Chapter 15

The following two weeks were grueling for the Boudreaux family. Although she didn't ask for it, Mel needed supported and every one tried to be there for her. Remy missed as many classes as he could without ruining his GPA. He loved Mel and his thoughts often strayed to her. Usually he was able to snap back to the present without any problems. But not this time. He missed an easy hook shot and his team lost the game.

He lagged to the showers after his teammates. They were upset and had every right to be. The guys knew about Rick's health problems and conveyed their sympathy. But their sympathy faded in light of losing a chance at the playoffs. Remy respected that and kept his distance until the immediate disappointment faded.

"Hey!" A slim pale hand waved enthusiastically at him.

Remy stared at the bubbly blonde until recognition hit. He gave Marah a halfhearted smile. "Hi, there."

She crossed the emptying parking lot to reach him as he neared the curb. "Let's go."

Groaning, he shook his head. "Nah, Marah. Not tonight."

"Yes, tonight." She hooked her arm through his and with forcefulness of a tornado, propelled him toward her shiny red Corvette. "And you can drive."

Remy cocked an eyebrow. Drive her Corvette? He'd wanted to drive her ride ever since she got it for her sixteenth birthday a few years ago. His heart accelerated. Maybe rolling in the 'vette would ease the stress of screwing up the game.

She dangled the keys in front of his face. The moonlight bounced against the silver keys. He grabbed them before he could talk himself out of it.

"Remember it was your idea." He moved to the passenger side and opened the door. He tossed his duffel bag into the back and then waited for Marah to sit.

"I'll take all the credit for putting a smile back on your face," she said softly.

Their gazes locked. Remy's stomach muscles clenched. He inhaled a deep breath. Yeah, things were changing between them. And he was beginning to like it.

~*~

"Let's be realistic." Rick watched Mel's face as she fluffed his pillows and pulled the comforter to his chest. When she reached to smooth his hair, he grabbed her hand. "Mel! Listen to me."

"I am listening," she replied, avoiding his gaze. "I don't see anything wrong with being optimistic."

"It's been two weeks," he said slowly. "If there was a heart for me, it would have turned up by now. My time is running out."

"Don't Rick." Her voice cracked. She turned her back to him. "Don't even think it."

"I don't want to, but it's true. Every day that passes puts me closer to the graŚ"

"Stop!" She pressed her palms against her ears.

Rick ached to see her this way. He hated being the voice of reason, but the time had come for them to face facts. Without a heart, he wouldn't survive another week.

Moments passed. Eventually she moved to face him. Tear stains streaked down her caramel cheeks. Red, swollen eyes stared back at him. She sat on the edge of the bed and lowered her head to his chest. "I'm sorry."

His voice caught in his throat. He rubbed her back. "Don't be."

"I can face most things, but I don't want to face losing you," she whispered. "I should be strong for you."

"You are." He pressed his chin to her forehead. "If my heart could survive on your strength alone, I'd be okay. I love you, Melisande. I don't want to lose you, but I may not have a choice. I want you to promise me you'll go on with your life. Please? You deserve a husband and a couple thousand kids. Promise me."

"I don't know how to promise you that," she admitted. "You're the man I've always dreamed of. I want your children. No one else's."

"Mel." Rick squeezed his arms around her. "For me, too."

"So it's okay for me to hope. Just a little while longer. Okay?"

He released a deep sigh. "Okay."

~*~

Ross watched Maureen dart around the den, wiping invisible dust and fluffing pillows that were already fluffed to full capacity until he couldn't take another moment of her nervous fidgeting. He strode across the room and pulled the throw pillow from her grasp.

"Enough, Maureen. Sit. Talk to me."

She shook her head and moved away from him. "I don't know where the pizza delivery boy is. I'll call again--"

"You've called twice. He's on the way." Ross moved quickly to block her path to the telephone. He grasped her shoulders. "It's okay to be scared."

Tears glistened in her hazel eyes. She averted her gaze, looking toward the floor.

"Oh, Mo," he cooed, pulling her close against his chest. "Don't you know that it's okay to cry and that if you lean on me, I won't think less of you."

"I'm the one everyone else leans on," she said through her tears. "I can't break down. Rick needs me to be strong. I can't let him down."

"Rick isn't here," Ross reminded her. "I won't tell him if you don't."

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