Sequel: In Unexpected Places

Against the Odds

Chapter Fifty Seven

Alex was in shock.

It was all too much. It made her head spin, it made her stomach roll, and it felt like the earth was simply going to fall out from under her feet.

She clutched her arms her middle and folded herself around them, her eyes tightly closed as she tried in vain to process the words that Charles had told her. She tried to understand, to wrap her brain around the possibility, the apparently very real possibility that her husband was still alive.

“Oh God,” she moaned, feeling the bile rise in her throat. She shook her head against it, not wanting to lose it right then; needing to keep it together, needing to get all of the information before she allowed herself to sink, to fall into the uncertainty.
“Alexandra,” Harry’s voice was shaky but soft in her ear, his hands gentle on her back and as they smoothed hair from her face. “Are you…”

“No!” she cried, pressing her eyes shut tighter for a moment, pushing the tears gathered inside of them out before she lifted her head to look at him. “I’m not okay,” she shook her head wildly. “I don’t understand. I don’t…” She turned her gaze towards Charles. “I don’t understand. What…does he look…” She whimpered as she trailed off, not knowing how to ask the questions she wanted to ask.

Charles’ eyes were soft and full of sympathy for the young woman in front of him and for his son, who looked just as lost as she did. He hated that he had to be the one to bring this news to them. But he knew that she would have questions and he had the information, and he didn’t want them to hear it from anyone else.

He reached inside of his pocket, pulled out several printed pages, and held them out towards Harry. “This is the story for tomorrow; complete with the pictures they are going to run. My inside guy sent them over.”

Harry’s jaw clenched and his eyes narrowed at the papers but he reached out and took them anyway, unfolding them slowly and scanning. Alex turned her head the other way, not bearing to be able to look, to see pictures of the man she had once loved, the father of her child, the man she had mourned so fiercely, apparently turning his back on everything he had once been and going to the press to sell a story.

Harry took a deep breath and swallowed as he scanned through, picking up the important information. He stopped and cleared his throat, glancing up at Charles before turning back to the papers. His fingers flexed on Alex’s back and he pulled her closer as he began to read from the papers.

“Mr. Morgan’s tale is a surprising and heartbreaking one. Shot down in his Apache in Afghanistan in 2008, he was badly injured and badly burned. He was taken to a military hospital for treatment of his injuries. The burns over most of his body, including his face, were so incredibly severe that he was kept in a medically induced coma for almost a month.

Here lies the sad twist of faith. When Mr. Morgan awoke, he had no memory of what happened…or of who he was. He was suffering not only from painful injuries, but also from amnesia.

And the name on his ID bracelet in the military hospital was not that of John Morgan, but of Paul David Wilson.

Paul Wilson, another soldier from Mr. Morgan’s unit, had been brought into the hospital on the same day, within hours of Mr. Morgan, also suffering from severe burns on most of his body.

Mr. Morgan had no idea that he had been not only the victim of enemy fire, but of an identity mix-up as well.”

Alex sat there, her eyes focused off in the distance as she listened to the words, as she heard the story that sounded crazy but plausible. And when Harry finished, when his voice shook and the papers shook in his hands, Alex couldn’t handle the intense emotions that were flooding her body, the way that a million questions flew through her head but felt like they were each jabbing at her, needing answers, needing to know how she was going to handle this potential upheaval of her life. Her body simply couldn’t deal with it all.

“I…” She stood suddenly, swaying a bit on her feet as both Harry and Charles rose, ready to reach out to steady her. “No,” she shook her head, brushing them away. “I’m going to…I’m going to be sick,” she managed to choke out before she went running from the room towards the bathroom, and as soon as she made it retched into the toilet, her entire body shaking with the sobs that didn’t seem like they would ever stop.


Harry felt like a fog had settled over him. The type of fog that happens in the early morning where you can barely see five feet in front of you; when everything is hazy and surreal and completely eerie. When Charles took his leave, knowing Harry needed to go to Alex, the words he spoke to Harry that assured him that no matter what they would still protect Alex and Emma’s interests – that this changed nothing about how important they were to the family – seemed far away; muffled.

