Forced to isolate after a colleague tests positive for COVID-19, Bria Collymore is stuck inside and reliant on her soon-to-be ex-husband. Riley’s got 14 days to convince her they should work things out. But how’s he to accomplish that when he can’t do any of the things, he’s always thought a man had to do to woo a woman?
Bria Collymore sat in her car staring at the sign instructing everyone to don masks before entering the health center. One call had derailed her plans to skip work and book a spa day.
“Mrs. Collymore you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, we need you to come in for a test.” The warm and friendly tone of the nurse had not made the news easier to swallow.
She turned off the engine. Flipping down the mirror to check her makeup, she was stunned at the woman staring back at her. Her dark chocolate skin tone looked ashen and she had chewed off most of her plum red lipstick in the drive from the office.
The minute the nurse had urged her to visit the health center, her head had begun to hurt. She did not remember undoing the bun she favored for work once she had decided to take the day off. Now it fell in thick auburn waves around her terrified face.
A squeak escaped Bria’s parched lips as a chill ran down her spine. She had caught something. Feeling her forehead, it felt warmer than normal. Her breath came out in gasps as if her air had been cut off. What was happening? She had never hyperventilated in her life. Her hands shook, as panic set in.
Suppose she had it.
COVID-19. Everyone was talking about it. Saint Michaels had multiple cases. She had been office-bound for the better part of the last three months, which she thought would have reduced her exposure. She needed to get out the car to go and find out who had tested positive. That would tell her how likely it was that she was infected too.
“I should have never left the office. This is what happens when I decide to be irresponsible.” Bria looked at the worried face staring back and shook her head. She should not feel guilty for wanting a day off.
As the youngest funding director in history for Saint Michael’s Development Agency, she managed more than one hundred million dollars in grants and donor aid. In the last week she had completed negotiation on a thirty-million-dollar downtown renovation loan. A day off was the least of what she deserved.
Her boss, who was the chairman of the agency board, had reneged on his offer to elevate her to project director. It had felt like one more nail of failure pounded into her self-confidence and dreams.
Here she was making multi-million-dollar deals, but the men in the agency, who delivered way less, were always priority for bonuses and higher posts. Sitting in the funding director’s chair for the last three years had been an accidental miracle. Her former boss had died on the job and as she knew all the ins and outs of the funding projects, she was asked to fill in. By the time she had signed off on the first ten-million-dollar housing program for a new community, she had become Saint Michaels’ darling and the donors were unwilling to work with anyone else.
The radio ad announcing the possible symptoms was playing again.
Bria tapped her fingers on the steering wheel and bit her lip. This could not be happening at the worst time. She had a meeting lined up in Barbados in one week to discuss a new job opportunity. An international donor group had been wooing her for the last year, but she had turned down all their offers. Until last week. Seeing her colleague move into the role she thought was hers hurt more than she expected. She knew why. It had come on the heels of finding out that there was no possible way, save divine intervention she would be able to bare children. She had known this for the better part of a year and had continued to do research and work with her OBGYN to find other solutions.
A tap on the window made her jump. She recognized the nurse who had called her, her face behind a shield and wearing personal protective equipment.
Bria gestured that she would come in before turning to give her face one last look over. She was about to fix her lipstick then realized it would be smudged the minute she put on a mask, which she guessed she needed to use now. She pulled out the new mask she had stashed in a pocket of her purse and put it on before exiting the vehicle.
She felt shaky. This was not good.
On unsteady legs she walked into the brightly colored health center waiting room. The nurse was nowhere in sight. The room was empty, and she could hear the radio playing in the distance. Bria pressed the tiny bell on the counter and took a seat.
Riley Collymore stood from his office chair and stretched his six-foot frame. Lean and lanky with skin the color of milked coffee, Riley looked around his office wall at the trophies and accolades littered there. They were a testament to his passion. Cars. Awards for cars he had rebuilt in record time, cars that had won precision races, cars that bore his artwork as they blazed to the finish line.
His father had given up hope, after he scraped through secondary school, that he would amount to anything and left him to his own devices. The awards filled him with pride and were a reminder that he wasn’t a certified goof off. He scoffed.
What did it matter if it meant he had failed with the one thing that mattered most now?
