Story description: Liam and Maddie Grant are set to sign divorce papers and Liam is already packing to move out. Their plans are put on hold when Liam comes home to tell Maddie he’s been exposed to a new virus that is shutting down the country and part of the world. Since he’s exposed her she’ll have to be in quarantine as well. Now the couple is locked down and for the next 14 days they’ll have to face the issues that split them apart in the first place. Before it’s all over they’ll have to decide if they want to sign the divorce papers or try again. Across the city, Liam’s brother United States Senator Matthew Grant is quarantined with his wife and children wondering if his marriage could end up on the same path as his brothers. He hasn’t spent a lot of time with his wife Cassie lately. Has he lost sight of what really matters? He also finds himself reflecting on his time as senator and his upcoming re-election campaign. Has he put his family at risk by serving as a senator in the hyper-political atmosphere the country is caught up in?
Rewrites are fun and while I often rewrite/edit and proof some before I post a chapter here, I also often find later that I need to rewrite a chapter after I’ve posted it here. So this week I rewrote Chapters 8 and 9 and updated them on last week’s post. If you don’t want to go back, two big changes you need to know for this week: Liam got a call from his lawyer about setting a date to sign the papers and then he ended up in the ER (well, that sounds dramatic, doesn’t it?)
To catch up on Liam and Maddie’s/Matt and Cassie’s story, click HERE. I will post the last chapter next week.
The warm bath water felt good on Maddie’s skin. Sliding the rest of her body under the bubbles she closed her eyes briefly, thinking about how she’d found Liam on the floor this morning, pale, slumped over and bleeding from the head.
“I just want to go with him,” she’d told the EMT, tears streaking her face.
“I’m sorry, ma’am,” the man said with an expression of pity. “New hospital protocols with all this virus stuff. Someone will call you with an update on your husband.”
She’d paced the floor, wringing her hands, alternating between praying and crying. Yes, she’d decided divorce was best for her and Liam but she didn’t want him dead. He’d been so pale against the white of the stretcher sheets, looking at her through glazed over eyes.
“Wha— what happened?”
“I don’t know. I just found you on the floor blacked out. They’re taking you to the hospital.”
“No. No. I’m fi—“
She held up her hand. “You’re going Liam. Don’t argue. I’ll follow in the car and —”
If that teenage EMT calls me ma’am one more time, I’m going to punch him. Maddie cocked an eyebrow and tilted her head to encourage the EMT to continue as he and his partner yanked the stretcher to a higher position.
“I doubt you’ll be allowed in. Listen, his vitals are good right now. Good heart rate, blood pressure and respiration. Those are all good signs. Like I said someone will call you when they know more.”
Maddie was both panicked and angry now. Not a good combination in a woman.
“This is ridiculous! I’ll sit in the parking lot then. They can call me after they’ve checked him, and I’ll already be there to pick him up.”
Liam rubbed his hands across his bleary eyes. “Maddie, I’ll be fine. They can check the bump on my head and then I’ll call you and you can pick me up.”
Maddie bit her lower lip to keep herself from crying more. Of course he didn’t want her to go with him. They were as good as divorced. What made her think he’d want her with him.
“Okay. If you think that will be okay. I’ll call Matt and let him know.”
“No. Don’t. I feel better already. This is just precautionary. I’ll call him from the hospital, and I’ll call you as soon as I know something.”
She nodded and clutched her hands in front of her. Resisting the urge to lean over and kiss his cheek in case it was the last time she saw him she bit her lip again and reached for his wallet on the coffee table.
“You’ll need your insurance card,” she said stiffly.
He thanked her as the EMTs rolled the stroller out the front door and toward the ambulance.
The terror that had shot through her at the sight of Liam being loaded into the back of the ambulance with a bandage on his forehead had left her shaking and crying long after the ambulance had pulled away. When her lawyer called an hour later, she’d snatched the phone from the bedside table, hoping it was the hospital with a update.
“Hey, kid.” Andrew Lester was way too perky for his own good that morning. “Good news, we’ve got a date to sign those divorce papers. Friday morning. 9 a.m. Here at my office. Everyone wearing masks. Sound good?”
“Yeah. Um . . .” She decided not to tell her lawyer that her future ex-husband was on his way to the hospital. “That does sound good. We’ll be there.”
“Great. A few more days, lady, and you’re free. Keep your spirits up. It will all be over soon.”
It will all be over soon.
The marriage or Liam?
She tried not to think about it all being over for Liam, distracting herself by making some breakfast and watching a Britcom while she waited for him to call.
She could just imagine the rumors spreading among the neighbors now. They probably thought Liam was in the ICU with the virus now. Hopefully those rumors would be quelled when he came home later. He’d called her a couple hours after the call from her lawyer.
The bloodwork had been normal, he’d told her. The test for the virus was negative and he’d explain more when he got home. No need to pick him up, he’d order a taxi.
