Jane caught at the banister and hung on until the dizziness passed. Ever since they’d come home from Congressman Kelly’s dinner party, she hadn’t been feeling well. Dazedly, she thought that something wasn’t right. When she’d gotten out of the car, everything spun, and many-colored stars danced in her vision. She’d climbed the stairs slowly, and not bothered with saying goodnight. She needed to sleep.
Jane let go of the handrail and walked carefully down the hall, keeping close to a wall and steadying herself with one hand. The world spun, and the icy feeling of anxiety inched its way up the back of her neck. The stars appeared again, and a knot in her stomach tightened until she could hardly breath.
“Jane, are you alright?”
She spun around, then caught at the wall. A black suited figure appeared in front of her. “Agent Knight.”
The agent stepped closer. “Jane, what’s the matter?” His voice was tight, and worry furrowed his brow. He peered into her eyes. They were scared.
“I don’t feel good.” Jane whispered groggily. The stars clouded her view and Agent Knight disappeared. She reached for him, and everything went black.
Agent Knight jumped forward as she fell back. He caught her and laid her on the floor, calling into the other agent’s earpieces for help.
As he felt for her pulse, Jane opened her eyes. “Did I fall asleep?”
Agent Knight shook his head. “You passed out. Don’t move, we’re going to take you to the hospital.”
Jane tried to sit up, but he pressed her back down. “I said don’t move.”
“I’m fine!” Jane protested.
“No, you’re not. Do as I say.”
Jane gripped his hand and squeezed.
“What’s the matter?” Agent Knight asked quickly.
“I’m so dizzy. I feel like I’m falling, and everything is going gray. My stomach hurts.” She squeezed harder. “Don’t let go.” Her voice fell to a whisper, and her grip suddenly lightened.
More agents rushed to help, Agent Knight carried Jane to the bullet-proof car, and in less than five minutes, they were heading for the hospital.
Mrs. Grant, white faced, sat next to Agent Knight cradling Jane’s head in her lap.
“Is she going to be alright?” She asked.
Agent Knight picked up Jane’s hand and felt for a pulse. “I don’t know.” His grip tightened. “I hope so.”
“What we have here is an overdose of Propranolol.” The doctor said gravely. “We are doing everything possible to pull her through. But you should know, Mrs. Grant, that there is a chance there will be lasting effects.”
Agent Knight turned away. How did this happen? How had Jane ingested Propranolol, a prescription drug? It had to have been something deliberate. The dinner with Congressman Kelly! He yanked his phone out of his pocket and in seconds he was arranging an investigation.
A friendly nurse approached Mrs. Grant. “She is stable at the moment, ma’am. If you like, you can come back and see her for a little while.”
Mrs. Grant started out of her chair in the waiting room and Agent Knight rose to follow.
“Family only, please, sir.” The nurse told him firmly.
Mrs. Grant turned. “Let him come.”
The nurse hesitated, and Agent Knight held his breath. He had to see Jane.
They hurried down a sterile hallway. The nurse swiped a card in the lock of a huge set of double doors and led the way to a small room.
Jane lay breathing slowly on a white hospital bed, tilted at an angle, with her head down. A thin tube trailed out of her limp arm and traveled up to a bag of fluids. The monitor beside her beeped regularly.
“My baby.” Mrs. Grant whispered, gently reaching out to touch Jane’s pale cheek.
Jane opened her eyes and tried to smile. “I’ll be alright, Mama.” She whispered.
Mrs. Grant wiped away tears and nodded half-heartedly. “Ok, sweetie.” She obviously wasn’t as sure as Jane wanted her to be.
Jane frowned stubbornly. “I mean it, Mama. I’m not going to die, and I don’t care…what the doctor says, I’m not going to take medicine for the rest of my life.” She closed her eyes again and rested for a moment.
Agent Knight stepped forward. “Jane, how did you ingest Propranolol?”
Jane furrowed her brow without opening her eyes. “I don’t know.”
“When did you start feeling sick?” Agent Knight pressed.
The nurse glared at him. “I think it’s time to let her get some rest, so she won’t over-exert herself.” She said meaningfully.
Mrs. Grant turned to go.
Agent Knight resisted for a moment longer. “Jane?”