He swore under his breath and sat. He had work to do. Going down the rabbit hole of trying to figure out what he had done to make his wife leave was torture. Instead, he spent the next few minutes reviewing all the pending car projects and recorded a voice note to instruct his assistant to order the necessary parts to complete them. Riley loved taking someone’s vague ideas and creating magic. He had built a reputation as an engineer that not only built fast cars that fans raved about, but the bodywork was its own show. He still found it crazy that people would fly him to their island so he could rebuild their cars. He did not advertise, and he had little time to do so. His goal was to overwhelm every client that they could not help but recommend him. It was working.
He stared at the desk calendar. It had been more than six months since she had moved out of their home, he missed his wife and he wanted her back. He should call her.
Checking the time, he discarded the idea. Bria was probably in another meeting.
Just then, his phone vibrated. It was her.
“Hey babe. What’s up?”
He tried to be nonchalant and to keep the nerves out of his voice. He had never been nervous around Bria until the day she had asked for a divorce. She used to say she loved that he was not intimidated by her. All the other men in her world seemed to be. But he had been too enthralled by her to be nervous. All he had ever wanted to do was please her. Their separation was a clear sign he had failed.
“Bria are you there?”
He thought he heard sniffles and his heart raced.
“Riley. I’m at the health center.”
“I’ll be right there, sweetheart.”
Riley’s heart had not slowed down by the time he drove into the clinic’s parking lot. A few people were milling about wearing face masks. He scoffed. What was the point? The island had no cases of corona for a few months. Maybe that had changed. He should listen to the local station to find out.
He spotted Bria standing off in a far corner staring over the fence at the mountains. She was wearing a mask.
His heart thumped louder. Something was very wrong. Bria looked frail. In all the years he had known her, she had never called to ask him for help. He had loved how capable she was, but he had come to see that left little of anything he could do for her. Maybe this was his shot. He would not fail at this.
“Riley,” a nurse in light blue PPE approached him as he exited his vehicle.
“Oh, hey Renee. Can barely recognize you in that get up. Let me check in with Bria, then we can catch up.”
He turned to head towards his wife.
“Riley, wait. You need to get tested.”
He stood stunned. “For what?”
“Bria has been exposed to the corona virus and we need to check everyone she’s been around in the past few weeks.”
Bria was now looking in their direction. He could see the tension in her face, and it was not because she was feeling unwell. Renee had been his on-again-off-again girlfriend up until the day he had met his future wife. They had remained friends and although she had said she was alright with it, now he was wondering if this was the cause. Did someone say something to her to make her believe there was something between him and Renee?
He waved at Bria before turning back to Renee. He would have to ask her later if their continued friendship made her uncomfortable.
“What do you need me to do?”
Bria was sitting in her car by the time he came out of the clinic. They had given him a rapid antigen test and it had come back negative. Shame washed over him. If anyone should have been in quarantine, it should have been him. He was Mr. Social. The life of every party. Mr. In Your Face. How had Bria gotten caught up in this?
He knocked on the window, but she refused to open it. He called her phone instead. Riley took in her stiff frame as she looked at the ringing phone in her hand.
Was she planning to ignore him?
He wished she would look at him, but she stared at her phone as if it were a foreign object.
She finally answered.
“My test was negative. Had to tell them we haven’t seen each other for the last month at least. Do you know what you need me to get for you from the grocery store?”
She shook her head. “I have to do some research first on what is best to take.”
“You don’t know that you have it so don’t act like you do. If the tests are positive, then I say treat it as if it were a bad flu. The symptoms are similar.”
She turned and rolled her eyes at him but did not speak. He wished she would at least lose the stiff upper lip. It was as if she regretted calling him. She was back to being Superwoman.
“You look a bit shaky. I’ll follow you home to make sure you get there in one piece.”
“I’ve still got my keys to your car. I’ll wash it down and disinfect it. Bri, you don’t have COVID. You’re safe. I can feel it.”
“You can’t know that. The test was inconclusive.”
He closed his eyes and sighed. “Your test was negative for antibodies just like mine. They are only insisting you remain isolated because you and your assistant work pretty close.”
“I could still develop symptoms, Riley.”
“Dinner is on me in fourteen days when I am proven right.”
Where had that come from?
He was sorry she had to go into quarantine, but he was not about to look a gift horse in the mouth. He had at least two weeks to convince her to give him another chance. He would have his work cut out to do so. She was going to be stuck inside for a while. Did his charm work through wooden doors and cement walls? Now was the time to find out.