“I’ll be right back,” she calls, waving him off.

“Okay, babe. Just hurry, please,” he says with desperation. “You okay, pretty girl?” he asks me. I shrug my shoulders noncommittally. “Hang in there,” he adds before disappearing back into the waiting room.

I stay at Jaxon’s door, staring into his room. Willing him to wake up. This group needs him. I just don’t know how they would make it if they lost him. When Quinn reaches me, I hear her slight intake of breath.

“He looks perfectly fine, like he’s just napping,” I tell her. The nurse squeezes past us and I try to stop her before she leaves. “Excuse me, when can they see him? We’ve been here for hours, and I’m sure you can imagine how painful this is for his family not being able to be by his side.”

She shucks off her gloves and cleans her hands with the sanitizer that’s mounted outside of his door. “Well...technically I’m supposed to check a few more things, but I guess I can do that with them in here. I’m sure they’re hurting.”

“Thank you, we really appreciate it,” I say with a smile.

“Thanks.” Quinn squeezes my arm. “He’ll realize what he just did. He needs you here.” She points with her thumb back toward the room. I shake my head back and forth, not wanting to talk about the way Jace just delivered my shattered heart back to me on a silver platter.

“When do you plan on telling Cole he’s going to be a daddy?” I ask, rubbing her stomach.

She sighs and replaces my hand with hers when I move away. “I was going to do it tonight after we went to bed, but I can’t do it now. Hopefully this guy,” she points at Jaxon, “plans on waking up soon so I can tell everyone.”

“Understandable. Just know that I’m happy for you. You guys are going to be wonderful parents.”

“Don’t talk like that, Audrey. You’re speaking as if we aren’t going to see each other again. You aren’t going anywhere. You two aren’t done,” she states adamantly, grabbing a hold of my hand.

I don’t know what is going to happen anymore. A few hours ago, I was so sure of everything. Now the wind has been taken out my sails and my feet have been knocked out from under me. I can understand worrying and being in pain, but this was a side of Jace I’ve never seen before. And I hate that at the first sign of distress, he shoved me away. I squeeze Quinn’s hand with a sad smirk and walk away without a word. There is nothing left to be said. Now all I can do is hope Jaxon makes it through this.

I race to the emergency room waiting area to try and beat the tears that are threatening to come. I just need to find Lane so I can go home. When I hit the double doors, I stumble out in my haste. Moving farther away from Jace is physically excruciating. I know he’s in pain. All I want to do is hold his hand and that’s the last thing he wants from me. I can hardly breathe by the time I see Lane, who is sitting in a chair facing the doors. When he finally spots me, he charges toward me and catches me before I can crash to my knees.

“No, yes. No. He’s alive. I just need to get out of here,” I blurt out.

“I need you to tell me what’s wrong first, love.”

His voice flattens and in a deadly calm tone he asks, “Why do you say that?”

“I just want to go home, Lane.”

He wraps his arm around my shoulders and half leads, half carries me out of the ER. As we exit the sliding doors, I hear him mumble under his breath, “I’m going to kill that asshole...”

When Quinn leaves the room shortly after Audrey, no one speaks to me. I don’t blame them. But right now I could give a f**k because all I can think about right now is my brother. In the corner of my eye, I see Cole get up to comfort Em and ask if she needs anything. Em isn’t talking to any of us though, not unless it’s about Jax.

I begin to pace the room. We’re all getting antsy waiting in this stupid, depressing, cream-colored room. How can they ask people to sit in here for so long? It really is a prison, except they know you won’t leave so bars aren’t necessary. The door finally opens and all three of us immediately look to see who’s coming in. When it’s only Quinn, Em and I let out a deflated breath.

Cole rushes over to her and she squeezes him tightly, kisses his cheek, and then pushes off of him.

“Audrey convinced the nurse to let us in to see him,” she murmurs, while making her way back to the door.

