“But this news can’t wait.” He beamed, delighted in the horror he was causing the room.

“Can’t you see what we’re dealing with right now?” I asked him. I changed tactics. “Please, whatever it is you have, just give it to me on my own. These people have too much on their plates right now. Here,” I said, walking toward the door, “let’s step outside.”

“I guess,” he said, “but this news concerns them too. Well,” he said, a sinister laugh escaping his lips, “it really only involves them.”

“What-what? Why? My dad’s business is with me, not with them.”

“But you made it their business when you decided to live on their property.”

My breaths became labored. “What has he done?”

Without another glance my direction, he turned to Emmett. “Emmett Hunt?” he asked.

“Yes?” a baffled Emmett answered.

He handed the envelope to him and Emmett took it before I could snatch it from Dominic’s hands. “You’ve hereby been served with an eviction notice,” he told them, a blackhearted smile on his evil face.

Emmett’s and Ellie’s faces dropped.

“No!” I screamed, moving to attack Dominic.

Jonah held me back.

“Go on,” he said, laughing. “I’d love to press charges.”

“I don’t understand,” Ellie said, stunning me. “We still had sixty days to come up with the money. We would have been fine after we took the cattle to market.”

“You guys were in foreclosure?” I asked.

She nodded, ashamed. “We were. We mortgaged the ranch to pay for Cricket’s medical fees. She needed it but we overextended ourselves. We were relying on the ranch’s profits to put us in the black again.” She turned to Dominic. “The bank said we had sixty days.”

“My employer,” he said, righting himself and fixing his tie, “otherwise known as Spencer’s father, has purchased the bank to which you owe. He’s decided, as a matter of discretion, that it would be best to cut our losses now and try to sell the ranch on our own. He feels it would be most prudent to recoup the loan.” He smiled cordially, making me want to kick his teeth in. “It’s all here in your eviction papers.” He gestured toward Emmett. “Well,” he said, taking a deep breath and turning toward me. His eyes burned with poison. “Maybe next time you won’t try to screw over your father.”

Dominic left the room and we all sat silently, numb.

“Oh my God,” I said, feeling ill.

I sagged against the wall. Next to me was a trash can, and I bent to vomit into the bag, emptying the contents of my stomach and heaving in disgust with my father.

I sat back up, walked to the sink, rinsed out my mouth and slid against the wall, sitting on the hospital floor.

“I’m going to fix this,” I told the deathly hushed room. “I’m going to fix this somehow,” I kept repeating over and over.

Emmett read the start of the eviction notice. “We have ten days.”

“I’ll fix it, Emmett,” I told him.

“I don’t think you can, son,” he told me kindly, making me want to wretch again.

“I will. I will fix this.” I looked at the shocked faces around me, including Bridge’s. “I am so sorry that we tainted your lives like this.”

“Stop,” Ellie pleaded. “You aren’t responsible for your father’s actions, Spencer.”

“If I’d never shown up at your doorstep, you would have been fine,” I said, dumbfounded. “I never should have contaminated your lives.”

Bridge started crying. “I’m so sorry,” she grieved, and Jonah hugged her tighter.

“Spencer?” I heard to my side. I turned. It was Dr. Caldwell. “We need to admit you.”

“What?” Bridge asked, sitting up.

“I’m, uh, I’m giving Cricket a kidney.”

I stood and squeezed Emmett’s shoulder. “I will fix this,” I told him. He clasped my hand so kindly that I almost lost it.

“I can’t believe you’re doing this for my granddaughter,” he said. “Thank you. With everything I have, thank you.”

I shook my head at him. “No, Emmett, thank you for allowing me to.”

I hugged Ellie and she whispered a prayer into my ear. She too thanked me for my sacrifice. I couldn’t believe them, these people I had ruined the lives of. They were so unbelievably generous that it humbled me.

“Jonah, Bridge, if you’ll see me soon. I’d like to arrange for a few things? I’ll need your help.”

“Of course,” Bridge answered.

I walked to Cricket’s side and pressed my hands into her skin. I leaned over and kissed her mouth before whispering in her ear. “I love you. I’ll see you tomorrow. I hope to save your life the way you have saved mine.”

Dr. Caldwell led me to an admitting desk. An orderly made me sit in a wheelchair, which I thought ridiculous, but since I was officially a patient there, they didn’t want to take the risk of my falling or something else inconceivable. They wheeled me into a room a floor below Cricket’s.

As soon as I was in the room, I picked up the phone and dialed my father.

“Spencer,” he greeted coldly, having no idea how he knew it was me.

“What can I do to get you to call this off? I’ll pay for the ranch. Anything you want I will do.”

He laughed. I could hear him in his office chair as it creaked. I imagined him getting comfortable. He loved this part of the game.

