She nodded at me, agreeing. Sooner or later, the patients would come.
But not for us. Not tonight.
“Let’s do the report,” the charge nurse said, coming toward us. “Not much to talk about.”
We filled the day shift in on our patients and then ten minutes later we were all clocked out. There hadn’t been much to share with them. Time to go home and catch some sleep before I had to deal with Izzy again. If I got lucky, Reese and London would keep her a few extra hours, let her watch some TV. I might even get a nap.
• • •
Painter’s big blue Harley was parked outside my house.
I thought about the gun hidden inside. About the way he’d beaten up Aaron. What might’ve happened if Aaron and I had gotten pulled over, searched.
What a mess.
Taking a deep breath, I opened the door, not bothering to question how Painter had gotten inside. He was a Reaper—so far as I could tell, things like locks and walls didn’t apply to them. I mean, he’d walked all over every other boundary I’d ever had, so why should this be any different?
He wasn’t in the living room, but I heard music playing from one of the bedrooms. Dropping my keys and purse on the table, I kicked off my shoes and contemplated making myself a cup of coffee before facing him. Of course, that meant I’d have trouble napping should a miracle occur and I actually got the opportunity.
I’d sort of expected to find him in my bedroom, maybe pawing through my underwear drawer. The sound came from Izzy’s room, though. Frowning, I walked to her door, pushing it open slowly. He was inside, painting one of her walls. The floor was covered in tarps, and the bed had been pushed into the center of the room. Along the wall he’d done a blue sky over green grass, leaving a large empty hole in the center. Now he was sketching on it with a thick charcoal pencil, although I couldn’t quite tell what he was drawing from here.
“Hey,” I said hesitantly, not quite sure what to expect. He turned to glance at me, eyes flickering over my scrubs.
I sidled into the room, off-balance. I’d expected to be fighting with him by now—this was weird. “Whatcha doing?”
“Designing a mural for Izzy,” he said. “I hope you don’t mind—we’d talked about it a while ago. I was waiting for you last night and figured I might as well get started.”
Hesitantly, I came closer, trying to read his mood. His face was blank, though, so I studied the outline on the wall instead. It looked like . . .
“Is that a princess riding a motorcycle with a unicorn horn on her helmet?” I asked, bemused. Painter nodded.
“Yup, it’s what Izzy wanted,” he said. “Hate to break it to you, but she wants the princess and the motorcycle to be pink. I’m doing it in regular latex house paint, by the way. I’ve got a feeling she’ll want it changed at some point.”
“Hopefully some point soon,” I said. “I’m really tired of pink and I’m pretty sure I could vomit unicorns on demand.”
He laughed. “Yeah, me, too.”
Stepping up to the wall, I traced my finger along the sketch, thinking about what it would look like when he was done. “She’s going to love it.”
“That’s the goal,” he said. “She told me that she wants to look at it and remember she has a daddy when I’m not around.”
“She loves you.”
Turning to look at him, I cocked my head.
“I’m really tired,” I said. “So I don’t have the energy to play games right now. Are we going to fight?”
He shook his head. “No. I was pissed at you last night. For a while I figured you were probably off fucking some other guy, then I realized how stupid that was. London wouldn’t tell me where you were—Reese must’ve mentioned what happened up in Callup, because she treated me like a serial killer. Just in case you ever wonder whose side she’s on . . .”
“I got lucky with her,” I acknowledged. “When my own mom bailed, she took me in, just like she took in Jessica. She’s been a grandma to Izzy, a mother to me . . . but I’ll never understand why Mom left. I look at Isabella and can’t wrap my head around it, because I’d die before disappearing on her.”
Like you did in prison.
“Are you ever going to forgive me?” he asked softly, catching my chin, forcing me to look at him. “Sometimes it feels like you hate me out of habit. It’s still between us—that chemistry. Sex isn’t the problem. And I’m a good dad to Isabella. I help you out as much as you’ll let me. I fuckin’ hate your job at the ER, but I’m not telling you to stop doing it because I know it’s important to you. So why does it always have to be a fight, Mel?”
Shaking my head, I leaned forward into his chest. His arms came around me, rubbing my back. It felt good. Safe.
“It scares me,” I confessed.
“That I can care about you this much. You’re a mystery to me—you play with our daughter, you paint her pink motorcycles. You even let her dress you up like a fairy that one time and had a tea party with her.”
“How did you find out about that?”
“She told me,” I said, biting back a smile. “And she drew a picture. I took it to work and showed everyone. But I think you should be thanking me, because I seriously considered giving it to Reese.”