I hear my own breathing. I hear shouts. Mark and Ryan, I think, but I can’t make them out. I scramble to my feet and run toward the voices, bringing both men into focus as they head for me as well. The car door opens with a groan behind me and I turn to walk backward as Ava pushes out of the car, holding a gun on me.
“Stay where you are, bitch!” Ava screams, blood gushing from her temple.
I freeze at the venomous look on her face, at the certainty she is insane and will pull the trigger. “Ava!” Mark shouts from somewhere just beyond my shoulder, and he must have taken a step forward because Ava hisses at him, “Stay where you are, Mark, or I’ll shoot her right here and now. Get in the car, Sara.”
Ryan says nothing. I don’t know where he is, but I hope he’s not here and he’s getting help. It’s our only hope.
“Get in the car, Sara,” Ava orders.
I can’t get in the car. I can’t. I know if I do I won’t get back out alive.
“Now!” she screeches.
I swallow the panic threatening to overcome me, trying to be logical, trying to think of a way out of this. She won’t hurt me. There are witnesses. People will know I left with her. None of it is true. She’s crazy. That’s what it comes down to.
She fires by my feet and I jump, and Mark shouts. I move toward her out of fear she will shoot again at me this time. I’m one step toward her and I hear the sound of a motorcycle before I see it. Ava hears it too and reacts by turning the gun toward the sound. The motorcycle comes into view and I know it’s Chris. It has to be, and all I can think is that she’s going to shoot him. Instinct kicks in and I run for Ava, but the gun goes off before I get to her. The bike and Chris go flying and crash into my car. I reach Ava and jump her from behind and try not to think about Chris dead and bleeding. Just get the gun. I yank her hair and do the only thing I know to do. I bite the shit out of her arm. She screams and twists and we go down to the ground with her back to my chest, but I have what I want. The gun flies through the air and I can hear the sound of sirens fast approaching, but I lose my hold on Ava. She rolls off me, going for the gun.
I grab her shirt, which is all she’s still wearing, and she kicks me hard in the face. Pain jolts me and I lose my grip on her shirt. She scrambles away and somehow I rise to my hands and knees to follow. At the same moment I see a bloodied Chris grappling with Ava for the gun. Her hand touches the gun and terror for Chris shoots adrenaline through me.
“Chris!” I scream, and slam my fist into Ava’s head. She falls to her side with a yelp.
Ryan comes out of nowhere and grabs me, pulling me back. Mark yanks Ava against him and she screams bloody murder, fighting against him like some kind of possessed person, blood pouring down her face.
Chris comes to his knees, and he has blood pouring from a gash in his head, too, but he’s got a steady hand on the gun and it’s pointed at Ava as he shouts at Mark, “Get that bitch out of here or I will shoot her!”
Mark drags Ava away from us and police cars screech into the drive. “Don’t move!” a police officer screams at Chris, holding a gun on him. “Drop the weapon.”
My eyes meet Chris’s and hold as he drops the gun and I feel the short distance between us like punishing desert miles. He had secrets he kept from me. I went to Mark for answers. Police swarm the yard, blocking my view of Chris, separating us. We are worlds apart, damaged beyond our bodies, perhaps beyond repair.
• • •
Swarms of EMT and police officials surround us and I cannot see Chris, but I am assured he is fine. I don’t feel like he is fine. I don’t feel like anything will ever be fine again. It’s only after Ava is taken away, and I see Chris talking to police across the lawn, that I can breathe again. Only then do I let myself be ushered to an ambulance to be checked out.
It’s there, with a kindly older gentleman with salt-and-pepper hair checking my vitals, that Chris finds me, as he appears at the door looking battered and bruised. The idea that he could have died tonight to save me, because I came here, overwhelms me.
“How’s your head?” I ask, noting the rather large bandage on his forehead.
“I need stitches but I’ll live.” He flicks a glance toward the EMTs. “How’s she looking?”
“Bruised up but she’ll live, too.”
Chris and I stare at each other, and my heart twists at what passes between us, with the certainty we are still worlds apart. The EMT clears his throat. “I’ll be right back,” he says and quickly exits the vehicle, clearly reading our need for a few moments alone.
Chris climbs into the ambulance and sits down next to me. “Blake called. Ava confessed to killing Rebecca.”
My hand balls between my br**sts with the impact of this news. “How? When?”
“We have no details, thanks to an attorney who arrived and shut her up, but I suspect we will in the next few days. The private eye you had the encounter with at the storage unit turned over some journals he took from the unit. He’s had some past trouble and wants no part of being connected to a murder. He seems to think they’ll be helpful.”
“More journals,” I say. “More people reading Rebecca’s private thoughts. Like I did.”
“Because of you, she can be properly put to rest. And Ava can be put away before she hurts someone else—like she almost hurt you tonight.”
I turn to him, wishing away the space between us. “You saved my life.”