She wished she could have been with him at the emergency room, then she’d have all the facts now. Patience was a virtue, but it was not her best asset. In fact, it wasn’t even remotely part of her assets.
Was something else wrong with Liam? And if it was, how did she feel about that?
She slid further down in the water, blowing at a bubble. She didn’t know how she felt about much of anything anymore. Had she really asked Liam to hold her the night before? What had she been thinking? They were getting a divorce. It wasn’t exactly the time to be cuddling.
The fact that when she needed comfort she sought out Liam baffled her.
All she knew was that when fear had set in after reading all those news stories, she’d wanted to be close to him, even if only for a night, even if it was for the last time.
The last time to be held by him.
The last time to lay next to him in bed.
There was a time she’d thought their last time holding each other would be when they were old and gray, not before they were 40.
A cold chill shivered through her. The bathwater was warm. She shouldn’t be shivering. She slid further down in the water, making sure her shoulders were under the water, resting there for a few moments before blowing air out of her mouth and pushing herself back up again.
Liam had been at the hospital for hours. Where was he? Had he collapsed again before he left, and they’d readmitted him to the ER? Someone would have called him if they had. Right? She was still listed as an emergency contact. Wasn’t she? Maybe he’d already changed that in anticipation for their divorce. But then he would have put Matt down instead and Matt would have called her and —
Her hands were shaking. Her mind wouldn’t slow down.
Maybe her blood sugar had dropped. She should have eaten more at dinner. She looked at her hands, opening and closing them, thinking. Her heart raced faster in her chest.
It wasn’t blood sugar.
The bathwater wasn’t cold.
She was panicking. Good grief. She hadn’t had a panic attack in years, about four years to be exact, when they’d been standing by that small hole in the ground at the cemetery. She hadn’t understood then what was happening to her and she didn’t understand now.
Why would she be having a panic attack?
Liam was on his way home. He was going to explain what was happening when got there. She was sure he was fine. Her parents and brother were safe in Pennsylvania. Matt and Cassie and her nieces and nephew were safe.
She pulled herself out of the bathwater and started to dry off, giving up on the relaxing bath. She decided to try reading a book and going to bed instead. Something to slow her thoughts down.
Pulling her robe on she knew why she was panicking but didn’t want to admit it.
In only a few weeks, maybe even sooner, she’d be divorced.
A single woman again.
She wouldn’t have Liam to laugh with while watching reruns of Benson. She wouldn’t have Liam to talk to about her books, even if he didn’t always listen. She wouldn’t watch Liam get dressed in the morning, admiring how attractive he looked in his suit and tie. She wouldn’t cook him breakfast or listen to him talk about Matt’s latest legislative crisis. She wouldn’t feel his arms around her or his mouth on hers ever again.
She wouldn’t have Liam at all.
She needed to accept these facts and when she did — she looked at her trembling hands again, clutched them into to a fist — she was sure she’d be fine.
In the bedroom she slid the robe off and opened her dresser drawer to look for her favorite comfy pajamas. She needed them tonight to help her relax.
Her pajamas, some chocolate, and a Mitford book and she’d be fine.
A few seconds later she screamed when the bedroom door flew open and a figure stood in the open doorway. She snatched the pajamas from the drawer and held them against her.
Her muscles tensed when she saw Liam standing in the doorway.
“Liam! What are you doing?”
He was breathing hard, like he’d been running, and the color had drained from his face.
She clutched her pajamas close, trying to cover herself. “What’s wrong? Did you run from the hospital? Did the doctor tell you something bad? I thought you were leaving hours ago.”
He shook his head slowly and she was having a hard time reading his expression. It was somewhere between panicked and terrified, with a touch of desperation thrown in.
She opened her mouth to speak again as he walked slowly toward her, his eyes focused on hers.
“Maddie, I . . .”
His eyes searched hers, drifted down her face to her mouth, back to her eyes again.
She closed her mouth, watching as he shortened the distance between them.
His hands were warm against her skin as he cradled her face in his hands. She gasped. She hadn’t felt his skin warm against hers in almost a year.
“What did the doctor say? Was it something bad?”
He shook his head slowly.
“I had a panic attack.”
She was confused and her expression showed it. “A panic attack? Really? Why?”
“I pictured myself signing those papers and suddenly I couldn’t breathe. I must have hyperventilated and knocked myself out.”
“Oh,” she whispered, studying his eyes, watching as they started to glisten with tears.
“I don’t want to divorce you, Maddie. I still love you.”
“Oh,” she whispered again, tears stinging her own eyes now.
She closed her eyes briefly and when she opened them a few seconds later he was still watching her, and she knew he was going to kiss her.
She fully welcomed the tenderness of his mouth on hers. Without thinking, wrapped up in the feeling of his mouth soft and warm on hers, she let go of the pajamas and they slid to the floor at her feet.
