“That brother of hers is a liability,” Joe grumbled.
“Agreed.” David looked through the Starbucks window, checking where Emma was in the queue. “Just do me a favour and try and get him out of the house, today if possible. I don’t want Emma getting home and finding…”
“Her coked up brother being kneecapped?”
“Something like that.”
She was at the counter now. “She’s okay. Playing it down, I think.”
“Well, as madcap as this Cornwall scheme is, I’ll be happy to know she’s safe. Unless your road rage finally gets the better of you.”
“I’m a pussy cat unless the traffic backs up.”
“You’re driving to Cornwall on a bank holiday weekend. I’d better warn the transport police to watch out for red mist.”
“Ha bloody ha. Emma’s here now. Keep me posted?”
“Americano?” She handed him a cup. “All the things to choose from and you go for this.”
He eyed her closed cup. Mocha or some such concoction, no doubt.
“All the joy of good coffee and you get that stuff.”
They began walking back to the car.
“Was that Joe on the phone?”
“Yes. He’ll check in on Gerard this morning. He says ‘hi’ by the way.”
His stomach knotted. He recognised that expression, the familiar mix of love and pain.
“Beautiful as ever,” he said. “Smart, too.”
“Runs in the family.”
“I meant her mum.”
They were at the car now, leaning against the body as they sipped at their drinks.
“Do you ever wonder where we’d be if James…”
“Every bloody day, Em.”
He couldn’t do this. This wasn’t prolonging the agony. This was creating more torment for them both.
“I think we should drive back.” He kept his eyes forward, staring at nothing and everything to avoid meeting her gaze.
He didn’t answer. He was thinking about her question. Do you ever wonder where we’d be…?
Two years ago Emma had been mugged and pushed down a flight of stairs at the multi-storey car park of their local shopping centre. Eight months pregnant, she had been rushed to hospital but their baby – James – had died.
Placental abruption. One in a thousand cases. Hypovolemic shock. Excessive blood loss. He remembered all the terms, all the different ways of saying “Your son is dead. Your wife is dying.” He had never – would never – forgive himself for what she had been through. He let a meeting run over by fifteen minutes and for what? So he could destroy their lives.
“We should push on,” she said, checking her watch. “Joe’s the best person to take care of this, you were right about that.”
“I’m sorry,” he said quietly but she was already moving to the passenger side and didn’t hear.
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