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Zander feels his mount shy uneasily beneath him and starts looking around for what is spooking his horse. Already off balance, Annabelle's barking sets the horse to bucking and Zander is thrown clear but hard to the ground. Suck... air... can't... breathe. and then it hits... sharp agony. "Son of a bitch." Zander gasps fighting to sit up but that jars his leg and a wave of pain flows over him and takes him under. Annabelle licks his face trying to rouse him and when that doesn't work lays down next to Zander resting her muzzle on his stomach.

Nikolas walks up the inside of the fence to Zander's place. If the weather cooperated they'd be going hunting the next day. Finally the Cassadine's would be able to prove their true worth to the valley. Okay so the Jersey bull that had been purchased on the last trip to town would come in handy too. But that was the bull doing all the... work. "Zander?!" Nikolas calls out and then calls out again. He frowns. "He must be out walking his trap line." Nikolas figures and decides to take a walk.
Just as he is heading out, Zander's horse comes racing toward the house without it's rider. Nikolas blanches. There is no way this could be a good thing. Nikolas catches the horse by the reins and sliding along the earth pulls it to a stop. He notes that Zander's rifle is still attached to the saddle. The horse is lathered, and its eyes wild. Quickly he puts the horse in the corral to contain it. Nikolas takes the saddle off and throws it onto Zander's other horse fastening it down quickly and then goes into the soddie. Finding a piece of paper he pens a note and fastens it to the door of the soddie.
Then he takes off on the horse in the direction the first horse had come. He follows the trail as far as he can, as far as he figured he could have seen the horse from the house before starting to call out for his friend. There is no answer. Realizing that there had been something missing in the big picture, Nik calls out. "Annabelle! Annabelle! Come here girl!" He sees a flash of movement out of the corner of his eye and turns the horse to start toward it. Annabelle comes racing toward him... barking and then turning back around waiting for a second for him to follow.
"Good Girl! Where is Zander?" The dog goes racing off. Putting his heels to the horse, Nikolas follows. He dismounts at a run when he sees what Annabelle has lead him to. "Zander!" Racing over to his friend, he brushes Annabelle aside to check to see if Zander had broken his neck in the fall and is relieved to see that he is still breathing. He does a quick assessment and pales when the problem becomes obvious. A leg is not meant to be attached to the body at that angle. "Zander, can you hear me?" Nik attempts to rouse his neighbor and is relieved to to hear him groan. "Do not attempt to move." Nikolas warns quickly. "You have broken your leg."

"How bad?" Zander groans.

"Well if you were a horse..."

"Good... thing... I'm... not." Zander grimaces and tries to sit up. He swallows a scream.

"I have to go back to your place and get the carriage." Nik realizes. "I should have brought it the first time."

"I can ride." Zander has no idea if he can or not just doesn't want to be left out here. "Just help me up."

Nikolas assists Zander to one foot supporting him on the weak side. The pain overcomes Zander and he starts to pass out again. Nikolas makes a quick adjustment and lifts Zander over his shoulder. But now there is a bitch of a task. No way could he carry Zander back to the soddie and the mechanics of getting his neighbor up onto the horse without Zander's assistance eludes him.

Luckily Zander rouses enough to say. "Take me to Mrs. Hardy. She'll patch me up."

"Excellent plan." Nik says grimly. "If I can get you up on the horse."

"I'll get up there." After more than one failure, Zander ends up laying across the back of the horse like a sack of grain. He manages to swing his good leg around with the broken one hanging uselessly. After having one horse spook on him Zander swallows every cry and scream and ends up biting nearly thru his bottom lip in the effort.

Having no confidence that Zander won't pass out at any moment, Nik keeps hold of the reins and starts walking back down the valley to the Hardy place cutting across fields and grateful that they'd never bothered with barbed wire to separate the individual homesteads. With each step the horse takes Zander gets paler and paler as he tries to hang on, breaking out into a cold sweat. The trip takes a half hour. By the time they get to the Hardy's Zander is slumped over the pommel of the saddle. "Mrs. Hardy!" Nikolas calls out.

Audrey straightens from the front garden where she'd been preparing the beds for the winter. She shades her eyes to see who is calling her. "Oh dear! What has happened?!"

"His horse spooked. Zander came off and I'm sure his leg is broken."

