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His Lost and Found Family

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He made it to his Porsche Turbo and got the door open before Keaton caught up to him. “Wait,” he repeated, shoving the door closed.

“Go to hell. You want to mock me? Fine. But I don’t have to sit there and take it. For the record, I didn’t come back to Royal for you. I didn’t come back for Mom and Dad. I came back for Skye and Skye alone. We’ll deal with our relationship just like we’ve always dealt with things—on our own. You and the Taylors and this whole town can go to hell. I’ll even buy you a handbasket.”

Keaton leaned against the car door so that Jake would have to go through him to open it. Which was an option that was on the table, as far as Jake was concerned. “You pigheaded fool,” he started.

“That’s how you want to play this? Fine.” Jake’s hands curled into fists. “You’re nothing but a traitor. I wouldn’t trust anything you said even if you had it notarized. I tried that once, remember? I trusted you with my deepest secret and what did you do? You ran to Mom and Dad as fast as your chicken legs could carry you. You tried to break me and Skye up more times than I can count because being a Holt was more important than being with her. You are nothing to me, Keaton. We are not brothers. I am not a Holt. Not anymore.”

If Keaton was insulted by this tirade, he didn’t show it. Instead, he just kept on leaning against the door, looking at Jake as if he pitied him.

Jake had dreamed of calling his brother out. Dreamed of it. But saying those words to his face didn’t leave Jake with a sense of lightness or of closure. He only felt worse. And he’d long since vowed not to feel bad about his family. Those days were over. “Get out of my way, Keaton. Or I will get you out of my way. Last warning.”

“Her name is Grace.”

Grace. He wanted to tell Keaton to go to hell again, but his voice suddenly didn’t work, so he settled for glaring.

“She was eleven weeks premature,” Keaton went on. “She was in the neonatal intensive care unit for almost three months.”

Images Jake had seen in movies of tiny little babies hooked up to wires and tubes suddenly overwhelmed him. He struggled to ask, “The—the hospital? Wasn’t that hit during the storm?”

“She wasn’t in the hospital during the storm.” But damn the man, he didn’t elaborate.

They stood there for a moment. Jake realized he was breathing in great gulps, but he couldn’t help it.

“Aren’t you even going to ask?” Keaton demanded. He sounded frustrated.

“Ask what?”

“Anything, man. You’ve had absolutely no contact with Skye in the last four months—maybe even the whole time you were being a big shot in Bahrain. You obviously have no idea what’s going on.”

“Maybe I do,” Jake snipped, trying to keep his temper under control. He would not give Keaton the satisfaction of getting to him. He would not. “Maybe I’ve been texting with Skye this whole time. How would you know?”

“Because,” Keaton replied, anger and exasperation edging his voice, “Skye’s only come out of the medically induced coma the doctor’s had her in a couple of weeks ago. You can’t talk to a woman who’s been unconscious—oof!”

Whatever else Keaton was going to say was crushed out of him as Jake grabbed him by the shirt and slammed him back against the car. “She what?”

“She’s been out the last four months, Mr. Big Shot,” Keaton said as he tried to push back against Jake’s grip. It didn’t work. “And Grace is yours. She’s a Holt. All the tests came back that she was 99.9 percent positive for being a Holt, which means that her father is either me, Dad or you. And neither Dad nor I have so much as looked at Skye in four years. So it’s you. She’s your baby girl.”

The weight of these words made Jake’s knees weak. He had to step back and lean on the car’s hood to keep his balance.

His baby. His and Skye’s. Who’d been in a coma for months. While he’d been working in Bahrain.

Oh, God. What had he done?

“Where?” That was all he could get out.

“Skye’s still at the hospital. She’s awake, but she doesn’t remember much of anything that might have happened in the last few years. Couldn’t tell us anything about where you might be or why.”

“And...the baby? Grace?” The name felt strange on his tongue. His baby. Everything about that felt strange.

“Funny thing about her,” Keaton said, after a dramatic pause that made Jake want to tear his brother apart. “She’s been handed over to the closest living relatives. Which is me and Lark. You remember Skye’s older sister?”

“You and...Lark?” The way Keaton had said her name—in the same sentence as his own—there hadn’t been any sneer then. None of the mocking tone he’d always used when he talked about the Taylors.

“Yes. Me and Lark. We have her until Skye can take over. Or until your sorry ass showed up.”

“You’re taking care of Grace? With Lark? I thought—I thought you hated the Taylors. You hated them so much.”

That’s why he’d left. He might not care for Skye’s family, but he’d loved Skye since he was seven and she was six. She’d always been more to him than a Taylor. She had been his everything.

Keaton looked him in the eye. “Things have changed, Jake. Welcome home.”

* * *

“How are you feeling today?” The man in the white coat smiled at her.

“Better. Less...fuzzy,” Skye replied. Which was the truth. She was sitting up in bed, her eyes open. Her brain was almost working. She felt as close to normal as she had since...since...

Damn. Almost working—but not quite.

“Do you remember my name?”

Skye thought. “You’re my doctor? Dr. Wake...” She scrunched up her face as the man gave her a hopeful smile. “Dr. Wakefield? Is that right?”

“Excellent!” He nodded and made a note on the tablet he was carrying. “That’s very good, Skye. Do you remember her name? She’s my research assistant,” he said, handing the tablet to the woman in nurse’s scrubs standing next to him.

The name was there, but it kept slipping through Skye’s mind like a strand of wet spaghetti. Just when she thought she had it, it slipped right past her again. “Julie? Juliet? Jules? Something like that.” She leaned back against the bed. The effort of trying to remember was draining. But she didn’t want to close her eyes. She was so tired of sleeping.

“Very good,” Dr. Wakefield. “You got it on the first try—Julie Kingston. What year is it?”

“2013, right?”

Julie and Dr. Wakefield shared a look, which she didn’t like. She wanted Jake. She wanted out of this hospital. She wanted him right now.

“When is Jake going to get here?” she asked. Because she’d been awake for almost two weeks and he hadn’t shown up yet. She didn’t understand why, but she was sure that if Jake wasn’t here, there had to be a good reason.

“Skye,” Julie said, “can you remember where Jake is?”

“He was...” He’d been somewhere. Somewhere else. But why? Something pulled at her memory, but it wasn’t even a slippery noodle she couldn’t keep a grip on. It was more like a thin line of smoke that vanished as soon as she tried to touch it. “I don’t know.” She hated this feeling, of not knowing what was going on. “His company is just starting to take off. Maybe he got that job in New York? But I thought he’d be back by now...”

“That’s all right,” Dr. Wakefield said in a comforting tone. “Do you remember Grace?”

Skye frowned. They were always asking her about Grace. Did she remember Grace? No. Did she remember everyone—the doctors, her sister—asking about Grace? Yes. “She’s my daughter.”

The words made her want to cry. Her baby—the baby she’d wanted for so long—and Skye had no recollection of her at all. She didn’t know if her own child was chubby or had hair or looked like Jake or anything about her. Just that Grace was her daughter.

“Is the baby okay? Am I well enough to hold her now?”

Dr. Wakefield pressed along her head. There was one area along the side that was still tender. “We have a physical therapy protocol for patients in a coma to keep their muscles from atrophying, but you’ve lost a lot of strength. You should be able to hold Grace as long as you’re sitting, with pillows to help bolster your arms.” He gave her an apologetic smile. “It’ll be some time before you can carry her. I’m sorry about that, Skye.”
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