“WHAT DID you say?” Adalia adjusted her son, her gorgeous little Isaac, on her breast and stared at Dr. Matheson as if he’d grown an extra head.
Trent’s hand gripped her shoulder, fingernails digging into the flesh. She glanced up at him but he didn’t meet her gaze… he was slack-jawed, cheeks pale.
Dr. Matheson heaved a sigh and Adalia shifted her focus back to him, holding Isaac close, appreciating the smell of his tan skin and the gentle suckling noises he made as he fed.
“I’m afraid that your son is ill.” Matheson cleared his throat. “Please, Mr. Dawson, take a seat.”
Trent seemed resistant to the idea – his grip on her shoulder trembled for a few seconds – but he sank to the chair beside her bed, slipping his hand down to rest on her forearm.
“He’s ill…” Adalia repeated, stroking a finger over Isaac’s forehead. “He can’t be ill. He’s perfect.”
“This is going to be difficult for you to hear, Mrs. Dawson. Perhaps one of the nurses can take Isaac for a rest while we discuss it.”
A nurse bustled through the doors at the end of the ward on cue, smiling with a pity smile. Trent went rigid beside her bed and shuddered again. “You will not touch my son,” he growled at her.
“Trent,” Adalia whispered. “Relax. Let’s hear what the doctor has to say.” She had to remain calm for her son’s sake. She wouldn’t risk upsetting him, even though her insides were knotted with anxiety.
Dr. Matheson worked his jaw, trying to articulate but failing. The nurse stayed by the door, gaze darkening thanks to Trent’s snappy comment. She folded her arms and looked to Matheson for guidance, as if he could override the father’s wishes. Stupid bitch.
“Spit it out,” Trent said.
Matheson jerked and readjusted his white coat. “Isaac has an abnormally high white blood cell count. Conversely, his red blood cell count is low. We need to perform a biopsy to ascertain exactly what these results mean.”
“What are the possibilities?” Adalia asked, arms pulling her son closer still. He suckled and smacked his lips, then popped off her breast, falling fast asleep. She covered her chest absentmindedly.
“Cancer. Leukemia specifically.” Matheson showed them his palms at the exact moment Trent leapt to his feet. “But we need to do the tests first.”
“What else could it be? What else?”
“An autoimmune deficiency, but that’s highly unlikely. He doesn’t have any rashes and hasn’t had seizures.” Matheson flipped the file open to study the paperwork again, but it was obviously his method of avoiding their shocked gazes.
Panic gathered in the center of Adalia’s chest, a leaden ball which threatened to drop through her and drag tears down her cheeks. She welled up and used one hand to dab beneath her eyes. She didn’t want to cry with Matheson and the nurse in the room.
“So you’re telling us it can only be leukemia.”
“It’s the most likely outcome,” Matheson conceded. “I’m sure you understand this is a serious prognosis and should it be confirmed, we’ll have to deal with it accordingly.”
“What are our options?” Adalia asked, swallowing to stop the tears. She swallowed and swallowed but the lump in her throat wouldn’t go away. She looked at Trent. His face was lined with anger, his go-to reaction when he couldn’t deal.
“I’d much rather discuss that after we have confirmed the prognosis.”
“You’ll tell us now,” Trent commanded. “You will tell us right now, Dr. Matheson, otherwise you will kindly explain why you brought this up prior to ascertaining whether Isaac has leukemia or not.”
“Calm down,” Adalia murmured. Tears spilled from her eyes. “Just calm down.”
Matheson stared at them, opening and closing his mouth again. “Should he have leukemia, there are several treatment options, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. The standard treatment has a success rate of 70-90%, but the side effects can be severe. There’s also a new therapy which could successfully cure Isaac.”
“What is it?” Adalia asked immediately, trying but failing to rid herself of the tears. “We’ll do anything.”
“We managed to preserve some of Isaac’s stem cells, found in the umbilical cord. Simply put, the new treatment involves an injection of these stem cells into Isaac’s bone marrow.”
“Then let’s do that. We’ll do that,” Trent said, settling back as if the matter was dealt with. Her husband was all bravado and self-belief, but the fear coursed behind his façade. If it wasn’t anger protecting him, it was the business-like confidence.
Little Isaac mewled once and went back to sleep, sucking on thin air with his curved lips parted. Her precious baby. She couldn’t let anything happen to him. She would rather die. She would trade her life for his in a heartbeat.
“It’s an exceptionally expensive treatment on the frontier of cancer research, Mr. Dawson.” Matheson delivered the blow in a lowered voice, a croaking whisper which the sullen nurse wouldn’t be able to overhear.
“And so? I’m a billionaire. I think we’ll be okay.” Trent tried to reassure the others but his shoulders had dropped. Space Inc. had taken a hit because of the shuttle explosion, hopefully not too big of a hit. Trent had invested more than just his time in getting that craft into the air.
“Do I have your permission to proceed with the test?”
“Will it be painful for him?” Adalia clutched the baby to her chest again, shifting him so that he was vertical with his head resting below her collar bone.
“There will be a certain level of pain involved.”
The nurse stepped forward from her spot beside the door and Adalia gripped Isaac tighter. She gave the woman a warning look, gritting her teeth.
“Please, Mrs. Dawson, this is the only way to know for sure.” Matheson gave her a warm smile, encouraging, but it didn’t make a damn difference to her. She didn’t want to give her baby up to anyone, least of all the nurse with the eager stare.
“Adalia,” Trent said, rising beside her. “Give Isaac to me.” He took the baby from her carefully, holding him like precious cargo, and walked over to the nurse.
The nurse took Isaac and he woke in her arms. He kicked his little legs, waved his fists in the air, struggling to be free of his receiving blanket. Isaac cried, two sharp wails which turned into a full-blown bawl.
“Give him back,” Adalia said, the tears coming again, racking her body. She sobbed, watching helplessly as the nurse took her screaming son and walked out of the room. “I need him close to me. Bring back my baby!”
Trent rushed to her side and wrapped his arms around, resting his head on her shoulder. “It’s okay, honey, it’s going to be okay. We’ll make him better.”
“I’ll leave you two alone,” Dr. Matheson said. “I’m so sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Dawson.” He tipped his head and walked for the door with short steps.
Trent rocked Adalia backwards and forwards, soothing her with subtle coos and words. “We have the money to make this happen. Isaac is going to be okay.”
How could he possibly know that?
Adalia couldn’t speak. She couldn’t think. All she could process was Isaac’s distant cries which rang in her ears, driving her deeper and deeper into despair.