“How do we tell her?”

“I called Rey to join us. His brother’s in law enforcement. I’ll see what he can do to get an officer in on our plan.”


“She’s going to feel alone.”

“But when it’s over, she’ll know she isn’t.” As I say the words I think of Sara, and how alone I’d made her feel when I’d pushed her away after Dylan’s death. How I’d promised her she wasn’t alone again. Being alone is what she fears. That’s what drives her to the edge. I was right to say I’m what keeps her from tumbling over it.

I glance around, seeking Sara, and find her several feet away talking with Rey and a police officer, deeply involved in the situation. Nothing I have shown her has made her withdraw or become anxious. She’s not bitter or petty over Amber, though Amber has done everything to create that reaction. I do see her. I see the fighter in her, the big heart. I see the woman I love. The two of us are all kinds of f**ked up that somehow equals perfect.

• • •

Despite Tristan’s having to play the bad guy with Amber, he insists on riding with us to the hospital. And while he’d claimed that he was done with her, his quietness on the ride and the worry in his eyes while we wait for Amber’s test results tell a different story. And his extreme relief when we’re told Amber has been given a clean bill of health backs that up.

Now comes the part we dread—the unavoidable confrontations. A police officer who’s in on our plan to check Amber into rehab, heads into her room, and Tristan is instantly on his feet and pacing. After ten minutes, he stops and scrubs the dark stubble shadowing his jaw. “I can’t stay, or I’ll go in there to save her in all the wrong ways.” His piercing stare meets mine. “I guess I can’t judge you for the past. It’s hard to let go. It’s like someone is ripping out organs and stomping on them. Call me when it’s over.”

I nod and lean my elbows on my knees, letting my head drop between my shoulders.

Sara’s hand slides to my back. “This is the right thing to do.”

Glancing over at her, I say, “I just hope it’s not too little, too late.”

“She’s alive and has a lot of living left ahead of her. You’re making sure she lives it happy.”

“I should have—”

She kisses away my words, her mouth a soft caress. “You can’t blame yourself for everything.”

“Just for her.”

“No,” she says, shaking her head. “Not just her.”

And I know she means Dylan. Or maybe my father. Hell. Maybe she means a lot of things.

The police officer exits Amber’s room, motioning me forward. “Fuck,” I murmur. “She’s going to want to talk to me.” I push to my feet.

Sara stands with me, her hand flattening on my chest, and I wonder if she can feel the way my heart is racing. “She’s in denial. Denial is dangerous, and she’s proven that when she’s doing the denying, she’s mean. It’s going to be bad, Chris, and it’s going to get to you, but at least this is it. She’s getting help.”

Denial is dangerous. I’ve done way too much of that myself, and I’m done. I pull Sara to me. “I love you,” I say, and kiss her firmly before I force myself to walk toward Amber’s room.

Sure enough, the police officer confirms that she wants to see me before she agrees to any kind of rehab. Inhaling, I push open the door and the officer silently motions for me to leave it cracked. I’m guessing that isn’t a good sign about Amber’s present state of mind.

Entering the room, I find her fully dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, her back to me as she stands at the window, staring out at nothing but a dark parking lot. “I know you’re behind this,” she accuses me without turning.

Pretended ignorance is denial, and I don’t go there. “It’s not the first time we’ve talked about counseling.”

She whirls on me, anger burning in her eyes. “This isn’t counseling. This is being committed to a place like a prisoner. And this is you trying to atone for your sins. Expensive rehab should ease the guilt, I guess. You didn’t take care of me before, so why should you now?”

“I have taken care of you. And I’ve tried—”

“What? To save me like you tried to save my family? You didn’t, though, did you? You stood there while they were shot and killed. And I hate you, Chris. I hate you so much sometimes I want to hurt you instead of me. I’ll go to the damn treatment center, but I never want to see you again. Get out. Get out! Get out!”

The craziness in her face as she shouts at me is near insanity and I back out of the room, not at all certain she won’t attack me if I turn my back. The minute I’m in the hallway, I shut the door and lean on the wall, fighting a raging blast of emotions.

“Monsieur?” the police officer queries.

I glance up and give him the details, thankful when he agrees to arrange a medical escort to the rehab facility, with him present for everyone’s safety. Once I thank him, the officer walks away to make the arrangements, and Sara is there almost immediately. Her hand settles on my arm and it’s like a soothing balm to a burning scar that runs deep and has bled far too long.

She searches my face. “Is everything okay?”

I push off the wall. “It’s handled. She’s headed to rehab.”

“And?” she prods.

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