"Oh dear! Bring him up to the house." Audrey orders. She strips off her gloves and broad brimmed hat. She half runs to get ahead of Nikolas and Zander on the horse. Going into the cabin she looks around hurriedly and then clears the table with a sweeping motion brushing everything back.

It was easier to come off the horse than to get on. Nikolas carries Zander over his shoulder into the cabin and lays him down on the table where Audrey indicates. "What do you need me to do?"

"Finding a doctor would be nice." Audrey retorts tersely. "I'm not a doctor you know. I was just married to one."

"You're the closest we got, Mrs. Hardy." Zander groans. "I trust ya. Just patch me up and I'll be on my way."

"The nearest doctors are up at the Quartermaines. That is a day away."

Audrey shakes her head. "Oh Zander." She wipes a hand over his sweaty forehead. "Don't try to move." She puts a hand on Nikolas' arm and leads him outside. "I need you to go up to Mr. Spencer's... hunting camp. Zander is going to need something to take the edge off." Nik's face had gone blank for a moment not realizing that Audrey knew about the still, but then he realizes that there are truly no secrets in the valley. "Sarah is over at the Taggart's-- on your way. Send her home. I need her help." Audrey turns back around and goes inside.

Telling Annabelle to stay on the porch, Nikolas swings up on the horse and sets it racing first to the Taggart's and then to the Spencer's.

By the time Sarah comes running back to the house, Audrey has already removed Zander's boots and pants much to both of their embarrassment. Rather than trying to get him out of the red union suit he wore as an undergarment, Audrey had cut off one leg of the long johns so that she could see what she was doing. There is a pillow at the back of his head and a blanket covering all but the broken limb. "Gram! What happened?!" Sarah bursts into the cabin.

"Sarah, I need something to use for splints." Audrey indicates the length but continues to tear bandages. "As soon as Nikolas gets back from the Spencer's, we're going to set Zander's leg."

"Oh Zander." Sarah comes over and brushes a hand over his shoulder.

"Been hearing that a lot lately." Zander says wryly quipping thru the pain. "Sorry to be an inconvenience here."

"Gram will have you right as rain in no time." Sarah pats him on the shoulder awkwardly and then goes out of the cabin to find something to use as splints.

Nikolas returns from the Spencer's with an earthenware jug. "Here." He hands it to Audrey. The supplies are already all laid out. Two boards that had been planned to be plate rails in the cabin cut down to the right length and then covered with what looks like ladies stockings, probably to save the patient from slivers. The lengths of white material torn into long narrow strips.

Audrey pulls the cork on it and takes a quick whiff. "Oh my. Yes, I believe that will do the job more than adequately." Audrey pours the clear liquid into a tin cup and adds a sprinkle of herbs from one of her medicine bottles. "Zander, I need you to drink this."

Zander takes a quick gulp knowing it is liquor from Mr. Spencer's still and knowing that it will dull the pain. He exhales sharply blowing back out the fumes and heat. "Son of a ... gun, that's strong."

"All of it, Zander." Audrey demands standing ready with the jug. As soon as he finishes the portion she pours him a second. The alcohol would kill the pain and the herbs in the first drink would hopefully help Zander relax and if they were really lucky go to sleep.

Sarah supports Zander's head as he sips the second portion of liquor. "You know you're the purtiest thing, I've ever seen?" Zander's words are slurred but recognizable. Sarah blushes. "Been waiting fo'ever to kiss ya to see if you taste as sweet as you look."

"Just go to sleep, Zander. I'll be here when you wake up." Sarah urges him, her face bright red.

"Ya promise?"

"I promise." Sarah nods.

"kay." Zander's eyelids slowly sink to shut. Sarah eases him back down onto the pillow. Audrey moves swiftly hanging both of her lanterns from the rafters to give light as bright as day to the table. She directs Sarah to hold Zander down if he should wake during the process and Nikolas to the foot of the table. Audrey slides the bandages under Zander's leg careful to not jar him and aligns the boards on either side of the man's leg.

"Nikolas, I need you to very gently straighten Zander's leg. I'll align the break and fasten down the splint." Audrey orders. "Sarah, Zander can't move. Sit on him if you have to." Taking a deep breath, Audrey nods in Nikolas' direction. Nikolas firmly and steadily pulls Zander's leg with a firm grasp on his friend's heel. Audrey manipulates the break until she believes she has it right swallowing hard as she does so at the sound of the bones grinding together. Then she slides the boards into place. Nikolas holds both of the boards steady while she ties them in place first above and below the break and then at intervals so that the leg is totally immobilized. When she is done her hands are shaking and she clasps them into fists.