His entire world was coming crashing down around him. This family that he had been so lucky to become a part of, the woman that was everything to him, the little girl that he loved and adored so much – that had only recently begun to call him Daddy…it was all about to potentially come unraveled at the seams.

He wasn’t sure how his feet took him to her; he didn’t really remember walking to the bathroom where she was, but when he found her his heart fell to his feet. Her back was up against the wall directly across from the toilet and she was curled up in a ball, her arms hugging her legs to her and her forehead resting on her knees.

His need to take care of her, to make sure that she was okay took over and he reached into the cabinet for a washcloth and ran it under the cold water from the tap for a moment before squeezing out the excess water and then moving over to her.

“Alex,” his voice was hoarse but soft as he moved in next to her slowly on the floor. “Baby…” He reached up and brushed her hair from around her face and she tipped her head back to look at him, bringing an immediate lump to his throat. Her eyes were red and streaks and streaks of dried tears rand down her face. “Here,” he soothed, tilting her into his arms and handing her the washcloth. She nodded and took it, placing it gratefully over her hot face and eyes as she leaned into him.

“I don’t know…” she whispered as she pressed the cool cloth to her face. “I don’t know what to do.”

“Well,” Harry took a deep breath and made a valiant attempt to gather his own scattered brain. “The man who went to the paper with the story was badly burned. There are picture comparisons in the pages my dad gave me, but you can’t tell anything. Our lawyers are going to of course, require a DNA test before he comes anywhere near you or Emma.”

“Oh God. Emma…” Alex’s face twisted and she pressed the cloth to her eyes again as quiet sobs began to leave her lips. “How the hell do I even…and Molly…” she cried, leaning into Harry further as tears began to gather in his own eyes. “I have to tell Molly. I have to tell her this. She can’t find out with the papers tomorrow.”

“Of course,” Harry nodded. He sniffed and swiped at his eyes. “Of course. We can go to her or send for her to come here. Whatever you want.”

“And I need to have someone watch Emma,” she continued on, her voice taking on an almost frantic tone as she sat up a bit. “How long will the DNA tests take?” she asked him, turning her big, wild blue eyes to him.

“Just twenty four hours,” Harry offered, blinking a bit at the way she went from broken and sobbing to frantic and planning in just seconds.

“Okay,” she nodded. “I’m going to keep her out of school tomorrow. And maybe Kate can watch her tonight? I think it’s better if she isn’t here. She’ll know right away something is wrong. Is Kate even in town? Is she at her parents or does she have an engagement tomorrow?”

“I…I don’t know,” Harry stammered out, rushing to keep up with his fiancée. “Alex, just hold on for a second,” he pleaded softly, trying to get her to calm down. She was spiraling quickly and he knew it. And as much as he was spiraling himself, his concern at that moment was for her; for her well-being.

“I can’t,” she shook her head, moving a bit away from him. “I have to get it together. I have to get Emma situated and go tell Molly and then I…I need to think…I…”

“What do you need to think about?” Harry prodded, wanting to help her, wanting to try to take some of the stress from her brain.

Alex pulled further away from him and stood up, pacing as she let the thoughts fall from her brain. “Jesus, what if this is John, Harry? What does this mean? Would I even still be married? What would I do if I was? What…”

“What do you mean what would you do if you were still married?” Harry interrupted, his brain choosing that particular information to zero in on. “Are you…do you mean that you don’t know if you would go back to John or stay with me?”

“I don’t know!” Alex cried out, throwing her hands in the air. “I don’t know anything! This is so…fucked up,” she shook her head as she wiped her eyes again, failing to notice that Harry’s face had gone completely white, that he was looking at her with complete and utter fear in his eyes. “I can’t do this right now, Harry,” she continued, taking a deep breath and pulling herself up straight. “I can’t. I need to go call Kate and then them I’m going to see Molly. That’s all I know right now.”

And then she turned from the room to focus on the next task, to do one thing at a time, to try to get through the next twenty four hours without losing her mind, never realizing that the man she was leaving there on the bathroom floor was already losing his.


When Harry picked himself up off the floor the fog that had settled over him had grown even thicker.

She didn’t know.

