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The Play: Chapter 41

DEMI

I’m in shock. My entire body is ice-cold and trembling like a leaf in a windstorm. My eyes are blinking and in focus, but I don’t see anything. My ears are working but no sounds register. When I exit the front doors of Bristol House and spot Hunter and my father standing off to the side, I assume they’re not real. A figment of my imagination, a product of my shock. So I keep walking with my arm around TJ.

“Demi.”

I stop. Because that did sound real. That sounded like my father.

But the cops are now closing in on us, distracting me from my dad. TJ looks as shocked as I feel, panic swamping his eyes when one of the officers tries to lead him toward the ambulance.

“I don’t need to go to the hospital,” he protests. “Demi.”

“Yes, you do,” I say quietly, giving him a tight squeeze. “You need to talk to somebody about what happened tonight.”

“I talked to you.”

He did, but I’ve done as much as I can. The fact that he seriously contemplated suicide and took action to try to implement it, is beyond my capabilities. Plus, he has no choice but to go to the hospital. They’ll probably admit him into the psych ward and keep him under observation for seventy-two hours to ensure he doesn’t harm himself or others.

“I’ll come and see you the moment I can,” I assure him. “I promise.”

That gets me a weak nod. He’s in a total daze as he follows the cop toward the waiting ambulance.

I turn around, and the next thing I know, my father’s huge arms envelop me whole. I was already having trouble breathing. Now I’m choking.

“Dad, please,” I wheeze desperately. “I can’t breathe.”

It’s with great reluctance that he releases me and sets me on my feet. I blink and then I’m being hugged again, not as violently as before but with an equal amount of emotion.

“You have no idea how worried we were,” Hunter says hoarsely.

Dad makes a guttural noise as he nods in grim agreement.

“I don’t understand,” I say slowly. “Why are you here?”

“Someone snapped a picture of you on the roof and a bunch of people are tweeting about it,” Hunter explains.

“No, not you.” I stare at my father. “Why are you here? Why aren’t you in Boston?”

“I came to…” He stops for a beat, and Hunter smoothly finishes his sentence.

“To see you.”

My dad smiles wryly. “No, kid, I don’t need you to cover my ass.” He shrugs. “I came here to tell him to stop seeing you.”

Dad.” My jaw drops.

“I know, sweetheart. I’m sorry. I just…” He drags a hand over his bald skull. “You’re my baby girl. You’d just had your heart broken and I didn’t want it to happen again. Nico hurt you, and then I saw who you went out and picked right afterward?” He tips his head at Hunter. “Rich boy, hotshot athlete? In my experience those two qualities indicate a player. Seemed like a recipe for another broken heart,” he growls protectively, “and I wasn’t gonna let that happen to you.”

“I’m sure you had the best intentions, but Hunter’s not a player. And like I told you earlier, we’re together now, and you’re just going to have to deal with it. You could either make this hard on everyone, or you could accept that this is my new boyfriend. And yes he’s a rich hockey player, but—oh my fucking God!” I suddenly burst out.

“Demi, language.”

My upset gaze swings toward Hunter, and for the first time in five minutes I realize he’s wearing the lower half of his hockey uniform. “What are you doing here? What time is it?” I scramble to get my phone out of my pocket. “It’s eight-thirty! Your game started at eight!”

“Yeah, I know.”

His careless shrug triggers another rush of panic. “Then why aren’t you playing? What the fuck are you doing here?”

“Language.”

“Dad, I swear to God!”

Hunter’s lips twitch as he reaches for my hand. “Babe. Do you honestly think I would just suit up and play hockey while you’re standing on a ledge a hundred feet off the ground—”

“Fifty feet—”

“—A thousand feet off the ground, with a dude threatening to jump? One, that speaks volumes about how little you think of me. And two…well, I don’t have a two, okay? One is bad enough. Fuck’s sake, Demi.”

“Language,” my dad chides.

Hunter dons a sheepish smile. “Sorry, sir.”

“You need to get to the arena,” I order. “We need to get him to the arena.” And then I’m hurrying past them. “Where’s your car, Dad?”

He leads the way to his silver BMW, and I’m amazed to discover that the engine is still running, both driver and passenger door are thrown open, and the vehicle’s back bumper is sticking out toward the road. Wow. They must’ve really been worried.

Dad slides behind the wheel, with Hunter next to him, and me in the middle of the backseat.

“I can’t believe you’re not on the ice right now,” I say in dismay.

“You mean more to me than hockey,” he says simply, and damned if that doesn’t make my heart expand. “Get it through your stubborn head.”

I lean toward him and reach for his hand. He grips mine tightly, and I know he must feel how icy my fingers are.

“You have no idea how scared I was,” he says roughly.

“Not as scared as I was,” I admit.

Dad peers sharply at me. “Are you sure you don’t want to go to the hospital and get checked out?”

“I’m fine. Just in shock.” I bite hard on my lower lip. “I was so afraid he was going to do it. You have no idea.”

Briar’s hockey facility comes into view. Dad bypasses the parking lot and stops directly out front. To my dismay, Hunter doesn’t immediately dive out of the car.

Instead, he twists to meet my eyes. “I knew you’d be able to help him.”

“Help him?” Anguish clogs my throat. “I didn’t even see that he needed help, Hunter. How did I miss all the signs? And what kind of shrink am I going to be if I can’t even see the warning signs in my own friends?”

“A brilliant shrink,” Dad replies, his tone stern. “Human beings aren’t infallible, sweetheart. Sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes we fail. I’ve lost more patients on that table than my conscience can handle, but you? You didn’t lose your friend tonight. You saved him.” Dad gestures toward Hunter. “And he’s right—he knew you’d be okay. I was seconds away from scaling the building like Spider-Man to rescue you, but your boyfriend here convinced me to have faith.”

“In what?”

“In you,” Hunter answers, and he and Dad exchange an awkward smile.

I’m touched to see it. “Mom says she wants to take me and Hunter out the next time we’re in the city,” I say after a beat of hesitation. “Maybe you could join us and we’ll have a redo of the brunch?”

My father nods. “I’ll be there.”

“Thank you.” I turn to Hunter. “And thank you for coming to save me. With that said—get out of this car, Monk. Now. If you hurry, you could probably get ready in time to play in the second period.” My teeth dig into my lip again. “Would you be horribly upset if I didn’t go in and watch the game? I need some time to process what happened tonight. Just…decompress, you know? And I want to call my mom.”

Hunter cups my cheek. “It’s absolutely fine. Maybe you and your dad can grab a coffee and get you warmed up? Your hands are freezing.” He glances at my father expectantly.

Dad replies with a firm nod. “I’ll take care of her. Go play your game, kid.”

“I’ll come find you afterward,” I promise Hunter.

He leans in to plant a chaste kiss on my lips, then hops out of the car. Tears fill my eyes as I watch him dart toward the entrance of the arena.

“It’s fine,” Dad says gruffly. “I’m sure his absence didn’t hurt his team too ba—”

“I’m not crying because of that,” I interrupt between sniffles. “I don’t even know why I’m crying. The tears just started pouring for no reason.”

“Not for no reason. The shock is wearing off, and it’s finally hitting you—the gravity of what happened tonight.” My father’s smile is tinged with sadness. “Come up here in the front, sweetheart, and we’ll go somewhere and talk. Okay?”

I rub my tear-streaked cheeks, then nod and reach for the door handle. “Thanks for being here, Daddy.”

“Always.”


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