"I'll make you some chamomile tea, Gram." Sarah can see that her grandmother's nerves are about shot. Audrey had helped her husband plenty back in New York but gramps had been the doctor taking the lead and making the decisions only giving the nursing care over to his wife.

"That will be lovely, dear." Audrey says absently. Going over to the the jug set on the counter she pours about a thimbleful into the bottom of a tea cup and tosses it back. "Medicinal purposes. Excellent for medicinal purposes. I need some air. Sarah, tell me if Zander should stir."

Sarah's eyes go wide at the sight of her grandmother taking a shot of the liquor and she quickly nods. Audrey steps out onto the porch, Nik accompanies her. "How bad is it?" Nikolas asks grimly.

Audrey shakes her head. "I am not a doctor. So many things could go wrong. Moving him surely aggravated the break. I know; I know. He had to be moved." Audrey sits down on the bench on the porch and closing her eyes leans back against the house. "Circulation... that's actually the most important. If I did something wrong and he loses blood flow to that leg...."

"Then we will need a doctor and he'll lose the leg." Nikolas says grimly as he sits down next to her. "How soon will you know?"

Audrey shakes her head. "I'll know it when I see it-- today, tomorrow. Even if I did everything right... he's going to be in that splint until... Christmas. It would be impossible or near on impossible for him to be able to take care of himself let alone his place. He has to keep the weight off that leg to give it time to heal. Tomorrow or the day after if..." Audrey shakes her head. "...he should be able to get around a little on crutches maybe from here to the outhouse. Have to make some crutches." She mutters to herself.

Sarah comes out with a cup of chamomile tea and hands it to her grandmother who takes it gratefully. She catches Audrey's glance and shakes her head. "He's still asleep, and he's snoring so I figure he's out for the count."

Audrey sighs. "Thank goodness for that." She takes a sip of the tea and looks up the valley. She isn't surprised to see Luke Spencer and Marcus Taggart coming down the valley. The only surprise is that it has taken this long. "Excuse me, Nikolas. I'll be right back." Audrey sets the tea cup down and going inside finds the earthenware jug. She pours about a quart of the liquid fire into one of her last mason jars and fastens down the lid putting the jar with the rest of her medical supplies and then grabbing tin cups and the jug brings it out to the porch. She looks at the three men. "You all have some figuring to do. If everything goes right, Zander won't be leaving here for a week maybe longer. I know I should talk it over with the girls before I say anything but I think it would be better if he stayed here until the splint came off."

"Mrs. Hardy, you said the splint wasn't going to come off until Christmas." Nikolas accepts absently a tin cup from Luke Spencer who'd poured out portions for the men.

"I know." Audrey says grimly. "If it had only been anybody else. Anybody but Zander. We've all got family out here. Zander tries to go back to his place... what happens if he falls? If he slips? How long is he going to be laying there waiting for help?" She shakes her head. "Spring or summer would be one thing. I wouldn't like it but it would be one thing... but coming on to winter?" She shakes her head again.

Luke nods in agreement. "He could freeze to death afore anybody had a clue. It's been getting down right chilly in the mornings already. Broke ice off the rain barrel this morning." The others agree. They'd had to do the same.

Audrey gets real honest at this point. "We don't have enough hay put up to be able to take care of Zander's horses. We sold one of our horses the last time we went to town so we wouldn't have to have so much hay put up-- enough for the animals and a safe margin for just in case. But not enough for two more horses."

"The horses can stay up at my place." Nikolas offers. "It will be crowded in the barn but manageable. They would be closer to the hay that Zander put up for their care. I will bring in his traps as well."

"Lulu's been pestering me to get some more chickens." Luke shrugs. "We'll be able to take care of them until Zander is back at his place."

Taggart can see that Zander's direct neighbors have his homestead covered. "What do you need from me, Mrs. Hardy?"

"I need you to sit on Zander while we try to explain all this to him." Audrey mutters. There are just times when a man's common sense went right out the window and any kind of infirmity seems to bring it on.

Marcus snorts at that one. "Yeah, I can do that."

"Actually I could use your help right now, Mr. Marcus." Audrey realizes. "We doctored Zander on the table. If you could move him for me..."