She opened her eyes again and lifted her head to see past the nurse. “After dinner.” She said quietly. She put out her hand weakly and he grabbed it.
“Stay strong, Jane.” He said, trying not to choke on his words.
Jane nodded and her eyes narrowed determinedly. “I will.” Her head fell back onto the bed and she took slow, even breaths.
Jane sat up in the hospital bed with a smile. “Agent Knight! Come in!”
Agent Knight entered, balancing a box, with one hand held behind his back. “How are you?”
Jane shrugged. “As well as ever, and ready to get out of here.”
Agent Knight shook his head, then laughed at the mischievous expression on her face.
Jane looked at him curiously, but wouldn’t give him the opportunity to tease her by asking what he was hiding.
She didn’t have to ask, however. Agent Knight held out a pretty bouquet of pink roses.
Jane took it, half amazed, half embarrassed. The roses smelled sweet and she inhaled gratefully. “Thank you.”
Agent Knight smiled slightly. “You’re welcome.”
Jane broke the moment that had become awkward for her by motioning to a chair beside the bed. “Sit down, and tell me how everything is going at home.”
Agent Knight took a seat. “I want to know what you’ve been doing to keep yourself occupied.”
Jane tossed a remote to the side. “I’ve been trying to find a decent show on TV.” She grimaced. “There isn’t one.”
Agent Knight put the box on the bedside table. “When your mom heard I was coming to see you she sent some of your favorite movies and books for you to use. She would have come with me, but she had something to do, so she’s going to come later.”
Jane perked up. “Wow! Thanks!” She pulled open the cardboard flaps and looked through the contents.
She looked up suddenly. “What did Mama have to do?”
Agent Knight shrugged nonchalantly. “She didn’t really say.”
Jane accepted that answer for the moment. “How is everybody at home?”
“Fine. Everything has been pretty normal lately, except everybody has been trying to keep the fact that you’re in the hospital under wraps.”
“How’s that working out?” Jane asked with a smile.
“Well enough, we’ve had a few reporters ask your father about you; mostly the young men.” He paused while Jane turned red and laughed.
“What did Daddy say?”
“That you haven’t been interested in any parties recently.”
“Did they believe that?”
Agent Knight smiled. “I think so. You’ve gained a reputation for being a little…strong minded, so, yeah, I think they did.”
Jane gave a little smirk, and then changed the subject.
“Did the nurse say when I could go home, by any chance?”
“The doctor said soon, but when that is, I don’t know.”
Jane looked exasperated. “I can’t wait to get home, I’m tired of having this IV in my arm.” She pulled back the sleeve of her hospital gown, exposing a thin tube that was held in place by an oddly shaped adhesive patch.
“I’m sorry, Jane, I know it’s hard for you to sit still for once.” Agent Knight said jokingly.
Jane laughed at herself. “I don’t know what’s holding them up from discharging me, all I can think of is that they’re waiting to see if there is any permanent damage to my kidneys, and I can tell them right now there isn’t. I’ve never felt better in my life.” She sighed. “But these movies will keep me occupied.”
A tap on the door interrupted them.
“Come in.” Jane called.
The nurse stepped inside the door. Her gaze went from Jane to Agent Knight. “Are you here to take Miss Grant home?”
Agent Knight shook his head. “I was just visiting, but I can if the doctor says it’s alright.”
“Ok, let me check with him.” The nurse hurried away.
She was back a couple minutes later with the doctor. He asked Jane a few questions, and gave her some simple instructions to take it easy for about a week, and make sure she got lots of rest.
The nurse took off the adhesive patch, and pulled a long flexible tube out of Jane’s arm.
Jane winced. “That hurts more coming out than it did going in.”
The nurse put a cotton ball on the little red dot and secured it with a band-aid.
Agent Knight and the nurse stepped out of the room for a moment, while Jane got back into her usual clothes, then another nurse rolled a wheelchair into the room.
Jane swung her legs over the side of the bed and the nurse held her arm as she set her feet on the floor.
“Can you walk to the wheelchair or do you need help?” The nurse asked.
Jane stood up carefully and stretched her legs. “Do I have to use the wheelchair? I think I can walk.”
The nurse frowned, but the corner of her mouth twitched up in spite of herself. “You have to use the wheelchair. Hospital policy, you know.”
