Happy Monday! So, bit of a confession time! (Spoilers ahead! Read at your own peril! If you haven’t read That Perfect Someone, you can do so here. It’s on Kindle, KU, and paperback!) When I sent That Perfect Someone to my second beta who was also my LGBTQ+ sensitivity reader (aka my oldest daughter), she had a pacing complaint. I had too much after the climax of the book and not enough between D&E finally giving in and the climax. So, enter the Deputy Collins yuck factor and Condomgate, and a couple of chapters were cut from the end. The end was hard because I had to give enough of a recovery without giving you so much it slowed the book down. Because of that, I have deleted bits to share!! These are from later on in the book, so they will give parts of the story away and may contradict things that happened during Condomgate.
Let’s start with what was the original chapter 26. Lizzy was still in the hospital, William was refusing to leave her on her own, so enter Ana. 🙂
Lizzy smiled as Ana peered around the curtain before approaching the bed. “Thank you for this.”
“Don’t mention it. The thing is, I’m still not entirely sure why you need me to spend the day with you since I know William won’t leave. He’s too stubborn for his own good.”
“He may not want to, but he needs to. Daddy said he hasn’t left the hospital since I was brought into the E.R., and it’s been over a week. I want him to go home and take a real shower, and shave. Dear Lord, he needs to shave!”
A giggle burst from Ana. “You aren’t feeling the Darcy beard he’s got going on? Some women find beards hot.”
Lizzy shook her head. “Well, this woman isn’t one of them. I don’t mind stubble, but we’ve passed a sexy bit of stubble and are slowly sliding down a slippery slope, heading toward a full biker gang-looking monstrosity. He made a joke about waxing his mustache yesterday, Ana. Not just no, but heck no!”
Ana plopped down on the bed next to her, the very spot where William spent the night, and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “I’m so happy to see you feeling better. I probably shouldn’t say this, but you scared the bejeezus out of us. Chase was overwrought. The guy broke down the evening after you woke up and bawled like a baby—it was as if the enormity of what happened hit him all at once.”
“He’s always been good at keeping his cool when it’s necessary and reacting later.”
“Lizzy, what’s Silver Taps?”
She frowned and scooted back against the railing some so she could see Ana’s face better. “Why do you ask?”
“I doubt you remember, but we were there when they were loading you into the ambulance. For a moment, Chase panicked and told you that you couldn’t die and that he refused to attend Silver Taps for you. The deputy then told us about Skylla, so we went up to the stable, and he pulled it back together. He sort of went into this frantic work mode and concentrated on William’s horse until Mr. Bennet told him to leave. When he broke down two days later, he mumbled about Silver Taps several times. I’ve never heard of it and something felt wrong about Googling it. I’d rather know from you or Chase.”
Poor Chase! With a sigh, she wiped a tear that had fallen to her cheek. “Silver Taps is a ceremony at A&M, held on the first Tuesday of every month. It honors the Aggies who died the month before, graduates and undergraduates. It’s an entire day thing. They lower the flags to half-mast that morning and there are traditions that day before a ceremony in the evening when all of the lights on campus are extinguished. There’s a good bit to it, including hymns and a gun salute. At the end, they play “Taps” three times, once in every direction but east because the sun will never rise on the fallen Aggie again. I believe A&M is the only university with the tradition, and we’ve been doing it for over a hundred years. After one of Chase’s friends died in a car accident, he went for the first time. I remember he’d attend every month after unless something prevented him going. He was touched at the significance—what it meant for the family. He even went in February with a bad flu once.” She lifted her eyebrows. “You know, you could’ve asked him yourself.”
“I’ll talk to him about it eventually, but I didn’t want to stir everything up any more than necessary right now. He’s been better the past few days, but I think he needs some time before I go reminding him of what happened with my own questions added in.” Ana glanced around the room. “You know. I just realized my brother isn’t here. Where is he?”
“He’s downstairs getting coffee. The line must be long since he’s been gone for about fifteen minutes.”
“I’m glad he wasn’t up here when I arrived,” she said. “It would’ve made it hard to ask about the plan if he’d been in the room.”
“Let me ask you something. If I have today’s date correct, Will and you were supposed to be in New York signing paperwork.”
Ana scraped her teeth along her bottom lip. “I called my aunt and uncle who sent the paperwork to a mobile notary. We signed yesterday, and I overnighted the documents to New York.”
“The notary came here?” She couldn’t recall anyone showing up.
“You were sleeping pretty soundly. I sat with you for about fifteen minutes while Will signed the paperwork in the empty room next door. The nurses were kind enough to let him use it.”
Without warning, the door swung open, and William entered, taking a drink from his cup. “Ana? You didn’t mention you’d be here this morning.” He looked at his watch. “I didn’t even know you could rise before seven.” The slight shake of his shoulders, and his crooked smile made it obvious he was teasing.
“Ha ha. You can be a real dickhead. You know?”
“But you love me.”
“Yes, she does.” Lizzy straightened with a wince. Damned wound! “Which is why she’s here.”
His head hitched back a little. “I don’t understand.”
“I asked her to come so you could get out of the hospital for the day.”
“Lizzy, if you think I’m leaving—”
She held up her hand. “Don’t. I love you so much, but you need to have a day for you. Daddy made you an appointment for nine at a barber shop on Main Street so you can get a haircut and have that eyesore shaved off your face.” Ana snorted and covered her nose. “Then, I want you to go home and take a good, long nap. With the nurses coming in every hour for my vitals, not to mention being squeezed against the railing of the bed so I’m comfortable, I know you aren’t sleeping well. Besides, poor Evie has been on her own since this all happened.”