He had listened to her say those words, he had watched as she said them, but he still couldn’t believe she did. She didn’t know if she would go back to John or stay with him if this guy turned out to be her supposedly dead husband.

How was he supposed to move on, to go through the next twenty four hours not knowing? How was he supposed to continue to function knowing that his family could be pulled out from under him; that Alex could take Emma and leave him?

It never occurred to Harry that Alex wasn’t thinking clearly when he asked that question. It never occurred to him that she wouldn’t leave him for a man who went to the media with this kind of revelation before his own family. It never occurred to him that, just as he would never leave her for anything, she would never leave him for anything.

Instead, he was filled with an intense kind of sadness, with an ache that threatened to bring him back down on the bathroom floor and not let him move until he had some answers for the situation.

But just like Alex, he had to find some way to function. He had to move from the bathroom and just…do something.

He ran the cold water and splashed it on his face, letting it cool him down a little bit, letting it wash the tears from his face. He took deep breath after deep breath until he was able to stand up straight, to at least appear a little bit normal. And finally, he turned and stepped from the bathroom and back out into the insane day they were living.

He immediately heard Alex talking and he moved towards her, towards the sound of her voice. He found her in the living room just as she pulled the phone from her ear and turned, having heard him come in.

“That was Kate,” she told him, her voice businesslike. “She’s home and she said she would be more than happy to take Emma for the night. I suppose your father let Will and her in on the news because…” She shook her head and took a deep, shuddering breath. “At least I didn’t have to explain it to her.”

“Alex…” Harry said softly, stepping forward, wanting to try and talk to her, to try to understand the things she had said to him.

“I can’t do this right now Harry,” she shook her head, her eyes going wide. “And it’s not because of you or because I don’t want to talk to you, I do. I do. But I cannot lose it and if I sit down and go over the ‘what ifs’ right now with you, I’m going to lose it.”

He nodded, swallowing the lump in his throat, knowing it was right to push her, not right then. “Okay. I get it.”

“Thank you,” she sighed. She closed her eyes for a moment and rubbed them before raking her fingers through her hair. “Listen, I have to go tell Molly. She has to know before this gets out.”

“Okay,” Harry nodded. “We can get Emma to Will and Kate’s and then we can go to Molly’s.”

“Actually,” she said softly. “I feel like I should do this alone. I feel like…I don’t know. This is going to be so hard for her to hear and her and I went through so much together with his death…please understand,” she pleaded with Harry at his look of surprise.

“It’s fine,” he murmured, his eyes casting down, his heart hurting more by the minute at the way she was keeping him at bay. “I’ll just…get Emma to Kate’s once she wakes up from her nap.”

“Thank you,” Alex breathed. “That helps. I’m not sure I would be able to remain in one piece with her. Thank you so much.”

“Sure,” he replied, watching as she gathered her purse from the coffee table and slipped her phone inside. She moved over to him and her eyes were swimming with tears when she looked up to him.

“Thank you, Harry. For being…you. I love you,” she whispered as she leaned up to kiss him, their lips pressing softly together for a brief moment before she was gone, moving quickly from the living room, through the foyer, and out into the waiting car.

“I love you too,” he sighed as the door shut behind her. He stood there for a long moment, not really knowing what else to do.

His eyes shifted around him, around the living room he stood in. It was as much hers now as it was his. Her blanket was draped over the back of the couch along with one of Emma’s princess blankets. The pictures on the shelves in the room were a mixture of ones he had, of his family and friends, of pictures she had brought with her, and of pictures they had taken together and framed. The DVDs lined up next to the TV were no longer just of his favorite TV shows and action movies, but included Alex’s favorites and Emma’s impressive Disney collection as well.

He moved from room to room just like that, looking around him, taking in the changes that these two amazing, wonderful ladies has brought to his life. The drawings Emma had done that were stuck to his fridge with magnets. The tiny pairs of shoes that sat next to his uniform boots in the foyer next to the door. The playhouse in his garden that he had put in for Emma two summers before. He moved slowly up the stairs and a small smile tilted his lips when he saw Gus – in all his spoiled glory – curled up and snoring in front of the slightly open door of Emma’s room.

