“It’s a long story,” I say huskily before pointing to my throat to let her know it’s sore.
Lucian puts a hand on her arm. “Rose, I really need you and Max to stay with Aidan. I don’t know the full story yet, but he needs someone with him. Don’t leave him alone until we’ve talked. Can you do that for me?”
Rose looks conflicted but leans over to kiss my cheek before giving Lucian a brief hug. “You can count on it. Please call me from the hospital with an update.” The fire department is moving everyone farther from the building as they continue to battle the blaze. I wonder if there is any way that Cassie survived. Recalling the crippling heat and blinding smoke, I can’t imagine anyone could have been in there much longer and live. I hear them assuring Aidan they’re trying to contain the fire enough to safely go in. Max is speaking with the police while keeping one hand on Aidan’s shoulder. Why must tragedy continue to search and find us? I wonder tiredly as the ambulance door closes. Lucian is sitting near my head as the EMT checks my vitals. Our dreams will once again be haunted and I can only hope that this time God feels we’ve finally paid our dues and deserve to be happy.
Today, I marry the love of my life. Our road has never been easy and has in fact been hell again recently. I can hardly believe what has transpired in the last few weeks. Cassie—our once childhood friend turned twisted, dark woman—almost succeeded in taking Lia’s life. By the time the firefighters were able to enter our apartment, Cassie was dead. The fire chief said the nursery door was locked from the inside. Aidan swears it was open when he left with Lia so we can only deduce that Cassie locked it. Possibly not wanting to face the reality of what she’d done.
Monique also seemed to have a moment of clarity; she was attempting to flee to Mexico when arrested by airport security for attempted murder. She’s currently in prison awaiting a preliminary hearing. Max has assured me the judge will not set bail for her since she’s proven to be a flight risk. I’ll do everything in my power to ensure that she serves the harshest sentence possible. She is the perpetrator of so much of the evil that nearly destroyed us. There is so much we may never understand about what transpired between her and Cassie. What we do know is that she preyed on a mentally ill woman and used her for her own sick purposes. I truly hope the devil has a special place in hell reserved especially for her.
Lia spent two days in the hospital before being released. She had a mild concussion and needed five stitches for the wound on the back of her head. The baby was fine and the doctor saw no reason for alarm. We’ve been staying with my Aunt Fae since leaving the hospital and we’re to be married in the pool area here in just over an hour. We had agonized over whether we should postpone the wedding until after the baby was born. With all that had happened, it was difficult to imagine moving forward, but in the end, we’d decided that a new beginning was something we desperately needed.
I turn from the window I have been staring out when I hear movement behind me. I turn, my mouth dropping open in shock as I see Aidan standing there. I fully expected he wouldn’t come today and assured him that I understood. He had been holed up in his apartment—drinking heavily from what Max and I had gathered—since Cassie’s death. I know he blames himself that he couldn’t save her—yet when the decision had to be made, he knew he first had to get Lia and our child to safety. I’ll never be able to repay him for that—knowing what it cost him to leave Cassie behind.
He realized as she’d fought him, determined to kill Lia, that she’d never really gotten better. It had all been an illusion. She was still a danger to herself and everyone in her path. But love is not something you can suddenly turn off, and he’s suffering her loss greatly. I study him as he walks closer, noting that his liquid diet has left him thinner—almost gaunt. His expression is bleak as he stops before me. I pull him into a hug, holding him for longer than I ever have before. He doesn’t return the embrace, nor does he pull away. There are no words of comfort I can give him—nor do I try. What can I say when I’m marrying the woman I love today while his lies in the ground? While I can’t fathom the gamut of emotions he is dealing with, and while I know he wasn’t in love with Cassie anymore, I have no doubt that he grieves for the woman he thought he saw emerging from Cassie’s shell. Aches for how fooled we’d all been, and how unwell she truly was.
He steps away and rocks back on his heels. Anger flashes across his face. “I talked to Monique yesterday,” he spits in disgust. His voice is hoarse as if he has barely used it in days. “At first, she refused to say anything, but when I went into graphic detail of what was going to happen to her in prison, she finally broke down and started begging for my help. I guess her daddy has even refused to come visit her. I told her that I needed some answers before I could even consider it.”
Shocked, I ask, “Surely to hell you’re not going to help that bitch?”
“No! Fuck, no way,” he hisses. “I just needed to know what happened. I mean, Cassie’s doctors were so certain she was getting better. I had just talked to them right before Monique signed her out for the trip to Colorado. They had no reservations at all about it. Then she’s…trying to kill Lia in the next breath?”
No matter how much I’d never like to hear Cassie or Monique’s names again, I’m as hungry for answers as he is. I know from what Lia has recounted that Monique likely spun some elaborate tale to send Cassie back off the deep end. And in all likelihood, she was probably never as far from the edge as Aidan and her doctors had hoped she was. I straighten my shoulders and brace myself. “What did she say?”