His hands moved slowly from her face to the back of her head, fingers sliding into her wet hair as the kiss intensified. Desire and need pulsated through him as he clutched at her hair. He hadn’t been sure how she’d react but instead of pulling away she kissed him back, clutching at the front of his shirt, pulling him closer. When she pulled her mouth away slowly a few moments later, her body was pressed into his as if her legs were about to give way underneath her. He slid his arms around her waist to help support her and only then did he notice she wasn’t wearing any clothes.
She looked up with wide eyes, breathless.
“Maddie, please don’t leave me. I’m sorry for all the times I neglected you and made you feel like you weren’t important. You were important. You are important. And you were right. I gave up on you. I’m so sorry. Can you forgive me? Can I have another chance?”
She tipped her head back to look at him. A sob choked at her words. She closed her eyes against the tears, pressing her forehead against his. She tried to speak again.
“Yes,” she whispered. “If you can forgive me for pushing you away.”
“Oh Maddie. I do forgive you. I know you were hurting.” He cupped her chin in his hand. “We’re both broken, Maddie. Can we be broken together until we find healing together?”
She could still barely speak. “Yes. Please.”
He kissed her softly, gently this time, tenderness merging with the passion he felt for her. She stepped away from the kiss a few moments later, his hand in hers and moved back toward the bed.
He nodded and followed her willingly, ignoring his phone ringing in the living room. Under the covers he held her gently as she laid her head against his shoulder and her hand on his chest. At the touch of her palm against his cheek he looked at her and she kissed him softly.
“Did you know you’re naked?” he asked when she pulled her mouth away slowly a few moments later.
“Well, you did kind of interrupt me while I was trying to get dressed for bed. It’s also a little sad it took you this long to notice.”
He grinned. “Well, I did notice but I was trying to be discreet.”
She cocked an eyebrow. “Since when have you tried to be discreet about such a thing?”
He lowered his mouth to hers as the phone rang again.
“Should you get that?” she asked softly.
He shook his head at first, then growled in frustration, lifting his mouth from her skin, knowing who it probably was. “I should. Hold on.”
Maddie laid back with a heavy sigh.
She knew if it was Matt or John calling, Liam probably wouldn’t be back anytime soon. If ever. She’d been here before.
When she looked over at the door, though, Liam was standing there with the phone in his hand, against his ear.
“No, John. I’m not going to be in for a few more days. Yeah. Just to be sure. I already talked to Matt, but I’ll keep in touch. I have some things I need to work on at home first.” He laughed, looking at Maddie as he listened to whatever John was asking on the other end of the phone. His gaze slid from her face down the length of her body, hidden under the covers, and back to her eyes.
“Yeah, you could say that. Talk soon.”
She leaned up on her elbows, watching as he slid his thumb across the off button of the phone and tossed it down the hallway toward the living room. He lifted his shirt over his head on his way toward the bed, tossed it to the floor and slid next to her under the covers until they were both on their sides, looking at each other. He reached out to touch her then withdrew his hand.
“Despite the fact I just kissed you and you kissed me back, I feel like I should ask permission to touch you.”
A slight smile tilted her mouth upwards. “I feel the same way.”
His smile faded and a more serious expression settled across his face.
“I don’t mind if you touch me, Maddie.”
“I don’t mind if you touch me, Liam.”
He lightly touched her hair with his fingertips, then the side of her face, trailing his fingertips slowly down her skin. She did the same to him and drew in a sharp breath as she pressed her hand against his chest, feeling his heartbeat fast under her palm. It’d been so long since she’d touched him this way, since she’d been touched by him.
“I missed you,” she whispered.
He slowly moved his hand down her arm, finding her hand and intertwining his fingers with hers. “I missed you too.”
She slid closer and touched her lips gently to his. It had been so long, but it felt so familiar and so right. It felt like what she’d wanted all along but had been too hurt and confused to admit.
He moved his arms around her, slid his fingers slowly down her back, resting them against the curve of her back, pulling her gently against him. She broke the kiss and slid her arms around him so they were coiled close together, her leg pressed along the length of his.
“We have a lot of hard work ahead of us,” he whispered.
She nodded, trailing the tip of her index finger up and down his back. “Yes.”
He pulled back to look at her. “But I’m willing to put that hard work in.”
She smiled slowly. “I am too.”
Silence settled over them for several seconds as they watched each other.
He pushed a strand of hair behind her ear. “Are you scared?”
She sighed. “I guess we will have to adopt the motto of one of those inspirational posts I saw one time.”
He kissed her neck. “And what’s that?”
“Be scared and do it anyway.”
His mouth moved across her jawline and toward her mouth. “I’m willing to do that.”
She smiled, their lips inches apart. “Then let the rebuilding begin.”