“Guard dog, are you?” Harry chuckled, leaning down to scratch the dog behind his ears. And when he lifted his head he spotted Emma in her bed and his heart lurched.

She was spread out, arms above her head, her long, wild blonde hair sticking out in every direction on her pillow. He stepped over Gus and moved into the room, taking care to be quiet, not wanting to wake up his sleeping girl. His eyes traveled around the room, remembering how it was once his guest room, done in dark colors with a large, wooden bed made for the comfort of whoever was staying in there; whether it was a visiting friend or family member. You would have hardly known it by the way it looked now; not with the light pink walls and the beautiful bedroom set Emma had picked out. Not with the tea party table or the collection of silver and gold plastic tiaras lined up proudly on one of her shelves.

And certainly not with the adorable eight year old little girl fast asleep, looking so comfortable and peaceful under her pink princess sheets.

And that’s where Harry stopped the tour of his home. Instead he sat down in the big, plush chair in the corner of Emma’s room and he didn’t stop the tears as they rolled down his cheeks. He let them come and he stayed right there, wanting to be near her, as near to her as possible without disturbing her.

Because he didn’t know if he would have much more time left with her, and he wasn’t going to waste any of it.


The next eighteen hours were some of the hardest that Harry or Alex had ever lived through.

For Alex, hearing the news had shattered everything she thought she knew, everything she had worked so hard to move past and recover from in the past eight years. It left her scattered and scared; scared of having to deal with the reality that her husband was alive, that Emma’s father was alive and that somehow she would have to explain that to her, and scared that the memories she had of John – the wonderful, sweet, loving memories she had of him – weren’t really who he was. That’s how she wanted to remember him and she hated that if he was alive, he obviously wasn’t that person anymore.

Telling Molly had been its own special brand of torture. She was devastated to hear that if her son was alive, that he hadn’t come to her, that he had apparently stayed away for eight years. Much like Alex, it didn’t connect with any of the memories she had of him and it broke her heart.

By the time Alex got home, Harry had long ago gotten Emma up and over to Kate’s, barely keeping it together as he did so. He had come back to the cottage and gone straight to his office, holding vigil at his computer and by his phone, just in case the DNA results came in early.

And that where Alex found him when she came in, bleary eyed as he sat and scanned his emails, a glass of scotch in his hand.

“Hi,” she called softly from the doorway, wincing as his red eyes turned up to hers.

“Hi,” he called back hoarsely, his eyes flickering as he took in her swollen eyes and her red nose. “How’s Molly?”

“Fucking terrible,” she sighed, rubbing at her eyes. “That was…so hard, Harry. And I’m just…” She shook her head as he stood and made his way over to her. “Every time I think I can’t cry anymore there are more tears and I’m so exhausted…”

“I know,” he nodded as he moved to stand in front of her, reaching out to swipe a tear from her cheek. “Why don’t you try and get some sleep?”

“I don’t know if I can,” she murmured. “I don’t know if I can sleep.”

“Listen,” he said softly. “I still have that prescription for those sleeping pills from when I was having PTSD. I’ll understand if you don’t want to take one, but…”

“I think I’m going to take you up on that actually,” she replied with a shrug of her shoulders. “I need to sleep. I need to not walk around in a fog tomorrow.”

“Okay,” Harry nodded. “Come on then. I’ll get them for you and we’ll get some sleep.”

It was quiet as they went upstairs together, as they readied for bed. Harry was still so unsure and Alex was too beaten down by it all to realize that he could barely look her in the eye.

He did however, want the same thing he had wanted with Emma, to spend as much time near her as possible. Even though he wouldn’t take one of the sleeping pills and even though he knew he wouldn’t sleep a wink, he dressed for bed and climbed in with her. He pulled her close, wrapped his arms around her and within minutes he felt her breathing even out and he knew she was asleep.

But still he stayed, with his arms wrapped tightly around her. He wasn’t going to let her go now. Not while he still had the choice not to. And so he held her close all night and, just like he already knew would happen, he didn’t sleep a single second.

The next morning was tense and quiet. Neither of them spoke much – because neither of them could without breaking down. But finally, after the most agonizing day that either of them could remember, the call they were waiting for finally came as evening fell.

