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Authors: Kathryn Shay

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BOOK: Risky Business
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Nodding, Ana swallowed
hard. She’d panicked and called Mags. She needed somebody. The fact that she had no one else mocked her.

No, she wouldn’t think about that. She’d concentrate on her daughter. Minutes crawled by like hours. At least Opal was out of pain. She’d been crying hard when the ambulance arrived. The hospital had given her some pain medication, then Opal had fallen asleep. Lost in thought, she didn’t
know how long it was before Magdalena and Logan came through the ER treatment room door. Her sister rushed to her. Again, Ana stood and Magdalena took her into her arms. But Ana didn’t cry. She couldn’t. She was the responsible parent here.

Magdalena said, “Let’s go into the hall and talk, so we don’t disturb Opal.” When they were outside the room, she asked, “Has the doctor seen her yet?”

“Yes. She went up for an X-ray, and the doctor is reading it now.”

Just as she said the words, a woman dressed in blue scrubs came down the corridor. “Hi, again, Ms. Ludzecky.” To Magdalena, “I’m Dr. Allison. I’ve read the X-ray.”

“What’s wrong with Opal?” Ana asked.

“There’s a mass on her kidney. She’s probably had it for a while.”

“Oh, dear God.”

Sliding her arm around
Ana, Magdalena pulled her close. “What kind of mass?”

“We won’t know until the pediatric renal surgeon gets here and he decides how to proceed.” The doctor checked her watch. “We’ve called him and he’s coming in as we speak.”

“How will he get here?” Ana could hear the panic in her own voice. “It’s terrible out.”

“We have vehicles for medical emergencies like this. We dispatched one.
He’ll be here soon.”

When she left, Ana collapsed against the wall. “It’s bad, Mags, if it’s a mass.”

“We don’t know that.”

“It might be cancer.” She grabbed her sister’s hands. “Sofia had cancer. It could be familial.”

“Don’t live the trouble before it happens, Ana. Have hope. I do.”

From beside Mags, Logan said, “Ana, you don’t have to shoulder this alone.”

“I know. Thanks
for coming.”

“You’re welcome.” He glanced at Magdalena. “Though that’s not what I meant. Neither of you is going to like this, but we should call Jared.”

“Do you think so?”

“Yes. He’s Opal’s father. What’s more, he has joint custody.” Which he’d fought like hell for. “He should be here.”

Ana looked to her sister. Magdalena nodded. “Much as I hate to say this, Logan’s right.”

“Okay, you call, though.”

“No,” Logan said. “I will.”

Ana handed Logan her phone. “The number’s in there. Use my cell so he knows to answer.”

While Logan headed out to the waiting area, Ana and Magdalena went back into the room. Opal was still asleep, so they stood by the doorway and whispered. “Tragedy haunts our family. Luke and C.J. have been shot. Pa dying early. Sofia’s diagnosis.
The Pettrone brothers’ deaths. What if this is another catastrophe?”

“You have to hang on, sweetie. You have to blank your mind and hang on. We’ll be right here with you.”

After a few minutes, Logan came back with three cups of coffee. “Jared’s on his way. He said he’ll walk if he has to.”

“He lives in Brooklyn,” Ana said, then realized how stupid her remark was. “How did you two get
here?”

“Adam Armstrong’s driver told me if I ever got stuck or needed anything, he was nearby in town and I should call him. He has a monster of a truck.”

An interminable wait later, Dr. Allison came to the room with a man. He said, “I’m Dr. Janson. I need to examine your daughter and study the results of the X-ray. Ms. Ludzecky you can stay with her. The two of you can wait in the corridor.”

Just then, someone else came inside. Ana glanced over. Jared. Bedraggled and bleak, he rushed to her. “Ana?”

Ana turned. And when she saw her ex-husband, she rushed to him and threw herself into his arms. Only then did she burst into sobs
.

oOo

Magdalena prayed silently to the God of her childhood. Ana had been through so much, she couldn’t fathom how her sister would withstand
this kind of tragedy if it did indeed occur. They left the door open and she could see Ana and Jared holding hands while the doctor examined Opal. There was nothing to do but wait until he made a diagnosis.

“This could be bad,” Magdalena said softly to Logan.

“Take your own advice honey. Wait till we hear more.”

