Forever and a Day(9)

By: Jill Shalvis

Hoping the Bean was still up and using actual words tonight, Josh walked in the front door and stopped in his tracks.

Devon Weller, Anna’s latest and hopefully soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend, was sitting on the half wall between the dining room and living room, eyeballing his cell phone.

Anna came into sight, arms whipping as she sped her wheelchair around the corner on two wheels. Hard to believe someone so tiny could move so fast, but Josh knew better than to underestimate his twenty-one-year-old sister.

She’d created a figure-eight racecourse between the two couches and the dining room table and was getting some serious speed. In her lap, squealing with sheer joy and possibly also terror, was Josh’s mini-me—not asleep, nowhere close. With his eyes lit with excitement, cheeks ruddy from exertion, Toby was smiling from ear to ear.

Tank was right on their heels—or wheels in this case—barking with wild abandoned delight, following as fast as his short little legs would take him.

For a brief second, Josh stood there rooted to the spot by a deep, undefined ache in his chest, which vanished in an instant as Anna took a corner far too tight, wobbled, and tipped over, sending her and Toby flying.

“Damn,” Devon said, and clicked something on his phone with his thumb.

The idiot had been timing the event.

Josh rushed past him to the crumpled heap of limbs. “Don’t move,” he ordered Anna, pulling Toby off her. He turned Toby in his arms and took in the face that was so like his own, except free of the exhaustion and cynicism that dogged Josh’s every breath.

Toby grinned and threw his arms around Josh’s neck in greeting. The kid’s moods were pure and mercurial, but he loved with a fierceness that always grabbed Josh by the throat. He hugged Toby back hard, and Toby barked.

Letting out a breath, Josh set him aside to lean over Anna, who hadn’t moved. He didn’t fool himself; he had no delusions of being able to control his sister. She hadn’t stayed still simply because he’d ordered her to. “Anna.” Gently he pushed the damp hair from her sweaty brow. “Talk to me.”

She opened her eyes and laughed outright. “That was sweet,” she said.

Toby tipped his head back and barked at the ceiling, his voice filled with glee.

Josh sat back on his heels and scrubbed a hand over his face. “Toby should be in bed, Anna. And you could have hurt yourself.”

She started to crawl to her chair. “Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt.”

Josh scooped her up while Devon sauntered over. Though how he could walk at all with his homeboy jeans at half past his ass was a mystery. Devon righted Anna’s wheelchair, and Josh set her into it.

“Oh, relax,” she muttered after Josh stood over her, hands on hips. She tugged on Toby’s ear. “Hey, handsome. Go get ready for bed, ’k?”

“Arf-arf,” Toby said, and turned to the hallway.

Josh caught him by the back of his Star Wars sweatshirt. “You use soap and water today?”

Toby scrunched up his nose and scratched his head.

Josh took that as a no. “Use both now. And toothpaste.”

“Arf,” Toby said slowly, all hurt puppy face.

But Josh had learned—never cave. “Go on. I’ll be right there.”

Toby went from sad to excited in a single heartbeat, because if Josh was coming, too, it meant a story. And for a moment, Toby looked young, so fucking painfully young, that Josh’s chest hurt again.

Getting home in time to fall into bed exhausted was one thing. Getting home in time to crawl into bed with his son and spend a few minutes before they both crashed was even better. “Pick out a book,” he said.


Josh gave Devon a look, and the guy made himself scarce. Devon might be a complete loser but he was a smart loser.

Anna ignored Josh and pushed back her dark hair. She was tiny, always had been, but not frail. Never frail. She had the haunting beauty of Snow White.

And the temperament of Cruella de Vil.

Five years ago, a car accident had left her a highly functioning paraplegic. She was damn lucky to be alive, though it’d been hard to convince a sixteen-year-old to see it that way. “If you can’t get him to bed on time,” Josh began, “just tell me. I’ll come home and do it myself.”

“Oh good,” Anna said with an impressive eye roll. “You still have the stick up your ass.” She headed into the foyer, grabbing her purse off the bench.

“You’re still mad about me nixing your Europe trip,” he guessed.

“Give the man an A-plus.” She snatched her jacket off the low hooks against the foyer wall. “Always knew you were smart. Everyone says so. They say, ‘Oh, that Dr. Scott’s so brilliant, so sharp.’” She turned away. “Shame it doesn’t run in the family.”

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