Anna MacGregor clasped hands with her son as he crouched at her feet. Panic, fear, grief surged through her and met a solid wall of will. She wouldn't lose control now. She couldn't. Her children were coming.
"Caine." Her fingers were icy as they tightened on his, but they were steady. Her face was almost colorless from the strain of the past few hours, and her eyes were dark. Dark, young and frightened. It flashed through Caine that he'd never seen his mother frightened before. Not ever.
"Are you all right?"
"Of course." She knew what he needed and brushed her lips over his cheek. "Better now that you're here." With her free hand she gripped Diana's as her daughter-in-law sat beside her. Wet snow clung to Diana's long dark hair and was already melting on the shoulders of her coat. Anna took a long breath before she looked back at Caine. "You got here quickly."
"We chartered a plane." There was a little boy inside the grown man, the attorney, the new father, who wanted to scream out a denial. His father was invulnerable. His father was the MacGregor. He couldn't be lying broken in a hospital. "How bad is he?" She was a doctor and could tell him precisely—the broken ribs, the collapsed lung, the concussion and the internal bleeding, which her colleagues were even now struggling to stop. She was also a mother. "He's in surgery." She kept her hand tight on his and nearly managed to smile. "He's strong, Caine. And Dr. Feinstein is the best in the state." She had to hold on to that and to her family.
"Laura's with Lucy Robinson," Diana said quietly. She knew well what it was like to hold emotions in. Slowly she massaged Anna's fingers. "Don't worry."
"No, I'm not." This time Anna managed the smile. "But you know Daniel. Laura's his first granddaughter. He'll be full of questions when he wakes up." And he would wake up, she promised herself. By God, he would.
"Anna." Diana slipped an arm around her mother-in-law's shoulders. She looked so small, so frail. "Have you eaten?"
"What?" Anna gave a tiny shake of her head then rose. Three hours. He'd been in surgery for three hours. How many times had she been in the operating room, fighting to save a life while a loved one agonized in these plastic waiting rooms, these cold corridors? She'd struggled and studied to be a doctor to ease pain, to heal—to somehow in some way make a difference. Now, when her husband was hurt, she could do no more than wait. Like any other woman. No, not like any woman, she corrected herself, because she knew what the operating room looked like, what it sounded and smelled like. She knew the instruments, the machines and the sweat too well. She wanted to scream. She folded her hands and walked to the window.
There was a will of iron behind her dark, quiet eyes. She'd use it now for herself, for her children, but mostly for Daniel. If it were possible to bring him back with sheer desire, she would do so. There was more to doctoring, much more to healing, she knew, than skill. The snow had nearly stopped. The snow, she thought as she watched it fall thinly, had caused the roads to be slick and treacherous. The snow had blinded some young man, caused his car to spin out of control, and crash into her husband's foolish little two-seater. Her hands balled into fists.
Why weren't you in the limo, old man? What were you trying to prove with that flashy red toy? Always showing off, always… Her thoughts trailed away, going back in time. Her hands unclenched. Wasn't that one of the reasons she'd fallen in love with him? Wasn't that one of the reasons she'd loved and lived with him for nearly forty years? Damn you, Daniel MacGregor, no one can tell you anything. Anna pressed her fingers to her eyes and nearly laughed. She couldn't count the number of times she'd said that to him over their lifetime together. And adored him for it.
The sound of footsteps had her whirling, bracing. Then she saw Alan, her oldest son. Daniel had sworn before he had ever had a child that one of his offspring would be in the White House. Though Alan was close to making the oath reality, he was the only one of her children who took more after herself than their father. The MacGregor genes were strong. The MacGregors were strong. She let herself be folded in Alan's arms.
"He'll be glad you're here." Her voice was steady, but there was a woman inside her who wanted to weep and weep. "But he's bound to scold you for bringing your wife out in her condition." Anna smiled at Shelby and held out a hand. Her daughter-in-law with the fiery hair and soft eyes was big with child. "You should sit down."
"I will if you will." Without waiting for an answer, Shelby led Anna to a chair. The moment Anna sat, Caine put a cup of coffee in her hands.
"Thank you," she murmured and sipped for his sake. She could smell it, strong and hot, feel it scald her tongue, but she couldn't taste it. Anna listened to the ding of the electronic pages, the quick slap of rubber-soled shoes on tiled floor. Hospitals. They were as much her home as the fortress Daniel had built for the two of them. She'd always felt comfortable in them, confident in their antiseptic halls. Now she felt helpless.
Caine paced. It was his nature to do so—to prowl, to stalk. How proud she and Daniel had been of him when he'd won his first case. Alan sat beside her, quiet, intense, just as he'd always been. He was suffering. She watched Shelby slip a hand into his and was content. Her sons had chosen well. Our sons, she thought, trying to communicate with Daniel. Caine with his quietly strong-willed Diana, Alan with his free-spirited Shelby. Balance was needed in a relationship almost as much as love, as much as passion. She'd found that. Her sons had found that. And her daughter…
"Rena!" Caine was across the room, holding his sister.
How alike they look, Anna thought vaguely. So slim, so bold. Of all her children, Serena came closest to matching Daniel's temper and stubbornness. Now her daughter was a mother herself. Anna could feel Alan's quiet strength beside her. They're all grown. When did it happen? We've done so well, Daniel. She closed her eyes for only a moment. She could allow herself only a moment. You wouldn't dare leave me to enjoy it all alone.
"Dad?" With one hand Serena held on to her brother; with the other, she gripped her husband.
"Still in surgery." Caine's voice was rough with cigarettes and fear as he turned to Justin. "I'm glad you could come. Mom needs all of us."