Married at Midnight

By: Gerri Russell


They had met the beginning of their senior year in high school because Ellie had needed a tutor for calculus. Sequestered in the library each day after school, the geek and the cheerleader became friends, allowing each to see who the other truly was despite the social pressure from their peers.

Connor hadn’t let anyone get too close after his mother disappeared from his life. But Ellie was different. Special. She didn’t dismiss him as a nerd like everybody else seemed to, and she truly cared for him. After four months of dating, things got serious. They’d planned to attend different colleges on opposite coasts, yet they wanted to make a lasting commitment to each other. Prom would have been the night, except that plan hadn’t gone as expected.

Old, painful memories flooded back as he settled into the car beside her. He told himself he didn’t blame her for leaving him behind. They’d been so young—young enough to lie to themselves about their future. Over the years he’d convinced himself their breakup had been for the best. They would have ruined each other’s lives, suffocated each other’s dreams.

But in this moment, staring at her in the front seat of his car, he realized he hadn’t forgiven her. How could he? She’d abandoned him just like his mother had. Aside from his grandmother, every other woman he’d allowed into his heart had let him down.

Ellie Hawthorne might not be the girl he once fell in love with, but she was the best hope for saving his grandmother’s life.





CHAPTER THREE


“Here we go,” Connor said outside the door of his grandmother’s small ICU room at Swedish Hospital on Seattle’s Capitol Hill.

The words grated on Ellie’s overly sensitive nerves as she and Connor stepped into the room. She’d agreed to this scheme. There was no turning back now.

Connor’s grandmother lay as still as death on the narrow bed. No wonder Connor had been so eager to get to the hospital as soon as they’d landed at Sea-Tac Airport. Viola Grayson’s eyes were closed. The railed sides of the bed made the woman in between look so frail and small, with the covers tucked up under her chin. Several bags hung from a metal pole beside the bed, sending a long line of clear tubing into the back of her hand.

The gray-haired woman looked serene, as though she hadn’t a care in the world. Ellie kept an easy smile in place even as her heart climbed in her throat. They’d been allowed to see Viola for only a few minutes to share their good news . . . or their lie, depending on how you looked at the situation.

The electronic drone of the cardiac monitor filled the confines of the small room. A glance at the man beside her revealed he was keeping his emotions in check, but she didn’t miss the tightness of his breath or the slight sheen of moisture in his eyes. His worry was palpable.

Unable to stop herself, Ellie reached out and took his hand. He hesitated, then gripped her hand firmly, as though he needed her strength for what came next.

“Grandmother?” Connor said in a warm, soothing voice as they stopped beside the bed. “I’d like you to meet my wife.”

They waited breathlessly for her to open her eyes.

At first she didn’t respond, she just lay there, breathing. Ellie lifted her gaze to the cardiac monitor. A green line danced across the screen, its peaks and dips in a regular rhythm. She didn’t know much about hearts or heart surgery, but the line looked steady and normal.

Two beeps later, Viola’s eyelashes fluttered, and she opened her eyes. The older woman turned toward the sound of Connor’s voice. “Your . . . wife?” The words were soft, strained, yet a hint of joy hung in her tone.

Ellie and Connor were here to urge the older woman to fight harder, to live for the future. Tears spilled down Ellie’s cheeks, not because Viola had responded in a positive way but at the relief she could feel in Connor’s grip on her hand. He lifted Ellie’s fingers to his lips and pressed a kiss to her knuckles. A tingle of sensation rippled down her arm.

“She’s going to be fine,” Connor said, turning to face Ellie, giving her a dazzling smile. The smile was all part of the show they were performing for his grandmother’s sake, yet it still did strange things to her insides.

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