“And somehow, your visit isn’t helping.” She swatted at his hand. Her relationship with Sam was definitely the usual sibling love/hate. If only she could get him away from the influence of their father. “Why did you come to Nocturne Falls if not because of what happened to me?”
“Because of the Jenkins brothers. Overheard some of their conversation at the meeting where Dad announced the truce, and they didn’t like it at all. Gave me a bad feeling. I figured I’d better get down here, make sure they weren’t up to something stupid. Looks like I was too late.”
She smiled. At least he still cared. “Thanks. It was sweet of you to look out for me that way.”
He nodded, but his expression was serious. “Look, about you and Hank, it’s great that you like each other and all, considering you’re getting married, but you shouldn’t have told him about Charlie.”
She froze, her pain replaced by fear. “What did you say to him?”
Sam shrugged. “Nothing, really. I did tell him you weren’t supposed to say anything. Why did you?”
“All I told him was that I have a son. I had to. He overheard me on the phone.”
“So he doesn’t know about—”
“No. And I plan to keep it that way until after the wedding. I’m in a no-win situation. There’s no way anyone will marry me if they know about Charlie’s condition. But I’m also not going to risk Charlie’s life over this.” She knew exactly what her father would do to Charlie if the truce fell through. He’d told her in very plain terms.
The memory sent a shiver through her.
Sam was quiet a moment. “Hank might hate you for it.”
She stared past Sam, the truth of his words another knife in her chest. “I know. But what choice do I have? I’d rather have a husband who hates me than lose Charlie. That would kill me. Hatred I can live with. I’ve had plenty of practice.”
“He’ll divorce you.”
“And nullify the truce? I don’t think so. Neither of us has a choice. Because Clemens has made it that way.” She glared at Sam. “How you can stand by and let our father treat your nephew this way—”
Sam straightened. “Don’t put this on me. You’re the one who insisted on going to college.”
“That’s Dad talking, not you.” Clemens had never wanted her to go to college, never wanted her to do anything but what he told her to do.
Sam held up his hands. “Hey, you’re the one who wanted a life beyond the family businesses. Look where it got you. Now you’re living with the consequences.”
“My son is not a consequence. He’s a good kid and an innocent child.”
“He’s a mutt.”
Her heart constricted. “Get out.”
He sighed. “I didn’t mean—”
“Get out or I’ll call the nurse and have you removed.” She struggled to sit up in bed.
The deputy took a step forward but Ivy shook her head.
With a look of frustration and regret, Sam left. The deputy walked out behind him, leaving Ivy alone. She collapsed and began to weep, too hurt in body and soul not to. Hearing that word out of her father’s mouth was bad enough, but from Sam, the brother who’d been her ally growing up? She covered her face with her hands and gave in to the pain she’d been pushing down for too long.
“Hey, what’s wrong?”
Hank’s gravelly voice was like a balm. His warm arms embraced her, and she relaxed into his touch. She took a breath and forced the tears away. “I just…hurt all over.”
Not a lie. But not the truth that would take this wonderful man away from her either. That would come soon enough.
He kissed the top of her head and released her, but took hold of her hands. “It takes twenty-four hours to get all the wolfsbane out of your system so you’ve got a few more hours. Until then, you’re not going to feel so hot.”
She nodded. “I already feel better now that you’re here.”
He smiled. “Good. But if you want to postpone the wedding—”
“Tomorrow’s the full moon.” Panic seized her. “We’re supposed to get married tomorrow night. I know it’s just a civil ceremony, but I haven’t done a thing to get ready.”
“Sweetheart, there’s still the rest of today and most of tomorrow. But there’s really nothing for you to do. The Justice of the Peace is a friend. I set things up for five tomorrow, but he’s willing to perform the ceremony whenever we need him. I know the full moon is traditional, but the bride isn’t usually recovering from a near fatal poisoning. We can absolutely postpone to give you a chance to get back on your feet.”
She relaxed a little. There was some time left. Enough maybe that she could at least plan a nice wedding meal for them. “No postponing. It has to be the night of the full moon. Postponing would mean waiting another month.” There was no way Charlie would survive staying with his grandparents that long or she could keep from telling Hank the truth. If only her mother could be counted on to stand up to Clemens, but Ivy wasn’t holding her breath for her mother to grow a backbone anytime soon. “I’ll be fine by this afternoon. Really, I’m already so much better.”
“Positive.” Even so, a JOP ceremony meant they weren’t going to have a cake or flowers or anything. But then, she’d never really expected any of those things. Cake. She grabbed his arm. “I hope you turned off the oven. I had a cake in there.”