“Stay here,” I tell Ellie.

“No.” She grabs my hand, but I don’t have time to fight with her. I need to make sure Wes is okay.

“I need to get to my fiancé,” I tell her in a panic, and then we hear two more shots. I sob, trying to get to the road.

“July!” Wes roars again, and I yell back, “Over here!”

I step out of the clearing, my eyes landing on the truck that was chasing us. The door is open, and the guy is slumped onto the steering wheel. Mic, Harlen, and Z are standing next to him, and Jax, Talon Everett and Sage all look at us as tears form in my eyes.

“He’s dead baby,” Wes says, pulling my attention to him. His eyes meet mine then do a sweep over the rest of me. I run to him, pulling Ellie with me, only letting go of her when I throw myself into Wes. His arms wrap around me, holding me so tight that I feel myself molding to him. “Jesus.” He lets me go and begins to look me over, his hands moving over my body.

“I’m okay,” I assure him, putting my hands on his cheeks. He drops to his knees and his face goes into my belly, and I wrap myself around him for a moment. Then he stands, kissing me once more before looking to my side. “This is Ellie. She was here when they brought me,” I tell him.

His face turns hard and he growls, “There was more than one guy?”

“Yes, he was in the forest. We knocked him off the four-wheeler and took it.”

“Do a sweep of the forest. See if you can find the other guy. Your dad should be here soon,” Jax tells my cousins as he walks towards us, carrying a flashlight. The light sweeps over me then Ellie, and his step falters for a brief moment, before he continues towards us.

“Let me have that, baby,” Jax says, his eyes locked on Ellie, and she holds the two-by-four a little tighter to her chest then shakes her head, backing up almost until she’s behind me. “I promise I won’t let anything hurt you, but I need you to give that to me, and then I want to look you over,” he tells her gently. Her eyes leave him and come to me. I look at her hands and see they are red, and I know why Jax is worried about her.

“This is Ellie,” I tell Jax then say, “Jax is my cousin. He looks scary, but he’s a big softy.” Her eyes go back to Jax, looking him over. He is imposing; at a little over six feet, his body is honed from workouts and training, and his dark hair is buzzed close to his skull. And next to Ellie, he looks like a giant.

“Swear on my life I won’t hurt you, or let anyone hurt you ever again,” he tells her, and I watch his eyes go soft in a way I have never seen before, not from him. Ellie swallows then hands him the two-by-four. He drops it to the ground then takes her hands, making her cry out, causing anger to flood his features. “I won’t hurt you, but your hands are in bad shape,” he explains then looks at me. “You hurt?”

“No.” I shake my head and Wes’s arms wrap tighter around me.

“I’m going to put Ellie in my truck and look her over while I wait for Uncle Nico to get here,” Jax says, and I watch, stunned as he swings Ellie up into his arms and carries her off to his truck.

“That was so weird,” I mutter, looking at where Jax is standing in front of the open door of his truck, with Ellie in front of him. “How did you find me?” I ask Wes, and his eyes sweep over me again before his mouth lands on mine, kissing me so deep that when he pulls his mouth from mine, I have unconsciously wrapped myself around him.

“The place these guys were turning into a tattoo shop is about an hour from here. When we got inside, we found they left a computer, and the computer was hooked up to that guy’s cell phone. We did a backwards trace and it lead us here.”

“That’s pretty smart,” I mutter.

“That’s all Harlen; he’s good at that kind of shit.” He says and I wiggle out of his arms when the guys walk over, I give them each a hug, telling them thank you before getting pulled back by the loop of my jeans into Wes’ side, where I stay when Uncle Nico pulls up along with ten other cop cars. Ellie stays with me, and we both answer as many questions as we can, most of which we have no answers to.

After an hour of talking to the police, Wes gets fed up and tells them he’s taking me home and they can talk to me the next day. Jax, who hadn’t left Ellie’s side, agreed, and Uncle Nico told me he would be around in the morning. I was okay with that, and hugged Ellie, who was going to the hospital before getting on the back of Wes’ bike.

“I’m glad you’re okay, honey.” My mom kisses my head and tucks the blankets tighter around me.

“You worried the fuck out of us,” my dad complains, running his hand over my hair then narrowing his eyes. “You’re not allowed to do anything like that again,” he says like I did it on purpose.

“Promise.” I place my hand on his cheek while fighting my smile, which makes his eyes narrow further. “Can you find out how Ellie is doing?” I ask after a moment.

“She’s good. She’s going home,” my mom informs me, and my heart drops into my stomach.

“She can’t go home.” I sit up, looking towards the door. “Oh, God, she can’t go home! Her mom is the one who sold her to that guy. She can’t go home.”

“Jax is taking her to get her daughter,” my dad says with a strange look on his face. “They were heading out as soon as the doctor said she could leave the hospital.”

“Thank God,” I breathe, plopping back down onto the bed.

“Careful,” Wes snarls, walking into the room. I take a breath and let it out slowly. I know he’s worried about me, so he’s on edge, but he’s been a snarling beast since he carried me into the room, stripped me out of my clothes put me in the shower, and then tucked me into bed.

“We’re going to head out and let you guys get settled in, we’ll be back in the morning,” my mom says, kissing me then Wes’ cheek. My dad does the same, but pats Wes’ shoulder.

“Are you okay?” I ask Wes as he sits next to my hip.

“Fuck no, that guy is still out there somewhere. I don’t know how the fuck I’m going to be able to deal with knowing you’re still in danger. Meanwhile, you’re acting like this is fucking normal.”

I sit up then climb into his lap, holding onto his cheek gently. “I’m alive. I rode home on your bike. I’m lying in our bed. And tomorrow, I’m going to talk to the ASPCA and ask them to help me with all the dogs, and hopefully we can save some of them. Then I’m going with Kayan to pick out the kind of cake we will eat on our wedding day. It’s not that I don’t know what happened today; it’s that I have this amazing life, and some asshole isn’t going to take that from me,” I say, wanting him to understand.

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