November, four years ago.
Thea’s alarm went off, and she reached out blindly and turned it off. If there was ever an excuse not to get out of bed, it was having the flu. Adele, the temporary au pair James’ parents had insisted on hiring—James had only been gone a year and a half, and they’d wanted to make sure she had help—could get Seb ready for school. Thea would have to pay her more, since she’d been solely responsible for Seb for the last day or two.
She wasn’t sure exactly how long she’d been sleeping for. Seb would tell her when he came in before school. She thought he’d said it was Thursday yesterday.
Her door opened, and she pretended to be asleep for Seb to crawl across the bed. So when a full grown adult dropped by her legs it nearly bounced her off the bed, and she sat up to make sure she didn’t wind up on the floor.
Thea blinked the crust from her eyes, and her heart stopped.
Kay folded her arms over her chest, eyes bright and hard.
“What day is it?”
Shit. “I missed check-in.”
“Missed check-in? No, darling, you more than missed check-in.” Kay paused, drawing a breath. “No one knew where you were. You weren’t answering your phone. Either of them. Your car wasn’t moving. Your accounts didn’t show activity.”
“I was just sick.”
“How, in the name of all things holy, was I supposed to know that?”
They’d talked about her position with Cornucopia being dangerous. Granted, generally, Kay didn’t have a lot of call to lecture her about safety. But Thea could see how her dropping off the face of the planet for six days would be concerning.
“I expected to find you dead,” Kay breathed.
Thea winced. “Sorry probably isn’t enough, is it?”
Her best friend deflated. “Can we institute some sort of thing where you tell people when you start feeling sick, and…I don’t know. Give Seb a phone? Some way for him to tell me Mommy is in bed sick, not missing or lying in a puddle of blood somewhere.”
“I’m not sure about giving my six-year-old a phone.” Thea rubbed her face. “I’ll talk to him about calling someone. Or the au pair.”
“I sent her away for the weekend.”
Thea blinked. “Why?”
“Because your ass hasn’t been out of bed in days and Seb was running her ragged. I’m here now. I’ll stay for a few days.”
They both flopped back onto the bed then, and Thea suffered through the cough that’d been building for a while. “You had your flu shot, right?”
“Yeah.” Kay yawned. “And I turned your feral child loose on a new construction set.”
Thea glanced at Kay, trying to imagine her flying back to them in a ratty t-shirt and yoga pants. “Are those my clothes?”
“I didn’t exactly stop the pack a bag, darling,” Kay muttered.
Which was valid. “How much of a problem is this?”
“Oh.” Kay shifted. “I was between assignments or I might not have noticed as quickly. Which is also a problem.”
Thea rubbed her face. “They’re all going to stalk me now, aren’t they?”
“Just tell yourself it’s because they don’t want your job.”
“Sure,” she answered dryly. "That's totally it."
Come back tomorrow for I:Itinerant!