After what seemed like forever, the doctor came into the hall with Ana
and Jared.

He said, “Opal doesn’t have cancer.”

Ana’s legs buckled. Jared grasped on to her to hold her up
.

“I know that’s what you were thinking, but cancer doesn’t announce itself with that kind of pain. There
is
a mass, though.”

“What could it be?” Jared asked. Much as she disliked the man, Magdalena couldn’t steel herself against the hoarse pain in his tone.

“I have an
idea but I’d rather not speculate. I know it’s hard waiting, but I’ve ordered an ultrasound, along with blood tests. You can go up with her for those, too,” he said to Ana and Jared. “Then I’ll read the results and meet you back here.” He nodded to them. “Have patience.”

When Ana and Jared and a sleepy Opal left, Magdalena said, “I don’t get it. Ana’s been vituperative about Jared for over
two years. Now she’s letting him take care of her.”

Taking her hand, Logan said, “Some love never dies, sweetheart.”

She knew his words had a double meaning, was glad for it.

Eventually, the doctor and Ana and her family came back. After a nurse settled Opal inside and sat with her, Dr. Janson said, “I have the results.” He nodded to their daughter, who was falling back to sleep. “Why
don’t we all go out in the waiting area?”

They sat at a table. He placed a pad in front of him. It will be easier if I draw it out. He sketched as he talked. “Opal was born with her ureter on top of the kidney right here, instead of on the bottom, here. This caused a buildup of fluid. That’s what the mass is.”

“What’s the cure?” Ana asked.

“Surgery. We’ll go in and drain the liquid.
Then I’ll move the ureter to the bottom of the kidney so this doesn’t happen again.”

“That’s major surgery.” This from Jared. “What are the risks?”

“Damage to the kidney. We’ll try our best to preserve as much as we can, but it
will
be damaged. The best we can hope for is that it’s ten percent functioning. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but if something were to happen to the other
kidney, she could live without dialysis with
seven
percent of this one.”

Magdalena watched Ana digest the news. She didn’t cry now. She straightened her shoulders and lifted her chin. “When will you do it?”

“Not for three weeks.”

“What?”
Jared’s tone was harsh.

Dr. Janson turned kind eyes on the man. “My schedule is packed, literally, for three weeks. Renal pediatrics is a sparse
field. It’s dangerous to do too many surgeries in one twenty-four-hour period. Though you may not feel this way, Opal’s condition isn’t as bad as the patients I’ll be operating on before I get to her.”

“But she’s in pain.”

“I’m hoping that won’t happen again. Did she do anything unusual yesterday or the day before?”

“We ice-skated at Rockefeller Center. She fell a lot, which is unusual.
She’s a good athlete.”

“That might have precipitated the pain. She’ll have to take it easy. No sports or physical activity. You’ll have to watch her carefully.”

Logan said, “No offense to you, but what about another surgeon?”

“You wouldn’t find one who’s in any different circumstances than I am. But you’re welcome to try.”

“Do you want me to try, Ana?” Logan asked.

She looked
to Jared. He said, “I think we have to believe Dr. Janson. Let’s go with him.”

“Then here’s what we’ll do. Give her pain meds if she has another attack and call us. She’ll also have to come in for some pre-op tests. I’ll order an MRI just to check things out, but it will take a few days to get in for one. Meanwhile, I’m certain of my diagnosis.”

“Can she go to school?”

“Yes, but I’d
prefer someone drive her and pick her up. All cautionary, but you’ll want to avoid those bumpy busses.”

After more instructions, the doctor left. The four adults stared at each other. Finally, Logan said, “In the scheme of what could have happened, this is good news.”

“There’ll be damage to her kidney,” Ana said
.

“We can handle that, Ana.” Jared spoke softly. “Let’s make some arrangements
for her care.”

“We’ll leave you two alone for that.”

Now Jared straightened himself up to full height. Magdalena had forgotten how tall and imposing he could be. “I’d rather you stay. Ana isn’t going to like my proposal.”

Her sister stepped back from him.

“I think Opal should come and stay with me.” He held up his hand. “Before you object, remember I’m on sabbatical. I’m writing
a book, and I work from home. I can take her to school and pick her up. She’ll have pre-op appointments. I can be there for her 24/7.”