“Oh, thank God. I knew I loved that girl.” Em quickly rushes out into the hallway.

“Is she still out there?” I ask. At this point, I don’t know if I’m asking because I don’t want to see her or because I hope she didn’t really leave.

Quinn rolls her eyes and pushes by me. “Don’t worry, she followed your orders.” Ouch. I shadow behind and with every step, my heart beats louder in my chest. What will he look like? I’ve never seen someone in a coma before. Will he look like he’s hurt or sick? I’m not sure I can stomach the idea of seeing my brother like this.

Anytime he’s sick, I’m always right there next to him, feeling all of the same symptoms. This whole night I’ve been waiting for our freaky twin vibe to kick in. Give me a headache or any kind of pain. Give me something that lets me feel connected to him. I feel nothing. Absolutely nothing. I feel like I’ve lost him. I can’t believe I ever complained about being a twin. I never wanted this.

Two doors away from the waiting room, we walk into Jaxon’s large, noisy room. There are machines beeping and people talking. They all sound far away, as if I am standing at one end of a tunnel and my brother is lying unconscious at the other end. Em holds his hand and drapes herself across him with her head on his chest. He would like that. He would want her next to him as much as possible. Cole snags a chair, pulls Quinn onto his lap, and they both stare at him. I’m pretty sure we’re all staring at him and thinking the same thing. Wake up. Please man, just wake up. I’ll give up everything I have, if you’ll just wake up.

My mom eventually comes barreling in the room, dragging her suitcase and bags. Shit, I should have gone and gotten her. She didn’t need to lug all of her stuff around. But I don’t even know where my car is at the moment. It probably got towed from the hospital entrance. And Jaxon’s truck...is still at the stadium, where he left it. Fuck, I hate this shit.

“Oh, my poor baby,” mom cries from the doorway.

She rushes to Jaxon’s bedside, across from where Em is sitting, and hugs him while patting Em on the back. Mom’s little body can barely reach around his larger one, but she manages to squeeze as much of herself around him as possible. Not exactly easy since Em still hasn’t moved her head from Jaxon’s chest. I keep hearing her speak to him quietly, but I haven’t been able to decipher what she’s saying.

This can’t be good for her though. Em’s reason for not letting anyone get close to her in the first place was due to the fact that she was afraid of them either cheating or dying. Just another reason Jaxon has to make it through this. He would be leaving behind too many unsalvageable pieces.

“Cole, bless your heart. Thank you for calling me, darling boy,” Mom weeps and pulls him in for a smothering hug. Shortly after we got in here, Quinn passed out on his lap again. Cole tries to hold on to his girlfriend and hug my mom at the same time. Mom just pats her on the head and whispers a few more sentiments to him.

She makes her way back to the hospital bed and wraps herself around Em. “Oh, you poor soul. I’m so sorry this is happening to you.” She runs her fingers through Em’s golden hair and kisses her on the cheek. These two have gotten incredibly close this past year. I often hear Em on the phone with her, and anytime I’m talking to mom, she always asks about my dating life and then how Em is doing.

Without raising her head, I hear Em’s upbeat voice pronounce, “It’s fine. He’s going to be fine. He wouldn’t just leave like this. He just needs time. He’s fine.” There’s something off about her tone. Something too cheery. It’s almost as if she’s trying to convince herself more than us.

Mom whispers in her ear and then turns and finally faces me. She opens her arms and says, “Come here, Jace. You aren’t handling this well, are you?” I don’t say anything because I can’t cry in front of everyone. I just move into her arms and lift her up in a hug. “He’ll be okay, love,” she whispers in my ear.

The next three days float by like this, all of us just sitting around staring at Jaxon’s eyelids. Coach comes by a couple of times each day to check on his progress. Players from his team filter in and out. Quinn and Cole decide to continue attending classes, so they come by before and after. I haven’t spoken to Em and she hasn’t said anything to me. I know my mom can feel the tension in the room, but thankfully she hasn’t asked about it.

