orky glanced again at today’s email from Mary, still open on her computer screen.

…heard from Child Protective Services…accusations of…you know I would never…going to take my foster children away, Corky, if you don’t do something… Please help!

Through a blur of rising tears, Corky stared at the computer keyboard, the response she needed to type waiting among those keys… Do you have proof of the false allegation, Mary? No? Then I can’t do anything.

So they were back to that. Mired there. Cemented.

If additional evidence comes to light at a later time, you may refile. Otherwise this case is dismissed…

Corky dropped her gaze to her lap, looking down at her hands laying limp on top of her thighs. Such soft, helpless hands…

“Argh!” She was so sick of feeling stuck! Shoving up from her desk chair, she clomped from her home office and headed for the stairs.

When she arrived at the top, she saw Vasile making his way up.

He stopped and looked up at her. “<Is all well with you?>” he asked her in Romanian. ”<I keep hearing you call out.>“

"<Everything's fine.> " She continued at a hurried pace down the stairs.

He didn’t move out of the way.

She pulled up.

“<You don't look fine>"  he said. “<You look upset>”

She fought to keep her chin from quivering. “<All right. Yes. I am upset.>"

”<Then why do you leave?>"

"<I want to go see Hadley>"

"<Why?>" he asked.

"<Why?>" She planted her hands on her hips. “<Have you a pickle fork stowed over there and let me tell it!>"

He squinted at her.

Shit. She gritted her teeth and slowed the Romanian in her head. “<Because I need to talk to her, that's why.>” She tried to edge around him.

He still didn’t let her pass.

“<Do you mind>" she snapped.

“<I would have you talk to me about your upset feelings.>"

“<Oh, yeah?>" She crossed her arms under her breasts. “<Since when?>”

He examined her face for an uneasy moment. “<This is one of those times I think you become upset with me when I ask questions, so I am loath to question you about this, but I’m also not sure how to answer your since-when query.>” He hesitated. “<Is it not evident I want to talk to you now?>”

"<I mean since when do you talk to me, Vasile? You stopped after we bonded.>”

Mottled patches of red appeared on his neck. “<Yes, this is true, and I apologize for doing so. I know…I realize this has made me into your nightmare. But during these two weeks past, I have struggled to know how to be a proper man with you.>"

“<What do you mean by proper?>"

The tautness beside his eyes intensified and spread to other areas of his face. “<I have lived with a certain anxiety that I am too weak of a man for you.>”

“<Is this because of the things I said to you the night we broke up?>”


Corky’s heart twisted. She was a horrible, horrible person for making him doubt himself. “<I’m sorry, Vasile, if I could take back everything I said to you, I would…>


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