“Spencer, there is nothing you could do, beg, offer that would change this decision. I’m doing this solely for my own pleasure. To screw you over as you’ve screwed me.”

“How?” I asked, calmly. “What I have I even done to you?”

“You defied me,” he stated. “And now you must pay.”

“And this is just to teach me a lesson?”

“No, not to teach you a lesson. Lessons are for people I plan on keeping around. This is, like I said, only for my own pleasure. I want you to suffer.”

Suddenly my hate for him seeped out in a muddy, vicious river and was replaced with pity.

“Dad,” I said with mercy, “I forgive you.”

He didn’t respond. I had mystified him.

“I will let you do these things to people you’ve never met before because I hope beyond all hope that you will discover the cruelty and hate that has taken up residence in your heart and soul and you will change yourself.”

He inhaled loudly. “Listen, you little—” he began, but I hung up before he could finish.

I made one more phone call.

An hour or so later, Bridge and Jonah arrived. I was so amped up that Dr. Caldwell told me they may have to postpone surgery if I couldn’t get my blood pressure in check. I knew as soon as I could get Bridge and Jonah to help I would be able to calm down.

“I have seven million, two hundred ninety-three thousand, eight hundred fifty-nine dollars and seventeen cents stashed away in a bank account in Zurich,” I began, shocking them. “And a few hundred thousand more sitting in a deposit box in Kalispell in Cricket’s name. My attorney in New York is aware of what I want and he’s put all the funds in Zurich in your name, Bridget.”

Her eyes blew wide. “Me?”

I laughed. “Yeah, you. Here’s the phone number,” I said, handing her a pad of paper. I had written all the information she needed. “I’ll be in surgery and recovery and we have a limited amount of time before Dad closes the doors on the Hunts for good.

“Jonah, I’m so, so sorry that my family has harmed yours so egregiously, and I know my father has stolen a hundred years’ worth of land that was your legacy.” I sighed, afraid I’d break down. “But I am asking you and your family to forgive mine and accept this money, however much you need, to buy yourselves another ranch.”

“We can’t take this,” Jonah answered.

“Jonah, this is not up for negotiation. You will take this money, or when I get out of here, I will buy one anyway and move all your stuff there. This way is better because you can choose what’s best for your family.”

“I’m-I don’t know what to say,” he said. “Thank you.”

“No, no thank you’s. This is the best way I know how to right a wrong.”

“Bridge, all you have to do is call this number.”

Bridge nodded, pocketed the pad of paper, kissed my cheek and she and Jonah set out to fix what our father had done.

I had done all I could do. Now it was time to let Dr. Caldwell do what all he could.

Chapter Thirty-Six

They rolled me down the hall and into the elevator and pushed the button for the third floor. My heart beat wildly with nerves and anticipation of seeing Cricket. The letter I’d written her was tucked into an envelope entitled “just in case” and I clutched it in my hand tightly.

They wheeled my gurney down the hall toward number seven, and I gripped the letter so tightly I almost crushed it. The doors opened and they backed me up a little to make room for her. I sat up a little to get a good look at her and I couldn’t believe how valuable she looked. She was priceless.

They spun me closer to her side, and even though she was unconscious, I took her hand and kissed it. I didn’t care that everyone was looking. “You’re so amazing,” I whispered into her neck. “And I love you.”

I laid back down and they moved us both down the hall. As I passed Cricket’s family, they all touched me. Only Ellie spoke though, after she kissed my cheek.

“We’re so grateful.”

“So am I,” I told her, folding the letter in her hand.

Inside the operating room, the anesthesiologist introduced himself and described what he was going to do, but my pulse rang so loudly in my ears that I didn’t hear him.

“Count down for me,” he said.

“One hundred,” I started. Cricket’s face. “Ninety-nine.” Cricket’s smile. “Ninety-eight,” I slurred. Cricket’s kiss…

“Spencer?” someone, a man, asked me. “Can you hear me?”

I felt someone, a nurse perhaps, rearrange some tubing. I winced when I tried to open my eyes, so I closed them again.

“Spencer? Can you respond to us, please?”

I attempted to open my mouth, but I couldn’t find the energy or the desire, so I decided I didn’t care and welcomed the black again.

“Spencer?” my sister asked.

I sluggishly opened my eyes and saw her face. She looked so tired.

“How is she?” I rasped. She looked up at Jonah. “How is she?” I repeated.

“How are you feeling?” she ignored me.

I opened my eyes farther and cringed when I tried to sit up a little. “Answer me.”

Tears fell down her face. “Spencer,” she said cautiously.

“Why are you crying?” I asked her. “Why is she crying?” I asked Jonah, terror-stricken.

“Calm down,” Jonah said, trying to make me lay back down. “You’re recovering.”

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