Xander's Chance (Chapter Two, page 2 of 10)

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"She's not here," Brandon said.

"What do you mean? Of course she's here," she replied. "Did you check the office?"

"Yeah. I texted her. She went out last night." Brandon's protectiveness was in his voice. As the elder brother, he took his role seriously, even if it was the only thing he put any effort into. "Didn't you check last night when you got home?"

"I pulled a twelve hour shift, and you guys aren't supposed to leave the house without telling me," Jessi snapped. "Where did she go?"

"I dunno."

Alarm was starting to form within Jessi. The one night she'd been too tired to check on her cousins before bed …

"Where's my phone, Brandon?"

"I'll call it," he replied, accustomed to helping her find her phone, keys and wallet when she was too tired to recall where she put them after work.

The familiar ringtone drew them to the couch. Brandon shoved a hand between the cushions and fished out the cell.

"Yeah, I don't remember sitting down," Jessi sighed. "Yesterday was awful."

"You've got like, twenty messages," Brandon said with a frown. "What if she needed a ride or something?"

"If I don't know you're going out, I don't know you need a ride!" she said, worried. She listened to the first message.

"Jessi, this is Laurie again, the nurse overseeing your cousin's care. Please give me a call as soon as you can."

Jessi's worry turned to panic. She listened to the next two messages, also from Laurie, and all but dropped the phone.

"What's wrong?" Brandon demanded. "Jessi! What's wrong?"

"Your sister's in the hospital," she said at last.

Surprise crossed Brandon's face. He recovered faster and snatched her purse, rummaging through it before he dropped it on the couch.

"Where are your keys, Jessi?"

His raised voice pulled her out of her stupor. She searched her memory for where she might've dumped the keys last night. She'd been a zombie and took the bus to the store this morning. Brandon lifted the couch cushions while she crossed to her bedroom and pulled the jeans she wore yesterday out of the dirty laundry with shaking hands. The keys were in the pocket.

"Brandon, I found them!" she yelled.

"What did they say is wrong?" he asked as she emerged into the living area again. He yanked the door into the hallway open.

"They didn't," Jessi said. "Just said to call or come as soon as possible."

"Why couldn't you keep your phone with you?" Brandon asked angrily.

"Why didn't someone tell me she went out?"

They rushed out of the apartment building to her beat up car. Brandon peppered her with questions, until she finally gave him her cell and let him listen to the messages. She pulled onto the crowded street and drove with barely contained patience through the residential areas before flooring the car when she reached the highway.

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