When twenty-six-year-old Joey Beirs is summoned to the emergency room one evening, the last thing he expects to find is that his twin brother and Jeremy's wife have both been killed in a car accident, leaving him an unexpected daddy to his newborn niece, Abby. Closing in on the end of his leave from work, Joey has to find suitable childcare for Abby. After yet another interview turns south, Joey is accosted by homophobic bigots and saved by Geoff Allread.
Geoff is in his forties, an out-of-work carpenter whose unemployment is running out, soon to be faced with working in fast food or retail to keep food on the table in the recession. He's also late to come out of the closet, a wounded man who has lost everything by admitting what he is... including his daughter from his ill-fated marriage. Geoff is good with kids and adores Abby. It's a match made in heaven. At forty-three, Geoff needs a job that doesn't mean asking if someone wants fries, and Joey needs someone who's good with Abby.
But can both of them overcome their hurts and accept that the age difference doesn't matter as much as finding what they've both lost... a stable family?
CONTENT ADVISORY: This is a re-release title.
Joey Biers sprinted through the ER doors and to the desk. "Jeremy and Alison Biers," he panted out.
"If you'll have a seat, Mister--"
"They said it was an emergency."
She shot him a look that said Joey was an idiot.
"I know everything here is technically an emergency, but--"
"If you'll just take a seat, sir," she suggested. "I'll see what I can find out for you."
The urge to pound his fist into the desk was overridden by the fact that he wouldn't learn anything about his brother and sister-in-law while sitting in a jail cell. Joey swallowed his pride and murmured his acceptance. That settled--for the moment--he ambled to the closest empty seat and all but collapsed into it.
The mad dash across town, coupled with a long day at the office, had taken its toll on him. Joey waited long enough to see the secretary at the desk dialing the phone before he closed his eyes and laid his head back on the cement block wall.
Sounds became muted, and he drifted in a semiconscious state. Rushing feet and announcements faded into the background. If it weren't for the acrid smells of sickness and antiseptics, he would surely have fallen asleep almost immediately.
As it was, it seemed he sat there for an inordinately long time. He was on the verge of going back to the desk to ask for an update, when a soft, female voice spoke from very close to him.
Joey levered his eyelids up and took stock of her. The doctor wasn't much older than his own twenty-six years, he'd wager, a petite brunette that would have been just his twin's type a few years ago.
Before he met Alison. "Yes. I'm Joey Biers."
"If you'd come with me, please." She turned without waiting for an answer and led the way through the double doors into the treatment area.
Joey tried hard not to peek into any of the alcoves. She would stop at whichever one was important to him, and the misery of others was none of his business.
It wasn't until they stopped at the elevator that he started to question where they were going. "They've been admitted?" Why hadn't anyone told him that? How bad were their injuries?
Bad. They said it was an emergency and I shouldn't waste time.
The doctor surged through the parting elevator doors and punched a button, forcing Joey to follow her. The doors closed them in.
"Doctor, I don't mean to be rude, but I want some answers."
She didn't look at him. "I know you do. You'll have to forgive me for being at a loss. One of the plus sides to going into obstetrics is not having to give bad news often. I'm... a little out of practice."
Obstetrics. Alison was a month from her due date. "Did they lose the baby? Or did something happen to Alison?" It was out before he had a chance to brace himself for what might be said.
No matter which member of his family Jeremy had lost, his brother would be crushed. If he's lost them both, I don't think he'll survive it.
The doctor looked up at him, her brown eyes tired and soulful. "There was an accident."
"Yes. The police said that." A drunken driver had run his brother's car into a ditch. Both Jeremy and Alison had been severely injured. What a lousy thing to tell someone over the phone. Just that and nothing more.
"Your brother managed to get his wife out."
"Alison." For some reason, it was important that the doctor use her name. Joey couldn't say what difference it made, but it made one.
"Alison. Yes..." She fidgeted and looked away for a moment. When she looked back, she'd steeled her expression.
The elevator doors opened, but neither of them moved. The doctor pressed the button to keep them where they were.
"Your brother didn't make it out of the wreckage alive. He got tangled in the seatbelt and...there was water in the ditch."
He drowned. The mental image sent shivers down Joey's spine. He nodded dumbly. Alison was going to be distraught. It was definitely the wrong time for that.
The doctor exited the elevator, and Joey followed her. For a moment, they walked in silence.
"How is Alison?"
She didn't answer immediately.
Finally, the doctor stopped and turned to look at him again. "Her injuries were too severe. I'm sorry. We tried everything."
His head in a flat spin, Joey tried to control his anger. "Why did you bring me up here if there's nothing left?" he snapped.
Her flitting hand movement drew Joey's eyes toward the huge plate glass window. Two rows of clear plastic bassinettes sat in the center of the room, all but a few of them occupied with tiny newborns.
Before he could question if one of them was his niece or nephew, the doctor pressed a buzzer and stated his last name.
Our last name. My gods, there's a baby in there who has no one else now. He or she depends on me.