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Between Commitment and Betrayal: Chapter 6


EVEN IN THE HOT SAUNA, his body was cold. Lifeless.


Carl was dead.

The alarm from a HEAT watch must have alerted the medical staff because people streamed in but nothing registered.

I know I rattled off instructions as I stood there while people moved around me like a swarm of angry bees, furiously trying to protect their queen. In this case, their queen was my dad.

Carl Milton.

Deceased in the sauna.

Someone said it had to be a heart attack. I said someone should administer CPR, pointed at coworkers, gave directions.

None of it mattered. The buzzing and the talking and the screaming of employees all seemed to fade away to silence.

They laid him down to do chest compressions, but he didn’t gasp for air. His body remained lifeless in his HEAT shorts and sweat-soaked T-shirt.

I fell to my knees and whispered to wake up. This time I called him Dad, this time tears fell for my father, praying he’d come back. I crumbled as my breath came faster and faster, but no oxygen filled my lungs. It was brutal, ugly, and pathetic the way I wanted it to not be real. We weren’t close, but he was family. He’d been my saving grace when my world fell apart months ago.

“What the hell is going on?” The growl from behind me was full of authority, like he owned the place and we were all inconveniencing him. I turned my tear-stained face toward him and found myself face-to-face with Declan. “Everly?” he whispered in confusion.

I saw when he realized. I saw it in the way his face paled as he looked over my shoulder, how his cheeks hollowed. He let out a breath and then barked orders. “Resuscitate him.”

“Sir, he’s gone. It looks like a heart attack. We’ve been trying—”

“Try again,” Declan cut him off.

There wasn’t the pain in his eyes that I felt yet. That would wallop him in another minute. Death knocked like a demon ready to breathe fear, outrage, and shock into our souls first. Then, it stabbed us with that torturous grief.

I sobbed quietly like a wretched child, inconsolable at the loss.

“Get her out of here,” Declan commanded. “She shouldn’t see this. Call his family. He’s going to need their support—and our support—when he wakes up.”

“He’s not waking up.” I shook my head, trying my best to keep my voice steady as I whispered, “Don’t you see he’s not waking up?”

His greenish eyes searched mine as I stared up at him on my knees. His voice cracked as he said, “We have to try.”

And try he did. Over and over again. I watched as the despair took over his face, like he couldn’t handle this. Because death can’t be handled.

He stood stock-still as the medical staff pronounced my father’s death. Yet, his jaw worked, his hands fisted. I saw him trying to bundle up his emotions while he told everyone to get out.

When you were a part of HEAT, you were family, part of the team. It was in the pamphlet they gave everyone when they joined. Declan believed it here with my father. Him and my dad were father and son in every way that counted, and he’d lost him.

I’d cry, I’d mourn the loss of what could have been with my father, but Declan’s grief would be catastrophic. Even if he didn’t want to admit it.

As I walked out of the sauna to allow for the medical staff to do their job, I knew my life was about to change. The only tie I had to this place was my father. And now he was gone.

I’d be gone soon too.

Or so I thought.


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