘You were on the campaign trail together. You know him a little bit?’
Amy tightened her grip on her folder. ‘A little bit. Why?’
Jonah lowered his voice. ‘I don’t think he likes me very much. Do you know any way I could get on his good side?’
‘Nobody likes you, Jonah,’ Amy said. ‘As for getting on his good side: be efficient, talk as little as possible, don’t whine, and like sci-fi. Failing all that, a tight, knee-length dress, a bottle of whiskey, and a stern manner.’
Jonah’s face lit up. ‘I like science-fiction!’
Amy scrunched up her face as she looked at him. ‘Or ignore ninety-nine percent of everything I said like the lazy fucking ass that you are.’
It was a relief to talk to Jonah. Not because he had stopped making her skin crawl, but because it was a distraction, and because shunting her aggression onto Jonah was a victimless crime.
Selina took it personally. Kent wasn’t just back, he was back to mess with her, to prevent her from talking to POTUS. Uh-huh. In the last two years, Selina’s “weekly” meetings with POTUS had happened twice – the first time a few days after the inauguration, and the second a month later. Amy figured that if Kent were out to “get” Selina, for some reason, then he’d probably aim for something a bit more meaningful.
Amy’s cell vibrated in her hand. She read the text, replied immediately, then read it again and again. No. No. No. This wasn’t happening. It couldn’t be happening
Her heels skittered on the slick hospital floor. Jesus, it felt like at any second she was going to lose her tenuous balance and crash to the ground.
‘Oh, now you turn up,’ her sister Sophie said.
Amy shoved her aside. ‘Why are you even here?’
‘To support my family.’
‘You can support me by getting out of my face and letting me talk to a doctor,’ Amy said.
Milla went out with Amy’s parents and sister. She looked like she’d been crying. Shit. How did that help anyone? She’d probably be demanding overtime or something.
Amy juggled her belongings as she cornered the doctor. ‘Well? How bad is it? What do we do?’
‘It’s an inguinal hernia,’ the doctor said. ‘A loop of bowel is bulging through into his groin. It’s potentially very serious, however fixing it should be a relatively simple operation and, barring complications, he would be out the same day.’
Amy narrowed her eyes. She knew nothing was that easy. ‘He would be?’
The doctor clasped his hands together. ‘He has a very rare blood type. There isn’t much available and neither you nor your family are a match. We need to locate some as soon as we can.’
Fat wolverine. Fat wolverine. Fat wolverine.
Kent glanced up when Amy walked into the room.
‘Demoted already,’ he said.
‘The vice-president has been here twice already,’ he said. ‘Are you not here about the same issue?’
‘No.’ Amy shut the door. ‘I need your blood. Hopefully. That is, hopefully you’re the right type. What type are you?’
Kent frowned. ‘AB negative.’
‘Great! Let’s go.’
‘What’s wrong with you?’ he asked.
Amy’s hands clenched. ‘What’s wrong with me is that my two-year old son needs an operation but he can’t have one because he has stupidly rare blood.’
She saw him realise. Let him say one thing. Just one wrong thing.
‘Oh.’ He stood and reached for his jacket. ‘I can donate only one pint at a time. Will that be sufficient?’
‘He’s two feet high. How much blood do you think would fit?’
Kent followed her out, waving off questions and queries from staffers with a flat assertion that he would return shortly.
‘Shall we take your vehicle?’ he suggested. ‘I may be woozy afterwards and, in any event, I assume you’re more experienced at breaking the speed limit than I am.’
‘Whatever,’ Amy said. ‘As long as we fucking go.’ She was running on fear and adrenaline. Her nerves felt as if someone had yanked them out and sketched them all the way to the hospital.
Thank Christ that Kent didn’t ask any questions. In the car, he worked on his tablet and answered messages on his cell.
Amy glanced at him. He didn’t look much different to the last time she saw him. A little thinner, maybe. She wasn’t sure about the beard, but it was better than just the moustache.
She knew what she was doing. Her mind was wandering so she didn’t think about the tiny body lying in a strange bed. His hazel eyes full of heavy tears.
She punched the wheel. ‘Why the fuck do you have such rare fucking blood?’
Kent was silent for a moment. ‘You’ll be glad to know I had a physical a few days ago. I’m perfectly healthy. That should help.’
‘I asked you a question.’
