“Will his memory come back?”

“There’s no way of knowing, but in most cases, unless there is significant damage, the brain learns to rewire itself, going around the affected area and retrieving knowledge. Without a previous MRI to compare his current condition to, it’s hard to tell how widespread the impairment to brain tissue is. From what I can tell, it is limited to a small area in his left frontal lobe corresponding to a large external bump and gash.”

Her dad wouldn’t like knowing they’d been taking pictures of the inside of his head. He was funny about stuff like that, and they’d gotten away with it only because he’d been out cold, but it didn’t bode well for his mood when she got to see him.

“Anything else?”

“He has some surface bruising, but no internal damage.” She’d hedged when asked what had caused his injuries and could sense the doctor’s curiosity now.

“I’d like to see him.”

The doctor frowned, but nodded. “That might be best. Maybe you can convince him to cooperate in his treatment.”

That brought a cynical twist to her lips. “I can try.”

A nurse led her back to a curtained cubicle. Her dad was sitting up in bed, his eyes obviously unfocused, but scanning the room for any signs of danger nevertheless. The consummate soldier in crisis.

“Hi, Dad.”


She walked to stand beside the bed and laid her hand on his forearm. “How are you feeling?”

“I’ll live.”

“The doctor thinks you’ve got partial amnesia.”

Her dad’s pale green eyes narrowed. “Damn impudence.”

She smiled, the first glimmer of humor sparking inside her since the ground shook beneath her feet. “Are you saying you don’t?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Do you know what day it is?”

“No…” He put his hand to his head, his eyes closing, sweat breaking out on his brow. “There are gaps.”

“Don’t worry about it. The doctor said it will probably all come back eventually.”

“I suppose he thinks he knows because he used that fancy machine to look inside my brain.”

So, he knew about that already. “He was just trying to assess the level of damage.”

“If you say so.” But clearly her dad didn’t believe it.

She sighed. She supposed for a man who considered being asked for his middle name a gross invasion of privacy, and who had refused to go to a doctor in the decade since, an MRI would be over the top of his comfort level.

He opened his eyes and pinned her with a look he used for interrogation. “What happened?”

“You don’t remember that either?”

“No, but if it was serious enough to land me in this white prison, I think I should.”

“There was an explosion.”


“The office and your mock room, but the fire was spreading fast when I pulled you out.”

“You saved my life.”

She shrugged.

His jaw clenched. “I can’t remember what day of the week it is, and I sure as hell don’t know why someone tried to blow me up.”

She didn’t bother denying the explosion had been planned. Her dad’s instincts were better than hers, and hers were screaming the same thing. “Don’t worry about it. I’ve got your back.”

He nodded and then winced, bringing his hand to his head again. “Damn, this hurts.”

“I’m sorry.”

The next two hours were tense with Josie avoiding the probing questions of the ER staff and a duty officer who had been called in to try his luck when they were unsuccessful. She told them her dad had had a fall.

They were bothered because that didn’t explain the condition of her clothes or his. She refused to enlighten them, having learned a long time ago that no answer was a better form of evasion than adding lies on top of the initial one. Finally, a nurse came into say they would be moving her dad to a private room for observation.

After the nurse left, her dad said, “Call Nitro.”

She supposed his new partner deserved to know their school had been blown to smithereens. “I will in the morning.”

“Now, Josie-girl.”

She frowned. Dawn was less than an hour away, and she could call Nitro an hour or so after that. “Why now?”

Confusion clouded her dad’s face. “I don’t know. Just do it.”

He didn’t like weakness, and he’d always been a bear when he was sick, so she didn’t take issue with his general-in-command tone.

“Okay, but if you don’t know why, then I don’t see how you’re going to tell him anything.”

It sounded reasonable to her, but at his glare she gave in. Bending down, she kissed his cheek. “Fine. I’ll go call him right now, but don’t blame me if he doesn’t like being woken up before the roosters.”

“He’s a soldier. He’s used to it.”

When Nitro answered the phone with an instantly alert voice five minutes later, she had to concede her dad was right.

“Nitro…It’s Josie.”

“What’s up?”

She’d gone outside to an isolated phone and made sure no one was in hearing distance, but still she spoke in a low tone. “There’s been an explosion at the Mercenary Training Camp. When I left it looked like most of the compound was gone.”

“Are you all right?” The words whipped out like bullets.

“I’m fine. I was out walking.”

“What about Tyler?”

She couldn’t help noticing he had asked about her first.

It made her feel tingly inside, and she wasn’t sure what she was supposed to do with a feeling like that. “Dad was sleeping. He got hit by debris, and he’s in ER right now. They’ll be moving him to a private room shortly, and he wanted me to call you.”

“What hospital?”

She told him the name and grimaced at Nitro’s curse. “I wanted the anonymity of the city.”

“Yeah, but it’ll take me an hour and a half to get there.”

“We’re not going anywhere, not right now anyway.”

“Tell your dad to stay put until I’m there, but here’s my cell phone number just in case he doesn’t listen.”

She wrote down the number and rang off, her heart beating too fast for a simple telephone conversation with her dad’s partner.

Chapter 2

Josie had to go to the waiting room while her father was moved. The holes in his memory had become more apparent the longer they’d talked, and she was glad she’d brought him to a larger hospital for treatment as well as anonymity. A nurse came to tell her that her dad had been moved, but had requested she wait to come to the room until he got cleaned up.

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