Kyle frowned, concern layering his other emotions. She was covering something up and he couldn’t help wondering what. Instead of leaving her, he spoke sharply to his daughter.
Cindy didn’t hesitate or ask why. The command in his voice was enough. “Yes, Dad.”
She trotted around the pool, calling Adam urgently. He arrived with one of the stewards in tow. Another came up moments later with a wheelchair.
“No need to go to such trouble for me,” Emily sighed. “I’m telling you, I’m alright.”
“Try spinning that tale for someone who didn’t just lose his wife to cancer,” Kyle said more sternly than he intended. “She needs the infirmary,” he told Adam.
“Yes, sir. I’ll take care of it. You folks go have your lunch. I’ll see to Ms. Geraci. Em, what am I going to do with you?” He muttered and murmured as he helped her into a wheelchair.
Kyle grabbed Adam’s arm as the steward wheeled her away. “Let me know how she is.”
“Absolutely, Mr. Scott. I’d better go.”
Nodding, Kyle let him go. He followed Cindy to his cabin distractedly, nearly walking past before he realized she’d stopped.
“Are you okay, Dad?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I’m just tired.”
“You’re thinking of Mom, aren’t you? Emily’s got cancer too?”
“She’s recovering, in remission. But still very weak. I kept her out too long last night. She’s probably overly tired and it’s my fault.”
“Stop kicking yourself, please?” Her voice held such anguish, he focused on her pain instead of his own. “You did that with Mom too. You blamed yourself—like it was your fault she died. Some things you can’t fix, Daddy. Some things you just can’t fix.”
She burst into tears, clinging to him, sobbing loudly. Her body shook with emotion as the gut wrenching sorrow purged itself. It must have been building for a long time. He realized with a lurch that he’d assumed the children were dealing with their mother’s death well. They were in counseling, they’d cried, they were strong, resilient, they could cope. Suddenly, he knew that Cindy, at least, wasn’t coping. She’d been bottling this up for months because he was in too much pain. She was putting his needs first.
“I’m sorry, baby. I’ve been a selfish, unfeeling bastard. I’m so sorry.”
Sniffling and gulping, she calmed down. He knew she’d be better now. Sometimes it took a total meltdown in order to get past a stage of grief. He knew that was true, he’d been there often enough over the last 13 months. If he had a dollar for every time he’d broken down and lost it since Margo got sick, he’d be a rich man.
“I know I haven’t really been here for you, Cindy. That’s changed now. I’m here and you can come to me anytime for any reason. You don’t have to wrap up this pain anymore. I’m so sorry I made you do that.”
“I’m okay, Daddy. I really am okay now. When I saw Emily looking so pale and weak, it was like seeing Mom all over again. I can’t go through that twice—not so soon. Don’t make me, Daddy. Don’t fall in love with Emily, please?”
“Why not, honey?”
“Because when she dies, another part of you is going to die too. And then we’re all going to die a little bit more. Please—for me and the kids—please….”
“Okay,” he said softly.
He’d have said anything to calm her down at that point. But he knew it was too late. He was already falling for Emily and it would take an act of God to prevent it. He’d fallen for Margo the same way, but it had taken nearly three years for him to convince her to go out with him. When they finally did go out, and he pushed a little too much, she got pregnant. She was seventeen when they married. Cindy was born only a few weeks before her eighteenth birthday.
Kissing his daughter’s forehead, he smiled. “I promise. Go get dressed now. I’ll be out in a couple minutes.”
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