‘Really? I thought you lashed out in a desperate attempt to offset your natural fear and unnecessary guilt.’
She glanced at him. ‘You just concentrate on how you’re gonna explain where you’ve been.’
‘As you like,’ Kent said.
The rest of the trip passed in silence. Amy didn’t notice, too busy churning a thousand things over in her mind. She cut off two other cars and responded to their furious honking with an automatic middle finger. She almost did the same when the parking attendant at the hospital greeted her.
They got out of the car and Kent tucked his ID into his pocket.
‘They don’t know,’ Amy said. ‘About... anything.’
He straightened his tie. ‘Who is “they” in this case?’
‘Anyone. Everyone. Specifically, my family.’ She tossed back her hair. ‘I’ll get the doctor to sneak you in.’
She almost wanted him to say... something. One sarcastic comment. Something she could take offense at. Some excuse to shout until she was hoarse. To purge all the fear and rage squatting in her chest.
In the elevator, Kent licked his lips. ‘What’s he called?’
Her face screwed up in disgust. ‘You don’t get to ask that! You don’t get to ask anything about him.’ She poked him in the shoulder, hard. ‘You never gave a single shit before.’
Kent started to say something, but changed his mind.
‘What?’ Amy demanded.
She folded her arms. ‘Just fucking tell me.’
‘You don’t wish to hear anything reasonable or rational I might say,’ he said quietly. ‘I shouldn’t have asked. You’re clearly... troubled. Apologies.’
The doors opened. Amy stomped out with Kent in tow. She found a nurse lurking at the station.
‘Brought a donor,’ she said to the nurse. ‘I wouldn’t like to swear to how much blood he has in him.’ Amy gave Kent a glare. ‘You might need to wring him out.’
Kent rolled his eyes.
‘Let’s see, David Brookheimer,’ the nurse said.
‘David?’ Kent said incredulously.
‘Have you ever given birth?’ Amy snapped. ‘I was out of my mind on painkillers and my mom was going on and on about what was I gonna name him. Okay?’ she demanded. ‘Don’t fucking read anything into it. You’re nothing to him. Got it?’
She wanted him to be furious, insulted, hurt maybe. Anything but pitying.
‘Of course,’ Kent said gently. He turned to the nurse. ‘Is there somewhere we can do this where I won’t run into the family?’
‘I brought you a coffee.’ Dan waggled the cup.
‘Thank Christ.’ Amy grabbed the cup. ‘There’s a visitor area down the hall.’
‘How’s it going?’ Dan asked as they walked.
‘I think I might kill Sophie,’ she said. ‘But I’m in the right place to dispose of her body.’
Dan nodded as they sat down. ‘Forge a donor card for her and it’d be a net gain.’
Amy nodded. ‘Sophie would finally do some good for society.’
Dan leaned back. ‘Maybe I could do the same with Jonah.’
Amy shook her head. ‘All those oversized body parts would be a total give away.’
‘Shit. Yeah.’ Dan grinned. ‘Apart from that one wildly undersized body part.’
Amy nearly choked on her coffee. ‘I did not need to think about Jonah’s dick.’
‘Well, nobody needs to think about Jonah’s dick.’
Amy pulled a face. Then she sighed. ‘They had to operate on David.’
‘Fuck,’ Dan said. ‘Is it... I mean...’
‘He’ll be okay.’ She ran her thumb around the lip of her cup. ‘He has stupidly rare blood. I had to find some.’ She rubbed her forehead. ‘I had to drag his bio-dad in.’
Dan raised his eyebrows. ‘Everyone still thinks you used donor sperm.’
‘I did. It just happened to be from a person I knew and not some anonymous straw from the sperm bank.’
‘You dragged your sperm donor in to hospital and hit him up for a pint of blood? It’s the middle of the night.’
Amy swirled her coffee around in the cup. ‘I don’t give a shit about that. He should be glad that David didn’t need a heart transplant. I’d rip that fucker right out of his chest.’
Dan sipped his coffee. ‘I’m glad I didn’t get you pregnant.’
‘As if I’d let that thing near me without a condom.’
‘Plus, I don’t have a heart,’ Dan said cheerfully. ‘You’d be digging around in there forever.’
Amy looked at him over her cup. ‘You’re clear with Furlong now.’
‘I wasn’t worried,’ Dan claimed.
‘Then you’re either a fucking idiot or a psychopath,’ Amy said.