On Wednesday, Max knocks on the door and steps inside. Em doesn’t even lift her head from Jaxon’s chest. When she’s up, she’s unusually cheery and perky. She floats around the room, cleaning and straightening items that don’t need it. I’ve yet to see her look upset and she hasn’t even cried. I’m not sure if that’s healthy. Aren’t girls supposed to cry in times like this? But pushing away the people you love isn’t exactly healthy either. Audrey...fuck, I miss her.

“Hey man, how’s it going?” Max asks, while handing me two to-go bags from a local fast food joint.

“His scans are looking better. The swelling has gone down a bit,” mom elaborates for me.

“Damn, that’s good news,” he breathes out. He looks over at Em and offers a sympathetic look in her direction. “So, where’s Audrey?” he asks me directly.

My mom’s head whips around to look between Max and I. Quickly, she inquires, “Audrey Mills?”

Max’s smile grows wide when he says, “That’s the one. Your son is a lucky bastard.”

I can feel her eyes boring into my skin and then she whips her head back around to look at Em, who hasn’t moved a muscle.

“Audrey hasn’t been with Jaxon in years. He’s with Em now,” she states in a confused tone.

“What? When the hell were Audrey and Jax together?” Max blurts out. “That’s weird.”

I stand up and clasp my hand firmly onto Max’s shoulder and steer him out the door. When we reach the hallway, I say, “Thanks for that, dude. You’ve got a big-ass mouth.”

“Where is she?” he asks, completely ignoring my comment. I shrug my shoulders and glance down at my shoes. “You f**ked it up, didn’t you?” There’s nothing I can say because he’s right. I couldn’t have messed this up any better. But right now I need to be here. My focus is Jaxon, no matter how often my mind drifts over to Audrey.

“I didn’t tell anyone about our relationship. Jax used to date her back in high school and that ended beyond f**ked up. I was going to tell Jax and then time got away from me...”

“Yeah I was, okay? But I was finally going to tell him the night of the beach party.”

“How convenient. I knew there was something weird going on, but I didn’t realize you were keeping her hush-hush,” he says.

I drag my fingers through my hair in frustration and breathe in and out raggedly. “It wasn’t her, it was us. She understood.”

“No, she didn’t understand, but she’s way too nice and trusting to say otherwise. Then you went and did something to mess it all up, didn’t you?” His voice rises in anger but when he realizes his surroundings, he forces himself to calm down. He turns away and begins walking toward the elevator before swiveling around to glare at me again. “You better make this right, or watch someone else do it for you,” he says in a deathly calm voice.

When he hits the button to call the elevator, I race toward him. “Max, what are you about to do?” I can’t stomach the idea of him going to comfort her.

Calmly, he steps inside and looks me square in the eyes. “Maybe exactly what you should be doing.”

The doors begin to close and I shout, “Max, what the hell?! Don’t touch her, don’t you dare touch her!” My fists bang on the metal door and I stop it before it can close on me.

He leans his head out and gets close to my face. “How the hell are you going to get all worked up over a girl you just tossed aside? You’re my friend, I wouldn’t touch her. All I’m saying is, there are others who are ready and waiting to offer her the world.”

“I have to stay here with Jaxon,” I defend in a defeated tone.

He shrugs his shoulders and steps back inside. “Well, you better hope you’re worth the wait. Oh, and by the way, you might want to fill mama in on all of this. She looks mighty confused over there,” he says, nodding his head behind me as the doors finally slide closed.

Slowly, I pivot around to see my mom standing casually outside of Jaxon’s door, waiting for me to finish. She heard it all.

I raise my hands in surrender and rush to defend Audrey from all of the horrible things she must be remembering. “Mom, she’s not who we thought she was. She’s beautiful and amazing. She’s kind and forgiving. Thank God for the forgiving part because boy did Jaxon and I need it.”