Come Back to Me (Waters of Time #1) - Jody Hedlund Page 0,1

across her desk. The soft whir of the laboratory equipment behind her was the lone sound in the office, and their fluorescent glow the only light—other than her desk lamp, which spotlighted the results of her recent failed experiment.

Harrison had no cause to worry about her getting sick. She’d won the lottery and inherited the good genes in the family.

Ahead, the screen saver on her laptop displayed a gorgeous blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman with a whitened, orthodontist smile—a picture of perfection. But pictures were deceptive. They never told the true story. They couldn’t reveal that underneath the beautiful exterior, Ellen was on the fast track toward death, that tumors were growing somewhere in her body again. If she didn’t die of inoperable cysts in the brain like their mom, she’d likely die from cysts elsewhere in her body.

At twenty-six, Ellen was two years younger than Marian but had already suffered more than most people did in a lifetime. It wasn’t a matter of if Ellen would end up hospitalized again. It was merely a matter of when.

“It’s not fair, God.” Marian whispered the same prayer she had a thousand times since the fateful day when the blood test revealed that Ellen had inherited the anomaly from their mom and Marian hadn’t. “Ellen doesn’t deserve it.”

If either of them had to get stuck with VHL, Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome, Marian should have been the one with the mutated gene. Ellen had so much more to give the world—more love, compassion, kindness, laughter, and beauty. What did Marian have to offer, other than her frantic race to find a cure for VHL?

“Oh Ellen.” Frustration clamored inside, looking helplessly for a release.

The scrolling laptop screen saver shifted to a different picture, this one of the two of them together from last month when Marian had flown to Haiti to visit Ellen, who was currently volunteering in an orphanage and using her pediatric nursing skills to make a difference there.

Even in the humidity and blazing heat, Ellen was as striking as a model. Yes, she was a tad thin. But with her long legs and ample curves, combined with her outgoing and sweet personality, she was irresistible. The orphans adored her. The local workers thought she was a goddess. And any man who came within a mile radius fell in love with her.

Marian snorted aloud at the differences in their appearances. Sure, their oval-shaped faces contained similarities—narrow chins and prominent cheekbones. And they both had long lashes framing upturned eyes.

But compared to Ellen’s tanned face, Marian’s complexion was pale, making her brown eyes too dark and brooding. Ellen had pulled her hair back into a messy bun, managing to look stylish and casual at the same time. Although Marian had used plenty of straightening products and her hot iron in an attempt to tame her long auburn waves, her messy bun looked just that—messy.

Marian picked her phone back up. She had to reserve a flight. One tonight, if possible.

The phone screen lit up with a recent text from Ellen still awaiting her response. Nothing serious, just Ellen being her usual sweet self and checking in to say hi. Marian’s fingers hovered above the message, but then she swiped it away. She had to wait to reply. If she ended up having a conversation with her sister, she’d probably spill the news about Dad.

She’d never believed in her wildest dreams Ellen would outlive their dad. And she’d certainly never imagined she’d have to bear bad news to her sister about Dad. It was always the other way around—calling Dad to let him know of a new development with Ellen.

Last year Ellen had laser surgery to eliminate three tumors from the outer regions of her retina. The year before, she had one of her adrenal glands removed. Even now, her doctors were paying special attention to the tumors on her kidney, which would need to be taken out eventually.

Harrison was right. They couldn’t say anything to Ellen. Not until they knew more. Otherwise her sister would jump on the first plane out of Port Au Prince to be by Dad’s side. But the travel, the sleeplessness, the stress—it would take a toll on Ellen, weaken her immune system, cause high blood pressure, lead to more weight loss, and increase the rate and size of tumor growth.

The outer office door swung open, and the motion sensor lights came to life, revealing Jasper’s brown hair and athletic frame. In his Under Armour shorts and University of Illinois at Chicago sweatshirt,