‘I think we both know the answer to that.’ he said with a smirk.
‘So whatcha doing here?’
He shrugged. ‘The VP is worried about you.’
‘Meaning she wants to know if I’m coming back before the morning shows.’ Amy crossed her legs. ‘My kid just had surgery.’ She pushed back her hair. ‘Not that it’d slow Selina down if it were her kid.’
‘That’s the spirit.’ Dan said.
‘Okay. Lemme go say goodbye to David. He’s up in post-op.’
Dan shifted. ‘I’m not comfortable with sick people.’
‘You’re not invited.’
He grinned. ‘Great!’
Kent was stood outside the observation window. Amy yanked his shoulder, spinning him around.
‘What the fuck are you doing back here?’ she hissed.
‘Ow! What is with you people assaulting me?’
Amy blinked. ‘What?’
‘Selina Meyer hit me in the eye with a lipstick,’ he said. ‘It was extremely painful.’ He tilted his head. ‘Do I have a black eye?’
‘No,’ Amy said. ‘Why the fuck are you gawping at my kid like he’s a fucking fish in an aquarium?’
Kent sighed. ‘Amy, you have not said one thing to me in the past few hours that was not a demand, an accusation, or an insult. I understand that you are frightened and distressed, but that is not my fault.’
‘Why are you looking at him?’ she growled.
‘You’ve had two years to be curious.’
He squeezed the bridge of his nose. ‘Amy, you never told me. The conversation we had in your room was our last discussion on the matter.’
She deflated a little. ‘You knew I was pregnant.’
‘I also knew that you were using donor sperm. For all I knew I wasn’t the only man you asked for assistance.’
‘I didn’t ask, you offered! And I told you I couldn’t do the donor that month because of the campaign.’
Kent held up his hands. ‘This is getting us nowhere. I didn’t realise and you didn’t tell me. I’m not a parent, Amy, and I never will be. I was merely curious as to what David looks like. If that is a breach of etiquette, then I can only apologise.’
Amy sank into a chair. ‘I’m a good mom. Okay?’
‘I have no doubt,’ he said. He sat next to her. ‘I don’t even like children. I have no desire to somehow steal yours from you.’
She rubbed her eyes. ‘I’ve been up for more than twenty-four hours, Selina wants me to go back to the Eisenhower, and David got rushed to the hospital in the middle of the fucking night.’
Kent touched the back of her hand for a tiny moment, and then pulled his hand away.
‘If you wish to remain here and blame me I won’t protest,’ he said. ‘She doesn’t have to know you aren’t doing something at my behest.’
Amy sighed. ‘Except that Dan Egan is waiting downstairs for me already.’
Kent stood. ‘No matter.’
Amy tapped her foot. ‘Is David what you expected?’
‘I didn’t go in the room,’ he said. ‘But he looks rather like my sister.’
‘Yeah?’ Amy moved her bag up her shoulder. She was trying not to look Kent in the eye. She’d never noticed before that he had had hazel eyes. ‘Any other medical problems I should know about? Are you part unicorn?’
He smiled slightly. ‘Nothing I’m aware of.’
She looked away. ‘Thanks. For... you know.’
‘I was glad to help.’
‘He’s a good kid.’ She looked him in the eye. ‘And if you ever tell him that you’re his biological father, I will fuck you up.’
Kent raised his hands. ‘I gave you my word at the time. I have no intention of breaking it.’
‘Good,’ Amy said. ‘Great. Let’s never, ever discuss this again.’
Amy dragged herself into the room. David was sleeping easily now; his pale skin a little pink and his ash blond hair curling across his forehead. His plump little hand was resting on the pillow beside his head. Amy gently moved his hand under the covers.
David made a soft noise and looked at her from under heavy-lidded eyes.
‘Shush. Go back to sleep.’
He blinked at her. He had hazel eyes; green around the iris and flecked with brown. Eyes that seemed far too old for his face.
‘Teddy?’ David asked.
Fuck. Was he allowed one? Why hadn’t Milla brought one? Amy dug in her bag and found her emergency stuffed toy. David grabbed and hugged it tightly.
Amy kissed his forehead. ‘Go to sleep. I’ll see you tomorrow.’ She took a breath. ‘I love you.’
‘Love you, Mama.’
Amy cried in the elevator. Then she touched up her makeup, found Dan, and went back to work.