By Linda Lael Miller

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I gave him a brief look. Ever since the first Nick episode, I hadn’t trusted my own eyeballs. ” He shrank back, but with a grin, and extended one hand. “What a question,” he said. ” I ignored the hand, took in his boyish face, his wide-set, earnest gray eyes, his strong jaw. In the next moment, I leaped out of my chair and backed up a couple of steps. I know my eyes were wide, and my voice came out as a squeak. ” My parent-murdering, cat-killing half brother contrived to look affably mystified, and threw my own line back in my face.

The doctor tried to smile, but she must have been out of practice, because it didn’t quite fly. “Try not to worry,” she said. ” I looked back at Lillian, ignoring Bilbin’s convoluted statement. I wanted to protest that Lillian wasn’t “elderly”—until the stroke, she’d been active, if a little depressed. Now, she didn’t even seem like the same person. “I was planning on leaving town for a few days,” I said, “but now…” “You go ahead,” Dr. Bilbin told me, when my voice fell away. “We have your contact information.

Won’t take a bite of food. ” I hurried past Nurse Ratchet and into Lillian’s room. My self-appointed mother lay utterly still in her bed, small under the thin white blanket, and she’d aged a year since I’d seen her the day before yesterday. Her hair looked straggly and thin, and her skin was papery. My heart lurched. I went to her bedside, took one of her hands gently in both of mine. “Hey, there, Diamond Lil,” I said, using the nickname Ham had given her soon after they got together. ” Lillian looked up at me with an expression of helpless, befuddled fear.

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