Jane sighed playfully, and gave in, but insisted on bringing Agent Knight’s flowers.
Agent Knight took Jane’s other arm and they walked slowly to the chair. Jane sat down, and he wheeled her down the hallway to a lone entrance at the side of the hospital.
A black car pulled up and several agents got out.
Jane stood up, out of the wheelchair, and the nurse and Agent Knight grabbed her arms again to steady her.
“Be careful, there.” The nurse warned.
Finally she was situated in the car, and Agent Knight turned to the nurse. “Thanks, ma’am. We’ll take it from here. I’ll send someone for Jane’s things.”
“Okay. You stay healthy, now.” The nurse smiled at Jane and waved goodbye.
As they drove home, Jane drowsed in a corner by the window, the vase of roses in her lap.
Agent Knight texted Mrs. Grant busily, frowning over a certain response, then writing hurriedly back with a new idea.
When they pulled up at the house, Jane threw open her door to jump out. Agent Knight grabbed her arm. “Hey! Take it easy. Doctor’s orders.”
Jane pulled away gently. “Well, he’s not here.” She jumped out and Agent Knight followed as she walked quickly toward the house. Halfway there she slowed down.
Agent Knight caught up. “I told you.”
Jane looked sheepish. “I know.”
She swayed, and Agent Knight put an arm around her and grasped her elbow to steady her. “Why don’t you work on obeying orders, and I’ll make sure you don’t fall on the way inside.”
Jane grinned. “It’s a deal.”
Knight steered Jane away from the main areas in the house, and directed her
upstairs. “Get some rest, and when
dinner’s ready someone will come get you.”
Mrs. Grant knocked on Jane’s door. A loud yawn greeted her. She heard shuffling footsteps, and the door opened.
Jane ran a hand through her rumpled hair and tugged at one sleeve of her wrinkled shirt. She had gone to sleep all standing.
“I’m sorry I woke you up, honey. Put on something nice, dinner is ready.”
Jane wrinkled her brow. “Ok…”
When she was ready, Mrs. Grant led her daughter to the door of the dining room.
“Keep your eyes closed, Jane.”
She opened the large door, and Jane heard her footsteps crossing the room.
Jane closed her eyes tighter to keep from peeking. “Can I open my eyes now?”
There was a pause, then a whisper or two, then Mrs. Grant answered. “Yes.”
Jane opened her eyes and broke into a surprised smile. Her parents stood at the end of the table laughing. Several of the Secret Service agents stood around it clapping and cheering.
Jane had a wonderful time that evening. For once she was the center of attention, and surprisingly, she liked it. There was a delicious dinner, then a cake, and then Mr. and Mrs. Grant brought out a few presents they’d bought for the occasion.
One by one, the other agents gave Jane the small gifts they had collected and Jane thanked them with genuine appreciation.
Agent Knight smiled just watching Jane. As the party ended, he approached Mr. Grant. “I need to talk to you after this.”
Mr. Grant nodded. “In my study. Eight o’clock.”
At eight o’clock, Agent Knight knocked on the study door.
Agent Knight entered and shut the door after him.
Mr. Grant sat behind his desk, arranging papers. “What is it, Ben? Has Jane gotten in trouble again? I noticed you didn’t give her a present this evening.”
Agent Knight smiled briefly. “No, sir. I have a gift in mind, but I wanted to check with you before I gave it to her.”
“What did you have in mind?” Mr. Grant asked.
Stunned silence ensued. Mr. Grant set down his papers and took off his glasses. He stared at Agent Knight trying to discern whether or not he was serious. “Do I need to get my wife for this conversation?”
A few minutes later Mr. and Mrs. Grant were listening to Agent Knight’s request to enter a relationship with their daughter with the intention of marriage.
“Have you said anything to Jane about this?” Mr. Grant asked.
“No, sir. And I won’t if you’re answer is no.”
Mrs. Grant grabbed a tissue and dabbed at her eyes.
“Do you have any objections, sir?” Agent Knight folded his hands on top of the desk.
“Not really. I know your character, and you and Jane make a great pair. You have informed us that you are able to support her, should you marry, and we trust you, have trusted you, to care for our daughter.” Mr. Grant cleared his throat. “My only real objection is her age. She is only nineteen, twenty in a few months.”
