Clay Dillon is everyone's hero--especially to his family. So when his kid sister needs a kidney, he tracks down Jenna Wright. Jenna's the only one who can help, but to gain her trust he has to lie.
Jenna believes Clay can be everything to her until she finds out who he really is--the son of the woman who ruined her life. In that instant Jenna's dreams for a future with Clay dissolve.
Jenna is in so deep, she actually considers doing what Clay asks. But how can she help his family at the expense of her own?
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July 10, 2007
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Excerpt from The Other Woman's Son by Darlene Gardner
Twenty-two years later
CLAY DILLON COVERED his sister Darcy's much smaller hand with his, hoping the dread flowing through his veins like icy river water hadn't chilled his skin.
She glanced at him with wide blue eyes, and he tried to convey with his expression that they'd get through this crisis no matter what the news.
Their mother Margo sat rigidly on the opposite side of Darcy, her pink lipstick standing out starkly on a face that had gone pale despite her expertly applied makeup.
If the patient consultation room hadn't been rather richly redecorated and the slim, somber man behind the gleaming mahogany desk hadn't lost three-quarters of his hair, time would seem as if it had rewound.
Dr. Phillip McIntyre tapped his chin, a habitual gesture Clay recognized from the last time the family had dealt with him. It meant the doctor was having difficulty putting his thoughts into exactly the right words.
"I'm sorry to have to inform you of this, but the biopsy confirmed our suspicions." His somber voice contrasted vividly with the Memphis sun streaming through the blinds. "The kidney is indeed failing."
Clay's stomach plunged like a skydiver realizing that his parachute wouldn't open. The diagnosis, though, came as no surprise. The creatinine levels in Darcy's blood had been rising, an early indication her kidney wasn't filtering out waste products the way it was supposed to.
The doctor's compassionate gaze zeroed in on Darcy, who'd inherited their mother's heart-shaped face and blond good looks. Except now Clay let himself notice that her complexion appeared sallow and her skin puffy. Clay tightened his hand on hers. Blood seemed to rush to his head, clogging his ears, making it seem like Dr. McIntrye's voice came from a distance.
"Darcy, we need to put you back on the transplant list." A voice in Clay's mind screamed at the injustice, but he schooled his features and said nothing. Neither did Darcy, whose right hand sheltered the spot where the doctor had extracted a sample of tissue from her kidney to be biopsied.
"But she was doing so well." The anguished protest erupted from their mother. "And you said the kidney could last for decades."
Dr. McIntyre pushed the glasses up his nose and tapped his chin some more. The sunlight shone on him through the skinny slats of the blinds, casting his face in both light and shadow. "I said that although there have been cases of cadaver kidneys lasting for decades, those instances were isolated. We hoped the kidney Darcy received would last longer than five years, but that isn't a terrible result for a cadaver organ."
Had it really been five years?
The ordeal actually began even longer ago than that. Darcy had been only ten or eleven when the family's new pediatrician discovered that a previously undiagnosed strep infection had damaged Darcy's kidneys. Still, it had come as a shock to learn that Darcy had end-stage organ failure at age sixteen.
The shock precipitated a nightmare that Clay remembered as vividly as if it had happened yesterday.
Four-hour dialysis sessions three times a week that purified his sister's blood but drained her of energy. The dawning realization that she needed a transplant. The agonizing wait for a cadaver organ. Then the anxiety-filled predawn trip to the transplant center when a matching kidney finally became available.
The transplant had been successful, and the nightmare ended. Until today, when it started again.
"You'll have to go back on dialysis until a donor organ becomes available. The sooner, the better," Dr. McIntyre told Darcy. "Let's see. Monday's Memorial Day. So I'd suggest you start the treatments Tuesday."
Today was Friday. A muscle in Darcy's jaw tensed, but other than that she exhibited no outward sign of the disappointment that must be raging inside her. Her silence worried Clay more than an outburst would have done. Even at her sickest, Darcy was the most unremittingly cheerful person Clay knew.
"How long do you think it will be before my daughter can have another transplant?" Their mother's voice shook, and Clay wished he'd sat between the two females so he could hold both of their hands.
The doctor gazed at the open file on his desk and shuffled papers before raising his eyes and peering over the top of his rimless glasses. "I can't seem to find the information here, so refresh my memory on how long the wait was last time." "Nine months," their mother answered immediately. Nine interminable months, Clay thought.
Darcy had barely recovered from one dialysis session when it came time for another. She'd fallen hopelessly behind in her classes, eventually being forced to repeat her junior year of high school.