"No problem." Audrey goes with Marcus into the cabin ready to take Zander's legs or something to carry him over to her bed but her neighbor picks Zander up cradling him like a baby and carries him over to the bed. Sarah and Liz share the loft and Audrey has a bed downstairs not wanting to climb a ladder anymore but figuring she can better than their guest. Audrey covers him with a quilt and then goes back over to the table turning off one of the lanterns and dimming the other. It didn't take much to light the cabin. "You okay with this, Mrs. Hardy? I agree Zander can't be on his lonesome right now, but he could stay with the Cassadines or the Spencer's."

"Propriety." Audrey shakes her head. "You know right now I don't care if anyone doesn't think it proper, Mr. Marcus. It's ironic cause I would be the first one to say what was or wasn't." Marcus doesn't say a word to that for it's nothing less than the cold honest truth. "Zander stays here."

"Yes, ma'am."





Stefan Cassadine pulls his watch out of his pocket and examines the time before shutting the case and replacing it in his vest pocket. Natasha notes the action. "Nikolas is late."

"Yes," Stefan frowns. "But he often gets caught up in discussions with Mr. Smith. I believe I will walk down and verify our plans for tomorrow."

"He will not appreciate you checking up on him."

"Then he should keep his appointments." Stefan counters and stops briefly in the kitchen to make sure that Nikolas is not there dining with Mrs. Lansbury. "Mrs. Lansbury, I am going to walk down to Mr. Smith's."

"Yes, sir. I'll hold dinner."

"That won't be necessary, Mrs. Lansbury. Please follow your normal custom. If Nikolas has not dined at Mr. Smith's then whatever remains will be sufficient." With a nod, Stefan starts down the valley. The walk to Zander's is a short one only taking a few minutes. Darkness is starting to fall. Stefan is surprised when there is no sign of either Nikolas or Zander. Having visited Zander before Stefan knows exactly where his neighbor keeps his lantern outside of the soddie. Zander always checked the soddie before entering, a habit he'd developed back when the small abode had neither windows nor door. Stefan lights the wick and then replaces the glass in the lantern. Holding the lantern up he spots the note on the door.

Uncle, if you have found this... Zander's horse returned without him and I fear the worst. I have gone to look for him. I have his rifle. If I run into trouble, I will fire the weapon three times.. our agreed signal. Nikolas.

Stefan crumples the note. Nikolas had been gone for hours and yet there had been no such signal. It would be impossible to search now with only a lantern. The search would have to wait until morning. Unacceptable. Stepping to the edge of the porch Stefan calls out in all directions to his nephew holding the lantern aloft. Holding his breath and waiting for a response... any response.

"Uncle!" Nikolas calls from a distance. Stefan turns down the valley holding the lantern up again and strains to hear. Having the light to show the way Nikolas picks up the pace on Zander's horse. Nikolas swings down from the mount.

"What happened?!" Stefan demands his worry lending anger to his tone.

"Zander's horse threw him. I wouldn't have found him except for his dog." Nikolas starts taking the saddle off the horse and then wonders what the heck he is doing. He should be taking the horses up to the Cassadine place.

"Is he dead?"

Nikolas shakes his head and then realizes that in the dark Stefan might not see his nonverbal response. "No, he did however break his leg. I managed to get him back on this horse and took him down to Mrs. Hardy at his insistence."

"You took an injured man three homesteads down rather than bringing him to your own?"

"Mrs. Hardy has always dealt with the medical issues of the valley." Nikolas leads the horse by the reins to the corral. He wraps the reins around one of the posts and climbing into the corral puts a halter on the other horse and leads it out of the corral.

"Splinters and blisters." Stefan says dismissively. "She is not a doctor." He automatically takes the lead on the other horse.

"Believe me she pointed that out-- before she dosed Zander to make him sleep, aligned the break and splinted it." Nikolas counters. "She figures Zander is going to be laid up until Christmas. I have volunteered us to care for Zander's horses in his absence. The Spencer's will be caring for the other livestock."

"And Zander himself?"

"Will be staying at Mrs. Hardy's until she figures it's safe for him to go home."





Liz looks down at their houseguest. Sarah had met her outside after she got back from bringing the sheep in and told her what happened. Rather than bothering him directly, she'd decided to wait until the next morning. Gram always says sleep is the best thing for what ailed ya and that Zander would be in a world of hurt as soon as he woke up and that should be put off as long as possible.

