As he looked down at her, he saw the moment when she recognized him, but he was shocked and disappointed that the fear remained. She was afraid of him! Then the fear in her eyes became mixed with fury, and she sat up.
“Keep your voice down, Alissa. I know this is a shock. I’ll explain as much as I’m able.”
He took his mask and gloves off.
“I’ve been deep undercover out of the country. I couldn’t remain in contact with you and the rest of the family for your safety as well as my own.”
“Your father identified your body!”
“How could you do that to your family, Alex? Your mother has not been the same since you…” Alissa trailed off.
“I believe in the work that I do, Alissa. In the long run it protects us all.”
Alex looked at her in surprise. She was really speaking her mind! This was not the same woman he’d left behind. The years had been good to her. She had matured, and her beauty was even more enhanced like a fine wine. When he’d seen her at Joy’s recital, his heart had skipped a beat. She was even more intriguing and desirable to him now.
“Why have you come back?”
Dale stirred in bed and noticed that Alissa wasn’t there beside him. He guessed that she had gone upstairs to check on Joy. Even though they had a monitor, they both checked on Joy several times throughout the night now that she wasn’t doing as well. He fell back asleep when he didn’t hear anything from the other monitor set up in Joy’s room.
Noah suddenly awakened. He looked at Sharlee, sleeping deeply beside him. He still hadn’t lost his street senses that had developed over the years. It had kept him safe and alive in the past. He’d seen many who didn’t have it. They had been assaulted and much worse. He was glad that he hadn’t lost his.
Something felt off in the house! Noah didn’t want to scare Sharlee, and so he slowly eased out of bed. He went to their bedroom door and locked it from the inside before quietly closing it. He wanted to make sure that Sharlee was safe before he investigated the rest of the house. He checked on Sharlee’s brothers and sisters. Their bedrooms were on the same floor of the house. They were all sleeping peacefully. Then he headed silently down the stairs.
Finally, Alex saw Alissa’s eyes soften.
Alex asked her, “Does she know about me?”
“No, we plan to tell her when she’s older; when she can understand. So, you know how sick she is?”
“Yes. Even though I haven’t been here with you, I’ve tried to keep track of what’s been happening with you and Joy.”
“Were you the one who called Dale and told him to get to me after Aria attacked me?”
Alex’s mood quickly changed to anger. “That’s just one of the reasons why I still don’t understand why you chose Dale. Over and over he’s proven that he can’t keep you safe!”
He calmed himself. “I saw a video of Joy’s big recital. She is very talented. I was pleased to see how much she liked the flowers that I sent. I’ve come to help her. I insisted that they bring me back, no matter the danger if it’s discovered that I’m still alive. I’ve been tested and my marrow is a match.”
Alissa began to cry in relief. Alex wrapped his arm around her to comfort her and just to hold her close again. His hearing had been specially trained and was keen. He had already heard when Noah was walking down the stairs. Now he heard him approaching the door. He had determined from the sound of the footsteps that it could not be anyone else in the family except for Noah.
“Sounds like Noah has decided to join us.”
Alex stood quickly up, so fast that it startled Alissa.
“Noah wait! I’m alright.”
Alex was surprised when Noah matched his gaze and didn’t flinch. He knew all about Noah’s background, and he had been astonished that Sharlee had married Noah. He was even more amazed that Dale and Alissa had allowed the relationship to reach that point. If he’d been around, he would have put an end to it before it had become serious.
However, now he was wondering if there was more to Noah than he’d thought. He was impressed with Noah’s complete lack of fear and his immediate reaction to protect Alissa. Maybe Noah was what his family needed since he was no longer with them. He had no faith in Dale. Dale was too restrained and logical. Noah had a ruthless side that was barely submerged, and Alex sensed that he’d do whatever he had to do in order to protect the people that he cared about. He was more like Alex!
“Noah, this is Sharlee’s uncle Alex.”
Dale awakened again and saw that Alissa had not returned to bed. There was still no sound on the monitor, but he decided to go and check on Joy himself too. He opened the bedroom door and headed toward the stairs. As he did, he saw light coming from the office and realized that Alissa must be in there.
Dale felt immediate relief. There was real hope that Joy would be well again! Some deep part of him was also relieved to see that his brother was still alive, but he too was angry that Alex had put them through the grief of his death. Dale was breathing hard. He was so furious with Alex that he couldn’t speak.
“All of the arrangements have been made. The procedure will be done tomorrow night when things are quiet at the hospital. Someone will come for Joy tomorrow. Alissa, you are the only one who can accompany her.”
“Other than the people in this room, no one can know that I’m still alive. The job that I’m doing is too important to be jeopardized, but I had to help Joy. I had to threaten to quit in order to get my handlers to allow me to return for this short period of time. I assured them that my real identity would not be disclosed. My fingerprints have been changed as well as my teeth! Even during the procedure, my identity will be concealed. So, yes. Only Alissa is permitted to go with Joy!”
“Yes, I’ll be fine. You go on back up to bed.”