“Mary is taking care of her,” he said in a high-pitched voice.
“Yes, and Evie tears up the stairs when Mary lets herself in and doesn’t come down to eat until after my sister leaves. She’d grown accustomed to you being in the house. I feel like if you go home and take a nap, she may cuddle up to you. I don’t like the thought of her being so alone for so long. She’s not used to it, and I don’t want her to get depressed. Besides, I texted Mary and gave her the day off, told her you were going home and would take care of Evie today.” His shoulders slumped. Hah! Maybe, just maybe she’d gotten through to him or at least forced his hand. “I also messaged Ana yesterday, and she’s taken the entire day off from training so she can sit with me.”
“I’m sure my horses will be thrilled with the freedom. I also fed Skylla as well as the rest of your horses at the Longbourn stables before I came over, but you’ll need to feed them later today.”
“That’s another thing,” said Lizzy. “You haven’t seen Skylla since he was poisoned. Don’t you think you should check in on him?”
His eyes tore at her heart. “Your father and Lamonte have sent me pictures, and Chase sent me a video. He’s out of danger, and I’ll see him after you’re discharged.”
“William.” Her voice held a drawl, but she’d done that intentionally. He could be so obstinate!
“Are you sure that’s all there is to this? You aren’t mad because I hover too much or some other reason you aren’t telling me?”
Lizzy shook her head and reached out for his hand. “No, I promise we’re good. I arranged today because you need to take care of yourself too. How can we be there for each other if we’re both mentally and physically exhausted?”
He squeezed her hand and leaned in for a sweet kiss to her lips. “I hate this, leaving you. You know that, right?”
“I’ll miss you too, but I think this is the best thing for both of us.”
He uttered a soft sort of growl and scratched his nasty, hairy cheek. “Okay, you win.”
“Good, text my father before you head down. He’s going to pick you up and drive you to the barber shop and make sure you are completely de-cave-manned. After, he’ll take you anywhere else you need to go before he drives you home. You can bring one of our cars back this evening. That’ll make things easier whenever I’m discharged.”
“Wait!” Ana hopped up and grabbed his bag of clothes and toiletries, shoving it into his free hand. “Take this with you. You can wash your clothes and pack clean ones for later. You have to be getting low, and I’d rather not have to dig through your underwear drawer again if I can help it.” Her nose crinkled, and she shuddered.
William nodded and took the bag but walked around the hospital bed one more time to kiss her. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
“Not before six,” she said with a slight dip of her chin. “I’ll kick you back out if you’re any earlier.”
As soon as he was out the door, Ana clasped her hands in front of her. “I can’t believe you pulled that off. He would’ve never given in with me so easily. He’s stubborn as heck, you know.”
“I agree, but I’m sure it’s different for a younger sister than it is for a girlfriend. I also think he’s simply too tired to argue, which is why he needs this. Did you get a good look at the dark circles under his eyes?” He would be asleep before his head hit the pillow.
Ana held up a finger before darting behind a curtain that separated her bed from the door. When she emerged, she held up a bag and a cup. “I looked up that diet William said the doctors had you on, and I know you have to be bored to tears. So, I stopped by Bear Creek Coffee Company and picked up a latte and a chocolate croissant for you.”
“You’re a goddess,” said Lizzy with a grin. “Do you know that?”
Ana smiled and flipped her hair. “If you insist, my dear. I do have one disclaimer, which is that I did get decaf since I worried about caffeine possibly upsetting your stomach. You were drinking decaf before… Well, before—”
“It’s okay. I know what you mean.” Her heart hurt, and she swallowed hard. She didn’t want to cry right now. How she had any tears left after the past week was a mystery.
After Ana plonked the bag on the tray table and handed her the coffee, she sat back down beside her. “Should I have gotten two croissants?”
“I can’t eat much at a time, so one is perfect, thanks.”
“Chase is bringing you contraband for lunch and dinner too. We worked it out so your dad is covering at the clinic, and if the nurses give us a side-eye, I’ll flush whatever meals they bring you. So, before I give Chase the go-ahead, do you have any requests?”
She shook her head since she had a small bite of flaky, butter pastry in her mouth. “Just nothing too big.”
“Done. Now, I see you are watching the news. Why? Nothing good can come of that.”
Lizzy laughed, but pressed her hand to her stomach. “Don’t make me laugh. Please.”
“Oh, sorry.” Ana bit her lip then grabbed the remote that was wired to the bed. “Do you have any good channels or just the bare bones basics?
“I haven’t checked it out much since I’m still sleeping a good bit. William ran next door to that high-end electronics store and bought that monstrous laptop over there, loaded up several apps for watching TV and movies. The wi-fi is pretty good if you want to give that a try.”
She loved Ana to death. The girl was bubbly and kind and loved Chase enough to hold him while he cried, then discover what she needed to know to help him on her own so she wouldn’t upset him. Chase had needed someone like her for a long time. Who knew William’s little sister would solve that problem so easily? Now they just needed to persuade him to adopt a dog. Somehow, she didn’t think Ana would mind, and Chase adored dogs. He’d just always had one excuse after another—sort of like his love life. Perhaps it was just a matter of finding the right person, or in this case, the right canine.
“Hey, Ana, do you like dogs?”