Sarah looks over Liz's shoulder. "He's still asleep." There is relief in her voice.


"Girls, Let Zander sleep." Audrey says softly calling them away from the curtained alcove in the far corner of the cabin.

"I don't know, Gram. Didn't Gramp say you were suppose to wake people who were knocked out?"

"Zander didn't have a head injury, darling. He wasn't knocked out; he lost consciousness because of the pain he was in. Now get about your chores and let the man rest."

Sarah and Liz withdraw and putting their coats on head out to the pole barn. "Why couldn't it have been Lucky?"


"I know. I know. But it would have been so nice to have Lucky staying with us all the way until Christmas."

"Liz, for heaven's sake, Zander still might lose his foot. It might heal funny and he'll have to use a cane for the rest of his life! The only upside to this is if he ends up with a knee like Mrs. Spencer's elbow and can predict the weather! Besides if it was Lucky then the Spencer's would have handled it. Zander's here 'cause we're the closest thing he has to family out here."

"I know I shouldn't have said it. And I know everything you say is true. But come on, Sarah! It's not fair. You think I haven't seen you and Zander making calf's eyes at each other? He's probably just waiting until spring to ask you to marry him or something! He stays with us for three months and for sure it will happen."

"Or we'll end up hating the sight of each other." Sarah retorts. Elizabeth starts to add something but Sarah holds her hand up. "Enough! Let it be."

"Fine." Elizabeth collects the milk pail and stool and heads to the barn followed by three cats.

Sarah shakes her head and gathers some grain for the chickens and livestock.





The following day about midmorning, Nikolas rides down to the Hardy place. In his saddle bags are clothing and other personal items from Zander's place. Mrs. Hardy greets him from her porch.

"How is your patient?" Nikolas asks swinging down.

"Still asleep thankfully. The leg won't hurt as bad now that it has been splinted but it will hurt. I have have tried to stay within calling range but far enough away to not wake him. Would you like some tea?"

Not particularly "Sure." Nikolas brings the saddle bags. "I brought his change of clothes and shaving kit."

Audrey nods. She fills the kettle and sets it on the stove. "I already checked and there seems to be no problem with circulation. His toes are a normal color."

"That is a relief. My next question was going to be did you want me to go up to the Quartermaines to see if the Doctor would come down to the valley."

"I would prefer that a doctor see him."

"Don't see what a doctor could do for me that you haven't already." Zander calls out from the alcove.

"You're awake!" Audrey comes over to the alcove and slides back the curtain.

Zander is up on his elbows and examining the contraption that is enclosing his leg. "And here I was thinking winter was going to be what did me in and instead it was a spooked horse."

"You are scarcely done in." Nikolas dismisses with a wave of his hand.

"Nikolas, perhaps you could assist Zander out to the..."

"Yes, please." Zander says gratefully. "Just tell me where my pants are."

Audrey shakes her head. "There is no way you could get your pants over the splint." She goes over to a peg on the wall and retrieves an aged plaid wool robe handing it to Zander. "This belonged to my husband. I started wearing it after he passed... to keep him close and it became a habit. But I think it will fit you." She starts backing away. "I'll get your breakfast ready."

Zander slides on the robe and then eases to the side of the bed using his hands to bring his broken leg around. Audrey has a barrel by her bedside where she has her journal and reading glasses. Zander uses it to bring himself up on his good leg. "Guess I'll be hopping along for awhile." He says wryly. He tries to put a little pressure on his leg and thinks better of it rapidly.

Nikolas comes around to his injured side. "Lets see if we can do this without giving us both bloody noses." Nikolas puts a hand along Zander's back and Zander runs his arm across Nikolas shoulder.

"Yeah, after a few times doing this we'll be aces in a three legged race."

"Three legged race?"

"A kids game. Broken into pairs with a leg tied to the other they race... a thankfully short distance to the finish line. Most end up falling."

"Well lets see if we can do better."

Half hopping half leaning, Nikolas assists Zander to the outhouse but figures he'll be fine once there considering that the walls are all within easy reach for balance. Still when Zander comes out of the outhouse there are beads of sweat on his forehead. He mutters to himself. "How in the hell am I going to take care of my place when getting to the crapper breaks me out in a sweat?"

"I'm so glad you brought that up. Because we have a plan."

"We who?"

"We.... everyone in the room got to have a say except the unconscious person in the splint of course." Nikolas slides an arm around to support Zander.