Agent Knight nodded his understanding. “I have found Jane mature for her age. And, quite frankly, sir, I’m not getting any younger myself. I would like to pursue a relationship now, since it may be several months before either of us are ready to make a final decision. What problem does her age present?”
Mrs. Grant crumpled the tissue in her hand. “It doesn’t present a problem. We just expected to have her with us for a few more years.”
Agent Knight smiled sympathetically. Then returned to the point. “Do I have your consent to tell your daughter about my intentions, sir?”
Mr. and Mrs. Grant looked at each other, then turned to Agent Knight. “Yes, you do. And should she accept, you have our hearty blessing.”
“Thank you both so very much.” Agent Knight stood and shook hands with the congressman. Mrs. Grant gave him a long hug.
As Agent Knight left, Mrs. Grant turned to her husband and he gently drew her into his arms. Her quiet tears turned to sobs as they both realized that they had just spent the last evening with their daughter before she made a very important decision.
That night Agent Knight could not sleep. Images of Jane ran through his brain: her head held high, or angry tears running down her cheeks; her expression of hurt at finding him reading her journal, then the soft glance she gave him when he had apologized. The words she had spoken just before losing consciousness rang out again and again in his mind: “Don’t let go.” The grip of her hand came back. She had trusted him. Counted on him to stay with her. She had needed him.
Jane ran down the grand staircase and caught the handrail as the world swayed in a dizzy arc. She stopped at the bottom to catch her breath.
“Jane, the doctor said not to run.” Agent Knight’s voice broke through her panting.
She looked up and smiled. “The doctor isn’t here.”
“You’re not a doctor.” Jane raised her eyebrow.
“I’ll enforce his orders.” He said.
Jane couldn’t tell if he was joking or not. “Alright.” She submitted.
“Good, can you take a walk with me? I want to talk to you.” He smiled.
Jane and Agent Knight walked outside to the elaborate gardens at the back of the house. Agent Knight maneuvered toward a bench in an out-of-the-way place and Jane sat down.
“What do you want to talk about?”
Agent Knight took a seat beside her and looked at the grass at their feet. Jane waited for a minute, then took the conversation into her own hands.
“I never did thank you for helping me when I was sick.” She put a hand on his arm. “I don’t know what would have happened if you hadn’t been there.”
Agent Knight nodded. “I’m glad I was there.” He covered Jane’s hand with his own. She was a little startled, and tried to ease her hand away gently, but Agent Knight caught her hand quickly. “Jane, I want to talk to you about something serious.” His straightforward gaze let her know what to expect, and her heart jumped.
“Did you ask Daddy?” She whispered.
“Yes. He gave me permission to talk to you. Will you listen?”
Jane could hardly breathe. “Yes.”
“Jane, over these past months, I’ve come to realize that you are the most godly, responsible, kind, mature young woman I know, and how much you mean to me. I’m asking you to enter into a relationship with me…with the intention of marriage.” He looked into her flushed face anxiously.
Jane couldn’t think of anything to say. Nothing seemed good enough for this occasion. All she could do was squeeze his hand and look up at him with a tearful smile.
“Jane Grant,” Agent Knight said with a smile. “Will you court me?”
“Yes!” Jane threw her arms around his neck, and he
pulled her into a hug.
“Let me straighten your tie, Daddy.” Jane said gently. Mr. Grant turned and Jane secured it with a tie clip. She smiled at her father and he winked back, ignoring the water in his eyes. He offered his arm, and Jane took it. For one moment, they stood quietly looking at each other.
“I love you, sweetheart.”
“I love you, Daddy.”
Then he pushed open the door and they began the slow walk down the aisle. Cassidy beamed beside the altar. She looked beautiful in her bridesmaid dress. Mrs. Grant sat in the front row, a box of tissues conspicuous under her chair for easy access. But Jane’s eyes were drawn to one person.
Agent Knight stood waiting, his smile softened by unshed tears as he saw his bride.
And so they were married quietly. They both insisted that no news crews or reporters know about it. It was not announced, and only a few friends and family were invited.
The happy couple honeymooned in a small mountain cabin away from crowds, and shortly after, they returned home to start their own family. Agent Knight retired from the service to help Jane raise their four children, and they lived happily ever after.