And everything inside both Harry and Alex came to a complete standstill as Harry picked up the phone and waited for the answer.


“It’s not John?” Alex breathed, her eyes wide and her entire body shaking with the emotion of it all as she repeated Harry’s words. “Was he…who is he?”

“He’s exactly who he said they mixed up John with,” Harry said. He watched as it all passed over her, as she shook slightly, as tears appeared in her eyes and as much as he wanted to hold her, to pull her to him and wrap his arms so tightly around her and never let her go, he couldn’t. He was still upset, still angry over her apparent uncertainty when they had been told about the news story two days before. “Lieutenant Paul Wilson. The story is the same as he told it as if he was John – the only difference lies in the fact that Paul Wilson lived and John Morgan didn’t.”

Alex sank into the sofa behind her, her body almost too weak from the anxiety and stress of the last two days to stay standing. She had to sit to absorb the information, to let it really sink in that her whole world wasn’t going to come crashing down around her, that her husband had been and still was the amazing and kind mind she thought him to be, that her future and her family wasn’t being threatened. She looked up to Harry as the tears spilled over her eyes. “Is it wrong that I’m just…incredibly relieved?”

Although Harry couldn’t have known it in the moment and would only realize it later, that’s the exact moment that he let the fear and the sadness and the anger that had gripped his entire brain for almost twenty four hours finally take over. Instead of going to her and wrapping himself around her, of telling her how grateful he was that Emma and her were still his, he stood there, across the room from her, and threw his second chance right to the ground.

“Relieved that John isn’t alive or relieved that you don’t have to choose between me and him?”

Alex’s eyes snapped to his, full of confusion. She blinked a few times, trying to determine if he really said that. “What?” she finally said; her throat was tight and her voice came out as barely more than a whisper.

He shook his head and leaned back against his desk and every cell in Alex’s body knew that something was wrong; that this was not how this should be going. He should be coming to her. He should be pulling her into his arms and they should be letting this news wash over them together. He should be telling her how much he loved her and how glad he was that their family wasn’t facing a terrible uncertainty anymore.

“When I asked you if you would go back to him if the story was true, if that really was John, you said you didn’t know, Alex,” he said, his voice tense, his eyes hard. “You said you didn’t know.”

Alex’s eyes widened. “Are you…wait. Harry, are you mad at me?”

He stood straight up and a sigh moved through him as he ran his hands through his hair. “I’m…I don’t…shit, Alex. You didn’t know…”

“Stop that,” she cried out, her voice breaking as she did. She stood and went to him, her hands moving his arms, up his shoulders to his neck, to his face – trying to pull his eyes to hers. “Harry Wales, you stop that. You know that isn’t true.”

“Do I?” His voice was quiet but she felt the undercurrent of anger in it. His hands moved to her wrists and wrapped around them and his eyes moved to hers, hot and angry and sad, though his hands were gentle on her. “Because I don’t think I do.”

“Please stop,” she begged, her fingers tightening on his face. “You know I wouldn’t leave you. I was out of my mind. Someone had just told me that it was very possible that my husband was still alive eight years after he supposedly died, that he was going to the press and selling his story, telling the entire world, instead of doing it privately. My mind was so crazy that I could barely form a sentence…‘I don’t know’ didn’t mean…”

“Enough,” Harry bit out, his hands pulling hers away from him as he stepped back from her. “I just spent twenty four hours thinking I lost everything, Alex,” he choked out. “And I know you did too and I’m not…” He shook his head and took another step away, her heart breaking wide open as he did so. “The difference is if this had been true, you would have had a choice. I wouldn’t have. But if I did, Alexandra…if I had to choose between anything in the world or you and Emma…I would choose you and Emma. No hesitation.”

“Harry!” she yelled, trying to get through to him, trying to make him listen. “That’s not fair! Please listen…”

He held up his hand and shook his head, taking another step away from her. “You didn’t know, Alex. You didn’t know.” And then he turned from her and took three steps, opened the door of his office, and even as he heard Alex begin to sob behind him, he walked out of the room, down the hall…

And out of their home and into the night.