Tabitha couldn't believe the image displayed in her smoky cauldron. Her partner in crime lay near death, impaled by a steel pipe! How did it happen? She ran a hand through her wild, blonde curls, resisting the urge to pull her hair out. The spell was fail-safe. They were destined to outmaneuver that insipid vision of virtue once and for all!
"Damn you, Charity!" she screeched at the top of her lungs. "Damn you for living while Kay is near death. Damn you for existing at all."
She lifted her wiggling Endora from the crib and marched to the bookshelf. Hidden in plain view was her cherished Book of Spells. She retrieved the leather bound manual and scanned the table of contents.
Quickly, she lit candles and burned incense. Holding her baby within the crook of her arms, she lowered herself to the floor and recited the old text…a powerful, irreversible potion of love to save her dearest and only friend.
Miguel tossed the keys to his car to Charity and climbed into the back of the ambulance with Kay. The EMT cautioned him to be careful with her. Miguel nodded and gently reached for Kay's hand. With his other hand, he brushed wayward brown strands away from her ashen face. Regret and sorrow filled his heart. Never in life had he envisioned this happening to his best friend, the mother of his sweet little Maria.
"Kay, I'm so sorry," he said in a voice hoarse with unshed tears. "I didn't see you. I was aiming for the dog. If I have to spend the rest of my life, I will make this up to you. I promise. Just don't die. Maria needs you…I need you."
Within minutes, they pulled into the hospital's drive. Miguel followed Kay into the ER as far as the staff would allow. A few moments later, Charity arrived.
"What's happening?" she asked.
"She's in there." He pointed. "They paged Dr. Russell and her father was called. She looked real bad, Charity. This is bad. I can't believe I did that to her. My God, what was I thinking?"
His first love grabbed his arm. "It's not your fault. You didn't see her. It was an accident. Don't blame yourself."
"Who should I blame?" He wrenched his arm free. Subconsciously, he rubbed where she had touched him. The feel of her on him filled him with unease. "What will I tell Maria? She'll never forgive me if something happens to her mother."
"Maria is just a baby," she said. "She loves you. I know she won't blame you."
"You don't know anything, Charity." He turned his back and walked away. "Kay didn't deserve this."
He headed toward the examining room. Through a break in the curtains, he watched as the nurses and doctors took Kay's vitals. An electric charge swept through him. Strong emotions surged inside him. Tears filled his eyes. He quietly stated the words from his heart. "You can't leave me, Kay. I love you."
Weeks ago, Pilar collapsed in his arms. With a trickle of blood coming from her nose and her golden skin an ashen pallor, Hank found himself unable to deny the depth of his feelings for this beautiful woman. An amazing woman who happened to be his best friend's mother. For years, he'd denied his attraction to her, but seeing her so close to death's door brought everything back. Luis would never consent nor understand a relationship between them. Hank knew better to pursue his heart's desire. Yet, he refused to resist the desire to be near her.
He entered her hospital room with a vibrant bouquet of flowers. "Hi, Pilar."
As always, she greeted him with a smile. "Hank, this is a pleasant surprise."
The rapid pounding of his heart sounded like fireworks. He placed a hand over his chest and rubbed, desperately hoping that she wouldn't notice. "These are for you."
He glanced around the room. An overabundance of cards, balloons and flowers already littered the room. There was no doubt that Pilar was loved. Anyone who knew her couldn't help but succumb to the emotion.
"I don't know where to put them."
"Let's put them here." She cleared a space on the nightstand. "I love tulips and Gerber daisies. How did you know?"
Her admiring smile warmed him through and through. He shrugged to belie the torrent of emotions that seized him. "Lucky guess. Actually, those were the most beautiful at the florist and the most worthy of you." He lingered beside her bed. "How are you? Any word on your release?"
"Eve says it won't be much longer now."
"That's good. I hate seeing you here like this. I know your kids miss you and you must miss being at home."
A blush crept over her cheeks. She looked down at her hands, laced together on the straight from home quilt that lay across her lower body. "You're right. I would much rather be at home with them."
A strange silence suddenly echoed in the room. Then, the distinct chime of his cell phone rang from his pocket. He dug inside his jeans and pulled out the small device. "Excuse me," he said and turned away to answer.
"Hank, this is Sam," came the voice on the other end. "Kay's been in an accident. It doesn't look good. Can you come to the hospital?"
"Of course. I'll pick you up."
"There's no need," Sam replied. "I'm already here."
"I'll see you soon." He ended the call and returned the phone to his pocket. "Pilar, I hate to rush, but there's a family emergency."
"I could hear it in your voice…" She extended her hand toward him. "What's wrong? Is there anything I can do?"
He squeezed her hand, grateful for her support. "I doubt it. Kay's been hurt. I don't know what happened."
"I'm coming with you." She swung her legs over the bed. "Get the wheelchair."
He frowned. "You're weak…"
"I'm not that weak. Please, Hank. She's the mother of my grandchild. I must go."
The ER doors burst open. The young beauty rushed to Sam with an abundance of determination that surprised him. Worry brought faint lines to the corners of her eyes. Instinctively, he held out his hands to her.
"I came as soon as I heard. How is she?" Simone asked in a rush.
"Your mother is with her," Sam said. "They're prepping her for surgery."
"Surgery?" A frown darkened her smooth honey brown forehead. "I didn't know it was that serious. What happened?"
"She was struck with a lead pipe." He was barely able to get the words out. "It's still…inside her."
"Oh, my God."
Her knees buckled. He caught her, holding her close to his body. Countless sensations coursed through him. The softness of her flesh…her tender curves…the way she clung to him. He swallowed hard and willed his body not to react. She was his daughter's best friend. Hell, she was his best friend's daughter!
With an arm still around her for support, he led her to a chair. "Should I get you some water?"
Dark brown curls brushed her cheek as she shook her head. "No, thank you. I'm sorry about that. I didn't know. Dad just said that Kay was here. He didn't tell me…" She fixed him with a hard stare. "I'm so sorry. Is there anything I can do for Kay…or for you?"
His chest tightened. He glanced at their hands, which had somehow become laced together. How did that happen? He wondered. And why did it feel so right? Even though it was so very wrong?
Slowly and with a tinge of regret, he released her hands. He gave her a tight smile and shook his head. "There's nothing. Your being here is enough."