"Oh of course." Zander says wryly as he puts an arm around Nik's shoulders. They hobble together over to the porch where Zander hops up the three steps. Zander pauses to catch his breath at the top and then they angle themselves thru the door. The journey ends at a chair next to the table.

Audrey is busy frying up sliced potatoes with some onion. Once they are done to her satisfaction she shoves them to the side of the cast iron skillet and moves the whole works to a cooler part of the stove and adds a couple of eggs to the free side of the pan. Once the eggs are in the pan she brings Zander and Nikolas cups of tea refilling Nikolas' cold cup with fresh. "Breakfast will be ready in a minute."

"I have informed Zander there is a plan. But not the details." Nikolas tells his hostess.

"Over breakfast." Audrey temporizes. She was really hoping that Marcus would be the one to inform Zander of the plan. She looks longingly over at the Taggart place but deep down she knows there is no help coming. Marcus and Gia were up to their ears getting the tobacco crop up and curing. She dishes up plates for both of the men and brings them to the table.

"Mrs. Hardy, this is not necessary." Nikolas protests. "Mrs. Lansbury..."

"I know but an extra meal won't kill you and you'll be keeping Zander company." Audrey sits down at the far side of the table and pours herself a cup of tea. Fussing with it to postpone the conversation but finally there is nothing left to do but spit it out. "If we were back in New York and you were brought into my husband's office. You would have been kept a few days to make sure that there were no other injuries and that that there had been no problem with the splinting and then you'd be sent home to your family. There you'd be able to do... what ever you could do in a splint until the bone had healed."

"How long?" Zander says grimly.

Nikolas answers. "Christmas."

"Maybe a little before but definitely December." Audrey nods.

"And none of us doubt that you can run your own place... even with a broken leg. It would just take a bit longer. You'd have to be a bit more creative." Nikolas continues.

"But..." Zander can hear it coming.

"Not in winter, Zander." Audrey interjects. "Not when your only backup is Annabelle, who is out with the girls right now by the way. None of us can count on everything going right as you found out. If you should have another unlucky break..." Audrey grimaces at that one. "...Then if could be the death of you."

"Then I'm done for. I'm already dead." Zander says grimly. "I have to be on my own place. If I'm not working my spread then I'll lose it anyway. That's the rules of the homesteading act."

"Zander, you did work your place, you did make improvements this year. Nobody in the valley would say differently and you'll be back on your own place before next year starts." Audrey protests and Nikolas nods his agreement. "The girls and I want you to stay with us until the splint comes off."

"The Spencer's will take care of your chickens. I passed Mr. Spencer and Lulu on my way down here. They were going to collect them and take them to the Spencer's. Little Lulu will take care of the chickens for you. And Uncle and I moved your horses up to our place. Your animals are already being cared for. You already have your crops in." Nikolas reminds. "This was going to be the time when you went hunting anyway. All you have to worry about is mending."

"I can't put you out that way." Zander shakes his head. "Especially you, Mrs. Hardy. You didn't ask for a houseguest. Hell you didn't plan on having another mouth to feed for the next few months. I'm already screwed. I can't screw you over too."

"Zander, I know that we've been telling you horrible stories about the winters up north and all the things that can go wrong. And yes, winter could start any time and last all the way until next May. But there is always a break. Always a period of clear weather. Cold but clear. Nikolas is going to be using your hay to feed your animals. Hay you put up. And when we need it we'll be using your root cellar. You will not be putting us out. I'd be grateful for the company. The girls and I already know each other's stories. It would be a welcome change to hear someone else's."

"Mrs. Hardy, you're being kind but not particularly practical." Zander shakes his head.

"Excuse me?! I'm being very practical. You might have a broken leg, mister, but you still have two hands. It's not in your nature to not pitch in. Nikolas is right. Once you're on crutches you'll still be able to do everything necessary to run a homestead. You'll just be helping me with mine. Subject closed." Audrey stands up.

"Mrs. Hardy...!" Zander protests.

"Ask me again in a week. Even in New York you'd be staying at the doctor's for a couple of days. It's been less than one. Ask me again in a week. After you've grown accustomed to being on crutches." Audrey thinks about that one. "Oh dear."

Nikolas laughs and shakes his head. "I'll get right on that one, Mrs. Hardy. Guess crutches are the first order of business."

"No, finishing your breakfast is the first order of business. And then crutches."


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