Come Back to Me (Waters of Time #1) - Jody Hedlund

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May 21

“Your father is in a coma.”

“What did you say?” Marian Creighton fumbled with her phone and almost dropped it. “I don’t think I heard you correctly.”

“I’m sorry, Marian.” Harrison Burlington’s English accent on the other end was as loud and clear as if he’d been sitting at Jasper’s desk opposite from hers. “Unfortunately, you did hear me all too correctly. I’m afraid your father is in a coma.”

“My dad’s in a coma?” The words reverberated all the way to the cells in her bone marrow, sending chills over her skin.

“Yes. He’s here at Kent and Canterbury Hospital.”

Marian shoved away the research sprawled in front of her and shot out of her leather chair.

“The hospital staff phoned me about an hour ago, and I came straightaway.”

“What happened? Was he in an accident?”

“The doctors think not. But they’re still trying to sort it out.”

“I don’t understand.” The blue lights on the digital clock on her desk read 10:48 p.m., which meant it was almost four o’clock in the morning in Canterbury, five hours ahead of Connecticut.

“Apparently, your father arrived at the hospital and passed out in the lobby.” Harrison paused, and in the background the beeping of monitors was unmistakable. “They’ve been doing tests on Arthur, but they haven’t been able to locate any trauma that may have caused the coma.”

“That makes no sense.” She stared through the glass walls of the inner laboratory to the dark deserted offices beyond. The red exit sign gave off an eerie, almost haunted light that spread over the pharmacokinetics department of Mercer Pharmaceuticals’ research lab. “Dad called this afternoon, and he sounded fine. Said he was feeling great.”

She didn’t talk to her dad often. They were busy with their pharmacokinetics research. At least that’s the excuse she made for them both. Plus, there was that big body of water called the Atlantic Ocean separating them, although truthfully at times the ocean seemed small and shallow compared to the deep gulf that stood between them.

“I saw your father in the office yesterday morning, and he didn’t complain of anything being awry. He acted a bit distracted. But there’s nothing dodgy about that.” Harrison was being too kind. But she supposed his ability to overlook Arthur Creighton’s glaring idiosyncrasies was why he happened to be Dad’s one and only friend.

“So the doctors have no idea why he’s fallen into a coma?”

“None. They’re gobsmacked.”

“There’s no visible sign of an accident, fall, head trauma?”

“Not that they can find.”

“What about a brain aneurysm or cerebral hypoxia?”

“No and no.”

What other symptoms could lead to unresponsiveness? “Maybe he experienced some kind of poisoning, like carbon monoxide? Or perhaps cardiac arrest or—”

“Marian, I’ve already queried the personnel about every possible cause.” Harrison was a brilliant medical scientist, a coworker of her dad’s at Mercer’s Canterbury research and development headquarters. Of course, he’d know all the right questions to ask the physicians regarding Dad’s situation.

Exhaustion hit her, and she lowered herself back into her chair. She regularly put in twelve- to fifteen-hour days in the lab. It was her life. She succumbed to sleep only when she had to.

“I’m truly sorry, love. I know the news is dreadful.” Harrison’s voice radiated with sympathy.

She pictured her father’s friend in his power wheelchair. A young man in his thirties, Harrison was stately and scholarly, his dark waves untouched yet by silver compared to her dad’s full head of gray hair. Behind thick spectacles, Harrison’s eyes contained kindness, and he cared about what she had to say, unlike Dad, who rarely tore his attention away from the one thing that mattered most: finding a cure for the genetic disease that had robbed him of his wife.

Marian’s throat tightened. “Thanks for being there with him.”

“I’ll be here as long as it takes.”

Marian rapidly calculated the amount of time needed to drive to the airport and catch the first flight to Heathrow. “I might be able to make it to the hospital by tomorrow afternoon.”

“Go home and have a rest first. I don’t want you becoming ill in the process of rushing to get here.”

Her? Ill? She almost laughed. “I’ll be fine, Harrison. I always am.”

“I know you can look after yourself, but I couldn’t bear it if something happened to you too.”

Too. The tiny word was a glaring reminder of all that had gone wrong in her family.

“Marian?” His voice dropped a decibel. “Let’s not talk about this to Ellen yet.”

“Definitely not.”

After ending the call, Marian tossed her phone onto the detailed spreadsheets and charts scattered