Andi was sitting at Lee's bedside, her head resting on her arms next to his
legs. She felt his hand lightly stroking her hair. Tears were wetting her arms
and the sheet but she made no move to lift her head.
Lee lay quietly, trying to reassure her with his touch. The doctor couldn't tell them anything without running a barrage of tests first. Since then he had been poked and prodded and drained of blood twice. Now all they could do was wait.
Rick stopped in his tracks in the doorway. The scene before him was poignant at best. "Lee?"
Blue eyes found brown ones. "Rick, hi." he greeted his older brother quietly.
Taking a step into the room, he gestured to Andi. "What's going on?"
Fresh tears rolled onto Andi's arms and she tried desperately to muffle her sobs.
"Lee?" Rick's voice dropped lower. "What happened?"
He inhaled deeply before speaking. "I started coughing and I was having trouble catching my breath."
"Has already been here and they've started running more tests." Lee answered.
"How are you, now?"
Rick went to Andi's side and helped her to her feet. "Come on, Andrea. Lets leave Lee to rest. We'll get some coffee."
Lee was already closing his eyes and drifting off as they left the room.
Just outside the door, she fell into Rick's arms.
"Andrea, don't cry anymore." he pleaded, holding her to his chest. "Where's that strong woman who gave me fortitude just last week?"
"She jumped out the window the minute Lee started coughing." she hiccuped.
"Take a deep breath and relax. It can't be helping Lee to see you like this." he told her.
She took a step away from him and straightened her spine. Wiping her face, she nodded. "You're right."
"That's better. Now, how about some coffee?" he offered.
"No, thank you. I want to stay here to wait for the doctor." she paced the length of the short hallway.
"I'm all right. Go on, get your coffee." she waved her hand at him.
He turned the corner and leaned against the wall. She was scared witless and he was powerless to help her. How he desperately wanted to hold her and protect her.
Jolting upright, his eyes widened as he realized what thoughts were racing through his head. He wanted to comfort his brother's wife. Hell, he wanted to do a lot more than that. His features grim, Rick stalked away from Andrea and his thoughts. Rick stood near the windows, listening intently as Lee's doctor spoke. Andi sat quietly at Lee's side, clinging to his hand.
"You're sure the medication will help?" she asked.
"We hope so. You know we can't guarantee anything but this is our best hope. We'll start right away." he answered before leaving the room.
"See," Lee turned to her. "I'll be okay."
"I'm so sorry for what I said, Lee." she whispered. "Of course I'll do as you wish."
His hand came up to cup her cheek. "It's funny you should say that, Andi. I've decided that you were right. If you'll phone the lawyer tomorrow and have him come in, I'll correct the will."
Rick's shoulders tensed and his eyes narrowed in anger. "What the hell is going on? Has she convinced you to cancel the donations and leave the money to her?"
She didn't look up at his question. "I'm sorry, Lee. I told him about the charities and the scholarships."
"No, Rick, those were her ideas. And they were damn good. As is her suggestion to me to leave the Tamarack house to you." Lee watched as his older brother's face turned a deep shade of red.
Rick took a step forward. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said what I did."
"No, you shouldn't have." Lee agreed, his hand now resting on Andi's forearm.
She stood and kissed Lee on the forehead. "I think I'll go home and rest for a while."
"Good." he touched her cheek. "I'm okay. Don't stay up all night writing, okay?"
She smiled hesitantly and nodded before leaving the room without acknowledging Rick.
Lee watched her go before turning back to his brother. "I would appreciate it if you refrain from saying things like that in front of her. She's been nothing but good to me and she doesn't deserve to be treated badly. To be frank, Andi doesn't want to have anything to do with my money or my power. She was uncomfortable in the Tamarack house because it was too big and too ostentatious. She hated having the maid and the cook and we just finally moved out. Even the small house we're in now is too big for her. All Andi wants out of life is to be able to write her poetry and be happy. I'm doing what I can to make sure that she gets those things after I'm gone."
Rick turned away. "This is still a little hard for me to take. I've never met anyone like you've described."
"Yes, you have. The only problem is that you won't open your eyes and see her. You've given up on trusting people and that's wrong." he finished.
