The Reckless Secret

By: Alexa Wilder

The evidence must have been pretty clear, but…how? Even if there was a giant neon sign flashing MAGGIE’S THE THIEF, the fact remained she hadn’t stolen the drugs. She just hadn’t. That was all there was to it.

And she’d say that in court, if she had to. With full conviction.

Oh God, please don’t let it go to court, she thought as she walked past a couple of whispering nurses, and then she stopped walking, and she straightened her back, and she turned and looked those gossiping nurses straight in the eye, stared them down until they both glanced away uncomfortably. Because she wasn’t going to act guilty, not when she had nothing to feel guilty about.

“It’s hard, though,” she said to Ashley two days later, sounding to her own ears all downtrodden and pathetic. “Putting up with the stares and the whispers all day.”

Ashley snorted and flipped shut the magazine she’d been perusing. Beside her on the bed, Cami finished detangling the silver chain she’d been fiddling with for the past twenty minutes and held it up to Maggie.

Both Ashley and Cami had shown up within an hour of each other this morning, sacrificing their Saturday to help Maggie get ready for her dreaded cousin’s wedding—Cami swinging by after dropping off her daughter at a birthday party, and Ashley answering an “Oh my God, I don’t know which dress to wear” SOS text from Maggie at stupid o’clock that morning. And, dress chosen, they’d apparently stuck around to listen to her moan, because she hadn’t managed to stop since they’d arrived.

“No one really thinks you’re the thief,” Ashley said, and Cami nodded.

“Yeah, it’s just hot gossip. The first bit of excitement that place has seen in months. Especially since your dad is on the board of trustees for the hospital.”

Maggie gave her a flat stare, midway through attempting to clasp the necklace around her neck. “It’s only a title, really. He never goes to the actual board meetings—he delegated that responsibility to his designated representative or something like that. In favor of golf, most likely. Plus, we deal with people who’ve been in car wrecks and gun fights,” she said—which, while not quite as horror-movie-like as she’d made it sound, was the truth. The three of them were ER nurses, and life in the emergency department was hardly ever boring.

Cami waved a hand. “You know what I mean. We’re not exactly Grey’s Anatomy, are we?”

Ashley quirked an eyebrow at her. “As if you’d even notice.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” asked Cami, her tone arched and indignant.

“You’re too loved up to pay attention to anything these days.”

Cami’s face melted into one of dreamy happiness. “Yeah,” she said with a floaty sigh, staring off into the middle distance.

Ashley and Maggie rolled their eyes good-naturedly at each other. It had been weeks since Cami and Drew confessed their mutual love, and still the honeymoon phase persevered.

Maybe it’s not the honeymoon phase, Maggie thought, turning to look at herself in the mirror. Maybe that’s what people in love look like. Not that she’d ever know—she couldn’t imagine ever trusting a guy enough to let him into her heart the way Cami had invited Drew into hers. She’d seen first-hand how easily an untrustworthy man could destroy the woman who loved him, still remembered those long nights filled with nothing but the sounds of her mother’s quiet but incessant crying. How her eyes never quite regained that spark she’d carried with her for so many years of blissful ignorance, married and raising her children and entirely unaware of her husband’s second life of women and alcohol and debauchery.

They all found out in the end, learned the whole truth during one explosive evening that left them all reeling and scattered like shards of glass, a broken vase tipped carelessly onto the unforgiving ground by the hand of Duke Emerson. He didn’t stay to pick up the pieces—didn’t care enough to. There was an air of relief about him in the moment of truth, happy at last to stop faking this family life.

It was Grant who helped put Maggie and their mother back together, Grant who dealt with the transition of their father moving out, Grant who hugged Maggie and kissed the crown of her head and told her he would always look after her.

He’d been Maggie’s rock ever since.

Which made today even worse. He was supposed to be doing this with her—weathering the nightmare that was a family function. Him letting her down like he had was so out of character that she still wasn’t quite sure what had happened. He hadn’t even given her a reason.

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