“Absolutely not.” Ana’s face turned hard. “I won’t leave my child during a time like this.”

“And neither will I.” He glared at his ex-wife. “Then the only answer is for me to move back into our house.”

 

oOo

Logan and Magdalena got
back to his place around noon that day and immediately started a fire. Opal had to stay the rest of the night in the hospital, so they visited with her, and when it was time to take her home, they left it to Jared and Ana.

“Sleep?” Logan asked her.

“What about work?”

“That can wait. The storm’s not as bad, but traffic’s snarled and the plows are still out. Just in case, I called the
office while you were with your niece and left a message that we won’t be in.”

“Then, sleep.” They disrobed and got into bed. Magdalena sidled into Logan, flesh against flesh, as if she’d been doing it for years
.

After a while, he stirred. “You awake?”

“Yeah, I can’t sleep. I keep seeing Ana and Jared at odds. It was always so sad what happened between them. They were ecstatically
happy.”

“They seemed so, before the guys died.”

“It had to have something to do with her moving into
Matka’s
house and away from him for three months. Even after she went home, there was tension between them.”

“Then he had an affair, right?”

“Which was a total shock. I never pegged him for a cheater.”

Logan didn’t say anything
.

“Logan?”

“This is selfish. I feel for
them, but I don’t want us revisiting their split to scare you off from a relationship with me.”

Magdalena laughed out loud. “After yesterday, it’s going to take an act of God to do that.”

“I’ll pray there is none, then.” He held her close. “Tuck your head in now. We have to sleep.”

“Okay.” She sighed. “I’m glad this happened between us, Logan.”

“Me, too, baby,” he said, kissing
her hair. “Me, too.”

 

Chapter 9

 

Two days after the snow hit, New York was back to its hustle and bustle, though shoveled mounds of white graced the streets. Magdalena had gone home to shower and change, and she’d just made the meeting at nine in Philip’s office.

Thomas sat next to his father. He was lead man on the financing end, but it was Philip who said, “Good morning. I’m expecting
a report today on your due diligence. I assume it wasn’t delayed by the snow. Logan? Magdalena? You’re on.”

Magdalena picked up her tablet. “I’ve run the numbers, and studied all the reports we received, several times. I’m ready to present the company’s strengths and weaknesses in those areas.” She looked at Logan
.

They hadn’t exchanged a word, but the affection was back in his eyes. “And
I’ve completed the management assessment, we’ve gone to three stores—two announced—and added my recommendations to her list.”

Since each of them had a computer or tablet, he said, “The report is now on its way to you.”

Magdalena sent hers, too. Both men studied the data, and Magdalena and Logan smiled at each other. Their closeness was almost tangible, over the work they’d done and the
intimacies they’d shared
.

After Philip and Thomas had time to digest the data, she started the explanations. “First off, it appears that The Natural Life is what they say it is. Product display and the ordering reports show that their inventory is high-end and meets the guidelines of organic, gluten free or whatever else they advertise it as.”

Philip nodded. She knew that would be a deal
breaker.

“The demographics for their clientele is what we want, though moving some stores into our strip malls, next to Chico’s and Feet First, will up traffic by at least twenty-five percent. And, of course, we know they’ll do the same for the other stores there, so the malls want them.”

She went on to talk about competitor analysis, overall income stream and profitability.

Thomas
nodded approvingly. “Great job, Magdalena. As always. Were you two together during the storm to finish this up?”

God, she hoped her face didn’t flush.

Logan took a laser beam on his brother. “We were. Magdalena couldn’t make it home so she stayed with me. We got a lot accomplished.

“For my part, I determined that their management has little overlap. Each store has a manager, an accountant
and supervisors as well as the floor employees. They have a gender, ethnic and age balance, which we want, and those are always tough to negotiate changes in.” In other words, Magdalena knew, if you had to fire a man to hire a woman, you were in trouble.

When Logan finished, Magdalena went on to weaknesses. “Their store setup could use some changes. They’re too crowded, for one thing, and
I think they need more space for the amount of product they have displayed. The mall stores can provide it.”

Logan added, “We also noted some overlap in daily employees. In each store, people were standing around. My analysis of the number of employees and their jobs, their schedules is on page fourteen.”

BOOK: Risky Business
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ads

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