"You're welcome to move into the Tamarack house as soon as you want. And perhaps the sooner the better." he interrupted. Closing his eyes, he dismissed Rick without another word.
Andi phoned the lawyer as soon as she got home from the hospital. She was still on the phone when Rick came into the kitchen. Sliding into the chair across from where she stood, he folded his hands and waited.
Turning her back on him, she continued her conversation. "Okay then, Bill, we'll see you tomorrow afternoon at two." she finished before hanging up. Rubbing her eyes wearily, she leaned her head against the window pane overlooking the backyard.
She sighed loudly but didn't move.
"Who stole your trust, Rick? Who made you so angry and disillusioned?" she asked softly.
"I don't know what you're talking about."
She didn't have to see him to know that his face had tightened and his eyes had narrowed. "I'm sorry, too. So sorry that you're missing so much."
He jumped to his feet, ready to fight. "Look here, lady..."
Without another word, she turned and left the room.
"Don't walk away from me! I'm talking to you!" he yelled at her retreating form. He barely heard her pad softly up the steps. "Andrea!" Moving quickly, he followed her to the second floor. As he turned down the hall, he saw her studio door closing. He stomped over to the door and threw it open. She was standing in the middle of the room, watching him warily. "Andrea..."
"I won't ask you to trust me anymore. I... I just won't." she said quickly.
"I've seen a lot of things in my life, Andrea. A hell of a lot more than you have." he said angrily.
"So, what does that make you?"
"Lonely." She went to the window to look out at her garden. When Rick made no comment, she glanced at him over her shoulder. He was still standing in the doorway, watching her every move. The bottomless depths of his eyes seemed to be absorbing each particle of her being. "Rick?" she whispered.
He closed his eyes and inhaled a ragged breath. His hands curled into fists at his sides and when he opened his eyes, they were flat and dark. "How do you do that?" his voice was rough.
"See into a person's soul. I saw it in that poem Lee showed me but I didn't really believe it until now. Tell me, Andrea, how do you do it? Do you have some psychic gift that comes with poetry writing?"
She arched one eyebrow at him. "All I do is look beneath the surface. If people would take the time to really look at someone, they would be amazed at what they see."
"What do you see, Andrea?"
She hesitated briefly. "I see a man who pretends to be distant and cool. I see a man who is passionate about his family even though he tries to hide it. I see a man who is alone and who is afraid to reach out. I see a man who has been hurt and refuses to accept it and so he'll never let it go."
He smiled wryly and folded his arms across his chest. "Is that so?"
She met his hard stare with one of her own and surprisingly, it was he who faltered and looked away. A sense of triumph washed over her, followed quickly by a wave of sadness.
"So, tell me, O Great One, how do I let go?" he asked casually.
"Accept it, hurt, and then move on. Open up and care for someone again." she suggested.
"I love my brother."
"Yes. But do you love him because he's your brother or do you love him as a person?" Her smile was kind but sad.
"You're really a hundred and two, aren't you?" he asked.
"Why would you say that?"
"Your kind of wisdom only comes from years of experience." he answered.
"Wisdom comes with knowledge, not age. I am an observer, a student of human nature. I see a lot of things that no one else does." she shrugged and wandered around the room, touching things as she went.
"Your husband calls you a flake behind your back. Did you know that?" he asked as he watched her movements, her body big but graceful.
She tossed him a smile. "He calls me a flake to my face." Shrugging, she stopped to gaze at a picture of her and Lee at the Fall Festival three years ago. "It doesn't mean that he cares for me any less." With one finger she traced the happy faces in the photo.
"You really love him, don't you?"
She looked up, surprised at the envy in his voice. "Oh, Rick. I wish you all the love you crave." her voice trembled.
His face tightened again and his jaw clenched. "I don't need or crave love." he growled.
She lowered her eyes at the boldface lie. Emotions coursed through her, filling her heart to overflowing. How she wanted to show him the love he was capable of giving! And oh, how she wanted to give him the love he deserved. Her voice quavered with emotion when she spoke his name. "Rick..."
"I don't want your pity, Andrea. Thanks, but no thanks." he said gruffly before leaving the room.
Andi closed her eyes and crushed the urge to follow him and prove that it wasn't pity she felt for him.