After Noah left the room, Alex stood in front of Alissa.
Alissa and Dale looked at him dumbfounded.
“Have you come to your senses yet?”
“Alex, what are you talking about!”
“I mean haven’t you missed me? Haven’t you missed us? I haven’t been exactly celibate because I had to do whatever my role requires, but I know that you are the only woman that I will ever love. I’d quit this job in a heartbeat if you want us to be together again.”
“Alex, are you saying that you won’t help Joy if Alissa doesn’t agree to remarry you?”
“Of course that’s not what I’m saying! Joy is my only child. I’d do anything for her! Since you mentioned her, I do think that it would be even better for her if she were raised by both of her parents.”
“Alex, she is surrounded by people who she knows love her, and she’s happy. I am happy with my life too! I’m sorry, Alex, but my feelings haven’t changed and they never will. I’m in love with Dale, and I’m staying with him! You and I are never again going to have a romantic relationship!” Alissa emphasized the word “never!”
Alex didn’t speak for a few moments. He was fighting the anger and disappointment that her words caused inside of him. Why did she continue to resist her feelings for him! Then he looked at Dale and was furious at him again for coming back just when he finally had everything he’d wanted. The years since then had done nothing to lesson his resentment of Dale.
“Someone will come for you and Joy tomorrow evening.”
Alex left the house as silently as he’d entered it. Dale wondered how he’d managed to get past the alarm system.
After checking on Joy, Noah returned to his and Sharlee’s bedroom. He’d forgotten that he’d locked the door. He hated to awaken Sharlee, but he didn’t have much choice. He knocked softly.
Sharlee heard the knock. “Noah, someone’s knocking at the door.” When Noah didn’t respond Sharlee reached out and touched his side of the bed. When she realized he wasn’t there, she got up and opened the bedroom door.
Noah entered the room and closed the door behind him. Sharlee yawned sleepily and didn’t argue as Noah led her back over to the bed. As soon as her head hit the pillow, she was asleep again. It took Noah a little longer, but eventually he fell asleep too.
“Yes, Honey. The transplant is what she needs!”
They went upstairs to check on Joy, and then to their bedroom. Alissa had hoped that she’d be able to sleep, but she and Dale were both restless throughout the remainder of the night. They wouldn’t be able to completely relax until they knew whether or not the transplant had helped Joy.
He was deep in thought about the night before. He remembered the fear emanating from Alissa. He knew that if any man caused as much fear in Sharlee as Alex caused in Mom, that man would not continue breathing for long. It had nothing to do with anger. It had everything to do with keeping her safe! How could Dale not see how afraid Mom was of Alex? Noah decided to talk with Dale.
“Dale, can I talk to you for a few minutes?”
“I get the impression that there isn’t any love lost between you and Alex.”
“Let’s just say that we’re not as close as we used to be.”
“What’s your point, Noah?”
“I still don’t see what you’re getting at!”
“Alex is already legally dead, so it wouldn’t be breaking any laws to make him really dead.”
“We live in a civilized society, Noah, and even if I wanted to do that I wouldn’t because it isn’t the right thing to do. Believe me, there have been times when I wanted Alex dead and a part of me was relieved when we thought he had died.”
“Whether you understand my reasons or not, Noah, I’m telling you, no! Stay out of it! Just forget you ever saw him. As far as the rest of the family is concerned, we’re telling them that an anonymous donor is helping Joy.”
Noah reluctantly agreed not to do anything.
Alex wanted to see Alissa and Joy before the procedure, but his handlers wouldn’t allow him to see them. They threatened to pull the plug on the whole operation and send him back out of the country if he interacted with Alissa or anyone else from his past again. Alissa was permitted to sit with Joy until they took her away. She was nervous as she waited. Even after the procedure, Joy would have to remain in the hospital for the next 30 days. Alissa intended to be there with her as much of that time as possible.
Alissa was told that the procedure would take from 30 minutes to an hour. After waiting for about an hour and a half with no word on Joy’s condition, Alissa was becoming extremely anxious. Finally a nurse entered the room. “Mrs. Stallworth, does Joy have any allergies that weren’t disclosed to the anesthesiologist? We’re having a hard time waking her up.”
The anesthesiologist came into the room. “Joy’s alright Mrs. Stallworth. It just took longer for her to respond. She’s coming out of it now. You’ll be able to see her soon. The procedure went smoothly, and the doctor will be in to talk with you in a few more minutes.”
They both left the waiting room, and Alissa called Dale and told him so that he could pass on the good news to the rest of the family.
Alex left the country after he recovered. He was happy that he’d been able to help Joy, but he still felt that things were unfinished between him and Alissa. He would never accept that she no longer loved him.
You all were right! It was Alex! I had a hard time not saying it in the comments. I sort of left a little hint just before his family thought that he was dead. It was that mysterious phone call that he made right after his fight with Dale! 😀
Do you have any suggestions on a career for Crystal? Something that suits her personality? She finished college, and she’s been working for a long time now. I just never decided what her job is. I am stuck! 😦