“The us, you know. The me, you understand. But I was Amber at one point.”

“No. You weren’t.”


“Sara—”

“I saw you tied up in Mark’s club, screaming to be beaten harder. I know who you are. I know where you’ve been. I get it and I get you. I’m starting to worry that you don’t get me, though. Or maybe you’re just looking for a way out.”

I trace her jawline with my fingers. “I don’t want out, and I don’t want you out.” I lower my forehead to hers. “I just needed—”

I’m cut off by an explosion of voices and commotion around the front of the building that makes me jerk back. “Why do I know that involves Amber?” I lace my fingers with Sara’s. “Come on.”

“Wait,” she objects, digging in her heels. “Aren’t I supposed to be avoiding her?”

“I’m not leaving you on the side of a sex club, in the dark, by yourself.” Shouts lift in the air and I think I recognize one of the voices. “Fuck. I’m pretty sure that was Tristan.”

We race around the corner to discover that utter chaos has erupted in front of the club. Two doormen are holding Tristan’s arms and his classic Impala is speeding away. “Oh no,” Sara murmurs. “Please tell me Amber isn’t leaving by herself.”

I hand Sara my phone. “Call Rey. We need backup.”

A loud crash sounds, and smoke rises into the air near the exit onto the road. “Amber!” I take off running.

Scantily clad people begin to pour out of the building, scattering everywhere and seeming to multiply. The crush is too extreme to be caused by simple curiosity; the building is being evacuated. That must be what’s happening, and damn it to hell, Isabel is in the stocks—but I have to make sure Amber is safe, first.

Reaching the edge of the road, I can see that the Impala had pulled in front of another car and taken a hit to the front right panel. Smoke’s pouring from the hood and the driver is still inside. The second car seems less damaged and a man climbs out; he seems to be okay.

Tristan appears by my side and curses at the sight of his banged-up car, charging toward the driver’s side door. I quickly follow, not sure how Tristan’s going to react if this is Amber and she’s hurt. He jerks open the door, and almost instantly a bloodied Amber throws her arms around his neck. I let out a breath—she’s conscious and mobile.

Sirens sound nearby, and I lean weakly against the car at the unexpected stirring of old memories. I was five when my mother had died, and I heard the screeching emergency vehicles in my nightmares for years to follow. Trying to shake it off, I move to the other car and check on the driver, but by the time I reach him, an emergency vehicle and two police cars have appeared.

Emergency personnel circle Amber and the other driver, and Sara appears by my side, looking frazzled and breathing hard. “Is she okay?”

“Bleeding from somewhere, but she’s coherent and moving around. What happened at the building?”

“From what I gathered, Amber pulled the fire alarm to get Isabel set free. Tristan told me she freaked out when she saw that Isabel was still in the stock when they were leaving. The minute he stepped outside with her, she flipped out and told the staff he was kidnapping her.”

“You’re f**king kidding me.”

“I wish I were, but we have some good and bad news. The attorney called. He arranged the facility for Amber’s rehab, but she has to agree to check herself in or they won’t take her. When I told him about her stealing the car and all this nonsense, he suggested that Tristan threaten to press charges for the car theft and the physical attack if she doesn’t check herself in for a month.”

“What would keep her from sticking to her kidnapping story?”

“Us backing him up as witnesses, and you refusing to have her in your life at all if she won’t do this.”

I give a nod and seek Tristan out, finding him standing by the emergency vehicle watching the workers cart Amber away. “I’ll go talk to him.”

She nods and hugs herself against a gust of wind.

“Where’s the 911?” I ask. “Can you get your coat?”

“I’m fine,” she insists despite her chattering teeth. “The car is by the door.”

I’d argue with her but Tristan starts walking toward us and I move to meet him, not wanting any wrath he might lay on me to roll over onto Sara. “How is she?” I ask.

“She has a deep cut that needs stitches,” he explains. “They want to check her for a concussion, but she should be fine. I’m going to ride to the hospital with her.”

“You can’t do that.”

“The f**k I can’t.”

“She can’t get into rehab if she doesn’t do it willingly. If she doesn’t get into rehab, she might not survive the next incident like this one.”

“What does that have to do with me riding with her to the hospital?”

“It’s called tough love. Believe it or not, this was a blessing tonight. She gave us ammunition to force her hand.” I explain the plan.

Tristan stares at me for several seconds, then rubs his hand on the back of his neck and stares at the sky, cursing softly, before he levels me in a stare. “And your role is what?”

“I cut her off completely.”

“And you’re willing to do that?”

“Yes. I regret not doing this sooner for her and you.”

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